A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

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jimhabegger
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A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby jimhabegger » Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:27 am

I decided to start a separate thread on this topic, to help avoid it being obscured by other issues.

This about what I'm calling a movement to help free the religious spirit from its shackles within the Baha'i community. Some time ago there was some interdisciplinary networking going on among some Baha'is with widely diverging views who were pursuing a variety of initiatives that I see as helping to free the religious spirit from its shackles within the Baha'i community. Ever since I became aware of that, I've been trying to learn what happened to the movement, and if it died, how it might be revived.

The initiatives I see were mostly related to the arts, to translations of the writings, to the Mashriq'ul-Adkar and to the mystical and devotional dimensions of the Faith. The networking I see was happening mostly on the Talisman list.

What I'm talking about can best be seen in the 1996 mysticism conference at Bosch Baha'i school.

"From February 23 through 24th, a remarkable conference took place at Bosch Baha'i School, Santa Cruz, California. Envisioned as the first in an annual series of conferences focusing on the mystical teachings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l Baha, the Baha'i Mysticism Conference enabled the 97 participants to develop a greater sense of devotion and mysticism in their personal lives, and to explore ways to enrich the devotional aspects of Baha'i community life in general. Although mysticism has always been part of the religious experience, until Islam it existed at only the individual level. With the rise of the Sufis (Islamic mystics) mysticism became a major flow of thought pursuing the knowledge of transcendent truth through meditation and prayer. By chanting verses from the Writings, the presence of God is invoked. Musical repetition of sacred verses sets up a rhythm which naturally unites people, uplifting them so that they are more receptive. Borrowing from this Sufi tradition, one of the highlights of the Mysticism Conference was its use of zikr (chanting sacred verses) in the devotional portions of the program. The program itself was an eclectic combination of scholarly presentations and uplifting experiential activities such as group zikr, song, art, nature walks and meditation."

- from the Talisman archives
( http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/t96mar10.htm )


I've learned that some of those people are still pursuing what I see as liberating initiatives, and that there is still some networking going on among some of them. All I can think of to help now, is to try to help increase awareness of it.

Generalizing that, I've decided that I'd like to help organize the Internet to facilitate networking among all people who are working to spread peace, justice, fellowship, beauty and kindness.

Jim

BruceDLimber
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shack

Postby BruceDLimber » Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:16 am

jimhabegger wrote:I'd like to help organize the Internet to facilitate networking among all people who are working to spread peace, justice, fellowship, beauty and kindness.


And insofar as these are their goals, I'm sure we all enthusiastically support them! :-)

Peace,

Bruce

Fadl
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby Fadl » Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:27 pm

Hi Jim!

I have been reading your posts, and I think you seem very reasonable and well meaning, and that you are trying to find understanding and promote unity. I think those are wonderful goals, and I applaud you for it. However, one area I would critic your approach, is that you seem to exhibit at least a small bias for the "movement" as you call it, verses the "non-movement" (for lack of a better word).

For example, the subject of this thread: "A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles" is difficult for me to embrace because I'm not so sure how to feel about the notion that the Baha'i spirit is shackled. It is a loaded statement with a certain negative connotation about it. From reading your many posts, I get a sense that this is not intentional on your part, and I'm pretty sure you are not being mean or inflammatory.

However, intentionally or not, it does seem to suggest that you hold a view that the Faith is somehow actually shackled by something. If this is truly your view, perhaps you could elaborate on what the Faith is shackled by. Are we shackled because of the Administrative Order? Are we shackled because, as a unified faith, our institutions ultimately get make decisions about what official Baha'i belief or doctrine is?

Please be more specific about how the Faith is in your opinion shackled, if that is what you really think. I for one, am inclined to strongly disagree with such a statement.


Loren

richard
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby richard » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:18 pm

Hello Loren, Jim, and Bruce,

I truly hope you and other readers on this site will examine Jim's concerns with the problem of well-intended persons who unwittingly shackle the spirit of our one and only God within their hearts, minds, and souls---within their thoughts, feelings, attitudes, words, beings, and behaviors. Indeed, this is a problem found in all religions, even if it is found to a lessor extent in the Baha'i Faith, or at least in it's superb spiritual teachings.

And, for that matter, the religious teachings of most all religions are on a much higher spiritual level than is revealed in the words, beings, behaviors, and inter-personal relationships of the students and "followers" of those teachings.

Those things said, i will say that i have tried in the past to get deeper into this problem and its solution, but, i also think it is time for a new voice of understanding, and i think Jim may have it.

