Re: Quote-finding

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on August 17, 2002 at 12:24:09:

In Reply to: For Brett Zamir posted by BK on August 16, 2002 at 12:32:27:

Dear BK,

I very much appreciate your desire to increase your capacity to gain ready access to the life-giving Writings.

As a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi indicates:

„Surely the ideal way of teaching is to prove our points by constant reference to the actual words of Bahá‚u‚lláh and the Master. This will save the Cause from being misinterpreted by individuals. It is what these divine Lights say that is truth and therefore They should be the authorities of our statements. This, however, does not mean that our freedom of expression is limited. We can always finds new ways of approach to that truth or explain how they influence our life and condition. The more deep our studies the more we can understanding the significance of the teachings. In the Cause we cannot divorce the letter from the spirit of the words. As Bahá‚u‚lláh says we should take the outward significance and super-impose upon it the inner. Either without the other is wrong and defective.š (Pearls of Wisdom: Importance of Deepening our Knowledge and Understanding of the Faith, p. 74)

Finding quotations--which, though necessary, is indeed different from true understanding (since one must draw on a range of quotations and correctly ascertain whether the quotations apply in the given situation, etc.)--can be helped along, I find, in a number of ways. If anyone has their own useful methods, it would be interesting to hear.

1) Use of search engines--such as that on this site: or in software programs such as MARS, Ocean, etc. You might have to think for a while of a rare word or words which could narrow down the search. Use of multiple words within quotations marks also allows us to find words which are continguous. If your computer can download large documents quickly (e.g., the Kitab-i-Aqdas all at once), you can also do finds by your browser or word-processor.

2) Ready access to the wonderful compilation of Helen Hornby, Lights of Guidance, is most useful in addressing many, many topics. A digital copy would be ideal.

3) One can make a specific folder on one's hard drive (or in sticky notes, Palm Desktop, etc.) of useful quotations (with titles which readily conjure the subject matter when referring back to them in the future), especially those quotations which may be buried within documents we might not often reread (or which are made in context to a different subject, but which may have other implications).

4) Making one's own compilations arranged by subject (material, human, or spiritual), protagonist, time, etc., and with descriptive headings (even adding underlining or bolding to the quotations themselves to be able catch the most relevant parts at a glance), etc. which can be readily searched by one's word processing program.

5) Use of study outlines (or making one's own if they do not exist). Shoghi Effendi recommended their use:

„By őverities of the Faith‚ he means the great teachings and fundamentals enshrined in our Bahá‚í literature; these we can find by reading the books, studying under Bahá‚í scholars at summer schools and in classes, and through the aid of study outlines.š (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 19, 1947)

Once one knows a text fairly well by such a method (outlines provide nice memory anchors, I think, for the details to be latched on as we are able), our brains are cued to refer to the texts when the need arises, since we have done more than just "understand them more deeply" or even "fulfill them more faithfully" but also become able to "convey them more accurately to othersš through such "prayerful meditation on the Teachings" („essential requisites for our spiritual growthš, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, p. 589)

6) Familiarity with the writings of the Universal House of Justice. Since I have not seen them elsewhere (I guess because they are in fact not in print), the elucidations at address many interesting topics which may not be available elsewhere.

7) Use of the index in any book--which unfortunately do not often exist on-line--can be helpful.


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