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This autobiography/memoir of a Bahai over seven decades of teaching and international travel is one of the few extensive personal accounts of the experience of a Western Bahai beginning in the second epoch (1944-1963) of the Formative Age.
Part 1:

This autobiographical study begins at the start of the first three North American and global teaching Plans of: 1937, 1946, & 1953, respectively. This study integrates a lifespan, his projected lifespan, 1944 to 2044, his life-narrative, into the context of the history of the Bahai community back to 1743, the year of the birth of that Babi Faith's chief precursor Shaykh Ahmad. The author includes over 2000 references from the humanities and social sciences within the western intellectual tradition. His account goes through to the year 2044, the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era.

Part 2:

This work draws on many studies of autobiography and biography, life-narratives, memoirs and diaries, as well as a broad range of experience, to analyse this author's society, his Faith, his community and himself in those critical first eight decades of organized and systematic teaching plans, 1936 to 2016. It is his hope that he will be able to extend this study of his personal experience and the teaching plans until at least 2036, when he will be in his 90s, and possibly until 2044 when he will have reached the age of 100. Time, of course, will tell.

Readers will find here at Baha'i Library Online(BLO) the introductory sections, Parts 1, 2 and 3, of the author's epic 2500 page five volume 7th edition. These three Parts, now sub-divided into 6 separate sections, are an abridged, truncated and necessarily provisional edition for BLO. This section, this post at BLO, is Part 3.1 and, as the title suggests, the entire work is a study of autobiography as a genre, an analysis of its process and its content, as much as if not more than, a study of the author's life, his society and his religion. The Office of Review of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has given him permission to post this work in its current form on the Internet.

Part 3:

The 3rd edition of this document was originally posted at BLO in 2003. A hard copy was placed in the Baha'i World Centre library also in 2003; that 3rd edition has now been edited and revised many times in the dozen years since 2003. The current edition, the 7th, was posted here at BLO in celebration of the 50th anniversary, in April 2013, of the first election of the Universal House of Justice in April 1963. This document is now in the early stages of an 8th edition. This 8th edition is envisaged to be published in its final form hopefully here at BLO in April 2021 at the end of the first century of the Formative Age if, as the author points out, he lasts that long. In 2021 he will be 77, and in 2044 he will be 100, the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era.

Part 4:

In some ways this autobiography is simply a form of self-reflection and writing known as auto-ethnography since this work explores the author's personal experience and also connects his autobiographical story to wider cultural & political, sociological & psychological meanings & understandings. This account differs from ethnography which is a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group's culture. Auto-ethnography focuses on: (i) the writer's subjective experience in interaction with the beliefs and practices of others, (ii) research and writing, (iii) story and method. The author's aim, among many, is to connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political. This is the core of auto-ethnography.

Part 5:

Analytical auto-ethnographers focus on developing theoretical explanations of broader social phenomena; auto-ethnographers like this author also focus on narrative presentations that aim to open-up conversations & evoke responses from others. As part of the author's prefatory work, he takes his family history and his historical commentary on society, as well as on this latest of the Abrahamic religions, back to the century 1753 to 1844, the precursor period of the Babi Revelation. He then continues into the century 1844 to 1944, the year he was born in Canada. He then takes his readers through the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era, from 1944 to 2044.

In putting this account together the author deals with some 15 generations of history, of his family, of the Babi-Baha'i religions and the Babi Faith's precursor period. That's a total of 300 years, from 1743 to 2044. This series of volumes attempts to integrate the experience of these generations into a coherent whole. After more than 30 years of working on this vast expanse of history and personal experience, he feels he has just begun. This is one of the many works which this author and editor, online blogger and journalist is now working on as he goes through his last years on Earth.

Pioneering Over Four Epochs:
An Autobiographical Study and A Study In Autobiography: Part 3.1

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs


Ron Price, "Autobiography as Symbolic Presentation," Unpublished Essays, February 8th, 2003.

"The crowning achievement of the human species, our self-consciousness, the awareness of oneself as a private person with a past history and future goals, has taken so long to evolve and has been so uneven that humanity is a homo sapiens species, sub-species homo sapiens sapiens, with extremely fragile selves."-Lloyd deMause, "The Psychogenic Theory of History," The Emotional Life of Nations, Internet.

Part 1:

A narrated event, an autobiography, is the symbolization of the event. It is what Robert Scholes, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brown University, calls "a temporal icon." It is my life. It is a series of events. It is the symbolic presentation of a sequence of events connected by subject matter and related by time. Temporal relation is critical, whether in narrative or poetic form. Without it all we have is a list like the parts of a car or the names in a telephone directory. Autobiography also assumes, however subjective and elusive, the existence of a given and knowable empirical entity and an author who is in a position of authority with respect to that entity. There are, though, limits to narrative conventions in their attempt to represent the breadth of human experience. There is, it seems to me, an individuality outside the autobiographical narrative; it is an identity that exists in tension with the construction I have created in this text.

The depictions of University of Chicago sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) on the looking-glass self I found relevant from my first encounter with them as far back as the 1960s. I had observed the presentation of my own self in both the honorific and the deleterious image of how, at that time of my life, I believed others viewed me. Still, even while accounting for these literal and metaphorical reflections, my temperament sometimes matched my intent and, distressingly, sometimes did not match my intent. I remember frequently embarrassing myself, and I frequently scored high in the social impression management game of life. My state of personal insecurity, and my state of personal security, wavered back and forth throughout my matriculation and my four years at university: 1962 to 1967.

"All the world's a stage," I am more aware than the majority. Life's scripts, I have frequently observed, always seem more second nature to others than to me; but scripts, the prepared kind, furnished an escape to an otherwise unavailable world. But I never found acting to be something natural. My script was one I am still working out; it may be partially prepared but it is in the main flawed, plausible and unprepared. To reflect is to theorize or philosophize, with particular reference to the relativity of a concrete situation, and I've been reflecting seriously at least as far back as I can remember, say, 1948 to 2015, on both my prepared and unprepared scripts.

There is also an individuality within the autobiographical narrative at a purely physiological level. Over the course of the last several decades physiologists, psychologists and medical science have come to know a great deal about the human anatomy and its expression in each individual. To choose but one example which is crucial to autobiography I'll say one of two things about the process by which strong emotions make for strong memories. This process has been traced in some detail in the years since I went pioneering. At the onset of an emotionally charged event, adrenaline is released from the adrenal medulla and this activates beta-receptors in the brain. These receptors are protein receptors on neurons that receive adrenaline and its first cousin noradrenaline. Their activation enables strong emotions to make strong memories. The basolateral amygdala is also involved in this process of making stronger memories. On the other hand there are several memory blockers, drugs with anteretrograde amnesia effects used to counter the affects of post-traumatic stress-disorder. Obviously in a work like this no memory enhancers or memory blockers have played any role in my account.

During the four epochs that this autobiography documents, some sixty years now, in its very personal way a series of drugs occupied the attention of society in the West. In the post-war period up to the 1960s alcohol and cigarettes dominated the social landscape. In the sixties and seventies marijuana came to the fore, then heroin and cocaine in the 1980s and 1990s. In Australia in the 1990s and in the first decade of the new millennium ecstacy and other mood-altering substances came to occupy the attention of the media and the populace. I don't want to give this subject much attention here. With the exception of tobacco which I smoked from 1964 to 1994 and, of course, the drugs I took for my bi-polar disorder from 1968 to the present, all of these chemical enhancements played no direct part in my life.

Part 2:

Although there are many basic accounts, basic stories, varying emphases to various topics, in my life that I could recount, there are what Barbara Herrnstein Smith calls "hierarchies of relevance and centrality" that enable me to distinguish certain elements and relations in a life that are central or periferal, more important or less important, more basic or less basic, insufficiently present, not presentable or in my face as it is said these days colloquially, hidden or manifest, able to be clothed in words or ineffable. As one analyst puts it, there is a domain of life which is brought into being by the very act of telling the story. There is, inevitably, a conflict between what is deemed narratable, eligible for telling and what is not or, to put it another way, what is private and what is public. No matter how much this autobiography reflects and explores Bahá'í identities in an emerging global culture; no matter how much or how little this long narrative and extended analysis becomes part of one of those grand theatres of public life, our print culture, the writing of this work is, for me, a finding, an expressing, of life's many-coloured mansions, a performance of my identity, a description of my intimacies and my distances and a part of a sentimental commerce which I exhibit and which I own. In autobiography, at least in the sentimental-romantic tradition since Rousseau, there is the impulse to bare all. This is now epitomized in the expose journalist search for the in-depth documentary and in a great mass of autobiography and biography which has come on the literary scene during these several epochs. For the most part, though, I temper this impluse with the cautious words of the fourth Imam, Ali, who advised that "not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed." Sometimes, though, I feel I have not been cautious. This is true both in life and in this autobiography.

I could conclude this essay with some statistics that place the remaining years of my life, my late adulthood and old age, in perspective but there is no more room here at BLO. I did post a series of essays on autobiography in this Part 2, but there is no room here at BLO for these essays. Anyone wanting them can write to me at:

Part 3:



I have outlined below(in 1500 words and four A-4 font 14 pages) several categories of my writing and my writing projects of varying sizes, genres and subjects on the internet. Readers can gradually get into whatever categories of my work they desire, if at any time they do in fact desire to read my works over the next few days, weeks, months, years or decades. The following items went onto the internet in the period 2001-2009. The following outline is a presentation of what might be called my marketing strategy, my literary strategy or my internet strategy, a strategy given the limitations of my technical internet skills. One might refer to my current modus operandi, my MO as the who-dun-it enthusiasts call it, as my business plan, although such a term suggests a more professional and money-oriented approach than it really is. In some ways what I write below is an outline of this small business, how I operate, how I have built it up, its raison d'etre and where it seems to be going if, indeed, it is going anywhere at all—and I know it is, at least from my own perspective.

Most of my writing is free of any cost, although some of the self-publishing material costs anywhere from $3 to $20 at self-publishing sites like Lulu and eBook Mall. I mention this fact: (a) not to advertise and (b) not to try and sell my work. I have received 20 cents/annum in royalties since I began self-publishing in 2003. Fame and wealth will elude me as it eludes most writers. There are three general categories of printed matter, my own writing, that I have placed on the world wide web. These categories are:

1. Books:

1.1. The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. This 300 page ebook is available at Bahá'í Library Online and parts of it can be accessed at many places on the internet.

1.2. A paperback edition of the above book is available at for $11.48 plus shipping costs from the USA. This self-publishing site also has a five volume, four book, work, a study in autobiography, entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs which is 2500 pages long(four 625 page books). Much of this is available as an ebook and in paperback for $10 to $20 per volume at in 2009. It has been reviewed/approved by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States for placing on the internet. The cost of these books is set by

1.3 My internet site entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs has some 450,000 words and 30,000 pages and is a book unto itself. this is an equivalent of 6 books at 75,000 words per book.

Essays, poems, parts of my autobiography/memoir and a wide variety of postings/writings in smaller, more manageable, chunks of a paragraph to a few pages are all free and can be accessed by simply: (a) going to any one of approximately 4000 sites and (b) typing some specific words into the Google search engine as indicated in the following:

2.1 4000 Sites:

I post at a wide range of poetry, literature, social science and humanities sites across a diverse mix of subjects, topics and intellectual disciplines in both popular and academic culture. The list of over 100 pages of these sites and a developmental outline of the process/the timeframe by/in which these sites were acquired is available to anyone interested by writing to me at: But a simpler method for readers to access many of my postings would be to:

2.2 Type Sets of Words At Google:

There are literally hundreds of sets of words now that will access my writing at various sites. If you type, for example, Ron Price, followed by any one of the following words or word sequences: (i) poetry, (ii) literature, (iii) religion, (iv) Bahá'í, (v) history, (vi) Shakespeare, (vii) ancient history, (viii) philosophy, (ix) Islam, (x) Australia Bahá'í and (xi) pioneering over four epochs, et cetera, et cetera, you will get anywhere from a few sites to over 150 sites arranged in blocks of ten internet locations. This last site, “pioneering over four epochs”, is a particularly fertile set of words to type into the google search engine, although there are other sets of phrases that will yield a fertile list of my writings in prose and/or poetry.

The main problem with this latter way of accessing what I have written(section 2.2) is that my work is side by side with the items of other writers and posters who have the same name as mine and/or the same topic. I have counted over 2000 other Ron Prices and I'm sure there are more. You may find their work more interesting than mine! There are some wife bashers, a pornographer or two, car salesmen, evangelists, media celebrities, indeed, a fascinating array of chaps and chapesses who have different things to sell and advertise, different life-trajectories and claims-to-fame than my life and my offerings. If you type/google the words Ron Price followed by some topic/word of an academic, literary, poetic or subject of personal interest, you will: (a) eliminate some of the other Ron Price's and (b) have access many sites with my writing.

3. Specific Sites With Much Material:

Some sites have hundreds of pages of my writing and these sites are a sort of middle ground, a different ground, between the two major categories I have outlined above. The Bahá'í Academics Resource Library(BARL) (or Bahá'í Library Online), for example, has more of my material than at any other site. My writings are listed there under: (a) books, (b) personal letters, (c) poetry, (d) biographies and (e) essays, among other categories or listings. The Roger White book is at BARL under “Secondary Resource Material>Books>Item #changes. I find this site useful personally, but some of the poetry is not arranged in as visually pleasing a form as is often found at many other internet sites. Readers should click on “By author” at the top of the access page, then type “Price” into the box and 46 articles/documents will appear/be accessible.

There are some sites at which my writing is found in a very pleasing form with photos and pictures and general settings to catch the eye. Some site organizers have their location beautifully arranged. I leave it to readers to read what pleases them and leave out what doesn't. When one posts as much as I do on the internet, one often writes too much, says the wrong things or upsets an applecart or two. It's part of the process. In cyberspace, as in the real world, you can't win them all. The pioneering over four epochs word sequence is, as I've said, a useful word package to access some 150 sites with my writing and has no competition from other ‘Ron Prices.

Concluding Comments:

I had no idea when I retired from full-time employment in 1999, from PT employment in 2001 and from much volunteer work in 2005, to write full-time that the internet would be as useful a system, a resource, a base, for my offerings as it has become. There are literally millions of my words in many a genre now on this international web of words that I have written in the last nine years(2001-2010). From the early eighties to the early years of this new millennium I tried to get published in a hard or soft cover, but without any success.

My guess is that in the years ahead the world will be awash with books and various genres of printed matter from millions of people like me posting various quantities of their writing. In some ways the world is already awash with print as it is awash with audio-visual products. The print and electronic media have got something for everyone these days, probably more than most people can assimilate.

What I write will not be the cup-of-tea of all readers. This goes without saying. If that is the case readers are simply advised to drink someone else's tea from someone else's cup. There is something for everyone these days in both hard and soft cover and on the Internet. If readers don't like my work or someone else's go to sources of printed matter they like.

For those who already do or may in the future come to enjoy my writings, I hope the above is a useful outline/overview. For those who don't find what I write attractive to their taste, as I say, the above will give you a simple handle to avoid as you travel the net. I wish you all well in your own endeavours in the path of writing or whatever path your travel down.

Ron Price Updated: 25 September 2010



Part 1:

The Greek roots of the word autobiography are: "autos, bios, and graphe"(self, life, writing). These words inform the kinds of approaches that have been taken to address the relationship between an autobiographical text and its author. Further, the understanding of autobiography as “self-life writing” has shaped what kinds of texts that get to be called autobiography and what texts are something else, things like: identity work, media-making, or marginal textual practice. Fortunately, due to the proliferation of online activity that engages autobiographical modes of textual practice, life-writing scholars are beginning to develop new tools in order to address the variety of “texts”: blogs, tweets, status updates, avatars, and a variety of digital personas. These scholars do this to find out what about cultural understandings of self-hood and what it means to communicate “real” life through media. One of these tools under construction is the idea of “auto-media,” which I will elaborate on below.

There is, in recent years and due to the internet, what you might call a "proliferation of the public self.” This proliferation has also given rise to the field of persona studies which address the ways in which individuals engage in practices of self-presentation in order to form commoditized identities that circulate in affective communities like those in cyberspace. In the field of persona studies, an author website like mine as a site of self-presentation that works to “package” an authorial persona for circulation within contemporary literary marketplaces. I draw on theories of authorship to propose the “author website” as a genre of auto-medial representation that creates authorial personas for public consumption. Asking ‘what is an author?’ is intimately related to the question ‘what is literature?’” To have an identity as an author is distinct from being an author.

It is one thing to sit at a desk doing the work of writing a book. Making oneself visible as an author is a very different kind of work. Writers are asked to present themselves as authors in a range of contexts such as: writers’ festivals, readings, book signings, interviews and book promotion tours, and this demand has increased with the rise of social media. Writers are now expected to represent themselves across a variety of digital platforms which currently include: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These events and spaces reflect changing reading practices in which readers wish to move beyond the “solitary act of reading” and to participate in literary communities. Within these communities authors occupy a role that is part celebrity, part guru, and part imagined friend, close and not-so-close. In considering the appeal of writers’ festivals, audiences seek genuine relationships with artists, and are sensitive to a lack of authenticity on the part of the artist in the relationship”. Readers want to have access to authors: to get near them, the real them. And this sets up the expectation of a two-way street in which there is pressure on authors to also be participants and to grant readers the access they desire.

Part 2:

Author websites are one way that writers respond to the call to make themselves visible and accessible as authors within literary communities, and this call is often framed as an impetus to “connect with” an audience. But the primary function of the author website is to exploit readers’ fascination with the author in order to sell books. I don't try to sell books, but I do market my writing via my website. In neoliberal cultures the pressure is on for all kinds of people to use online tools and spaces to commoditise their self-representation by cultivating a “self-brand,” and, to varying degrees of alarm, disgust, or pragmatism, this is certainly one way that the author is conceptualised: as a brand name.The author as brand name guarantees and markets a reading experience particular to that brand. As with many other commodities, author brands are a mechanism for organizing books into categories with identifiable traits in order that readers/consumers may identify which books appeal to their reading tastes and choose their purchases accordingly. It is, as Michel Foucault remarks in answer to the question “What is an Author?”: it is “a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes and chooses”. Digital spaces in particular are seen as opportunities for authors to create an “online presence” by communicating themselves as a brand on a website.

I am proposing that we might look at how these websites draw on intimate modes of self-representation to create an author-subject that is knowable to a reading public, and to think about how the features of these sites and their digital contexts shape the kinds of authorial personas that can be produced in the medium of the author website. In order to do this, I now want to turn to the field of auto/biography studies in which there is a growing body of work that considers a range of online modes of self-representation as texts that can be read, analysed and understood within a broader framework of auto/biographical practices (autobiography is sometimes written with a slash, as in, auto/biography in order to acknowledge both biography and autobiography within a range of textual practices that broadly deal with life narrative).

Part 3:

Marshall argues that contemporary culture exhibits an expansive world of online persona creation with individuals increasingly engaging in self-branding or personifying. Persona creation is a process of strategic intentionality whereby we present a chosen aspect from among the many to be found in us all. The avatar is an individual’s embodiment in virtual space, an extension of self through which the user experiences the virtual world. Just as the persona permits us “to explore the masks of identity” (Marshall, Personifying 380), the avatar offers opportunities for exploration and experimentation. For Marshall the persona in the public on-line world is constructed by media and communication systems and enacted through individual intention and agency (Personifying). The avatar is similarly constructed and enacted. Both persona and avatar are mutable and, as Marshall suggests in relation to persona, part of a specular economy manifesting an increasing consciousness of self-presentation and others’ perceptions (Specular). I do not think it overstated to indicate these similarities with the composite term “avatar-persona.”

The avatar self as experienced as if it were their actual self. Our virtual experiences are grounded in, and inextricably linked to, our physicality. One’s “presence” with one’s avatar may facilitate and be uniquely linked to avatar influence on the offline self (Behm-Morawitz). In this sense “presence”—the sense of being actually present and being recognised as present by others there—may bridge both sides of the screen. This two-way transfer is analogous to the person’s capacity to move others into action noted by Marshall (Personifying). Further, as some research has shown, the representation of self through an avatar not only effects online behaviour but actually may also have continued effects on offline behaviour and avatars may come to change who we are in both online and offline environments (Yee and Bailenson).

Marshall (Specular) argues that the online and mobile media screen as mirror produces persona and that the mirror as a surface reflects and allows one to be seen and to interrelate or communicate with others. The MUVE also acts as a virtual mirror screen within which the avatar-persona operates. The avatar-persona is the virtual analogue of the mirror persona discussed in relation to Lacan and symbolic interaction formulations. I turn now to how these processes and interconnections manifest in SL in order to explore the complexities inherent in the interplay of self, avatar-persona and other.

SL is a three dimensional virtual world where “everyone you see is a real person and every place you visit is built by people just like you” ( SL “residents” (as they refer to themselves) engage in role-playing games in-world, co-create content with other residents, and indulge in a huge variety of social activities including sexual and/or affective relationships with other residents. SL is an immersive social environment offering sophisticated graphical building tools, avatar appearance modification potentials, and both synchronous (real time) and asynchronous (delayed) avatar-to-avatar communication for residents who are geographically located in all parts of the offline world.

In MUVEs, one sees the avatar-persona as a third person. In SL this is due to the potential for 360-degree camera views of the avatar, ensuring that our avatar becomes the object of our view, placing us in a position both of an active I controlling an avatar and a distanced other watching that self move and speak (Zhao). These dynamics raise interesting questions about interaction, self-presentation, and self-construction (Gottschalk), the answers to which represent a continuum between two far from mutually exclusive poles. On the one hand, research based on SL (see for example work by Messinger et al., or Martey and Consalvo) has shown that, despite an almost limitless potential for modification, most avatars are idealised representations of their creator’s offline selves. Given this correlation between online and offline manifestations, I suggest that the avatar operates more like a mirror that is not wholly restricted by the tain.

On the other hand, writers such as Sherry Turkle have argued (before the existence of MUVEs) that the Internet permits multiplicity and mutability in subjectivity. In a contemporary context social virtual worlds provide “a free ‘potential space’ where real individuals—qua avatars—can and do attempt to create an alternative reality. Here they simultaneously concretize their individualistic fantasies […] and enact aspects of their selves they did not know exist, were too embarrassed to admit, or always wanted to master” (Gottschalk 521-22). SL permits hybridity of identity, plasticity of form, and multiplicity of avatars, ensuring fluid and chimerical possibilities (Morie and Verhulsdonck) for single or multiple avatar-persona per offline self. Residents frequently switch between avatar-persona to suit particular needs or social contexts. In this respect, SL is less a mirror than a kaleidoscope, where changing patterns emerge with a turn of the lens.

In neither case is the process one-way. “When people define the virtual as real, it becomes real in its consequences, and the reciprocal effects between the self and the avatar extend to more central aspects of one’s life as well” (Gottschalk 513). Avatars are distinct selves, not just conduits for offline identities. They socially manifest a projective identity or identities that are influential intersections of offline people and online representations situated within socially performed dramaturgical selves (Martey and Consalvo).



Part 1:

What follows is Part 3.1 of the 7th edition of Pioneering Over Four Epochs found here at Bahai Library Online (BLO). In time, hopefully, I will add a Part 4 and an 8th edition. This document tries to provide, with Parts 1.1 and 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2 as well as 3.2, an overview of my 2500 page(font 14 and 400 words/page) autobiography or memoir. Only 1500 pages are found in this 6-part work; 1000 are found at other places in cyberspace. That is more than one million words. There are now several million of my words in cyberspace but they are all not integrated into this six-part work. Those wanting to read the third edition of this same work with the same title Pioneering Over Four Epochs can go to many internet sites for earlier editions in whole or in part. Readers can also find my writing in book and ebook, essay and poem, narrative and internet post, all forms and genres spread over literally thousands of internet sites: of special interest, topics, subjects and themes, all related in one way or another to this epic work 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.' The Bahá'í World Centre library has my 800 page 3rd edition in hard copy sent electronically in 2003.

I should reiterate at the outset that readers will, in all likelihood, only be interested in this document if they are interested in the interplay, the interconnectedness, the interlock, between the life of a Bahá'í, the wider Bahai community and the general society in which that Bahai has lived in the last four epochs of Bahai history, that is, the years 1943 to 2015. This work also provides a retrospective glance taking in the years that are the meeting of my parents circa 1940, the Bahai teaching Plan beginning in 1937 and, more generally, the years back to the very start of Bahai history with the birth of the Babi-Bahá'í Faith's chief precursor, Shaykh Ahmad in 1753/1743. I have been enmeshed all my life, as we all are, in history and society's complexity, its irreducible multiplicity, the endlessness of its overt and subtle processes. This work only covers an infinitessimal part of that entire multidimensional world, and it only covers a small part of my life's ceaseless and necessary processes of living: endurance and self-renewal, activites and relationships in which I have been and am engaged. All of these processes occur to me in memory and imagination to some extent in the act of writing as I scrutinize and recapture my inner and outer life. Self-renewal and exhaustion, victory and loss, a personal sense of gain and a personal sense of disappointment have been part and parcel of my life as they are for everyone, each in their own way, in life.

Part 1.1:

In a recent biography of the famous playwright Tennessee Williams(1911-1983) entitled "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh" by John Lahr, it is clear, indeed, it is the central contention, that Williams is “the most autobiographical of American playwrights” and that his writing “was a kind of cleansing”. The stain he was trying to remove was familial. Gore Vidal quipped that Williams’s family formed his “basic repertory company”. There was truth in jest. I have never had the gift of writing fiction in the form of novels or plays, but I can appreciate the literary and psychological value of being able to translate one's life-narrative into some fictional form. Readers find in my autobiography that the man on the page is the man who lived in real life, at least, as best as I am able to make that translation from life into literary art.

After years of obscurity, Williams became suddenly famous with The Glass Menagerie (1944); I was born in 1944 and did not come to know anything of Williams until well into my adult life. This play closely reflected his own unhappy family background. The play heralded a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, and Sweet Bird of Youth. His later work attempted a new style that did not appeal to audiences, and alcohol and drug dependence further inhibited his creative output. Williams adapted much of his best work for the cinema, and also wrote short stories, poetry, essays and a volume of memoirs. I did not have to deal with the problems of alcohol and drugs; life was difficult enough without such substance abuse problems to exacerbate quotidian reality; my life would have been insufferable had it been plagued by such excesses in addition to the tests and difficulties of several mental health issues of which bi-polar I disorder was the central problem.

The great strength of Lahr's biography of Williams, writes Duncan White in the online edition of The Telegraph, on 5 October 2014, is that "it never forgets that the play’s the thing. Williams’s fragility, his hysteria, his depression, his hypocrisy, his suffering are all understood in the context of the work." And: “In his struggle to unlearn repression, to claim his freedom, and to forge glory out of grief,” Lahr writes, “Williams turned his own delirium into one of the 20th century’s great chronicles of the brilliance & the barbarity of individualism. In order to name our pain, society's pain, he devoured himself.” I could say that in my struggle with life, in its various forms over more than 70 years, I have forged this autobiographical work, but I think it seriously unlikely to be one of the great chronicles of our time. If it comes to have some use to future readers I will feel justly rewarded, if reward is needed. Beside the therapeutic value this exercise is to me personally, I like to think it might have some value to others. As I write these words, I am going through the last half of my 71st year, and I have as yet no guarantees of this work's lasting value. The best I get is a record of thousands of hits at the several internet sites where this work is found. I might have as many as millions of readers; but they are somewhat of a grey wash in cyberspace's vast landscape, and they exists in the form of ticks and clicks, occasional words of encomium or opprobrium.

Part 1.2:

John Lahr's compulsively readable biographical style means that, despite its length, Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh never feels baggy or long-winded. Such is the view of the reviewer of this biography of Lahr's. This fine book does its complex subject justice, and confirms Lahr’s standing as one of the greatest biographers writing today. It would be, of course, my hope, that my style was also "compulsively readable." Time of course, would tell. I can but try and I leave it to whoever comes across this work to decide if I have, in fact, done this complex subject justice. Now in the evening of my life, possessing a certain aversion for society, a little like the great short story writer Guy de Maupassant possessing, too, a preference for solitude and meditation over social interaction for all sorts of reasons, and again like de Maupassant, I do most of my teaching and consolidation, service and social action in cyberspace.

This biography by John Lahr is a mammoth work as is this work of mine. Lahr emphasizes that Williams was “the most autobiographical of American playwrights”, and used the raw material of his troubled youth to fuel his art. I certainly use the troubles in my life to fuel this work, but I also use much else. My life has little of the tragedy that William's life had. I could have a tragic take on my life, I suppose, if I did not have my anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication to normalize & treat my bipolar disorder, I could write about my troubles and woes as if that was all there was to my life.

Over a remarkable 15 years, Williams wrote 10 plays that transformed US theatre, securing his place in the pantheon of playwrights with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. It was O’Neill who wrested American drama, kicking and screaming, into the world of realism: so repelled was he by Victorian sentimental romanticism that he ruthlessly eliminated all poetry from his plays. Miller, speaking for America’s political conscience, similarly eschewed romanticism. It took Williams to return romantic melodrama to the stage, embracing emotional excess while elevating it through sheer lyrical force. A Streetcar Named Desire, as Miller himself observed, planted “the flag of beauty on the shores of commercial theatre”. I am not making any effort here to secure a place in any pantheon, literary or otherwise; nor am I trying to direct the autobiography and/or biography written by Bahá'ís into some direction of realism and calling a spade a spade. I am just trying to tell my story with a touch of narrative amidst a forest of analysis, and trying to get a personally useful perspective on my life now that I have lived so much of it since the early 1940s.

Part 1.3:

My life is set not, as was the case with Williams, in the steamy, defeated south of the USA which was, for him, a space at once erotic and repressive, mythic and ordinary. It was a space in which reality destroyed any possibility of romantic heroism. His characters were victims of circumstance and cultural rigidity, defined by their consoling fictions, the myths that insulated them from brutal realities but could not save them. That gap between fantasy and reality created the dramatic space of the play. My life is set in the decades after two world wars, and after unprecedented scientific and social change decimated the world that had existed before WW1 when my parents were coming into adulthood in Canada. It is set in decades of continuing tempest, with holocaust following holocaust, social upheaval following upon social upheaval with an accompanying affluence and materialism eating into the vitals of human society. My life is also set in the second century of the Bahá'í Era(1944 to 2044), in the context of a religion which claimed to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions. It was a religion which grew, in 1944, from a guesstimated 150,000 members globally, 90% of whom lived in the homeland, the country, of its birth, Iran---to some 5 to 8 million by the time I came to write this account of my life. By 2015, 90% of the international Bahá'í community lived outside Iran. There was no need to tell that story of the growth and development of this new world Faith, for that is done elsewhere is great detail. I do, though, provide some general details in relation to Babi-Bahá'í history, and a century of commentary on this new Faith's precursors. At the same time I take my own family history seven generations back to those 1740s, the beginning point of both Bahá'í history, and my society's history, a history of 10 generations from the 1740s to the 2010s.

Williams invented a new kind of dramaturgy in his plays as I try to write an autobiography that has a very different tone and texture than the autobiography of others, especially other autobiographies in the Bahá'í community. The exterior staging of objective experiences was transfigured into an expression of interiority through performance in the plays of Tennessee Williams. Williams' sensitivity to emotional ambience helped him fashion what he termed “plastic theatre”: theatre as a unified system fusing language, staging, music and casting into a whole gestalt. So writes a recent reviewer of this new biography of the life of Williams. In some ways I try to do similar things; at least I aim at a certain kind of gestalt, of wholeness, of interiority and introspection. But this work does not aim at anything plastic as does a playwright, this playwright. Far from it. Williams' plastic theatre mingled expressionistic memory & fantasy, Chekhov’s psychology, Ibsen’s social realism, O’Neill’s mythic imagination, Faulkner’s history-stunned south and Williams’s own symbolic imagination. With a bit of gothic melodrama thrown in for fun, his productions sharply diverged from mainstream theatre’s conventional, linear narrative. I don't have these problems, these problems that the playwright Tennessee Williams had, or indeed the problems of any other playwright. I have a different set of problems, problems that beset autobiographers.

This work diverges from conventional autobiographical-and-linear narrative, from whatever mainstream autobiography already exists in the first two centuries of Babi-Bahá'í historical experience. In the mingling of my ideas and experiences, my lives and its lessons, time frames and the textures of the lives of others and the life of my society, it is quite probably that this shift in autobiographical style will initially discomfit some readers, as Williams' plays discomfited audiences who found his plays disjointed and episodic, but that was the point for him. Streetcar, in particular, stages in the character Blanche’s interior drama, so that the play’s disintegration mirrors her own.

Williams’s characters often believe that their fantasies free them from reality, but in truth those fantasies imprisoned them, usually in madness. My interior analysis has an imprisoning effect as well not in madness but, arguably in the rigours of my bipolar disorder. I am also imprisoned, as we all are, in the wide-wide-world of the 21st century which has transformed human experience beyond human capacity to understand the changes. I aim for a personal synthesis amidst the fracturing of my society; I aim for an understanding of myself, my religion and my society, amidst the greatest social and political upheaval the world has ever seen.

After a lifetime of living through these vast social and political, psychological and sociological changes, I now go through my 70s. I turn to solitude and reflection, meditation and reading, analysis and a searching investigation in these years of a retirement that I have come to love. Not all of everyday life is a smooth-flowing river of existential reality to the great sea, to the ocean, to the totality that is my existence. But many developments have freed me from activities and worries that once consumed my time and energy and prevented any literary focus to my life. I also do not have to deal with a cranky and pessimistic self. My medications have removed any of the anxiety that gets in the road of writing. I am no master of my fate, but I understand that I am stuck with what I am stuck with, and I find pleasure in the several imaginative states that come with the intellectual and literary life that I have chosen and that has evolved as i write these words in my 71st year. I am less vulnerable than I once was to negative opinions, and have developed a certain impersonality about my self and others. I no longer hunger for the spicey or the sensual and I have plenty of time to think.

Part 2:

As I pointed out when introducing Part 1 of this work at the Bahai Academics Resource Library (BARL) since renamed to Bahai Library Online(BLO), only some references are included in the body of this work at BLO and there are, as yet, no footnotes. I have tried to make up for this deficiency in a number of ways--by using, for example, a wide-angled lens to see each passage or section that I am writing at any moment in its relation to the plan of the whole book and by going off on tangents, tangents discussed in many of the books I draw on in this work. Still, some readers may find my remarks from time to time far too tangential and the lens far too wide-angled, thus detracting from any sense of unity and narrative coherence to the overall text. As I say, this will be the case at least for some readers. I can only add, not really in defense but just as a matter of fact, that the intelligible field of study in this work is as much autobiography as a genre and as it is my life, as much my religion and society as it is my life. I see this triangle of forces, of subjects, as a series of interlocked features of my existence. This wide-angled lens takes in a very wide ambit, virtually all of Time and Space or at least as much of it as I can relate to in the short course of my life.

As the American-Canadian writer Saul Bellow said in his Nobel Lecture in 1976, "the artist has only himself when he begins." He also has only himself after he has written several million words about his life, his religion and his society. Bellow goes on to say in that acceptance speech that the writer appeals to "that part of his being which is a gift, not an acquisition." In my case I acknowledge the gift by I also acknowledge that some of whatever ability I possess has been developed as has my capacity for delight and wonder which has widened from its narrow compass, a compass I recall with great vividness in my teens when school, sport and the feminine captured both my interest and my enthusiasm. I could continue to quote liberally from Saul Bellow's speech, but I leave that speech in the hands of readers who would like to take my remarks and his further in the direction he took me in the above sentences.

Part 2.1:

The imperative for many writers is narrative. This is not the case for me. In constructing this work what is of uppermost concern is not so much the moral responsibility for the tale, although that is important, rather it is the integrity of the sentences; the way the words are placed on the page. One of the first things that I have discovered as a writer is that the process of forming and shaping inevitably renders what I write different from what I expected, or even intended. I think it was the English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist E M Forster(1879-1970) who said "how do I know what I think until I have seen what I have written". It is not that the process of writing reduces the authenticity of the tale, rather it refines and focuses it. Nevertheless, as I struggle to make sentences with the right cadence, in a solipsistic engagement with the computer, I feel I am prone to a certain myopia about the pain I have experienced in life, as well as life's pleasures. I also possess a sense of pity, of pain, and a latent feeling of fellowship with all creation. Those are Bellow's words, but they just as easily could be mine.

According to some analysts of autobiography: anyone who writes in such a genre is committed to lies, concealments, hypocrisy, flattery and even to hiding their own lack of understanding. This is because, so goes such reasoning, autobiographical truth does not exist and if it did we could not use it. Freud said this about biography and it may be even more true of autobiography. The great man, at least great in the eyes of many, if not most and certainly not all, penned these dismissive words in his "Autobiographical Study", just before he destroyed his personal papers in a pre-emptive strike against any biographical enterprise in his name. Neither his words of warning, nor his symbolic auto da fe, proved any real deterrent against those who sought to write 'The Life of Sigmund Freud'. For many, so goes one line of Freud's skeptical analysis, a desire for truth about a person is not what powers their interest in biography.

The appetite for biography, so continues at least one line of his thought, or perhaps the thought of some other writer whose name is now lost to me, is about a desire to vicariously experience lives more various, more excessive, more creative, more damaged, more fulfilling than one's own. Since we can never know the full truth, only some part of it, some glance, it is fundamentally important, certainly to me, that what I write makes psychological and moral sense of the material available to me. It is also of more than a little importance for me to say something meaningful about the human condition in addition to my own condition over the several decades that are my life.

Part 2.2:

Gore Vidal, no admirer of Freud, takes a similarly dim view of biographers, "the hacks of academe" as he contemptuously calls them, reserving for literary biographers his most lofty scorn. In a scarifying essay in The New York Review of Books, written as I was still writing the first edition of this work in the 1980s and early 1990s, Vidal warned that the writer as the performing self had reached the absurdity where the self was threatening to become the sole artefact – to be written about by unimaginative hacks who tended to erase in the process whatever the subject may have written. There was plenty of academic and journalistic lowlife slavering to write biographies, Vidal pointed out, so long as the writer supplied the raw material: "a gaudy descent into drink, drugs, sex, and terminal name-dropping." In this case the Great Gore's outrage was triggered by a biography of his old friend Tennessee Williams. Yet it has always been thus in America. I am reminded of Baudelaire's disgust at the posthumous memoir of Edgar Allen Poe: "Is there no ordinance in America to keep the dogs out of the cemeteries?"

Biography can be and often is a medium through which the secrets of the dead are taken from them and dumped into full view for the sole purpose of titillating a voracious public; a voyeuristic collusion between the writer and the reader, "tiptoeing down the corridor together to stand in front of the bedroom door and try to peep through the keyhole". While the scholarly apparatus of footnotes and archival references may legitimise this voyeurism and take it out of the realm of the tawdry, at its core much biography remains tawdry. Readers as voyeurs are tantalised with the examination of the entrails of the tragic Sylvia Plath-Ted Hughes marriage. I try to avoid these kinds of problems in my autobiography. Time will tell just how successful I have been.