However, as is sometimes the case in spiritual matters of godliness, our minds tend to get in the way of God's spirit rather, than serving it; and, this aspect of God's truth and goodness gets lost in our excessive & imperfect human intellectualizations and theological misunderstandings & misapplications.

richard, imho, and as always, open to sincere, constructive, comments, questions, or criticisms; hopefully from a perspective of spiritual goodness, godly wisdom, and even love, compassion, and empathy... and thank you Loren for your reply to Jim, and i share your hope that he will reply to your questions and concerns...

jimhabegger
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby jimhabegger » Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:20 am

Hi Loren,

I was very happy to see such a sympathetic and thoughtful response from someone who has concerns about what I'm doing. Thank you very much for posting!

I've moved the rest of my response to the thread "Freedom from sectarian hatreds and other shackles." I want to limit my responses in this thread to the movement itself. It's a movement to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things, besides what's already popular, that I associate with dialogue Magazine and the Talisman lists. I'm dissociating it from the feud over Baha'i administration, which has obscured and defamed the movement. Some of the people in the movement got into feuds with some other Baha'is, including some members of Baha'i institutions. I won't be discussing that in this thread. Anything I say about that will be in some other thread.

The movement includes:
1. Exploring the mystical and devotional dimensions of the Faith.
2. Developing the institution of the Dawning Place and its dependencies.
3. Use of the arts.
4. New ways of thinking about the history, the future, the institutions, the central figures and the writings of the Faith.

Jim

Fadl
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby Fadl » Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:10 pm

jimhabegger wrote:Hi Loren,

I was very happy to see such a sympathetic and thoughtful response from someone who has concerns about what I'm doing. Thank you very much for posting!

I've moved the rest of my response to the thread "Freedom from sectarian hatreds and other shackles." I want to limit my responses in this thread to the movement itself. It's a movement to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things, besides what's already popular, that I associate with dialogue Magazine and the Talisman lists. I'm dissociating it from the feud over Baha'i administration, which has obscured and defamed the movement. Some of the people in the movement got into feuds with some other Baha'is, including some members of Baha'i institutions. I won't be discussing that in this thread. Anything I say about that will be in some other thread.

The movement includes:
1. Exploring the mystical and devotional dimensions of the Faith.
2. Developing the institution of the Dawning Place and its dependencies.
3. Use of the arts.
4. New ways of thinking about the history, the future, the institutions, the central figures and the writings of the Faith.

Jim


Dear Jim,

Although I haven't been a part of any movements, other than the Baha'i movement, I have already been "exploring the mystical and devotional dimensions of the Faith" and studying, rethinking the history, the future, the implication of the institutions, central figures and writings of the faith (sounds like item 4 above) for nearly 25 years now, or ever since becoming a Baha'i. That being said, how is it that a movement is now needed to free me from the shackles of the Baha'i movement which, of itself has given me the wings to do all this in the first place?

As for developing the mashriqu'l adhkar and its dependencies, how is this to be better accomplished by a movement outside the faith than by the faith itself? The mashriqu'l adhkar is and must be permanently shackled to to the UHJ, since it is only they who have the authority to:
1. authorize the budgeting and contracting of mashriqu'l adhkars and any of its dependencies
2. Are the only authority empowered with the right make rulings and decisions about what's not already ruled upon in the texts

While I can certainly hope and dream (as we all may) about the future when mashriqu'l adhkars reach full fruition and become the mature, socially and spiritually significant institutions which they are ordained to be, I think that only the UHJ has the unique perspective and authority necessary to say when and how such changes will take place, and not some movement that, even though lacking the perspective and authority needed to make such judgments, imagines that the rest of us should heed their counsel and not the counsel of the supreme body, and the duly elected and duly appointed men and women whose authority comes from the authority of the central figures of our Faith and the covenant of Baha'u'llah. The idea that, just because the writings describe a mashriqu'l adhkar of the future which is at present clearly not manifested, and the UHJ has the authority to implement it and doesn't, and that there are members of a movement who think we ought to have it now, only creates an unfortunate illusion that the movement has more insight or perception as to what the proper Baha'i spirit is and should be. Clearly it is easier to be a visionary and make such pronouncements when unburdened by heavy responsibilities such as managing the affairs and budgets and resources of a world faith.

Finally, the comment about the arts is also puzzling to me. How are the Baha'is lacking in art? Have you ever stopped to consider the tremendous talent of Baha'is as faith per capita? Its astonishing how talented the Baha'i community is! Just consider the number of successful and talented artists in the States alone, out of what, some 400,000 Baha'is? Additionally, the Baha'i Core Curriculum, Ruhi, Baha'i Schools, Youth workshops, etc., etc., and probably every plan of the last 20+ years have mentioned repeatedly the importance of the arts....so why is it that we need a movement to unshackle us?

