Logs of Talisman Discussions of Bahai Faith 4/96

From dan_orey@qmbridge.ccs.csus.eduWed Nov 8 15:19:16 1995

Date: 7 Nov 95 23:07:17 U

From: Dan Orey <dan_orey@qmbridge.ccs.csus.edu>

To: jrcole@umich.edu

Subject: Re: Re: News from the Front

Reply to: RE>Re: News from the Front

Yes, just pray he keeps his job - Dan'l


Date: 11/7/95 6:15 PM

To: Dan Orey

From: Juan R Cole

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From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

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To: Dan Orey <dan_orey@qmbridge.ccs.csus.edu>

Subject: Re: News from the Front

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Birkland really is quite impressive. Good luck!

cheers JRIC

From barazanf@dg-rtp.dg.comWed Nov 8 15:25:36 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 11:30:00 -0500 (EST)

From: Farzin Barazandeh <barazanf@dg-rtp.dg.com>

To: Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: infallibility

I never understood what infallibility means and

how to dance with its stiffness.

But thanks God, I understand hierarchy and authority and the

necessity of courtesy towards them and even how to bow before them.

But what I desire is to feel true admiration and respect for the

ones I must bow before.

And these admiration and respect are beyond any pious improvisation;

they must be earned and not demanded by myself or any other.

And of course, there are two players in this story,

and none can hide behind the holy mountain of "infallibility".


From Don_R._Calkins@commonlink.comWed Nov 8 15:25:55 1995

Date: 08 Nov 1995 10:02:52 GMT

From: "Don R. Calkins" <Don_R._Calkins@commonlink.com>

To: rstockman@usbnc.org

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Re: "New scholarly paradigms"

Rob said

> Perhaps paradigm is a bit misleading

I don't think so. A paradigm is not merely a point of view or perspective

but all that went into bringing about that perspective and the underpinings

that support its maintainance. Because a paradigm is more than a

perspective, there may be many paradigms that have points in common. Baha'i

scholarship, from this perspective then, is a distinct paradigm tho' it may

have many points in common with non-Baha'i scholarship.

On another level, each of us represent a particular paradigm that includes

not only our devotion to Baha'u'llah, but our past experiences. The Writings

constitute a meta-paradigm. It is our responsibility to make them operational

in our personal lives; and the collective of individuals involved in this

process define the current Baha'i paradigm. Because this paradigm involves

individual experiences, it can only roughly approximate the meta-paradigm of

the Writings. But each successive generation incorporates the experiences of

the previous one; only thru' this process of successive approximations will

we attain the maturity of the Golden Age. And only then will we understand

the potential of the meta-paradigm presented in the Writings.

Don C

- sent via an evaluation copy of BulkRate (unregistered).

From rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.comWed Nov 8 15:27:31 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 95 09:57:01 -0500

From: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: review and Encyclopedia project

[This message is converted from WPS-PLUS to ASCII]

One of the suggestion that has been made regarding the present

Baha'i review system is to replace it with a peer review system,

similar to those in professional societies and academia. In a

recent article, ("Storming the barricades", New Scientist, 17

June 1995), the author argues in favor of no-review and

no-journal system where everyone can post their findings,

articles, etc, directly on internet via World Wide Web. He

points out to several advantages, including:

1. eliminating inept refereeing where often results in pointless

delays benefiting no one;

2. dealing with long-standing complains that peer review (or any

review) is a way of settling old scores and burying new research;

3. with a strict "no withdrawal" policy (on articles posted on

WWW), serious contributors will think twice about posting

off-the-cuff ideas or immature research;

4. changes the review by a couple of specialists to a collective

review where many have to think about the implications of the


5. eliminates the need for printed journals as everything is

accessible via WWW.

The article has a number of other good points which I won't

attempt to summarize.

I am excited about this prospect. As such I like to put forth

the idea (actually credit belongs to a fellow Talismanian), that:

a. the entire Baha'i Encyclopedia be put on WWW for a

"collective" review. This is perfectly legitimate under the

existing Baha'i review rules which allows distribution of


b. a special file be placed on the same WWW location where the

readers (believers and scholars from both within and outside of

the community) will post their comments;

c. after passage of some time (2 years?), these comments be

compiled by the project Board and adjustments be made to certain

articles, if necessary;

d. then, based on such a *community* and *collective* review,

the (potentially) revised Encyclopedia by submitted to the World

Centre for approval of the printed version.

I think this proposal has a number of advantages: it breaks

through the current impasse on this project; allows for a

collective review; leaves the project in the hand of the current

Board; and, assist the Administration in better gauging the

community's reaction.

I think this last advantage is particularly important because so

often in presenting projects/proposal to the Administration of

the Faith, we neglect to provide them with data on potential

community's reaction/effect and expect them to somehow magically

gauge it. Well, I think we owe them a more mature presentation

and they deserve better from us. As such, I suggest put the

entire Encyclopedia project on WWW and collect some feedback over

a period of time so that the World Centre, in the course of their

ultimate decision making, will have the benefit of this

information as well -- which undoubtedly they'll be pleased to


regards, ahang.

From burlb@bmi.netWed Nov 8 15:27:51 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 09:31 PST

From: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

To: LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: the vocally impaired

Lions roaring in the forests of knowledge is preferable to pussies meowing

under the couch.

Burl (I'm sure that's a quote from someone, somewhere) Barer


Order MAN OVERBOARD, the new book by Burl Barer today!


From rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.comWed Nov 8 15:28:28 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 95 11:53:01 -0500

From: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: North Texas teaching projects

[This message is converted from WPS-PLUS to ASCII]

As some of you may be aware, based on the extremely successful

mass teaching efforts in Houston (Jun-Aug 1995), a number of

other communities in the United States organized themselves

similarly and with Sa'id Khadivian's essential help have launched

entry by troops processes, though of a more moderate scale.

The attached note, posted on our Texas list, from one of the

friends in Dallas/Fort Worth area (north Texas) gives some

additional details which some of you will find of interest. The

author's email address is: FraninTX@aol.com

I should also point to one important correction in the attached

note: To their credit, the National Spiritual Assembly, on 2

November 1995, instructed the 12 LSAs in the Houston area to

continue full force with the entry by troops process and *not*

disassemble the existing organizational structure (IACTs). For

our efforts, this is an extremely important ruling from the NSA,

for which we are all very grateful.

Enjoy. ahang.


Hi Lee Ann and others in the hut (Lee Ann asked about the Houston teaching

project, asking if I was in that area. I wrote such a good response :)) I

decided to share it with you all:

I'm in the Dallas - Ft. Worth area (IACT#5) and we are just starting our

Inter Assembly Committee for Teaching.

We have 5 groups or IACTs each has 5-7 Assemblies. Each has rented a center,

per our mandate the Centers were to be located centrally for all the LSA's

involved and to be within the budget of those areas, with all assemblies

contributing. We meet each Sunday evening, the mandate calls for each

Assembly to send 3 representatives to each meeting in a rotation so as not to

burden everyone and for those representatives to report back to their

Assembly and community.

THe major population centers, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Arlington have each

decided to not participate in this effort. It has been interesting to watch

how that affects each area. Our group of 7 LSAs (Carrollton, Lewisville,

Flower Mound, Denton, The Colony, Coppell and Addison) did not have any of

those Assemblies as part of it. Those IACTs that had them as part seem to be

functioning well and enthusiasm is running high. Interestingly enough

Houston is no longer a part of the IACT in that area,( Houston is in south

TX. we are in the North central area).

We are recreating the original plan as we progress. We rented a Center in

Lewisville, 10 miles north of Dallas and central to the geographical area of

our IACT group. We will have our first teacher training for all 5 IACTs the

weekend of Nov.17-19. According to the mandate we were to have acquired at

least 2 full time teachers, places for them to live, and have other plans in

place for this first teacher training. Houston kind of tapped out the full

time teacher market for now and it has been noted that one of the problems in

the Houston area has stemmed from insufficient funds to keep the ball


Well we are taking baby steps and not overextending until we have a surer

sense of where we are going, so we are going to rely on local part time

teachers, and are encouraging all Assembly and community members to

participate in the teacher training.

Each IACT sends a representative to a liaison meeting once a week so each is

apprised of the plans of the other and ideas are shared that might be useful

to others.

The original mandate also calls for a coordinator's office, a paid full time

postition to eventually take over the liaison role. This hasn't happened


We had our first neighborhood outreach last Saturday, 4 teams representing 6

of the 7 LSA's in our IACT went out in the immediate neighborhood and

introduced themselves to the businesses, extending an invitation to an open

house and informational meeting about the Faith.They also collected business

cards from each for a Grand Opening mailing that will take place in December.

Their reception was cordial, with a few warm and only one cool. Several said

they might attend. We had 24 people there that evening, 2 seekers but none

from the immediate neighborhood.

The wonderful energy that is shared at our Sunday meetings is very special to

all of us. There are usually 25-30 people attending and each attendee has a

vote in how we will proceed.

There will be a notice in the American Baha'i encouraging any youth attending

the Conference here in December who can come early or stay late to let us

know and we will plan for their use in the teaching.

The fact that there are now 5 centers in what we call the Metroplex, areas

including and between Dallas and Ft. Worth we feel is miraculous. The

commitment and willingness to share is incredible. It was interesting to us

that each Assembly that chose to not participate already has a center, and

the largest Baha'i population in it's area. The message we got is that they

each had their teaching plan in place and felt they wanted to proceed with

that plan. There has been little discussion and no whining that I have

observed about this. Those in those IACTs are proceeding with great energy.

So you can see we are all busy.. and commited and praying like crazy.. put us

on the 19th list.

If there are any specific questions let me know. I don't have time to post

at length often but will try to keep you apprised if you are interested.

Love and light from Fran in Flower Mound, TX

From Member1700@aol.comWed Nov 8 15:30:12 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 13:27:00 -0500

From: Member1700@aol.com

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Discussing the Covenant

I am certainly grateful to Stephen Friberg for his reply to my posting

concerning the discourse on Talisman. I would say that his response is a

wonderful example of the kind of reasonable and respectful exchange of ideas

that we should be trying to achieve in this forum. And since exchange of

ideas is what Talisman is all about (despite periodic calls that we should

all get together and DO something, calls which I believe are quite futile),

anyway, since an intelligent exchange of ideas is all that we can (or should)

hope to accomplish, posts like the one that Stephen has give us are to be


That is not to say that I agree with him. In fact, I could not disagree

more. And I find his point of view on this matter quite incomprehesible and

potentially destructive. I do not, however, feel the need to call for his


But to the point, I must say that I find the opinion being expressed here

that any call for freedom of expression must logically and of necessity also

include the right to personally attack those you disagree with to be . . .

well, bizarre. It certainly does not include such a right, and I do not know

any responsible person who would argue that--either within or outside the

Baha'i community. It is universally understood in discussions of

ideas--including controversial ideas--that speakers should make a distinction

between the ideas that they may agree or disagree with and the people

expressing them. And attack on ideas is, of course, acceptable and to be

expected. And attack on the persons expressing those ideas is not. This is

really basic stuff, guys. I think I learned it in junior high school or

something. It is quite surprising to me that such a distinction would be

lost is Baha'i discourse.

In fact, in the process of consultation--any consultation--Baha'is are

called upon to do precisely this. To make a distinction between the ideas

being presented and the person presenting them. To detach the one from the

other is a basic prerequisite of consultation. And, indeed, no civilized

discussion can take place without it. While it is true that some of us on

Talisman have proven ourselves to be incapable of civilized discussion, but

Stephen is hardly in that category. So it is a puzzle to me why he should be

insisting that any call for an uncensored expression of ideas must also

include the right to make ad hominem arguments, accuse others of thought

crimes, and attack speakers whom you disagree with.

To Stephen's other point that the presentation of a shocking idea is

tantamount to a personal attack on those who disagree with it, I also find

such a position bizarre and unacceptable. It would (if you think about it

for even a minute) make the presentation of any new idea impossible, because

someone could always claim that s/he was shocked and had been (therefore)

personally attacked. I guess my position is that there are really no such

things as shocking ideas, there are only shocked people. If someone finds

himself shocked or offended by and idea, then I believe it is that person's

duty to deal with it as best can be, and to reply with a better idea. I

certainly do not support the right of the "shockee" to turn around and attack

the faith and the motives of the "shocker." Ugh!

Anyway, these are rules that are universally acknowledged in

intellectual discussions of all kinds, and I don't quite understand why we

are having such a hard time with them. Is it so difficult to simply assume

that everyone here who claims to be a Baha'i actually is one--and that

despite differences of opinion, each of us has the best interests of the

Faith as our highest purpose?

Certainly, I do not think that anyone here should deliberately present

ideas in a way that is "calculated to provoke [unless you mean provoke

discussion], stir up outrage, and generate distrust." But this most

certainly is NOT the same thing as presenting a controversial idea, because

it is focussed on the motives of the speaker, and not on the content of the

speech. And while the individual should do whatever possible to purify the

motives of his discourse, this is fundamentally a private matter which is not

available for the scrutiny and evaluation of others. It is our duty, rather,

simply to assume that the speaker has done the best job possible at the

moment to purify whatever motives lie behind the ideas, and to respond gently

and lovingly accordingly. It's not that difficult, folks! Not that we will

succeed every time, of course. But surely we should be able to agree that is

the goal. Not limits on the exchange of ideas.



From belove@sover.netWed Nov 8 15:31:27 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 08:38:32 PST

From: belove@sover.net

To: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>,


Subject: RE: almost/probable-failure-unto-death-of-the-list

On Wed, 8 Nov 1995 12:55:10 +1300 (NZDT) Robert Johnston wrote:



> John's letter, in my

>view, belongs with a bunch of other letters which reflect a painfully

>skewed relationship with the House, and reflect also -- I a believe -- an

>almost/probable-failure-unto-death-of-the-list to address this relationship

>appropriately. It is not as though John can be unaware of the offence that

>is caused by such statements, so I am left wondering... Read the


>for yourself. (It is reprinted below).



>I don't understand the phenomenon I am witnessing. I just don't.




>>My concern with tone is the following: I honestly believe that I

see a

>>trend in Baha'i institutions, most alarmingly the House of Justice,


>>criticizing the tone of interlocutors at the expense of responding

to issues.

>>When I came in on the Faith, Baha'i institutions, particularly the


>>of Justice, could be counted on to respond lovingly to any sort of

>>comment or criticism. I have in the last few years seen a number


>>cases where someone has offered criticism or comment in good faith,


>>has had his or her good faith attacked by the institution in reply.


>>I find this deeply troubling because it seems to me such behavior

>>undermines the legitimacy of the institutions and the loyalty of


>>at the receiving end of such letters.


>>john walbridge

Dear Robert and others,

I'm on the other side of the table from you on this one. But I'm new

to this Faith so maybe I really don't understand.

I felt John's comments to be a clear expression of my own sentiments.

I have some strong feelings about this issue.

I'm in this Faith despite some genuinely unpleasant, maybe even nasty

encounters with some people who, I think, are fairly deepened.

But I'm at the frontier of my certainty here. I think I have been

dealt with by people in the name of the Faith in ways that have sure

felt to me like abuse, hypocrisy, disrespect, selfishness. But like

so many abused people I'm not sure.

On the one shoulder I'm saying to myself: Maybe I deserved it? Maybe

I'm over reacting? Maybe I haven't been a Bahai long enough to

understand?" On the other shoulder I'm saying to myself "If it looks

like a duckling and walks like duckling and talks like a duckling and

sounds like a duckling, then maybe that's close to what it is."

The second shoulder gets supported by the Hidden Words: "Justice is

my gift to you. By its aid you shall know with your own knowing and

not through that of another." or something like that.

So down inside, I'm saying to myself, "Hey, doesn't this feel like

I'm being mistreated." And on the outside I hear words like, "When

you've been a Bahai as long as I have, you'll understand it


Back and forth. Yes, I would like to be so deepened that I understand

this differently. But another part says, "If this is what being a

Bahai means, I'm not sure it's good for me."

So I support John's side of this debate.

The tone of John's comment sounds respectful and contained.

I wonder about the tone of my message. I have to acknowledge that I

am speaking to you from a part of me that is in deep searing pain. I

don't think I'm acting out that pain.

But I have thrown my prayer book across the room more than once.

I've tried to be good humored about this. I tell my friends, "Don't

tell God, but I'm so angry I've stopped praying, as if to pray would

be to support and injustice and to acknowledge that it was really


I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to be angry with God.

And, It does seem to me that if some one really does already

understand these matters, then, like God, they ought to be able to

handle some of the pain and anger. that inevitably will come through

in the tone

And if we don't have tolerance for those deep passions -- the

outrages that comes from deeply felt intuitions of injustice -- then

what are we representing here?



>Maybe Juan is right. Maybe Talisman IS a subculture. Maybe -- as

he told

>me right at the beginning -- it is not for me.


Name: Philip Belove

E-mail: belove@sover.net

Date: 11/08/95

Time: 08:38:32

This message was sent by Chameleon


Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler -- A.


From Member1700@aol.comWed Nov 8 15:31:55 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 13:56:31 -0500

From: Member1700@aol.com

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: review and Encyclopedia project

Ahang, what a brilliant idea! Let's do it.


From derekmc@ix.netcom.comWed Nov 8 15:32:33 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 11:07:35 -0800

From: DEREK COCKSHUT <derekmc@ix.netcom.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Fwd: Re: the vocally impaired

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To: LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

From: burlb@bmi.net (Burl Barer)

Subject: Re: the vocally impaired

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Sender: owner-talisman@indiana.edu

Precedence: bulk

Dear Talismanians

I would point out that Cats <pussies > sleep on the Couch . Linda being

a Doggy person has her dog under the couch on the floor and does not

know these fine points . Burl "powerful and important Baha'i "sources

tell me if Linda does not get the information on the TV program our

esteemed List Owner forgot to record for her . He will be sleeping with

the dog on the floor , under the Couch . I believe we should start a '


flood Linda's inbox with pleas to forgive John do you think it would

work ?

Kindest Regards

Derek Cockshut

Lions roaring in the forests of knowledge is preferable to pussies


under the couch.

Burl (I'm sure that's a quote from someone, somewhere) Barer


Order MAN OVERBOARD, the new book by Burl Barer today!


From burlb@bmi.netWed Nov 8 15:33:10 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 11:01 PST

From: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

To: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: review and Encyclopedia project

Dear Ahang:

I appreciate your recent suggestions, however I have an "old concern" which

I believe is brought up by the UHJ in their Individual Right and Freedoms

letter. Long standing and inveterate enemies of the Baha'i Faith are

ever-ready to sieze upon any mis-statement, tentative position, or erronious

conclusion to discredit and hold the Faith and its adherents up to ridicule.

I am, frankly, surprised that anti-Baha'i activists have not yet taken full

advantage of the WWW. I quick search of the word "Talmud" on your net

browser will instantly connect you to not only some fine Judaic research and

commentary, but also to STORMFRONT -- the neo-nazi anti-semitic homepage

with links to all manner of disgusting material -- holocaust denial,

assertions of an international zionist conspiracy, etc. These swastica

brandishing whackos are not browsed under "Whacko" but under "Talmud,"

"Jewish Studies" and other such reputable titles. Placing the entire

encylopedia in progress on the WWW is the same as sending a copy of this

unfinished and important project to the home address of each and every

avowed enemy of the Baha'i Faith.

Call me paranoid, if you like, but I think we must be prudent and not naive.

Whatcha think?



Order MAN OVERBOARD, the new book by Burl Barer today!


From richs@microsoft.comWed Nov 8 16:07:41 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 10:58:05 -0800

From: assistant to the Auxiliary Board

To: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: RE: RE: Re: NSA & Appeals


From: Juan R Cole[SMTP:jrcole@umich.edu]

>Pete denies having actually talked to anyone in the canteen. The city

>council alleges that he did. I can't know which is correct.

I would contend that you cannot know whether an injustice has

occurred without knowing who is correct. In that sense, the only

appropriate way to deal with the problem is through appeal. I'll

endeavor to elaborate on this below.

>But what is outrageous, regardless of whether Pete did or did not, is

>that he should be put in jail for "backbiting" and that the person(s) who

>put him there are the backbitten.

>This last point seems not to be one I am able to get you to think about.

I believe I understand precisely what you're trying to get me to think

about: that a refusal to recuse oneself from a case in which one has

a personal interest is, a priori, an injustice. I thought I had adequately

answered this in my response to one of your hypothetical situations.

Apparently not.

The question is whether or not this idea conforms to the principles of

Baha'i Administration, and I contend that it does not. Among other

things, we have the specific statement that members of institutions

are _not_ required to recuse themselves from deliberations involving

even their own administrative rights. (The source is quoted in

_Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities_. I don't have it on hand,

but I can find it once I get home.)

>What "law" did Pete break,

>even assuming his protestations of innocence are false?

I can't believe you aren't aware of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph

19 which explicitly forbids backbiting. If you aren't willing to stipulate

the existence of this law, then you've consigned your hypothetical

example to the realm of irrelevance in terms of Baha'i Administration.

It is the very existence of this law which has given rise to the

situations we've discussed. Without the existence of this law, it

would be possible to raise whatsoever public objections one would

want to raise about the personal conduct of any individual be they

members of institutions or not.

>If he did break a law, is it really right that he be sentenced

>by someone with a grudge against him?

The answer to this question is dependent upon more information

than we presently have available. First, we don't know whether or

not the Mayor and the City Council really do bear a grudge. We

do know that Pete has done something which might lead them to

bear a grudge, but there is insufficient evidence to establish this

as a fact.

Secondly, there are a number of situations under which an

Assembly can make horrendous decisions, and I'm not

convinced that the likelihood of unjust decisions merely due

to a personal interest of one of the Assembly's members is

significantly greater than any of these other circumstances.