Part 3:

I see this project as both a privilege to write and an impossibility to accomplish to any full extent due to the many uncertainties, indecisions, gestures toward publicity before an impersonal public and, finally, gestures before the many windows of death. The self-conscious scholar, historian, anthropologist and autobiographer uses life-writing to voice complaints, make observations, write analysis and theorize about what defines them and what makes their society the way it is. This book is undoubtedly for the more academically inclined, the more introspective, reader. It is a work that is, for me, a social practice which creates meaning as well as hoping to communicate it. The writing transforms the person, the writer, from silent witness and participant into engaged survivor, victor and failure. For we all win some and lose some as they say. For this autobiographer, autobiography is not so much generic category as it is a literary strategy for action. As Jean Paul Sartre once wrote "to write is to act."

I trust that what may appear initially to readers as extraneous or irrelevant, inappropriate or unnecessary--events, ideas & commentary--may come in time as the reading continues to be seen--as I see this entire opus or epic and each of its parts--as all of one piece, all on the same page as they say these days. Strangely, and in ways that surprise me, this work seems to be a product of a different self than the one I display in my habits, in society and in the context of my virtues and vices, my everyday self. I have mentioned this before and so it is that this memoir is less a record of what actually happened to me, my society and my religion than a discovery-creation which grows out of a loosely defined and complex set of aesthetic, biological, psychological and socio-historical factors. There is a sentence in Shakespeare which should be stuck in the preface of all autobiographies: “The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not: and our vices would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.” And I would add this sentence from Aleister Crowley, that English occultist and mystic. He once wrote: "I can imagine myself on my death-bed, spent utterly with lust to touch the next world, like a boy asking for his first kiss from a woman.

Part 4:

Many Australians: writers, critics, academics--have turned to autobiographical writing as a means of self-expression and cultural and social reflection in increasing numbers in the last decades.Germaine Greer, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Robert Dessaix, Ruby Langford & Bernard Smith are each located very differently as Australian intellectuals, and yet each has a major role to play in Rosamund Dalziell's discussion of contemporary autobiography. "Shameful Autobiographies: Shame in Contemporary Australian Autobiographies and Culture", a book by Rosamund Dalziell, was published just as I was retiring form FT teacvhing in 1999. Dalziell's approach is thematic. She argues that shame, although seldom discussed, is a recurring element in Australian social history. This relates most obviously to racism as is evident in the debates about shame and guilt as a response to the dispossession of indigenous peoples as a result of settler colonialism. Dalziell also connects distinctively Australian manifestations of shame to the cultural cringe produced by colonial status, to the shame of illegitimate birth, and shame in the immigrant experience.

There is little about the experience of shame in this book. Perhaps there should be. What is shame? "The basic experience connected with shame is that of being seen, inappropriately, by the wrong people, in the wrong condition."(p.7) Dalziell draws on Erik Erikson's theory of the "eight ages of man", which identifies shame as a formative emotion in early childhood, associated with self-awareness, and prior to the development of guilt: "Shame supposes that one is completely exposed & conscious of being looked at, in one word, self-conscious. One is visible and not ready to be visible."(p.6) My first memory of shame was at the age of four; the event was a small one which I have discussed elsewhere, but shame ran deep for at least 24 hours or a little more.

For Dalziell, the autobiographical act is an opportunity for the mature self to confront shame, and re-evaluate self-worth. Shame is, then, fundamental to the autobiographical process, and the association between shame and autobiography goes back to its origins in the religious confession. Can psychoanalytic approaches to shame be equally appropriate for reading such different cultural expressions as, say, Bernard Smith's account of illegitimacy and the discussion of Daisy Corunna's reluctance to identify as an Aboriginal in My Place? Dalziell associates the first with the narcissistic forms of the confessional, the second as a more communal act, associated with testimony to suffering and injustice. Both ways, the writing and the reading of autobiography, are seen as therapeutic, as a process whereby the autobiographer and the implied reader are brought to a confrontation with shame and its legacies in the individual life, this "can lead to a deeper self-knowledge and a greater recognition of shared humanity. Reading autobiographies is one way this can be achieved."(p.11) There is little in this set of volumes that deals with the confessional; perhaps this is partly due to the Bahá'í philosophy of not confessing one's sins to others.

Part 5:

This memoir is also more the record of multiple versions of the self in the guise of a single self that has the appearance of being the same over time. This memoiristic work is a complex interplay of now-blackish content, of now-iridescent fact with my now-mercurial and my now-intransigent mind. It contains trace elements of the poetic, of riddles, of quizzicality, of quirkishness; instances of spiritual aspiration and performances of a sportive mind. Hopefully readers will find here Narcissus touched by Mercury. This is a modernist or, perhaps, a postmodernist text which contains what Roland Barthes calls "a galaxy of signifiers to which readers gain access by several entrances none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one. The number of these signifiers is never closed."(Roland Barthes, An Essay, Trans by Richard Miller,Hill and Wang, NY, 1974, pp.5-6.)

The past is, it seems to me, inherently indeterminate. That is, there is no single determinate truth about the past. This claim follows, I believe, from the fact that actions are never context free, but are, rather, always actions under a particular description. Since descriptions of action can change over time as new descriptions become available and old descriptions fade away, the past is not determinate. In brief, 'retrospective re-descriptions' can actually change the past. Any "truth" about the human past will, then, be completely relative to the contextual framework of our descriptions.

The indeterminacy of the past is in some ways quite a radical thing to say. There are good reasons to be skeptical about such a statement at least some of its bolder aspects, perhaps particularly due to the fact that re-descriptions of the past can actually change the truth of the past. Such a view of the past can leave one open to charges of historical revisionism. I stand guilty as charged.

In his Experiment in Autobiography, the famous writer H.G. Wells gave(1935) his readers a report on his ideas, his views on one world and indeed, the inevitability of a globally integrated world system. He described his life as the growth and development of an average brain. He never tired of repeating these words or some variation of them. This concept of intellectual development sounded the keynote not only to his life but to his ideas. It has earned for his autobiography the title of "Honest". I am not sure what the title my work will earn me, but the rather lengthy title I have given it will suffice for now.

Part 6:

Philosophy and autobiography are, in some basic ways, the representation of ideas. Such is my view. Poetics, and poetics plays a large role in my autobiography, is a means by which I necessarily understand or try to understand identity and belonging, or not belonging. I draw on many cultural forms, and on representation via genre, myth, poem, anecdote, story, sayings, metaphors as well as essays. The autobiographical 'I' is never itself found in any pure sense because it always represents itself through culture; the autobiographical eye can never perceive directly much less remember directly. Further, there are continuous inner journeys that beckon deep within oneself to scattered islands and mirages of life. I think of myself now at least partly as a pathological hermit, yet I make long voyages in my mind, prompted and pursued by desires entwinedly utopian and dystopian. I also make, almost daily ventures into the world of others. I visit the homes of some two dozen individuals and families in the course of a calendar year, thereby interacting with a very wide-range of human beings in their homes and hearths.

At any point in my life, I can think of myself as relating to a number of identities in terms of: gender, age, residence, job, family status/income level and ethnicity, to name only a few. The conceptual and emotional difficulties that a migrant, a traveller-pioneer like myself experiences in coming to a singular understanding of the term identity is akin to standing in the middle of a chamber of mirrors that are in constant, slow rotation. One catches glimpses of transient reflections without ever settling on a fixed image. Those of us who have reluctantly experienced displacement, or willingly shifted our cultural base, find our own private ways of locating and perceiving ourselves beyond the obvious coordinates of a street, a suburb, a town or a passport. I am no exception in this quiet search, and my vehicle of travel is writing non-fiction. Now, in the evening of my life, as I continue to write this autobiography, my identity is significantly related to my writing. Taking at early retirement at the age of 55 some 14 years ago was, in retorspect, a wise decision. “There is no more fatal blunderer," wrote Thoreau, "than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” I consumed a solid 3 decades getting a living, from my early 20s to my mid-50s, age of 23 to the age of 55 with a year off due to illness.

But undeniably, as a social being, I am part of a larger scene, and I have to say that looking at the bigger picture makes me uneasy about contemporary communal attitudes regarding identity. The cultural fragmentation with which I must cope merely complicates the issue, but it also alerts me to the pitfalls of excessive and sometimes blind patriotism that is often evident, for example, in such comparatively trivial matters like sports or in such comparatively serious matters like politics. My communal identity as a Bahai helps to centre me on this planet as a global citizen. I talk about this more at other places in the five volumes of this autobiography.

I do not believe that it is possible for me to wear the permanent tag of a cultural stereotype. Indeed, a Bahai is part of an international commmunity with a thousand-or-more cultures. I have no unqualified identification with a single, mainstream tradition; this would be a denial of the composite that I am. It would be futile and, indeed, undesirable to attempt to purge the cultural diversity that has shaped me. My splintered life is not entirely the result of migration. It was a natural consequence of an upbringing that was strongly influenced by history. Back in the 1940s, 1950s and '60s Canada was still strongly affected by the cultural and institutional legacy it had inherited from the British. For my parents it was inconceivable that I would not attend a school where English was not the language of instruction. I was sent to a public school run by people educated in the Canadian educational system. Cultural fragmentation began to take place early in my life, as I see it now in retrospect. In the 1950s, as post-modernism began to become part of the wider culture of Canada, I can see the begining of this fragmentation. This is a complex phenomenon and I deal with this aspect of my life in these 2600 pages.

Part 7:

My writing life, also beginning seriously in the 1950s, but continuing with varying degrees of intensity sensibly and insensibly in the next half century(1963 to 2013) has increased my curiosity about identity. Writing non-fiction was purely a result of my education and its focus for the most part on the social sciences and later, in my 40s, 50s and 60s, on the humanities. I have written a great deal about why I write what I write and I will not discuss that subject in more detail here. I experienced a growing dissatisfaction with my professional life as a teacher by my mid-50s. Boredom has never been a problem for me exscept perhaps with the predictability of my middle-class existence in a small Canadian country town in my mid-teens. I reached a point about the age of 18 in which the lethargic blandness of life was so intense that I yearned for something to fill the vacuum---anything as long as it got filled. Slowly, an intellectual fulfillment came into my life from my late teens to my late 20s. An initial and increasing indifference about the wider world, outside my little town, in my childhood and early teens, was gradually overcome by personal tests and difficulties and by my high school and university education.

Underneath all of this, there gradually developed a sense of urgency, insurgency, a revolution from within that insisted I pay attention to myself, to life. It was not all about having fun and taking part in the great exercise of self-indulgence that characterizes the early life of millions and billions. I made an effort to meet the real me by recording my reflections in fragmented bits of writing. But this did not occur until my 40s and it has continued into my 50s and 60s. Essays emerged when I was a high school and college teacher in my 30s and then in newspapers in my 40s. By my 50s poetry was flowing out-of-me like Niagara Falls. A pioneer's voice told me what it was like to feel like a stranger and yet be at home, to live both inside and outside of my immediate situation, to be permanently on the move, to think of a one way return journey and also to realise at the same time the impossibility of doing so, since the past was not only another country but also another time, beyond the grasp of the present.

My writing began to tell me about long-distance journeys and relocations, about losses, changes, conflicts, powerlessness and visions of what might have been. And with this writing came an awareness of the severity of the tests I had had and an emotional resolve to utilize the strengths that had resulted from these tests. There was another voice, different in tone and articulating entirely different perspectives of another emotional and intellectual landscape. This other voice spoke about new experiences, about ideas that extended my intellectual and emotional frontiers and recharged my desire to explore unknown territories. This voice encouraged me to celebrate the richness of cultural diversity. In a sense, writing has become a residence, a place I can call home. The question arises in this house of writing where I have lived in a very serious way for more than a decade now: to where will I travel with all these words? I would like to spend the whole of my life traveling, as that fine essayist William Hazlitt once wrote, "if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend at home." For as I head for 70 my heart is in my home here in Tasmania.

Part 8:

The alarming, but also exciting, acceleration in technological evolution and its impact on social and cultural changes have significantly influenced the ways in which communities are insisting on defining themselves. It would seem that there is a desperate need to find historical and contemporary markers to construct a framework within which people can feel secure about their perceived values and lifestyles. I find many of these historical and contemporary markers in my Bahai cosmology, my Bahai ontology, my Bahai view of history and society. Across the 200++ nations on this Earth there are multi-paradigmatic shifts in the ways people characterise their identity. The identity of the individual is now found in so many contexts. Sometimes these contexts are subservient to a community's ideology of what a person should be if he or she is to have a meaningful place in mainstream society. The context for my identity is not so much subservient to my community's set of convictions as a logical outgrowth of the teachings and history of my community, the Bahai Faith and, I must add, the society I live in.

This work is somewhat like a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age kind of novel which arose during the German Enlightenment. In it, an author presents the psychological, moral and social shaping of the personality of a character, usually the protagonist. The bildungsroman generally takes the following course:
* The protagonist grows from child to adult.
* The protagonist has a reason to embark upon his or her journey. A loss or some discontent must, at an early stage, jar him or her away from the home or family setting.
* The process of maturation is long, arduous and gradual, involving repeated clashes between the hero's (protagonist's) needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order. This conflict bears some similarity to Sigmund Freud's concept of the pleasure principle versus the reality principle. Of course, this work is no novel but is, rather, a work rooted in fact, in my life's realities and pleasures, in my long maturation and many clashes with life, with society and my own self.

Part 9:

It is not likely that this autobiography will be made into a movie blockbuster. It is difficult to sum-up my storyline in single sentences that easily translate across cultures and borders which is an essential feature of the modern blockbuster. My story could not be made to offer someone in this third millennium ample opportunities to fantasize about my experiences and imagine them to be their own. My message and this memoir could not be reaffirmed in product placements, commercial tie-ins, cross-promotions, and the general culture of global consumerism that is shepherded around a successful blockbuster these days. To make of this narrative a blockbuster, like any and all high-concept commodities, would require some tweaking, some shift in emphasis, an attachment to a different conceptual star in order to refashion my life into some novel and visual vehicle. The mix of narrative style, thematic elements, spectacle aesthetics and concentrated effort has only recently been conceived in the movie-blockbuster industry of our time. Perhaps this life-narrative of mine will be a twenty-third century blockbuster drawing on any one of a slate of international stars who would drive audiences to enthuse over a life, my life, far-back in the late 20th century. Such a celebrity headliner would most assuredly factor into the bottom line of such a visual cinema success for a global audience of billions!

The five key marketing characteristics responsible for the success of that 23rd century blockbuster that would try to capture my memoirs might be as follows: First, blockbuster film would utilize the soundtrack as well as the text to make money. Second, the momentum surrounding blockbuster would be created long before opening weekend, by which time the buzz would already be strong and the distribution environment would already be saturated with related products, in addition to the text. Third, in an effort to maximize both vertical integration and content-sharing among the many brands, the New Hollywood of the 23rd century would use all branches of its conglomerate structure to repurpose my autobiographical product up and down the corporate food chain. Fourth, the high-concept formula that sold the text to the producer and that easily conveyed the narrative to its viewers would again be used to sell the film on a secondary level, through its print advertising and television and radio spots, and in trailers attached to both formal theatrical releases and already released DVD movies. Finally, the filmic text would be tied to the global commercial complex via retail tie-ins and cross-promotions that would saturate the infrastructure that surrounds the movie theater and the film. Fully entrenched, global franchises would stand perfectly poised with easily translatable themes and texts, international stars, and spectacular images to convey "the good life," my life, in a setting of global consumerism.(Ashley Elaine York,"Chick Flicks to Millennial Blockbusters: Spinning Female-Driven Narratives into Franchises," Journal of Popular Culture,Vol. 43, No.1, Jan 2010)

Part 10:

According to Kem Luther in his book The Next Generation: The Rise of the Digitals and the Ruin of Postmodernism.(iUniverse Inc., NY, 2009)each generation is defined by "emergence in a repressive context, rebellion and failure, exile and ascendant ideas, economic malaise, utopias and social action,war and reprogramming, and finally conservative synthesis and decline," before finally giving way to a new generation. Drawing on Luther's model: the reformer generation was that of my grandparents. It was marked by the literary revolution of the 1880s to the lost generation of the 1920s; the moderns were my parents, those who came of age during the 1920s to the 1940s or 1950s, and the post-moderns are my generation more or less the current generation with its emphasis on diversity and cultural change. I could easily fit my life into this model beginning with the repressive forties and fifties in contrast with the rebellion and failure of the sixties. For now, though, I will leave this model as a sketch and let readers fit my life, my society and my religion into this historical paradigm.

The story, the history, of the Bahai community, both the lives within it and all the accompanying ideals, values and beliefs do not occur either naturally or by accident. They are framed by design when a writer like myself goes to put its story on paper with description and analysis. An international organization like the Bahai Faith requires some sense of congruence between its international system and the social and cultural structures which are part of it if the account of its internal life and external relationships is to hang together. If an international movement is to exist an internationalist sentiment is required. Such a sentiment exists when a feeling of anger is aroused by the violation of internationalist principles, or when a feeling of satisfaction is aroused by their fulfillment. To put it in the social critic Raymond William's terms, an international organization requires certain hegemonic figures. In western history the knight and the cowboy were such figures. In the international Bahai community the pioneer is such a hegemonic cultural figure. The pioneer provides the Bahai community with an organizational force, a person who connects otherwise separated and even disparate meanings, values and practices. The knight, the cowboy and the pioneer are archetypes. The pioneer evokes an image of what the international Bahai community should be. The term appeals to disparate parts of the community, parts that are required if the Bahai community is to extend itself to every section of the globe in the decades ahead, parts that are required if the Bahai community is to become a cynosure, a magnet which attracts others. This is true because in a broad sense all Bahais need to be pioneers in some way or other.

The stories of the knights were essential to defining England as a nation in the late middle ages. Painted as romantic purveyors of right, upholding chivalric ideals, and commencing on exciting, colorful quests, the knights appealed to all, aristocrat, merchant, and peasant alike. The timing of the overwhelming popularity of the knights' tales strongly suggests that these tales, and more specifically, the knights depicted in them, provided England with a central icon around which to establish identity as a nation. The pioneer in the last eight decades and even more so in the next several decades has been, is and will be essential in propelling the Bahai community into the international arena so that every cluster on earth is inhabited by Bahais and by strong Bahai communities.

Part 11:

North Americans, the recipients of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, have, it seems to me, a continuing urge to chart new paths and explore the unknown. That instinct drove Lewis and Clark and a host of other explorers to press across the uncharted continent and into the extremities of its Arctic wastes and "sustained twelve Americans as they walked on the moon."(James Beggs, NASA Administrator, 23 June 1982) From the voyages of Columbus, to the Oregon Trail,to the multitude of explorers all across the North American continent, to the journey to the Moon itself and, for the Bahai community, more than a century of pioneering, history proves that Americans have never lost by pressing the limits of their frontiers.(See: George Bush, 20 July 1989, in Catherine Gouge, "The Great Storefront of American Nationalism: Narratives of Mars and the Outer-spatial Frontier," Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Fall 2002, Volume 1, Issue 2

A deep-space mission to Mars is a focus for the new century. It's like westward expansion. The effort and journey will spark creativity and imagination. So wrote Dr. Jon Bowersox, consultant for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, 14 February 2000. For the Bahai community, both in North America and throughout the more than 200 countries and independent territories throughout the world, a focus for the 21st century is to build Bahai communities in all the 16,000 clusters on the planet. The task is immense and "throughout the coming centuries and cycles many harvests will be gathered.(TDP, 1977, p.6)

"The frontier that was opened by the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492, over 500 years ago, is now closed," astronautical engineer Robert Zubrin has argued. "If the era of Western humanist society," Zubrin went on to write, "is not to be seen by future historians as some kind of transitory golden age, a brief shining moment in an otherwise endless chronicle of human misery, then a new frontier must be opened. Humanity needs Mars. An open frontier on Mars will allow for the preservation of cultural diversity and will create a strong driver for technological progress(Robert Zubrin, Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 1999. p.123).

For the Bahai community in this new paradigm of the extension of our frontiers into the immensity of the universe, the equivalent of this frontier of Mars, indeed the many frontiers in our universe in the sciences: biological, physical and social, is the new culture of learning and growth and its accompanying pioneering and travel-teaching venture in the decades and perhaps centuries to come. Learning is its own exceeding great reward and in this new Bahai paradigm there are many places in which to apply ones learnings.

Of course, Mars is not, in fact, like the American frontier; nor is the American frontier like the Bahai pioneering experience. Mars is 150 million miles away; it's atmosphere is 7 milli-bars of CO2 so that once you arrive there you would die instantly on the surface. It doesn't have any of the qualities that the American frontier had, that is, of individuals deciding, say, in the Old World of Europe or the eastern states: "I'm fed up here. I'm going to sell everything that I own. I'm going to jump on a boat. I'm going to be a poor person in America because this will be better than what I had before." This is the quality of the frontier that does not exist on Mars. The Bahai pioneer is also not your frontierman or cowboy. Each Bahai pioneer has his or her own story. This narrative is but one of these stories.

It is impossibile to fit Mars into paradigms imported from Earth. It is equally impossible to use the wild west analogy. There are no really useful historical analogies and parallels for the Bahai diaspora. Such historical or futuristic comparisons may have some value in helping pioneers take moral responsibility for the complex changes—social as well as biospheric—initiated by terraformation and community building. Pioneers must be more humble about their place in history, must accept responsibility for their actions and yet resist the impulse to stake too large a claim for themselves in history books.

One recent article "Can We Go to Mars without Going Crazy?" in the May 2001 issue of Discover magazine argues that "designing and building a sophisticated spacecraft capable of getting to Mars is just the beginning. This is also true of the Bahai pioneer. The society, the community, he is involved in building is just at its beginning. The ultimate challenge NASA faces may be building a tiny computer that can psychoanalyze astronauts and keep them from going nuts.(Weed, 38). The ultimate challenge the Bahai faces is the building of a community that is part of the new Bahai paradigm of learning and growth. The whole question of getting all that we want in life, part of the pioneer-frontier drive is simply unrealizable. The desire to realize one's hopes in the frontier as a pioneer can be both deconstructive and self-destructive. It is not a place of guarantees. There is often a lean provision for the devotion the Bahai brings to the challenge. Like the experience of Noah, there are often weeks and months of never-ending dark. The challenge is not for the timid, the vainly pious, the pusillanimous of spirit, the overwrought. The voyage is a long one with unseasonable rains and a long wait for the salient dove to bering the living twig.(White, Pebbles, p.71).

Part 12:

I have always seen the Bahai community as a pioneering society. It is a community in which the producer and director and a vast array of skilled people are available to make a wonderful film. The parts have been assigned to each member of the cast by the Central Figures of this Cause and the legitimate institutional successors. But it's also an improvisational theater where people must write their parts. They can all play a useful role, whether conceived by someone else or by themselves. So, it's a very liberating thing, but it's also very challenging and not everyone arises to the challenge. Not everyone in the film is seen in the credits at the end. Films like this, wars like this, have millions of unknown soldiers.

I think that the Bahai community will create in the decades ahead, in cluster after cluster, a fascinating array of films. This Cause is a very progressive branch of international, global, human culture. The Bahai community will produce social conventions that will be very useful as the international community struggles with the challenges ahead. These conventions and the inventions of groups and individuals due to creativity and ingenuity will be useful in community after community across the planet. The Bahai community in this new paradigm,a paradigm now nearing the end of its second decade, 1996 to 2016, will be an example of a society that places a high value on each and every person because each and every person is precious.

Part 13:

From the perspective of those pioneering to populate the variously-sized clusters on the planet, prospective frontier places are often spaces of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, like the frontiers in the wild west portrayed in the movies. They are often fantasy spaces of unlimited potential but a potential not to be realized in the first years of pioneering or even the years after much effort has been expended. It is this potential which those who encourage the pioneers, the Bahai institutional marketers of Bahai pioneering-frontier experience, the proponents of frontier community development must exploit to secure the participation of the community.

There are many ways of pioneering in this new paradigm. I came across an article in The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture by Michael J. Gilmour, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Providence College, which suggested to me a type of literary pioneering. Gilmour pointed out that to understand Beethoven it was best, at least for some students, to listen to his music rather than reading biographies. There is only one true way to understand the genius that was Beethoven and that is to listen to his music wrote Gilmour. This music is an unvarnished, uncensored record of Ludwig van Beethoven's passions, fears, violent anger, humanity and, finally, victory over unimaginable adversity. It is a direct link to his state of mind. The strength and depth of emotion that Beethoven unleashes on the listener is astonishing (Bernard Rose, in liner notes to the soundtrack for Immortal Beloved, Sony Music, 1994). The same principle, it seems to me, applies to Bahaullah and His writings. The use of the Bahai writings and religious motifs often serve literary and moral, aesthetic and spiritual purposes, not mere autobiographical and historical objectives and outcomes.

In a study of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Catherine Brown Tkacz reminds us that Bronte's use of the Bible can have everything to do with art and the spiritual and little or nothing to do with autobiography and self-disclosure: "An author who has thoroughly assimilated the ideas and images of Christianity, who has gained easy familiarity with the Bible, and who then thinks readily and freely with these materials, animating and embodying them in new ways, may be said to have a Christianized imagination." The same is true of someone who has gained easy familiarity with the Bahai writings and embodies them in new and imaginative ways.(Catherine Brown Tkacz, "The Bible in Jane Eyre," in Christianity and Literature, Volume 44, pp. 3-27, 1994.) Such is one of the aims and purposes of the new Bahai paradigm for those who have advanced beyond the basic core of the Ruhi sequence of books and resources. Deepening in the Bahai Revelation is an endless activity, a lifetime journey, and the Ruhi sequence is providing an important start now for hundreds of thousands of Bahais in some 6000 clusters.

Part 14:

Of course, insofar as my autobiography is concerned, of which this is Part 3, it seems to me that the use of my poetry and prose by readers here could be a helpful basis for further autobiographical construction should readers want to go in that direction. The study of the broad religious, poetic and literary aspects of my work found across my other writings will frequently provide readers with answers to questions about my life. My writing is an inevitable and necessary window to my soul so to speak. In a recent treatment of a contemporary rock group U2 by Steve Stockman, we find a spiritual companion to the career of this group. It is an attempt at telling the story of the band members' journeys of faith and at exposing the underlying spiritual themes in U2's music. The correspondence of any artist's personal life and their words or lyrics--and mainly poems in my case--is, of course, not always straightforward. For example, early in his career Bob Dylan frequently referred to Jesus and themes in the Christian New Testament. This did not tell us anything about his Jewish faith or his interest in Christianity at that stage of his life. It simply told us that he was at least familiar with the Bible and felt free to draw imagery from a wide range of sources.

It should not be assumed that Dylan's writings are always deliberately constructed expressions of his worldview. In my case my worldview is much clearer than Dylan's. While there are certainly autobiographical elements in several of Dylan's songs, including some explicitly religious statements, these can provide only fleeting glimpses into that songwriter's private world, captured at a moment in time. In my case I think my private world is much more of an open book.

Julia Kristeva, philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, sociologist and feminist, once referred to the banal aspect of the study of a writer's sources (Kristeva 1984, 59-60). Of course the mere identification of sources behind a literary work is not synonymous with interpretation, nor are authors like myself influenced only by the written word. It is also relevant that readers themselves bring a bundle of contexts to the objects of their study. And so it is that when readers examine this work, this autobiography, they bring their own contexts into play and these are crucial to their understanding of my life. As a result, it is not only difficult to distinguish between what an author has created from what he has borrowed. It is also true that what is 'heard' or 'read' by different listeners or readers will not always be the same. This hardly needs saying.

Part 15:

The Review Office of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States has given me permission to post this work at internet sites like BLO. This work is a multi-genred opus and includes: letters, narrative, poetry, prose-poetry and conceptual material from the social sciences and humanities. The three Parts of this work, of which this is the last here at BLO, are just a start to a many-volumed work, a work that can only be found on the internet and only in part. One day this vast memoir may appear in a hard or soft cover set of volumes, but I am not holding my breath waiting. Indeed, if this work ever does appear on book shelves I shall be long gone into a world where man speaks no more, at least not in the same way he speaks here, or so it seems to me as I gaze at the theological possibilities for my life beyond the grave.

For this writer, nothing has been passed down to me except memories of my life. Some of the aspects of this life and this writing are relaxed and comfortable and some are not. Writers of autobiography have to possess a certain sense of their prodigality. I don't think one can be a writer without it: some expansive wastage which also stems from vast prodigousness. As a writer, one is always two, then three, then more beyond the mere sea of this life. I am often fastened to a noise, sometimes to music, or to literatures and languages beyond the idea of home. I try to survive within this imaginary, and this real, sea of my life.

Readers will come to understand the meaning of this broad play of my mind, this reminiscent fieldwork on myself, this way of pointing to who I am, to this self-creation, the more they read the material in this cornucopia. My memory browses and grazes at will stringing apparently dispersed and disordered parts into what is hopefully a fine thread of many colours. It is not the coat of many colours of the long lost Joseph but rather a rough-tough coat with a fine and tender lining. The processes of age have worn down that lining exposing my inner being to all sorts of unanticipated developments that will in the end bring about my demise.

The storms of these epochs have reqired of me a good strong coat to weather the tempest of the times. As I contemplate the past, my past, and write I lose myself under the whole pressure of the spring of my memory proceeding from my most recent revisitings and their associated recognitions. If all goes well I make of the revisiting a veritable hymn of the wonder of it all as the past floods in with its particles of history, with its scrapings of gold dust, of lead and base metals, with its wayward fragments and their meditative extrapolations. I feel a little like the American essayist Joseph Epstein who wrote that "if one wants to be a writer, he must first make himself incompetent in everything else." I strive not to be that bungling in the majority of my pursuits but, as I progress through these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood, the years 60 to 80 as some human development psychologists call these years in the lifespan, I have tried to limit my various pursuits, however competent or bungling I may be in their execution, in order to focus on my writing. I find in writing autobiography, poetry or essays, the three major genres of my work, that material for my writing can come from all over the place. For this reason readers may find this memoir not the smooth running course they expected at the start.

Part 16:

While I have been writing and revising recent editions of this work since 2003, the literary world has witnessed what could be aptly labelled a memory boom. The number of publications is overwhelming. The ISI Web of Knowledge, which combines citation indexes in the social sciences and in the arts and humanities, yields over 11,800 references to collective/cultural/social/ public/popular memory, of which some 9,500 appeared during the decade, 1998-2008, the first decade of my retirement, my sea-change beginning in my mid-50s. It is reasonable to assume that these tentative figures fall short of the actual number of relevant publications, which span many disciplines and often do not use distinctive adjectives. Google Books lists 936 books published in the past decade alone with "social memory," "collective memory," "cultural memory," "public memory," or "popular memory" in the title. Google Scholar lists over 41,000 items with titles that include one or more of these terms. There are two journals exclusively dedicated to this topic: History and Memory and Memory Studies, and numerous periodicals have devoted special issues to this theme. H-Memory, an online discussion network launched in 2007, features constant debate on what is now recognized as an interdisciplinary academic field in its own right: "…how humans remember and represent that memory, be it through literature, monuments, historical works, or in their own private lives". All in all, the literature is extensive. How does one separate the wheat from the chaff?

Memory is a slippery term. Despite all that has been written, its meaning is not self-explanatory. Unreflective and uncritical references to memory inevitably induce banal conclusions. "Collective memory", conceptualized by Maurice Halbwachs (1925,1950) in the interwar period, remains, in the words of James Wertsch, a "term in search of a meaning" (2002, 30-66), and contemporary research displays discomfort with the vacuous ways in which it has been applied. In particular, scholars have deemed the connotations of homogeneity implied by the term "collective" to be problematic. In the early 1980s, a group based in the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham developed a neo-Marxist model of "popular memory," which stemmed from two sets of dialectics: between popular and dominant memories and between private and public memories (Popular Memory Group 1982). A complementary study preferred the term "public memory" in order to signify the battleground between dominant and subordinate social frameworks (Bommes and Wright 1982). John Bodnar, whose study of American commemorations focused on the "intersection of official and vernacular cultural expressions", also employed this term effectively (1992, 13).

This autobiography, then, has a good deal of company. But my autobiography is not a work of history in the sense that Edward Gibbon wrote history. "The theologian," wrote Gibbon, "may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings."(The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) I have not thusfar, and do not intend to, become involved in that melancholy duty as Gibbon described the process of his writing history. I make the occasional comment on degeneracy as I see it in myself and in others but, for the most part, I leave out so much of that sorry tale. Perhaps I should have told more of the foibles of both myself and others and that inevitable mixture of error and corruption. But I will quote Gibbon again since what he writes echoes the words of the central figures of this Faith, my Faith, the Bahai Faith: "To the philosophical eye the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtue." So often, Shoghi Effendi once wrote, it is the very enthusiasm of the believers which is what gets in the way of the progress of this new world religion. It was true in the 1840s and it is true today.(See The Dawnbreakers, p.652)

Part 17:

It will take a certain intellectual posture on the part of readers to wade through this memoir, to read its excessive pile of "I"s and "Me"s. The French writer Stendhal made this same comment about his writing but he also went on to say that he found his writing "stinking." The Russian novelist Dostoevsky once wrote that a person had to be "disgustingly in love with themself to write about themself without shame." In the end, it was his view, that it was impossible to write about oneself without lieing. Thankfully, I do not find that my work possesses a four odour, although a sense of shame is not entirely absent from this work or from my life. I take some comfort from Bahaullahs words that the sense of shame is "confined to a few" although, on reflection, I'm not sure I should take any comfort. I actually enjoy reading this work as I go about what has been and I'm sure will continue to be an endless editing exercise. This memoir is a work in which I develop, express and define as the French sociologist Michel Foucault put it somewhere in his labyrinth of essays and books, my legitimate strangeness, my idiosyncratic self. As far as lies are concerned, I trust I have kept them to an absolute minimum and when they are present in this work, I am not conscious of them. For me the issue is not honesty but, as Bahaullah puts it when he elucidates the nature of tact, diplomacy and interpersonal relationships in one of His thousands of passages on these important subjects: "not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed and not everything that can be disclosed is timely or suited to the ears of the hearers," and I paraphrase here.

"Those who feel compelled at some time in their life to embark on autobiographical writing, wrote Susan Suleiman in her book Risking Who One Is, "do so because they have no choice; they must do it whatever the consequences." Autobiography is not a form that one would at first suppose comes naturally to the Australian temperament. This is due to the covert suspicion, says Aussie comedian and icon Barry Humphries, that life in Australia may be too boring to merit a literary record. Even if a person'slife is interesting and packed with activity, the necessary skills and/or interest in writing their story down are lacking. But I am not an Australian; at best I am a hybrid having migrated here at the age of 27 in 1971 from Canada. I am still living here nearly forty years later in Australia's most southerly appendage, Tasmania. I am also not a self-absorbed self-promoter who is happy to talk endlessly about my favorite subject, myself, inspite of appearances to the contrary; nor am I a natty narcissist who is preoccupied with the friendly fellow who confronts himself every morning in the shaving mirror. Hopefully a reading of this work should establish these truths beyond the shadow of a doubt. Again, like that Australian-commedian Barry Humphries, I write this reminiscence to amuse myself and hopefully others.

While I have been writing this autobiography writers, critics, and academics in Australia have turned to autobiographical writing as a means of self-expression and cultural and social reflection in increasing numbers. Germaine Greer, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Robert Dessaix, Ruby Langford and Bernard Smith are each located very differently as Australian intellectuals, and yet each has a major role to play in Rosamund Dalziell's discussion of contemporary autobiography. Dalziell's approach is thematic. She argues that shame, although seldom discussed, is a recurring element in Australian social history. This relates most obviously to racism as is evident in the debates about shame and guilt as a response to the dispossession of indigenous peoples as a result of settler colonialism. Dalziell also connects distinctively Australian manifestations of shame to the cultural cringe produced by colonial status, to the shame of illegitimate birth, and shame in the immigrant experience. For me, shame has a minor role to play in this work but, then, I am only an Australian hybrid.

Dalziell draws on Erikson's theory of the "eight ages of man", which identifies shame as a formative emotion in early childhood, associated with self awareness, and prior to the development of guilt: "Shame supposes that one is completely exposed and conscious of being looked at, in one word, self-conscious. One is visible and not ready to be visible." For Dalziell, the autobiographical act is an opportunity for the mature self to confront shame, and re-evaluate self-worth. Shame is, then, fundamental to the autobiographical process, and the association between shame and autobiography goes back to its origins in the religious confession. The writing and the reading of autobiography, are seen as therapeutic, as a process whereby the autobiographer and the implied reader are brought to a confrontation with shame and its legacies in the individual life, this "can lead to a deeper self-knowledge and a greater recognition of shared humanity. Reading autobiographies is one way this can be achieved." In this sense shame has more than a minor key in this now lengthy work.

Part 18:

Autobiographical writing has been for me a means of healing through cathartic expression, not so much of shame but of a wider expression of emotion, an expression which has produced what Dalziell calls psychic release. If life has wounded me, if history has wounded me, then writing has been a balm to these wounds. As a "linguistic expression of therapeutic renewal for the narrating self", writing and reading autobiography is associated with individual and social regeneration. Dalziell's work has struck a very positive chord in my psyche,a very positive response. Her stress on a a deeply personal and humanistic response to autobiographical texts, a response which is decidedly out of kilter with current debates in autobiographical theory and criticism in their emphasis on self-knowledge and shared humanity. The grounding of Dalziell's work on autobiography is in psychoanalysis rather than literary theory, and it is no coincidence that most of her references to postmodernism are in passing, and dismissive. The capacity of the autobiographical text to be a reliable vehicle for the expression of emotion and truth by a narrating subject is not in question here. Nor are they in question for me in my autobiogrpahical writing.

Lest readers see in this word 'amuse' a less than serious intent on my part, allow me to insert many of the synonyms from my handy internet Thesaurus which has been available on the WWW for common useage for some years now. The bag of choices, of words, that a happy traveller through his sentences and paragraphs, can use include: break one up, charm, cheer, crack up, delight, divert, fracture, gladden, grab, gratify, interest, knock dead, make to roll in the aisles, occupy, please, put away, regale, slay and tickle. Another set of meanings of amuse include: to divert the attention of in order to mislead, to delude, to deceive and to entertain, make smile or laugh. Then there is yet another list of synonyms for bemuse: to confuse, bewilder or puzzle. A set of antonyms for amuse throw light on the word from an opposite direction. These antonyms include: anger, annoy, bore, dull, tire, upset. These latter things I try not to do in my writing, in this book. Finally, there are all the synonyms for amuse's second major entry as a verb: to beguile, charm, attract, cheer, delight, distract, divert, engross, entertain, entice, knock dead, knock out, lure, occupy, seduce, send, slay, solace, sweep off one's feet, tickle, tickle pink, tickle to death, turn on, vamp. So it is that readers should not see in my efforts to amuse, either myself or them or both, an exercise of little import.

