Re: Any guidelines on using the UHJ in fiction?

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on September 26, 2003 at 01:09:50:

In Reply to: Any guidelines on using the UHJ in fiction? posted by Dawud on September 25, 2003 at 20:17:03:

Dear Dawud,

Although I don't know if they would relate to your situation at all, since they are at least tangentially related, I thought I'd offer them:

"There is no objection to Baha'is writing novels portraying historical events and figures of the Faith. However, in view of the impossibility of ever portraying adequately the Manifestation of God as a character in a novel, and of the disrespect implicit in such an attempt, the House of Justice feels that no such portrayal should be attempted. Of course, His sayings and the events of His life may be recounted, but in this case care should be taken to quote His exact words as we have them in authorized translations, and events in Baha'i history should not be distorted.

Generally speaking, works of fiction which the writers hope will help to promote knowledge of the Cause of God will fulfil this purpose better if they are set against the background of particular events or developing processes in the Cause of God, and not used to portray the actual historical events themselves and the figures taking part in them. The reality of the actual events and the actual personages is so much more convincing than any fictional account. In this connection the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:

He would not recommend fiction as a means of teaching; the condition of the world is too acute to permit of delay in giving them the direct teachings associated with the name of Bahá'u'lláh. But any suitable approach to the Faith, which appeals to this or that group, is certainly worthy of effort, as we wish to bring the Cause to all men, in all walks of life, of all mentalities.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Sept. 23, 1980, Lights of Guidance, no. 354)

"As to your second query, your desire to write a novel in which the general principles underlying the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar would be presented is praiseworthy. The medium of a novel offers a great deal of latitude for an author to elaborate ideas and areas of thought hitherto unexplored. You should be careful, however, not to go beyond what we know about the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar or give interpretations that may not be correct if the Faith and its Teachings are to be explicit in the novel. If, on the other hand, there is no clear connection to the Faith in the novel, you would be free to use your imagination in exploring any ideas which have as their source the principles of the Faith."
(letter from the Dept of the Secretariat at the BWC to an individual in the UK, dated 15 February 1994).

Other letters indicate that the Manifestations of God, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi should not be portrayed but the Letters of the Living could be. Obviously individual House of Justice members could be portrayed (though I'm not sure what the point of that would be if they are not acting as a body), but presuming to know how the House of Justice might act as a body in a situation raises some questions for at least me personally, though I understand it is not intended to be speculation on some controversial issue (and obviously fictional anyways).

If someone were having the idea as say a dream, however, I don't think there would be any objection at all, as the symbol of the superhero might be a useful analogy for any person dedicatedly spreading the spirit of unity, and the House of Justice certainly encourages these kind of "superheroes" (and it doesn't involve the real depiction of sacred Figures either).

Again, these may or may not apply, and my own advice of course may or may not be valid--just offering them in case they may be helpful.

On another personal note, I appreciate your desire to draw upon the arts in promoting the teachings of the Faith. Also, you may be interested to know that, as I understand it, the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly Office of the Treasurer (clawson AT is looking for volunteer cartoonists to promote better understanding among Baha'i children of the principles of the Faith. Maybe we'll see your skills at a Baha'i newstand near us? :)

best wishes,

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