Regardless of the issues being considered, Assembly's have a

very clearly defined decision-making procedure (Baha'i

Consultation). A failure to adhere to that process on any issue

is likely to produce faulty results.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that it just isn't so clear to me

that these hypothetical circumstances are as unjust as you

believe. I'm not saying that injustices can't occur. I'm only

saying that such cases don't appear to be so a priori

outrageous as to warrant a significant change in the structure

of the Administrative Order at this time.

If the change is warranted, any attempt to raise the issue

with the Universal House of Justice will have to have a

greater grounding in the writings than it has at present. In

particular, the issue of recusal will need to be addressed

via specific references to the Writings and not just a vague

sense of Justice.

Does that make sense? And, more importantly, do I

understand your position as well as you think I should?

Warmest Regards,

From briann@cruzio.comWed Nov 8 16:08:10 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 11:32:52 PST

From: Brian and Ann Miller <briann@cruzio.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Cc: rstockman@usbnc.org

Subject: Rob's tribe

Dear Rob,

Can I join your tribe Rob? I hope it doesn't involve rites of passage

including unusual acts with flying squirrels. I would like to echo Juan's

appreciation for Rob Stockman. I too have found him kind, fair, judicious and

very helpful in his capacity as a member or our beloved institutions. His

work not only in the Research Office, but also for the Association for Baha'i

Studies has encouraged many young scholars and those of us who no long fit

that description.

I also want to thank you all, Juan,Bev, Linda,John,Quanta, Tony, Robert J., Derek, Brent, for

helping us get back on track with our discussions. The near flame war was

very painful to read and reminds me of Abdu'l-Baha'is warning that when we are

in contention, we are all wrong. the light gets obscured by smoke and the

insights are clouded by pain.

Warm regards,

Brian briann@cruzio.com



From shastri@best.comWed Nov 8 16:08:35 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 19:42:56 GMT

From: Shastri Purushotma <shastri@best.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: the vocally impaired

>Lions roaring in the forests of knowledge is preferable to pussies meowing

>under the couch.

Dear friends,

For the sake of unity of thought I'd like to make

something VERY VERY CLEAR.

I do not believe in naming names because everyone on this list is a

good person and has contributed incredible things and we are

all human and make lots of mistakes,

but one simple concept must be clear...












I think we are all intelligent enough to understand

the difference, and after reading the Will and Testament

know what actions are meritorious and

useful, and what are just plain dumb uses of the gift of having

"Lions teeth".



From osborndo@pilot.msu.eduWed Nov 8 16:08:54 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 14:59:29 -0500 (EST)

From: Donald Zhang Osborn <osborndo@pilot.msu.edu>

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Righteousness

Bev, Allah'u'abha! Thanks for your (American Heritage) dictionary search on

righteousness and other terms...

> ..................................................... An interesting note

> is that the word "Righteousness" refers to a "holier-than-thou" attitude. I

> couldn't call up the actual work of righteousness. All I got was


> holier-than-thou


> holier-than-thou (ho=B4l=EA-er-then-thou=B9) adjective

> Exhibiting an attitude of superior virtue; self-righteously pious.


> It seems inconceivable that Baha'u'llah would exhort us to be

> "holier-than-thou". Therefore, it might be worth considering what he really

> did mean by these words. I suspect some of us are using the same words with

> quite different intent...and perhaps not the intent which Baha'u'llah had in

> mind.

I'd be interested in knowing more about the Arabic or Persian terms used

in the original. As far as the English goes, I suspect that the translation

intended "righteous" (as your computer dictionary defines below) ...

> righteous (r=EC=B9ches) adjective

> 1. Morally upright; without guilt or sin: a righteous woman.

> 2. In accordance with virtue or morality: a righteous judgment.

> 3. Morally justifiable: righteous anger. See Synonyms at moral.

... plus the suffix "-ness": "state; quality; condition; degree" (from

the 2nd [print] ed. of American Heritage Dictionary).

In my experience,* dictionaries tend not to repeat the meanings obviously

derived from the root term. So the 2nd Am. Her. dictionary lists

"righteously, adv." and "righteousness, n." after the gloss for "righteous."

However, your computer based 3rd ed. has evidently picked up a meaning that

has become attached in common usage to the derived term, "righteousness."

(which is iteslf an interesting comment on the state of religion in

contemporary American society). I was not aware of this, but since you've

pointed it out I guess we should be careful when speaking of "righteousness"

etc., lest those who hear us think of that "holier-than-thou" sense in which

the word is sometimes (increasingly??) used in American English.

Nevertheless, the original meaning of "righteousness" (i.e. state or quality

of being morally upright...) would seem to still be current and valid.

(Actually, a trip to the Oxford English Dictionary might also be


Don Osborn osborndo@pilot.msu.edu

* I had a bout of lexicography a few years ago, which happily ended in

publication of a Fulfulde-English-French lexicon in 1993. I in no way,

however, claim to be an expert on dictionaries or lexicography.


From dpeden@imul.comWed Nov 8 16:09:01 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 05:26:14+100

From: Don Peden <dpeden@imul.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Pussycats

Didn't the Bible say something about lions and lambs laying together? How

about lions and pussycats?



From derekmc@ix.netcom.comWed Nov 8 16:11:36 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 12:49:12 -0800

From: DEREK COCKSHUT <derekmc@ix.netcom.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re:Joining Rob's Tribe! also Award for Talismanian Rob.

I consulted with my friend Burl . We are Rob's Agents as he is a

sercret "powerful and important Baha'i". You have to purchase 6 copies

of both of Rob's Books from the Bosch Bookstore and 10 copies of Burl's

Book 'Man Overboard'. For this outlay you receive an autographed copy

of Rob holding his latest book on his head at the ABS Conference and a

photograph of Sherman . Rob also has been awarded this week the station

of C. G. S. P. and can now place those after his name . Talismanians

will remember that my dear friend Juan Richardo Cole was given this

illustrious title last week . In case Richard Hollinger is worried we

do have copies of all titles available for those who wish to join good

old "Rob's Tribe"in the Bookshop . < Richard you never mention how

grateful you are for me always availing your fears on the book matters>

KIndest Regards

Derek Cockshut

From PIERCEED@sswdserver.sswd.csus.eduWed Nov 8 16:19:37 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 13:06:49 PST8PDT

From: "Eric D. Pierce" <PIERCEED@sswdserver.sswd.csus.edu>

To: jrcole@umich.edu

Subject: Juan's Thread - infallibility

Greetings Dr. Cole,

Thought you might appreciate this note of encouragement.

Talisman is getting better this week, as usual I find

your messages utterly brilliant!


Eric D. Pierce

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

Date sent: Tue, 07 Nov 1995 10:59:58 -0800

From: Ron Somerby <RSomerby@smtp1.cdfa.ca.gov>

To: Pierceed@csus.edu

Subject: Juan's Thread - infallibility

Dear Eric: I've been making a paper record of your forwarded threads,

very time consuming! An electronic archieve would be easier, but the

volume would still make it difficult. I am coming to a better

understanding of the diversity of views "out there", wow! Yes I am

interested in Juan's thread on infallibility. I thought you might

send my comments the other day into the arena. As confirmation, I

received a comment on my view about "facts". Clearly, the subject is

quite complex because, in part, it deals with knowledge, truth,

language, certainly one's worldview.

I warmly sympathize with Juan's views. I feel his dialogue is

desparately needed to stimultate thought about our most basic

assumptions. I appreciate diversity tempering the overemphasis of

homogenity of belief.

Cheers, Ron

From rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.comWed Nov 8 16:20:34 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 95 13:25:01 -0500

From: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

To: burlb@bmi.net, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: review and Encyclopedia project

[This message is converted from WPS-PLUS to ASCII]

Dear Burl,

I agree that we must be prudent and not naive and we certainly

don't want to put a "kick me" sign on our collective back.

But, I think it would be equally unwise to minimize the excellent

overall quality of the Encyclopedia. Now, I know that the

quality of a few articles (less than 2% ?? John, please confirm)

has been questioned, but I believe judging the quality of Board's

membership, Administration's extensive involvement and the

credential of the contributors, that as a whole, the project is

of exceptionally good quality. Now, I could be wrong. After all

I have not seen any articles other than was was posted on

Talisman, but knowing the caliber of some of the authors, I would

say that the vast majority of articles are in a very good shape

as far as accuracy is concerned. Hence, I don't fear that we'll

come under attack based on the content of these articles.

Invariably, once the Faith becomes more broadly established on

the WWW world, I'm sure some nasty things will be posted against

it. These things tantamount to nothing but electronic graffities

which we need not fear. This sort of thing will happen

eventually regardless of what we put on WWW. We can have the

Gleanings there and then have some half-wit posting ugly

comments. So what? Who cares? Attacks will come, that's

guaranteed -- with or without Encyclopedia articles on WWW.

I believe if the editorial Boards feels strongly that what they

have produced is worthy of publication, (and obviously they think

so as they sent the whole thing to Haifa for final approval), and

the contributors are indeed the best and ablest that the Faith

has to offer today, then they should have no fear and proceed

with putting it on WWW. As Dan Orey just wrote in a private

note, turn it into a living document on a living, growing Faith!

much love, ahang.

From derekmc@ix.netcom.comWed Nov 8 16:25:45 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 12:33:29 -0800

From: DEREK COCKSHUT <derekmc@ix.netcom.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: RE. Review and the Encylopedia.

My dear Ahang and Tony

How do you propose obtaining all the papers for the 'Talismanian '

review when they are not the property of this informal list?. As Rob

and myself posted the matter is back with the House of Justice lets

wait and see what happens . The project has been so long in development

a few more months is not going to harm anyone . I also agree with Burl

this is not an exclusive List a little caution is advisable . I do

think exploring more what John posted on what is Scholarship and the

follow-up post by Stephen is the right way to go lets not be hidebound

in our approach that there must be only this way or this way to

Academic Work on the Faith.

Kindest Regards

Derek Cockshit

From dhouse@cinsight.comWed Nov 8 17:43:08 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 1995 13:04:30 -0800

From: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

To: Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: "New scholarly paradigms"


>I do not think we would have anybody at the Fort Tabarsi or

>Badasht if they were trying to do too much balancing.

Was not Quddus, although besieged within the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi by the

battalions and fire of a relentless enemy, engaged, both in the daytime and

in the night-season, in the completion of his eulogy of Baha'u'llah--that

immortal commentary on the Sad of Samad which had already assumed

the dimensions of five hundred thousand verses?

Dawnbreakers, p 70-71

Whilst their enemies were preparing for yet another and still fiercer

attack upon their stronghold, the companions of Quddus, utterly indifferent

to the gnawing distress that it afflicted them, acclaimed with joy and

gratitude the approach of Naw-Ruz. In the course of that festival, they

gave free vent to their feelings of thanksgiving and praise in return for

the manifold blessings which the Almighty had bestowed upon them. Though

oppressed with hunger, they indulged in songs and merriment, utterly

disdaining the danger with which they were beset. The fort resounded with

the ascriptions of glory and praise which, both in the daytime and in the

night-season, ascended from the hearts of that joyous band. The verse,

"Holy, holy, the Lord our God, the Lord of the angels and the spirit,"

issued unceasingly from their lips, heightened their enthusiasm, and

reanimated their courage.

Dawnbreakers, p 389

I guess I'm not sure what you mean...


David William House (dhouse@cinsight.com)

Computer Insight

23022 Yeary Lane N.E.

Aurora, OR 97002-0167 USA

(503) 678-1085 voice

(503) 678-1030 fax

"Well is it with the doers of great deeds." Abdu'l-Baha

From DAWNLIQU@fllab.chass.ncsu.eduWed Nov 8 17:44:24 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 16:26:59 EST

From: QUANTA DAWNLIGHT <DAWNLIQU@fllab.chass.ncsu.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Darkness of past/Brightness of future

Dear Friends,

"When I live in the darkness of the past, I can't build a bright

future"- Quanta

"Expression and appreciation are twin processes in the psychological development

of the individual and the community"-Quanta

I joined Talisman at the encouragement of a Talismanian who

saw my postings at another discussion group regarding materialism.

My first exposure on talisman was the article by Jim Harrison

on "Axiology" as related to materialism in the West (to the

best of my recollection). I was ecstatic that this subject which is

also dear to my heart was given consideration by our scholars.

Then, I got distracted from the issue due to emotional involvement

in the discourse among talismanians and my own

countless failures to keep focused, which are known to God.

I read Jim's last posting and quiet honestly I think

he does have some very truthful statements about the state of affairs

in our community. But, one thing I also believe is that Talisman

have provided the opportunity for "diverse (victims of injustice, those

whose issues are not considered seriously by their respective

community's, those who feel unheard, those who claim ownership of the

Cause, etc. etc.) shades of thought, temperament and character" come

together and hash things out in temperatures varying from iceberg to volcanic

conditions. Quite frankly, I think it is better to be engaged in some

conversation than not having one at all as it's been the case in many

communitites in U.S. This is the first step, dialogue!

But, at some point things have to come together under a

collective umbrella by a unified vision, goal and objectives

without feeling a loss of personal freedom of thought and

special interests in serving humanity.

How can people whose interest are as diverse as the Covenant,

Unity, Review, Materialism, Community Development, Environment,

Institutional Development, Human Relations, Gender equality,

Deepening in Holy Writings, etc. etc. etc. come together whose

thoughts, temperaments and characters are as diverse as the issues themselves?

Well, I have no bright ideas, but hope to hear some thoughts and

suggestions for us coming together. Of course, you are free to ignore

all together what most of us seem to be looking for in the long run.

Please! three things to keep in mind especially for our Western friends

and those who acquired their ways; beware of these in your heart.

1) I want instant gratification of my desires

2) I want instant disposal of what is used for #1

3) I will instantly delete you out of my life with the tip of my


Happy contemplations!!


Quanta Dawn-Light...(*_*)


"When diverse shades of thought, temperament and character

are brought together under the power and influence of one

agency, then will the glory of human perfections be made manifest"

-Advent of Divine Justice, p.55 1988 pocket Ed.


From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzWed Nov 8 17:46:56 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 10:36:14 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>, talisman@indiana.edu, Member1700@aol.com

Subject: roaring/masculinist mask/Juarez

(1) Dear Burl,


>Lions roaring in the forests of knowledge is preferable to pussies meowing

>under the couch.


>Burl (I'm sure that's a quote from someone, somewhere) Barer

As well as Baha'i allusions, I think there may be couple (at least) of

William Blake "Proverbs from Hell" tied into this senor. Let's see...

There's one that goes something like "The lion's roar...the strarry floor

is given thee till break of day", and another that goes something like "The

lions/tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction." (David

Taylor knows these things.) Another link between Blake and the Faith.

Chris Buck's recent letter on this slipped by me, hardly read. Before I

heard of the Faith, Blake "Proverbs from Hell" provided me with a


(2) Let's make this really simple Tony. Hearts are united through the love

of God, as mediated through the Covenant. The Covenant clearly establishes

the the House and our relationship to it. That which undermines our

relationship with the House, and challenges its integrity, runs contrary to

the Covenant, and, as the love of God dies in hearts, the reign of disunity

prevails. Ad hominem as used here is simply a masculinist mask -- the mask

of materialistic (in contrast with metaphysical) rationality. Let's get

real... ;-}

(3) The water at the US Consulate in Juarez must have been very, very good.

Robert ("proven incapable of civilized discussion") Johnston

From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzWed Nov 8 17:50:01 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 11:24:52 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: DEREK COCKSHUT <derekmc@ix.netcom.com>, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: RE. Review and the Encylopedia.

Dear Derek,

I noice you signed yourself

> Derek Cockshit

I must apologise for getting wrong before.

Robert ("who cares") Johnston

From shastri@best.comWed Nov 8 17:50:28 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 22:29:51 GMT

From: Shastri Purushotma <shastri@best.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Mr. Furutan Watch Analogy

Dear all,

Sorry to beat a dead horse but this has been a very

nagging horse so...

Another hillarious analogy I heard a very esteemed person

say Mr Furutan uses for helping understanding this


(Just imagine this analogy being told Mr Furutan style!):

" When you have no watch, then you have the right to walk

around and ask people what time it is ....

when you do have a watch, you look like a real fool if you

walk around and ask people what time it is!"

(I guess unless in doing that you are admitting you don't think

your watch is capable which is a different matter -- why pretend to

wear the watch then??).

Likewise ... when you are searching for the Truth and don't

know about the Faith, you have the right to question with intense

skepticism the authority of the Writings and the Covenant ...

but once you have decided

to buy the watch and wear it ... you have accepted the Faith...

why do you now go and deny what you have found????

It's like the guy with a perfectly good watch walking the streets

asking people what the time is????? Go figure????

From osborndo@pilot.msu.eduWed Nov 8 17:51:03 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 17:33:42 -0500 (EST)

From: Donald Zhang Osborn <osborndo@pilot.msu.edu>

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Animal analogies (was re: vocally impaired)


Can we move beyond the lion vs. pussy-cat stuff? No creature among the

animals, after all, is better than any other, and it is not very helpful to

use the different creatures as proxies for whomever or whatever we do or do

not value in this list.

Nor is it very helpful to hold up growling and roaring--which are merely

territorial and aggressive vocalizations--as exemplifying something positive.

Nor for that matter does contrasting roaring with meowing (a false dichotomy

anyway) enlighten our discussion.

A lion is a powerful symbol, indeed, and in its milieu it is a fearsome

beast. But out of its milieu it is both dangerous and pathetic. And

increasingly within the wilds it "rules" it is being endangered by an even

more powerful creature.

None among the animals can manifest (as I understand it) more than one of

the divine virtues. Only humans have that potential. And only by education

can we achieve that potential. And part of that training deals with the

use of language & words. And yes, Baha'u'llah says that the wise should

speak primarily with "words as mild as milk." This does not mean meowing,

and it does not mean (as I interpret it) that strong (but well chosen!!)

words are not sometimes necessary.

We indeed hold within us many of the characteristics of what Abdu'l-Baha

calls the "animal kingdom." Yet it is not in these (chest-beating, roaring,

meowing, barking, or whatever) that we can achieve our highest.

Why should this have to be pointed out?

Don Osborn osborndo@pilot.msu.edu


From mfoster@tyrell.netWed Nov 8 18:07:11 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 16:34:29 -0600 (CST)

From: "Mark A. Foster" <mfoster@tyrell.net>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Theology and Science

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Dear Steven (Phelps), Steve (Friberg), and other Talismanians -

First, Steven, thank you for posting those excepts from the recent

compilation by the House of Justice on Baha'i scholarship. When I said

in a recent posting (right before my mail system temporarily shut down;

so I do not know what, if any, discussion ensued) that if we want to

know what *is* Baha'i scholarship, we need to read the words of the

Guardian, the House, etc., the passages you quoted were most of the ones

I had in mind.

IMHO, there is no *essential* fault with historical critical

scholarship. The problems are, as John Walbridge referenced, in its

"secular humanist" applications. The critical approach is one that I

personally, as a "neo-neo-Marxist" <g>, structuralist, and critical

sociologist, respect a great deal.

From my POV, it is unlikely that the statement made by the House,

which, according to John, referred to historical criticism as

"methodological agnosticism," was ever intended to dismiss this approach

wholesale. Rather, I suspect that the Supreme Body has been repeatedly

calling upon all of us to seek out creative and innovative styles of

applying Baha'i principles (many of which they included in the

compilation) to scientific and other scholarly researches. IOW, I think

that the House is more concerned about issues of tone and content than

of method.

One of the things to which I have objected previously are the

sweeping generalizations made about what Baha'i scholars think, feel,

and do - as if there is a general mold out of which all those who deeply

study a particular application of the faith (my *basic* definition of

Baha'i scholarship) are shaped. It seems obvious to me, especially from

reading the postings on this list over the past eight or nine months,

that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this position.

I have periodically seen some Talismanians complain that a criticism

of their own positions is an indictment of Baha'i intellectuals or of

intellectual thought in general. Recently, one of the beloved made a

posting which directly stated that people who oppose the views which

this individual expresses are anti-intellectual. Moreover, mentions of

anti-intellectual intellectuals strike me as exclusionary and

territorial and not as scholarly and receptive. To me, these views also

suffer from a degree of provincialism and, possibly, solipsism and

reflect a perspective on Baha'i scholarship which, IMHO, is contrary to

the standards called for by the House.

Steve, you wrote:

F >Mark and Sen are telling us that just because the old guys

F >(scientists and historical-critical analyticians of the

F >past) adhere to certain methodologies, that it "ain't

F >necessarily so" that it is the only way to go. Maybe we

F >ought to ask them to elaborate a bit more!

Hey, Steve! I don't know about Sen, but I *never* use the word

"ain't." It just ain't proper. ;-) (Actually, it is proper in some

usages, but who cares <g>.)

Well, I have already elaborated a bit. Actually, I see nothing wrong

with historical criticism. Historical method and historiography were the

basis of my Ph.D. minor in history. Also, since my minor professor used

this method in his own books, the two of us had long conversations about

it, and I ended up incorporating many of his methodological suggestions

into my dissertation (1984) which used both historical critical and

survey techniques to study the American pentecostal-charismatic movement.

Again, I do not regard the problem as one requiring a change in one's

methodological moorings but, perhaps, as one calling for a modification

in some of the metatheoretical (assumptive) foundations of most, if not

all, contemporary methods in the human sciences. I became a community

college professor (and here we are all professors since we have an

unranked system) so that I did not have to deal with the pressures of

publishing what is seen as value-neutral sociology, and I recognize the

challenges involved in getting papers published which do not conform to

present materialistic (IMV) academic paradigms.

From my perspective, true Baha'i scholarship will be a part of

Baha'i culture. Since we have not yet developed to that point, what we

now have is, at best, Baha'i scholarship in seed form. That is why I

think it is so important that we study the compilation from the World

Centre. To me, what we have in that document is the resurrected body

(Cause) of the Twin Manifestations guiding us to a true standard of

Baha'i scholarship - one which is based on the foundation of revealed

reality. All the material sciences then become what the Master called

"bridges to reality."