If this work has an educative function that will be a bonus and let me add dear reader, if you have come this far, in Part 3 of this memoir, you have already begun to receive your bonus or you would have stopped reading long ago. I am not as hooked on applause, I should point out, as that Australian commedian I have already mentioned Barry Humphries apparently was and is. I had lots of applause for years as a teacher and, now retired, I do not have that felt need--at least that need or desire is not as strong as it once was. Whatever felt need I still have for popularity, if indeed there is any of that felt need left in the inner workings of my mental and emotional life, any that still exists in the curious and subtle make-up of my personal wants and wishes, it is satisfied on the internet in little ways, here and there, in nanoseconds and spread over 1000s of sites in cyberspace, a place that tends to dilute popularity's edge among more than, I am told, 280 million places, sites, venues, documents, web pages, World Wide Web documents and home pages as they are commonly and variously called.

I have always had a certain felt need, though, for a heroic dimension to life which Roger Solomon says was the basis for the madness of Don Quixote in Cervantes' famous novel(1605) and which my mother always said was one of the reasons I had found the Bahai Faith attractice back in the 1950s and 1960s.(See Desperate Storytelling, Roger Solomon, U of Georgia Press, London, 1981, p.16). There are not as many stories here as one might expect from an autobiography, but I hope I convey some of the heroism, not so much of my own but the heroism that is found in bucket-loads in this new world Faith. There is a drama in this Cause which is, I have been told since the 1950s, since perhaps 1953 when I sat in a small lounge-room at the age of 9, that is found in a multitude of forms. My first memory of this drama was hearing that the very birds flying over Akka in the 1860s and 1870s dropped dead. I had trouble believing that anecdote then and I have trouble believing it now that I have added to the list of incredible anecdotes that, taken together, make up the greatest drama I am also told in the world's spiritual history. Such is the view I hold, too, of the Bahai drama as it has been played out in the last two centuries and which will be played out in the centuries to come. About that I have little doubt--although a little doubt regarding just about everything, I should add, is not a bad thing especially in our secular age with its cynicism, skepticism, agnosticism, atheism and many more isms and wasms.

Thanks largely to what might be called the 1960s Zeitgeist and the commercial success of films with countercultural ideology, the conventional "Hollywood" hero is not necessarily the paragon of pride, masculinity, and aggressiveness that he had been in the days of John Wayne and the years before WW2 generally. The good-over-evil protagonist is being challenged by dissenting-voice personae who expose and transcend, often through a painful transformation, obstacles of sexism, racism, nationalism, and speciesism. Hundreds of characters¾from Gandhi to ET, Billy Eliot to Patch Adams, and Pocahontas to Erin Brockovich have been searching for tolerance, human potential, and environmental harmony. More apt to cry and meditate than kill and conquer, the emerging hero seeks a victory over the ego rather than an "evil" other and, in the process, invokes characteristics that mirror a larger cultural vision, one based in civil rights, feminism, deep ecology, Eastern philosophy, ecopsychology, creation spirituality, Green politics, and other movements that seek to define human identity beyond the constructs of our capitalist culture, militaristic mentality, and strictly patriarchal notions of the divine. There has slowly emerged in the last several epochs of the Formative Age of Bahai history(1921 to 2010) a "thousand faces" for the cultural journey that reflect the turmoil and potentials of our current cultural moment. I mention various examples from the cinema because of its pervasive influence, but Bahai history also has its heros and heroines, its saints and martyrs, indeed, mearly two centuries of tradition filled with inspirational narratives.

Part 19:

The warrior whose journey is outward and involves self-assertion, competition, and conquest is giving way to the magical inward journey that involves a transformation of ego-dominated goals to ones of service, healing, and compassion. According to Pearson, "The movement from Warrior to Magician archetype hinges on the ability to stop regarding the enemy out there as 'not me' and to begin seeing the shadow in oneself." Lawrence and Jewett maintain that the "supersaviors in pop culture function as replacements for the Christ figure, whose credibility was eroded by scientific rationalism." For the Bahai, this Christ figure has been given an updating, so to speak, in an image of contemporary relevance in a series of Central Figures in the Bahai Faithand a pantheon of others who enrich Bahai history and give the believer, the adherent, a galaxy of models.

Along with Luke Skywalker, whose journey George Lucas pulled wittingly from Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces, Neo in Matrix (1999) typifies both the classical hero's journey and the monomythic saviour. The Call begins when Anderson (Neo's "unreal" name) reads the words "wake up" on his computer. The Departure from the "ordinary world" starts when he follows the "white rabbit" and chooses the red pill. Refusing to accept that "He is the one," Neo (the "new" Christ) begins the Initiation with help from his guides, Morpheus and Trinity. Born again, physically and spiritually, complete with amniotic fluids and multiple umbilical chords, he transcends the mechanistic world controlled by artificial intelligence. The real world laid waste by nuclear weapons¾is part of the subtext relayed distinctly by Agent Smith to Morpheus: humans, whom he likens to a virus, are incapable of living in harmony with the environment. Neo accepts his plight and eats the goo and lives in a dungeon-like spacecraft but enters the matrix to find out, with the help of allies, who he is. His descent into hell, prompted by the "Judas" Cypher, is symbolized in his return to save Morpheus (the amorphous "Father"). After Neo dies and is reborn via a kiss from Trinity (the fairy princess/holy spirit), he fulfills the Oracle's prophecy by learning to control the matrix and reaches the final stage, the Return. His message,the revelation gleaned from the unconscious and carrying overtones of Eastern philosophy,is explicit. In the final scene, while setting the stage for the sequels, he talks to the audience from a payphone, claims that the new world order is irrepressible, and ascends to the heavens. This is but one of the increasing number of visual myth-making films. The Bahai is given in Bahai history and in the Bahai writings a metaphorical interpretation of physical reality, indeed, a world of relevance. But he or she must do some digging, the meaning of the Cause is not handed to the Bahai on a platter. There are tests in many areas of Bahai life, not the least of which is the relevance of his community life and his intellectual framework to the needs of the time.

The conventionally macho Hollywood hero does fit an archetypal pattern. He is the extroverted warrior whose adventures end with the conquest of evil and the capture of the treasure,either a prized female and/or riches. However, in concert with most of Western culture's myths and legends, Hollywood has made that archetype a stereotype from the rough and ready cowboy to Rambos, Top Guns, and Die Hards. As John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett show, the "superhero of the American monomyth" serves as "the zealous crusader who destroys evil" and not only saves his endangered paradisiacal community but also serves as the selfless source of communal "redemption." Unlike the Jungian warrior of "the classical monomyth" archetype, popularized by Joseph Campbell that focuses on rites of initiation, the American superhero conquers the evil other but does not need any rites of initiation because he "requires no personal fulfillment." He already holds all the answers, and, as fate would have it, is always able to carry out his will. Careful to honour the cultural experience and heroic traits that created and bolster the mono-myth, Lawrence and Jewett recognize that "the mono-myth's failures lie in the stereotypical identification of who is evil, its melodramatic exaggeration of evil traits, its facile belief in selective punishment, and the assignment of a retributive role to nature and to superheroes."

When we think archetypally we can recognize the deep structure behind ideas in different fields that predominate in any historical period. When the Warrior archetype was dominant in Western culture, theology focused on the struggle between good and evil, biology emphasized the survival of the fittest, meetings were run along authoritarian lines by majority rule, and organizations took on hierarchical structures, like the military. As the Magician archetype emerges into consciousness, we see theologies emphasizing oneness, biology stressing ecological interdependence, meetings run according to rules of consensual decision making, and organizations becoming flatter and more egalitarian in structure. When archetypes are strong in the culture around us, we must be open to them or risk becoming irrelevant. In many ways, the Bahai Faith, its organizatyional structure and teachings have a balance between new and old archtypes.

The Magician archetype contains, according to some writers, the power to transform, to reinvent personhood in light of our changing world,a process that Erich Neumann called "centroversion." Unlike the West's extraverted hero archetype whose victory occurs over the dark forces that impede ego-consciousness, the centroverted hero has as his or her goal the transformation of the psyche, wherein the feminine unconscious is reintegrated with the masculine ego. Calling it the latest stage in the evolution of human consciousness, Neumann regards centroversion as the process whereby the ego recognizes the whole self and willingly submits part of its domain to the powers of the unconscious,a phenomenon that could and should determine the fate of both the individual and humankind.

The civilization that is about to be born will be human civilization in a far higher sense than any has ever been before, as it will have overcome important social, national, and racial limitations. These are not fantastic pipe dreams, but hard facts. The turning of the mind from the conscious to the unconscious, the responsible rapprochement of the human consciousness with the powers of the collective psyche, that is the task of the future. There are many ways that this revolution, this transformation, this break with the past, is taking place and, from a Bahai perspective, this new Faith is at the front, the vanguard, of this epochal shift.

The androgyne is a predominant archetype used to convey the transformation that transcends the classical hero's journey. Various writers affirm the masculine bearing of the classical journey and detail ways in which the new hero is integrating the long-established, but forgotten, androgynous archetype, wherein the archetypal masculine and feminine are reunited. The reunion represents the recovery of the "balanced psyche," of wholeness, health, and a newfound connection to an innate sense of a primordial cosmic unity or "oneness" which existed "before any separation was made." That oneness refers to a balance of qualities with which any man or woman can reunite without losing masculine or feminine traits. In most cases, the androgynous male discovers his anima by confronting his ego-limitations and seeking peace, inner and outer, while the emerging female hero not only demands equality but also finds the freedom to express a re-mystified feminine impulse, replete with intuition, empathy, and a sacred sense of connection. This theme is far too extensive to pursue here but it is part of the backdrop to this memoir. As in so many areas of life now there is increasing consciousness of and a pointing toward a common goal, a goal which is expressed in many different ways one of which is: a centroverted hero whose victory is presented through the death and rebirth of ego consciousness in a journey intended to supplant aggression, revenge, and material gain with self-discovery, equanimity, and planetary identity.

Part 20:

In my essays, poetry and autobiography I am trying to make a point. In the stories I write in this memoir, stories about things and events which actually took place, I am often not quite sure what the point is. If I tell a story or several stories about my ten months in the frozen tundra on Baffin Island or the eighty-seven months I spent in the hot savanna and semi-desert country of Australia what point or points will I give to them? T.S. Eliot once said of Henry James: 'He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it,' which, I think, is the ultimate compliment for an author, a story-teller, a novelist--at least in some senses. Stories are, in some basic ways, above ideas. Of course, the concept I am alluding to here--the concept of story and idea--is complex and can not be covered in a small paragraph like this. There are books on the subject if readers want to pursue the subject or google it as they now can.

In the years ahead readers will be able to google whatever subject interests them with even greater ease than they can now in this new world of cyberpsace that has emerged in the last decade and a half for billions of people around the world. The internet is accummulating libraries of resources available at a few clicks if readers know what they are looking for. This googling process, I should add here, has been of immense value in compiling this memoir. Understanding is, for me, a product of experience, reading and writing. I don't really get things very intuitively, but intuition, too, seems to come along in the act of writing and reading. Understanding is often an "aha!" experience and there is some of this encounter with "aha" in the act of writing. The "aha" experience is, indeed, one of the great generating stations in the writing process. Hopefully some readers will share with me these moments, these experiences, of insight and understanding.

In some ways my writing has never been easily categorized, although in the last decade I have developed a more autobiographical posture. Although I have made my literary home since those fin de siecle years in the immense commentariat that is the world-wide-web, I started out in the 1960s as a simple, or not-so-simple, arts student at a university in Ontario Canada. I was born in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton to a family whose roots were in the U.K. and in Wales going back generations. Both my parents' families, at least my father and my grandfather on my mother's side had crossed the Atlantic in the first decade of the 20th century. Like the self-reliant pioneer ancestors I so admire, I have always been of an independent spirit, an original thinker unswayed by the herd of other independent minds. I was the only Bahá'í in both the high schools I attended, and both the universities. I was surrounded by individuals who were quasi-Christian, post-Christian, atheists, agnostics, people for the most part unaffiliated to any religious or political group; sports enthusiasts, fun-and-sex rompers, people who loved gardening and TV, movies and magic, but no one else who had, like myself, joined an off-shoot of the Shaykhi School, of the Ithna-Ashariyyia Sect of Shi'a Islam, a religion that was slowly transforming itself into the newest of the Abrahamic religions. Douglas Martin, Jameson Bond, Nancy Campbell, indeed quite a long list of individuals with their radically original vision were clearly models long before I was 21. Like so many successful intellectuals and artists in the Bahá'í community I seem to have been equipped early with an immutable sense of who I was, and a fairly clear understanding that I would be required to prove it. And I've been doing just that for the last 50 years: 1963 to 2013.

Part 21:

After graduating from McMaster University and, then, the University of Windsor in 1966 and 1967, respectively, with my B.A. and B.Ed., and winning no prizes for my 60 to 66 % final grades, I married and moved to Baffin Island where I worked as a primary school teacher of 15 Inuit children. I stayed for 10 months and spent the next six, 6/'68 to 12/'68, in two psychiatric hospitals and two psychiatric wings of general hospitals. I would only later appreciate the great value of this early bottoming-out of my professional and personal career and life trajectory, so to speak.

Within 3 years, though, I was teaching high school in Australia and on a career-roll, as they say. I started writing for the Bahá'í community and sending job-applications all over Australia. By 1972 Australia had a Labor government and there were jobs in the education sector all over that great dry dog-biscuit and ancient continent. So, I just kept applying and applying and I did not stop until the 1990s and 2000s. My story is in this autobiography and this account will not end until I am dead, or have some incapacitating disease like senile dementia or Alzheimer's.

The psychiatric evaluation which the famous American writer, Joan Didion, received offers a perfect summation of her literary vision. That evaluation went thus: "Patient's thematic productions on the Thematic Apperception Test emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic and depressive view of the world around her," it read. "It is as though she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure, a conviction which seems to push her further into a dependent, passive withdrawal. In her view she lives in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations which commit them inevitably to conflict and failure." That is precisely the world of Didion's novels, especially her second and most celebrated, "Play It as It Lays," which is set in the existential desert of Los Angeles and full of women in extreme situations making extreme choices." 'What makes Iago evil?' some people ask. I never ask" are its famous opening lines. Published in 1970, it catapulted Didion to fame.

I mention Didion in the above paragraph because many modern writers and artists, poets and intellectuals, at least--say--since the early 20th century are involved in a kind of psychological balancing act whose purpose is to keep the writer sane in a world that, in many ways, horrifies them. Readers who want to follow-up on this theme can read Colin Wilson's "The Strength to Dream." I will say no more here and leave it to readers if they want to engage in my own psychiatric evaluation which is available to them in cyberspace.

Although this work has an air of disclosure, I am not a strongly confessional writer. I avoid unbuttoned outpourings of emotion, and there is a controlled reticence about even my most personal revelations. It's an approach that owes much to a certain approach to confession that urges moderation due to a certain inclination in real life "to tell it all,", an inclination I have kept under wraps in recent decades. A writer, I believe, can convey more by keeping much of his material below the surface, just as "the dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water."



The following comes from an online article on the subject of writing narrative. I have quoted from this article in previous parts of this lengthy work, and I quote from it again below:

A functionalist approach to narrative does include a wide range of verbal and non-verbal practices that would be disregarded in current research. In some ways, the range of possible narrative scholarship does become larger, but it also closes off other avenues. In any case, a functionalist perspective does not imply a radical opening of the narrative concept. First, one should view the functionalist position against the backdrop of what is currently practised. The current use of the narrative concept is woefully imprecise. “Narrative research” appears to have no meaning outside of the researcher’s desire to frame his or her study as “narrative.” At the current moment, everything is narrative. In contrast to current practice, functionalism gives shape and grounding to narrative. It does so in a way that is inclusive, welcoming creative ways of approaching meaning making. Using this definition, researchers can recognize narrating by attending to what an expressive act accomplishes, and know the reasons why they are studying narrating, to understand the hows and whys of meaning making.

Still, distinguishing between what is narrating and what is not narrating on the basis of function will continue to be tricky because it relies on interpretive criteria. Do these words function to express and make sense of life experience? A given application can be disputed. But I don’t see this as particularly problematic. All distinctions break apart under critical scrutiny. A good definition stimulates innovation. Functionalism serves as a guide for research and thinking by orienting us toward what narrating can do and inspiring creative research on meaning making. Still, not everything becomes narrative. But it does mean that the more we stop and pay attention to expressive acts, the more we can start to see them as narratings. Still, typing loudly on my computer is not, usually, a narrating. But given the right context, it can be. Stepping on the brakes of my car is not, usually, a narrating. But, once again, it depends on the context. A verbal greeting, “hello,” buying bread at the bakery, ordering a steak at a restaurant, or many of the habitual expressions that we make present in our day to day lives are not, usually, narratings. But they can be. In my estimation, the answer to whether or not something is narrative moves from a focus on the text in isolation to the way the text is understood. Whether or not something is narrative depends on whether or not we understand it narratively. The burden is as much on how the expressive action is constructed and produced as on how it is interpreted and consumed.

I have argued that the primary function of narrating is making present. Narrating is an expressive act in which life experiences and understandings of life are articulated and made meaningful through their declaration in our present circumstances and in collaboration with co-actors. Making present is not the only function of narrating. To give just a few other possibilities: narrative functions to establish close bonds, to organize past events, to give color and pathos to our lives, to attribute cause and agency to our experiences, to establish social identity, and even to lie and conceal. But I would argue that all of these functions are related to, perhaps even require, making present at their core. What are the implications of this theoretical analysis for narrative research? Where does it suggest that narrative research should go? I firmly believe that narrative scholars should focus on the process of meaning-making—on what narrative does and how it accomplishes this—in the concrete circumstances in which meaning-making happens. How do persons, in time and space, make sense of life experience?

In my opinion, this is what narrative research is all about. This is the unique contribution that narrative research can make to the advancement of psychology and the social sciences at large.Narrative allow us to take an inside path to understanding how persons connect together aspects of their life and world. Quantitative methods using statistical analysis can’t study how persons construct a world, think.


With the above 21 Part introduction to Part 3 of this autobiography completed, and some general remarks on the process of writing this probably far too long work, I will now continue this work under many topic headings beginning with:


Celebrity with its connotations of popularity, fame and recognition has become an important part of our society and I would like to make a few comments here about this much used and abused subject in this final, this 3rd, part of my memoir at BLO. Someone like myself who writes a 2500 page memoir or autobiography can't separate his life and his work from these connotations of fame and celebrity. So some analysis, some statements, some observations on this now vast subject are in order. The recognition that interests me is the one associated with the purification of my heart, with the attraction to my Lord and Mentor and with my search for and finding rational and authoritative arguments in relation to the many issues that are part of the human condition.(See:Bahai World Faith, p. 383) In another context of the Bahai writings we find the following: "One whose thought is pure, whose education is superior, whose scientific attainments are greater is entitled to full rights and recognition.(The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 166) Purity has never been a quality of my life that I could lay much claim to and my scientific achievements are not of a high order even if I placed all my writings in that category as "scientific" because they drew on my rational faculty, a faculty which is the major basis for scientific endeavor. And so, even using this base-line as the kind of recognition that interests me, that I would like to achieve, I am not in the running, or so it would seem to me, after the slow evolution of nearly 70 years of my life.

"Self-respect," as the American essayist Joan Didion(1934- )once wrote,"has nothing to do with the approval of others." Who we are has nothing to do with reputation. Didion is right here but only in some senses. Our personal response patterns necessarily involve many imbalances, immaturities and imperfections and we are often unaware of these patterns. We are often acutely unaware of our internal psychic mechanisms in these response patterns. Taking stock of our strengths and weaknesses and making deliberate efforts to bring our behaviour patterns into harmony, balance and full development is a lifelong journey. Life's encounters require that we be equal to the demands, that we respond to the requirements of the situations in which we find ourselves. But over the course of a life-time we experience many encounters which we are far from equal-to, which are simply beyond our capacity to handle. We can call such experiences tests and some of these tests we lose; some relationships fail, some verbal exchanges are far, far from adequate to the situation. Our will often seems to be drained and we feel we must start again or give up. Is there any point of fighting a battle you are going to lose? Accepting what one cannot change, changing the things one can and having the wisdom to know the difference keeps us busy in life. Sometimes one becomes a burnt-out case and yearns for release from this earthly life. This has happened to me many, many times and I tell of this story in my 100,000 word, 230 page chaos narrative, the life-story of my experience of bipolar disorder. The story is, on the whole, a clinical one and it is a story found here at BLO. It is also a story I use at over 100 internet sites which are concerned with mental health.

We learn, slowly but surely, our limitations and our capacities. But we do not learn it all. We only make a beginning in this life. We learn, sometimes not so slowly and not so surely, but out of necessity, if we want to continue our labour for the Cause. We also learn to forgive and forget--insofar as we are able--for we are not always able. We must learn not to get too upset over the unfortunate things which occur in community life. This, too, is not always easy or indeed even possible. Hopefully, the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter or a telephone call unanswered does not, in time--perhaps it might take decades--arouse a disproportionate guilt. We are in charge of our life but, in the context of community, this taking charge is often a highly complex entity. To assign unanswered letters or telephone calls or anything else that others demand of us their proper weight, writes Didion, is to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves. Freedom in this sense is something most of us only experience in part. "There lies," she emphasizes, "the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself and finds no one at home." Of course, there is much more to say on this subject of self-respect and community life than this short paragraph, but I thank this fine essayist, Joan Didion, for her useful thoughts on the subject. I will come back to the many layers of meaning contained in this theme of self-respect. Had I not learned, indeed, acquired, some of this self-respect that Didion writes about here I would not have been able to pursue my writing, reading, research, editing and publishing role to the depth I have done in recent years. That is why Didion's words struck home with such force and why I quote her here. But her words are not the last words on the subject.


Section 1:

The American comedian Billy Crystal said "everything is rehearsal." In a sense, all of our life up to any one point in time is like the rehearsal for what comes next. Sometimes what we say next is spot-on, as they say. And sometimes we don't get our lines right. For life is unscripted, flawed and plausible. It is not something pre-set like the movies. The British anthropolgist Mary Douglas' model of the various types of responses people make in life is useful here in analysing how I have gone about living my life. To the individualist, Douglas writes, life's decisions present opportunities. Those that threaten freedom of choice or make that free choice difficult to make, of course, do not present opportunities. The institutions of this Cause do not use logic, argument and rhetoric to make every member of the community think and feel in some preconceived way. This Cause, like life itself, presents tests and challenges along life's path. Many of the decisions in my life have been opportunities in work clothes, as one writer describes the tests of life. Many of my tests and challenges have been difficult to deal with and have tested me to the limit and beyond. The Bahai system sets standards and, in the process, provides an element of control and this has provided a helpful mechanism in helping me with a self-control of my behaviour. Self-control has been of the utmost importance in negotiating life's path, its journey. Self-control has been crucial in helping me to be a faithful husband, in helping me limit the expression of anger and make efforts to acquire virtues among a host of other aids in living my life. I am not always successful in meeting these challenges.

To individuals who are esentially hierarchists, and I have been one such individual in some respects, they make decisions on the basis of technological and environmental factors. Their decisions about participation are generally left to experts. I have often left decisions in life to such experts: dentists, doctors and people of scientific and technological expertise. The list here is too long but I may comment on this aspect of my decision-making at a later date. The fatalist in me says there is very little control over many decisions that affect me. As a fatalist I tend to accept whatever decisions are made on my behalf, if it is obvious that I can not change the situation. To the egalitarian there is a fear of risks to the environment, to the collective good and to future generations. This egalitarian aspect of my personality has also had an important role in my life. As an egalitarian I believe that power and influence should be spread more evenly within society and in the groups with which I have been associated.

There are other models of personality, of adaptive repsonses to life which psychologists, sociologists and social scientists from various disciplines have outlined and I may add to Douglas' model here at some future date. There is much in contemporary social sciences that provides useful frameworks for explaining and analysing one's life.

I thank the essayist Clive James for some of his comments on the distinction between celebrity and recognition--qualities which have links with self-respect. Celebrities, he says, are recognized on the street, but usually because of who they are, or who they are supposed to be as they have been portrayed-imaged in the media. To achieve recognition, however, is to be recognized in quite a different way. It is to be known for what you have done, and quite often the person who knows what you have done has no idea of what you look like. When I say that I've had enough of celebrity status, I don't mean that I am sick of the very idea, although I have come to feel a strong distaste for it now in my late adulthood. I think that the mass-psychotic passion for celebrity is one of the luxurious diseases that Western liberal democracy will have to find a cure for in the long run, but the cure will have to be self-willed. I don't think that it can be imposed, and certainly not from the outside.

Section 2:

I found on the few occasions when I was a semi-quasi-celebrity that it distorted my life. My celebrity status was in a small measure and it mainly came about because my face was in the newspaper in a small town and I had a high profile due to the nature of my job in adult education which brought me into contact with a great many of the town's inhabitants. Your face doesn't have to be in the media for long, and in any capacity, before you become recognizable. The reason that one's face comes to be so easily recognized has to do with a primeval characteristic of our sensory apparatus. Once the human brain has the outline of another human face sufficiently implanted, that other human face can be picked out of a crowd decades in the future, whatever has happened to it, if not by everybody at least by many. Once you have appeared on that scale in the public domain, nothing is harder than to disappear. On the day you realise that you can vanish only through never emerging from your home or motel room, and that even then the pizza delivery man has recognized you through your floor-length facial hair, you will realise that celebrity really amounts to a kind of universal mug-shot. While the photo, celebrity itself, bears little relationship with what you do or have done, with the real you, it is an indelible picture of who you are in the eyes of others.

And what has all this to do with my memoirs? When I say that I have had enough of celebrity, I only mean that I have had my share and can't complain. I know what the experience is like and I have no desire for any more of it before I pass away. Some of the distortions that I felt while being a celebrity were always welcome. I came to have a high profile in many schools where I taught. When one is a teacher being popular beats being hated; being liked beats being the source of student complaints. That was one of the things that made both popularity and notoriety seem like distortions. They were movements away from the norm of anonymity that most of us face in the urban agglomerations in which we live and move and have our being. When I moved from a low-paying job at a tin-mine in the small town of Zeehan Tasmania in 1981 to a higher paying job as an adult educator in 1982 in another small town in the Northern Territory of Australia I went from being a relative nobody who was recognized by a few miners to a person of some significance in a little town of 3000 within twelve months.

The same thing happened, or variations on this theme, on many other occasions in my long career in education. Some of these distortions were, as I say, only too welcome, initially, especially when one is making more money than one did before in the last job and the people, staff and students, are holding you in high regard. You can very rapidly get used to the idea, the experience, of being thought of as some kind of saint or super-hero, by your colleagues and your students. When you are one of the more successful among the teachers in a school jealousy can arise and I tell of this in my memoirs, but not here. There are enough who came to be impressed with the quality of my work usually to counter any growing jealousy. Many of the town's people, if the town is small enough, are pleased to include you in their personal honour-rolls of party guests.

One's own peculiarity, eccentricity or distinctiveness is sometimes, to reiterate, felt as a distortion and it is quite uncomfortable especially when one wants the anonymity that is one's usual state when one walks down a street. If that anonymity can not be found even when one goes to the corner store for milk one is in trouble unless, of course, one revels in that sort of public profile and visibility. The way toward celebrity has often been one of the common routs toward madness and madness would probably have arrived for me if I had ever been a famous young rock star. But I was never a famous young rock star. When Elvis Presley hit bottom, he exploded in the bathroom. His bottom hit the ceiling as Clive James put it suggestively in one of his columns. My own nadir, several of my nadirs, were far less spectacular and the world did not take note, because the world did not care--except for a small circle of my friends and family. Some of my bottomings-out were in psychiatric facilities and some were in my kitchen or bedroom at 2 a.m. with my wife in tears and/or my death-wish on all-ahead full.


In Bahaullahs Tablet of the Holy Mariner reference is made to the cry of Abdul-Baha and His falling upon the dust. In Jamsheed Samandari's commentary(p.61) on that tablet Samandari sees this cry as occurring in the last years of Abdul-Bahas life, after the unveiling of the Tablets of the Divine Plan in 1919, due to His disappointment at the lack of faithfulness of people, especially the Bahais, and at His own inability, despite heroic efforts, to achieve as great a victory as His own Father had prayed for to be achieved in the life of Abdul-Baha. If one looks at the life of Abdul-Baha as a metaphor for our own lives, then, despite our own heroic or not so heroic efforts, disappointment may accompany our lives in the end. Indeed, it may be Abdul-Bahas disappointment at my own life and my failure to overcome the many pitfalls of the self within. All is not victory and joy. Sadness and despondency are part of our experience as it was for Abdul-Baha.

As I entered my middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80) in the lifespan I felt like a burnt-out case. All was not burn-out but the life-narrative of Abdul-Baha is, for me, an important part of the understanding of the last phases of my own life on Earth. I tell some of my story here in Part 3. All is not doom and gloom but all is not winning and joy. As Shoghi Effendi points out in his foreword to God Passes By, there are phases or stages in the life of the Cause and this is true in our own lives. These stages involve great calamity and crises on the one hand and grace and victory on the other. The lives of the Central Figures provide, together, a matrix for a metaphorical interpretation of the physical reality that is our lives. This is, it seems to me, a crucial baseline for understanding our life-narrative, our lifestory, our memoir, our autobiography. I utilize this metaphor in trying to come to grips with the context for my life. There is also--and this is so very obvious--an ironic futility to achieving greatness. What happens to those who do? All but some fragmentary evidence remains of their accomplishments: empire builders, conquerors as well as thinkers and poets.

Life has many contexts. This is but one, but it may be the key; certainly it is a useful interpretive matrix which can help us turn the key to an understanding of our very lives. And the key will keep turning until the hour of my soul's ascension when my very life will still hang in some mysterious balance. In the meantime, though, in these years of my life a means for the composure of my mind and heart have been provided and I can utilize these means to write in ways that I have conveyed and will convey in this memoir. I do laugh at my "coursings through east and west" but I have in this work not ceased to analyse, interpret and circulate some "complex dubieties," as Abdul-Baha calls much of human introspection. I have not "put aside all thoughts of self" nor have I hidden my sufferings.(Selections, p. 236). The Bahai writings give literally thousands of ethical, moral and life-enhancing exhortations. Some we are able to follow and some we are not--for we are not Abdul-Baha--and this memoir is a story of my life and not His. I am no exemplar nor mentor and as I have often said to my son I have provided him with some useful guidance: one of which is the power of negative example!

In writing about my own sufferings, it is my hope that my story will help others find the courage to cope with their own. For suffering is the common lot of all and, in the West, as Shoghi Effendi has pointed out on many occasions, one of the most common of tests are mental ones. Martyrdom in the West is not at all like that experienced by Bahais in Iran for the last two centuries. Mental tests and pioneering combine to produce one of the possible examples of the term "spiritual descendants of the Dawnbreakers" another oft' used term in the Guardian's writings. Whether, of course, one can call oneself such a Dawnbreaker; whether one can call oneself one of the "few are chosen" from "the many are called" these are also terms one can aspire toward but never know for sure. It seems to me they are stations one earns, perhaps through the grace of God and, therefore, unearned. Like so many things in life: time will tell.


Part 1:

Cultural Studies as an academic discipline came into being at the start of my pioneering life in the 1960s. Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory, a theory I came across in my sociology studies. This theory combines political economy, communication, sociology, social theory, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, cultural anthropology, philosophy, museum studies and art history/criticism in its study of cultural phenomena in various societies. Cultural studies researchers often concentrate on how a particular phenomenon relates to matters of ideology, nationality, ethnicity, social class, sexuality, and/or gender.

It is not my intention here to go into the history and development of this discipline in the last fifty years. Cultural studies has substituted an elitist concept of culture for an anthropological one and, consequently, focuses upon all the possible cultural spheres whether they deal with the dominating culture or a subculture. Cultural studies is concerned with high or low culture, popular and minority culture, border culture and diasporic culture, homosexual and lesbian culture--the list cannot be exhausted. My autobiography, dealing as it does not only with my life-narrative but also with my society and my religion, has a very wide context and many aspects of cultural studies come into my autobiography time and time again. To put this another way, I make use of much that is in the field of cultural studies as I go about trying to map the life I have lived in the last seven decades. One theorist in cultural studies, to chose but one example, points out that cultural studies has conceived of memory as a "product of social processes whereby the past is represented through cultural forms."(Timothy Robins, "Remembering the Future: The Cultural Study of Memory," in Theorizing Culture: An Interdisciplinary Critique After Post-Modernism, Barbara Adam and Stuart Allan, eds.,New York University Press, NY, 1995, p. 201).

Part 2:

The light of memory, so writes another theorist, can be identified only when memory is imbued with "a symbolic aura" which in turn serves to play a defining role in the ritual of memory. This ritual, as explicated by Walter Benjamin, is derived from the notion that for the collector of objects or ideas, imaginative concepts and memories, "ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to these entities. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them."(Walter Benjamin, "Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting," in Illuminations: Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections, Hannah Arendt, ed., Harry Zohn, trans.,Schocken Books, NY,1988),p.60). Benjamin is emphasizing objects in this article. He stresses that in traversing the domain of time and its endless flux, objects as sites and agents of memory can also be understood as purveyors of identity. According to yet another theorist, "In a world of objects, different people will take different things into their hearts and minds." What is important for some will not be for others. This hardly needs to be said but I insert this brief discussion of memory here as one of the multitude of cultural studies subjects on which I draw in this memoir.

Postmodernism, a second field of importance in this memoir, literally means after the modernist movement. While the term modern itself refers to something related to the present, the movement of modernism and the following reaction of postmodernism are defined by a set of perspectives, a set of perspectives that are complex and have given rise to many definitions and hair-splittings. There is no real consensus as to what it means but among its many possible meanings is: a continuous inquiry into self-definition all over the world in this age of diasporas. Postmodernism appears again and again in theories in the social sciences and humanities, especially a socio-political field known as critical theory. Postmodernism refers to a point of departure for works of literature and drama, architecture and cinema, journalism and design, marketing and business as well as to an interpretation of history, law, culture and religion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Postmodernism is an aesthetic, literary, political or social philosophy which has been the basis of an attempt to describe conditions and states of being as well as changes to institutions and society in postmodernity, a period roughly from the 1920s onwards, although the term was used as fart back as the late 19th century. To put this another way, postmodernism is a cultural and intellectual phenomenon especially since the 1920s to refer to, to label, a series of new movements in the arts. Postmodernity focuses on social and political activity and innovations globally especially since the 1960s in the West. All certainties, absolutes and claims to objective truth, so argue the postmodernists, are far too complex and interconnected to support any metanarrative, totalizing theory or partisan political agenda.

Part 3:

Although my life has been lived within the context of a Bahai metanarrative, a grand theory, an anchor point, a dominating centre, a hegemonic paradigm or frame of reference. I find the postmodernist perspectives useful in the articulation of my understandings of the world I live in with its incredible complexity and interconnectedness. Social realities are complex, shifting, slippery, multi-dimensional, polycentric, fractal, grainy,wispy, wrinkled and capable of being known or captured only to an extent. Knowledge is, in many basic ways, a dynamic cluster of interacting perceptions being constructed and transformed by real people. Everything is a relation and part of a multiplicity of forces and elements. And so it is that I live with both a metanarrative and an endless questioning of my metanarrative. I take ther words of the German philosopher Fichte with me as I travel: "I cannot think of the present state of humanity as that in which it is destined to remain; I am absolutely unable to conceive of this as its complete and final vocation. Only in so far as I can regard this state as the means towards a better, as a transition-point to a higher and more perfect state, has it any value in my eyes.(Johann Fichte, The Vocation of Man)

I am conscious that postmodernism has initiated an entire re-evaluation of the Western value system: love, marriage, popular culture, industrial values to service economy values in a shift that took place beginning in the 1950's and 1960s, among a host of other aspects of culture. The writings of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche are important precursors to postmodernism. With their emphasis on skepticism, especially concerning objective reality, social morals and societal norms these three philosophers, for the postmodernists, represent a reaction to modernism in the writings of many philosophers ending with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Art and literature in the early part of the 20th century played a significant part in shaping the character of postmodern culture. Dadaism, in art, attacked notions of high art in an attempt to break down the distinctions between high and low culture; surrealism, another artisitic movement, further developed concepts of Dadaism to celebrate the flow of the subconscious with influential techniques such as automatism and nonsensical juxtapositions. All of this plays about on the edges of my memoires and I incorporate the many implications of this value shift in this lengthy work.

In addition to postmodernism in art, other significant contributions to postmodern culture come from literary figures. They include the following: Jorge Luis Borges who experimented in metafiction and magical realism; William S. Burroughs who wrote the prototypical postmodern novel Naked Lunch and developed the cut up method to create other novels such as Nova Express; Samuel Beckett attempted to escape the shadow of James Joyce by focusing on the failure of language and humanity's inability to overcome its condition, themes later to be explored in such works as Waiting for Godot. I mention these aspects of postmodernism in art and literature not because this autobiography deals with postmodernism in any detail but, rather, because this movement has affected what I write in many ways and I draw on ideas, concepts and perspectives from postmodernism in what and how I write about myself, my religion and my society. In modern society, writes the major postmodernist writer Fredrik Jameson one is lost in a "placeless dissociation," an "alarming disjunction between the body and the built environment." Jameson compares the experience of urban life to the increasing incapacity of our minds to cognitively map another hyperspace, "the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as individual subjects."

Along with cultural studies, postmodernism needs to be acknowledged as a critical backdrop, mise en scene, an interpretive category, a hermeneutic tool, if you will, to and for my memoirs. By the time I came to write my memoirs in the 1980s both postmodernism and cultural studies had crystallized as tools for writers and poets like myself. For crystallization to occur in nature/chemistry from a solution it must be supersaturated. Both cultural studies and postmodernity were, by the 1980s, supersaturated with ideas.


The result of many of the developments in the humanities and social sciences, of which cultural studies and postmodernism are but two, as well as the developments in the physical and biological sciences, is that the intellectual foundations of the modern world have been and are shaking. Indeed, these foundations have been shaking since the appearance of two Manifestations of God in mid-19th century. This shaking process has gone through several stages. The centre not only has not held in the century, say, 1750-1850; but it has not held in the century 1850 to 1950 and in this present century, 1950 to 2050, another intellectual revolution is underway. Our world has become the fragmented and decentred world of postmodernity that we live in--and there is a renewed search for a centre in the midst of the pluralism, subjectivity and relativism. This memoir is the story of one person's life experience in the midst of this fragmentation.