I would counter your suggestion that their needs to be a movement to unshackle and free the Baha'i spirit, with the suggestion that, there needs to be a movement to unshackle and free the "movement" from its own self. There are some very intelligent, talented, and in my opinion, bitter people in the movement, many of whom I respect and care about greatly. I often wish and pray that they will be able to let go of pride and bitterness and rejoin the fold and work for the Baha'i movement; within the Baha'i movement, not from without. Many, many, many Baha'is have their own opinions about what the faith should or shouldn't do. Occasionally they get to experience the excitement of when those in authority agree with and enact such ideas, other times they must endure with patience and tolerance the frustration of wondering if and when anyone will ever "see things their way."

There are countless warnings in the writings about how it is possible to be "right" and at the same time oh so "wrong" in the Faith. There are countless warnings about learning that leads to pride, and the dangers of this to the individual and the community. It is sad, that some truly scholarly and educated individuals, who, while dedicating much of their lives to Baha'i scholarship and study, have, as if unaware of these warnings, seem to have fallen victim to it.

I want to share a story with you that I haven't told many before now. For a brief time, perhaps seven or eight plus years ago, I belonged to a post talisman list because I wanted some of the "benefits" which you have attributed to the movement in other posts, particularly access to certain provisional translations, and scholarly work, that certain members had created or had access to. Many of these members are among the members you have attributed as being members to what you are calling the movement, and there were many other members who you haven't mentioned, and whom I have never heard of. Anyway, after belonging to the list for almost a month, I had to abandon it.

I won't name names (not that I can likely even remember specifically now) but I will tell you, that during those days, the spirit that I experienced and with that group was something that I can only describe as frightening. Now bear in mind that I am a Baha'i, so I don't harbor any fantasies about manifestations of evil spirits, or devil persona, etc, but during those days, when I would get messages and read them, it was as though an almost palpable dark cloud filled the room where I sat. As I'm typing these words, I'm aware how absurd it must appear for a Baha'i to say such things, but that's what it was like for me. While there were sometimes comments on a translation or the like, much of the time there was mostly mocking and ridiculing of particular Baha'is, such as certain NSA members, as well as ridicule of certain community practices at Feast, Sunday Schools, etc. Anyway, most of it was so bitter and mean spirited that after weeks of feeling guilty for even being witness to it, and even having nightmares on occasion, because of how dark and ugly it all felt, I removed myself from the list.

I don't think the time I spent among the members of the movement did much to unshackle my faith any, but I can tell you that it did serve as a case study of the teachings and admonitions by Baha'u'llah relating to back biting, pride, excess of speech, and the power and influence of words.


Loren

Fadl
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby Fadl » Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:17 pm

richard wrote:Hello Loren, Jim, and Bruce,

I truly hope you and other readers on this site will examine Jim's concerns with the problem of well-intended persons who unwittingly shackle the spirit of our one and only God within their hearts, minds, and souls---within their thoughts, feelings, attitudes, words, beings, and behaviors. Indeed, this is a problem found in all religions, even if it is found to a lessor extent in the Baha'i Faith, or at least in it's superb spiritual teachings.

And, for that matter, the religious teachings of most all religions are on a much higher spiritual level than is revealed in the words, beings, behaviors, and inter-personal relationships of the students and "followers" of those teachings.

Those things said, i will say that i have tried in the past to get deeper into this problem and its solution, but, i also think it is time for a new voice of understanding, and i think Jim may have it.

However, as is sometimes the case in spiritual matters of godliness, our minds tend to get in the way of God's spirit rather, than serving it; and, this aspect of God's truth and goodness gets lost in our excessive & imperfect human intellectualizations and theological misunderstandings & misapplications.

richard, imho, and as always, open to sincere, constructive, comments, questions, or criticisms; hopefully from a perspective of spiritual goodness, godly wisdom, and even love, compassion, and empathy... and thank you Loren for your reply to Jim, and i share your hope that he will reply to your questions and concerns...



Dear Richard,

Your sentiments, and warm spirit are always appreciated! In the way that you have understood what the "movement" is I agree with you completely. However, there is a lot about this movement that is behind the curtains, and, in my opinion, are contrary to the spirit you have so well articulated and so strongly embrace. It is these things which I am debating about, so please don't feel I am disagreeing with you in spirit, because I am certainly not!