With loving greetings,


From osborndo@pilot.msu.eduWed Nov 8 19:00:31 1995

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 13:39:17 -0500 (EST)

From: Donald Zhang Osborn <osborndo@pilot.msu.edu>

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Tolerant vs. Righteous on Talisman?


When Baha'u'llah mentions tolerance, He also mentions

righteousness. This is one instance in the Writings where concepts

we are not used to seeing together are linked. In the past I have

thought it worthwhile to point out this particular instance to the

Friends who are discussing some divisive contemporary social issues,

as it often seems that one side calls for tolerance and the other

for righteousness, but in the ensuing debates, neither side is

either tolerant or righteous. I am dismayed now to see elements of

this old world order pattern in some of the recent discussions here

on Talisman: some people call for academic freedom (search for

truth) and others stress obedience to institutions (the Covenant),

yet it somehow degenerates into (what seems to this servant to be)

willfulness, judgementalism, and the most unhappy choices of words.

This on a nominally Baha'i list!

In addition to reflecting on how we choose to express ideas &

opinions, I would suggest that it might be helpful for all to

observe both principles of tolerance and righteousness in our

discussions. A "both-and" rather than an "either-or" approach to

these two principles seems to me to be one of the things that

should distinguish Baha'i methods of treating potentially divisive

issues from those methods prevalent in the old world order.

"... The heaven of true understanding shineth resplendent with

the light of two luminaries: tolerance and righteousness.

"O my friend! Vast oceans lie enshrined within this

brief saying. Blessed are they who appreciate its value,

drink deep therefrom and grasp its meaning, and woe betide the

heedless." Lawh-i-Maqsud (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 170)

"This Wronged One exhorteth the peoples of the world to

observe tolerance and righteousness, which are two lights

amidst the darkness of the world and two educators for the

edification of mankind. Happy are they who have attained

thereto and woe betide the heedless." Tarazat (Tablets of

Baha'u'llah, p. 36)

Don Osborn osborndo@pilot.msu.edu

Dept. of Resource Development (Ph.D. student)

Michigan State University

From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzWed Nov 8 19:05:27 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 11:59:36 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: belove@sover.net, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: confinement, Kafka, chameleon [was: almost/probable]

My dear Philip,

I don't know that we get over soon enough this incredible sense of

confinement that we experience when we join the Faith. Just as modern

women have been learning/giving themselves permission to express their

anger, Baha'is too need to learn to let it (or "something" anyway) out in

order to move forwards to individuation. Community can only develop when we

move beyond excessively communitarian "cheek-by-jowl" models, which more

resemble sickly enmeshed families than anything else. I firmly believe

that individuation -- including finding one's "work", and what Khanum

calls giving yourself permission to be "yourself" -- is vital for community

health. I guess the path is lonely, but what is the alternative? Those

who stayed at home never found anything much (I can heard David Taylor cite

Kafka and Blake to the contrary...but I digress).

I think is fatally wrong to deny our own considerations/views of matters,

no matter how shoddily we believe they (the considerations/views) have been

sourced. And it is OK to act on our own behalf. So, it is also OK if we

move away a bit sometimes. This is not being unloving, necessarily. It

may simply be recognizing that we are not God, and the seeking of that

company that is right for us... Some time later we may find that those

things/people/events we don't like have -- perhaps like Lincoln's father --

improved in the meantime!

I think all this can be done without saying that 'Abdu'l-Baha was confused

or that the House made a silly decision. If we find ourselves saying

things like that then we really must give ourselves a good talking to,

don't you think?.

Robert ("talking across the table") Johnston

PS: see how influential Burl is?

PPS: At the bottom of your letters is written "This message was sent by

Chameleon." This morning, earlier, I was thinking of connections between

certain conceptions of language games and polyvocality, and the activities

of the chameleon. Coincidence perhaps.

From nima@unm.eduWed Nov 8 19:05:38 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 16:22:36 -0700 (MST)

From: Sadra <nima@unm.edu>

To: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: review and Encyclopedia project

Ahang jan--

You have a brilliant idea here. I say let's go for it! The motion is

third"ed" - is there such a word?!



O God, cause us to see things as they really are - Hadith

From sindiogi@NMSU.EduWed Nov 8 19:11:30 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 17:01:30 -0700 (MST)

From: "S. Indiogine" <sindiogi@NMSU.Edu>

To: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: reforms and apologies

Thank you for your answer. I should have answered you sooner but being

an Engineering student it is not that easy.

On Fri, 3 Nov 1995, Juan R Cole wrote:

> The passage in the Aqdas merely says that Baha'u'llah is embarrassed to

> speak about the custom of a slave-owner taking a slave-boy (ghulam) as

> his concubine.


> The passage does not address the contemporary institution of same-sex

> marriage, since that did not exist in the Middle East.


> There is another passage condemning "lavatih," by Baha'u'llah, which is

> probably a reference to married men carrying on with boys.

> I know of no passage in Baha'u'llah's writings addressing lesbianism.

Indeed, as far as the Writings of Bahaullah goes there is no ambiguity on

the issue. As far as I know, al-Bab and Abdul-Baha do not address this issue.

> The general Baha'i views of these things derive from Shoghi Effendi, who,

> however, did not have authority to legislate.

Here it gets complicated. What I have heard is that indeed SE does not

legislate but interpret. By his statement that KIA 107 refers to all

sorts of homosexual relations the prohibition would not only refer

to pederastry but to homosexuality in general.

What avenues are now open?

1. the interpretation is conditioned by SE's info, i.e. the medical opinion

of that time?

2. the interpretation is conditional since it is pertaining to

legislation and thus the eventual competence of the UHJ?

If we base our analysis on Bahaullah's statements I can manage to reach a

conclusion. The fact that SE dealt with the issue makes it much more

complex for me.

Any comments?

P.S. If you feel appropriate, I have nothing against posting this on



Eric Indiogine (sindiogi@nmsu.edu), Las Cruces, New Mexico

## True loss is for him whose days have been ##

## spent in utter ignorance of his self ##

-* Baha'u'llah, Words of Wisdom #21 *-

From Ladiri@aol.comWed Nov 8 23:15:49 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 18:56:51 -0500

From: Ladiri@aol.com

To: dpeden@imul.com, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Sacrificing Children

Dear Bev,

Thank you for making this good point about the needs of children as pioneers.

As a child of pioneers and also being married to one, my husband and I have

never felt anything but appreciation to our parents for making this glorious

sacrifice and commitment. If this was always a bad idea for children, would

it have been a central part of our Faith? I think not.

Dear Friends, ask any child of pioneers and you will find that for the most

part their experience is positive, if not wonderful.

With Warm Baha'i Love,

Ladan Cockshut-Miller

P.S. Please forgive me if I'm covering old ground, I've only been able to get

to this posting 'til today.

From jrcole@umich.eduWed Nov 8 23:16:19 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 19:00:18 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Donald Zhang Osborn <osborndo@pilot.msu.edu>

Cc: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Tolerant vs. Righteous on Talisman?


with regard to Tarazat 2, Baha'u'llah counsels "tolerance" and

"righteousness," as you say.

The Persian is burdbari, which is defined by my dictionary as "patience,

forebearance, fortitude"; and nikukari, which means literally "doing good."

While forebearance is desirable in most situations, however, Baha'u'llah

and `Abdu'l-Baha were quite intolerant of injustice and denounced it in

the most intemperate language more than once. In SAQ `Abdu'l-Baha even

says that anger is good if it is directed against tyranny. It is not

even entirely clear to me how one can "do good" while countenancing


cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From friberg@will.brl.ntt.jpWed Nov 8 23:16:31 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 9:23:41 JST

From: "Stephen R. Friberg" <friberg@will.brl.ntt.jp>

To: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

Cc: LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: the vocally impaired

Dear Linda:

No worries about lions roaring in the Forest of Knowledge. It is

snacking on the Friends that concerns me! If you were the proud

mother of a wonderful young gazelle, wouldn't you be a bit concerned.

Yours, Steve

From KOLINSSM@hcl.chass.ncsu.eduWed Nov 8 23:16:57 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 19:10:16 EST

From: Steven Kolins <KOLINSSM@hcl.chass.ncsu.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: rabin the martyr


> I am in agreement and sympathy of your grief over this event.

> I do have a question regarding your heart-felt response where

> you are mentioning names of groups and politicians.

> Considering the transitory nature of individuals and groups,

> is it adviseable for us to be involved in this way?

My first thoughts were to view the pattern happening in this world.

In Japan the Om Shim Rikieo (sp?) situation, i am lead to beleive, is

a profound shame to the Japanese comparable to the Israeli response

to this event - and even more remarkable considering the act of an

orthodox Jew a year ago to a Mosque full of Muslims. Then we have the

American version with everything from child-disappearences to the

Oklahoma bombing.

Each event has shaken some comfortzone rafters.

It all boils down to the fundamental unity of humanity. Of late i

have framed it thus: toleration puts people on reservations and makes

them glad to be put there. In light of the above events i might offer

the adaptation of Jesus' warning of a beam in one's own eye to any

apply to a culture, and therein note the position of the pupil.

We have a great deal to work on. Everywhere.



All I need is Freedom of spirit, Chastity of soul, and Purity of

heart. A pov is not even secondary.

From JWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.eduWed Nov 8 23:19:50 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 20:02:51 EWT

From: JWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Observations apropos of this and that

1) As a Baha'i, I am a product of mass teaching. This should perhaps

induce some caution in any of you wishing to emulate the Houston model.

2) My pilgrimage group (Africans and Italians mostly) waltzed in the

House of `Abdu'llah Pasha. This horrified the custodian, but my old

friend Vahid Rafati of the Research Department later told me that

he knew of nothing in the writings prohibiting waltzing in the House

of `Abdu'llah Pasha.

3) Meanwhile on the left, there is a tendency in contemporary academics

to undermine on ideological grounds the prohibition against ad hominem attacks. The Marxists started it, and it has been carried on by feminists

and various sorts of post-modernists. I do not approve.

4) At the risk of disappointing Burl, the encyclopedia is a mind-numbing

mass of details on exceptions to ablutions rules, obscure Babi

martyrs, short-time pioneers to semi-inhabitated South Sea isles, and

the like. Enemies of the Faith would doubtless find it far more

convenient to collect damaging facts and factoids from such sources

as the works of William Miller, where they are lovingly gathered and

given the least flattering possible slant.

5) With respect to Ahmad Aniss' posting of Peter Khan's comments on

Baha'i scholarship: I was very struck by them because last night I attended

a lecture on 17th century English philosophy. This was the transition

between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The particular position

that Dr. Khan advocates is that then held by the more extreme Calvinists

and Lutherans: that scripture is the standard of truth. (The alternatives were

the tradition of the church, Catholics; inspiration, the Enthusiasts; and

reason, Anglicans.) It is also the position of modern Islamist groups like

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. I do not agree with it, since I think

that Baha'u'llah quite often appeals to reason and other sorts of evidence

as support for the plausibility of revealed teachings. I think it is not

an adequate basis of modern scholarship, Baha'i or otherwise, since I

do not think that all questions can be answered by deduction from the

Baha'i writings nor can the Writings themselves be correctly

understood without reference to objective rational evidence.

6) I cite another incident, at a seminar two nights ago.

We were reading one of St. Augustine's early works ("Against the

Academicians, late 4th cent.) In it there was an allusion to the belief

that Greek philosophy had a Jewish origin. One of the participants

observed that this idea had a long history, being cited as late as the

Reformation. Not wishing to appear foolish, I confined myself to

observing that it was cited by "certain modernist groups emerging from

Islam." This, the relative old-timers will recall, is the subject about

which I said `Abdu'-Baha was "confused" (although specifically with

respect to confusing Socrates with Empedocles, which could happen

to any of us).

7) With regard to the watch analogy, I think that what we have is not a

new watch but something more akin to a new computer. Its functioning

and possible uses are not always completely obvious and therefore

are well worth investigating and discussing with others

8) Dr. Khan's comments, for whatever it is worth, seem a fair reflection

of the thinking of the House as shown in recent letters and compilations.

I don't think that these views are particularly well founded, however.

Consider: "the community has a non-adversarial attitude towards acquisition

of knowledge which is oriented to service of the Faith." This seems to

imply that it has an adversarial relation to knowledge that *is not*

oriented towards service of the Faith. Now, if all this means is that

the scholar's heart ought to be pure and devoted to the service of God,

well and good. It seems to me, however, that this statement can also be

read as giving scholarship a purely instrumental function in the

Faith--it should *only* be done to serve the practical interests of the

Faith. I think such an interpretation is pernicious because it is contrary

to the principle of independent investigation of truth and is a constant

temptation to abuse. This is why American universities developed the

tenure system.

9) The particular criticisms of modern scholarship

quoted by Steven Phelps--the spiritual dangers of scholarly objectivity,

the problems caused by the specialization of disciplines, etc.--seem to

me to echo various popular criticisms of scholarship originated by

fundamentalist groups in the United States. Unfortunately, I think

the way that the House has phrased these criticisms--particularly in

the context of the particular issues that provoked these letters--reflect a lack of understanding of how modern scholarship works.

Finally, let us remember the old story about the circus that had an

exhibit of a lion lying down with a lamb. Some local asked the keeper

how they managed it. "It isn't hard," said the keeper, "You just need a

new lamb every day."

john walbridge

From LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.eduWed Nov 8 23:20:01 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 95 20:54:37 EWT

From: LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: meows and roars

Derek, is Sherman going to take Don Osborne's comments lying down? Get him off

the couch and show him what is on the screen. I want to know his reaction.


From friberg@will.brl.ntt.jpWed Nov 8 23:21:22 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 11:16:17 JST

From: "Stephen R. Friberg" <friberg@will.brl.ntt.jp>

To: Member1700@aol.com, friberg@will.brl.ntt.jp

Cc: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Discussing the Covenant

Dear Tony:

Thanks for the compliments.

I am sorry that I did not make it clear that I was employing the

Socratic method of argument. What I was trying to bring out was

the implications of your words to the effect that anything was

allowed. Clearly you don't believe that!

Next, I tried to show by logical argument (sorry if I muddled it)

that if you accept the need for restrictions about discourse (i.e.,

no ad hominen attacks, no backbiting, etc), then there should be discussion

and agreement about what those limits are. You and I have our own

ideas about what those limits are, and others have their own ideas


What I tried to say if we try to impose limits, it is not different

than someone else trying to impose limits. The differences are in

what those limits are.

For example: I might say, you can't talk about racial issues in the

community, because it is divisive to do so. (I give this as an

example of some limits that someone may wish to impose.) Another

person might say: "we shouldn't spend so much time talking about

issues except those concerning how to overcome our community's

racial problem." Now, even though both points of view are

diametrically opposed, both are the same in that both *operate*

to impose limits on the discussion.

(I'm sorry if this seems unnecessarily complex, but scientists tend

to analyze problems this way, and I am a scientist.)

So, what I tried to say next is that on Talisman there are differences

of opinion on what those limits are, and that 1), we should recognize

the legitimacy of those differences, and 2) arbitrary imposition of

standards, be they whatever, is arbitrary imposition of

standards. From the *operational* point of view, there is no

difference. Both operate as a coercive mechanism. The only way to

break out is by consultation.

So, if I try to impose some standards, and you try to impose some

standards, then we are both doing the same thing. What those

standards are is immaterial from this point of view. Now, there is

some subterfuge to what I am saying here. Let me bring it out into

the open. What I am saying, in effect, is that from this viewpoint

what you and the others are doing is exactly the same thing.

Your words are different, your reasons are different, operationally

the results are the same.

This is not to say that you are wrong, and the others right. Or that

you are right and the others wrong. Wrong or right is a judgement

call, a moral claim.

Now, here is the other part of my subterfuge: I am trying to cast the

issue into the framework of modern "Western" scholarship, historico-

critical analysis if you will. From this "objective" perspective,

I am saying that you are doing exactly the same thing that your

protagonists are doing.

I notice that you don't like it when I do this, "in fact (you) could not

diagree more. (you) find (my) point of view on this matter quite

incomprehesible and potentially destructive." Not only do you not

understand what I am trying to say, but you react very negatively

against it. Now think! How is this different than what your

protagonists are doing?

Probably this is still confusing, so lets go on with this discussion

a bit more. As you might see, I am trying to show that your reactions to

events on Talisman are very similar to other peoples reactions, the

ones you don't like. And you don't like my Socratic, analytic style

where value-judgements are put aside when it is applied to ideas you

hold dear. (Let me assure you, I hold those ideas dear too!)

Does this cast any light on the nature of the opposition on Talisman?

Yours sincerely,

Stephen R. Friberg

From dhouse@cinsight.comWed Nov 8 23:21:39 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 1995 18:28:09 -0800

From: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

To: Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: infallibility


>I never understood what infallibility means and

>how to dance with its stiffness.

My thought is that error is a human characteristic, since it is a necessary

aspect of the ability to choose. Infallibility would seem to encompass the

ability to choose, and imply beyond that either or both the knowledge and

power of the Creator; i.e., the choices made are "perfect" because they

derive in some manner from perfect knowledge, or because they are creative.

"No thing prevents Him from being occupied with any other thing."

"He hath only to say Be and it is."

As far as "stiffness", this would seem largely interpretive. The universe

itself does not seem "stiff", and infallibility, regardless of whatever else

might be said about it, would clearly be in complete harmony with the universe.


David William House (dhouse@cinsight.com)

Computer Insight

23022 Yeary Lane N.E.

Aurora, OR 97002-0167 USA

(503) 678-1085 voice

(503) 678-1030 fax

"Well is it with the doers of great deeds." Abdu'l-Baha

From mfoster@tyrell.netWed Nov 8 23:22:34 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 20:56:13 -0600 (CST)

From: "Mark A. Foster" <mfoster@tyrell.net>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Science and Religion

To: talisman@indiana.edu

John Walbridge wrote to talisman@indiana.edu:

J>The particular position that Dr. Khan advocates is that then held by

J>the more extreme Calvinists and Lutherans: that scripture is the

J>standard of truth.... I think it is not an adequate basis of modern

J>scholarship, Baha'i or otherwise, since I do not think that all

J> questions can be answered by deduction from the Baha'i writings nor

J>can the Writings themselves be correctly understood without reference

J>to objective rational evidence.


That was not my understanding of Peter Khan's comments. I have

spoken with him privately on a couple of occasions and have also

listened to him speak publicly several times and never had the

impression that he believed that the Sacred Texts and the words of the

Master and the Guardian could be used in an insular fashion.

For example, he was reported as having said:

As Baha'is we have accepted the authority of Baha'u'llah

through our independent investigation of His Message and

His Station. This means that we accept His Teachings as

Truth. This is the basis of Baha'i scholarship. Baha'i

scholars are, therefore, believers in Baha'u'llah. Thus

they write as believers.

To me, he states the obvious - that Baha'i scholars must write about

the Baha'i Faith *as believers*. He later said that Baha'i scholars

would not be honest if they failed to acknowledge that they *were*


He was also quoted as saying:

This does not mean that they are objective in the way

they search for and present facts. If belief in Baha'u'llah

is considered to make us biased scholars, so be it.

So, Khan is arguing for an objective presentation of facts. IOW, as I

understand what he said, we do not distort the data, but we also use

revealed truth as the basis for our assumptions.

Later, he apparently said:

In the past religious scholars have perused [sic.?] the

study of their religion in two extreme directions. Some

have blindly followed the letter of the Revelation without

a searching attitude. This has lead to fanaticism. Others

have doubted and questioned everything, even the Revelation

itself. Baha'i scholarship must avoid these extremes. Baha'i

scholars display a combination of loyalty to their Faith and

its institutions, and search for truth.

Therefore, Khan does not appear to be advocating a literal understanding

of texts. Everytime I heard him speak (when he was the ABM where I was

was living at the time on Long Island, New York), I was always impressed

with the depth of his knowledge and with his ability to transcend the


Using the revealed words as foundational to one's understanding of

reality does not mean that one must be attached to the literal meaning

of passages. It does mean, IMO, that one starts out with an assumption

of the truth of the teachings and engages in both spiritual scientific

(textual) and material scientific research with the goal of

understanding the meaning of the Revelation - which shines its light on

all areas of knowledge.



From dhouse@cinsight.comWed Nov 8 23:22:55 1995

Date: Wed, 08 Nov 1995 19:19:09 -0800

From: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

To: Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: Righteousness

Bev, Donald, friends,

Righteousness appears to be used in the two primary meanings in Scripture.


Luke 5v32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance...

Luke 18v9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves

that they were righteous, and despised others...

Along with a good many other references regarding righteousness as holiness,

such as:

2Thessv5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye

may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer...


David William House (dhouse@cinsight.com)

Computer Insight

23022 Yeary Lane N.E.

Aurora, OR 97002-0167 USA

(503) 678-1085 voice

(503) 678-1030 fax

"Well is it with the doers of great deeds." Abdu'l-Baha

From ahmada@acsusun.acsu.unsw.edu.auWed Nov 8 23:23:13 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 14:30:55 +1100

From: Ahmad Aniss <ahmada@acsusun.acsu.unsw.edu.au>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Lions and pussies

Dear Talismanians,

Dear Burl,

You wrote:

> To: LWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

> From: burlb@bmi.net (Burl Barer)

> Subject: Re: the vocally impaired

> Cc: talisman@indiana.edu



>Lions roaring in the forests of knowledge is preferable to pussies meowing

>under the couch.


>Burl (I'm sure that's a quote from someone, somewhere) Barer

Yes! Lions and meowing pussies are both part of the animal Kingdom, and so

wolves, hyenas and vultures, but yet these later ones are from the dark-side of that

Kingdom. Isn't that so?