This memoir deals with aspects of my physical life, of my effort to achieve growth and development, of my effort to put into place the process of my becoming, to exemplify divine virtues more completely as outlined, documented and described in massive detail in Bahai texts, to find rational explanations for how divine intervention occurs in society, in history and in the context of my religion, a religion which has provided my centre, my central centering system. I have aimed for several decades now to develop a more expansive, comprehensive and advanced learning experience and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. This has been, is and will be the centre of my elan vital. It is centred in my mental faculties, my conscious thought, my knowledge, my volition and action. Carl Sagan once wrote that: "How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'(Pale Blue Dot: A Vision Of The Human Future In Space) The Bahai Faith is a religion that says: "Yes, yes, yes! Here is a god that is utterly mysterious and unknowable and beyond the wisdom of the wise and the learning of the learned.

This autobiography is written on the assumption that there is a reality beyond the physical self and the physical universe and that there is a periodic intervention by an Unknown Reality into this existential world in the form of Manifestations of God like: Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and, more recently, Bahaullah. This story of what might be called progressive revelation is a long and complex one and I suggest readers follow-up on this idea in any one of a multitude of books. In due course, I will gradually be released from this physical self and I will continue beyond this physical experience. I do not engage in the numerous proofs and evidences for this and advise readers who are interested in this theme to read the extensive literature now available. A good start is John Hatcher's book Close Connections(Bahai Pub. Wilmette, 2005).

All suppositions about reality do have a subjective and self-constructed aspect and this work assumes that there is a metaphysical reality beyond the physical. I believe I have control over how I will respond to life's circumstances and the bridge between the physical and the metaphysical can be bridged through my faith and conviction. The Bahai texts can tell me how I am doing but they can only do so to an extent. I will achieve the object of my quest little by little and day by day as I gradually become increasingly adept at discerning the metaphorical,symbolic and/or dramatic exercises that constitute my experience as a physical being. I believe I will also achieve this object in life by expressing this understanding in action, action that derives from my imagination and invention. The entire process is itself a gradual awakening to the verities governing the total integration of physical and metaphysical reality by means of metaphor.

Before closing this section on physical reality I will make a comment about "reality television" since it will help to provide a contrast with what I am trying to say and do in writing about my life, my society and my religion in this memoir. Robin Nabi defines the genre of reality television as "any program that incorporates the following elements:

(a) people portraying themselves, (b) people filmed at least in part in their working environment rather than on a set, (c)people acting without a script, (d) people having the events of their lives placed in a narrative context, and(e) people behaving for the primary purpose of viewer entertainment. Current reality television programming appears to heighten desires for communal identification. It also encourages participation and vicarious membership in the wealthy class through consumption. Reality TV allows viewers the most secret of viewing experiences: watching ordinary people sleeping, taking baths, making love."(Robin Nabi,"Determining Dimensions of Reality: A Concept Mapping of the Reality TV Landscape," Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Volume 51, No. 2, 2007, pp. 371-390)

Some of these criteria could be applied to this autobiography except that, instead of film, I use the written word. There is also little of the everyday, the quotidian, in this book. Readers will look in vain for the kind of things people put in their diaries and the kinds of things they see in reality TV. I leave it to my diary, and not this narrative autobiography, for the collection of my flotsam and jetsam, as Virginia Woolf calls her diary entries that she has put on record. This diary material has been born from a vaster collection of my life's flotsam and jetsam, some of which is meaningful to me in the moment or at least hopefully so but, ultimately and possibly, about as useful and valuable to others as the eye of a dead ant. My diary or journal is much more confessional than my autobiography or memoir. Perhaps it is my diary that would best be compared to reality TV. My diary or journal tended to be the place, as I say, of my most confessional writing and, for that reason alone if for no other, it deserves to exist on its own. It was and is a genre of particular use to me as a writer for its several purposes which I have outlined elsewhere.

My pioneering story needed to be written, or such was my own felt need in the last 30 years after I reached the age of forty. It has now been written; it is now complete, at least as far as this 7th edition, and a truncated version of it is here at Bahá'í Library Online. Readers who want some of the reality TV that is my life can go, then, to my journal--after I have passed away and after my executors have decided to make it public, if they do. But don't hold your breath waiting!


Let me say a few things about bottoming-out, being a burnt-out case and my life-experience of bipolar disorder(BPD) before I continue my discussion about celebrity, fame and recognition. I have written about the nadirs in my life in Parts 1 and 2 and discussed BPD before, but this downside of my life is relevant here lest readers get the view that I am some sort of celebrity in the wide-wide-world. I want to place these nadirs in the context of my BPD and what I sometimes have come to call my chaos narrative. That narrative is now some 100,000 words in length and over 230 A-4 pages. I will cut and paste some of that particular aspect of my life-narrative here before continuing with the discussion of celebrity, fame and recognition. I only place some of my 230 pages here and leave it to readers with the interest to access my full story in cyberspace.

1.2 The account of my BPD is a longitudinal, retrospective account going back to my conception in October 1943. Neurobiological, neuropsychiatric and affective disorders like BPD have diverse manifestations and symptomatology as well as a broad range of age of onset and specific symptoms. Little is still known about its pathogenesis, that is, the origin and development of the disease of BPD. What follows is one person's story, one person's life experience of BPD. It is my personal life-narrative with the diverse manifestations, the symptomology, of BPD.

1.3 I make reference to a strong genetic contribution to the aetiology of BPD, a genetic predisposition, a genetic susceptibility as a factor in the pathogenesis of BPD. A family history, what is sometimes referred to as a family pedigree, of affective disorder in a first-degree relative, in my case my mother(1904-1978) is relevant to this narrative. My mother had a mild case of what may very well have been BPD, at least I have come to think of her mood swings as falling into a significantly high place in what is sometimes called the BPD spectrum during her 75 year life. Her mood-swing disability or affective disorder, though, was never given the formal medical diagnosis manic-depressive(MD), a term which was replaced in 1980 by BPD.

1.3.1 All manifestations of BPD share uncertain etiologies, with opaque relationships between genes and environment. Some medical experts and theorists in the field of such studies posit latent changes in expression of specific genes initially primed at the developmental stage of life. Some studies and some experts emphasize that certain environmental agents disturb gene regulation in a long-term manner, beginning at early developmental stages in the lifespan. But these disturbances, these perturbations as they are sometimes called, might not have pathological results until significantly later in life. In retrospect, as I look back from these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood, the years 60 to 80 as some developmental psychologists call these years of the lifespan, these perturbations and pathological results were clearly manifested at the age of 18. I could easily theorize an earlier onset on the basis of behavioural perturbations manifested in early childhood and into adolescence and I will do so later in this account.

1.4 The new diagnostic term, BPD, is now found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-III). DSM-III had 300 disorders twice as many as DSM-II. DSM-II--and now DSM-IV--is considered a "bible" by specialists and others in the professions and is considered by many as a scientific instrument of enormous power. It did away with the term maniac and with a one-size-fits-all classification system. About half of all patients with BPD have one parent who also has some form of mood disorder. There is then, or so it seems to me, a clinical significance in my mother's mood disorder in the explanation of the origins and diagnosis of my own BPD.

1.5 The high heritability of BPD has been well-documented through familial incidence, twin and adoption studies. There is an unquestionable justification for the inclusion of my family in the understanding of my BPD. No specific gene has yet been identified as the one bipolar gene. It appears likely that BPD is caused by the presence of multiple genes conferring susceptibility to BPD when combined with psychosocial stressors. I make this point as an opening remark and pass on to my story.

1.6 This account also provides a statement of my most recent experiences in the last two years, 2007-2009, with manic-depression(MD) or BPD as it has come to be called since 1980.(not included in this part 3 at BLO) Some prospective analysis of my illness is also included with the view to assessing: potential short term, medium term and long-term strategies, appropriate lifestyle choices and activities in which to engage in the years ahead in my middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80) and old age(80++), if I last that long. For the most part, though, this account, this statement I have written here in some 40,000 words, is an outline, a description, of this partially genetically predisposing family-based illness and of my experience with it throughout my life.(to 2001 here at BLO) I would, though, discourage others from blaming their parents for their genetic contribution to the disorders. I would also discourage them from blaming other family members for their contributions in the form of stress and conflict and failure to understand. Rather than wasting time and energy in finger-pointing or bemoaning the fact that they have BPD, I would encourage them to learn how to best use available treatment modalities to minimize their symptoms and to find success and satisfaction in their lives despite their disorder.

1.7 Some of the personal context for this illness over the lifespan in my private and public life, in the relationships with my consanguineal family(family of birth) and in my two affinal families(families by marriage), in my employment life(1961-2005) and now in my retirement(1999-2009) are discussed in this document. I include some of what seems to me my major and relevant: (a) personal circumstances as they relate to my values, beliefs and attitudes--what some might call my religion as defined in the broad of senses; (b) family circumstances; for example, my parents' life, my wife's illnesses, the life experiences of my three children as well as significant others in my lifespan like my father and mother and my first wife; (c) employment circumstances involving as they did: (i) stress, (ii) movement from place to place and (iii) my sense of identity and meaning; (d) aspects of day-to-day life and their wider socio-historical setting and (e) details on other aspects of my medical condition to help provide a wider context for this BPD in the last two years.

1.8 This lengthy account will hopefully provide mental health sufferers, clients or consumers, as they are now variously called these days, with: (i) a more adequate information base to make some comparisons and contrasts with their own situation, their own predicament, whatever it may be, (ii) some helpful general knowledge and understanding, (iii) some useful techniques in assisting them to cope with and sort out problems associated with their particular form of mental health problem or some other traumatized disorder that affects their body, their spirit, their soul and their everyday life and (iv) some detailed instructions on how to manage their lives more successfully despite the negative consequences of their BPD or whatever trauma or illness affects their lives.

1.9 I like to think that what has become over the last few years this small book of over 100 pages has advice that could be used by many people with BPD as well as others without BPD. Keeping detailed records, for example, written or mnemonic, ingrained in memory and/or with signs for immediate recall when required--of one's feelings and relationships and, in the process, taking responsibility for maintaining and improving them, might help BPD sufferers and others deal with their problems and have more successful lives. As for the meaning of successful, I prefer Thoreau's evocative lines: "If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs; if life is more elastic, more starry and more immortal in the process--that is your success." Even ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's ‘oft repeated phrase: "Be Happy!" is a simple enough aphorism and yardstick for measuring your daily life, your sense of well-being and the extent to which you are well-oriented and well-positioned to assume the responsibilities that are the result of your interests and commitments. Of course, in using such definitions of ‘success' like this one must recognize that millions of people without mental health issues don't have success defined in these terms.

1.10 There are what you could call risk-factors that increase the chances of BPD sufferers becoming ill and/or having their symptoms dominate their daily life and produce ill-effects for themselves and others in their environment. Such socio-environmental factors as: family distress, drinking alcohol or using drugs, sleep deprivation or missing medication are in this category. Another list of what could be called protective factors that help protect people with BPD from becoming ill might include: keeping charts of one's moods, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, staying on one's programs/regimes of medication and psychotherapy and avoiding social stressors that one knows will precipitate negative symptoms of BPD.

1.11 I like to think that this account is crammed full of useful information for patients with BPD and other illnesses, for their family members, for therapists, for friends, lovers, employers and anyone else interested in this disorder. The insights I share were acquired from both experience and reading the voluminous literature on BPD. I have taken a more serious intellectual interest in the subject in the last decade since I retired from FT employment in 1999. My insights come, in the main, from reflecting on 66 years of life since the anticipated genetic origins of this BPD in my life at the point of my conception in October 1943. There are other psychiatric disorders often confused with BPD and patients need to be aware of these others in the diagnostic dialogue with their doctor. Differential diagnoses to be considered include: ADHD, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder; cyclothymia; recurrent major depressive disorder and substance induced mood disorder. In one study of 60 patients with BPD, 23 (38%) fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for at least one personality disorder. Those personality disorders most commonly were: narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive or avoidance disorder. The presence of these disorders may make BPD symptoms more intense and more difficult to treat and they appear to increase the risk of suicide. This account is about BPD and by a person with BPD and this account only ventures into these several other personality disorders to a limited extent and only from time to time in this lengthy account when it seems relevant. I have included in appendix 5(none of the appendices are included here in part 3 at BLO) an article from an online newspaper to place mental health in a wider, populist and, hopefully, helpful context for readers.

1.12 This document was originally written in 2001 to assist others in assessing my suitability for: (a) employment, (b) for a disability pension of some kind and/or (c) public or private office in a casual work and/or volunteer capacity. This document is no longer needed for these reasons since I am fully retired from FT, PT and casual/volunteer work and am on two old age pensions. Although this document no longer serves the purpose of helping others to make the evaluations it did eight years ago in 2001 and make their decisions and their personal and organizational assessments of me informed ones; although there is no need for others to assess my capacity or incapacity to take on some task or responsibility, I have kept this original general statement, what was a first edition in 2001 and have extended it to what is now an 8th edition eight years later for other purposes. I tend to update the most recent edition on an annual basis as: (i) new knowledge comes to hand, (ii) new experience is added to my BPD history and (iii) as I reflect on 66 years of my experience of BPD.

1.13 Many do not feel comfortable going to doctors, to psychologists, to clinical psychologists and, more especially, to psychiatrists. Perhaps this is part of a general distrust of certain professional fields in our world today. Perhaps it is part of a general public being more critical, wanting to be more informed and wanting to play more of a role in their own treatments. People seek help in so many different ways; some try to work things out themselves and there are, of course, various combinations of those who try, those who have given-up and those who go back and forth between the two poles of trying and not trying to sort out their disorder, their psychological problems or whatever. Many often find the journey through the corridors of mental health problems so complex, such a labyrinth, that they give up in despair. Suicide is common among the group I refer to here—the sufferers from BPD and I could include depression(D) as well as a range of other illnesses and life battles of a traumatic nature.

1.14 This account may help the people I refer to above obtain appropriate treatment and, as a result, dramatically improve their quality of life. I think, too, that this essay of more than 40,000 words and more than one hundred A-4 pages(font 14) is part of: (a) my own small part in reducing the damaging stigma associated with BPD, (b) what might be termed "my coming out" and (c) the small part I am able to play in helping others accept some diagnosis they are given by a professional in the field of mental health and particularly of BPD. Once a person has a firmly established diagnosis, they may find this statement useful. Rather than trying to manage their feelings and rejecting the diagnosis or under-identifying with it, acceptance can be of great help. Acceptance is often very difficult for BPD sufferers. BPD sufferers who do not accept their illnes, for that reason, do not really deal with the issues that are part and parcel of their life as a person with BPD.

1.15 The wider framework of my experience which I outline here is intended to place my BPD in context and should provide others with what I hope is a helpful perspective, as I say above, in relation to their own condition, their own problems and situations. Perhaps my statement may help some BPD sufferers describe and understand their personal histories. My BPD exists on an affective spectrum which is a grouping of related psychiatric and medical symptoms which accompany bipolar, unipolar and schizoaffective disorders at statistically higher rates than normally exist in the general population. These disorders are identified by a common positive response to the same types of pharmacologic treatments. They also aggregate strongly in families and may therefore share common heritable underlying physiologic anomalies.

1.15 This essay, as I say, of more than 100 A-4 pages(font-14) is written: (a) for doctors and various medical professionals who have dealt with or will come to deal with my disorder and especially for those who are now, at this present time, involved with my treatment should: (i) I decide that they would find such a statement useful or (ii) they request such a statement; (b) for the registered users and guests at internet sites dealing with health in general and mental health in particular: BPD, D and schizo-affective disorder(SAD) among other special mental health illnesses; (c) for some of my relatives, friends and associations over the years with whom I still have contact in these middle years(65-75) of my late adulthood as the years from 60 to 80 are called by some developmental psychologists and to whom it has seemed relevant to give such a statement; (d) for government departments, voluntary organizations, interest groups and Bahá'í institutions who require such statements for reasons associated with our relationships and interactions; and (e) for myself as a reflection, for my own satisfaction, to put into words the story, the results, of an illness, a sickness, a disorder that has influenced my life for seven decades.

1.17 This document, this statement, originally written in 2001 for the Australian government's now department of Human Services,its Centrelink section which deals with Disability Support Pensions, has been revised many times after further reflection. Now in its eighth edition after feedback from various doctors, friends and internet respondents, as well as after an increase in my own knowledge of the illness as a result of further study, this document is an ongoing and changing entity as my experience of the disorder continues into the evening of my life. I am on two old age pensions, one from Australia and one from Canada with this BPD still a part of my life.

1.18 I do not claim to possess a specialized and/or professional expertise in the field of the study and treatment of BPD. I do not work with people who have such problems, nor do I have a desire to do so, except as a participant at a number of internet sites concerned with relevant mental health topics and with people who cross my path serendipitously with various related problems. This long piece of writing, too long for some and perhaps for most, not as sharply focussed on my actual day to day experience as some respondents on the internet have already indicated and not particularly relevant to the experience of others, others with BPD among other disorders, in an illness that has a very wide range of behavioural typicalities---this long piece of writing is but one of the many pieces of my writing these days. The vast majority of my writing and my interests both in and off the internet has nothing to do with this disorder.

1.19 Without going into detail regarding the many typicalities associated with those who suffer from BPD that I have referred to above and without outlining a detailed history of the treatment of BPD in the medical and psychiatric fields, all of which can be easily googled on the world wide web, allow me to briefly describe one creative person who suffered from BPD, the famous composer Tchaikovsky. It doesn't take much listening to his music to appreciate that Tchaikovsky was a very emotional man, a man whose passions often got the best of him as they often have got the best of me. He suffered from BPD with its highs and lows following upon one another with bewildering rapidity. He had many episodes of depression and many panic attacks which often resulted in flight, in tearful reactions to events, in impulses to overwhelming generosity and kindness and outbursts of angry temper. The result of all this emotional stress and struggle was that in 1890, when Tchaikovsky was in America, some commentators took him to be in his sixties, ten years older than his actual age and this had the effect of depressing him even further.

1.20 After some 65 years of dealing with this medical problem in my private and public life, I would be only too happy to put it to bed, to put it into some final corner and forget it. Sadly, or perhaps fortuitously, I can not do so because I still suffer, even after more than 65 years, with problems that are part of this disorder's long history and its current manifestation in my life. I have also become more conscious, as I have come out as it is said colloquially, of how this lengthy personal statement has come to be of great help to many, especially at the more than 100 mental health sites on the internet where I place all or parts of this document. Major affective disorders continue to be the leading causes of psychiatric disability and the need to develop safe, effective, and efficient long-term treatments for these disorders is of extreme importance not only to professionals but to the millions of sufferers. People like myself with life experience of BPD have stories that can be of use to other sufferers. That is at the core of my motivation for all the internet posting I do at mental health sites related to BPD.

1.21 Readers who are busy and not inclined to read a long statement like this are advised to skip, to scroll-down to section 10.3.8 below and some of the sections following after 10.3.8 to avoid reading much of the history and much of this statement that is not relevant to their needs. They can then: (a) make some practical assessment of this account, an assessment relevant to their present and personal needs; (b) obtain a shorthand account of whatever information in this document is relevant to their particular situation; (c) assess my suitability to undertake: (1) some form of employment: FT, PT, casual or volunteer; (2) some task that they think I could take on or some social or leisure activity in which I could engage with profit to others; (d) assess whether they themselves can/should go onto a pension of some kind and, finally, (e) understand my background of BPD more fully and so contextualize my life in order that they might understand me better.

1.22 Data from the United States on the lifetime prevalence of BPD--and mine has been a lifetime of BPD--indicate a rate of 1 percent for Bipolar I, 0.5 to 1 percent for Bipolar II or cyclothymia and between 2 and 5 percent for sub-threshold cases meeting some but not all criteria for BPD.

1.23 I would like to close this introductory section with a general comment about the increasingly close relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and about a sub-field of philosophy and sociology known as hermeneutic phenomenology.

1.23.1 Since at least 1980 when my illness was given the label BPD, there has been a growing tendency among the mental health professions to interpret everyday emotional suffering and behaviour as a medical condition that can be treated with a particular drug. For this reason, among others, mental health issues are coming to be seen by some in epidemic proportions. There is little doubt that the medical community is more capable of recognizing and diagnosing BPD and other mental disorders in the last twenty years 1990-2010. But often simple aberrant and abnormal behaviours are blamed on a mental illness of some kind when no real mental illness is present. On the other hand it is often the case that people who have a diagnosed mental health problem are often seen as those out-of-control individuals who can't act normally and need to: (i) pull themselves together, (ii) exercise more self-control, (iii) rein themselves in and/or (iv) avoid their excesses, to use a few of the many colloquial phrases that capture the negative--and sometimes justified-- reactions of others. And in all of these assessments by others it is important for BPD patients to assume control of their lives rather than turning them over to medication prescribers, psychotherapists, family members and/or other caretakers.

1.23.2 Hermeneutic phenomenology, a field within both philosophy and sociology, is uniquely suited to challenge the core assumptions of the above particular forms of the medicalization of BPD, among other psychiatric disorders. Hermeneutical phenomenology can function within psychiatry: (a) to expand psychiatry's narrow conception of the self as an enclosed, biological individual and (b) to assist psychiatry to recognize the ways in which a person's experience of things--including mental illness--is shaped by the socio-historical situation in which we grow. Informed by hermeneutic phenomenology, psychiatry's first priority, so it could be argued, is to suspend the prejudices that come with being a medical doctor in order to hear what the patient is saying. To this end, psychiatry can begin to understand the patient not as a static, material body with a clearly defined brain dysfunction but as a person with an unfolding, situated existence already involved in an irreducibly complex social world, an involvement in which the patient is trying to experience, feel, and make sense of their emotional suffering.

1.23.3 This increasingly close relationship between: (a) the pharmaceutical industry and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and (b) this sub-field of philosophy and sociology known as hermeneutic phenomenology---offers the sufferers of BPD two potentially useful lines of inquiry and explanatory frameworks in the future, but they are not lines of inquiry that I investigate in this statement. For my story, my account and my analysis, I see these two directions of inquiry as tangential to the central thrust of both my story and its treatment both in the past and in the future. As I have said, and as I repeat on occasion in this lengthy statement, now that I have worked out a satisfactory medication regime after all these years—and with a great deal of effort and experimentation—I don't want to play around with the package, a package which is working for me to my satisfaction as of the writing of this latest edition of this narrative-account.

2. My Experience of Manic-Depression:

Phase One--The First 37 Years 1943 To 1980

2.1 In the first 37 years of my life I had many episodes of various kinds of emotional imbalance or disorientation, themselves of varying lengths and intensities, ranging from a euphoric, impetuous, expansive or high mood to a depressed, grey, low energy or despondent mood. Indeed the range of mood in these 37 years was extreme, but the complete/extreme range was rarely experienced. In these years I learned various self-monitoring skills as well as some self-reinforcing tactics. Sometimes these symptoms affected my day-to-day life severely and negatively, sometimes positively and sometimes the affect was non-existent, insignificant and hardly noticeable.

2.2 After many experiences on the fringe of a normality that was my usual modus operandi or modus vivendi, as it is said in Latin , on the fringe of what I saw as my general everyday experience of life, an experience that is sometimes called the quotidian by writers, poets and novelists, I was diagnosed as MD in May 1980. I was treated by a psychiatrist in Launceston Tasmania while in the psychiatric wing of a general hospital. I had often been on the fringe of BPD, as I say above, a borderline zone, a limen as some historians call it, a border territory, a zone between normality and various behavioural extremes and eccentricities from my birth in 1944 to 1980. But in 1980 the symptoms were extreme and required hospitalization. The treatment regime in 1980 was lithium carbonate, an antimanic medication for the treatment and prophylaxis of BPD. Lithium had not been approved by the FDA in the USA until 1970 and only in 1974 as a preventive treatment for manic-depressive illness(MD).

2.3 Lithium was the first really successful mood stabilizer used by doctors to treat MD, an illness that in the 1980s and 1990s came to be called BPD. This medication cushioned the effects of extreme depression and hypomania and prevented their effects from striking at my life. The perils of BPD lie in what I did in the midst of: (a) hypomanic episodes to deal with: decreased need for sleep, decreased self-control, increased sexual desires, irritability, risk-taking behaviours-1964,1966 and 1967; (b) schizo-affective or psychotic states, the 1968 and 1979-80 episodes; and (c) depression periods with their moroseness, extreme melancholia and suicidal wishes-1963, 1968 and 1978.

2.4 My history to that point, to 1980, had been far from smooth and linear as my remarks above indicate. Those thirty-six years had often been bisected, polarised and traumatised. As I indicated above I have written a more detailed account of these years elsewhere but this outline, this brief sketch here, of particular episodes and the periods between episodes will suffice. My experience of these highly diverse emotional and psychological swings of mood in everyday experience away form the norm, from my norm, is only part of my story. But it is a crucial part. Everyone has their story for everyone experiences all sorts of abnormal eccentricities and health problems in life, some people of course more than others and some more traumatic and intense than others.

2.5 My account of the years from 1943 to 1980 follows. I try, in writing about and in summarizing these first 37 years of my life, not to overstate my case, nor to understate it, but give an account of those first 37 years which I refer to here in this general statement as phase one of my bi-polar life. In some ways the inclusion of the names of those doctors who treated me over the years in this first phase and in later phases would personalise this account, but names are not that important and to include them here in this narrative causes confidentiality problems and raises privacy issues for some readers and for people in my own past who might not want to be mentioned. This question of confidentiality and privacy is especially true at some internet sites where posts are rejected if names are included in any posting at the site concerned---and so I leave names out. Those whose names I could mention would not be troubled by their inclusion here, not now, not in 2009 after an extensive destigmatization of the disorder in recent years and after so much of my experience and so many of the people concerned are now, what you might call, ancient history.

2.6 I certainly appreciate the medical and clinical work of: (a) several of the doctors I went to in my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, (b) the psychiatrists who have treated me since June of 1968, more than four decades ago and (c) many family members, friends, colleagues and associations, some known well and others hardly at all, who have helped me ride the waves when the disorder raised its head yet again along the way, the road of life.

2.7 Comments on My Ante-Natal, Neo-Natal, Childhood and Adolescence Life: My BPD: Phase One-Part One: 1943-1963

2.7.1 As I refer to above, I had some experience of what may well have been BPD in childhood as far back as infancy and at the toddler stage, all of the pre-school years, 0-5, of early childhood development. My mother nearly died in the first month after my birth, the implications of which it is not my intention to go into here. If there are any significant implications of this birth process and/or events in my ante-natal and neo- natal phases of my life, I do not examine here, however important they may be in the aetiology of this illness. Before the age of five there is evidence that my behaviour had some of the features of what is now called: (a) Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or (b) Oppositional Defiant Disorder, but it is difficult to disentangle those features from those of BPD.

2.7.2 For the most part, though, I did not manifest BPD symptoms like: elated mood, grandiose behaviours, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts or hyper-sexuality. Children are developmentally incapable of many manifestations of BPD described in adults; for example, children do not "max" out credit cards or have four marriages, pre-puberal and early adolescent age equivalents of adult mania behaviours. Still, as David Healy emphasizes in his book Mania: A Short History of BPD, some doctors are now associating BPD as beginning in utero. Scientists are also making progress in finding the biological markers for behaviour assoicated with depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Markers are essential to understanding the anatomical basis of mental disorders, diagnosing them objectively, and following their response to treatment, as well as perhaps preventing psychosis in those at high risk. To determine the neurobiological bases of the behavioral differences is complex. If one reads the studies in this area, as in so many areas of the science of mental health, the language used by specialists is often difficult. The human brain is not just an enlarged monkey brain, and it is often difficult to know how to correlate the two; the cerebral cortex is especially difficult because of the large size of the human cortex. Readers need to be warned in relation to the paragraphs which follow and in the footnotes. I site but one example in the footnote below.

Perhaps in a later edition of this essay I will attempt a more detailed outline of what I recall from these years of early childhood, but my recollections are minimal and it is difficult, if not impossible, to excavate my memories from those years at this late stage of my life. It is not my intention to comment further on these early years except for the occasional passing reference when it seems appropriate.

2.7.3 I would like to make a few remarks here on the biological, physiological, bases of BPD drawing on recent studies. The language I am drawing on here is, as I say above in section 2.7.2 and in the footnote #14, difficult and I advise readers to pass over this section if they find it too complex in terms of the medical terminology I am using. The neurobiological abnormalities associated with BPD, the abnormalities characterizing episodes of mood disturbance in BPD, help elucidate the pathogenesis, that is, the cause and development of BPD. There are immunological, neuroendocrinological, molecular biological and neuroimaging abnormalities characteristic of BPD. I will summarize these abnormalities in the following section, and Trait neurobiological abnormalities of BPD include heightened pro-inflammatory function and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysfunction. Dysfunction in the intracellular signal transduction pathway is indicated by elevated protein kinase A activity and altered intracellular calcium signalling. Consistent neuroimaging abnormalities include the presence of ventricular enlargement and white matter abnormalities in patients with BPD. This may represent intermediate phenotypes of BPD. In addition, spectroscopy studies indicate reduced prefrontal cerebral N-acetylaspartate and phosphomonoester concentrations. Functional neuroimaging studies of euthymic patients implicate inherently impaired neural networks subserving emotional regulation, including anterior limbic, ventral and dorsal prefrontal regions. Despite heterogeneous samples and conflicting findings pervading the literature, there is accumulating evidence for the existence of neurobiological trait abnormalities in BPD at various scales of investigation. The pathogenesis of BPD will be better elucidated by future clinical research studies which will investigate larger and more homogenous samples. These studies will also employ a longitudinal design to dissect neurobiological abnormalities that are the underlying traits of BPD from those abnormalities related to episodes of mood exacerbation or pharmacological treatment.

2.7.5 I try to avoid the complex language found in the above two sections not only because readers rarely understand them but also this complex terminology as really over my head as well. We all have limits in trying to understand things. This is true in the complex mental health field and it is also true in many other domains of modern life—no matter how hard we try. It is important for BPD sufferers to recognize the limits of their own rational faculty, the endowments conferred by birth in their intellectual domain. Drugs used to treat affective disorders exert their effects largely through their actions on various neurotransmitter systems. Neurotransmitters are important regulators of neural development. Beyond this, beyond these last two sentences, readers do not need to know the complex physiological and neurobiological systems that underpin BPD.

2.7.6 Through middle and late childhood, say, the age of 6 to 12(1950-1956) into the puberty cusp of 12/13 in 1956/7, I did exhibit personality features, behaviours or symptoms that had features of BPD, at least to a limited degree, or so it could be argued if not proved: (a) a lack of control of my emotions, impetuosity, lack of emotional restraint, hyper-sexuality and (b) a far too intense activity threshold what is now called hyperactivity, mild mania or hypomania. It should be emphasized in this context, though, that hypomania is now considered by many in popular culture as a pleasantly grandiose, somewhat overactive feeling and behaviour orientation, but is not considered as evidence of a disorder, a maniacal posture or mania in psychiatric terms.

2.7.7 I recall at the age of 12/13, at the onset of puberty, exhibiting inappropriate or precocious sexual behaviour, although the particular manifestations only involved one episode which constituted groping and an attempt to kiss a girl who did not want to be kissed. In addition, in my years of late childhood(8 to 12) I was involved in: (a) stealing items from shops and selling them; (b) one breaking and entering experience in which the charge was dropped and (c) an excessive intensity expressed in sport and other activities. Adolescent BPD and adolescence generally presented me with an accentuation of puberty and teen-turbulence caused by hormonal shifts. Society value shifts in the 1960s accentuated these tensions and behavioural problems even more, or so it seems to me, as I look back from the perspective of half a century. My mother's understanding, commitment, perseverance and patience, even though she did not know that I had BPD, is now in my memory bank and in the greater appreciation that I now have for my mother than ever before.

2.7.8 Although the symptoms of BPD that I exhibited in childhood and adolescence are largely not described here, I could go back to my birth and, indeed, to conception itself and my in utero, ante-natal, life as I intimated above, for possible origins and manifestations of BPD. The relationship with my mother, my sexual proclivities, my OCD tendencies could all be described, could be gone into, in more detail and I do mention my OCD tendencies again in this statement. I have also written about this subject briefly in my memoirs. I do not attempt in this now quite lengthy account to describe this period of my life in more detail, nor do I discuss my death wish or my suicidal tendencies during the many years of BPD beginning in the last months of my adolescent years, in October of 1963, during which I experienced the death wish for the first time due to the intensity of my first depression. Before the official diagnosis of manic-depression in 1980 my death wish was only associated with a few periods of intense D. I do not allude to this death wish except en passant and, then, only in the most cursory fashion.

2.7.9 I don't think I will ever know enough about the early years in my life before the age of 18, anyway, to assess whether my short periods of behavioural disorientation were examples of: (a) a mild-mania, hypomania, (b) BPD, (c) an affective disorder of some kind like schizo-affective disorder or (d) just a mild form of OCD. The very validity of the diagnosis of BPD in paediatrics and in adolescent studies is now in question. It is becoming, some say, a simple catchall applied to explosive and aggressive children and other kinds of idiosyncratic behaviour. Others say that many behavioural abnormalities are finally being recognized as part of a single disorder or existing on a single continuum. There is more generally a growing debate over the accuracy of many diagnostic classifications. This might seem to be purely academic except for the effect it has on treatment protocols. Estimates are that on average it takes 7 1/2 years before a BPD diagnosis is made. Improperly diagnosed BPD and delayed diagnosis are facts that BPD sufferers and those with D should be aware of especially if they are in their teens and twenties.

2.7.10 Keeping sexual stimuli under control has always been a struggle for me to regulate so that thoughts of a sexual nature did not claim too great a share of my attention. With the years, the more than half a century since my puberty in 1956/7, the opportunities to go over the top and to let physical/sexual temptations assume too great an importance have increased. My mother took a liberal attitude to my sexual frustrations and this liberal attitude became part of my own attitude to the battles I had to face in this domain of life's tests. It took me many years to take a more moderate attitude to sex in my marriage, thus reducing the tension between my wife and I. "The total amount of undesired sex endured by women," Bertrand Russell once wrote, "is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution." That I did not own my wife, that I could not trespass or invade, that sex was a gift and not a right--were insights that I acquired slowly as I only slowly learned how to deal with my BPD.

2.7.11 It was not until much later in life, though, that I began to see my aberrant childhood behaviours and my sexual and other aberrations (stealing, breaking and entering, excessive emotional and behavioural intensities) at puberty and then in adolescence as possibly having a link with the BPD which was eventually diagnosed when I was 35 years old. It was not until I was 19 in 1963 that any characteristics of BPD, in retrospect, became quite clearly apparent, pathological and, as I say in retrospect, could be called part of BPD and given that medical diagnosis. At the time, though, in 1963 no doctor would have given, or at least gave me, that diagnosis. Looking back to the age of 19 in October of 1963, I recall feeling a depression so deep it was like ‘a sickness unto death,' a term used by the founder of Christian existentialism Soren Kierkegaard. He called this a despair at willing to be oneself. I felt despair but not in the sense that Kierkegaard used the term. I had never experienced such an intensely low mood. The word despair is a more appropriate one. It was a sadness so pathological that it made me feel suicidal, like death not warmed over, as one could say colloquially. It does not surprise me that the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 is, in fact, BPD. I could very easily have been one of those dead souls especially back in the early 1960s when there was such little understanding of this illness.

2.7.12 One can read about this intensity of depression in many fields of literature and of mental health, although the word ‘depression' does not seem to have entered the lexicon in the West until about 1900. The desire to die at that time in 1963 was overwhelming. But I did not talk about it to anyone except perhaps my mother, although I honestly can not now recall the extent of my openness with her. She knew I was depressed but neither she nor I really understood the dynamics or the intensity of the depression. I think it was assumed that I would grow out of it. And I did. By December 1963 the depression began to lift. I wrote my December exams at university and I continued with my first year studies in liberal arts.

2.7.13 These behaviours, this depression, at the age of 19 or any of my behaviour before that last year of my teenage life(1963-1964), did not result in my receiving any medical attention. The first formal diagnosis of my illness was labelled a schizo-affective disorder(SAD) in 1968. SAD is a sort of hybrid condition that exists in between BPD and schizophrenia, although this distinction may be somewhat artificial. It may be inappropriate to have a discrete cut between the two disorders when both may represent part of a spectrum and symptoms of both disorders were part of my experience during the last half of 1968. This situation involved the possibility of a serious risk of harm to myself or others and required in July 1968 what is termed involuntary commitment to hospital. This case involved a severe BPD episode with dangerous-violent and aggressive behaviour as well as depressive episodes in August with suicidal ideation.

In retrospect, I now see the autumn of 1968 as the first formal diagnosis of my BPD, although I was not to personally receive/read that diagnosis until 1970 when I visited a psychiatrist in Kingston Ontario some two years after I was released from a large psychiatric hospital outside Toronto in the town of Whitby. At the age of 19, though, I was given lots of advice from religious to common-sensical: diet, exercise, prayer, vitamins, interesting leisure distractions/interests like horse-riding, watching TV, music, et cetera. After several months to several years, 1963 to 1968, the emotional aberrations disappeared or could be said to be sub-threshold at least for a time. My episodes over those years and in the years December 1977 to June 1980 seemed to exhibit quite separate and distinct tendencies and patterns from those I had experiences in the 1960s.

2.7.14 In BD, episodes of depression occur alternately with manic or hypomanic episodes during which the mood becomes euphoric and labile, the capacity for deriving pleasure increases, behaviors aimed at deriving pleasure increase, energy and psychomotor activity, libido and self esteem become elevated. Thus, the same domains are implicated in depression and mania, although the characteristic disturbance in emotional behavior within these syndromes appears opposite with respect to emotional valence. Thus the clinical manifestations of mood disorders would appear to implicate the cognitive, emotional and visceral functions. Mania, mild mania or hypomania is a real symptom of BPD and has its origins in extra neuro-transmitter brain cells which, due to neurochemical over-stimulation, begin to fire (synapsis) at once for a sustained duration of time. It is a very disquieting symptom involving rapid and profuse synaptic activity that is quite tiring and can interfere with concentration, focus and cause rapid, erratic thought patterns and ideas. People with mania often remain awake for days without normal sleeping intervals. The longest period of time I was awake was two or, perhaps, three days in May 1968. The experience became progressively more painful after 24 hours of no sleep. I had no mood-stabilizing medication at the time to slow the synaptic activity down. I do not recall any symptoms of mania in my late childhood or adolescent life. There were some periods of mania in the years 1963 to 1966 but not as intense as what I experienced in May 1968. If I had any mania in early childhood, I have no memory of such experience.

2.7.15 The boundaries between normality and abnormality, health and pathology are often blurred and indistinct. In addition these boundaries shift from person to person, doctor to doctor and decade to decade making one's understanding of the problem more complex and more difficult to deal with on the one hand and, paradoxically, more simple and easy to deal with on the other. Within those five years, 1963 to 1967 though, the permutations and combinations of emotional variation were enough to being tears to the eyes of a brass monkey, as my mother used to say. Looking back in retrospect at those last years of my formal education, I see it as a miracle that I ever got my BA degree and my teaching qualifications labouring under such emotional chaos from time to time and often, week after continuous week in a variegated pattern. There were periods, though, in those several years of my post-secondary school education in which I could function normally and my moods seemed to level out so to speak.