Loren

jimhabegger
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby jimhabegger » Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:35 pm

I've decided to call the movement I'm talking about "The dialogue/Talisman new horizons movement," until I find something better. It's one of many movements I've seen to help free the spirit of the Baha'i Faith from its shackles, including the new culture that the House of Justice is promoting. Devotional meetings, and the emphasis on service, are part of developing the institution of the Dawning Place and its dependencies. Inclusion of non-members in the core activities will help remedy Baha'i sectarianism, and open the community to new ideas and ways of doing things. The Ruhi courses will help promote the use of arts to improve the world.

Besides that, I've seen many other initiatives, individual and collective, to help free the spirit of the Baha'i Faith from its shackles. In this thread I'm discussing one particular movement that I discovered hidden behind the smoke and dust of the feud over Baha'i administration, associated with dialogue Magazine and the Talisman lists.

Here are some people associated with that movement, and some examples of what they're doing now:

Amin Banani

Books at Amazon.com
- Tahirih the Pure
- The Modernization of Iran, 1921-1941
- The Epic of Kings or Shah-Nama: the national epic of Persia
- Modernization of Iran
- Poetry and Mysticism in Islam: The Heritage of Rumi

Erika Batdorf
dance/mime, Canada

Page at Baha'i Association for the Arts:
http://bahai-library.com/bafa/b/batdorf.htm
"Erika Batdorf has been called an avant garde performance artist, a comic actress and a dancer. Her background in disciplined movement training, traditional acting and her experience as a writer come together in highly moving solo shows."

Terry Culhane

Books at Amazon.co.uk
- Russian Language and People
- I Beheld a Maiden...: The Baha'i Faith and the Life of the Spirit

Sandra Fotos

The Two Donkeys: A Peace Education Activity
Draw What You Hear—A Sharing Activity

Amir Haghighi

MySpace Page
"At every concert, some audience members are literally in tears, saying that even though they don't understand the farsi language, Amir has communicated something so emotionally powerful that it drives right to the centre of their being."

LuAnne Hightower

Home page: http://www.lisahightower.com/luanne.html
"In addition to her day job, she is a certified massage therapist, she teaches yoga, and she sings jazz and new age music with a middle eastern influence. She has regularly performed at venues around southern Vermont and New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. She has also performed at festivals around the country, including the Rumi Festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in September 2001. LuAnne has recorded two CDs, which can be purchased online by following the "Read More" links below. "

David Langness

Excerpt from his book The Seeker's Path: Myth, Maturity and the Baha'I Teachings

Teresa Langness

Home page: http://www.teresalangness.com/
"Teresa Henkle Langness is the founding board chair of the non-profit organization Children’s Enrichment Program (CEP), whose mission is to help children embrace their role as helpers, healers and meaningful contributors to society. CEP is the birthplace of the Full-Circle Learning approach to education, captured in a series of Full-Circle Learning lesson plan manuals and music CDs. "

Sen McGlinn
poet, reviewer, editor, visual artist, The Netherlands.

Page at Baha'i Association for the Arts:
http://www.bahai-library.com/bafa/m/mcglinn.htm
"I like the art of poetic suggestion, of the found object, and of the minimum intervention that helps the viewer to read ‘with the grain’ of the found. "

Steve Scholl

Imagine Adventures
"Imagine Adventures invites you to experience journeys with spiritual intention. Our tours blend authentic cross-cultural encounters with educational programs, recreational activities and life-changing adventure. We aim to take you into the hearts of cultures and to provide unique opportunities for learning, inspiration and personal discovery."
Other people associated with the dialogue/Talisman chronicles

Sonja van Kerkhoff

Home page: http://www.sonjavank.com/kerkhoff.htm
This page discusses her art in relation to the Baha'i Faith.

richard
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Re: A movement to help free the Baha'i spirit from its shackles

Postby richard » Sat Apr 19, 2008 2:43 pm

[quote="Loren

Dear Richard,

Your sentiments, and warm spirit are always appreciated! In the way that you have understood what the "movement" is I agree with you completely. However, there is a lot about this movement that is behind the curtains, and, in my opinion, are contrary to the spirit you have so well articulated and so strongly embrace. It is these things which I am debating about, so please don't feel I am disagreeing with you in spirit, because I am certainly not!
Loren[/quote][/quote]
Loren

Hi Loren,

I want to give you a belated thank you for your good, positive, and kind reply to my post.

I also appreciate your good spiritual insights and concerns regarding the external and internal forces (movements) that work for the good and/or ill of the Bahai Faith, the UHJ, the NSA, and all Faith members.

You are surely a fine member, and spiritual asset, within the Faith, and i truly look forward to reading your excellent views on the matters in your heart, mind, and soul.

As always, all the best to you and your loved ones, today and forever... richard


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