With regards,



^ ^

^ Dr. A.M. Aniss, Tel: Home [61(2)] 505 509 ^

^ Bio-Medical Engineer, Work [61(2)] 694 5915 ^

^ Neuropsychiatric Institute, Mobile 019 992020 ^

^ Prince Henry Hospital, Fax: Work [61(2)] 694 5747 ^

^ Little Bay, N.S.W. 2036, ^

^ Australia. Email: A.Aniss@unsw.edu.au ^


From gpoirier@acca.nmsu.eduWed Nov 8 23:24:29 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 20:55:07 -0700 (MST)

From: "[G. Brent Poirier]" <gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu>

To: Member1700@aol.com

Cc: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Covenant

On Tue, 7 Nov 1995 Member1700@aol.com wrote:

> Brent, what an excellent insight into the nature of the institution of the

> House of Justice as 'Abdu'l-Baha envisioned it! I had never put things

> together quite that way, but your argument was very convincing. I can't wait

> to see the whole article that you are contributing to DEEPEN. Do you suppose

> that you can post the whole thing on Talisman?

Sure, if there is interest.

I can revise the article from WP 5.1 for DinOSaurs and move all the

footnotes into [brackets in the text]. I had thought particularly of

asking you to look it over for readability, Tony, since reviewing the

writing of others is your profession.

I would appreciate the comments of others, as well, as it is presently

scheduled for the January issue, so there is time to revise it.

Many thanks


From dpeden@imul.comWed Nov 8 23:24:48 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 14:02:16+100

From: Don Peden <dpeden@imul.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Valley of Knowledge

Dear Friends:

This mornings readings brought me to this, and I thought I'd share it. You

all know it, so it is just a breeze through our discourse...a throwing open

of the windows and breathing deep of the dawn.

"...he will enter THE VALLEY OF KNOWLEDGE and come out of doubt into

certitude, and turn from the darkness of illusion to the guiding light of

the fear of God. His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with

his Beloved; he will set ajar the gate of truth and piety, and shut the

doors of vain imaginings. He in this station is content with the decree of

God, and seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting

life. With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of

resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure

heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God.

In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

"Split the atom's heart, and lo!

Within it thou wilt find a sun"

The wayfarer in this Valley seeth in the fashionings of the True One nothing

save clear providence, and at every moment saith: "No defect canst thou see

in the creation of the God of Mercy; Repeat the gaze: Seest thou a single

flaw?" He beholdeth justice in injustice, and in justice, grace. In

ignorance he findeth many a knowledge hidden, and in knowledge a myriad

wisdoms manifest. He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and

consorteth with the people of the immortal realm. He mounteth on the

ladders of inner truth and hasteneth to the heaven of inner significance.

He rideth in the ark of "we shall show them our signs in the regions and in

themselves." and journeyeth over the sea of "until it become plain to them

that (this Book) is the truth." And if he meeteth with injustice he shall

have patience, and if he cometh upon wrath he shall manifest love."

Here in Kampala, the sun is rising over green vines still dusty with the

night shades. The sky glows pink and orange as the sun rises out of Lake

Victoria. The mist of the morning joins the rising sun in its ascendancy

like attendants to the king. Birds warble their welcome to each other and

busy themselves with the first morning's blessings before the heat of risen

sun burns us all with its intensity.

Life will continue, today will bring opportunities...what will we do with them?


From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzWed Nov 8 23:25:24 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 17:10:42 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: JWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Observations apropos of this and that

Dear John,


[1] >ad hominem attacks

When I was growing up an ad hominem attack went something like, "You

wouldn't know anything because you haven't blown your nose and your

father's fat." Of course that is a foolish way to argue. In the context

of Talisman ad hominem attacks go more like this: "You said the sky is

purple, therefore you are a jerk." Of course that is a foolish way to

argue too. But are these really worse forms of argumentation than the one

which includes the possibility of 'Abdu'l-Baha being confused or the House

being silly? I am suggesting that this too is a kind of covert ad hominem

argument -- one which really goes like this: "Because I am cleverer than

your father, I am right, and you are a jerk." But, please, are you able to

explain more fully what you mean by ad hominem? ;-)

[2] >In it there was an allusion to the belief that Greek philosophy had a

Jewish origin.

In this matter at least, it would seem that Baha'i intellectuals will trail

the field, but it won't be because they weren't well instructed. Strange

how the ruling caste suppresses truth, generally speaking... ;-} (sigh!)

[3] >With regard to the watch analogy, I think that what we have is not a

>new watch but something more akin to a new computer. Its functioning

>and possible uses are not always completely obvious and therefore

>are well worth investigating and discussing with others

But wouldn't it be damned infuriating if there were an essential programme

on the computer which we were prevented from examining because the owner

was arguing that the computer was really a horse, and therefore in need of

hay and water and not electricity and human intelligence? :-}


From gpoirier@acca.nmsu.eduWed Nov 8 23:25:48 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 21:16:21 -0700 (MST)

From: "[G. Brent Poirier]" <gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Reverent criticism

On Sun, 29 Oct 1995, Timothy A. Nolan wrote:

> ...criticism should

> be done in such a way that it shows respect for the institution,

> that it does not undermine the authority and prestige which are

> the right of the institutions, that criticism not consist of

> imputation of base motives to members of these institutions [etc.]

This quote from the Guardian fairly leaped off of the page and I felt

that it expressed somewhat of a wry humor as well:

"We must always remember that ... some of those who make the worst

nuisances of themselves to their National Bodies are often very loyal

believers, who think they are protecting the true interests of their Faith

by attacking N.S.A. decisions!"

>From a letter on behalf of the Guardian to the NSA of India dated May 8,

1948; Lights of guidance, 2nd Ed., p. 185. Portion deleted....

From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzWed Nov 8 23:25:57 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 17:19:52 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: Ahmad Aniss <ahmada@acsusun.acsu.unsw.edu.au>, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Lions and pussies

Our good friend Ahmad wrote with obvious approval:

>Yes! Lions and meowing pussies are both part of the animal Kingdom,

Am I rather too Freudian, but does not this sound like another version of

the active-passive argument? As I have said, Heidegger reckoned each of us

has only one idea, or something like that!


From gpoirier@acca.nmsu.eduThu Nov 9 01:16:34 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 21:32:30 -0700 (MST)

From: "[G. Brent Poirier]" <gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu>

To: Don Calkins <drc@commonlink.com>

Cc: Baha'i Discuss <Bahai-Discuss@BCCA.Org>, Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: Washington DC

On Sun, 29 Oct 1995, Don Calkins commented on:

> The attached is a file from alt.folklore.urban regarding the claim that

> someone said that because new inventions were decreasing, the U.S. >

> patent office might as well close....

I'd like to address something that I came across more than a decade ago

in the book "239 Days." In the chapter on Washington DC, there

is a quote from a newspaper editorial writer that when the Master came to

Washington DC he entered the White House like He owned it; and that in His

Honor the US Supreme Court and the US Congress adjourned for the day!

A couple of us set to work looking through the Congressional Record: No

reference to this event.

I wrote to the US Supreme Court, and their archivist checked the archives

for the days that the Master was in DC; and somewhat snootily responded

that there was no such reference to the Court adjourning.

Presidential records are much harder to trace, as the White House archives

are not kept in one place. They are distributed through many university

libraries, and more recently, retained at individual Presidential

Libraries. The US Archivist said that from available materials, there

was no such reference for the dates I inquired of.

In any case, I soon realized that these events had not occurred, and that

if they had, they would have been of such an unprecedented nature that

they would have received wide press coverage. Then, in the early 1980's,

while working as Cook'o'llah, I happened to pass through the office while

Molly King was speaking to the book's author. I told him that I had

investigated, and that these claims did not appear to be true. He said

that he was sure that they were *not* true. I asked why he had included

them, quoting without critical commentary from the newspaper article. He

said that he thought it was of historical interest that that the reporter

had even written it (which is true, but I would have preferred a footnote

to that effect.) I don't know if anybody else came across this, but I

thought I'd take this opportunity to make this point on this interesting



From gpoirier@acca.nmsu.eduThu Nov 9 01:16:51 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 21:55:53 -0700 (MST)

From: "[G. Brent Poirier]" <gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu>

To: "Don R. Calkins" <Don_R._Calkins@commonlink.com>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Ruhiyyih Khanum

On 29 Oct 1995, Don R. Calkins wrote:

> This discussion of Ruhiyyih Khanum brings up a question I have had for many

> years - what is the significance of the title 'Amatu'l-Baha'? I tho't I read

> that Shoghi Effendi told her that she did not receive the title until she

> deserved it but I can't find such a statement any more. Am I correct that it

> can be translated 'Maid-servant of Baha'?

It is the feminine equivalent of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

From robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nzThu Nov 9 11:48:25 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 21:09:57 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Robert Johnston <robert.johnston@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

To: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: new paradigm


>But I personally think Baha'i scholarship needs a trench, and that it can

>only get one for the moment by borrowing the technology of Western

>academia, and that if the Prophet Muhammad can get in and dig, so can I.

Sounds more like a grave than a trench.


From dpeden@imul.comThu Nov 9 11:48:46 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 18:15:58+100

From: Don Peden <dpeden@imul.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Lions

Just thought I would give you all a realistic picture of lions (having had

personal experience of them in the wild).

Lions don't usually roar in the day...only at night, and it is either to

call a mate or to declare territory.

Lions are notoriously lazy. Males rarely hunt...only if reaaalllly pressed.

They prefer to recline in the shade and let the females of the pride hunt.

You do not usually see lions hunting...it is a rare and exciting thing when

it happens. Mostly, they all lay around in bushes, four feet to the air, in

total relaxation. They don't seem to mind tourists viewing them in repose,

so long as the tourists stay in their vehicles. They also occasionally find

a nice big fig tree and hang around there, draped in the branches like wet

spagetti. These are the famous tree climbing lions.

Lions do not hunt or take the best of their prey. They usually isolate a

weak, young or old speciman, one who can be isolated and brought down by the

pride. The kill is then dragged back to the pride, although if it is large,

the pride will come to the kill, where papa has first go, lionesses and cubs


Male lions do appreciate a harem, and do not appreciate interlopers. When

young male lions reach sexual maturity and are any threat to the dominant

male, one of them will have to go. The ousted lion will wander off and

either hunt alone (one of those occasions when they have to hunt) and will

pick on the easiest prey they can find, including humans on bicycles, or

humans otherwise available (read "Lunatic Express" which is the history of

the building of the railway in East Africa, and yes, it is true) or find a

new harem if they are able. Sometimes some of the females will leave with

the outsed male if the pride is too big. When a lion is cornered, it can be

a formidible enemy. Lions are usually playful and patient with their cubs.

But if a youngster angers the male, it is possible he will kill the cub.

Still want to use the lion as an analogy?

As far as pussycats go, well, I'm a dog person myself. The closest I have

come to a cat was Sylvester, a huge black and white tom cat who lived with

us, and who use to like to wrestle with our two BIG dogs, and taught Shadow

(the dumber of the two) how to hunt mice. Sylvester was too lazy to hunt,

and so trained the dog to do his job. Shadow learned well.

Lots of love and laughs,


From burlb@bmi.netThu Nov 9 11:49:58 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 00:13 PST

From: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Progressive Revelation (by the back door)

I have been quiet of late on Talisman (is that a world-wide sigh of relief?)

because I have been busy "doing" instead of discussing -- but I did manage

to squeak out a post to my other favorite discussion listserv,

Dorothyl@kentvm.kent.edu. While the list has *nothing* to do with religion

and everything to do with mystery and crime writing/reading, I do find

subtle ways of sneaking in fragments of Baha'i concepts. For those of you

who have missed the pleasure of postings from such a "powerful" and

"influential" Baha'i such as myself, allow me to share a well received post

on the topic of book signings.


SIGNINGS: Historically, signings have *not* gone well. Even post signing

responses are iffy at best. Consider Moses. He went to a private autograph

party on a mountain, brought back a signed limited edition, and his pals

couldn't have cared less. Now, perhaps it was the economy of style that put

them off, or the obtrusive nature of the commanding narrative voice, but be

it form (I doubt they were waiting for it to come out in paperback), or

content (too complex to internalize quickly) the initial response was not

one to encourage sequels. Fame and acceptance were a slow building process

-- there were eventual addendums, the inclusion of poetic praises, and it is

claimed by millions that the same author penned several sequels known by

diverse titles from different publishers (Gospels, Qur'an, Bayan, Aqdas) and

apparent prequels (ZendAvesta, Gita, Sutras). The real tragedy is, from an

authors standpoint, not only were the signings unsuccessful, the initial

readership was low, and the eventual wide-spread international accliam

occured prior to 1900 and the advent of copyright laws. But, just as that

never-ending author continues to issue new releases every 500-1,000 years to

an unreceptive audience and negative reviews, so I continue to trapse off to

WaldenBooks, Media Play, and the loving independents. I show up at readings

to face empty chairs, smile over snacks as browsers leave bean-dip

fingerprints on the glossy dust jackets, and insist aloud that I would not

have written the book if it weren't good -- I shout that buying my book is

the opportunity of a lunch-time, a chance to own one of the most prestigious

book-ends of the 20th Century, an affirmation of their support of literacy

in America, a testimony to their love of literature, a chance to give two

gifts for the price of one -- the joy of reading, the treasure of an

autographed first edition -- and they look at me as if I just interrupted

their meaningful communion with a golden calf. I follow them as they snork

their way over to the self-help section ("You don't need help," I yelp, "you

need an astonishing story of fraud, deception, trickery, lies, and fine

prime rib!"), They cast dark glances over their puffy polyesther shoulders;

I'm stalking them down the aisle of positive affirmations, snapping at

their heels like an inbred pomeranian, a carnival barker guesing the weight

of their wallets and the firmness of their sales resistance. They buy The

Horse Whisperer or a Far Side calender and go home. I go outside, smoke an

Old Gold, buy a Whopper, and drive home. Fame. I love it.


Now, with all that said, imagine the signing tour for the Baha'i

Encyclopedia.. a tram packed with testy terrestials, bracketing their

footnotes from one end of the Baha'i world to the other, snapping at each

other over orders of eggplant and sides of beef from Houston to Haifa and back.

Oh...are any of you in Philadelphia? I am going to Philly on Friday for one

of my rare personal appearances and wonder if anyone is celebrating

Baha'u'llah's Birthday on Saturday night in Phillly. I will be at the

Independence Hall (Mall?) Holiday Inn and speaking on a panel re: "inside

the criminal mind" on Sunday morning.


PS: Does Sherman's spiritual station make him "Paws of the Cause"?

or "Claws of the Cause"?


Order MAN OVERBOARD, the new book by Burl Barer today!


From friberg@will.brl.ntt.jpThu Nov 9 11:51:51 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 18:15:08 JST

From: "Stephen R. Friberg" <friberg@will.brl.ntt.jp>

To: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>, friberg@will.brl.ntt.jp

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: new paradigm

Dear Juan:

I liked your reply to Steven, encouraging him in his studies of Arabic

and Persion trenches! I agree with much of what you say. What's more,

I think that our discussions are getting back on track.

Where I disagree, and the disagreement is one of emphasis and perhaps

not of substance, is in the emphasis that you place on the *Western

Academic* mode of scholarship. It is plenty apparent to me, and I

think it should be to everybody else too, that the *Western Academic*

mode of scholarship is not under attack by any responsible authorities

as being unacceptable *unless* it seems to be too ruthlessly agnostic.

Indeed, our authorities, many of whom are Persian, recoil from some

of what they see as Western scholarly excess. No surprises there!

The problem then, as you and John have outlined, is the flexibility

of this "too ruthlessly agnostic" business. Somebody is making a

judgement call, and "they" are calling the judgement different than


Now, there are several ways to get out of such an impasse. One way,

clearly, would be to respond obediently to what "their" suggestions

seem to be. If "they" are the House of Justice, that doesn't seem

such a bad idea (after a couple of exchanges of letters back and forth

to clarify things). But clearly, there are practical difficulties.

The other way to go is to continue to do scholarship in the best way

that you know how. You can call is "western academic" or "tertiary

perpendicularic" or whatever you want, but the truth is that it is

simply your way of doing scholarship, and it is strongly influenced

by a number of factors, perhaps one the all-around major one being

the Baha'i Faith, with Mirza Abu Fad'l (sp) a close second.

Now, when we look at it this way we find that indeed, Juan Cole, and

Chris Buck, and John Walbridge and others have already started to make

this leap from agnostic secular scholarship to a more universal style

that accepts the validity of all religions and and all revelations.

Do others see that? Apparently not very clearly (by the way, I'm very

sympathetic to the thinking of engineers and scientists, and sometimes

I can even understand it. An interesting discussion later, perhaps?)

Apparently, this lack of insight has surfaced with regards to the

Encyclopedia. Personally, I feel that it is not well understood

how far you and others have moved towards what they want, simply

because there is little awareness of the norms of academic western

scholarly discourse. We see all the time on Talisman the lack of

awareness of these norms!

I can't say that you have tried to help "them" see that. Your main

intent, if I judge correctly from what I see on Talisman, is to make

them as angry as possible, and goad them into attack. So much for

the diplomatic touch! No wonder this issue is getting nowhere!

I could rant and rave about this for quite a while, I am so furious

about it! Why don't you give yourself and your friends a chance?

Why do you have to present scholarship in the worst possible light?

(Linda is encouraging me to rant and rave, "put it on the table" is

what she says.)

For me, it is very easy to see where the major difficulties are.

Think of the blow-up on Talisman and imagine it happening over a

period of years and years, with distrust building on both sides.

Then you can easily see what I see.

Clearly, something must be done to clear away the distrust. The

poison must be cleared from the atmosphere. But the mountain is

not going to move just for you!

Anyway, enough ranting and raving for now.

Yours respectfully,

Stephen R. Friberg

From dpeden@imul.comThu Nov 9 11:52:06 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 21:15:56+100

From: Don Peden <dpeden@imul.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: more about lions

Did I forget to mention that when lions mate, they copulate up to 60 or 70

times a day until the female is impregnated? Feel up to it, all you lions

out there? I really think you better look for a more appropriate analogy.

More love and laughs,


From CMathenge@aol.comThu Nov 9 11:52:54 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 09:33:08 -0500

From: CMathenge@aol.com

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Context vs. the Writings

Dear Talispersons,

I don't think anyone is suggesting that Baha'is should be forbidden to use

Lights of Guidance as a reference; however, I would have to agree with Tony

and Terry that Shoghi Effendi's letters as quoted in that book can sometimes

be misleading if a letter that was apparently intended for a specific context

of time and place is taken as a general rule.

A case in point: It is my understanding (based on hearsay, however, and

perhaps incorrect) that some years ago the Los Angeles LSA asked the L.A.

Baha'i Youth Workshop not to hold its rehearsals at the Baha'i Center, due to

a letter in Lights of Guidance in which the Guardian forbade dancing in a

Baha'i Center in another country, and perhaps 40 years earlier. It is my

guess, which may again of course be completely erroneous, that the Guardian

did this in the context that in that particular remote part of the world at

that particular time, dancing was interpreted as irreverent or irreligious by

the general population or by certain factions, and he did not wish the

Baha'is to offend. He very probably did not intend this letter to be taken

as a general rule applying to all Baha'i Centers throughout the world for all


While I certainly think Lights of Guidance is a valuable compilation and have

no desire to see it banned, I see no harm in pointing out the possibility

that care needs to be taken in using it as a general guideline in situations

in which an entirely different context may apply.




Carmen Mathenge

Los Angeles, California, USA

Contact me for expert word processing, copy editing, and

English assistance. International students/scholars welcome.


From Don_R._Calkins@commonlink.comThu Nov 9 11:57:23 1995

Date: 09 Nov 1995 07:45:40 GMT

From: "Don R. Calkins" <Don_R._Calkins@commonlink.com>

To: gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Re: Ruhiyyih Khanum

> It is the feminine equivalent of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

OK, but is there some station involved here? It was my understanding that

this title is one which could be given to the wife of the Guardian. It's

also intereting that she reports that Shoghi Effendi said that he would not

have married her if her mother had not been May Maxwell. And, so far as I

know, they are the only family where mother, father and child were Hands of

the Cause.

Don C

- sent via an evaluation copy of BulkRate (unregistered).

From rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.comThu Nov 9 12:00:20 1995

Date: Thu, 09 Nov 95 08:59:01 -0500

From: Ahang Rabbani <rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: "five hundred thousand verses"

[This message is converted from WPS-PLUS to ASCII]

In a recent posting, David House drew our attention to a passage

from the Dawnbreakers, p 70-1 where its quoted:

"Was not Quddus, although besieged within the fort of Shaykh

Tabarsi by the battalions and fire of a relentless enemy,

engaged, both in the daytime and in the night-season, in the

completion of his eulogy of Baha'u'llah -- that immortal

commentary on the Sad of Samad which had already assumed the

dimensions of five hundred thousand verses?"

The question of how large this commentary of Quddus was, is

actually dealt with in two different ways in the Dawnbreakers:

in a couple places is mentioned that was "five hundred thousand

verses" but other places in the same book its mentioned as 6

times the size of Qur'an.

Unless somebody sets me straight, I think there is a discrepancy

between these two estimates. Qur'an is generally considered

around 6,600 verses (plus of minus a little depending how you

count certain passages), by comparison the Kitab-i Aqdas is 478

verses. Anyway, 500,000 verses makes this commentary of Quddus

nearly 76 times the Qur'an and not 6 times as reported also by

Nabil. Of course unless Nabil was using a different definition

of "verse" which I don't think so as the Bab in the Persian Bayan

had defined "verse".

My guess is that Nabil somehow got his notes on Quddus and the

Bab mixed on this issue. It is the Bab who in the Persian Bayan

gives an estimate of the size of His Writings as 500,000 verses,

and I think Nabil had this in mind but also somehow transported

it to Quddus -- a not uncommon mistake!

I would welcome pleasantly worded rebuttals of this theory.

One of the challenges in studying the life and writings of Quddus

is to try to separate what reference relate to the Bab and which

ones to Quddus, as the past narrators certainly have confused the

Two on many instances.

love, ahang.

From JWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.eduThu Nov 9 12:02:41 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 10:42:00 EWT

From: JWALBRID@cluster.ucs.indiana.edu

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Scholarly paradigms

It is true, as Stephen Friberg warns, that the picture of a blowup

over scholarship taking place over a number of years is not a pretty

one. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened, with more

and more people marginalized as it has gone on over the last 15 years.