2.7.16 Although the pharmaceuticalization of the post WW2 modern world had began in earnest by the 1960s, it had not taken off that earnestly as medical and psychiatric applications to the behaviours and symptoms that I exhibited back then. The most successful treatment I received, though, was pharmaco-therapy and this continued to be the case for the next forty years.

2.7.17 Sometimes I returned to incapacitating symptoms; sometimes I simply exhibited impetuosity or lack of emotional restraint; at other times my moods were expansive, quasi-manic. Perhaps, as some of the BPD literature suggests, I was affected sporadically by the extremes of a psychomotor retardation and agitation which is characteristic of this illness. Combinatory, lateral, uneven, unusually sensitized thinking, particular sensitivity to energy levels and a state of increased awareness were all part of my experience in these five years. It is difficult to describe these five years in retrospect given the bizarre and chaotic nature of the experience. Given, too, a coextensive and coexisting general context of normality and the inevitable routine and quotidian nature of life that went on inspite of everything, inspite of the emotional problems--makes the description of the details of these experiences, after forty years, difficult.

2.7.18 In the years 1969 to December 1977 the symptoms of my BPD were sub-threshold, non-existent or not as extreme. I coped and my behaviour did not require or even suggest medical intervention. In the 1977 to 1980 episode, the next major episode, H and its various symptoms like elation and good feelings, were rare and varying intensities of D were common. The episode lasted from December 1977 to June 1980, some two-and-one-half years. The first episode had lasted off-and-on from October 1963 to December 1968, a little more than five years. This second major episodic-period only lasted half the length of time that the first had lasted, but this was only due to the lithium treatment that put an end to my symptoms quick-smart. Without the lithium which I began to take in the first week of May 1980—who knows what the BPD symptoms would have been? The sixth leading cause of disability and lost years of healthy life for people aged 15-44 years in the developed world is BPD. I had lost only fifteen months of employment due to hospitalization(6/68-12/68 and 5/80-12/80), although much more time of varying degrees of decreased functioning. In addition, taking an early retirement at the age of 55 and going on a disability support pension at 57 until I was 65 could add another ten years onto this one year of unemployment due to BPD, if I wanted to make a fully comprehensive statement of the affects of BPD on the total years of my unemployment.

2.7.18 In early December 1968 I had left the mental hospital in Whitby Ontario on a mild sedative. I think it was called valergan; but I'm not sure; I have forgotten its name after nearly 40 years. In the nine years from 1968 to 1977 I tried: exercise, diet, giving up smoking, sex, radiesthetics and hair analysis, jogging and play therapy, among a range of treatments to prevent or alleviate any incipient symptoms reoccurring.

2.7.19 In the episodes from 1977 through 1980 the constellation of: fear, paranoia(P) and the extremes of D were often as low as I had experienced in the sixties, in those chaotic years of that episode from 1963 to 1968. I experienced in those years 1977-1980 a range of emotional swings, but they were largely, at least as I recall looking back a quarter century later, at the D and P end of things. A psychiatrist in Ballarat prescribed stelazine or trifluoperazine, an antipsychotic drug. It was at first administered in early 1978 and it seemed to make things worse. In December 1978 I moved to Launceston with my wife and three children and, after a series of two or three quite severe emotional swings at both the H and the D end in 1979 and early 1980, a psychiatrist at the Launceston General Hospital prescribed lithium. After just two or three days my symptoms were relieved never to return in the same form.

2.7.20 I include the above observations and comments on this second major episode because they throw some light on the first episode and place my childhood and adolescent experience of BPD, if indeed I had that disorder at all in those years, in a helpful perspective at least for me, if not for others who read this statement. Depressive episodes for those with BPD tend to have a median length about 6 months with manic episodes usually beginning abruptly and lasting for between 2 weeks and four to five months. My episodes of depression and mania were certainly within this range.

It is helpful to me to express my disorder this way, that is in longitudinal, retrospective, terms as far back as my childhood and this I hope will be helpful to other BPD sufferers and some readers of this document for other reasons. My account here may appear somewhat complex and labyrinthine for general readers and I would advise such readers not to try and follow all the permutations and combinations of my description of this disorder. My description is quite difficult for some to follow and for me to outline in detail and to understand in general. As I go about relating this story, I go about trying to place this narrative into some coherent form. It has taken these seven editions over eight years to get some sense of coherence, some sense of continuity, into what some biographers and autobiographers sometimes call a ‘chaos narrative.'

2.8 From My First Episode of MD in 1963

To My First Institutionalized Care in 1968:

2.8.1 The episode in 1963 continued in a complex series of forms up to and including 1968, as I have outlined above. This episode was not diagnosed as either MD or BPD in those years. This episode, part of my first phase of BPD as I see it in retrospect, did not receive any professional psychiatric diagnosis until June of 1968. From June 1968 to November of that year I received institutional care in: the Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit, General Hospital; the Verdun Psychiatric Hospital in Montreal; the Scarborough General Hospital in a Toronto suburb and the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital about a 30 minute drive from Toronto. The story of those years from 1963 to 1968 and those four psychiatric units and hospitals were my years of university study and the first year of full employment. The story of these years is long, stony and tortuous and I will not write the account of these five years in any more detail since no medical diagnosis was given to me in writing or verbally. I did receive a great deal of advice and types of treatment: (a) more exercise and prayer, (b) a better diet and sex, (c) drug therapy, 8 ECTs and other types of therapy from talk to art and manual activities. I do write of these six months in these several facilities in my memoirs in much more detail than I do here. To write of it here would result in prolixity.

2.8.2 In June or July of 1968, though, one member of a battery of doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other care givers who were then providing my treatment program in Montreal Canada at the Verdun Psychiatric Hospital took a personal interest in my case. He was the first attending psychiatrist in my life about whom I remember anything at all. He was a Bahá'í, a religion that had its origins in Iran in 1844; he was one of perhaps 4000 Bahá'ís in Canada at the time and perhaps its only psychiatrist. He was himself at the outset of his own career in psychiatry. I had been serendipitously institutionalized here after the onset in late May of 1968 of an episode of BPD which was given no name at the time, although colloquially I recall it being said I had become "bushed" or, as they say in Australia, "gone tropo."

2.8.3 I had been working with the Inuit at the time in Canada's high Arctic as a grade three classroom teacher. Looking back it seems highly fortuitous that this first institutionalized care that I received was, in part, from a psychiatrist who shared the same belief system as I did, the Bahá'í Faith. I remember him taking me out into the community to meet some of the Montreal Bahá'ís and their friends. Such an exercise, I assume, he felt was a normalizing experience.

2.8.4 I appreciate, as I say above, the interest, care and assistance shown by a long series of individuals, particularly the relatives and friends in my life, who over the years and as far back as 1963. In that year what I now see as the first clear episode of MD or BPD began to manifest itself. The professional work of those doctors and the personal assistance of those family members and friends has been invaluable and I want readers to appreciate the primacy I give to the work of these special people for their help and support, their saving me from what in any previous age and time period would have been a horrific, virtually end-of-normal-life experience. I want, too, to particularly emphasise the personal care-givers in my consanguineal and affinal families, that is my family of birth and marriage, especially my mother, my first wife and my second wife. These three people were there to help in spite of the difficulties they experienced as a result of their care-giving attitudes and supporting activities. They were absolutely critical and significant others in that wider social context of family, friends and doctors over the years.

2.8.5 I sojourned in these first five years, in that first episode from 1963 to 1968, in a public and private world that was new to me. From time to time and beginning arguably on 29 May 1968 I sojourned in a place no less strange to me than if I had been among an exotic jungle tribe in Africa. It is the duty of some cultural anthropologists to report on their exotic travels and field trips, whether among the indigenous peoples of this earth's Antipodes or to equally remote recesses of human experience among other culturally diverse groups. The account I write here, though, is not so much anthropological; it does not give an emphasis to the eccentricities, the absurd and the bizarre which SAD, P, D, MD and BPD accounts often do; it does not attempt to make a comprehensive statement of my experience. I leave this for my autobiography/memoirs and readers can find the story buried there in occasional references among the 2500 pages much of which is now on the internet in different forms, short and long, paragraphs here and pages there. Only 1500 pages are found in this 6-part document.

2.8.6 I came as I say above, insensibly over several decades--and then only at some distant and abstract level--to associate the extremes of my BPD somewhat with the role of shamans among tribal, third world and animistic communities, people who relate their myths and their meanings by means of emotionally laden quasi-ecstatic visions. On the personal level, I discovered in myself unexpected patience, humility and hope. I learned to treat life as the most precious of gifts, infinitely vulnerable and precarious, to be infinitely prized and cherished. I had not become a shaman or a saint, though; I still suffered; I was still impatient; I did not always appreciate life; I still got depressed. I had journeyed with my body, although I don't think with my soul, into an underworld and come back, more times than I care to tell and certainly more times than I tell of here. But I have survived and lived to tell the story. This is not always the case for people with SAD, D, MD or BPD.

2.8.7 Mine was a spiritual drama of sorts—on a psycho-neurological, a psycho-pharmacological, a schizo-affective level and in 1968 the first psychiatric diagnosis, some five years after the beginning of my first episode, resulted in my suffering, my illness, having at last a label, a medical diagnosis, a name attached to it: a mild-schizo-affective disorder, for which I use the acronym SAD in what has become a somewhat long account. This mild SAD I could, as I say, narrate as a drama in religious terms and describe it as a purgatorial dark night. But, briefly, it was both a pain in the neck and a gift of the gods, I can now say in retrospect. Whatever it was and however I interpret its meaning in my life, it has unquestionably been a key part of my life. But it was not all my life. I do not define all my life in terms of this disorder. This account is of that part, that small but important part. It is the centre of my chaos narrative as some students of autobiography call such accounts.

2.8.8 It is unfortunately very trendy to attribute mood disorders like BPD to personality and spiritual illnesses. From my point of view such attribution is done by people who don't research into what is the real cause of BPD and their understanding of the disorder is limited. Sometimes the negative stigma and the inaccurate attribution hurts more than the actual disorder. It can be very disheartening to see a negative stigma continuing in a community and in individuals. Given the complexity of BPD such an attribution is not surprising. Like so many things in life BPD is just one of the many very complex phenomena and people can't be expected to understand all of life's complex medical disorders and social problems.

2.8.9 Stories in life, all peoples' stories, are chaotic and confusing at a certain level of analysis, a problematique as some social scientists call the story of one's life, especially in the absence of some kind of narrative order, an order imposed or simply narrated in a simple fashion. Even with some order, imposed or not imposed on one's experience, one's life is still a problematique. I tell my own story here as briefly as possible to help establish, for me, some of that sense of order. I tell of these events, as a storyteller might, of my experience of life, but it is a story not packaged for the media. It has been packaged, though, in several written forms for the internet at some 100 sites from 2004 to 2008. I try as I get older to use soft words and hard arguments both in my writing and in my speech. This is a good goal for people with BPD. Softness, tact, kindness and gentleness are often absent from the behaviour and speech of sufferers from BPD. This has certainly been true of me in the half century trajectory of my experience of BPD. These qualities are still absent at crucial times, but so is this true of billions of others who do not have BPD.

At some of the postings of my story, my experience, on the internet there is only a brief statement and at other sites the statement is as long as this one. As in life, so on the internet: not everything a man knows can be disclosed; not everything that can be disclosed is timely and not every timely utterance is suited to the ears of the hearer. This definition of tact from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh is most apt here. I have used this 40,000 word statement or parts of it for other purposes. Without sequence, without narrative form, without analysis of some kind and some attempt to frame a discernible causality, one's story remains a bit of a jumble to say the least.

2.8.10 Of course, not everyone looks at their life experience this way. We are a highly diverse species and not everyone is inclined to write an account like mine, if they write their account at all. In my experience over all these decades with this illness, I am inclined to the view that very few ever write their story in even an abbreviated form. We are a highly diverse species, as I say above, and we see, experience and understand things in so many different ways. Life has an element of mystery, of jumble, no matter how much knowledge and understanding we bring to our problems and whether we write an account of our life or whether we don't. There is so much, too, of the practical that one needs to learn to implement if one has BPD. The old English proverbs are pertinent here: "A full cup must be carried steadily;" and "A Smooth sea never made a skilled mariner."

2.8.11 And so, as I say, this story is what could be called my chaos narrative. Certainly studies in autobiography and biography, as I say above, are now classifying this very popular genre into many sub-types. Autobiography and its several forms of life narrative, memoirs and diary, inter alia, is arguably the most popular genre of the last several hundred years. One sub-category of the genre of life-writing is the chaos narrative. It is written after the excesses of the chaos have gone; the experience of the extremes of the chaos are incompatible with the writing or the telling. To put this another way, it is difficult to write the story while in the midst of some of the more extreme parts of the experience. People like the famous dancer Nijinski, among others, have placed their experience in a written context during their suffering. But I could no more have written anything when in the summer of 1968 I was placed in a locked and padded room to protect myself from myself; or in the winter of 1978 living in Ballarat, an old gold-mining town in Australia, when I hid under the sheets of my bed on getting home from work feeling, as I did, a sense of acute paranoia every day. The paranoia was not experienced all the time but certainly enough of the day to make the day one that was difficult to cope with in my ordinary employment and family situation. As I say, some write in the midst of their chaos, but this is not the case with me in this account.

2.8.12 Those who are living in the midst of bipolar episodes are now telling of their experiences more and more in recent years as they come-out and as BPD becomes more a part of public knowledge. Their stories are often bizarre, but in this crazy world sometimes their stories are only one of many kinds of traumatic, bizarre and extreme forms of suffering that the world is drowning in at present. The chaos that I describe in the distant past is told here in the relative and retrospective tranquillity of the present. Living in the midst of chaos, to emphasize this point for a final time, makes reflection, and consequently any attempt at narrative for oneself or others, difficult if not impossible.

2.8.13 Telling and, even more so, writing is a way of taking control and creating order, thus giving an account of what was once experienced as chaos, but now has a framework of meaning. To some extent, as a famous psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankel once put it, suffering ceases to be suffering, the moment it finds a meaning. That is partly true and even if it is entirely true it is not always seen that way by the sufferers. But Frankel's words apply to me in a significant way and this is partly why I write this account here. Without one of the main strands of medicine, though, namely orthodox psychiatry behind me and its chemotherapy strand I don't feel I would even be here to tell my story.

2.8.14 The longest intense D(depression) I had was in 1963 and 1964 with perhaps two six month periods from June to November and July to December, respectively. The longest episode of some combination package that came to be labelled a mild schizo-affective state, a combination or alternation of hypomania and depression, among other symptoms was a part of my life from June to November 1968. This episode also resulted in the medical characterization of my illness, as I say, a SAD with the adjective mild placed at the front of the term. The episodes of H in 1977 to 1980 and 1990 were treated more quickly with medication, although the 1977/8 episode, beginning in December/January, seemed to last for at least three or four months and had a mostly depressive component. It was treated with trifluoperazine, under its brand name stelazine, another anti-psychotic and the side effects were horrific. Only the 1980 episode required hospitalization in this case for one month in May of 1980.

3. Enter Lithium in 1980 and Then Fluvoxamine in 2001:

3.1 Lithium was and is, arguably, the central pivot in this whole story, at least to this point in my life at the age of 63 as I live through these early years, 60 to 65, of late adulthood, a period some developmental psychologists characterize as the years from the age of 60 to 80. I was on lithium for twenty-seven years: from May 1980 to April 2007 a little more than 40% of my total lifespan to this point, to 2008. I have experienced the symptoms of this disorder, this partially genetic disorder, with the label MD and then BPD for 27 years. I would now add at least an additional 17 years during which I was not diagnosed with BPD, but had a range of symptoms and experiences I have described above and which were diagnosed in 1968 as a mild SAD.

3.2 By 1969 I had been treated and I was ready to re-enter society which I did as a security guard on what was then Canada's tallest building in Toronto. And so, this made 70% of my life, 44 out of 64 years during which I manifested some obvious features of a disorder of some kind: SAD, D, MD or BPD—not every month or every year but at various times in these 44 years.

3.3 My mood swings came to have an entirely different typically in 2001. And again in 2007, after eight months on this new package of medication, on yet another medication, sodium valproate, my emotions, my feelings, are of quite a different order. The death wish, for example, which I have lived with periodically and in various degrees of intensity since at least 1963 has diminished even more and is now only a faint trace of its past. It has not blown away entirely, but its heat has gone. If it exists at all, it is as a trace element, so to speak. My mood swings have moved into new territory yet again. The luvox in 2001 took my nighttime blackness away and the colouration of my emotions late at night became grey; luvox(fluvoxamine) was added to my medication package that year.

3.4 There is very little high-quality evidence to guide prescribing for older people, particularly those with multiple medical conditions for which multiple medications may be indicated for those with various disabilities. Current best practice in prescribing drugs for late adulthood(60-80) and old age(80++), the geriatric patients of the world, relies on regular evaluation of the safety and efficacy of each medication and of the combination of medications for each patient. Functional and cognitive impairment are strong independent predictors and factors of importance.

3.5 Inappropriate treatment is a common concern and includes the use of medicines at too high a dose or for too long a period or the addition of a new drug that induces harmful adverse effects through drug–drug or drug–disease interactions. Another inappropriate way of prescribing occurs when a patient is denied the beneficial effect of a known drug on the grounds of advanced age. In such a complex milieux and after many years of dealing with this disorder, I prefer to just leave the treatment regime to my doctor after brief consultations. The inappropriateness of a drug and the inappropriateness of a treatment, the inappropriate quality of a drug are not concerns I take on board. I leave these concerns to my psychiatrist. Substantial progress has been made in the past several decades, while I have had to deal with the symptoms of BPD, toward the application of evidence-based medicine. Practice guidelines, which assist providers in clinical decision making, have played a valuable role in this initiative and my psychiatrist is a man in his late 60s with over 40 years of specialist interest in clients with BPD. The attributes of good practice guidelines, their role in the skill repertoire of my psychiatrist in his role as a health-care provider and the limitations of practice guidelines for psychiatrists in general are concerns I do not have. I am confident in my psychiatrist and the treatment he is providing.

3.6 The symptoms that affected my daily working capacity, even now, are fatigue and psychological weariness especially after (i) a night of light sleeping, tossing and turning or what some call agitation insomnia and/or (ii) after many hours of intellectual activity. One can hardly complain, though, given that this fatigue, these experiences, psychological and/or physical weariness, are the lot of Everyman to some degree and in a myriad of different patterns. My story, my experience with sodium valproate, my lithium substitute, began nearly two years ago in April of 2007 and effexor was introduced into the medication package in May 2007 to replace the luvox. Sodium valproate is an anti-psychotic or mood stabilizer & effexor an anti-depressant medication, but more on these drugs later in section 4 below.

3.7 Since 1980 and more so since 1990 I have had little difficulty knowing where I was in the process of mood swing, psychological orientation and general understanding. The chemistry and the relationship with brain functioning which is involved with BPD is very complex and I make no attempt to describe the chemistry, the anatomy and the physiology here in this document. Over the years I had grown used to the various plays on my emotions, my sleep patterns and my mental activity during the pre-medication phases and the post-medication periods of the medications prescribed. During this mood transition, though, the swing to a mild elation or euphoria was new, refreshing and quite pleasurable, after an initial period of a few weeks of instability and highly variable sleeping patterns and problems. During this transition there were a variety of symptoms, but I feel no need to outline them here.

3.8 The transition to the medication package in 2007 was very different than the one in 1980 or the second major shift in 2001—with the addition of luvox. The great intensities of swing had virtually gone by 1980, although the blacknesses late at night remained. After the introduction of luvox, though, as I said above, these blacknesses disappeared. Total acceptance of the necessity of taking lithium was a critical variable in this process and it took the decade of 1980 to 1990 to achieve. At the hypomanic end of the continuum over the years there were experiences like the following: violent emotional instability and oscillation; abrupt behavioural changes and a sudden change in a large number of intellectual assumptions; elation, high energy and various forms of excess. Mental balance, a psychological coherence between intellect and emotion and a rational reaction to the outside world all seemed to blow away, over a few hours to a few days, as I was plunged in a sea of what could be variously characterized as: emotional heat, intense awareness, sensitivity, sleeplessness, voluble talking, racing mental activity.

3.9 What I have described briefly in 3.6 above was my hypomanic personality at one end, the extreme end of the spectrum. At the other end of this same spectrum: fear, excessive paranoia, incoherence, intense depression or melancholia, despair and a desire to commit suicide were the major symptoms. This BPD spectrum includes a large number of mood disorders. The reason there now are so many different categories of BPD is partly due to this spectrum approach. With more reflection in the months and years ahead I may come to define my BPD experiences over the last half century along this spectrum more precisely. In the years from 1963 to 1965, in 1968, in the years from 1977 to 1980 and finally when I went off lithium in 2001 and began a new series of medications from 2001 to 2007/8 I could utilize several labels in the psychiatric literature. For now I shall not go down this road at this point in this statement.

3.10 Memory Loss:

3.10.1 I was a classroom teacher and educator for over thirty years(1967 to 2003) and I have seen a good deal of short term memory loss in both myself and my fellow man and the myriad reasons we all give for forgetting, some justified and some not-so. The experience of memory loss in my own private domain, though, may be the result of: (a) the several medications I have had since 1968 and (b) the eight ECT treatments in the summer and autumn of 1968. But, again, everyone has memory problems; a recent test in 2005 administered by a doctor specialising in treating memory loss in geriatric patients, did not indicate any particular memory difficulty or the onset of any illness associated with memory loss, like altzeimer's disease, a disease with its own trajectory of memory problems and functioning.

3.10.2 My current psychiatrist, who specialises in treating people with BPD and who has been providing his professional advice to me for the last seven years, after a series of psychiatrists I have had going back to that period in 1968,3 does not think my memory problem is a central or even a peripheral part of my bipolar symptoms. If anything, my problem of memory has its origins in causes other than bipolarism. This was the same conclusion of that specialist in geriatric care, as well, whom I saw in 2005. After more than half a century of evidences of bipolarism in my life, I am inclined to think that my memory loss is, again, not something that should concern me unduly in this account of my bipolarism--even though it has been a practical concern in my daily life and I would like to say a few words about that problem in the following section.

3.10.3 My memory problem does contribute, as readers may appreciate, to many practical problems in day-to-day life. My wife is very aware of these problems which we have come to associate with: (a) selective memory, (b) inattention, (c) poor listening skills, inter alia. I mention these things because, although my bipolar disorder is largely treated, and whatever memory-loss I exhibit I do not regard as attributable to my BPD or the ECTs I had back in the 1960s, there is still a constellation of physical and psychological difficulties remaining, in addition to the residue of bipolar symptoms that are still present in my life. I do not want to emphasize these problems, this constellation of difficulties, these more peripheral problems though, because such descriptions detract from the central theme of this account. Their relevance is indirect though, I must emphasize, they are not irrelevant to the way I experience my life.

3.11 More General Comments:

3.11.1 It seemed appropriate to outline this detailed statement of my experience with BPD for several purposes since the issue of the nature of my problem and what was once called MD, at least until the 1990s, is a complex one. The story varies from person to person and has been of concern to me over the sixty-five years that I have had to deal with its symptoms in my personal and professional life. Others close to me, some of whom are now called care-givers, have also had their concerns.4 It is difficult to characterise my condition and it is for this reason that I have written what some may find to be an overly long statement. As I say above, I write this for both my satisfaction and the use by others, especially those who suffer from BPD.

3.11.2 I hope this account, in both long and short term contexts, will explain adequately my reasons for not wanting to work in any employment position or participate in any demanding social context. It was for this reason that I drafted the first edition of this essay, this account, five years ago now in 2003. This account, now in its seventh edition may provide those interested, as I also say above, with some useful information for dealing with their own particular problems, perhaps even problems not associated with bi-polarism. I have a file of detailed notes on doctors' visits, various treatments for specific problems and background information. It is a file I opened in 1999 on my retirement from FT work to assist me in treating myself for particular medical problems that arose and to compensate for the memory problems I experienced in relation to the several medical difficulties which arose from my mid-fifties onwards. Visits to GPs and my psychiatrist required several treatment regimes and I needed some system to record items I could not remember. But I have not commented on these problems and medical details here. The focus in this account is on my BPD and not any separate or ancillary difficulties.

3.12 The Process:

3.12.1 There seems to be a process, one of immense variability, that I have experienced on a daily basis for arguably, 65 years. The details, the symptoms, the behaviour, varies from year to year, with the decades, with the days and especially since my first D in October 1963 and since the medications I have been placed on since June of 1968. I cross from some normal behavioural constellation to an abnormal, intense one. The abnormal extreme position varies, as I say, from day to day, month to month and year to year in content, texture, tone and intensity. In 1946 it was characterized by uncontrollable early childhood behaviour and eccentricities. My mother had to deal with these aberrations.

3.12.2 Looking back to my childhood I did have some behavioural abnormalities, but their association with bipolarism is also, I tend of think, unlikely in retrospect. Behavioural abnormalities in children and adolescents are also as common as air and it seems to me, at this stage of the understanding of my disorder, that to impute bi-polarism may be premature at best and simply incorrect at worst. The diagnosis of bipolarism at that early stage of my life in 1947 at the age of three is only a remote possibility given that only 1% of people with BPD are considered to have exhibited BPD behaviour during their childhood or adolescence before their late teens. More knowledge of this disorder may yield a different conclusion at a future time especially since children and adolescents have been increasingly given the label, the diagnosis, BPD in order to explain their medical/behavioural problems. The lack of reliable screening instruments in my childhood and adolescence that could have assessed my several mood, anxiety and behavioural conditions within the spectrum of a possible BPD was one of the problems in identifying conditions at these earliest possible points in time for effective intervention. If you are one of the many individuals who struggle with mood and anxiety symptoms, identifying your particular problem and beginning effective treatment can help you get back on track. For now, though, I leave this issue without further comment.

3.12.3 At the moment, at the age of 65, the negative aspects of my BPD are several, but I will go into these details, these more recent manifestations of this disorder, at least since 2001, in the next section of this essay, section 4. Due to the above "process" over more than sixty years, due to the part of the process which occurs in varying degrees in various accentuated forms, it has often been difficult to define just where I was at any one time along the 'normal-abnormal' continuum—and it still is. This was true at both the depressive end and the hypomanic end of the BPD spectrum.

3.12.4 It is difficult, therefore, to actually name the number of times when I have had major manic-depressive episodes.5 Perhaps the number is as many as eight. Certainly it is at least four in my whole life from what may have been the first episode in 1946 to the last brief episode in 1990 when I went off my lithium for between one and two months. Defining an episode is not easy for me to do; indeed, the concept of episode is only useful in some respects. In other ways it over-simplifies a complex set of behaviours; it has value, though, when trying to describe the experience in writing. The term episode serves as a sort of shorthand, a paradigmatic sign and symbol to cover a broad range of behaviour and over a wide set of time spans under one rubric. BPD has a complexity that has required, at least for me, medications, time, the wisdom of experience and, in some ways most importantly, a high quality carer to provide relevant feedback and understanding. These have all been keys, among others, to help me find the stability I so desperately craved from time to time.

3.13 Some Things I Have Left Out:

3.13.1 The account above has none of the fine detail that I could include like: (a) details about my mental and auditory hallucinations during my psychotic episodes, (b) a long list of specific low-range fears and high range paranoias, (c) the electroconvulsive therapy, E.C.T.s I had back in 1968, (d) details of the developmental aspects of the various treatment regimes I have been given over the years, (e) the various psychiatric analyses and diagnoses, (f) the many years of dealing with suicidal thoughts and what some call a death wish, (g) experiences in and out of half a dozen hospitals, visits to unnumbered doctors' clinics and listening to advice from well-meaning but usually misinformed or uninformed people than I care to recall, (h) adjusting to medications that varied from those which heavily sedated me and simply put me to sleep, to those which made me high, increased my sensitivities and sense of awareness of my environment—and still others that resulted in a state of paranoia, nausea and a sense of utter terror among other side-effects; (i) the effects of these many swings and mood changes on my employment, my relationships, my two marriages and my attitude to life; and (j) the manifestations of this disorder during the period from my birth to the age of 18.

3.13.2 Many of the situations, looking back, were humorous and the contexts absurd. And there was much else but, as I indicate, I hesitate to go into more detail. My aim here is to make a short(not short enough I hear some readers say!) clinical statement, to put some basic facts on paper, to outline some impressions, to make some analysis and draw some tentative conclusions. Perhaps later, in a further essay or posting on the internet--for this is the place my writing on BPD as a non-professional gets the most exposure--I will go into the kind of detail some readers have already requested. And so--I want to make this statement as short as possible, but as detailed as I can, to give a longitudinal perspective. At 40,000 words this account has become far from short, but it serves my purposes even if it is onerous for some readers to digest. I find, after several years of internet posting, that readers who find my account too long simply don't read it. There is plenty of material on the World Wide Web for sufferers of BPD who require short posts, simple advice sketches and quick back-and-forth chat settings.

3.14 Different BP Profiles and Typicalities:

3.14.1 There are a variety of BPD profiles, what you could call different behavioural typicalities from person to person of those diagnosed as having BPD. It is bipolar because both ends of the spectrum, the moods, were and still are experienced over the period 1943 to 2008, 65 years. Thanks to lithium, fluvoxamine and, now, sodium valproate and venlafaxine(effexor), most of the extremes are now being treated. Beginning (i) at the age of 19 in 1963, then (ii) at the age of 34 in 1978, (iii) again at the age of 57 in 2001 and, finally--at least I hope this was the final major shift—(iv) over the two year period 4/2007 to 1/2009 in these early years of late adulthood, that twenty year period in the human lifespan from 60 to 80, different medication regimes have resulted in an experiencing of life in very different ways. They brought me back to a centre, a normality, but I was somehow, somewhat mysteriously, inexplicably in some ways, never the same again. Different medications and different people in certain ways, ways that this statement refers to briefly. This of course is true of all of us, each in our own ways, with our own stories of change, of crisis and our own expressions of a difficult to define normality and abnormality.

3.14.2 It took ten years, from 1980 to 1990 as I say above, for me to fully accept the lithium treatment. From time to time in the 1980s I tried to live without the lithium, to go it alone, to go off it on a cold turkey, as they say colloquially. Such, in as brief a way as possible, is the summary of my experience over the years and, in the main, up to 1991. I have written more extensively of these years, and especially the issue of acceptance of one's BPD and compliance with medication in my autobiography which is readily available on the internet for anyone who is interested.

3.14.3 Individuals with BPD have several characteristics that make them more vulnerable to substance abuse, addiction and compulsive behaviours. There is, therefore, a higher prevalence of people with BPD who have: (a) addictions, (b) OCD and (c) a higher vulnerability to substance abuse. As I have emphasized in this account, the experience of individuals with BPD, while having symptoms in common, is also highly diverse in its characterization. Over more than half a century now I have experienced, at various times: agitation and anxiety, aggressiveness and belligerence, confusion and fatigue, impulsiveness and insomnia, irritability and morbid thought patterns, suicidal ideation and panic, paranoia and persecutory delusions, pressured speech and racing thoughts, restlessness and rage—not all at once, it must be emphasized, but at various times and, as I say, over many decades. One could find all of these behaviours in people without BPD but, for the most part, not in the same person.

3.14.4 The behaviour patterns of people with BPD are often characterized by: impulsiveness and sensation-seeking, risk-taking and thrill-seeking, novelty seeking and high exploratory drive, excitability and low levels of inhibition as well as more sexual partners and artistic activity. The term schizotypal personality is sometimes used for people with BPD who have a quirky or socially awkward approach to life. These patterns, it is argued by some neuroscientists, have neural correlates and are driven by individual differences in dopamine system sensitivity. The dopamine reward pathways of the brain are different in people with BPD. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that feels good when it is released and it acts as part of an internal reward system. Dopamine rewards are critical for survival since they provide the pleasurable feelings associated with things like eating and reproduction among other experiences in the lifespan. When a person has BPD their brain does not reward them with a rush of dopamine easily, so they have to go to more extreme measures just to get that experience of well-being. That desperate desire for stimulation is also why many people with BPD self-destruct. Finding a creative pursuit that is truly engaging has been, for me, a great remedy for my addictive and OCD tendencies as well as my apparently above normal desire for stimulation. But the remedy is only partial. Unexpressed creative impulses, so many argue, are the driving force behind some of the negative behaviours associated with BPD.

3.14.6 The two decades 1991-2009 had several major turning points. The first in 1991 was the beginning of what is often called total drug-compliance. In my case it was with lithium. I had had, I reiterate, in the first decade of lithium treatment, 1980 to 1990, a problem with compliance. The majority of BPD patients are non-compliant and tend to stop their medication after one year often with disastrous results. I had, therefore, lots of company in that first decade for I had stopped my meds twice in that first decade: 1980 to 1990. BPD sufferers also lose years of productivity, normal health and life-expectancy. The first two factors certainly applied to me, although time will tell the extent to which that last factor will be true in my life.

3.14.7 Failing to educate oneself and/or one's family inadvertently contributes to medication non-compliance and, in my case, this led to a serious relapse in 1990, but not to re-hospitalization. Knowledge is empowering and can improve one's capacity to react constructively to periodic crises in one's disability. This was the case in 1990. The relapse occurred in my summer holiday and by the time this holiday ended I was back on my meds and ready to go back to work due to the uncharacteristic emotional instability—the tears—that I experienced ‘off-my-meds.'

3.14.8 From 1991 to 2001 I experienced a decade of euthymia, a term used for normality. This decade was much like an earlier decade of euthymia in my life, the years from 1969 to 1978. There is a tendency, and this was the case with me throughout most of the 1970s and again in the 1990s, to view my disorder as having a somewhat benign course. This tendency, this view, had been present right from 1963 to 1968 when the first significant evidences of the presence of BPD raised their ugly, their depressive and their hypomanic head. Effective prophylactic lithium medication controlled and attenuated my acute mood swings, minimized my sense of continuing distress and, I might add parenthetically, assisted mental health professionals' in simplifying the treatment of my disorder and in prescribing advice which I sought during the 27 years I was being treated(1980-2007). Psychiatrists were able to fit me into a category without my having to go through some long analysis and that was all I wanted—"to get my pills and go home." This may not have been the best attitude to take, but it represented the core of my attitude for most of this time. After seeing the wonderful effects of drug-therapy I was disinclined to engage in much talk-therapy, at least talk-therapy unrelated to my monitoring and adjustment to the several medication regimes I had been prescribed.

3.14.9 The malignant quality of BPD is insufficiently appreciated. It has been insufficiently appreciated by me—and still is--and by millions of other sufferers. The functional impairment found among BPD patients; the havoc and disruption reported to their occupational, family and social lives, suggests that, in spite of adequate drug treatment, disturbing problems persist impeding the optimal emotional growth and development of patients/clients as well as that of their immediate family members. Despite their significant effect on symptoms, lithium and drug therapies by themselves often have little impact on interpersonal problems and various psychosocial stressors that may develop in the course of the illness, an illness that often, although not always, plagues an individual over the person's entire lifespan.

3.14.10 It is difficult to lock into, to describe, in this account this aspect of the interpersonal problems and psycho-social stressors I experienced. My account of the impact of BPD on the various facets of my life is really quite complex and I am still trying to work it out, to put into words quite complex patterns of thought and behaviour. In my efforts to do so readers may find that I jump from time frame to time frame in my lifespan and that I compare and contrast different episodes while juxtaposing them within one particular period of time. Readers may find my account confusing in this regard. I may be able to sort out this problem of outlining a logical and clear delineation of my experience in some future edition of this story as I gradually come to refine this life-writing. But, for now, this current outline of my experience is the best I can do given the complexity of the disorder and how it has been experienced over more than six decades. I also want to be succinct and if I examine in any detail the affects on my work, family and relationships the result would be prolixity.

4. My BPD In The Short-Term: 1991-2009

4.1 1991-2001: "Luvox Arrives in 2001"

4.1.1 In the decade 1991 to 2001 I finished my life of full-time employment; I began to seriously reduce my extensive and intensive activities and responsibilities in the social and administrative aspects of the Bahá'í community and its life, as well as other volunteer activities and social involvements. I also began my obsession with writing during this period. Rather than ponder the value of non-compliance with this medication as I had done in the 1980s, I came to a state of full-compliance; I came to appreciate, to fully accept, my lithium treatment. Anti-psychiatry has had many forms since psychology and psychiatry emerged in the last decades of the 19th century and the early twentieth and since chemotherapy began to have more and more success in the last half century, say, in the years 1959 to 2009, my years of late adolescence to late adulthood. Like many of the mental illness conservatives, they take a far too extreme position in relation to psychiatry from my point of view.

Readers wanting more of this story can either google it using the phrase: "RonPrice BPD" or go to another part of this autobiography. The story of the last decade, 2001-2010, I will leave for now and return to the subject of celebrity which I began to discuss above and which will provide some balance to the above doom and gloom which I'm sure some readers found far too analytical, technical and detailed for their liking.


The family into which I was born, and the two families that were my families of marriage need to be given some attention in an autobiography. I give that attention in several places and I will make some comments here.

Although this autobiographical statement is about my life, its primary intention is to be of service in assisting others to make greater sense of their own lives. I suppose, in some ways, such an exercise could be seen as somewhat pretentious or presumptuous or both. To be "the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage" to one’s fellow man contains "no greater bliss, no more complete delight."1 Such are my lofty aims. The world of entertainment: film, TV, radio, a vast cornucopia of print and electronic media are accomplishing this aim in some ways, indeed, in many ways now for billions of people on the planet. Mine is but a small contribution to this total picture as nearly everyone’s is who contributes to this well-being and happiness, this delight and pleasure of others. Time will tell how successful I am in this connection through the written word.-Ron Price drawing on the words of 1’Abdu’l-Baha in The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1975(1928), p.3.

In tracing the history of my affinal and consanguineal families from Australia, Canada, England and France as I began doing in 1984, the same year I read the autobiography of my grandfather, I found I could go back no further than to Croyden in the U.K. in 1872 on my mother's side; and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1890 on my father's side. The period of time from the beginning of this new Age in 1844 until these earliest evidences on my family tree was occupied by my great-grandparents and, perhaps, great-great-grandparents.1 About these parts of my family tree before the last quarter of the nineteenth century I know nothing, at least not yet. Perhaps during these middle years, 65-75, of late adulthood, a period some human development psychologists call the years from 60 to 80 in the lifespan, I will search into the genealogies of my family and learn about the first years of this new age, this new calendar BE, Baha’i Era as it applies to my family.

I first put together, as I approached the age of 60, an outline of my family history; I have done this in several places in my autobiographical narrative Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Some of my autobiography or memoirs, to use another word with similar connotations and meaning, can be found on my old website in some 42 chapters, or hyperlinks as they are now called on occasion. These sections can be found at the end/bottom of the 'index' or access page by clicking at the place indicated. As far as the history of my affinal family, that is my two families by marriage, is not found in this memoir. Indeed, it is not the focus of this work or my other works. I deal with my two affinal families in a tangential, casual and incidental fashion throughout my writings.

I use the year 1844 as a symbolic figure for the beginning of this New Age, this Baha’i Era. Indeed, the Baha’i Era actually begins in 1844. Other years could be selected. But 1844 is heuristic in its implications: the first writings of Karl Marx, 'The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,' were published in the summer of that year; on 22 May the first message was sent on a telegraphic wire in the USA: 'what hath God wrought?' and the Bab made the first public declaration of His new Faith on 23 May 1844. Indeed, one could add many more items of significance by means of a simple search on the internet.

This autobiographical study has other central purposes than examining my family history as far back as it is possible. What autobiography there is here does not assume much significance until at least the first phase of the implementation of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan in the years 1937 to 1944, when the pieces were coming together for the matrix that formed the setting for my birth during WW2. At the beginning of the Baha’i Seven Year Plan in 1937 my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side, Emma and Alfred Cornfield, lived in Hamilton Ontario Canada. Alfred had just retired at age 65, after a chequered and difficult employment history in Canada going back to his arrival from England in 1900. Emma, his wife, would be dead by the end of 1939 from cancer in the year that WW2 broke out. As far as I know, my mother and father had not yet met in 1939. This meeting would take place by 1942. It is in this milieux, just before and during WW2, that the main currents of my autobiography begin and its connection with a new religion and a society in a perilous, complex and tragic state of its existence.

The poetry which deals with this milieux, this embryo, this first part of my life and the years of early childhood, say, my birth to age five, 1944 to 1949, what are clearly autobiographical concerns, deal with aspects of my family life. They also deal with the synchronicity between the events in Baha’i and secular history as well as my life. This first phase of my autobiographical poetry, then, comes from the years after 1936 when 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan, as outlined in his immortal Tablets, was finally implemented in an organized campaign of teaching. The earliest phase of the implementation of His Plan, 1937-1944, synchronized and I might add somewhat parenthetically, serendipitously, with the first meeting, the engagement and the marriage of my mother and father in 1942-1943. Three months after this Plan ended I was born, the day, 23 July 1944. At the end of the first epoch(1921-1945) of the Formative Age(1921 to an unknown distant future date), my life was just beginning. The year 1944 also marked the end of the first stage(a seven year plan from 1937 to 1944) of the first epoch(1937-1963) of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan. This was the first plan in which the term 'pioneer' gained wide usage. There were about 200 Bahá'ís in Canada in 1944 and about 100 in Australia as far as I can guesstimate. The general population of Canada and Australia did not indulge in religious experimentation especially in the first half century of the history of the Baha’i Faith in these two countries. The Baha’i Faith was largely invisible in the West at least until the early 1950s and its defining feature was what van den Hoonaard called "religious singleness,"1 a community of members who expressed their faith mainly in individual and much less in community terms with most of their ties to a wider society, to their family, their work and various other civil and leisure interest groups.(The Origins of the Baha’i Community in Canada: 1898-1948, p.277.)

There were always members of the Baha’i community who expressed their faith this way as long as I have been a Baha’i. Not everyone is a meeting-goer, is group-oriented outside their family, job and leisure interests. Wherever I have lived in some two dozen towns there have been people in the Baha’i community whom one never or very rarely saw. Indeed, this aspect of the Baha’i Faith has always seemed to me part of its very inclusiveness. The solitary types and the groupies, so to speak, can feel at home in this global community. In the first six decades of the implementation of the Plan(1936/7 to 1996/7) were decades of institution building. The Baha’i community was small during these years and the need on the part of each Baha’i to support activities and, in the process, extend the base and consolidate the community was great. With the new culture of learning and growth that emerged after 1996, individuals could express their faith in many ways in addition to attending every meeting on the calendar of events.

My poetry takes in a much wider ambit than the personal and inner life. It also takes in aspects of all of phenomenal existence, insofar as that existence is a part of my imagination, my memory and my intellect. Memory is, as existential psychologist Rollo May once put it,"the keeper of all that is meaningful." (Man's Search For Himself, 1953, p.220) Features of history, the present and the future, and much that is meaningful across a wide cross-section of subject matter--as is evident from even a short perusal of the contents of my poetry and its 43 categories as listed in the index--come into my poetry. To the extent that I can find synthesis and unity in multiplicity, is the extent to which there has been some coming together around a centre, a centre which has held and which came into my life and the life of my family beginning back in 1953. That centre was the Bahá'í Faith. I see all of this poetry as autobiographical in the wider sense that all writing can be seen as autobiographical, although I'm sure many readers will be hard-put to apply that adjective to much of my material. Readers may prefer the term personal, narcissistic, self-centred, egocentric, memoiristic, inter alia. I find that my own identity over a lifetime is so changeable and fragmented, so fluid and so much a process in addition to being a mysterious entity that I prefer to see the Bahá'í Faith, its literature and its community as the centre, the synthesizing, unifying agent, in this poetic statement. This is the raison d'etre for this website. To put this concept of centre and periphery another way, there is a continuous rendezvous between myself and this faith, each moving in relation to the other, sometimes feeling static or in a fixed position, sometimes feeling in flux.

Virtually everything is up-for-grabs, fodder, for my poetic mill, so to speak. Although all of life is up-for-grabs, as I say, up for analysis and discussion. There is a great deal that does not come into the narrow compass of my life. For one must be selective out of necessity, out of interest and out of life’s pragmatics. There is, too, the wider ambit of life, of existence, that I try to take in, that I want to take in and make part of some intelligible whole, some integrated and complete picture—and if not complete at least partially so—as complete as I can make it given the enigmatic, paradoxical and complex nature of existence. For each of us, though, only part of that whole 'grabs-us.' This website tells of some of the stuff that has grabbed me, that became part of my memory, my imagination and intellect and which is found here as a sort of reminiscence, as Plato once described the process of discovering truth. I do not see this website as part of some memorial to myself. As the Australian poet, critic and essayist Clive James once said: "a memorial to oneself is not a very charming idea even when the pharaohs did it." To try to make his memorial charming, though, James soon realised that his project might be more useful if he included the work of other people since some of his own work included other people anyway. His site had a video section with little no-budget television interviews that he made in his living room. My attitude to my website is somewhat like the way W.H. Auden viewed his poetry and the writing of many a successful author. "Literary success," wrote Auden, "can give but small satisfaction to an author, even to his vanity." Auden saw only two kinds of literary success worth winning and even if won, he emphasized, he or she would never know. I will give Auden a whole paragraph to outline his view. It is certainly a literary success worth winning and I paraphrase:

One achieves literary success when one is the writer in whose work some great master generations later on the world’s stage of history finds an essential clue for solving some problem. A writer can also achieve literary success by becoming for someone an example of the dedicated life. When a writer is placed by a stranger in the inner sanctum of their thoughts, indeed, when he or she becomes a hallowed mentor—that is literary success.(W.H. Auden, Forewords and Afterwords, Vintage, 1990(1979), p.366)

There are now hundreds of millions of websites in the world, 100 million blogs and 3 billion internet users. I have lots of time to go to other sites since, after more than a decade of having my own site, I spend little time up-dating it. This is because I don’t have the skills. And so I post at some 8000 other sites and gain millions of readers in the process. Many lone bloggers have already found that their regular audience is only a handful of people like them. Some of the handful are in Iceland or Venezuela, which can be a thrill, but on the whole, no matter how well the bloggers write, if they haven't got a selling point beyond their own opinions they are digging their own graves under the impression that they are putting up a building. These are the words of Clive James and he is partly right and that is why I have created many a blog at many a site—too many to count now.

I will place below the sub-section of my website dealing with autobiography. These words come from the 4th edition of my website after some 2 and 1/2 years of working on it: 3/'11 to 11/'13. I do htis partly because I am never certain that this website and its contents will not get lost.


"Find me through what I believe in and try to live with " -Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882)

Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society. He disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts is like the man who uses an iron for ironing, but it is an iron which has cooled and it no longer has enough heat to do the job. Such a writer cannot inflame the minds of his audience. Such a writer has enough trouble inflaming his readers, even when he is on heat."-Ron Price with thanks to Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862). To quote Thoreau again: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away that music is.”

We have to create ourselves as a work of art.-Michel Foucault(1926-1984), French philosopher, social theorist, historian of ideas, and literary critic.


Part 1

Readers of my annual letters or emails will certainly come across what I believe in. Readers will also come across what I believe in on my website, and at literally 1000s of internet sites at which I post and interact with others. One of the reasons I took an early retirement in 1999 at the age of 55 was that "the heat was in me," to use the words above of Thoreau. My annual emails from 2011 through to 2015 are found at the links below. I have placed these annual emails in the broader context of: (a) my website and (b) this sub-section of my website on the subject of autobiography for those who are interested. I keep these annual communications, these annual emails, updated from time to time. These emails act, in some ways, as invitations to those who would like to reciprocate, to send me updates on their lives. This, of course, is just an option and is not intended to impose an obligation to reply on the recipients of my annual emails, or on those who come across these annual emails at this, my website. I look forward to hearing from anyone, members of my families, my former and my present affinal families, and my consanguineal family, as well as friends and associations of all kinds who have come into my life in the last 7 decades: October 1943 to February 2015.

These annual emails are sent to friends & family as well as to a wide variety of associations, known and unknown, who have come into my life particularly in the last 17 years during which I have had a website. A whole new readership of my literary products has been acquired after decades of writing before the internet was part of my daily activity. I began writing letters and essays in my late teens, 1962-1964 at the beginning of my travelling-pioneering for the Canadian Bahá'í community; emails started to appear in the last two decades, 1993 to 2013, from my late 40s to my late 60s. Internet posts became part of my literary life, especially in connection with my website, as I say above, as well as at other sites in cyberspace in the last 17 years, from the spring of 1997 in the southern hemisphere, to the southern hemisphere's spring of 2013. I rarely initiate correspondence any more; my letter writing-email writing life is, for the most part, responses to those who write to me. That keeps me busy.

Part 1.1

Anyone wanting to read about the general picture of the goings-on in my life, its activities and engagements, as well as the lives of those central people in my family's inner circle--some of the significant others as they say in psychology--can see this general picture in my three annual messages: one for 2011, one for 2012, and one for 2013. My 2013 annual email is now in its third edition. The third week of October 2013 will have come and gone as of 21/10/'13. Autumn has now completed its first month in the northern hemisphere, and spring its first month in the southern half of the planet. My three annual emails received more than 5000 hits by 1 June 2013, more than I had ever anticipated. On 1 June 2013 I stopped counting the number of those who clicked on my annual emails.

Part 1.2

Having a total of over 5000 hits for my 3 annual emails over the 18 month period, 1/12/'11 to 1/6/'13, is one measure, the main type of internet quantifier, of the extent to which these posts have been clicked-on if not read and, if read, not necessarily in their entirety. Some 5000 hits at sites which had hit-counters, and sites which did not, was plenty of action as far as I was concerned in relation to the readership of my annual emails over 18 months. Still, if I wanted to be famous and rich, I'd pack-up my bags and work in the garden with my wife, do more cooking, watch more TV, and do more socializing. Fame and wealth will always elude me. "Such is life," as the famous or infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly is reported to have said on his way to the gallows in NSW in 1880.


Section 1:

Perhaps as a result of the lingering Symbolist inheritance, the aesthetic notion of most potency in the last 30 years is the idea that the work of art is in some sense about itself. The starting point of the Symbolist movement is the inner vision of the artist. For more, and for a context for this movement go to:

Even in the fine arts, apparently most in love with the visible world, the great painter will be said to paint himself in every portrait. The exquisite old lady reading in a pool of light holds the stillness of Rembrandt himself as he paints, and Velasquez looks back at us through the eyes of a court dwarf.

This self-involvement may all the more readily be found in literature since most poets tend to be experts on themselves. I write all this since my writing is overtly and explicitly, openly and directly, autobiographical. I am drawing here, in this brief analysis and description, on a book review in the London Review of Books, Vol. 6 No. 11, 21 June 1984 by Barbara Everett. Everett is a British academic and literary critic. Her review is of a book by the famous poetry critic, arguably the most famous and erudite of poetry critics now alive, Helen Vendler entitled: The Odes of Keats(Harvard, 1984).

Section 2:

Everette writes: "Outgoing and unegoistic as he was, Keats shows himself in his letters to be endlessly articulate in relation to himself and his writing. Keats's poems, too, can be read as something like works of literary criticism, criticism of self and others, society and peoples' values, beliefs and attitudes, in a word, their philosophy and/or religion. Many critics see his poem: ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’---as the earliest evidence of Keats’s genius. His sonnet treats with Renaissance magnificence that peculiarly modern subject, the poet as reader of poetry.

That remarkable fragment which, only two and a half years after the sonnet, marked the beginning of Keats’s last and ‘living year’, ‘The Eve of St Mark’, could easily be re-titled ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman Reading’. This is because the poem is so suggestively inward and original; its image is of a young person wholly absorbed in a poem, one chilly spring evening in a small country town. This young person is a girl and she sits by the window in an old house trying to catch the dying light---in these words":

With forehead ’gainst the window pane ...
All was silent, all was gloom,
Abroad and in the homely room;
Down she sat, poor cheated soul,
And struck a lamp from the dismal coal,
Leaned forward with bright drooping hair,
And slant book full against the glare.
Her shadow in uneasy guise
Hover’d about, a giant size ...


Samuel Johnson(1709-1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He is also the subject of "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature": James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. Life, for him, hoped to be preparation for a future life: a living for ever by other means. I find this view expresses, in part at least, my own view of life. Such is both my hope and my belief.

One of the most striking things about Samuel Johnson is the depth of his urge towards piety: not spirituality at every moment, but what we might today call ‘mere’ piety. His private diaries are written in the margin of the Christian year: feasts and fast-days provide a grid for his moral thought, his meditations shade into his journal, and anniversaries chime with acts of remembrance and contrition. He was, of course, a good Protestant. As a loyal Church of England man, he became habituated, not just to Anglican rite and usage, but also to the calendar set out at the head of the Prayer Book. He absorbed as second nature the lessons proper for holidays, the proper psalms on certain days, the tables of vigils and days of abstinence. I include this detail about a man who was born nearly two-and-a-half centuries before me. I, too, was a Protestant, and also a member of the Church of England, but only for about one year at the age of 13 or 14 in 1957-8.

At the age of 15, on an autumn day in early October of 1959 I joined the Bahá'í Faith, a religion which claimed to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions. My spiritual autobiography is a bit serendipitous. The engine behind it was curiosity born in skeptical wonder, gradual association, and a certain mystery of attraction. As I moved through the years, I questioned my faith more, not less. Almost all of that questioning concerned whether or not my Bahá'í faith was particularly suited to the institution of the Bahá'í administrative order. This was unsettling in my most difficult of times, and in my first 15 years, from the age of 15 to about 30, I had some difficult times. This Faith has provided the grid for my moral thought, and the Bahá'í teachings come in time and time again at this website. For more on Johnson in the above context go to:


Part 1:

In Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson(Bloomsbury, 872 pages,1996), and in Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist by Anthony Cronin(HarperCollins, 645 pages, 1996) both biographers point out that, in Beckett’s terms, ‘life’ begins before birth. Beckett claimed to have largely disagreeable memories of the pre-natal period. According to Peggy Guggenheim, he ‘retained a terrible memory of life in his mother’s womb’. References to the pre-natal condition abound in his work, between them Knowlson and Cronin list: Murphy, All that Fall, Company, the poem ‘Sanies 1’. Yet, however unpleasant life had been in the womb, it is as nothing compared with the catastrophe of birth.

This is a view Beckett shares with Job, Sophocles, and Schopenhauer whose remarks on the ‘crime of having been born’ are reproduced almost verbatim in Beckett’s early essay on Proust and Nietzsche. This essay appeared in the fable at the beginning of the Birth of Tragedy, according to which the ‘best’ is ‘never to have been born’; and the second best is to die quickly. Beckett gives a novel twist to this venerable tradition by extending the curse from birth to conception in Murphy. Neary curses first the day he was born, then, ‘in a bold flashback’, the night he was conceived. There is also Molloy’s bracing observation, to the effect that the ante-natal period was ‘the only endurable, just endurable, period of my enormous history’. In their trawls through the literary after-life of Beckett’s ruminations on the pre-natal, both Cronin and Knowlson omit Molloy’s resumé of his ‘life’ from their lists. Perhaps the reason for this is that, taken seriously in relation to Beckett, it would not leave much of a story to tell.

Part 2:

I have included the above, not because I have any memories of my pre-natal 9-months life beginning at conception, nor of my neo-natal life, the first weeks after my birth but, rather, because my mother nearly died giving me birth. Giving birth to me was one of the crises of her life. In her more difficult moments in life, and on some occasions of serious reflection on the state of the world, she said she often wished I had not been born. My mother told me, though, before she died in 1978 at the age of 74, that in the first month after birth she got down on her knees and said to God: "If you heal me, I will give my son to You."

My first memory was when I was nearly four years old. Toddlerhood(1-3) was behind me, and some difficult emotional life according to the son of my mother's sister who told me, when he was in his 70s, that I had often been a difficult child for my mother to deal with. I was in the early years of early childhood(2 to 7) when what became my first memory took place. It was making a mud-pie in the early spring of 1948.

Part 3:

It has become part of conventional thinking that the early socialization of a child has an important role in determing the overall life-trajectory, the total life experience of a person over the lifespan. I have written a brief statement and analysis of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood to provide some explanatory framework for my life. In some of my childhood years and adolescence, the ages 9 to 19, and the first decade of my young adulthood, 20 to 30, the years 1953 to 1975, the seeds of a divine knowledge were sown in the soil of my heart. It was a heart which had its pure parts and, certainly by the age of 30, its share of impure elements, loves of various kinds that inclined me to ere in my ways. For many reasons I kept that divine knowledge hidden, at least mostly, due to the disinterest of those around me in the content of that divine knowledge. Perhaps that knowledge was also kept hidden from others, as well as myself, by those mysterious dispensations of Providence and my own incapacities.

Part 4:

GLUCK AND ME: 1963 to 2013

Two Different Leagues in the Sea of Poetry

Part 4.1:

As far back as I can remember, and my memories go back to the late 1940s when I was still in early childhood usually defined by developmental psychologists as the time period from the age of two until at least the age of five years, I have found that the people in my life had a wide-range of attitudes to, and beliefs about, me. This is a common human experience, is hardly surprising, and should not raise any eyebrows.

In the last 30 years, 1983 to 2013, years during which I have had my poetry and prose published, this same range of appreciations exist: from high praise, to intense criticism and dislike, to outright indifference.

In the last 24 hours I came across the poetry of Louise Gluck and found a similar range of reactions to her work. This prose-poem is about the reactions of others to both her life and work, and the reactions of others to mine.

Part 4.2:

“A Glück poem is determined to wrest meaning from circumstance, to force a pattern over the chaos of a lived life.” So writes Irish poet and novelist, Nick Laird(1975- ), about the poetry of Louise Gluck, and so I could write in the same vein about some of the purpose of my own prose-poetic output over the last thirty years.

Gluck wrote, in her introduction to The Best American Poetry 1993, “poems are autobiography, but divested of the trappings of chronology and comment, the metronomic alternation of anecdote and response.”1 In the case of my poetry, though, the trappings of chronology and comment are part and parcel of my modus operandi and style.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Nick Laird, “The Triumph of the Survivor”, a review of Louise Glück’s Poems 1962-2012 in The New York Review of Books, 21/3/’13.

Part 4.3: Louise Elisabeth Glück was born 15 months before I was not that far as the crow flies---on this planet that is gravitating slowly into a neighborhood---from where I was born. We both belong to that generation ‘the-war-babies’. She is an American poet and has been publishing her poetry since 1968. I had hardly scratched the surface of my poetic life by 1968, but I had begun to have the kind of experiences that, in part, led to the kind of poetry that was the Gluck trademark: suffering, depression and alienation. My experiences, my philosophy, my religion, my poetry went in very different directions.

This most famous of modern American poets was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2003, after serving as a Special Bicentennial Consultant three years prior in 2000. I am not in Louise’s poetic league having only published poetry on the internet for the last decade: 2003 to 2013. My fame is measured in nanoseconds across the 200 to 300 million websites, and their 2 to 3 billion users. Gluck’s fame is measured across more than 40 years of publications, as well as the praise, the opinions, and opprobrium of many. My writing shares some similarities to her style and content, but we are very different people and poets.

Part 4.4:

The fragmentation of your work hints
at a mind trying to order itself…wrest
meaning from circumstance, & that’s(1)
what I’ve been trying to do for years!!

Our poetic works record a movement
from emotional instability to regained
control, and so much else. My poetry,
too, is self-centred, often colloquial &
in an idiom of ordinary speech. I write
of both a fallen world as well as a new
one that is embryonic, just been born:
an embryogenesis, vivid planetization,
globalization...a sense & sensibility of
one world, one humanity, one religion.

(1) Few poets have sounded as depressed or as alienated as Gluck; poetry and the visionary are intertwined; part of her impetus is Greek and Roman mythology; she writes poetry that leads readers to their inner world; it is poetry that uses straightforward language and can be understood by readers; it is close to the diction of ordinary speech, but it is far from colloquial. Her poetry is self-centred and comes directly from her life, her losses and tragedies, her inner life. She is the poet of a fallen world. Her work explores the agony of the self, failed love-affairs and existential despair.-Ron Price with thanks to Poetry Foundation:

Part 4.5:

In Brian Henry’s review of The Seven Ages (2001) by Louise Glück in Contemporary Poetry Review, entitled “Louise Gluck’s Monumental Narcissism”, 8 July 2003, he writes: “Very few lives are interesting, and even fewer are sufficiently interesting to spawn nine books of autobiographical poetry. Louise Glück’s life might be richer than most, but in her continued fetishization of her life and her self--not the self that eats and sleeps and pays bills, but “Louise Glück The Poet” self--she demonstrates a disconcerting inability to find her way out of the cul-de-sac of subjectivity.”

“She has forgotten how to imagine, or even re-imagine, her life. Instead, she looks upon her past in The Seven Ages (2001) and assumes it’s of interest solely because she is Louise Glück. Only poets accustomed to thinking of themselves as Poets would try to get away with this. In The Seven Ages Glück views herself not as a person but as a protagonist, the world not as a place but as a stage, as Shakespeare did in his “all the world’s a stage.”

Whether or not this introspection is the result of years of psychoanalysis, the posturing becomes tedious. Increasingly at an imaginative loss, Glück mines her private life in a way both exhibitionist and narcissistic.(1) Part 4.6:

Is my poetry a form of exhibitionism
as it solicits interest? Is it narcissistic
as it presumes the interest?.....Is it a
brand of obsessive self-reflection or
self-love? Has its very self-scrutiny
become ridiculous in a perseverance,
and cavalier in a set of assumptions?

Are these poems just a memoir?
I use this genre to try to explain
my life…explore my experience.
Does my writing depend on my
identity to be interesting?....My
poems are successful to me but
only, I’m sure, to a few readers.

My poetry is, it seems to me, a
matter of a certain marketing: is
this art? Well, it is to me, and a
few others who read my work.

My poems embrace spheres well
beyond the self, transforming my
life into a rich imaginative realm
which illuminates the vast field of
the psycho-emotional, and in the
process constructing as I travel
this literary road: a life, society,
a religion, a cosmology, & even
a raison d'etre for my very being.

Part 4.7:

(1) Brian Henry has published poetry and criticism in numerous magazines around the world including: the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Harvard Review, The Paris Review, The Yale Review, American Poetry Review, New American Writing, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, Stand, Overland, and Threepenny Review. His first book of poetry, Astronaut, appeared recently in the UK and in Slovenia in translation. Astronaut was published in 2000 in the US by Carnegie Mellon University Press. His second book, Graft, was published in 2003 by New Issue Press and by Arc in England. He has edited the international magazine Verse since 1995, and was a Fulbright scholar in Australia in 1997-98, where he was Poetry Editor of Meanjin. He teaches at the University of Georgia.

Ron Price


As we examine our lives we have often ignored those small creatures who do not seem to hold out much scholarly promise as we have defined the ethnographic imagination. At a theoretical level babies constitute for most of us a non-subject, occupying negative space that is virtually impervious to the anthropological gaze. Moreover, those studies that do privilege infants have been sidelined from mainstream conversations in cultural anthropology. Infants still occupy a marginal place in academic literature and in autobiographies early childhood usually gets only a passing nod while middle and late childhood get a more deserving place. The ethnography, the study of infants is still in its infancy.

Discussion of the social matrix of children’s lives appears to be developing rapidly in several fields of the social and behavioural sciences. From the early work of Philip Aries in 1962, history and sociology are especially fertile grounds and signal encouraging paths for emerging discussions of children as culturally situated. Developmental psychologists routinely define ‘‘infancy’’ rather strictly as the period encompassing birth to the onset of ‘‘toddlerhood,’’ which in their definitions normatively ends at the age of three. The transition from the end of the second year to the beginning of the third is taken by psychologists as a benchmark of the latest date at which the young child begins to understand and respond to linguistic communication and can walk effectively without constantly falling. I will include more here about this part of my life, given its crucial importance.

CHAPTER 6:Part 1:


Section 1:

There are a myriad notions of community that lie behind my activity in cyberspace. The Aristotelian idea of community understandably approved the classical duty incumbent on men no less to love others than themselves. Not all philosophers saw community as Aristotle (384-322 BC) did. Machiavelli(1469-1527), the Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance, was very pessimistic about human nature and, consequently, about community. Others, philosophers and thinkers of many ilks, saw people as naturally induced to seek communion and fellowship with others. Some thinkers are optimistic souls, some pessimistic, some practical realists, some utopian. Each thinker and philosopher has their own take on things, their take on human nature and existential reality, their take on the nature of community and the individual. Of course, this is just saying the obvious.

Section 1.1:

Michel de Montaigne(1533-1592), one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre, and commonly thought of as the father of modern skepticism, echoed an Aristotelian perspective. "There is nothing for which nature seems to have given us such a bent as for society," he assured his readers. Aristotle wrote that good lawgivers have paid more attention to friendship than to justice. Friendship is the "peak" of a "perfect society." (Montaigne, Essays, pp. 92-3). In these secular terms, friendship was generally esteemed. Etienne de la Boetie(1530-1563), a French judge, writer, anarchist, and one of the founders of modern political philosophy in France, advised that "our nature is such that the common duties of friendship consume a good portion of our lives" (Charier, A History of Private Life, p. 21).

Section 1.2:

The idea of "duty" is important in many conceptions of friendship. For many, the idea of friendship was immediately idealised, in classical terms, as a matter of responsibility to fellow members of the community. In his Book of the Governor, Sir Thomas Elyot(1490-1546) defined the good magistrate as one who was a "plain and unfeigned friend." The secular aspect was, then, intimately related to classical models of public and civic association. James Harrington(1611-1677), an English political theorist best known for his controversial work, The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656). described friendship more in terms of agricultural settlement and rural life than in terms of ideals of Roman civic governance. His views were firmly based on received models of citizen "virtue." Indeed, as John Pocock(1924- ), a writer and historian of political thought, noted, the importance of Oceana lies precisely in its translation of classical ideas of association into a world determined by the jurisprudence of the common law.

Since many readers who come to this sub-section of my autobiography come here as 'friends' from a multitude of internet sites at which I post, you might enjoy a book published in 2006 by one of the English speaking world's finest essayists, Joseph Epstein. The book is entitled: Friendship: An Expose. This is a rambling, shambling, highly personal survey of a universal relationship. It is a relationship whose fluidity and changing nature---through history and through the stages of a single life---make it rich pickings for an erudite essayist of Mr. Epstein’s caliber. A review of that book is found at this link at The New York Times:


The following paragraphs deal with my annual email to family and friends, an email which links my life with anyone in cyberspace who wants to keep up-to-date on my life. These annual emails also deal with the micro-community which comprises the significant individuals in my family life. Many successful and oft' frequented sites, as well as many internet entrepreneurs, moderators, and administrators, in addition to a host of others, aim at a maximization of their readership through a range of what some call search engine optimization techniques. In the process many get millions of hits, and millions of readers. If I was into popularity, fame and wealth, I'd pack up and invest my time in other activities than writing. Realising that fame, celebrity status and wealth will always elude me, I write for many other reasons having to do with things like: the sheer pleasure of writing, the desire to communicate with others, my general health problems which limit my physical activity and socializing, and a host of other reasons, reasons I write about at many places in cyberspace, both on this my website and at dozens of sites in cyberspace. Although I am not into popularity, I now have millions of readers in cyberspace due to my internet efforts.

The first edition of my online annual email for 2011-2012 will have been in cyberspace for four years by 1 December 2015. I have kept it accessible to readers at this link: That first annual email, or letter, for the year 2011 was a survey of my activities and those of some, but not all, of my family members. I have had three families in my life: one consanguineal, that is birth family, and two affinal families, families by marriage. The 2nd edition of that online annual email was written as both a survey of 2011, and an introduction to the up-coming year 2012. That 2nd edition can be found at the following link; it is an upate of the activities of 'the significant-others' in my life, a term used in psychology, as I have already indicated. I use it for certain family members: The three families to which I refer in the above paragraph are, for the most part, absent in this autobiography. There are literally dozens of people on these three family trees going back to, say, the 1740s. Only a small handful of any of these people even rate a mention in this quite sharply focussed work.

Section 2.1:

My first annual email for 2012-2013 is found at: .....All three of my annual emails can sometimes, but not always, be found at Concept Art at: The site 'Concept-Art' does what you might call housekeeping from time to time and shuts-down access to the generality of its online activity. The third edition of my annual email for 2013-2014, an email which does NOT contain an update on the significant others in my life, is now available at the following link: Readers, then, have several options if they want to connect with my annual emails in the years 2011 to 2015.

The information contained in my annual emails is not intended to be confidential. This annual missive, a type of report, does not need to be protected by privacy acts or any other legal rules. The retention, dissemination, distribution or copying of this epistolary note is not strictly prohibited. I place a link to it in cyberspace at my website for ease of access by readers since it provides a personal aspect to my website, a website which already has a strong autobiographical flavour.

What makes my thoughts my thoughts? One answer is that I have what philosophers sometimes call “privileged access” to them. This means at least two things. First, I access them in a way others cannot. Even if others could walk a mile in my shoes, others can’t know what and how I feel in the same way I can: I see me and my thoughts from the inside so to speak. Second, I can, at least sometimes, control what others know about my thoughts. I can hide my true feelings from others, or I can let others have the key to my heart. For more on the issue of privacy, freedom and authority go to this link:

To be an autonomous person is to be capable of having privileged access, in the two senses defined above, to information about my psychological profile: my hopes and dreams, my beliefs and fears, inter alia. A capacity for privacy is a necessary condition of autonomous personhood. I only let some of the cats of my bag, so to speak. Readers can read about the cats I do let out: (i) in these 3 annual emails, and (ii) in the form of what are now some 60 books at my website at 80,000 words per book. This is to say nothing of the several million words that I have now posted across some of the 1 billion sites where more than 2 billion readers are found as of the beginning of the second decade of this 21st century.

Section 2.2:

I have been writing an annual communication to friends and family since 1967 when I left southern Ontario for Baffin Island. I grew up in a part of Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. At the age of 18 I began my pioneering-travelling life for the Canadian Bahá'í community and moved to several places in that Golden Horseshoe before I married and went to live on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. In late August 1967, in the first two weeks of my first marriage, I went to live in Frobisher Bay at the southern end of Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world.

Since 1967, some 48 years ago, I have been writing to friends and family most years, but not to everyone in my family and not to all my friends. There were people, both in my family and among my friends, who liked to write and our correspondence became more regular. Some of these people only wrote a paragraph or two each year; others wrote a page or more, and a small handful wrote, like me, a great deal.

Beginning in December 2011 I placed my annual email, the annual update on my personal life with some comments on society, at 3 internet sites. At two of these sites I had been posting my writing for several years. At one of the sites my writing was posted infrequently. Readers click on whichever site and thread they like if, indeed, they want to do any clicking and reading of my annual emails.

Section 2.3:

In placing this annual email online as well as having a website, I follow the advice of that encyclopaedic British historian Arnold Toynbee (1898-1975), whom I began reading while at university in the 1960s during my 2nd year in a history and philosophy major. Toynbee wrote that: "It is a paradoxical, but profoundly true and important, principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it." I leave it to readers who come to this site to work out some of my many and more ambitious goals beyond what may be obvious here, beyond what I write here, both in this section of my website and in its entire compositions. Some of my goals will be obvious to readers, and some may be as obscure to them as they are to me. Section 3: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FOCUS

The autobiographical focus at my website is obvious to any reader who spends much time at my site, a site I have now had for the last 18 years. My website is now more than 4 years, into its 4th edtion. This 4th edition opened on 21/3/'11, 'went live' as my website design company put it. I recommend that anyone not wanting to receive my annual emails or posts, the ones found at the above links, simply delete them from their mail box, if I send it/the link to them. It goes without saying, of course, that those who are not interested in these annual communications, and to whom I do not send them personally, will simply not click on the above links.

At my website I try to make of myself: a person, a character, one that is a much more fully contextualized person than the typical one found at SNS like Facebook or, indeed, the millions of other sites where people write and interact with others. I have provided a more fully detailed and outlined, contextualized and described person since I began writing seriously in cyberspace more than a decade ago. That context was built over the years 2003 to 2015 in cyberspace; it was built on a foundation of some two decades of my published writing from 1983 to 2003. It was also built on another two to three decades before 1983 when I wrote essays and letters, poems and an assortment of pieces on the Bahá'í Faith and a host of other subjects for teachers and students, professors and lecturers, as well as the print and electronic media.


I wrote essays, first for teachers and lecturers, professors and and students(in the 1950s and 1960s)---and then for newspapers and magazines, journals and various inhouse and community newsletters(in the 1970s and 1980s). I have been involved in these various forms of writing since my adolescence and early adulthood, ostensibly, to let others know “where I am coming from," as they say these days, among other reasons. I shape the “I” in my writing through a range of techniques and skills, literary crafts and practices. Reading my work demands of readers a constant choice between two equally compelling personal portraits: a Ron Price who is a little raw and vulnerable as well as moderately confessional; and a Ron Price who is somewhat calculating, a little theatrical, and---to use a phrase I sometimes like to apply to my prose--totally in control.

To put this another way: there's a trembling quality to my literary and public self, a misleading fragility that acts as the surface tension to whatever depths that exist in my inner and private self. But I do not have the problem a novelist has and which one famous writer expressed thus: "All novel writing in relation to character is a presumption since no one knows what it is like to be another human being." My writing is just about entirely autobiographical like my maternal grandfather's. I don't have to force it as some writers do; there is no agony and self-flagellation, but there is some compulsion, some obsessiveness.

For me there are several places where I transcend the tribalism in society and its daily politics: one is through my writing, and the other is through the internationalism of my religion. I try to avoid preachiness, the self-righteous tone, and the making of my knowledge the annoying knowingness that I so often find in other writers and individuals in the daily round. From 1949 to 1999, from the age of 5 to 55, I chose ordinary human entanglement in real life, largely I think in retrospect, to deal with school and family, friends and jobs, community and society. On retirement, though, in my mid-50s, I reinvented myself and chose a virtually exclusive devotion of my time to the literary arts.


The world has had, and now has, some fine essayists. I am not in the same league as the finest, but they set the bar for me. An essay is an experiment, not a credo. It is something made up in response to an excited imagination; it is a short story told in the form of an argument or a history or even, once in a very great while, an illumination. These are not my words, but the words of Cynthia Ozick, one of the many fine essayists whom I have come to read in these years of my retirement without 60 to 70 hours a week of job, family and community responsibilities breathing down my neck. I don't mean to imply that job, family and community were not good for me. I would not want to have missed that half century of wall-to-wall people, say, 1949 to 1999, for the world. But now that those 5 decades are gone another me has emerged and is emerging.

There are many writers capable of creating those glittering and bewitching contraptions, pieces of prose, known as essays. It has taken me many years to come up with a short list of the best, at least the best from my point of view, of the myriad people who now write, and who once wrote essays. This is only one literary form; the world is now the home of a pantheon of literary forms which will keep me happily occupied until the roll is called-up to the proverbial "yonder."


Part 1:

We are all dwelling in cyberspace, coursing through the wires, becoming cyborg and becoming human, alone at the keyboard, together online. We are subjects of a realm which offers new ways of envisioning Self & Other. Cyberspace is a type of parallel universe where a global cyberculture is in the process of creation. Cyberculture is devoted to an examination of the new subjectivities and collectivities that are emerging. As a member of this new technological society I am interested in the cultural, political, philosophical, psychological, and sociological issues engendered, on all levels of the social. Of course, it must be remembered that over half the world's peoples have no access to this new technology as I write these words in October 2013.

The spectacular introduction of what are called the new technologies into the production, diffusion, distribution and consumption of cultural commodities, of which literary works of all kinds are but one of these commodities, is in the process of transforming culture. This is true, as I say, of the culture within which I live and have my being, but it is not yet true for all the peoples of the world in our planetary culture. This process, this transformation, was beginning to occur just as I retired from a half century student-employment life, 1949 to 1999. The result is that, for me, reinvented as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, scholar and reader, online blogger and journalist, in the years 1999 to 2013, I was able to find literally millions of readers. The Latin expression "mirabile dictu" applies to my online experience; I learned the phrase in high school Latin more than 50 years ago, and I leave it to readers with the interest to Google it, as they say more and more these days.

Part 2:

The categorization, classification, and analysis of my new roles is partly the result of observation of the visual scene in my study, my being in this place at a series of times, & partly the result of this personalized report on my life. Being somewhat of an amateur sociologist and cultural anthropologist, I could say the following about a series of personal observations of life in my study from 1999 to 2013. These are my observations and they have resulted in what sociologists call ethnographic vignettes. The language used by sociologists is often somewhat obscure, as you will see in the following lines:

"These observations and the resulting vignettes are accounts of a series of observations made over the course of time. The visual order in which my observations are embedded is a linguistic order. This is especially true for a writer and author, poet and publisher like myself. This linguistic order that I use is the basis of my role categorization. My ongoing activities of observation, and categorization, produce a visual scene which is linguistically constituted and linguistically organized from within. The result is a categorial order which is realized, just to reiterate, via my observation of the visual scene. Such considerations have a general relevance for sociology because sociologists approach visual settings as members of the self-same society they study, using the same common-sense methods that other society-members use."

The above ten lines are typical of the language found in sociology and cultural anthropology; for most people, such language obscures rather than clarifies and turns them off, rather than on, to these academic disciplines. Not all of the language of sociology and cultural anthropology is obscure and difficult, but readers who enter these fields need to be warned of the language problems should they enter their waters.