A brief chronology of events. Juan can perhaps correct some dates:

ca. 1980: MacEoin's withdrawal from the Faith following a series of

disagreements with the British NSA and House of Justice over

scholarly issues.

the Research Department's memo on scholarship

early 1980s: the flap over the West Los Angeles Study Group newsletter

extensive review problems with regard to Kalimat's academic

books, notably the Babi and Baha'i History series.

flap over Juan Cole's article on the Tablet of Wisdom

mid-80s: the suppression of Kalimat's edition and translation of Salmani's

memoirs of Baha'u'llah. (It was finally published in a bowdlerized


late 80s: the dialogue affair

the letter on Rights and Freedom reaffirming

review and central control of discourse

90s: the Baha'i encyclopedias troubles

insistence by the House on inappropriateness of Western academic


These are public events. There are also numerous smaller incidents, most

involving individuals. There has also been some progress: Rob Stockman's

appointment as research director in Wilmette with immediate improvement

in the quality of review in the US, the progress made by ABS, the

Newcastle seminars in Britain, etc.

Part of the problem is generational. There are a batch of younger people

who are now in mid-career and wish to get on with their scholarly work

and are not particularly impressed by the current policies.

I can't speak for other people, though I suspect their experiences are often

similar to mine. I started out in good faith and actually rather

expected to spend most of my career in Haifa. My first big professional

shock came when I was on the Executive Committee of the Association

for Baha'i Studies and things were done over my objections that seemed

to me to be wrong morally and in content and procedure. I got over

that, being a good Baha'i, ignored the rather odd experience of an attempt

by the World Center to recruit me, and went on to organize the Baha'i

encyclopedia. That turned out to be endless heartaches, during my

tenure as editor mostly because individuals were treated badly. (I am

*not* referring to myself, although I could.) Simply put, I thought it

was wrong to, in effect, tell people that they had been chosen as

sacrifices for the good of the Cause. Eventually my tolerance and good

will ran out (I can tell you the exact moment: it was a weekend on

which I received a major NSA decision about the encyclopedia on which

I had not been consulted and also received the so-called "Rights and

Freedom" letter.) At that point, I had had enough. I eventually found

another job where I was treated with respect and was not accused of being

a bad Baha'i if I objected to something or other. This is why I now

think about letters from the House rather than just accept them at

face value.

I have seen other people go through similar experiences, not just in

scholarship but also in the arts, teaching, administration, etc. Treating

people in such a way has a very heavy opportunity cost. Talented,

energetic people want to be allowed to work. If you interfere with

them all the time, sooner or later they will get disgusted and go away,

as I have seen many, many good Baha'is do.

I am reminded of the Confederate soldier who was called unpatriotic for

complaining. "Sure I love my country," he said, "but if I get out of this

alive, I am never going to love another one."

john walbridge

From barazanf@dg-rtp.dg.comThu Nov 9 12:05:34 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 11:38:08 -0500 (EST)

From: Farzin Barazandeh <barazanf@dg-rtp.dg.com>

To: Talisman <talisman@indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: Mr. Furutan Watch Analogy

Yes. Another point of unity between all religions!

We all think we have a watch and it is foolish to synchronize with others.

I thinks we should send this "Watch Analogy" to our

brethren in Qum and Lynchburg they would love it!


From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:41 1995

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 15:21:00 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

Subject: Re: reforms and solutions

Burl: bless your soul. cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:41 1995

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 15:28:22 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: an assistant to the auxiliary board

Subject: RE: election turnover

Oh, you are absolutely right about subjectivity/objectivity issues. The

only thing is, they cannot be escaped (Americans inevitably feel

differently even about something so old as the War of 1812 than

Britishers do. Did not stop my colleague Brad Perkins from writing about

it). Nor do I see that as thinking, spiritual human beings we are in a

position always to suspend judgment.

Perhaps because I am known to believe in human rights, and known not to

be an insider, fair numbers of Baha'is have begun sending me documents.

I am entirely aware that one has to be careful about people with axes to

grind; about getting both (or all four or five) sides. But some of the

documents are indisputably genuine and indisputably reflect very badly on

the state of human rights within the Baha'i community. I do not

understand how it is that we can stand idly by while our own community

suffers (and commits) injustices. I admit that my heroes are Gandhi and


cheers Juan

Date: Wed, 01 Nov 1995 09:10:28 -0800

From: David W. House <dhouse@cinsight.com>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: reforms and solutions

Juan, friends,

At 01:10 AM 11/1/95 -0500, you wrote:

>A. Problem 1: Lack of civil society; the lack print space for frank and

>open discourse; censorship practices.


>Solution 1: In my view, if Review is abolished, everything else can follow.

> ...

>[discussions take place,] But for it to flourish, the governing institutions

>must withdraw from censorship practices and agree to press freedom,

>uncensored stage plays, and so forth.

I'm not sure who would do this, given that such reviews were established at

the behest of the Guardian. If anyone is not aware of this, I will offer the

requisite quotes. In any case, evidence offered by this forum does not lead

me to believe that uncensored is better.

>B. Problem 2: Derailing of the Baha'i [Encyclopedia] for silly reasons...

Forgive me for being so ignorant of this issue, but I am not aware of the

history. From discussions which I have seen, however, I thought this was a

decision of the Universal House of Justice. If so, then following a logical

syllogism, it would seem that what is being said... well, I will not

specify. It should be clear.

>Solution 3: Why not just be open with the Baha'i community and

>publish the details of NSA salaries and perks?

If such information would inspire more such discussion, I would suggest that

we never be offered the opportunity. Far better for us to be sheep than

wolves, if that is our only choice. What is clear, at present, judging by

the level and nature of discourse on Talisman, is that we are not mature

enough to properly integrate this information. As Americans, we clearly

mistrust our institutions, and that mistrust has exacerbated the problems of

the Institutions of the Faith in this country immensely, profoundly, deeply.

Beyond this, many implications unfold from the reality that Baha'i

Institutions do not have a constituency. The fact of the matter is that the

NSA is not bound to provide this information, and while we might, with the

greatest deference and humility, request it (although I, for one, cannot

imagine that it is of any significance to us), the National Spiritual

Assembly of the United States may choose not to offer it. If we cannot

accept that, we have accused ourselves of immaturity, demonstrating the

initial point.

>Problem 4: Widespread disgruntlement with the NSA

>judging cases where it or its members are interested >parties.

This is presumptive, in the sense that no evidence of this is provided. I

hesitate, however, to point this out, since it would seem to be a request

for such information, and I can assure you that I do not want it.

The generic point is that such issues are the exclusive perview of the

Institutions, and the only possible outcome of raising it publicly is to

diminish the general level of understanding that such is the case, and to

provide grist for the mill that would grind up the Faith, if it could. That

is, in response, as these words are in response, we begin to discuss the

pros and cons of this as if we had either some right to do so (and if we do,

it would have to be a *much* more civil and indeed more in the form of a

deepening, discussing the implications of various quotes), or more

pertinently, as if we had some power to choose or change, which we clearly

do not.

>E. Problem 5: Baha'i individuals who have their rights removed do

>not have the right to see the evidence against them; do not have the

>right to confront their accusers; and, indeed, have no rights at all

>except that of appeal (which the NSA insists be done through it!).

Sigh. See response above...

>Solution 5: A bill of rights for Baha'i individuals needs to be

>devised and appended to the NSA by-laws.

A th roughly American solution, no doubt. Have we forgotten that the by-laws

of the NSA were approved by the Guardian? If the thought is that these

by-laws have a fundamental flaw, then what is being said about the Guardian,

and indeed the Covenant? How often, in the past, have calls which appeal to

an incompletely realized understanding of the Covenant led to mischief and

suffering? A reading of the history of the Cause should cause us to fear for

the life of our very souls, should we determine to do battle with the

Institutions of the Faith.

>Problem 6: The Baha'i electoral system does not work very well

>and tends to produce a sort of elective dictatorship. All criticism of

>policy is cast as "negative campaigning," leading to a virtual ban on

>creative thinking.

It may also be that valid responses to such comments have not yet been

addressed. So far, I have not seen even a modest fiction of an analysis

which would demonstrate that there is an iota of truth in the assertions

being made. As I previously pointed out, statistical analyses of the past

are interesting, but not predictive, and thus cannot provide proof of the

assertion. Was any other evidence provided? If so, my apologies, for I

missed it. Apparently it bears repeating that when we say that we believe

errors which are glaring, fundamental, structural, and of long history exist

in the NSA and its workings, then we are necessarily saying that the

Universal House of Justice cannot or does not or will not address these errors.

The system being criticized was established through the workings of the

Covenant, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Covenant is

therefore under attack, although my profound hope and current assumption is

that this is not the motive.

I for one feel drained, aghast, shaken, and stunned as if I had been bitten

by a snake. I am not being pejorative, truly; I am rather trying to share

something of my emotional state, and the response which my cells provide to

me, in order to offer some insight into any intemperance my words might reveal.

Beyond this, if such discourse, with such a tone and so wounding to the body

of the Cause continues, I intend to recommend, as one member of the

Community of the Most Great Name, that the National Spiritual Assembly

consider closing down this forum.

[I cannot as yet imagine the response that will get... Batten the hatches!

The smoking lamp is out! Dive, Dive! Ahhhooogahhh! Ahhhooogahhh! Torpedoes


I do not intend to offer this as a threat and I apologize if, in context, it

might seem as such. I very much enjoy discussion, and look forward to

reading the latest on Talisman. Indeed, since joining I have spent far too

much time reading and writing; and it has been, for the most part, a source

of considerable enjoyment to me. But friends, let's face it: if we continue

on this course, it will not matter if we request it ourselves, for it will

be done in any case.

Freedom of any sort implies commensurate responsibility. We cannot insist on

our rights without being passionate about our responsibilities, and I

believe we are too ready, in some instances, to do the former without

undertaking the latter. When the balance has been too greatly ignored, it is

no longer a personal issue: it becomes a community issue, and requires that

the community act to protect itself.

If I found the content merely offensive, I would simply quietly slip away.

But this, for me, is becoming a Covenant issue, and I feel about attacks on

the Covenant like I feel about attacks on my children. I must fight to

retain a sense of balance and to make appropriate responses. Absent the

Covenant, mankind will certainly plunge into irredeemable darkness, and my

children, and my children's children, will certainly suffer. If I must

choose between my suffering and theirs, I will choose mine.

As such, although it would clearly be unjust, and would cause difficulties

for some, if we cannot discover our proper boundaries then I cannot see that

such discourse serves the community, and some of us must suffer the

dissolution of this forum as the price of our inability to police ourselves.

I would also suggest that many of the painful decisions (painful for either

them or us) made by the Institutions have this sort of damned if you do and

damned if you don't quality. I think of Solomon offering to cut the child in

half for the two disputing women. In the end, however, that scene is

instructive, for the two women (the ruled), by their insistence on their own

position, provided Solomon (the ruler) with no better choice. Our own

misdeeds, ignorances, immaturities, and refusals to change our course when

offered gentler advice will also lead to similar consequences.

And if we blame the Institutions, we are far too cavalier regarding our own

part in the problems.


David William House (dhouse@cinsight.com)

Computer Insight

23022 Yeary Lane N.E.

Aurora, OR 97002-0167 USA

(503) 678-1085 voice

(503) 678-1030 fax

"Well is it with the doers of great deeds." Abdu'l-Baha

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:42 1995

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 15:53:50 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: reforms and solutions

Dear David:

I am sorry that my post so upset you. It was meant to be constructive.

If it did leave you shaken, then I can only suggest that Talisman may not

be your cup of tea. This is not meant in a mean-spirited way, as a "love

it or leave it" sentiment. It is heartfelt. Talisman is a subculture,

and is not for everyone. Why upset yourself?

I am sorry you chose not to reason with my points, but to engage in a

litany of "you cannot say that." I can hardly reply, having been

forestalled by being silenced. There is no argument for me to engage.

In some instances you admitted you knew nothing about the issues

involved, and did not want to know. So you will excuse my inability to

respond to your points; it is not meant as a slight.

I find your invoking of the Covenant in order to silence me deplorable.

(Have you, by the way, ever risked your life for the Covenant?)

But it is good in a way for us all to be reminded of this ultra-Right

political culture that has such sway in the American Baha'i community.

What a wonderful New World Order, where we are all dictated to and if

anyone raises a peep, she can be shouted down by the word "Covenant." I

sigh, I weep. Please read Orwell and think again.

As for the threat to "have Talisman closed down," this is also deplorable

and unacceptable. I can understand and respect your saying "I want no

part of this." But to take it upon yourself to decide what discourse the

rest of us can engage in is arrogant and authoritarian. I am

unimpressed, by the way. When I was pioneering in war-torn Beirut, I was

working for a newspaper and had occasional problems with the Syrian

censor. Now, the Syrian government slaughtered 10,000 of its own

citizens in Hama just three years later. So I have been censored by the

best. These stiff-necked American Baha'is cannot measure up to Hafez

al-Asad, however fearsome they think they are.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:43 1995

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 18:57:01 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: an assistant to the auxiliary board

Subject: RE: election turnover

Rick: Thank you for your level-headed post.

I'm not really concerned with the misbehavior of individuals, and really

have no idea what their motives for it may be.

I am concerned that certain structures allow or even encourage certain

sorts of improprieties. The structures we now have are embryonic. What

is wrong, when we see them malfunctioning, with trying to fix them? What

is wrong with cyber-consultation as a vehicle to that?

I am afraid that the reduction of Counsellors' terms to five years has

rendered them relatively less powerful vis-a-vis the elective

institutions. They worry about being reappointed if they make waves.

Moreover, some of them are so imbricated in the system that they simply

cannot see its flaws. Birkland is a very good man, but he is therefore

out on a limb all the time.

I respect very much the Way that you have worked out and your attempt to

ground yourself in the Writings. I guess I just ground myself in

different Writings. I think of `Abdu'l-Baha, an exile and prisoner in

Akka in 1875, hated by both the Ottoman and Persian government, sitting

down and writing Secret of Divine Civilization, full of proscribed and

illegal ideas; and of his cheek in actually having it published in

British Bombay, away from the censorship laws of the Middle East; and

having it smuggled into Iran as contraband, circulating it widely among

the Friends and the reformers. What astonishing courage, what

high-minded aspiration! How good to strive to be like our Exemplar.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:43 1995

Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 00:20:23 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu



---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 01 Nov 1995 11:29:00 +1000

From: Abbas Hooshmand (06) 268 4947 <Abbas.Hooshmand@caa.gov.au>

To: Baha'i Announce <Bahai-Announce@BCCA.Org>



Speaking with the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of Pakistan

on the phone last night, I enquired about the way Pakistani resident Baha'is

of Karachi cope with the turmoil in Karachi.

I was given re-assurance that the Pakistani resident Baha'is were okay and

content with God's will, whatever it is. But he asked me to say prayers for

the 1200 Persian Baha'i refugees in Pakistan, many of them suffering dire

adversity. Having spoken with some refugee arrivals in Australia before, I

became aware that quite sadly a great proportion of the Baha'i refugees in

Pakistan are suffering from severe financial hardship since the U.N. is not

as receptive as it used to be in the past. Quite a large number of them are

refused U.N. assistance and God knows how they are coping with life and day

to day necessities. The situation is very depressing.

If we can't do anything for them at least we can pray.

God bless you all.



Abbas Hooshmand

Canberra: Capital of Australia.

Baha'i' population around 150

Fax: Australia 6 2684332

Ph: Australia 6 2684947W 2531929H


From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:44 1995

Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 01:47:32 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: reforms and apologies

David House has been very big in his further comments, and it is only

right for me to say also that I probably over-reacted in my post to his.

E-mail is a very hot medium. It comes directly from the screen into the

subconscious (which is what explains the appeal of cyberpunk sf).

Writing for this medium is in many ways exactly the opposite of writing

fiction. In a novel, you have to *exaggerate* the distinctive traits and

behaviors of characters, or else they simply do not shine through. In

e-mail, you have to tone everything down or it shouts. Sorry, David, if

I shouted.

But aside from matters of tone and etiquette, it is not useful, it seems

to me, for us to paper over real differences. I have come to believe

that the Baha'i faith is in many ways very badly administered,

*especially* when it comes to matters of the intellect. Being an

intellectual, this annoys me. And I am afraid that the Baha'i

institutions have demystified themselves for me. I recognize that the

NSA and the Universal House of Justice are the ultimate authorities and

their rulings are the law. I just don't think much of some of their

rulings, and want to see them overturned by future, wiser successors.

And I don't think we will get real change by being silent. (We may not

get it by talking, either; but Baha'u'llah advises us that "utterance"

(bayan) has great power, and it is, in fact, the equivalent in the Baha'i

Faith to the Muslim and Babi swords). So I don't think utterance/bayan

is necessarily fruitless, either.

It is no secret that I and many other Baha'i intellectuals are furious

about the House's suppression of the Baha'i Encyclopaedia. And this

affair is one of the things driving my suggestions for reform.

I am a pluralist. I support the right of everyone to develop their own

discourse, assuming that discourse does not pose a real and present

danger to anyone (you can't yell "fire!" in a theater, you can't incite a

crowd to beat up a Jew or Muslim or Baha'i, etc.), and assuming the

discourse does not aim at gaining power so as to silence other discourses

(as with Fascist and Communist political movements). In fact, discourses

aimed at silencing people through power rather than through argument

rather anger me. So I don't care if Baha'is want to believe in ether and

dispute Darwinian biology and think the sneezes of people in Haifa are

infallible and fear the evaporation of US cities tomorrow and assert that

a Baha'i theocracy will find a way to treat religious minorities

equitably. I don't believe any of these things, and won't be made to. I

will argue against them if they are put to me. But it is fine with me if

these beliefs exist and are expressed for the subcultures that believe in


But many Baha'is are not pluralists. Their understanding of the Covenant

is such that they will admit of only one discourse. They consider Baha'i

subcultures illegitimate. And so they attempt to ban the subcultural

discourse of Baha'i intellectuals. I have seen this happen over and over

again in my Baha'i life--the LA study class notes, some Kalimat projects,

including Salmani, *Dialogue* magazine, and now the Encyclopaedia. There

is a frankly totalitarian edge to all this banning and concern with what

discourse the Covenant allows, and it frightens me to death. Until the

Baha'is resolve this problem, they will never be more than an

insignificant, exotic outlier in US religion (and until they resolve it I

hope they never are more than that).

It should not be mysterious what the reasons are, for this conflict.

Those with more education, especially in the liberal arts, are less

likely to believe in miracles, Catastrophes, scriptural inerrancy, and so

forth. In US Protestantism, the denomination system allows educational

segregation among believers. The educationally backward South produces

Southern Baptists, while the affluent and educated Northeast produces

Unitarians and Episcopalians, etc. Of course, these things are

never neat, and cross-cutting cleavages exist. There are Engineering

Ph.D.s who never learned how to read a text contextually, and who are

therefore fundamentalists. There are anti-intellectual intellectuals,

etc. But by and large the correlation I have proposed between religious

"liberalism" and high levels of (liberal arts) education holds true.

Now, in the Baha'i faith we do not have the luxury of separating into

denominations. The highly educated equivalent of the Unitarians are in

the same congregations with the minimally educated equivalents of the

Southern Baptists. And what I see is that the equivalent of the Baha'i

Southern Baptists, instead of being tolerant toward the Baha'i

"Unitarians," have attempted to ban or control the latter's discourse.

THIS IS SIMPLY NOT FAIR. Although the national and international

Institutions have a fair number of highly educated persons on them, they

have adopted a policy of the lowest common denominator. Any discourse

that offends the lowest common denominator is banned; essentially,

scriptural literalists are given the veto over Baha'i intellectuals.

This policy was openly admitted to the LA Study Class in the early 1980s

by a member of the NSA.

Many on Talisman are intellectuals who have been suppressed over and over

again all their lives, and we're just not putting up with it any longer.

It is fine with me if someone wants to believe in the virgin birth of

Jesus of Nazareth. I'm sure that is a very meaningful belief to some

people. But I don't believe in it. It is scientifically as close to

impossible as any phenomenon I know of (women have two X chromosomes and

lack the "Y" for a boy; parthenogenesis could only produce a daughter).

And I think my lack of belief in it is plausibly grounded in the Baha'i

principle of the unity of science and religion. Shall this conclusion be

silenced by the scriptural inerrancy crowd? Or can't we learn to live

together in a pluralist Baha'i society, tolerating many discourses?

Tolerating even a Baha'i Encyclopaedia?

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:48 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 01:08:00 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: reforms, unapologetically

David: It is not your fault, but many of the points you make were made by

others a year ago, and we fought them out for months, and for the most

part I just do not have the energy to do it all over again. My archives

of Talisman are also on diskette by month and retrieving things is

laborious, so I can't just download the past discussions to you (though

for anything since May Eric Pierce can do so if you ask him). But it is

not fair to you, since you want a dialogue, not to respond at all. So I

will sacrifice working on my book to reply to you tonight.

David House quoted:

"First regarding the birth of Jesus Christ. In the light of what

Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha have stated concerning this subject it

is evident that Jesus came into this world through the direct

intervention of the Holy Spirit, and that consequently His birth was

quite miraculous. This is an established fact, and the friends need not

feel at all surprised, as the belief in the possibility of miracles has

never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been


(From a letter dated December 31, 1937 written on behalf of the Guardian

to an individual believer) LofG #1637

JC: I agree that the Guardian's secretary wrote this passage. I also

know of a Persian Tablet by `Abdu'l-Baha that rather ridicules Western

scientists who do not accept Jesus's virgin birth.

But I just don't go to `Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi for my science.

Very little was known yet about genetics when they were alive, and even

DNA's discovery is only from the 50's. Science can only reveal to us

probabilities, not absolute certainties, of course. But the probability

of a virgin birth is so low in my view that it can be safely dismissed as

historical fact. Since, in addition, both `Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi

Effendi thought miracles did not prove anything, I'm not sure why it

matters. In *Miracles and Metaphors* Mirza Abu'l-Fadl has an amusing

argument for the inconsequentiality of miracles as proof of anything.