Part 3:

Time is a created thing. To say: "I don't have time," is to say: "I don't want to."--Lao Tzu, O Magazine, Jan. 2007. Lao Tzu lived in the 6th century BC. He was, and is, the founder of philosophical Taoism, pronounced "Daoism." In relation to virtually all of the following categories of incoming posts, these words of Lao Tzu apply to my reason for not responding in writing to these requests and invitations, except on rare occasions when for some reason, out of courtesy or necessity, I actually do want to. With 200 emails coming in everyday to my inbox, and from the many internet sites to which I belong, I have become highly selective in so far as to whom I respond. I am also selective and cautious insofar as: when, why and how I respond.

Part 3.1:

I want to thank Jenna Wortham for her article "Facebook Made Me Do It" in The New York Times, 15 June, 2013. Jenna Wortham is a technology reporter for The New York Times. She covers the world of the internet and digital culture, mobile communication and digital convergence. She writes on internet technology scene for the Bits Blog, and does feature-length pieces for many productions in the print media. Her stories focus on novel ways consumers are using technology in order to enhance their daily lives; she also focuses on emerging Internet-based business models, and the personalities shaping this new and vast start-up industry.

In that article, as the winter of 2013 in Australia was about to begin, Wortham wrote about what she called the feedback-loop of positive reinforcement that is at the centre of social media sites like Facebook. She says that this feedback loop is part of, if not the key, to the addictive element of social media. All the tweets and retweets, the likes and favorites, the I poke-you and jokes, give millions a little daily boost that pushes them to keep coming back for more.

I am not into this sort of posting, nor am I into the typical social media fodder of lush vacation pictures & engagement announcements, the 'I like this' and 'I don't like that' sort of thing, or: 'here is a picture of me and my dog' or 'here I am with my son Harold', nor do I venture into realms that showcase my most daredevilish antics and risqué behavior. I use social media to showcase my writing; I use sites like Facebook, among a host of other locations in cyberspace, to market my literary wares and get more readers. Writers like to have readers in similar ways that talkers like to have listeners.

Part 3.2:

In the popular imagination, the internet is conceptualised as an environment that, at its best, functions as a repository of knowledge that provides an educational benefit. It allows the user to develop skills that facilitate expansion of knowledge and social and civic involvement. Lack of access to the internet is justifiably equated with exclusion. Some are aware and feel this exclusion; some are happy to be excluded since they have no desire to use the internet. Some wish they had access to cyberspace and much of the affluence of western & developed countries.

Access to the internet, though, is not synonymous with possessing the skills to use the technology effectively. The gap between the potential of online interaction for education and learning, & the actual way in which people use the internet is wide. This is obvious through examining patterns of internet use. A fairly conservative pattern of use, not surprisingly, is primarily defined by pre-existing interests and preferences. The huge diversity of possible activities and contents is only slowly being taken-up. The familiar use and practices in cyberspace tend to involve: (i) television programmes and popular music groups, (ii) sport and fun, (iii) entertainment and game-playing, (iv) jokes and trivia, and (v) sending aphorisms from religion and philosophy, psychology and popular culture, among a host of entertaining rather than educational subjects and activities.

Part 3.3:

The growing collective compulsion to document our lives and share them online, combined with the instant gratification that comes from seeing something we are doing or thinking, believing or experiencing, gets a near-immediate approval from others online. Our documents, our posts, also get plenty of disapproval and indifference; they are, perhaps, mostly ignored and criticized, without our even knowing it. Such is the price a writer pays for popularity: vast quantities of indifference and being ignored. In a space, the internet, with more than 3 billion users at last count, all a writer ever gets is a small slice of the potential readership cake.

The result, though, for many writers like me, is a vast amplification of their actual readership. Portions of the swarms, the billions, who occupy the interstices of cyberspace can be accessed. A single person like me can and does reach millions in ways that I never dreamed possible before the world-wide-web really took off in the early years of the 21st century. Most people, who use sites like Facebook, have a small circle of family and friends whom they wind-tightly around themselves. Such people make a small personal and friendly world that they can call their own. This raises the stakes for all online activity whether one's circle is small, as is the case for most or, whether one's circle is large as is the case with a relative few, or whether one's circle is vast, as is the case with my online publishing and many other writers who now utilize the benefits of cyberspace to acquire readers.

Part 3.4:

I am my own publisher and editor, marketing man and publicist. I could use a graphic design person with extensive IT skills, and even one or two people to assist with my search engine optimization activity, which is one of the terms for one's own marketing & publicity work. I do the whole ball-game of getting my writing out to readers by myself. In the end I only have to please myself while aiming, with one eye on my vast readership, to find a place in the minds and hearts, emotions and imaginations, memories and souls of my readers.

The process involved in my online writing has been taking place since the inception of my website in cyberspace in 1997. This process has many features, one of which is performative, and is based on the power of social approval. Sharing content and interacting with others online feels like I'm taking part in a vast collective, even if I am at home alone, as I am now in my retirement years, near the age of 70, and with an empty nest. There is now, and since the early years of the 21st century, only my wife with me around the house to share in my most important personal and real-life micro-world. I do a little socializing most days but it is rarely more than about one hour. The endless meetings and wall-to-wall people who filled my life for decades has now been reduced to rare occasions. I keep it that way for many reasons of health and hygiene, personal proclivity and the literary activities associated with my new roles, the reinvention of myself in these years of my late adulthood--as I head to the age of 70 in less than 3 weeks.

Part 3.5:

Writers & authors, poets & publishers like me get a lot of motivation out of knowing that other people will respond to what they are publishing online. Knowing, as I do, that hundreds of thousands and, since about 2009 when I went on 2 old-age pensions at the age of 65, that literally millions can see what I'm writing is a very powerful motivator. The popularity of my writing exists because of social media and the Internet. But my popularity, like anyone's, needs to be placed in a context; I do that here in this autobiography sub-section of my website.

When one exists, when one's writing exists, in a place like the internet with its 3 billion users, 1 billion sites, some 100 billion webpages, and 200 billion posts, emails, & messages sent everyday----popularity is a relative term....99.9% of those who use the world-wide-web do not know me and will never read my writing. But .1% is 1/1000th of 3 billion and that makes 3 million readers, and .01% is 1/10,000th of 3 billion, or 300,000 readers. That, of course, is a very rough guesstimation and, when one is dealing with these sorts of numbers in cyberspace, it all becomes somewhat mind-numbing, and irrelevant beyond a certain point.

Part 3.6:

The inscriptions left on rocks in the desert for thousands of years, during the hunting and gathering stage of human, of cultural, evolution are, to some extent, "the Facebook-wall & the great abyssal region of cyberspace, the internet, of an earlier era in human communication. It's a kind of geoliterature left in place for others to discover,” as one recent writer put it. Those inscriptions were and are relatively rare; whereas, all this Facebook and internet, twitter and cyberspace, fodder is like a great avalanche, a Niagara Falls of stuff that will keep future historians and analysts, literary archeologists and critics busy in perpetuity making some meaning out of it all.

Petroglyphs, also called rock engravings, are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found world-wide, and are often associated with the prehistoric peoples of the hunting and gathering phase of evolution which can be studied in cultural anthropology. The word comes from the Greek words petro-, theme of the word "petra" meaning "stone", and glyphein meaning "to carve", and was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe.

I leave my literary petroglyphs all across cyberspace for future cultural anthropologists and scholars of all types for whom my writing holds some interest. If, indeed, any such students of history and writing can be found who do take some interest in my literary effusions, I will be more than pleased. Of course, by then I will be long gone from this mortal coil, and it is quite possible I will take no interest in what happens to the products of my pen. During my short stay on this earth, and my even shorter stay in cyberspace, I will have written many millions of words which, I am given to understand, will last well into the future after I am gone. Just how interested or uninterested I will be as I am "pushing up the daisies" as they say colloquially, I have no idea. It is difficult to assess just what the nature of one's experience is beyond the grave, assuming that one experiences anything at all.

Part 4:

I have written this 150 thousand-plus word response, in the paragraphs above and below to the many who send me messages. I have written it into some 50 sub-sections over the 36 month period 3/12/'12 to 3/12/'15. I have addressed this statement: (i) to the many people making requests and sending me invitations to comment on their posts at SNS, (ii) to the multitude of requests and invitations I get from people at other sites where I have registered in the years: 1997 to 2013, (iii) to the many people who send me unsolicited emails on a host of topics and issues, concerns and interests, and (iv) to the many people, mostly women, seeking a relationship of some kind: romantic or sexual, a partner or a soul-mate, a date or a dalliance.

My main aim in writing this lengthy piece, as I say, in the above paragraphs and those below is to indicate, directly or indirectly, to those who send me messages, why I do not respond to their posts. Occasionally, of course, I do reply to their messages, especially to old friends, and many others in situations of extreme distress, or when the context of the incoming message, after a little reflection, seems to warrant my response. Cyberspace, in some ways, is like real space. We each decide, after a little or a lot of reflection: what to do, what to say, and even what we should feel and imagine. If I tried to reply to everyone who wrote to me, then, that is all I would do all day long and every day.

Part 4.1:

During these last 18 years: (a) I have retired from FT and PT paid employment, and most casual-volunteer work; (b) I have reinvented myself as a writer & author, poet & publisher, online journalist and blogger, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, as well as my own office-assistant, CEO, and cleaner; (c) I have had a website which functions as the hub for my online writing and publishing, as well as the general marketing and promotion of my writing; and (d) I have registered at more than 8000 internet sites where several million people are registered. I post my writing, and respond to the posts of others, at several 1000 sites in cyberspace. My responses, though, I keep as limited as possible in order that I can spend my time in writing, in personal literally work. I could spend virtually all my time, as I say above, responding to others; in the process, I would be taxing my limited faculties. I would also not be engaging in the creative writing that is important to me and now occupies a good deal of my time in the evening of my life.

Part 4.2:

My personal website is now more than 4 years into its 4th edition. I began my consultation with the web design company, Define Studio, in Mosman NSW in September 2010. This consultation took six months of email exchanges and telephone calls to finally determine the exact layout of my site before "going live" to use their term. By the 21st century, in 2001, I was sent some 200 emails and posts from various sites and points on the internet every day. These emails and posts were and are sent directly and indirectly to me, mostly unsolicited, with a request or invitation to do something. This request is sometimes indirect and sometimes direct. In nearly all these cases, at least as few as possible by 2013, I do not respond in writing. Part of the reason, if not the main one, why I get such a host of emails is my relatively high profile in cyberspace with millions of my words, and 1000s of my posts, spread across more than 8000 sites.

Having a high profile on the internet, of course, is a relative term in a space that, as of 2013, had 1 billion sites and 2 to 3 billion users. As I say above, 1/100th of 1% of 3 billion readers is 300 thousand readers. I have given-up trying to count the number of readers I have who take a look at some of my literary wares. This is not to say that I am not more than pleased to have 100s of 1000s, or millions, of readers. I get dozens, indeed, 100s and 1000s of requests and invitations over the years. They come in, directly and indirectly, invited and uninvited, and I am asked to do things. There are many reasons for these requests and invitations, and they come in in many different ways, in more ways they I could ever have imagined when this process began back in those fin de siecle years of the 1990s.

I have categorized these different ways, these different forms of requests for comment and response, under some 40 separate, individual, headings below. They are outlined below, in a post, a thread, indeed, a type of essay or report that is quite long. This essay-report will be far too long for most readers who come to this part of my website. To readers who prefer the short & pithy, Facebook style, posts, I encourage you to skim or scan the following outline. Of course, you can just stop reading now; that goes without saying. For many to stop reading would be best because the following is a lengthy and detailed exploration and explanation of why I do not send responses to just about everyone who writes to me these days. But, if you have some curiosity as to why I rarely respond in writing to the plethora of posts that come my way on a daily basis, then read on to your heart's content.

Part 4.3:

When a person is registered at over 8000 websites, as I am, sites whose membership totals several million, there are an inevitable batch of daily emails and posts that come in from these sites. This is to say nothing of the posts that come in from sites at which I am not registered, and from individuals who, for some reason or another, want to contact me. The vast majority of these individuals I do not know and, indeed, I have never had contact with in any way. I am quite happy not to know these people personally or my life would be an inundation. I have had my years of social inundation. I am now enjoying and looking forward to a much more solitary life with little of the wall-to-wall people that were part and parcel of my student, my employment, and my social-community life from, say, 1949 to 2009, when I went on two old-age pensions at the age of 65. I use the internet, in the main, like a library and only, to a far-lesser extent, to publish my writing-----and even to a far-far lesser extent to send little emails and posts to people at sites like Facebook, or the 1000s of other sites at which I write, post my writing in cyberspace, and interact as little as possible.

Due to the millions of words and 1000s of posts I now have in cyberspace, though, I am sent all sorts of messages. Although I now have a life characterized in the main by solitude, I have become, ironically in some ways, more known than I ever was before the age of 65. This is due to the internet and cyberspace, and the reinvention of myself as writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online blogger and journalist, with the equivalent of 60 to 80 books on the world-wide-web and their millions of words at 1000s of websites. Although I am known to a much wider audience or readership than I ever was before the age of 65, I keep that readership, that audience, at a psychological as well as physical distance or my days would have continued to be, as I say above, an inundation.

Part, indeed nearly all, of the over 200 emails and posts that come in daily, must be deleted, and/or ignored. This only takes no more than five minutes, especially if one has, as I do, a spam filter, and a bin for useless posts. The few incoming posts that need to be answered personally, need to be separated from the unimportant. This process is not always simple and, when simple, it is not necessarily easy. Generally, though, I have the sifting process down to only a few minutes each day. The written responses, of course, take longer. As far as possible, though, my writing and my reading involves as little time as possible when dealing with my email world with the exception, as I say, to the few emails which require a more considered response on my part.

Part 4.4:

In these years of being on an old-age pension, and being retired from FT, PT and most volunteer-work, the years from 2009 to 2013, I have reinvented myself, as I say above, as: a writer and author, poet and publisher, on line journalist and blogger, editor and researcher, scholar and reader. As I have also indicated in several places on my website, I am my own receptionist and office-assistant, CEO and cleaner. I have limited my social life to an average of less that one hour each day, although my wife occupies a position at the centre of my existence and social life, not only in the 12 hours I am not in bed, but also in the 12 hours that I am. In 2013 we finally acquired separate beds. They are side-by side, as my parents were when I was growing-up in Ontario, and living at home from the early-1940s to the early-1960s. Perhaps twice a month that one hour of social interaction per day---is extended to three. Due to the medication I take for my bipolar I disorder, I go to bed after these few hours, & leave my wife to deal with the social responsibilities involved with whoever has come to visit: family members or friends, one or more others, associations of all sorts, or members of the Bahá'í community. Bahá'ís visit us from our northern cluster, the sector of the Tasmanian Bahá'í community into which it is divided for administrative and community reasons, and from other parts of Tasmania, or from Australia's mainland.

I have been associated with the Bahá'í community now for more than 60 years: 1953 to 2015, but no longer take part in the lengthy talk-fests that once characterized my life in the many Bahá'í communities where I lived from the 1950s to the first years of this 21st century. Conferences and cluster-meetings, assembly meetings and social activities, committee meetings and children's classes, youth events and all sorts of yin-and-yang, kept me at the centre of a social and community world from childhood to late adulthood, from the age of 5 to 65.

Part 4.5:

I belong to the first generation of Western writers for whom a university education in the liberal arts was the norm. But I was never able to earn my living by writing for several reasons which I discuss in detail at this site in several of its 90 sub-sections. From my teens and twenties, in the 1950s to the early '70s, to my fifties in the 1990s and early 2000s, I earned a living in a variety of ways, mainly as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, among a variety of other employment-roles.

I enjoyed my childhood, adolescence, and a single-life to the age of 23 in a nuclear-family, at least most of the time. Mine was, in the main, a happy time growing-up to adulthood. I have written about life's inevitable ups-and-downs during my first 21 years in my autobiography, and so I will not comment on those years in more detail here. Mine was a family in which I was the only child of older parents, a mother who was 40, and a father who was 55 when I was born in 1944. I married in 1967, and I remained for seven years in what was a two-income-no-kids family: from 1967 to 1974. In 1975 I entered a second marriage. It was a one-income family from 1975 to the present. In that second marriage, that second affinal family, as such collectivities are called in sociology, my wife and I raised three children. By the early years of the 21st century, the 3 children had become adults and had left the nest, so to speak. My wife and I now have four grand-children, all within cooee, as they say in Australia.

From the age of 55 to 65 I gradually took an early retirement, by stages, first from FT, then PT and, finally, casual work. Little by little and day by day, I headed for the world of a writer and author, and the roles I have listed above. By the age of 65 in 2009, I was able to go on two old-age pensions, one from Canada where I had worked at FT and PT jobs from 1955 to 1971. My second pension is from the Australian governnment. I worked in Australia from 1971 until I was able to gradually free myself from the 60 to 70 hours a week which was involved in my FT employment from the early 1970s to the end of 1990s. Those two old-age pensions, as well as income from a small group of stocks and investments, bring-in some $34,000/annum.

Part 4.5.1:

This $34,000 that now comes in to our coffers annually is enough for my wife and I to live on since: (a) we have our home completely paid-for; (b) we have little debt, and (c) we live frugally. In 2012 we took-out a $20,000 reverse mortgage, our only debt now, in order: (i) to pay-off our other debts, and (ii) to be able to handle big-ticket-cost items like: car expenses and household repairs, gifts for needy family members and birthdays for many members of our immediate and extended family, doctor and dentist bills, as well as the occasional bit of retail therapy. Of this $20,000 some $3,000 remains as of the 4th day of July Downunder, 4/7/'15. We also have a small handful of stocks having a net-worth of about $6000.

I'm sure some readers will find it somewhat surprising that I even provide this brief outline of my financial state. The general convention for most people I have known over the last several decades, is to keep such information confidential, except to close friends and close family members. As I indicated above, though, my website has a strong autobiographical flavour. In addition, the internet has opened many doors into the private lives of people who utilize the world-wide-web. Given the nature of my highly memoiristic writing, I'm quite happy to have such doors open.

This open-door policy into one's inner and private world is not true, not the style, of everyone. And as I often say, there is much in my life about which I have no intention of writing. To each their own, in cyberspace, as in real space. As the famous Russian novelist and poet, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak(1890-1960), once wrote: "a life without secrets is simply unimaginable." Not everything that a man knoweth should be disclosed, and not everything that can be disclosed is timely, as a famous poet once said. I am in charge, as we all are, of what I deem suitable for the ears of others.

Part 5:

In the first decade of the 21st century, 2001 to 2011, I had to learn how to deal with those 200 emails and internet posts a day to which I refer above. It took me most of those 10 years to do it efficiently and effectively. I had to eliminate, as far as was possible, the distraction that was the reality of so much of the activity in cyberspace. I had to eliminate as many incoming posts, from as many people as possible, in order to eliminate one of the many potential distractions in life, distractions from what was and is for me, the serious business of being an author and writer, a poet and publisher, an editor and researcher. I slowly came to realize, especially over these last 4 years of full retirement, 2009 to 2013, years in which I have responded to literally 1000s of incoming emails & posts, that much internet activity is a distraction from my main activities in life. I have only so much time in the day left after: (i) a dozen hours spent for sleep and hygiene, and (ii) another 4 to 6 hours involved in eating and entertainment, leisure and domestic work, as well as social activity.

I have tried to eliminate as much as possible from the 50+ categories of the following incoming posts and emails, messages, invitations, and requests found in this Section 5. On 3 December 2012 I began writing this latest edition of what has become a lengthy statement to those who come to this part of my site, and who post messages at sites in cyberspace where I am registered. By 3 October 2013, over that ten month period, I had completed this explanatory essay or report to my satisfaction. This post is now some 150,000+ words. Readers are advised to skim or scan these paragraphs, or just stop reading now. If, of course, readers have some special interest in why I have not responded to their invitation, their comment, or their request to reply to one or more of their internet posts, then read-on to your hearts' and minds' content. The posts that come my way, and to which this long essay is a response, come in: (i) at SNS like Facebook, (ii) at my inbox as emails, or (iii) at some other internet site, one of the more than 8000 sites in cyberspace where I post my writing and interact with others.

Some readers, of course, will wonder why I write this lengthy post at all. In some ways, it's just part and parcel of my marketing or literary-business plan which, by 2013, had resulted in a readership of millions spread-out across the cyberspace landscape, an alternative universe known as the world-wide-web. In other ways, the above and the following lengthy thread is merely a gesture of courtesy explaining why I rarely reply to much of the food and fodder that comes into my life on the world-wide-web.

Part 5.1:

The above, and what follows below, might seem to some readers as yet another lifelong student-academic, career-&-now-retiree, desperately trying to reassure himself that his work and his life had and has some consequence. As my professor in Greek philosophy emphasized in the autumn of 1964, when I was in a double-major at university, in history and philosophy, and when I was also, at the same time, enduring the low-end of what was one of my earliest manifestations of bipolar 2 disorder: "you pays your money and you makes your choice." I have made many choices in my: social activist, religious commitment, political engagement life from my early-to-mid teens, 1959 to 1960, more than 50 years ago to 2013. This is to say nothing about the many, indeed, the infinite number of choices in other domains: maritally and sexually, socially and psychologically, physically and spiritually.


Bahá’í scripture portrays human progress as propelled by 2 distinct but inextricably related capacities: independently acquired knowledge coupled with social action. A complementary ingredients of one integral process, this dynamic relationship is symbolized in the Bahá’í revelation by The Kitáb-i-Íqán, the principal doctrinal work and The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the means by which that doctrine becomes expressed in action. I first read this book in the early 1960s and have studied it now for over 50 years. Shoghi Effendi states that the resulting changes wrought by the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as “the furthermost limits in the organization of human society.” The revelation of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh's book of laws, thus heralds the reunion of the human family and the fulfillment of various widely regarded prophecies about such an event: the marriage of the bride with the bridegroom, the New Jerusalem descended from heaven, and the unsealing of the “choice sealed wine.”

Published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies Vol. 6, number 3 (1994), the article "Unsealing the Choice Wine at the Family Reunion" by John S. Hatcher is the source of these comments. Hatcher notes that recognition and obedience are not two separate and independent actions, but two parts of one integral process, something Bahá’u’lláh implies in the preamble to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas when he states that neither action is sufficient or “acceptable without the other.” If we apply this principle to the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, for example, we might observe that it is not sufficient to recognize the station and authority of Bahá’u’lláh as personal lord and savior unless we express or signalize that recognition through the daily regimen of actions that Bahá’u’lláh has instituted to train us. Consequently, obedience to the Prophet’s guidance is not so much a distinct process as it is a completion of the process of recognition. Or stated conversely, without those actions that confirm one’s willingness to accede to the beneficent wisdom of the Prophet, one cannot properly be said to have understood the authority, station, and the essential purpose of the Manifestation.

My actions, at least since becoming a Bahá'í in the late 1950s, and then taking them quite seriously by the mid-1960s, have been tied up with this wider context which Hatcher discusses in his article. The Bahá’í writings portray the physical world as a thoroughly spiritualized expression of the unseen spiritual world, a “Great Workshop” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel 14), a classroom not to be disdained, but to be respected, esteemed, and utilized: The spiritual world is like unto the phenomenal world. They are the exact counterpart of each other. Whatever objects appear in this world of existence are the outer pictures of the world of heaven. (‘Abdu‘l-Bahá Promulgation 10) This observation leads to yet another axiom—whatever inherent capacity the physical world may have to manifest the attributes of the divine reality, the most significant expression of divine principles in human existence is an evolutionary process, described by Bahá’u’lláh as a paradigm of social progress, “an ever-advancing civilization” (Gleanings 215). This continual advancement, Bahá’u’lláh explains, is brought about through the critical linkage between divine ordination and human volition. Thus, if we liken the relationship between the spiritual world and the physical world to the relationship between the human soul and the human body, we can observe that this linkage is from the beginning. It is an inherent property of creation itself.

Shoghi Effendi cautions against any perception of the spiritual or doctrinal teachings of the Bahá’í Faith as being distinct or separable from the laws or administrative principles: “To dissociate the administrative principles of the Cause from the purely spiritual and humanitarian teachings would be tantamount to a mutilation of the body of the Cause, a separation that can only result in the disintegration of its component parts, and the extinction of the Faith itself” (Shoghi Effendi The World Order 5). The revealed writings of Bahá’u’lláh, containing as they do explicit guidance for integrating the sacred and the secular aspects of human advancement, thus represent a strategic reunion for the human body politic. In fact, because this revelation signals the first instance in which a Prophet has securely established both the spiritual insight and an explicit edifice to disseminate that guidance through divinely ordained social structures, the new “wine” of this revelation might well be thought of as the wine of reunion for our planet. Likewise, because The Kitáb-i-Aqdas provides the means by which that wine can be conveyed to the entire body politic through the creation of evolving social and administrative institutions, as well as a progressive daily regimen; the revelation of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas represents the completion or consummation of planetary social evolution: The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture—all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Bahá’í Era—should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop.(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order 163)


Part 1:

This brings me to the specific question of political activity. The conviction of the Bahá’í community that humanity, having passed through earlier stages of social evolution, stands at the threshold of its collective maturity; its belief that the principle of the oneness of humankind, the hallmark of the age of maturity, implies a change in the very structure of society; its dedication to a learning process that, animated by this principle, explores the workings of a new set of relationships among the individual, the community and the institutions of society, the three protagonists in the advancement of civilization; its confidence that a revised conception of power, freed from the notion of dominance with the accompanying ideas of contest, contention, division and superiority, underlies the desired set of relationships; its commitment to a vision of a world that, benefitting from humanity’s rich cultural diversity, abides no lines of separation—these all constitute essential elements of the framework that shapes the Bahá’í approach to politics set out in brief below.

Bahá’ís do not seek political power. They will not accept political posts in their respective governments, whatever the particular system in place, though they will take up positions which they deem to be purely administrative in nature. They will not affiliate themselves with political parties, become entangled in partisan issues, or participate in programmes tied to the divisive agendas of any group or faction. At the same time, Bahá’ís respect those who, out of a sincere desire to serve their countries, choose to pursue political aspirations or to engage in political activity. The approach adopted by the Bahá’í community of non—involvement in such activity is not intended as a statement expressing some fundamental objection to politics in its true sense; indeed, humanity organizes itself through its political affairs. Bahá’ís vote in civil elections, as long as they do not have to identify themselves with any party in order to do so. In this connection, they view government as a system for maintaining the welfare and orderly progress of a society, and they undertake, one and all, to observe the laws of the land in which they reside, without allowing their inner religious beliefs to be violated.

Part 2:

Questions regarding the posture held by Bahá'ís everywhere towards political activity has taken on greater significance to their fellow citizens in recent years. To assist others in understanding the framework that shapes the Bahá'í approach to politics, I have written the paragraphs above and below. The principle of the oneness of humankind has begun, and will in the decades and centuries ahead, infuse the collective consciousness of humanity. Such a principle calls for the complete reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society. It imples an organic change in the very structure of society. What I am writing about here is complex and does not lend itself to simplistic thought. It requires, on the part of readers, some personal study and analysis. I leave it to readers, with the interest, to pursue this study and analysis, if they want to take the Bahá'í teachings on this subject at all seriously.

Bahá'í law requires that Bahá'ís avoid making any comment about the partisan actions or statements of politicians, their parties and their supporters. This is particularly important at election times when everyone is likely to witness an inflamed political environment with heated tempers and divisive comments in the media, in the workplace and, perhaps, among one's family and friends. This non-involvement does not mean that Bahá'ís should ignore the great public issues that engage the minds and hearts of their fellow citizens. Nor does this mean that Bahá'ís are naive about political processes in the world, and make no distinction between individuals, betweeen just and unjust rule, and between the myriad complexities that face both the governors and the governed. Again, this subject is complex and serious. Only readers with a serious interest in the Bahá'í teachings need to bother themselves with the issues involved.

The rulers of the earth have sacred obligations to fulfil towards their people, who should be seen as the most precious treasure of any nation. Wherever they reside, Bahá’ís endeavour to uphold the standard of justice, addressing inequities directed towards themselves or towards others, but only through lawful means available to them, eschewing all forms of violent protest. Moreover, in no way does the love they hold in their hearts for humanity, run counter to the sense of duty they feel to expend their energies in service to their respective countries.

The approach, the strategy, the Bahá'í way of going about things, with the simple set of parameters outlined in the foregoing paragraphs enables the community, in a world where nations and tribes are pitted one against the other, and people are divided and separated by social structures, to maintain its cohesion and integrity as a global entity and to ensure that the activities of the Bahá’ís in one country do not jeopardize the existence of those elsewhere. Guarded against competing interests of nations and political parties, the Bahá’í community is thus able to build its capacity to contribute to processes that promote peace and unity without becoming part of, and getting enmeshed in, the tortuous partisan politics which threaten to derail so much that is good in contemporary society. They make every effort to avoid getting caught-up in the polarizing and competitive game that is politics in our modern world.


I need no reassurance that my work and my life has had some consequence. But the answer to such a question is complex, and difficult to deal with in a quick sentence or two. As is the case wtih many places on my website, I will return to the above question and its answer in the months and years ahead. As this website evolves in the remaining years of the evening of my life, there will be many opportunities to add, to delete & to edit what I have written. The last decade of late adulthood, 70 to 80, and old-age 80+ lie ahead, to use one model of the stages in the lifespan used by developmental psychologists. Writing has gradually become one of the central foci in my life since I retired from paid-employment in 1999 at the age of 55; there will be more to say here on this subject of why I write here.

Readers can now begin reading the rest of Section 5, and the first of the 40+ categories of incoming posts to which I rarely respond in writing. But they will have to go to my website in the autobiography sub-section.

Section 5.2:

(i) Part 1:

Every year, as the 23rd of July comes around, I get sent more than 1000 happy-birthday-wishes: (a) from members of my present affinal family, (b) from members of my previous affinal family and my consanguineal family, (c) from friends near & far, & (d) many people I do not even know. Mostly, though, these annual greetings come (e) from some of the more than 8000 websites at which I have registered in this 21st century. I was born into a sub-culture of southern Ontario in the 1940s in which the birthdays of children & adolescents were celebrated. Once people in my particular section of my family of birth, in the Hamilton Ontario region of the Golden Horseshoe of southern Ontario, became adults say, 21 and above, birthdays, the gift-giving as well as the parties and dinners associated with them, came to an end. Of course, the family conventions of other parts of my family of birth, and the millions of people in southern Ontario back in the 1940s to 1960s, to say nothing of the conventions of the 100s of thousands of families across Canada's vast landscape were, in all likelihood, highly varied.

By my late 20s and early 30s, though, I had travelled to Australia to take-up a teaching job in South Australia. Australia is and was a birthday-celebrating-culture, for all ages, virtually everywhere. I have now lived and/or travelled in every state and territory of this vast country in the 42 years I have lived Downunder, and I have found birthdays are big events everywhere. "When in Rome," it is often said, "do as the Romans do." I have bitten-the-bullet, so to speak, and take part in this cultural practice, "as the Romans do." Increasingly, though, as Australia becomes more and more multi-cultural, other nationalities come to Australia, like my Ethiopian daughter-in-law, who do not celebrate birthdays with the same enthusiasm and activity, making my non-celebrating practice, therefore, more acceptable in this culture with its inevitable cultural conventions.

(i) Part 2:

To deal with this event, my birthday, in my internet life---I have placed a few notices on sites like Facebook, to inform all these 100s of people who want to wish me 'happy-birthday,' that I will not be thanking everyone individually. Close family members, close friends, people I hardly know, and site administrators, will not get individual replies to the online birthday wishes they send to me: (i) wishes placed "on-my-wall" at Facebook, (ii) wishes sent to me from websites, and (iii) wishes sent to me by dozens of individual members of the 1000s of sites where I have been part of the cyberspace woodwork for years. This is the raison d'etre for this particular part, this opening section, of my 100 thousand word statement here. These words about the celebration of my birthday are intended to open the specifics of this one-hundred-thousand word general response to the myriad number of posts I get: (i) at sites where I am registered, (ii) at SNS like Facebook, and (iii) at all sorts of others locations on the world-wide-web. Given the persistence with which some send me their 'happy-birthday' wishes I, not infrequently and out of a desire not to offend, thank the person sending me their wishes.

(ii) Part 1:

The second category to the twenty-fifth of incoming posts to which I rarely reply any more is concerned with....go to my website as advised above.

(xxvi) Part 1:

People send me what has become an endless list of concerns for animals: for dogs and dolphins, cats and kangaroos, birds and bulls, calfs and cows, fish and foal, apes and armadillos, baboons and badgers, bats and beavers, and on and on goes the list. The present list of species that are threatened by extinction is so extensive, that the problems and crises that threaten the human community are in some ways dwarfed. It is estimated that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. Mass extinctions are relatively rare events; however, isolated extinctions are quite common.

In the last month several concerns came in: (a) caged dogs as well as several other caged animals, and (b) the treatment of rabbits and rhinoceros, baby seals and baboons. This email came in on 5 March 2013: "Make a commitment to eliminate animal testing by pledging to only purchase products approved by the Leaping Bunny Program. This program provides the best assurance that no new animal testing is used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or suppliers. The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program administers a cruelty-free standard. The internationally recognized Leaping Bunny Logo is used for companies producing cosmetic, personal care, and household products.

(xxvi) Part 2:

Tied-in with this concern for animals, of course, is habitat degradation which is currently the main anthropogenic cause of species extinctions. The main cause of habitat degradation worldwide is agriculture, with urban sprawl, logging, mining and some fishing practices close behind. The degradation of a species' habitat may alter the fitness landscape to such an extent that the species is no longer able to survive and becomes extinct. This may occur by direct effects, such as the environment becoming toxic, or indirectly, by limiting a species' ability to compete effectively for diminished resources or against new competitor species.

The litany of concerns about animals and a myriad of living creatures could keep me busy for the rest of my life. The Bahá'í approach to all of this is that the human community needs to work together, globally and acting locally, but the system needs to be an integrated, interdependent and interrelated community. The quixotic tournament of one here and one there, concern for chickens today and chinese roosters tomorrow, whales today and whooping cranes tomorrow, while of some use, takes part in no overall global strategy. For the most part, then, I ignore all the emails sent to me in connection with this vast territory on incoming emails.

For sections (xxvii) to (xxxvi) to go my website.

(xxxvii to XL++) There are, inevitably, many other categories of incoming posts and emails. To take even a little seriously this additional range of material would detract from the prime activities in my life which I have listed above. Some of these other categories include: (a) geneology and family histories, (b) extra-terrestrials and the coming catastrophy, (c) partisan politics, political parties and who to vote for, (d) websites which seek to increase the participation at their sites, and (d) product advertising, especially: food and drink, clothes and furniture, inter alia. The advertising that comes my way is as extensive as that on TV, if not more so.

Section 9: I CAN'T HELP YOU

Given a greater specificity of definition, these 40+ categories of incoming posts, could be extended ad infinitum. But there is no more need for me to outline in detail any additional categories. Readers who come to this part of my web-site, and have read this far, should by now get my main message. It is a message which says in plain-terms: "Ï can't help you with the many, the seemingly infinite, number of incoming requests and invitations for comments and responses."

If I do not respond to these myriad messages to me, readers here should now understand fully why I don't. I have effectively gone off-line to those who send me items within this vast bulk of incoming emails/materials that fill the spaces of cyberspace to overflowing. My email-incoming directory, and 100s of internet sites at which I post have finally come to exist as places that give no weight or pressure on my psyche. I add my own material by the bucket-full to the print and image-glut that now faces human beings; the cornucopia that exists to enrich peoples' lives or endlessly distract them, or both, I leave to readers who have persisted through this 100,000 word document. For those who would now like to continue to 'the-bitter-end' of my general response, you can now go to the paragraphs below.


Part 1:

Glenn McLaren, a lecturer at Melbourne's Swinburne Institute of Technology, writes in a 2012 issue of the electronic online journal Cosmos and History that: "What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters & gatherers in the electronic data forest. The internet is destroying the conditions for civilization and replacing it with conditions for barbarity.

In our western and westernizing global civilization we are increasingly a world, a society, of data hunter-gatherers. This will, he continues, not be one conducive to the practice of philosophy. There is also an increasing, an extensive and impressive, body of research in psychology, neuro-science and philosophy to reveal the internet to be detrimental to the development of abilities for deep understanding and concept formation. His main argument draws on relatively recent research which reveals our brains to be highly plastic. He suggests that Marshall McLuhan was right and those arguing that technology is neutral are wrong. The medium of the internet, and not just its content, is changing its user’s brains in ways which may undermine the conditions for civilization.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan(1911-1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries. Go to this link for more on McLuhan:

Part 2:

The internet, McLaren argues, does not provide the conditions for deep self-reflection. In the slow and gradual evolution of human beings, engaging in deep reflection was an unnatural activity. Deep reading and comprehension was also not a natural activity for human beings as they evolved from tribe, clan, and city state to nation state. It was also unnatural because reading requires and required the relatively secure and quiet conditions provided by a civilized society to enable deep concentration without distraction, a condition associated mainly with print technology. Such technology has only been available to humans for a relatively short period of our history; for a mass public for a period of about 200 years.

The internet is a technology designed to continually distract us. It's ‘an ecosystem of interruption’, as Cory Doctorow terms it. Doctorow(1971- ) is a Canadian-British blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing. He was born the very week I arrived in Australia from Canada and he has been a prolific writer in the last decade. The ability of the digital screen, says McLaren, to be sectioned into multiple presentations of information makes it a medium in which the deep participation of continual decision-making is required. It makes it, as McLuhan famously argued, an extremely ‘cold’ medium. McLaren draws on the work of N. Carr and his book: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2010. I don't go all the way with these writers, but they make the same point about distraction that has concerned me for the last decade. For more on this theme go to:


So much of what I do as a writer and author, poet and publisher draws on the writings of others. Although I appreciate the importance of individual creativity in my life, I am also aware of what the following writer, a Mark Lemley, has emphasized. Mark Lemley(1966-) is the director of the Stanford University program in Law, Science & Technology. He teaches law in the fields of intellectual property, computer and Internet patent, as well as antitrust law. He has pointed out that the myth of the sole inventor in the history of science and technology is largely unsupported. "The canonical story of the lone genius inventor," he writes, "is largely a myth.

Surveys of hundreds of significant new technologies show that almost all of them are invented simultaneously or nearly simultaneously by two or more teams working independently of each other. Invention appears, to a significant extent, to be a social, not an individual, phenomenon. Invention is not a discontinuity, but an incremental step in an ongoing process. Inventors are working with the tools they are given and trying to improve those tools or use them to make something new. Invention by one and only one person or group is exceedingly rare. Far more common are different groups struggling with the same incremental problem, and achieving the same solution at roughly the same time.

Prior empirical evidence suggests that inventions rarely occur in isolation. They are socially-derived in significant respects. They build closely on what came before. And inventions are quite often made by multiple actors at about the same time. The reason I point this out on my autobiography page, is partly to emphasize that my own writing derives significantly from the writings of others.--Mark A. Lemley, “The Myth of the Sole Inventor.” Stanford University Public Law Working Paper No. 1856610. July 21, 2011, retrieved on July 3, 2012.