The fact is that Jesus is given contradictory genealogies in the NT, and

probably the writers of them had no idea about his parentage; but one

line does imply descent through his father, Joseph.

In other words, my stance takes seriously the principle that when

religion contradicts science it is superstition. I would not be so harsh

to the virgin birth (or this one, since so many have been alleged of

god-men in history) as to call it superstition. But it is myth, in the

sense of a meaningful story, the meaning of which does not depend on its

historical facticity. As a late 20th-century thinker, I cannot find this

sort of myth meaningful in a primary way, though I can perhaps glimpse

what it must mean to believers in it, from a distance. I don't think I

am missing anything crucial.

David House continues:

>I would also like to demonstrate my lack of wisdom by continuing the


> It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to

> exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth

> beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a

> beneficial influence. Consider for instance such things

> as liberty, civilization and the like. However much

> men of understanding may favorably regard them,

> they will, if carried to excess, exercise a pernicious

> influence upon men. Please God, the peoples of the

> world may be led, as the result of the high endeavors

> exerted by their rulers and the wise and learned

> amongst men, to recognize their best interests.

Gleanings p 216

This and the others you post are very nice passages, favorites of mine,

but I suspect I do not think they mean what you think they mean. They

also have to be balanced by other passages:

First of all, when Baha'u'llah criticizes "liberty" he is using the word

hurriyyah. I have demonstrated that hurriyyah in the 19th century meant

both license (immorality, libertinism) and political liberty

(democracy). Baha'u'llah condemns libertinism and loose morals, of

course. But then he goes on to say that he approves of liberty in

certain regards; since he advocated British-style parliamentarism, it is

clear that he approved of liberty in the sense of democratic liberty.

I'll go on to quote from things that I've written that have apposite

citations from the Writings in them:

In his chronicle of the Babi and Baha'i movements, `Abdu'l-

Baha deplored the religious persecution practiced in nineteenth-

century Iran, writing, "[To ensure] freedom of conscience (azadigi-yi

vujdan) and tranquillity of heart and soul is one of the duties and

functions of government, and is in all ages the cause of progress in

development and ascendency over other lands."1 This passage

emphasizes that to ensure freedom of freedom of conscience is a duty of

the state.

1`Abdu'l-Baha, Maqalih-'i Shakhs-i Sayyah/Traveller's Narrative, 1:193;


Already by 1875 `Abdu'l-Baha was arguing to Iranian conservatives

with regard to European conceptions that "This liberty (hurriyyat) in

the universal rights of individuals (huquq-i `umumiyyih-'i afrad) " is

not "contrary to prosperity and success." ( `Abdu'l-Baha, Risalih-'i

madaniyyih (Hofheim-Langenhain: Baha'i-

Verlag, 1984), p. 19; my translation, for technical purposes.)

Of the European Crusades and Wars of Religion `Abdu'l-Baha says in

Traveller's Narrative:

"The principles and essentials of the happiness of

the human race were in abeyance; the supports of

kingly authority were shaken; but the influence and

power of the *heads of religion and of the monks*

were in all parts complete.

But when they removed these differences,

persecutions, and bigotries out of their midst,

and proclaimed the equal rights of all subjects

and the liberty of men's consciences, the lights

of glory and power arose and shone from the

horizons of that kingdom in such wise that

those countries made progress in every

direction . . . These are effectual and sufficient

proofs that the conscience of man is sacred

and to be respected; and that liberty thereof

produces widening of ideas, amendment of

morals, improvement of conduct, disclosure of

the secrets of creation, and manifestation of

the hidden verities of the contingent world."

(`Abdu'l-Baha, Traveller's Narrative, Wilmette edn., p. 91).

[JC: The last phrase of the Master's pretty clearly refers to science

and the need for it to be unfettered from religious dogma in order to

thrive. I underline his disdain for a society controlled by the

ecclesiastical authorities.)

In later years `Abdu'l-Baha preached these ideals in the West. He

greatly appreciated the American constitution. At the Central

Congregational Church in Brooklyn on 16 June 1912, he said: "Just as

in the world of politics there is need for free thought, likewise in the

world of religion there should be the right of unrestricted individual

belief. Consider what a vast difference exists between modern

democracy and the old forms of despotism. Under an autocratic

government the opinions of men are not free, and development is

stifled, whereas in a democracy, because thought and speech are not

restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the

world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and

right of speech prevail--that is to say, when every man according to his

own idealization may give expression to his beliefs--development and

growth are inevitable." (PUP 197).

At the Universalist Church Washington, D.C.

on 6 Nov. 1912, he said: "Praise be to God! The standard of liberty is

held aloft in this land. You enjoy political liberty; you enjoy liberty of

thought and speech, religious liberty, racial and personal liberty."


Some of this appreciation of American democracy was a reaction

against the royal absolutism of Qajar Iran. `Abdu'l-Baha had

complained in 1875 that in Iran, "Not a soul could speak out, because

the governor was in absolute control."(SDC 101).

Shoghi Effendi denounced

persecution of the Baha'i Faith in Iraq as contrary to the constitution

and organic laws of that country, which, he noted with approval,

"expressly provided for the unfettered freedom of conscience."(Baha'i

Admin., p. 176).

In another context, he expressed his pleasure that "almighty Providence"

had "conferred" on the U.S. Baha'is, with their first amendment rights,

"the inestimable benefits of religious toleration and freedom." (Baha'i

Administration, p. 134).

>David wrote:

>Therefore, the question cannot be whether it is right to have discourse

>restrained: it must either be done by us or for us. There is no third

>alternative. The only question, in either eventuality, is what are the

>limits? Where is it, in discourse, that liberty becomes sedition?

The above quotes demonstrate quite the opposite, that freedom of

conscience and freedom of expression are inalienable rights in the Baha'i

Faith. Your last question is a leading one. Liberty in the sense of

democratic liberties never becomes sedition in Baha'u'llah's thought; it

is only libertinism and immorality that do. This passage has nothing

whatsoever to do with freedom of speech, as a perusal of the original

makes clear.

Then you quote a long list of passages; I presume the page numbers are to

*Lights of Guidance.* I really wish we could ban this acontextual and

overly schematic book from our community discourse. I have not checked,

but I suspect it leaves out Secret of Divine Civilization, Traveller's

Narrative, and the more progressive passages in Promulgation of Universal

Peace altogether.

David, if you will simply stand back from quoting chapter and verse, and

engage with me intellectually, I will ask you a question. In the Baha'i

system, what happens when the elected institutions commit a grave

injustice? It has been proposed that we all just sit about like

fatalistic peasants, accepting that we have a hard row to hoe. That

simply will not fly with me, nor with anyone I know or care to know.

Others propose to me that one take it up with the Counsellors. But ever

since they were reduced to 5-year terms, the counsellors themselves

strike me as in a difficult position when they make waves. And, of

course, we are supposed to write letters to the House. But what if the

House is unresponsive (or, worse, the perpetrator of the injustice, as

with the censoring of Salmani)?

In essence, the current Baha'i system reduces all Baha'is to mere

individual voices, which the institutions can slap down one by one. All

Baha'is are reduced to humble petitioners dependent on the mercy of their

elected superiors. It is, in fine, a dictator's dream. It does not work.

Maybe it worked when we had small face-to-face communities. Maybe it

worked when we had a Guardian. But it does not work now. And my

criteria for it not working is that it does not produce the sort of open

society that `Abdu'l-Baha envisaged, and for which he risked his life and

sacrificed his years in exile.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:49 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 12:00:40 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: a Baha'i bill of rights

Over the past year, a number of horror stories have been told by various

Talismanians about their experiences with the Baha'i administration.

These have included what is now very old news such as the Dialogue

affair, but other incidents much more recent. The nature of current Baha'i

discourse is such that I am reluctant to go into details. But suffice it

to say that it seems to me clear that injustices have been done; and that

appeal to the Universal House of Justice is increasingly unsatisfactory

as a mechanism of redress for 6 million persons, since so few appeals can

be dealt with. Finally, it seems clear also that many of the abuses

could be prevented through legal and institutional changes, which have

not come about. So let me get down to brass tacks.

I would like to propose for your consideration a draft of possible

amendments to the By-Laws of the National Spiritual Assemblies. As Ahang

notes, one should think of this in world terms. I am not a lawyer,

however, and drafting legal language is not easy. So all I can do is

present some ideas and maybe the lawyers can get the language right later.

The most recent Baha'i World volume I have at home is 1976-79, and it

gives a standard version of NSA By-Laws on pp. 340-345. The last article

to be included is this:

Article XII

These By-Laws may be amended by a majority vote of the National Spiritual

Assembly at any of its regular or special meetings, provided that at

least fourteen days prior to the date fixed for the said meeting a copy

of the proposed amendment or amendments is mailed to each member of the

Assembly by the Secretary.

[Note that this procedure strikes me as very dangerous. Article VI

defines a quorum as 5 members of the NSA, and says a majority of a quorum

can make decisions. This implies that 3 NSA members could conceivably

amend the By-Laws, which are the Constitution of the Baha'i community!]

In any case, given that the By-Laws are susceptible of amendment, I want

to propose amendments; for now, it is just a matter of talking points.

Article XIII

Each National Spiritual Assembly must establish a National Baha'i Court,

to consist of a panel of three justices. These justices shall be

appointed by the National Spiritual Assembly and shall serve until 70

years of age. Once appointed, a justice cannot be removed except for

the commission of civil or Baha'i crimes. Where a judge is accused of

such a crime, he or she shall be tried by the Universal House of Justice

and if found guilty may be removed from office by the Universal House of

Justice. The National Baha'i Court shall have jurisdiction over Baha'i

personal status law cases appealed from Local Spiritual Assembly

decisions. It shall also have jurisdiction over all charges against a

Baha'i of campaigning for Baha'i office or of negatively campaigning

against a sitting Local or National Spiritual Assembly. The decisions of

the court are final and may not be appealed.

Article XIV

Section 1. In the determination of their rights and obligations and of

any charge against them of having contravened Baha'i law, all

Baha'is are entitled in full equality to a fair hearing by an independent

and impartial tribunal. Should they so request in writing, such a hearing

must be held in public.

Section 2. No person charged with violating Baha'i law shall be

compelled to witness against himself or herself. No person may have his

or her administrative rights put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.

No person shall be deprived of his or her administrative rights without

due process of law. Nor shall any Baha'i's private property, including

intellectual property, be taken for the use of Baha'i institutions,

without just compensation.

Section 3. Baha'is prosecuted by a Baha'i institution for contravening

Baha'i law have the right to a speedy trial, and to a public one if they

so desire. They have the right to be confronted with the witnesses

against them. They have the right to have compulsory process for

obtaining witnesses in their favor. They have a right to see the

evidence presented against them. They have a right to the assistance of

Counsel if they so desire.

Section 4. Excessive fines and punishments shall not be imposed.

Section 5. National Spiritual Assemblies shall be considered impartial

tribunals except where they level a charge, of campaigning for office or

of negative campaigning, against an individual eligible to serve on them.

Such cases may not be tried by the National Spiritual Assembly, but must

instead be tried by the national Baha'i Court.

Section 6. Campaigning for Baha'i office and negative campaigning

against sitting members of Baha'i elected institutions shall be defined

as engaging in a concerted, coordinated and public campaign. Stray

remarks in private conversation shall not be considered evidence of

campaigning. Criticism of the policies of an elected institution, where

no vilification of individuals is involved, shall not be considered

negative campaigning.

Well, folks, this is a start. Such provisions would have prevented the

miscarriage of justice against the editors of Dialogue in the late 1980s,

and would address continuing problems.

Since the need for all this may be difficult to appreciate in a complete

abstract vacuum, let me just give an example. An NSA somewhere in the

world took away the administrative rights of a certain Baha'i for having

raised questions about that NSA's financial practices. The accused does

not appear to have made the charges publicly. The NSA called up the

accused's friends and interrogated them about his private conversations.

The accused was never allowed to confront his accusers; nor was he

allowed ever to see any of the putative evidence against him. He

repeatedly requested the evidence.

A letter from that NSA dated July 27, 1995 reads:

"Dear X:

In response to your letter of July 13, 1995, the National Spiritual

Assembly has instructed us to convey to you that your request for

additional information has been denied. The National Assembly feels that

it has explained to you the reasons for the removal of your

administrative rights and that you are already in possession of

sufficient information to enable you to prepare your appeal.

With loving Baha'i greetings . . ."

This individual had been told only the charges against him (which he

denied), not the shadowy corners from which they emanated.

I ask you all whether any of you really would like to be in this

situation; you could be; thousands of Baha'is have had their rights

removed, some in this arbitrary way. And remember, the NSA that tried

this individual was *not* an impartial tribunal in this instance, since

it felt maligned by the accused.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:51 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 15:25:09 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "S. Indiogine" <sindiogi@NMSU.Edu>

Subject: Re: reforms and apologies

Eric: I have always enjoyed your postings and intelligent comments.

The passage in the Aqdas merely says that Baha'u'llah is embarrassed to

speak about the custom of a slave-owner taking a slave-boy (ghulam) as

his concubine.

The passage does not address the contemporary institution of same-sex

marriage, since that did not exist in the Middle East.

There is another passage condemning "lavatih," by Baha'u'llah, which is

probably a reference to married men carrying on with boys.

I know of no passage in Baha'u'llah's writings addressing lesbianism.

The general Baha'i views of these things derive from Shoghi Effendi, who,

however, did not have authority to legislate.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:51 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 15:28:05 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "Marguerite K. Gipson" <margreet@margreet.seanet.com>

Subject: Re: reforms, unapologetically

Marguerite: Allah'u'Abha.

Well, the Cause of God is vast, probably it can deal with flotsam like

yours truly.

"Lights of Guidance" can be a useful book. But it has an unconscious

rightwing bias; and it is used as a Bible by the Baha'i Right. It is

mostly the latter I object to.

As for writing a book of my own . . . I am. And no doubt it will

attract much criticism. C'est la vie - Juan :-)

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:52 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 23:26:15 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: rabbana@a1.bmoa.umc.dupont.com

Subject: Re: a Baha'i bill of rights

Ahang: This thing needs *a lot* of work, and your comments are very good


You say:

1. You wrote:

> Article XII

> These By-Laws may be amended by a majority vote of the National Spiritual

> Assembly at any of its regular or special meetings, provided that at

> least fourteen days prior to the date fixed for the said meeting a copy

> of the proposed amendment or amendments is mailed to each member of the

> Assembly by the Secretary.

> [Note that this procedure strikes me as very dangerous. Article VI

> defines a quorum as 5 members of the NSA, and says a majority of a quorum

> can make decisions. This implies that 3 NSA members could conceivably

> amend the By-Laws, which are the Constitution of the Baha'i community!]

>I think the wording of Article XII is sufficiently clear: "a majority

>vote of the *National Spiritual Assembly* ..." is called for -- that's

>a minimum of 5 votes. It doesn't say the majority votes of those


I maintain that the wording is still unclear, since when a majority vote

of the quorum decides something, that has been defined as an NSA decision

in Article VI. But I'm not happy about 5 NSA members being able to amend

the By-Laws, either. I'd rather it be a 2/3s majority of the National

Convention delegates.

>2. Under the proposed Article XIII, I have problem with life

>appointment (even with a retirement age defined). No other office in

>the Faith, with the exception of the Custodianship of the House of the

>Bab in Shiraz and burial place of the martyrs in Abadih is life

>appointment -- and these two are because Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha

>said so respectively. I suggest 5 yrs terms to make it consistent

>with other similar senior responsibilities.

Ahang, the appointment either has to be for life or it has to be made by

a body other than the NSA. You can't expose these people to retaliation

for ruling against the NSA.

>3. Also under proposed Article XIII, have problems with lack of

>appeal procedure. Why not? Certainly Shoghi Effendi envisioned a

>Baha'i International Court. Wouldn't that be the right body for cases

>to be appealed to, or in absence of it, the Universal House of Justice

>as the last arbitrator?

Very good point, about the Baha'i International Court; but wasn't it

supposed to evolve into the UHJ? I did not want to include an appeal to

the House because they tend to back the NSAs. But this can be thought


>4. I would also add a sentence to Art. 13, stating "If a justice is

>elected to a Baha'i office, must choose service between the two." Or

>words to this effect.

Excellent point.

>5. I am sorry for saying this, but I just don't like the proposed Art

>14, as currently drafted. I think (a) its too colored by a few

>person's experience, (b) is too much modeled after the current US law

>system, (c) excessively focused on campaigning issues. Section 4 of

>this Art. seems like a tautology.

Actually, section 1 is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

which the House has endorsed as a foundation for world peace. The rest

are found in the constitutions of most countries, not just the U.S.

(sorry, not in Iran's :-) )

Since the Dialogue editors were prosecuted for negative campaigning for

simply drawing up some reform points, section 4 is rather necessary.

>I think what would help me to better understand the proposed Article

>14 is for you to educate us on underlying principles from the Writings

>on each one of these rights. After all, elements of a *Baha'i* bill

>of rights must have their roots firmly planted in the Scripture of the

>Cause. Yes?

This is a perfectly reasonable request, and I hope everyone will help me

with grounding all this in Baha'i texts and principles.

Thanks again, Ahang. I'm going to try to get people to work on this


cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:52 1995

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 23:43:26 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: America---the Great!

I know a celebration of the US does not go over very well abroad, given

the realities of US imperialism.

But actually, as a young radical, it was living abroad that caused me to

realize how wonderful aspects of the US are. People in the Middle East

have no rights of all, and 10,000 of them can just be bulldozed into a

mass grave with impunity. I am not blind to my society's faults; but one

should not be blind to its virtues, either. All the Dialogue editors

realized when they were prosecuted that even the US justice system would

have treated them *far* more fairly than Baha'i procedures did.

As for [X], he is developing a very powerful message that sacralizes

the US for American Baha'is; as long as this remains in the domain of

sane and healthy patriotism, it is a very good thing. The refrain of

"America is terrible" does not go over very well as a teaching platform . . . So please give him encouragement.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:53 1995

Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 00:12:41 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: A Baha'i Bill of Rights

Thanks very much for the good comments, .

I think that the believer should have the right to a public hearing if he

or she so desires. The point is that this would deter the NSA from

putting people on trial just because they annoyed it (which happens)--the

gaze of the community would be upon them. I worded it as a I did, such

that they could request this or not, because clearly some people are

guilty of drinking or gambling, etc., and would not want the hearing to

be public.

Seeing the deposition comes under the provision of evidence. I think if

someone is brave enough to make an accusation, they should be brave

enough to do it to one's face.

I *love* the preamble idea.

It is far too soon to think about tabling. Let's talk this over for a

few months and get it pokhteh first.

very warmest regards Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:53 1995

Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 13:44:20 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

Subject: Re: Enough

Oh, David, don't talk like that; spiritual insights are equally

distributed and we can all learn from one another through consultation.

There is no sense of superiority on Talisman.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:54 1995

Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 14:28:55 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "Timothy A. Nolan" <tan1@cornell.edu>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Covenant


I deeply appreciate the spirit and tone of your message, and agree with

much of what you say. As you can imagine, I think I can show that my

position is more spiritually and intellectually consistent than you

suggest; in particular, I think that in a post-Guardian situation

Baha'u'llah's Ishraq 8 is probably a better grounding for our view of the

international house of justice than `Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament,

which assumes the presence on the House of a living Guardian as

Interpreter and Chairman. In short, `Abdu'l-Baha was talking about a

different sort of institution than we now have, whereas Baha'u'llah

appears to have been talking about *precisely* the sort of institution we

now have. In short, I believe that without a living Guardian the

Universal House of Justice is still the ultimate authority in the Baha'i

faith, but I do not believe it is either "infallible" in the Roman

Catholic sense nor that its decisions are necessarily beyond reproach,

nor that it is impossible for believers to analyze and discuss these

decisions (which are after all reversible by the House itself and its

successors). In some ways, I think I have a *stronger* belief in the

Universal House of Justice than many Baha'is, insofar as I think it

should start independently legislating matters of Baha'i law that were

only dealt with in a hasty and informal way by the beloved Guardian (who

steadfastly denied his authority to legislate). The rules that worked

for 5,000 American Baha'is in 1944 do not necessarily work for 120,000 in

1995, nor for 2 million Indian Baha'is in 1995, either.

*But*, having said that, I really hope we can focus on my suggestions for

a constructive solution of some of the problems I see, especially my

proposed bill of rights, rather than going off on yet another long

discussion of infallibility & etc. This strikes me as like the medieval

scholastics talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I only bring it up to give you some sense of how it is I can disagree

strongly, both with the statement on individual rights (which I think

runs contrary to explicit statements of `Abdu'l-Baha, and which is not

legislation and so not strictly the purview of the House, anyway), and

with the recent decision to suppress the Encyclopaedia.

I think the problem is really that intellectuals and nonconformists run

smack into the most repressive aspects of the current Baha'i

administration, but that most ordinary Baha'is can live an entire life

without be challenged to think about these issues, and without having

them affect them personally.

My problem is that I have seen over the past 15 years what I think of as

a large number of decisions taken to repress intellectuals and

intellectual projects which have been wrong-headed and unjust. Some of

these decisions were taken by the US NSA, and then backed by the

international house of justice, and in some instances it was the other

way around. In each of these instances, there has been no possibility of

redress; appeals have been harshly rebuffed; and no changes of any

structural sort have been forthcoming.

I can sympathize that many Baha'is, who have not suffered from these

problems themselves (except in the sense that they have few good books to

read and have a national newspaper full of pablum), and who have been

brought up in a Baha'i political culture that demands absolute, blind

obedience, and forbids the slightest dissent from decisions made on high--

I can sympathize that they must view my statements as highly distasteful.

But they are simply killing the messenger.

I recently had a letter from a very interesting old-time Baha'i, who had

been involved in working for human rights inside the US Baha'i community

and had suffered some ostracism for it, but who was ultimately backed by

the beloved Guardian.

In his letter, this Baha'i mentioned that he had not too long ago brought up

the issue of human rights with a prominent Baha'i staffer at an NSA

headquarters. The staffer replied, "Who cares about human rights? The

power of the Institutions is all that matters."

This staffer, incidentally, has since been fired and now

feels differently about human rights inside the Faith.

So, you can look at me as wrong-headed. Or you can look at me as a

miner's canary. And I'm telling you, I'm on the verge of fainting.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:54 1995

Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 14:50:58 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Burl Barer <burlb@bmi.net>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: NSA & Appeals


I am not sure we are talking about the same sort of situation. Let's

concretize things.

Let us say that Pete is a janitor in a city hall, and that Danforth

is the mayor. And let's say that Danforth does something affecting the

city that is incompetent and even to an outsider might look like

malfeasance. And let us say that Pete, the lowly janitor, drops a note

to Danforth the mayor, saying, "Gee, mayor, your activity affects me

negatively and somehow it does not look on the up and up." And let's say

Pete even made similar remarks at the canteen in private conversations

with the other janitors.

So Mayor Danforth, angry about these charges, abruptly orders Pete put in

jail. No trial, no impartial tribunal. The mayor's just mad about the

charges. The mayor muzzles the press, refusing to allow it to report

the case. Nobody knows Pete is in jail.

Now, Pete is jail. The mayor won't let him out. He is told he can appeal

to the governor. But he has to do it through Mayor Danforth, who can put

any spin he likes on the case as he passes it up. Pete has no right to

see the evidence against him, in preparing his appeal. And the

governor, an old friend of Mayor Danforth, does not have to take the

appeal; he can simply return it to the mayor.

If you would like to be Pete, raise your hand. If you would like to live

in a town where Mayor Danforth can behave this way, raise two hands.

Those of you who raise two hands are eligible for a raffle; the prize is

a free one-way ticket to Iraq.

cheers, Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:55 1995

Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 13:32:34 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

Subject: Re: Enough


Thank you so much for your warm message. I think we are both people who

can discuss matters critically without making it a matter of ego or hurt

feelings (at least not for very long).

I would be the first to admit that I am a) attempting to find a new way

to be a Baha'i that is not like the 1940s way that is the model for most

Americans; b) attempting to find a new diction and discourse to express

that way and c) attempting to find a way to fix what I see as huge,

overwhelming problems with the structure and method of Baha'i

administration. I say "I" here, but of course many, unknown to one

another, are involved in the same effort.

And as with any experiment, I no doubt make mistakes--quite serious ones,

on occasion. I think, however, that cyber-discourse is self-correcting;

if someone posts in a way that is completely out of line, it does not

start a thread; no one connects with it. And while it may be

embarrassing to watch me actually in the process of constructing this new

path, and making all these errors, I can live with the embarrassment

because I never thought much of myself to begin with and a little egg on

my face time to time is a small price to pay for bettering things.

I am sorry you find my comments cavalier. I guess I don't approve of the

essentially "royalist" diction that Baha'is have borrowed from Qajar and

Pahlevi Iran. But the comments are not cavalier. I have been a Baha'i

for 23 years, been a pioneer, travelled extensively, learned the original

languages, and studied a great deal of history. Over this time I have

come to feel increasingly that there are structural things wrong with the

way we Baha'is do things. And I do not accept the idea that I should

just sit silently by while injustice after injustice is perpetrated. How

do you get change around here? This is not a problem for someone who is

satisfied with the status quo (I can't believe you or anybody else really

is), of course. But it is a problem for those who have developed a

critique of the system.

As for my leaving the Faith, this has never occurred to me. I am a

Baha'i, I was formed by the Baha'i Faith, and I shall be a Baha'i till I

die, *no matter what happens.* I simply do not agree with you that

having a critical perspective on some actions of some institutions, and

seeking structural ways of improving things, necessarily weakens one's

faith or that of others. People are stronger than that, David. No other

religion, even of similar size, has the sort of clampdown on speech that

we have (a clampdown that is contrary to the explicit principles and

texts of our own Scriptures), yet other religions are doing just fine.

I appreciate your good wishes, and send you mine. I hope we can end up

with a community both of us are proud of, and one that mirrors the wishes

of Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha for open-mindedness, democratic values,

and justice.

warmest Baha'i regards, Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:55 1995

Date: Sun, 5 Nov 1995 16:40:56 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: reply to open letter

Ahang is a very beloved friend and I value his counsel. If he wants

things toned down, by all means let's tone them down.

As I said, I want to do nothing to detract from the bill of rights idea,

which I hope we'll have more response to, and a revised form of which I

will post, taking into account Chris's and Ahang's comments. And the

reason the ante got raised is that some insisted that *no change is

possible* on ideological grounds. If we can agree that change is

possible, then it is not necessary to go off on other tangents, examining

the bases of that ideology.

Someday, however, we will have to have the postponed conversation.

I am distressed only by the suggestion now made for a third time of my

holding in the future some sort of Baha'i office. Since campaigning is a

crime in the Baha'i administrative structure, this is not funny, even as

a joke. And it is besides a silly idea. Don't you think by now I'd have

high negatives? And I have stressed that my personal life would not

permit me such a step. So, please, guys, cut it out.

There is an Arabic proverb, sharr al-`ulama' man zar al-umara', the worst

of the learned are those who visit the powerful. There is a place in the

faith for thinking persons who eschew personal power, after all.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:56 1995

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 00:30:54 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: Aqdas passage

Ishraq 8 is not a problem, it is just badly translated. There,

what is given to the House is not "affairs of state" (the word "state" is

wholly absent from the Persian) but simply, "siyasat," which here I think

means "policy" or possibly "policy relating to enactment and imposition

of punishments." Siyasat nowadays means "politics" but it was a far more

ambiguous word in premodern times.

If you substitute "policy" for "affairs of state," you get a literal and

perfectly good reading of the Persian.

Also, the House is not put over the "affairs of the people" but rather

over the "affairs of the millet," which is to say, of the Baha'i

community. "millat" always means a bounded community; in the 19th

century Ottoman Empire it referred to religious communities. The verse

does not indicate universal authority.

As for WOB 6-7, I don't think there is any escape from the conclusion

that Shoghi Effendi had a theocratic vision of the far future. However,

he admitted to not being omniscient; some of his other predictions can be

demonstrated not to have come true; and there is no support for this idea

of a far-future theocracy in the Scriptures. I know this is not a

satisfactory way of dealing with this issue from a mainstream Baha'i

perspective, but that's how I see it.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:57 1995

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 11:44:00 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Stephen Johnson <snoopy@skipper.physics.sunysb.edu>

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: KI pp. 7-9

Since this passage from the Iqan brings up Noah and mentions his nearly

millennium-long life, I thought it might be worthwhile to point to Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani's *Miracles and Metaphors,* pp. 7-16, which treats

this issue.

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl was asked about the 950-years-long life of Noah by

Shaykh Nuru'd-Din, the second head of the Ahmadiyyah movement. He

replied that there were two views of such matters, the religious and the


The religious, he says, hold that one must accept the validity of

whatever is in the Qur'an. In this view, reason cannot prove that Noah

did not live so long, and therefore we must accept the word of the Qur'an.

The scientific or rational view, he says, would focus on the original

sources of the statement. Such a person would point out that

Chinese/Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Hebrew Biblical historical

traditions all exist about the ancient world, and that Noah is not

mentioned in the first three. All four traditions, moreover, are tinged

by myth and by stories of the ancients enjoying great longevity. The

source for the Muslim belief in Noah's long life is the Hebrew Bible,

which is uncorroborated by other ancient traditions.

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl clearly adheres to the second view. He then writes:

"The Prophet Muhammad said, `We, the concourse of Prophets, were sent to

address people according to the capacity of their minds.' And likewise,

`Speak to the people of that with which they are familiar; do you wish

God and His Messenger to be called liars?' Thus was it related by the

learned judge Averroes of Spain in his book *Exposition on Methods of

Evidence concerning the Doctrines of the Muslim Community,* citing

al-Bukhari. Therefore, given this situation, it is impermissible for the

scholarly investigator to depend on the verses of the Qur'an and the

traditions of the Prophet in historical questions.

It is clear that the prophets and Manifestations of the Cause of God

were sent to guide the nations, to improve their characters, and to bring

the people nearer to their Source and ultimate Goal. They were not sent

as historians, astronomers, philosophers, or natural scientists . . .

A rational human being will therefore have no doubt that those

things mentioned in the Holy Qur'an such as how the creation commenced,

the debate of the angels, the stories of Adam, of Satan, and of Noah and

the flood, are all realities. These speak of repeated promises to renew

the world and refer to the appointed times for the expiration . . . of

the terms allotted to the nations. But, from the point of view of

science, it is impermissible for the historian to depend on the literal

meaning of these verses."

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl is my hero (I hope this doesn't tarnish his reputation).

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:58 1995

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 18:49:38 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: an assistant to the auxiliary board

Subject: RE: Re: NSA & Appeals

My hypothetical was badly worded. Pete not only sent a message querying

the practices to the entire city council, he sent one to the governor as


Pete denies having actually talked to anyone in the canteen. The city

council alleges that he did. I can't know which is correct.

But what is outrageous, regardless of whether Pete did or did not, is

that he should be put in jail for "backbiting" and that the person(s) who

put him there are the backbitten.

This last point seems not to be one I am able to get you to think about.

The procedure is personalistic and arbitrary. What "law" did Pete break,

even assuming his protestations of innocence are false? Where is it

codified? If he did break a law, is it really right that he be sentenced

by someone with a grudge against him?

These sorts of goings-on, where they to occur in a civil mayorlty's

office, would be considered an example of the corruption of the Old World

Order and a departure from justice, by Baha'is. Why should they be

tolerated within the Faith?

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:58 1995

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 19:05:22 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "Stockman, Robert" <rstockman@usbnc.org>

Cc: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: US Baha'i Research Office

I just wanted to assure Rob Stockman that the Research Office and he as

director have been absolute blessings for all Baha'i scholars everywhere,

and that nothing said about the problems Baha'i intellectuals face in any

way reflects up him or his office. I, and many others, have found Rob

gracious, bright, energetic, efficient and perceptive. And I appreciate

that he is there doing what he is doing because the US NSA understood the

need for such an office. In some very large part Rob had solved the most

pressing problems facing Baha'i scholars attempting to work within the

administrative framework of the Faith. We have already heard Christopher

Buck's testimony that Rob helped see that his important book was published.

Things are much better now, with Rob around, than they were a decade and

more ago, here in the U.S. This proves that progress can be made, the

Institutions can adapt, and there is a place for committed intellectuals

like Rob.

However, I do think it took a crisis or two for the NSA to come to the

realization that this particular sort of Research Office was needed, and

I'm not sure its genesis was in the quietude of back-channel communications.

Unfortunately, not everywhere in the Baha'i world do we have a Rob

Stockman with his fairness and problem-solving abilities. If God favors

us, his tribe will multiply.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:58 1995

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 01:39:06 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "David W. House" <dhouse@cinsight.com>

Subject: Re: Enough

All of us have our favorite passages, our special corners of the faith.

Among mine is `Abdu'l-Baha's saying that from the spark of conflicting

opinions the truth emerges. I don't want you to stay upset; on the other

hand, your presence on Talisman is very welcome. It's no fun to have a

dialogue if everyone believes exactly the same things.

And, of course, spiritual maturity should be added to the list of

desiderata; though one would *really* have to believe in miracles like

the Virgin Birth to hope for spiritual maturity in the likes of yours

truly :-)

be well Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:12:58 1995

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 01:54:32 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: conversation with a House member, 1981

I was going through my papers the other day, and I found a little memoir

I had written, of a conversation I had when I was 28 with a member of the

Universal House of Justice. I thought it revealing of some of the issues

that lie behind the derailing (yes, it is a derailing) of the

Walbridge/Momen Baha'i Encyclopaedia, since it gives some insight into a

longstanding conviction in Haifa that Western academic scholarly style is

in essence incompatible with the Baha'i Faith (and yes, that is the

primary issue, not the "quality" of the articles). I stress that this

was a conversation with an individual, not with the House, and that it is

my recollection of it, written when I got home that night. I have

altered it only by disguising the names of the persons involved and

making very minor editorial changes.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

March 18, 1981

Juan R. Cole

Los Angeles

Tonight I met with L. at the V's. Apparently Mr. L. had asked T. to

invite me over. He seemed very positive about my work. He said,

"This article that you wrote about the Tablet of Wisdom was very

deep" or words to that effect, and pointed out that my suggestions for

improvements in the translation were being incorporated into the

second edition of the book. I was embarrassed by this warmth, and

could only mumble thanks for his kind words.

He added, "You are very young."

I could only say, "What I am writing now is very elementary."

He replied . . . He was very kind. I am always at a loss for

words when presented with compliments . . . I could only say, "You

are being very generous."

. . . In regard to the Tablet of Wisdom issue, L. took the view

that when Baha'u'llah wrote, He was not writing history per se. He

gave the example of the Kitab-i-Iqan passage in which it is said that

Noah lived 950 years. He also cited the incident of the believer in

Yazd who said his own eyewitness account of events there

contradicted that of `Abdu'l-Baha. He noted that the Guardian said

that `Abdu'l-Baha's accounts were based on information reaching him

from the believers, and that this individual should forward his own

account to the World Centre. He finally noted that the Guardian had

indicated that new information would be unearthed in the future which

would require a revision of the accounts given in *God Passes By.*

I pointed out to him that some important Baha'is in North

America did not share such a view, and that they went around the

country telling the Baha'is that if anyone questions one word of *God

Passes By* he is denying the infallibility of the Guardian.

He replied that the infallibility of the Guardian was only an

interpretive one, that *God Passes By* is the *meaning* of history.

I said that when I voiced the very same view to such Baha'i

leaders here, they rejected it.

"Well," he said. "It seems you have had some [bad]

experiences." He said there is still a lot of intolerance in the Baha'i

community. But then, he said, there are intolerant people in any group

. . .

Later . . . when W. joined us, [L.] brought up Review,

pointing out that it is temporary and only necessary for us at the very

beginnings of the formative age. Since he brought it up, I felt justified

in pursuing the matter. I started out by saying that recently P. had

called me up to ask for titles of scholarly books which contained

accounts of the treatment of the Iranian Baha'i community in this

century. I continued that I was only able to name a few, and these

have very limited references in them. P. wanted these for a friend or

relative at the Baha'i International Community who was working on a

report to the U.N., and needed creditable scholarly references. I said I

thought it very important that an article detailing the treatment of the

Baha'is in Iran since the Revolution be submitted to an academic

journal like *Middle East Journal.* I added that such an article would

wield and influence and provide information for non-Baha'i scholars

writing about modern Iran, information they have no access to.

L. replied that there are many archival sources at the World

Centre for the writing of such pieces, including the notes of the

National Spiritual Assembly of Iran. He added that recently many

documents, including government orders that pensions be cut off and

fatwas against the Baha'is had been collected in Iran and sent to Haifa.

He said these were being used as the basis of a white paper being

prepared by the Baha'i International Community for submission to the

United Nations.

T. interjected here that it is important to realize that an article

or book published by an assistant professor at Yale would have more

impact among the academic community than a detailed white paper

issued from the highest administrative levels of the Baha'i Faith.

I affirmed this, pointing to the cult of credentials, and the

official-seeming aspect of a book published, by, say, Harvard

University Press, by a university professor. I emphasized that scholars

tend to write for other scholars, and to only put trust in footnoted

pieces by other academics.

W. noted that K. had recently told her that a poll conducted by

the PR firm hired by the NSA showed that of all the sectors of the

population, intellectuals were least likely to have heard of the Baha'i

Faith, or know anything accurate about it. She asked rhetorically why

this was.

I replied that it was because no academic work on the faith had

appeared since E.G. Browne and academics tend only to read other

academics. I emphasized that academics often [do] popularize, and

complained that no drugstore paperback on comparative religion,

which has a large potential audience, mentions the Faith, or if it does,

gets its facts straight. This, I said, is owing to the lack of academic

works. I said Review puts two obstacles in the way of such academic

work: One is that it slows down its appearance considerably, and the

other is that should the fact that the scholar's work was reviewed by

the NSA become generally known, it would ruin the credibility of the


L. replied that it should be possible to waive any extended

reviewing process for an article such as the one I proposed, which

used materials provided by the World Centre, and was intended for

publication in a journal such as the *Middle East Journal.*

I insisted on the second point, about review becoming widely


L. said that there was no reason that the work should betray

the fact that it had been reviewed or that the reviewing process should

become widely known.

I pointed out that there were former Baha'is who were scholars

and who might spill the beans.

He finally said that he did not know what we could do about

these problems. One could not sacrifice the interests of the generality

of the believers so a handful of Baha'i scholars could have complete


I said that at the moment, my only concern was that review of

specialized academic articles on the Faith be conducted by academic


He said that was very reasonable, and that the House itself

sometimes sent things to T. because they were technical.

I pointed out that . . . [an] edited book of scholarly articles was

sent by . . . [a] press to the NSA a year and a half ago; that a year

passed without their hearing anything; and that finally they got a phone

call from National saying that reviewers found the tone disrespectful. I

said there was no evidence that the volume had been submitted to

academic specialists.

He said he wasn't surprised to hear this, if true, and that there

were still many inefficiencies in review and in the Publishing Trust

itself. He said we shouldn't give up or be discouraged by these. He

insisted again that the advantages of review outweighed its

disadvantages. He said that if a recognized Baha'i scholar wrote a

wrong interpretation of the Faith, this could be cited by enemies like

Miller, and could give credibility to his attacks. He was concerned

about ordinary Baha'is or seekers who might encounter Miller's works.

I replied that Miller was a liar and had no respect in the

scholarly community. I said if a Baha'i scholar wrote something

wrong, other Baha'i scholars would write articles correcting it--that

scholarship is a self-correcting process.

He was unconvinced. He also complained that the style of

Western scholarship is unsuited to discussing the verities of the Faith

and is indeed disrespectful. He said he could not imagine Persian

Baha'i scholars writing about the Faith in the same tone as Muhit-i

Tabataba'i [a popular historian who had attacked the Baha'i Faith in


I said the proper analogy would be to Zarrinkoob, not to

Tabataba'i, and I saw nothing wrong with writing about the Faith the

way Zarrinkoob might [Zarrinkoob is an eminent historian of Sufism in

Iran who is also a bona fide academic].

He said we should not compromise--`Abdu'l-Baha went to the

synagogues and defended Jesus and Muhammad.

I replied that Baha'u'llah wrote to the Zoroastrians in pure

Persian, avoiding Arabic words, in order to reach His audience.

He said this was a matter of form, not substance.

I said the issue in . . . [the book that had been delayed by

Review], for the NSA, seemed to be one of form, not substance.

At this point Dr. J. began telling jokes and anecdotes, and the

discussion moved to other subjects. I thanked L. for sharing his views

with me, and tried to make clear to him that I was not *objecting* so

much as sounding him out.

He said he didn't mind even if I objected.

I assured him that was not my intent.

(He had stressed several times that the scholar's attitude was

the important thing. He had also quite openly admitted that there was

much intolerance among the Baha'i community at this stage.)

I was extremely impressed with him, and could communicate

with him on a level I found impossible with Amoz Gibson, e.g. But his

attitude seemed to be that scholars will just have to fight for their right

to publish, and that the House couldn't do much to help.

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:00 1995

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 11:28:42 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: TLCULHANE@aol.com

Cc: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: re: conversations with . . .


I can only speculate about the reasons for which some powerful Baha'is

believe that the style and approach of Western scholarship are

incompatible with the Baha'i Faith.

I would say first of all that this perception of incompatibility pains

me. I have said before that I am a pluralist. All sorts of discourse

exist in the Baha'i Faith. Baha'is of Hindu background call Baha'u'llah

"Bhagawan Baha" (Lord Baha') and imagine him as a sort of cosmic god,

the tenth Avatar of Vishnu. Baha'is of Iranian background are diverse in

their approaches to the Faith, as anthropologist Michael Fischer has

demonstrated. Fischer also sees many American Baha'is as essentially a

form of conservative Protestantism. I think such polyvocality

(multiplicity of voices and discourses) is inevitable in a world

religion, and, indeed, to be welcomed. Although I have been quite

unjustly accused here on Talisman of promoting a hegemonic, domineering

form of Western male discourse, what I have said time and again is that I

am engaged in a particular language game, a game that I believe has

advantages for humanity, but which I recognize is not and should not be

the only game in town. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

So why should Western Baha'i intellectuals be second-class

citizens on the Crimson Ark, their discourse presumed to be a

priori illegitimate, everything they write monitored, and why

should they be prepped to be the first to be thrown overboard when the

ballast needs lightening?

I think one clue is in the approval with which the form and tone

(not the conclusions) of my article on the Tablet of Wisdom was met.

That article was written as academic theology. I had done a religion

degree as an undergraduate at Northwestern, and had read a great deal of

Tillich, Jaspers, Kung, Niebuhr, etc., all *theologians*. I was trying

my wings, attempting to find a modern academic theological discourse

compatible with the Faith. Academic theology, which is full of

belief-affirmations, appears to be all right.

At the same time, Denis MacEoin at Cambridge was writing Babi

*history* and had put forward Peter Berger's (a conservative Lutheran)

idea of value-free discourse being necessary to scientific and academic

researches. A sociologist studying early Christianity could not come to

any solid conclusions if he or she began by assuming all the miracle

stories of the early saints and martyrs were true, since sociology aimed

at deriving middle-level or large-scale generalizations and so had to

assume that the world was consistent. The academic discourse rooted in

the Enlightenment was suspicious of breathless triumphalism, of open

statements of the author's beliefs, and, quite frankly, of the whole idea

of Revelation. The great Scottish Islamicist, W. Montgomery Watt, noted

that Muslims say "God said" when quoting the Qur'an, while Western

scholars say "Muhammad said." He proposed a compromise, using "the

Qur'an said" and leaving the Authorship of the Qur'an open as a

question. I read MacEoin as having started insisting on the Baha'i

equivalent, "Baha'u'llah said," and of being unwilling to find Watt-type


Since disavowing one's faith is such a big crime in the Baha'i

Faith, it seems to me that the threat that Baha'i academics might write

about the Faith in such a way that one could not tell that they were

believing Baha'is alarmed some Baha'is, including the person to whom I spoke.

This is a very complex issue. It is true that one cannot write

academic history in the same style that one writes academic theology. On

the other hand, the Berger/MacEoin argument for "value-free" "scientific"

discourse, while still powerful in sociology and political science, would

not be taken at all seriously by anthropologists or most historians any

longer. Postmodernism has radically interrogated Enlightenment

assumptions of neutrality and universal validity. Feminist anthropology

has opened spaces for the expression of the author's personal views and


I don't think any of my colleagues have any doubt whatsoever what

my beliefs are when they read something like my 1992 Centenary (:-) )

article in the International Journal of Middle East Studies. The referee

who complained that the article was "a sophisticated defense of the

Baha'i Faith" was the *journal's* referee, by the way, not a Baha'i one.

The editor published it anyway. But I have no doubt that this article

would be seen as insufficiently cheerleading in tone by many Baha'is. To

make it more cheerleading would have been to make it unpublishable or to

lose my academic audience, which seems undesirable.

Of course, there are many academics who write in a sympathetic

manner about religion. But sympathy seems not to be enough for some

Baha'is. They want triumphalist affirmation. If you want my opinion,

were John Dominic Crossan to learn Arabic and Persian and to write a

biography of Baha'u'llah using the same assumptions and methodologies as

he did in his biography of Jesus, the result would a) never be allowed to

be published or b) if it were published, would result in his being

lynched by the Baha'is.

I fear that I think the wholesale declaration of the illegitimacy

of Western academic scholarship as a way for Baha'is to approach their

own religion is a form of intolerance.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:01 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 00:50:48 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: Mirza Abu-l Fadl

Sorry for not answering--it's the commons problem, one assumes others

might have.

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl never met Baha'u'llah. He met `Abdu'l-Baha for the

first time soon after the latter began his ministry, and an account of

the meeting is in *Letters and Essays.*

cheers Juan

PS No communication from you would ever be considered pestering at all!

In fact, I imagine for anyone on Talisman it is I who am the pesterer :-)

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:01 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 00:59:25 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: Middle East Peace Process


I deeply appreciate your sentiments.

I do indeed think of myself as attempting to accomplish something

positive for the Cause. We'll see :-)

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:01 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 01:10:02 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: "[G. Brent Poirier]" <gpoirier@acca.nmsu.edu>

Cc: "Timothy A. Nolan" <tan1@cornell.edu>, talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Covenant (short)

Just to express my profoundest gratitude to Brent Poirier for his

well-reasoned and cogent posting, and for the evident restraint it

demonstrated. Even after only cursorily studying it, I am willing to

admit that it is a very serious challenge to the view I earlier suggested.

Brent, as we all know, has very great devotion and very strong feelings

on these issues, which I admire. If he can nevertheless express himself

with this moderation on them, then surely everyone can. And this way

something can get accomplished.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:01 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 01:53:42 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: hello again

How wonderful to hear from you! . . . I envy

you--my French is getting rusty. I still regale Baha'is with the story

you told me when you got back from France in the summer of '72, about the

little old lady who kept telling Baha'i teachers "ma religion sufie" and

they kept telling her about the Seven Valleys in response :-)

I appreciate your wanting to know what is going on, on Talisman,

before making any judgments. Of course, the problem is that all sorts of

things are going on at once.

I would say that Baha'i intellectuals generally, Baha'i academics

specifically, and Baha'is in Middle East Studies most specifically of

all, have run into a number of obstacles to our accomplishing anything,

and Talisman is one response to that.

1. We can't get hold of or publish primary sources about the early

history of the Faith. We started to do this in the early 1980s, when

Kalimat Press managed to track down a manuscript of Muhammad `Ali

Salmani's memoirs of Baha'u'llah. Kalimat got permission from the House

to publish the memoirs in Persian, with an English translation by Marzieh

Gail. The translation and calligraphed Persian text went to the printer

in late spring 1982, as I remember. Suddenly, Kalimat gets an urgent

telegram from the NSA saying they must cease publication, on order of the

House. Then they get this packet of pages of the Persian text from Haifa

with orders that they delete sentences and passages throughout, before

proceeding with printing.

Well, I know it is very hard for Baha'is to hear this, but I was

absolutely appalled at what happened. First of all, the House went back

on its word to Kalimat that it could publish Salmani. It was very clear

that someone powerful had heard about the project and had lobbied the

House successfully to intervene. Second, as a historian I take a dim

view indeed of tampering with primary sources, suppressing passages, and

so forth. What they wanted taken out was not even obviously

important--stories about Salmani bothering Azal by nicking his candy or

putting onions in this food, or a statement by a peasant that he thought

Baha'u'llah God. I wrote heartfelt letters to the House and to

individual members about it all, but to no effect. (In fact, I am afraid

my response caused them to drop me from the ranks of translators to whom

they sent things.)

2. At the same time, we had a study class in Los Angeles, and sometimes

people missed meetings, so someone started taking notes and typing them

up. Other Baha'i intellectuals far from LA started asking for these

notes. It was not a large number. Abruptly, the NSA came down on us and

demanded that the notes of our discussions be Reviewed in Wilmette or

that their distribution cease.

3. Once the distribution of the notes ceased, some study class members

got the bright idea of starting a magazine, called Dialogue, which would

deal with Baha'is' views of current thought and events. After a couple

years, one of the editors came up with a set of suggestions for improving

the functioning of the community, called "A Modest Proposal." Steve

Scholl is related to the Nelsons, and shared it with them, and they were

enthusiastic. So Steve calls up Wilmette and offers to provide

prepublication copies to the delegates if they would like to discuss the

proposals at National Convention. (The proposals included things like

term limits for NSA members.)

Somehow Steve's message got garbled and the Secretary of the NSA

misunderstood him to be threatening to distribute the Modest Proposal.

He and another member of the NSA cabled the House that the Dialogue

editors were involved in negative campaigning (apparently some NSA

members thought the term limits proposal was aimed at them personally).

The House, without doing any independent investigation, sent back a cable

condemning the Dialogue editors, which was copied off and put on all the

delegates' chairs. Firuz spent about 20 minutes attacking the Dialogue

folks by name. Then he read out portions of the letters they had written

to the House protesting the NSA's interpretation of their actions.

Obviously, the House had passed these (impassioned and intemperate)

letters straight over to the NSA. The end of the story is confusing.

They appear never to have been actually found guilty of doing anything

wrong. At one point they appeared to have reason to believe that their

right to go on pilgrimage had been revoked, but the House now denies

this. They did not have their administrative rights removed. But as a

result of all the brouhaha, the magazine, Dialogue, closed.

These quite mistaken charges, of negative campaigning have made us

sensitive to other, more recent incidents, in which the NSA appears to be

able to remove persons' administrative rights a) merely for private

comments they made questioning some financial snafus, b) despite the fact

that they felt maligned and were therefore not impartial judges, and c)

while refusing to share with the accused the evidence that supposedly

existed against them, as a basis for the accused's appeal to the House.

In other words, there are some rather serious problems with the human

rights of Baha'is vis-a-vis their own institutions.

4. In the mid-80s John Walbridge, a Harvard Ph.D. in Islamics, convinced

the NSA to allow him to put together an ambitious Baha'i Encyclopaedia.

He worked on it till about 1990, when he got a job editing the

Encyclopaedia Iranica. The NSA had never interfered intellectually in

the project, but keep shrinking it and being fickle about financial and

administrative details. Moojan Momen then took over the editorship and

brought the project to a good conclusion in two volumes, about a year and

a half ago. Then abruptly the House asked to see some articles. They

called the project to Haifa. They have now apparently forbidden the

Encyclopaedia's publication as an Encyclopaedia (meaning that we all

wasted our time and effort, as well as $700,000)! . . .

5. Forum, a nice little Baha'i magazine put out in New Zealand, closed

this summer, and the editors cited as one major reason the hassles they

experienced with Baha'i Review.

6. The work of publishing new translations of the Writings is at a

virtual standstill because the House won't put enough resources into the

Research Department so that it can efficiently review such translations.

Since translation is an aid to scholarship, this bottleneck in turn slows

the development of scholarship.

7. The system of prepublication Review set up by the House in 1971 or so

demands that even academics must have their writing about the Faith

vetted, which rather sets up a conundrum for us professional historians, e.g. The House steadfastly refuses to reconsider this policy, and has started being rude to people who protest it to them, however politely they do so.

The over-all pattern is that, basically, Baha'i intellectual life,

academic progress, and serious in-print discussions have been virtually

crippled. I myself find the system overly centralized at the very

least. And the problem is that the Baha'i ethos is that you are not

supposed even to bring up that there is, uh, this rather big problem

here; and if a problem cannot be broached, it cannot be resolved.

So Talisman was set up to discuss such problems and be a forum where

Baha'i intellectuals could interact seriously. I understand that the

House seriously considered trying to shut it down last Winter, but in the

end decided that it was a form of private conversation and so did not

fall under Review requirements.

. . . forgive me for writing in so much detail and with my by now famous

bluntness. We are old friends and I felt I could be honest with you. If

this is more honesty than you wanted, sorry; let me know.

I hope you will join in the discussions . . .

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:02 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 16:07:32 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: an assistant to the auxiliary board

Subject: RE: RE: Re: NSA & Appeals

My hypothetical situation is in fact much milder than the evidence would

warrant, and gives the mayor and city council a benefit of the doubt that

the documentation does not necessarily warrant.

I agree that backbiting is condemned in the writings. So is drinking

alcohol. And so is smoking. The problem is that "condemned" is a vague

word. The question is, is backbiting an offense for which administrative

rights can and should be removed? Is it like drinking or like smoking?

We are commanded to be generous. What if someone isn't? Should their

administrative rights be removed?

Now, one response might be that whether backbiting is a "crime" would

depend on the circumstances. But then the law would be extremely vague,

ad hoc, ad hominem, etc., which is highly undesirable.

Another response is that backbiting is a crime only if directed against

an LSA or NSA. But then we would have a problem in distinguishing

between backbiting and legitimate criticism. Nor is the NSA the very

best body to make that distinction. (In the case of Dialogue magazine it

seems clear to me that they made a very bad decision in this regard, and

that it was bad because they were too involved to be objective.)

The fact is that the NSA employed very bad judgment (which it has more or

less admitted) in trying to create a monopoly travel arrangement for the

world congress, through an agency that charged in many cases twice what

other agencies were offering. The exorbitant prices raised questions in

the minds of many as to where the extra money was going. After talking

to insiders, I am convinced that the money went to the travel agency and

that the NSA and the believers were simply fleeced. But I do not

blame others for wondering out loud what in the world was going on. And

I think that for the NSA to take away the administrative rights of those

who wondered out loud is vindictive, dictatorial, and an abuse of their

human rights under articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(which was endorsed by the House in their Peace Statement), guaranteeing

trial by impartial tribunal and freedom of speech.

. . . you have been very patient with me, and I appreciate your

willingness to engage what must be for you a strange mindset. But I

think it is very clear that Shoghi Effendi disclaimed any prerogative of

legislation, and that the administrative practices we now have are

susceptible of change. I think for a small face to face community

recusal might not be the best path. But for a huge community of 120,000,

it is absolutely necessary if we are to trust one another.

Sadly, too, I am afraid that I would not at all like to live in a system

where powerful members of institutions who feel themselves maligned (they

have demanded a personal apology) are not required to recuse, nor in a

system wherein criticism of policy is equated with backbiting and is a

punishable offense. I study professionally similar systems, and they

have names like the Baath Party.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:03 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 19:00:18 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: Donald Zhang Osborn <osborndo@pilot.msu.edu>

Cc: Talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: Re: Tolerant vs. Righteous on Talisman?


with regard to Tarazat 2, Baha'u'llah counsels "tolerance" and

"righteousness," as you say.

The Persian is burdbari, which is defined by my dictionary as "patience,

forebearance, fortitude"; and nikukari, which means literally "doing good."

While forebearance is desirable in most situations, however, Baha'u'llah

and `Abdu'l-Baha were quite intolerant of injustice and denounced it in

the most intemperate language more than once. In SAQ `Abdu'l-Baha even

says that anger is good if it is directed against tyranny. It is not

even entirely clear to me how one can "do good" while countenancing


cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:03 1995

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 19:11:18 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: Re: reforms and apologies

I agree that the Baha'i community has not yet come to terms with how

exactly to deal with Shoghi Effendi's legacy. My own view is that it

must be historically contextualized, place alongside other key texts, and

seen in the context of a Guardian functioning without a legislative House

at his side. In matters such as homosexuality, it was the prerogative of

the Guardian to give voice to his feelings with regard to the values

involved. But it is certainly the case that the House has the sole

prerogative of deciding on whether being gay is an administratively

punishable offense, and what the punishment should be. My own view is

that Baha'u'llah's diction in the Aqdas suggests that He did not see it

as a punishable offense, since he did not specify that any punishment

should be meted out for it. In short, our best hope, given what the

Guardian said, is to see it treated like smoking. But that will take 100


I think things have been rancorous on Talisman lately, and it is better

to keep focused on the issue of a bill of rights, which is after all

pertinent in the long run.

cheers Juan

From jrcole@umich.eduThu Nov 9 12:13:04 1995

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 01:13:50 -0500 (EST)

From: Juan R Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

To: talisman@indiana.edu

Subject: new paradigm

I wanted to welcome Steven Phelps to Talisman. His posting was very

welcome; Steven is another physicist who also studies Arabic! If

anyone wants a miracle, I should think the image

of tens of American intellectuals studying classical Arabic would

suffice, and it is all owing to Baha'u'llah.

I have two suggestions for going forward on the very valuable ground

Steven sketched out. First, (and this is less important), I think it

necessary to point out that many of the quotes he instances from the

compilation on scholarship come, not from the Universal House of Justice,

but from a statement prepared by the Research Department.

In a letter to me dated October 8, 1980, the Universal House of Justice


"Concerning the statement on Baha'i scholarship issued by the Research

Department, and the second article based upon it which was prepared for

publication in "The Baha'i World," the House of Justice has instructed us

to explain that it had these documents written by the Research Department

and circulated in this form precisely because it did not wish the

statement to appear to be a binding pronouncement on the matter . . . It

was unfortunate that the article was published in the "Baha'i News" and

"The American Baha'i" as if it were a statement by the House of Justice

itself, and the attention of the National Spiritual Assembly has been

drawn to this error. In any case the Universal House of Justice asks us

to point out that no commentary on the Sacred Texts made by anyone other

than the Authorized Interpreters can constitute authoritative


I take the last sentence to mean, incidentally, that even the House could

not have promulgated a binding Interpretation of the Scripture with

regard to Baha'i scholarship, much less the Research Department!

As I said before, the circa 1980 letter from the Research Department

appears mainly to have been aimed at Denis MacEoin's advocacy of

methodological agnosticism a la Peter Berger, and also, perhaps, against

his neo-Weberian interpretation of the Babi faith as an outbreak of

charismatic religious authority in Shi`ism that was subsequently

routinized. Since Denis also went about disparaging other Baha'i writers

as producers of nonsense (he even once lamented the quality of work done

at American state universities; *ahem*!), he was upsetting the others,

and this was another problem. Once these passages are situated as the

*Research Department's* reply to MacEoin, they become more susceptible to

discussion and even critique. Who was on the Research Department in

1979-80, anyway? Ahang, do you know?

The *second* problem is that neither the Research Department's statement;

nor various passages from House members or from the House itself

subsequently, have ever acknowledged the affirmation in the Baha'i

Scriptures of an *autonomous* realm of rational knowledge, known through

the human intellect, and separate from scriptural knowledge altogether.

Precisely the reason that 19th century Iranian Shi`ites rejected so much

of Western science and thought was that it was seen by them as absent

from and often contradictory to the Qur'an and hadith, and therefore as

unacceptable. `Abdu'l-Baha wrote Secret of Divine Civilization to defend

the autonomy and goodness of human reason, and *on that basis* to argue

for the adoption of modernity in Iran.

Look at SDC p. 1: "Praise and thanksgiving be unto Providence that out

of all the realities in existence He has chosen the reality of man and

has honored it with intellect and wisdom [or "philosophy"], the two most

luminous lights in either world. Through the agency of this great

endowment, He has in every epoch cast on the mirror of creation new and

wonderful configurations."

In Traveller's Narrative, `Abdu'l-Baha positively *celebrates* the

freeing of science from the shackles of religious orthodoxy.

`Abdu'l-Baha speaks of the opposition in Iran to the Reason of

modernity: "Some say that these are newfangled methods and foregn isms,

quite unrelated to the present needs and the time-honored customs of

Persia. Others have rallied the helpless masses, who know nothing of

religion or its laws and basic principles and therefore have no power of

discrimination--and tell them that these modern methods are the practices

of heathen peoples, and are contrary to the venerated canons of the true

faith, and they add the saying [hadith], "He who imitates a people is one

of them." (SDC 12)

`Abdu'l-Baha points out that at the Battle of the Confederates, the

Prophet Muhammad borrowed the technique of digging a trench against the

Meccan cavalry from the Persian, Salman. "Did that Wellspring of

universal wisdom, that Mine of divine knowledge say in reply that this

was a custom current among idolatrous, fire-worshipping Magians and could

therefore hardly be adopted by monotheists? Or did He rather imemdiately

direct His followers to set about digging a tranch? He even, in His Own

blessed person, took hold of the tools and went to work beside them."

(SDC p. 27).

As for new methodologies, there were plenty of Iranians who argued that

rather than simply adopting the tools of the Western Enlightenment, they

should develop indigenous, Iranian Shi`ite means of accomplishing the

same purposes. `Abdu'l-Baha thought this insistence on reinventing the

wheel quite ridiculous (SDC p. 32). Someday Baha'is may contribute

something new to scholarship (though not until they get rid of Review,

which stifles free thought), but it is utopian to think that the US

Baha'i community, with its handful of academics, is going to

come up with something that 500,000 American university professors have

not already thought of (especially since most Baha'is do not bother to

read this production and so cannot benefit from its strengths).

Moreover, despite the very large numbers of educated Christians and

Muslims I cannot think of anything "Christian" or "Muslim" scholarship

has contributed to contemporary academia of any interest or

significance. The best "Christian" scholarship is simply that which

accepts academic methodologies and norms. What is produced

at fundamentalist seminaries is arrant nonsense. If Christians and

Muslims, with their billions, cannot develop a distinctive and

recognizably useful alternative to contemporary academic approaches, then

what chance does a small group like the Baha'is stand? Moreover, academic

scholarship has much to teach us about our own religion that we do not

now know and that we cannot find out with the old traditional methods.

Christopher Buck's book on the *Iqan* is a case in point.

It seems to me that the Research Department, for all the subsequent talk

of moderation and non-binding pronouncements, fell into the same

xenophobic trap that the Qajar Iranians had, and which `Abdu'l-Baha urged

us to avoid. The Master was a pragmatist. He thought that if something

worked, it should be adopted; you did not need a warrant of scripture.

And it did not even matter if the originator believed in God--read the

Master's letter to Forel.

Finally, `Abdu'l-Baha thought that scientists and other thinkers should

be respected and should be left alone by the religious classes to engage

in their expertise. We should "lay hold of whatsoever will further

civilization . . . that we may profit by the wisdom of scholars and

philosophers . . ." He even wants to, like the Saint-Simonians,

establish a body of scientific experts (SDC 37). One of the things

that always disturbed me about the Research Department's quixotic

charge at MacEoin was that they seem clearly not to have contacted

Alessandro Bausani, professor of Persian at the University of Rome

and chairman of the Italian NSA; or Heshmet Moayyad or Amin

Banani, or any of a number of other eminent Baha'i academics

and asked their advice in drawing up a statement. These laymen

charged right in, determined to set Cambridge right and armed only

with a literalist reading of some Baha'i texts. Had any of them so

much as had a graduate seminar in historical methodology, so that

they would know what it was they were attacking? Note that the most

enthusiastic supporters of the Research Department point of view are

not themselves Ph.D.s in History or Literature; they are engineers and

hard scientists who do not themselves produce scholarship on Baha'i

history and so do not understand the practical problems involved.

My problem, then, with the Research Department view is that it

strikes me as essentially fundamentalist in that it disallows the

epistemological autonomy of reason, which `Abdu'l-Baha in numerous

places upholds, desiring to subordinate Reason to ecclesiastical

authority (a practice `Abdu'l-Baha roundly condemned).

As for not judging the Book by the sciences current among us, Baha'u'llah

was warning the Muslim clergy not to reject Him and His message because of

their scholastic disciplines. He was not suggesting that the Baha'i

Learned could not study the Baha'i Faith with the tools of Reason. In

fact, in His commentary on the Surah of the Sun, Baha'u'llah explicitly

endorses such procedures, which He calls zahiri or exoteric approaches,

as long as, he says, the batin or inner meaning is not lost.

I am quite sure that `Abdu'l-Baha would not have stopped a Baha'i

Encyclopaedia from being published, even if its authors had lamentably

adopted the heathen techniques of the godless West. If the problem is

that the authorities worried it would seem official, and did not want

that, then this problem is easily fixed. Call it an "Unofficial

Dictionary of the Baha'i Faith" or something and let Kalimat publish it.

Banning its publication altogether is unnecessary to make this point (which

is all that my now-famous remark about silliness meant).

But I personally think Baha'i scholarship needs a trench, and that it can

only get one for the moment by borrowing the technology of Western

academia, and that if the Prophet Muhammad can get in and dig, so can I.

cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan

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