"Ambition is the last refuge of the failure" quipped Oscar Wilde. The quip appeared in a spectacularly unsuccessful undergraduate magazine in 1894, as a half-serious jab at the Victorian celebration of private self-improvement and public progress. Wilde had not given up his wish to associate himself with the lonely pursuit of intensity that he had encountered in Walter Pater's subversive aesthetic writings twenty years previously. He was back then a student in Magdalen College in Oxford. Pater(1839-1894) was an English essayist, critic of art and literature, and writer of fiction.

Wilde's parents' generation had been much less single-minded about the value of ambition than it suited him to acknowledge, and he had scarcely been able to free himself from their contradictions. Wilde was a restlessly ambitious man, more susceptible than most to the appetite for fame & wealth. The tradition of viewing ambition as an unmanageable virtue, when it is seen as a virtue at all, has a long history. Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics was among the texts Wilde studied at Oxford, identifies the dilemma: ‘We blame both the ambitious man as aiming at honour more than what is right and from wrong sources, and the unambitious man as not willing to be honoured, even for noble reasons. But sometimes we praise the ambitious man as being manly and a lover of what is noble, and the unambitious man as being moderate and self-controlled’.

The literature on the subject of ambition is burgeoning and its role in my life is far too complex to deal with here in a sentence or two. In the Bahaí literature the word distinction is often seen. I deal with this topic from time to time at this website. I first read part of those Nicomachean Ethics in the 2nd year of university in 1964/5 when I was enrolled in a history and philosophy four year program. They were heavy reading and I advise readers here to stay clear of that book; indeed, leave Aristotle right out of your daily literary fodder.


Part 1:

For the great writers in history retirement has usually not been a career option. As long as the fire, the heat, was on, a certain obsessiveness sometimes, they wrote to the end, There have always been writers, like Thomas Hardy and Saul Bellow, who kept at it until the very end, but there are many more, like Proust, Dickens and Balzac, who died prematurely, worn out by writing itself, other aspects of outpouring energies, and the exigencies of their health. I was worn-out, burnt-out, before I took-up writing seriously in the 1990s. My health was bad, having suffered from bipolar disorder, and its assoicated burn-out, for decades. I was fatigued from years of teaching and endless meetings both in the schools and colleges where I taught, and in the various volunteer activities that made listening and talking the core form of action.

I gradually turned to writing and retirement, to solitude and a literary-academic life to rest my spirit. During the first dozen years of my retirement, the first years of the 21st century, 2001 to 2012, I went on a series of medications that restored both my energies and my spirits, but I lacked the stamina to work for many hours at a stretch. I could get-in as many as 6 to 8 hours each day, on average, on literary work of various kinds during these years. These hours, this work, though, was accomplished in small chunks.

In 2009 Margaret Drabble(1939- ), an English novelist, biographer and critic, at the age of 69, announced that she was calling her writing-life quits. I am now 69, and I feel as if I have just made a start after perhaps 20 years of varying degrees of extensive writing. Ms. Alice Munro, a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction, and a perennial contender for the nobel prize, announced at the age of 82 that she was calling it quits. She said that she was encouraged by the example of Philip Roth who declared, in 2012, that he was done, as he was getting ready to turn 80. Perhaps in another dozen years I'll feel like Roth; we shall wait and see.

Part 2:

For the last several years and beginning in 2001, as I say above, I've had a series of medication cocktails for my BPD. With the pleasure I find in solitude and music, reading and writing are giving me a new lease on life, a life which was so centred on the social for decades. The fact that I don't write novels, literary exercises that require a good deal of stamina and energy, also keeps me at the literary coal-face on a daily basis, about 6 to 8 hours a day, on many different writing and reading genres and topics.

Paul Haines(1970-2012) was an award-winning New Zealand-born horror and speculative fiction writer, and in November 2011 he announced that his writing career was over. He died four months later. He had been writing successfully since 1999. Every writer has their story, their life-line, their career trajectory. I leave it to readers with a serious interest in my writing to read more about my literary career and the literary careers of other writers to provide comparisons and contrasts to my own.

The literary life of Charles Dickens, for example, was one characterized by restlessness and obsessiveness. He travelled in his restlessness in his last years, as documented in Tomalin’s biography. His travels and his life in these last years show a man whose life had no centre, obsessively driven and deeply divided. They show that he had no plan for achieving any kind of stability in the future, as though the only life he had really believed in was already over. That he wrote two more wonderful novels in these circumstances, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend, the latter a kaleidoscope of exclusions and inclusions, is a tribute to his genius and energy. But his eventual collapse and death in 1870, aged just 58, was something many had foreseen.

Part 3:

I travel, too, but virtually entirely in my head; whatever restlessness I have is channelled into my reading and writing, my poetry and my publishing. My energies and my emotions are also moderated and channelled, with 11 to 12 hours spent in bed each day keeping me well-rested and ready for more literary work the next day. My centre, my psychological and spiritual centre, my literary and philosophical centre, my obsessiveness and my passions, have a focus which, if my health stays with me, I hope I am destined to keep to the end of my days, whenever that end may be. Some writers who deal with human passions, especially the successful ones like the who-dun-it specialist Iris Murdoch, perfect a certain literary tone, possess witty throwaway symmetries of accident and insight, and artfully balanced rhythms and geometries. They deal with passion and form as the literary masters which they are. I am not in that league of masters. My literary accomplishments compared to such literary talents are of a very minor key. I am a graduate of little league baseball; I was a home-run king in a little town at the age of 15, but I never had the ability to play in the show or even in the minor leagues.

I was born in the midst of the concentration camps, and the atom bomb was part of the first year of my life. As that famous American writer Norman Mailer writes, in one of his most famous essays, "we will probably never he able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years." The 70 years of my life have witnessed a tempest unprecedented in its magnitude, indeed, appalling tragedy, sweeping the face of our planet. The psychic effect of all of this lies at the basis, as part of the motivational matrix, of my writing; such is my hypothetical. But there are many other reasons why I write now as extensively as I do. I have written about this subject of why I write a great deal. I will end this subject of why I write, though, in this part of my website with the following sections beginning with some events from the life of Henry James:

Part 3.1:

The autobiographical roots of the late shift in Henry James's style explain, in part, the autobiographical shift in my own life. A series of events including the death of his sister, Alice; the suicide of a close friend, and the public humiliation he suffered when his play "Guy Domville" opened to boos in 1895 -- conspired to make James look into the abyss of mortality and terror. It lead to a darkening of his vision and an embrace of "a host of labyrinthine depths and devices that have since been signally associated with literary modernism. This is the way Cynthia Ozick explains the direction that the writing of Henry James took. I, too, had a series of events in my own life that conspired to send me in the direction of autobiographical writing. I write about this in many places in my literary oeuvre and I will leave it to readers with the interest to answer this question for themselves.

I now live, as far as any casual passer-by might be concerned, an unadventurous life in a small town down at the end of the world, Downunder. I live at the bottom end of that Downunder on an island state known as Tasmania. It's about as far away from where I grew up, the place I once called home, as one can be and still be on the planet. I live a life, as I head for the age of 70 in less than 3 weeks, like 'a movie inside my mind'. It is a rich, highly variegated, highly dynamic life with many moments of literal, of literary, ecstacy. But I play-down my intense happiness; anyone among my family and friends has no idea of my sense of celebratory joy with its thankful gladness, or my solemn consciousness which is the wellspring of that joy. I go about my days quietly with my wife, keeping-up my end of the domestic side of life and its responsibilities for: cleaning, cooking, eating, washing dishes and emptying garbage--and getting a good sleep. I will mention here something that I don't think I've written about in all the 1000s of pages of autobiography. I am more aware of this now since I spend so much time with my wife and that is my gauche, my unsophisticated and socially awkward, personal life in some situations usually associated with my BPD. As I look back over my adult life I can see the many instances of this and could write about this in many pages. But I will leave that subject for now.


Publication of Australian edited & authored biography and autobiography titles has been on the rise all my life(1944-2013). Instead of declining with the end of cultural nationalist government funding, & the rise of multinational publishers, Australian auto/biography has increased strongly over the past three to four decades, with a rapid growth in such titles accelerated at the end of the 1990s, as publication of novels levelled off. Although the rise of Australian auto/biography has slowed somewhat in the 2000s, publication continues to increase while that of novels is declining. For more on this theme go to:

Go to my website for several pages here.


Part 1:

I wrote what I thought was a useful and quite detailed expose of my sex-life at this site in the sub-section below of my web-site in the winter months in Australia, June through August 2012. In the last decade or so, in these first years of the 21st century, much more overt and explicit accounts of people's sex lives are now found in print, to say nothing of the graphic depictions in cinema and on TV, on the radio and the internet. My story below is very tame. It is not likely to raise any eye-brows.

Go to my website for some 20 to 40 pages on this subject.


Part 1:

I trust that readers will not view my autobiography, this sub-section of my website, my entire website, or the magnum opus that is my total body of writing, as an exercise in narcissism. Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, a metaphor of the human condition, or simply a personality trait. There is also what one writer calls malignant narcissism: xenophobia and solipsism, and benign narcissism which is about striving for achievement and the urge to self-display. In the Greek myth narcissus fell in love with his image in a pool of water; he fell in the water and drowned.


The historical period which some future biographer will invite readers to consider through my eyes will be of exceptional interest, the first five epochs from 1944, virtually the entire second century of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Era, when the Bahá'í Faith grew from an insignificant Movement on the far periphery of an emerging global, planetizing, culture and civilization, to a player of some note in the affairs of humankind, from perhaps 100 thousand adherents, mostly in Iran in 1944, to many millions spread over the entire surface of the Earth by 2044. My autobiography in its many forms will provide a small supplement to the vast array of information available on these five epochs, this second century of the Formative Age.


At the risk of repeating myself I want to emphasize yet again that it is good to keep the advice of that great 20th century poet T.S. Eliot somewhere above one's writing desk. "Write as if everything you put down on paper in the end might come to naught." One does not want to court the discouraging, the disheartening, emotions of disappointment. If one aims for wealth and fame disappointment can easily come to one's life. Disappointment and discouragement can eat at one's soul. After a dozen years of extensive publication of my work in cyberspace, and more than 30 years of the appearance of my work in the print media, only $1.49 in royalties have come my way--enough for a small chocolat bar or the rate of 15 cents per year! With fame spread across the invisible ether and spaces of the Internet I have no illusions of the potential of my writing and myself to achieve fame and wealth. I will take what comes, whatever that may be, as I head into what I trust are the liberating winds of old age(80+), if I last that long. The ship of my life may sink on the rocks of some unforeseen dementia but, as the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly was reported to have said on his way to the gallows in NSW in 1880: "such is life."

My writing has yielded many results, though. Eliot's cautionary note is not something I must take literally. In the years 1949 to 1999, my writing helped me achieve a B.A., a B.Ed., part of an M.A. and four partly completed graduate diplomas. These qualifications helped provide a basis for half a century of student and employment achievements and these, in turn, helped me to earn a living, raise three children and participate in various ways in community life. In the last dozen years, 2000 to 2012, my writing has given me great pleasure and has enriched the years of my retirement. It was far, very far, from a waste of time.


I mention these two writers above because they provide both a comparison and a contrast to my own experience. I won't outline all the contrasts and comparisons here. I could add many other writers and outline the differences and similarities with my own experience. Perhaps at a later date I will do so here, as I have done elsewhere. I have certainly written on this subject in many places in my writings, especially in my poetry, because I find this 'circling around the great writers' is a heuristic exercise for my mind and emotions. For now I will pass on to the famous poet W.H. Auden and some comments about my writing in relation to his.

In writing I make choices, I pay attention to this and ignore that. This process is a reflection of what goes on in my inner life. In activity, in doing things in my outer life, I make choices in the realm of action. In both cases, I am responsible for my choice and I must accept the consequences, whatever they may be. Sometimes I can change the consequences and I need to have the wisdom to know which ones I can change and which ones I can't. It takes little talent to see what lies under my nose, at least that was how W.H. Auden put it. But, he added, "it takes a good deal to know in what direction to point that organ, if one is a writer." I am learning. What I must do now in these years of my retirement from the world of employment, meetings and most social obligations, is the same as what I most want to do---and that is write and learn more about in what direction to point my nose. I see all that I write as part of a single design, a single picture played out in a 1000 art galleries filling all the walls with its myriad variety. I do not have a penchant for drawing my readers’ attention to self-deprecating or even embarrassing autobiographical detail as is the case with many writers, especially those with a certain aggressive posture. I am also aware that I am not necessarily as memorable to those about whom I write as they so clearly are to me.

My writing draws on the ear which tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is often shocked by the unexpected, so Auden put it. It is not the amoral and tragic which shocks me, not after living through the tempest of the last seven decades(1943-2013) and watching and reading about the tempest of the half century before that(1892-1942). What shocks me, and mildly now as I approach the age of 70, is what people say to each other about all sorts of things. Writing also draws on the eye, Auden continued, which "tends to be impatient, craves variety and is bored by repetition." In my case, I find repetition quite comforting. The mind and the intellect, he could have added but didn't, is capable of casting on the mirror of creation new and wonderful configurations, emanations, impulses of thought that can be the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to one's fellow man.-Abdul-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1975(1957), pp.1-3.


Part 1:

When writers who are Bahá'ís die sometimes their work lives on in the papers, the manuscripts, the letters, indeed, in a wide range of memorabilia which they donate to some scholarly and secular institution, some Bahá'í Centre of Learning or a Baha’i archive at the local, national or international level in the increasing labyrinth of elected and apppointed institutions that have emerged in the last century and more of an evolving and expanding Baha’i administration, the nascent Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, the harbinger of the New World Order.

This is especially true in the new Bahá'í culture of learning ang growth, the evolving paradigm of the last two decades (1996-2016) in the more than 200 national communities and territories around the world. In the last decade, 2001-2011, a number of internet sites have also been created, some by individual Bahá'ís and Bahá'í institutions, and others by a host of interest groups, individuals and institutions, at which writers like myself can post or file their literary work. Such authors are assured, by these various means, of at least a modicum of earthly immortality, as much as one can be assured of anything in this transient and inconstant existence. These several and various archives and this increasing number of institutional-sites on the internet are collecting points for the manuscripts and correspondence of writers and authors, editors and publishers of various ilks. How such collections of papers change hands, find a monetary value if any, and obtain a secure place on some dry set of shelves, boxes and files, or a place in an electronic archive, is the result of a peculiar alchemy between market forces, literary reputations and the growing significance of this Faith, this harbinger of a New World Order.

Part 1.1

The typical archive of literary materials of a non-Baha’i writer of some degree of fame and significance, I am informed, was worth between $50,000 and $250,000 in New York or London in 2011. (1) At least that was the information I came across in The New York Times recently. Often that potential archive is not even saleable. The market in literary archives is a rarefied one and it is not my intention to discuss this subject here in any detial. Archives like mine are not saleable in any sense. If there is something extraordinary in a collection on sale, like possibly a cache of letters from the famous poet Sylvia Plath, the market currently draws on what is known as a price/value range. The book/archive seller decides where in that band, that range, the writer’s archive belongs. If an author has a literary correspondence with, say, 10 important people, that makes a big difference to the archive's sale price.

If the Baha’i Faith comes to play a significant role in world affairs in the decades and centuries ahead; if it comes to be what it now claims it will one day be, namely, the emerging world religion on this planet, my archive may come to have some value. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. If I do, I will die due to a shortage of oxygen. The emergence from obscurity of this new world Faith has been significant in my lifetime, but it has seemed slow in many ways to its votaries in the nearly sixty years in which I have been associated with its growth and consolidation around the planet. When my mother first investigated the Bahá'í Faith in 1953, 90 per cent of the 200,000 Bahá'ís in the world at that time lived in Iran. Nearly sixty years later there are some 5 to 8 million Bahá'ís found for the most part outside Iran with perhaps 10 per cent of the international Bahá'í community in the home of its birth, what used to be called Persia.(2)– Ron Price with thanks to (1) Rachel Donadio, “The Paper Chase,” The New York Times, March 25, 2007; and (2) See Wikipedia for a discussion of the complex subject of Bahá'í Faith Statistics.


Part 1:

What was once, and indeed until the second epoch of Abdul-Baha's divine plan, beginning as it did in 1963, a lamentably neglectful history of memoir collecting, the gathering of autobiographical documents and correspondence, has become a burgeoning and labyrinthine archive of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of boxes found in the 120,000 localities where Bahá'ís reside around the world. In the first century of Bahá'í history, 1844 to 1944, and the first century of organized Bahá'í administration in the West, 1908-2008, if not before, the documentation of this new world Faith has evolved sensibly and insensibly. The Bahá'í Faith has become the most documented of the great religions of the world in their first two centuries---having the advantage of being the latest, and growing-up as it has in the light of modern history. And so, although there has been this relative dearth in the recording of events by those who were actually present at significant episodes and circumstances in the history of this new world religion, in some ways the documentation is so extensive as to provide a complex,a prolix, and highly arguable base for what did take place. This is true not only in relation to Bahá'í history, but for much of modern history. Even when historians and analysts can agree on the facts, the interpretations are various, arguable and the subject, often, of heated debate.

At this stage in the evolution of the Baha’i community, at least in the parts of the west which I have observed and which I have some general understanding about, and at least until the new electronic archive on the world-wide-web arrived in the last decade or so, the world of Baha’i archives has been for the most part a graveyard of dry bones scattered in the back rooms of the homes of Baha’i communities throughout the world. These archives are, or at least were, for the most part, an irrelevant appendage resulting from hours and hours, indeed millions now, of meetings, discussion and pieces of correspondence sent to and from various levels and agencies, the elected and appointed branches, of a rapidly emerging Baha’i administration and its harbinger status in relation to a New World Order. What I say here about archives is not true of the international Bahá'í archives and many of the approximately 200 national Bahá'í archives. But in the last half century or more, since the start of the Ten Year Crusade in 1953 when there were only about 1200 local spiritual assemblies on the planet, a guesstimated fifty to one hundred thousand local archives have come to exist. I do not intend in this essay, under this sub-section autobiography, to explore this subject in fine detail. I simply want to make mention of this topic in brief. My own autobiography has been associated with these archives since the 1950s and 1960s in my many roles in the Bahá'í administrative apparatus. My roles in this administration have been virtually entirely at the local, the grassroots, level with only the occasional responsibility at other levels and in those agencies of this Cause which utilized my literary abilities.

Part 1.1

The Bahá'í Faith and its immense archive has, then, by these sensible and insensible degrees, arrived on the historical stage in the last several decades, especially since and arguably, the revolution in Iran in 1979. But the professional ants who deal with this archive are not unlike the historians who deal with Roman history. The vast majority of the public could not care less about the history of Rome in the first century BC, a period in which the historical archive is massive. That same public has as much interest in the Baha’i archive, at this point in this new Faith's history, as they have in that of Roman history or, indeed, that of the eye of a dead ant to chose an analogy used by the Bab in His writings in relation to another matter back in the 1840s. But there are other aspects of this new world Faith which the world is taking an increasing interest in due to the embellishment of its spiritual and administrative centre in Israel, the publication of an extensive literature and an even more extensive commentary in journals and books---to say nothing of the internet--and the sheer growth of this Cause in the 200 countries and territories in which it is now found.


Part 1:

Over the last three-quarters of a century, to chose another relevant timeline, since the start of the formal implementation of Abdul-Baha's divine plan in 1937, an explosion of archival material has erupted in Bahá'í communities for the would-be historian of the future, the would-be historian of this new world Faith. The comments I make here concern the eruption of Bahá'í archives not the outburst of the myriad other archives across thousands of governmental and non-governmental organizations in our emerging planetary civilization. With each passing year this eruption, this explosion, this torrent of information becomes increasingly difficult to deal with, overflowing as it does the bounds of society's capacity to cope with its effusions. This is true, as I say, not only for this world organization, this new world Faith, with members in some 120,000 localities on the planet. When this great mountain of material is classified and the student begins to focus on the archival body relevant to his own interests and needs, some proportion and framework emerges from the chaos and prolixity of it all. The historian and social analyst must tease both sense and nonsense from all the loose ends, fragments, contradictions and observations, eruptions and explosions that are found in archives. These problems are though, as I say, not o>nly problems that exist for Bahá'í communities, they are problems faced by humanity which in many ways is now drowning in information.

I recall, but not with fond memories, a job I had in early 1969 with the Lastman's Bad Boy furniture business. I was employed as a systems analyst and my main task was how to simplify the burgeoning documentation of this growing company with stores in Toronto and southwestern Ontario. I was only 24 at the time. Sadly, I did not possess the skills for such a task even though I got the nod for the job from a hopeful interview team. I decided to return to the teaching profession in a field I felt I would have more success. This teaching job was in southeastern Ontario. The subject of archives and documentation, as well as systems of storage and retrieval, though, is not the focus of this short essay. I leave the subject to readers which they can now google to their heart's content.

Part 1.1

The student of the emerging New World Order of Baha’u’llah is aware, then, of thousands of archives emerging in local Baha’i communities around the world. If such a student of this new world Faith takes an interest in its activities in the last 60 to 75 years, since the beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth in 1953, since the beginning of that ninth stage of history as the Guardian called the Ten Year Crusade, or since 1937 as I have indicated above, he will find himself confronted by a mountain, indeed, several mounatins, of archives. Generally, though, the study of archives has only begun to occupy the student of this new Faith. “Archives offer our knowledge an extra bonus”, says Arlette Farge in her book Fragile Lives.(1) They are not so much the truth as the beginnings of the truth and, she goes on, “they provide an eruption of meanings with the greatest possible number of connections with reality.” Those boxes that are beginning to collect in community after community around the world in the emerging institutional framework of the Bahá'í community will, in time, provide an immense base for future historians and students of this Cause. At the moment they are, for the most part, being collected for future use. That, of course, is basically what an archive is: it is for future use. That is the purpose it serves. Part 2:

For most of the Baha’i community at the local level archives are just so much paper in old boxes, or paper in new boxes. Sometimes there exists an obsessive tendency to admit too much meaning to archives when, in reality, much of it is irrelevant circularized correspondence that could easily be discarded without any loss. Indeed, I'm sure it will be discarded at various times in the future. The rare gem is often found amidst such irrelevant material. The historian must learn to see the forrest amidst the mass of trees. History and its documents is made up of so many different kinds of paper and different kinds of lives: meaningless and opaque, impoverished and tragic, rich and joyful, sometimes with mean and lackluster personalities, at other times with saints and heros. There is also a certain grandeur and humour, absurdity and irony amidst all this paper and all these people. Archives are both seductress and deceptive mirror of reality. They can falsify and distort the object being studied; they can be too facile or too ambiguous a means of entering into a discourse with history. They can tell very little of the real events of Baha’i community life. They can often be just a pile of dry bones transferred from one graveyard to another. On a loftier and much more significant level, though, the subject of Bahá'í archives and preserving and safeguarding the Sacred Texts is one addressed by Universal House of Justice. I encourage readers with an interest in this topic to go to the internet site Bahá'í Library Online. Here an article on this subject can be found. This site has the Internet's largest collection of Bahá'í materials and is an important archive in itself. History has long been enamoured with ‘the great man’. More recently historians have taken-up the cudgels of the average man and woman, the disabled and the migrant, the pioneer, and on and on goes the litany of the sub-groups of ordinary men and women who have come to the attention and interest of historians. The experiences and stories of people from all of these sub-groups can be found in the archives of local Baha’i communities around the world. For anyone taking part in Baha’i community life in the last decades of the twentieth century and the first decades of this 3rd millennium the typical reaction to archives, the boxes of stuff kept usually in someone’s house in a back room or an attic, or a shed, among other places like shelves in tidy and well-organized files and folders, is one of a certain weariness. The weariness comes in part from the great mass of apparently irrelevant detail in those boxes. This weariness is also born from a simple inability to get any meaningful perspective on the great historical adventure being engaged in. The contemplation of the contents of this great weight of paper and memorabilia or digital material, which has become the main archival base in this third millennia, leads to written analysis--and that is for the future.

Part 2.1

“It is unfortunately true,” says that Bahá'í scholar Moojan Momen in summarizing the history of memoir writing and archive collecting in the Baha’i community in the first century of its history, “that the Baha’is have been lamentably neglectful.”(2) That, of course, is the view of a Bahá'í scholar and historian. Not all Bahá'ís are scholars and historians. The view of the enterprize in which most Bahá'ís are engaged does not usually translate itself into writing. In the booming and buzzing confusion that is everyday life it is often a wonder that anything is ever written at all given the fact that most people, whether in the east or the west, are not inclined to write much at all. Most people have other interests and are engaged in other activities. As I got into the last half(50-60) of middle age(40-60) and the first half(60-70) of late adulthood(60-80), I become more and more obsessed with writing. Writing became increasingly a compulsion, a supreme solace. As the novelist Somerset Maugham (1864-1965) said: "I write for the liberation of my soul, for freedom. It is my nature to create with words as it is the nature of water to run downhill." So is this true of me. Phrases I come across as I read become a part of me, although I now have so many in so many volumes of my notebooks that they are like a wardrobe of clothes and shoes which I can only make use of to an extent.


Part 1:

Throughout history, it should be kept in mind, there has been a long and ambiguous relationship with archives. There have been successive tensions down the ages between boxes of documents known as archives and the actual writing of history. The earliest period in the history of western civilization for which we have a great deal of documentation, of archives, is the first century BC in Rome. For the great mass of humanity, as I have pointed out above, this archive is of no interest whatsoever. But for the professional ants who deal in Roman history this archive is crucial; it has helped to generate an explosion of archival enthusiasm amongst a coterie of Roman historians in the last several decades. Side by side with this professional enthusiasm there prevails an atmosphere of anarchic confusion in the attitude of western man to his past, Roman history or other. Even Plato, as early as the 5th century BC, expressed his skepticism regarding writing as a means of preserving information. He argued that it would replace memory and people would come to rely on writing for information. he was right.

We are talking, then, about an old problem: the meaning and relevance of archives. Just as the writing of the Roman poets in that first century BC represents an important part of that rich and ancient archive, so does this poetry of mine and others represent part(time will, I trust, tell how important a part) of a modern archive of increasing relevance to both historian and social analyst. I see my own prose and poetry as an embellishment to local archives, several where I have lived in Australia and Canada; I see it as a contribution to a national or international archive on pioneers, an archive still in its first or perhaps second, century of development; I see it as a small part, an infinitessimal part of a burgeoning base of material the world over which is so extensive now as to virtually swallow the individual in a sea of printed matter. I keep in mind, though, as I write these words, the comment of T.S. Eliot, namely, that a writer should be prepared to have all his scribblings come to nothing. If writers aim for a posthumous immortality by means of their written words, they may be sadly mistaken. If such immortality is, indeed, achieved, by then such literary enthusiasts will be far beyond this mortal coil.

Part 2:

“It is impossible to avoid the realm of aesthetics and emotion” in dealing with archives, says Arlette Farge in her introductory statement on the subject. In a broad sense the architectural remains of the fifth century BC, or the Egyptian pyramids, are a repository of information, an archive. The realm of aesthetics and emotion is at the heart of these ancient architectural archives. Archives are also an eruption, Farge states; they can be an expression, she says simply, of whim, caprice and tragedy. And, like my poetry and the stuff in those boxes, they can be so much more.

It is impossible to assess the relevance of what will one day be an architectural archive, say, in two and a half thousand years. What will be the story told of these generations of the half-light, of the Bahá'ís from 1921 to, say, 2121, in the first two centuries of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Faith when a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of an insignificant sect of Shi’i Islam finished its transformation into a world religion? What will they say of the architectural achievement that helped to give form and beauty to the institutionalized charismatic Force that was about to play a crucial role in the establishment of a global and peaceful civilization? Time will tell.

Ron Price --------------------------FOOTNOTES---------------------------------
(1) Arlette Farge, Fragile Lives: Violence, Power and Solidarity in Eighteenth Century Paris, Harvard UP,Cambridge, Mass., 1993, Introduction. (2) Moojan Momen, editor, The Babi and Baha’i Religions, 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.xvi-xvii.

Some of my internet posts on the subject of autobiography and prose-poems providing a context for autobiography are found at the links below: (readers can not access, as far as I know, the many 1000s of pages I have archived at this site) (to read my 75 posts at this site readers must register at this site) (click on the photo for a series of articles on autobiography) (scroll down for the series of articles)


Part 1:

The following is a hypothetical, a hypothetical history of my writings collected posthumously. They are the writings I will leave behind at some point before the 2nd century of the Bahá'í Era(B.E.) is complete in 2044 unless, of course, I live into my second century. I’m sure my passing will go unnoticed throughout the world for I am but an ordinarily ordinary, humanly human chap living in the Antipodes, at the last stop on the way to Antactica if a person takes the western-Pacific-rim route. Should a university, an academic institute, some Bahá'í centre of learning, indeed, one of any number of institutions, buy for a disclosed or undisclosed sum, the entire collection of my papers – all of my several hundred pounds of manuscripts and notebooks, letters and poetry, I will be surprised from my hypothetical place in the world beyond. Should such a world exist and should I be capable of knowing about the event of such a purchase on this mortal coil I will gaze with both wonder and delight. I attempted, during the evening of my life, to place all my extant work into electronic form, so that there would be no need for any hypothetical collection to accrue. I never kept any famous intellectual company or even became famous in any small literary circle to reinforce that sense of artistic destiny which many a writer and poet possesses.

Part 2:

The entire question of a period of exclusive control by a literary estate after my death is not at issue for me. Such control would create the opportunity, and the financial incentive, to assemble fully prepared editions of my work made by specialists informed by my parting instructions. Once work enters the public domain,and most of my work will have done so by the time I die, it can be published by anyone in any form, and the financing of editions requiring editorial care becomes, once again, at the pleasure of benevolent institutions rather than readers. The sheer scale and the marvelous searchability of the recently developing online databases by google and others, promises to bring a whole world of books within the reach of readers who never had access to a great library. And it is my desire to make access to my work as simple and as easy for readers as possible.

Part 2.1

The dozens of boxes in which the hundreds of pounds of my writings will be found, should my work, my entire oeuvre, not arrive in electronic files, will contain the definitive archive of this writer and poet, teacher and tutor, Baha’i pioneer and travel-teacher, Canadian-Australian, father of one, step-father of two, step-grandfather of three, grandfather of one, and husband of two women over the years, among the many other roles I acquired in my lifetime. As I pointed out to my son Daniel in October 2011, though, except for a small portion of my writing in hard copy in my study most of my files could be thrown-out on my death without a significant, or perhaps any, loss to posterity. This is due to the fact that virtually everything in my study consists of resources: information photocopied and notes taken, books and journals. The totality of this oeuvre is complex. The documents are often written in chicken-scrawled handwriting that results in making spelling and grammar obscure. Any transcription becomes inevitably untrustworthy and potentially full of errors. To unwrap the package of my resources is in many ways an unwraping of myself: the poetry fragments, the lists, the lecture notes and tangential musings provide a variety of insights into my thinking and my creative processes.

I would expect the process of cateloguing my work, should hard copies be desired, to take at least two years, as a recent Curator of Literary Collections told me in a recent discussion. The collected works of writers which come to be stored in the myriad institutions on the planet is a complex business. But, if only a small portion of my writing was to be kept in perpetuity, the cateloguing process could take little time. Processing and cateloguing could begin shortly after the purchase and the transporting of my archive from my study here in George Town Tasmania. Some institution in Canada, Australia or, indeed, one of what are now over two hundred national Bahá'í community archives and innumerable academic institutions, some formally associated with the Bahá'í Faith, and most not would then house my opus. Perhaps some portions of my collection, my archive, would be made available to scholars within months of their purchase if the classifying exercise was speedily engaged in if, indeed, my writings were ever purchased at all. If the institution which came to house this collection had the human resources for such speedy classifying and storage for public convenience, of course, the entire exercise could be done in the twinkling of an eye.

Part 2.2:

The news of said acquisition would not, in all likelihood, be made widely public, mainly because I would not expect that there be significant interest in the collection, at least not in the immediate years after my demise. Anyone who was keen to examine the archive would be able, eventually, to drive down to the town or city concerned to get a sense of what the archive contained. The institution might very kindly offer to display a sample of the material for anyone to see. In the said library at the said institution a scrapbook would be available in which I had gathered: (a) my first documents from the earliest days of my pioneering in 1962, (b) my first publications in the 1970s, a note of congratulations from some correspondents in the 1990s and 2000s, a receipt of payment for the first publication of a poem in the 1990s, the cover of the magazine in which a piece of my writing appeared. There might also be some sad, but very human, evidence of my manic-depressive behaviour/experience from time to time conveyed in a letter or an essay. The efforts of the scholars associated with what might be called the Price Papers Project—which could be based anywhere—may begin to yield a mature understanding of my character and my work. Anyone who really wants to get to know me and my writing can do no better than immerse themselves in the books and papers coming out of the Price Papers Project, which could over time yield many published volumes of correspondence and writings spanning the period from my youth up to and including the 21st century.

There would be a few handwritten drafts of poems, and hundreds of pages of notes in my handwriting. Typewritten manuscripts would be found for all the 6 drafts of my book on the poetry of Roger White and an electronic edition of my own autobiography in its 7 editions. There would be over 7000 poems in 70+ hardcover booklets.

Part 2.3

Editing for some writers, like Charles Dickens, was an a full-time second career but the evidence of it in my own work---and it was extensive---by the 3rd millennium would be limited due to the fact that virtually everything I wrote by then was on the internet or in my electronic directory. It was not until that 3rd millennium that the great body of my literary efforts began to find a public place for it was not until then that I had retired and found the time to devote myself to literary activity. The range of hitherto unseen and unpublished material in this collection would keep Price scholars busy for years to come after being made available to the public eye. Some of my personal correspondence might be closed, as required by my Will, until 25 years after my passsing. My letters between, say, myself and some person of note might be viewed 100 years after my passing, also as required by my executors. Like the correspondence between Wordsworth and Coleridge, my correspondence might remain unseen for many decades. Is that possible? Some Professor of Literature might say: “it will help us hire new lecturers in the field, lecturers who will have at their fingertips material that will launch their scholarly careers” if our institution possesses Price's archives. The Price papers join those of X,Y and Z and a small collection from A, since A has not yet made his complete collection of papers available.

There would be no signs of literary sainthood as often happens to writers in secular society. Although the individual is important in a Bahá'í society, there is a balance between individual and community. The tendency, therefore, to make of a persona, any person, a celebrity is strongly countered in Bahá'í society. Some university may indeed purchase my library, old second-hand cabinets and a wide range of memorabilia, but there would be no campus shrine erected as sometimes happens to the writer of fame in the West in the 20th century. A collected edition of my oeuvre would in time be available in print on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific, supplemented by fat anthologies, scrupulously annotated, of my letters, diaries, essays and reviews. The Price industry might eventually spawn a monthly journal devoted to a minute inspection of my literary corpus. I would think, judging from journals that have sprung-up devoted to the writings of others in the western intellectual tradition, that such an event might occur in, say, the 23rd or 24th century. Learned periodicals would explore the significance of a lemon tree in my imagery, of wasteland and spinifex as well as many other flora and fauna which were part of my life. In Wales, where my name had its origins, there might be, in time, a solemn discussion of my ancestry.

Part 2.4:

If my work was ever to be canonized: several volumes of a definitive, at least five-part, life would come on board. Since there was no authorized biography before my death in the 2nd century of the B.E., nor any delightful memoirs, that definitive work would, hopefully, be short on anecdote but long on scholarship. Its overall tone would be protective, particularly in matters of sex and religion. Hopefully, though, that work would be deeply researched and pondered. It would do me greater service, by transcending hagiography and revealing for the first time the full range of my intellect and experience. The work would cover my career with a relentless roll of detail that would, necessarily try not to to crush the narrative flat. Given the possible compulsion of such a biographer to describe all of my eventful life, and travel to every place I had lived, he or she should not be discouraged by the fact that I had already told much of the story in my autobiography and poetry. Life should not be made difficult for anyone who tried to gain access to the approximately 42,000 items in my archives. I trust that important papers will not vanish. So often documents are removed from the literary estate of a writer after his death, especially documents casting the writer in an unfavorable light, at least in the opinion of his trustees.

Part 2.5

The editorial work behind what might be called, the launching of the Price industry or project I would like to think would be immense in scale. Every book that I mention, every painting, every piece of music would be tracked down and accounted for. My movements would be traced from week to week and year to year annalisitically like the Romans once did. Everyone I allude to in my writings would be identified; my principal contacts would receive potted biographies. Some two thirds of the occasional volume in the final corpus of volumes would be given over to scholarly apparatus, principally elucidatory commentary. The standard of the commentary would be of the highest. Within the constraints laid down by Price himself, The Letters of Ron Price would become a model edition.

Philosophically, my intellect was grounded in many sources, whence came the static/dynamic imagery of my writing, the identification of the individual with civilization and much that was the crowd with barbarism, the search for balance and permanence in a world of shrieking chaos. Stylistically, my mind and hand were trained by a list of writers too long to mention here. An obscure book illuminator who taught me aesthetics and logic as a university student would get a mention. My training, plus wide reading in European and classical history and a practical study of art, the social and behavioural sciences, the physical and bilogical sciences, made me a formidably erudite man, but it was an erudition that I never acknowledged, and was never acknowledged by others. I had always been aware that I occupied a space of an infinity of ignorance. Erudition had become, by the 21st century, a complex and arguable entity at best. Learning alone did not account for my ability, say, to write nearly 10,000 prose-poems of many millions of words or many 1000s of letters to every type of person imaginable.

Part 2.6

In some ways my story, the account of my life, was not pretty. Unlike many writers, I was not constantly tormented by demons, having to resort in the process, to alcohol or prostitutes, to soften, or escape from, life's melancholy and tragic side. Nor did I have to escape from an all-pervading sense of change and decay, as many pessimists and cynics need to do. I did require drugs, or more accurately pharmacology, to help me deal with my lifelong mental-health problems, mainly bipolar disorder(BPD). BPD gave my life its dark side, a dark side I have described in a separate book which can be accessed at the bi-polar sub-section of this website.

I trust there will be some attempt to analyze my humor and quote occasionally from my prose and poetry, lest an essentially somber portrait of my life be conveyed. I trust that biography will be for the serious student who wants to learn as much as possible about the man and is keen to read everything he wrote. There will certainly be no shortage of the latter. That biography will list some 50 major works written in 60 years(1962 to 2022)---a prodigious total, given my lifelong tendency to postpone, redirect, rechannel, and apply my gifts in a myriad forms of work, community activity and a seemingly endless series of non-literary involvements. Of course, the term, "gift" was, as Roger White that former and unofficial poet laureate of the international Bahá'í community, emphasized back in the 1980s, but a form of unmerited grace. My writing was never seen as a gift at all by many, if not most, who came upon it. Such a reaction always helped to keep any incipient egotism well in hand.


Part 1:

My journals do not represent the crowning achievement of my writing career. It is said that the essayist and journal writer Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882) was a more full-bodied, historically situated, moody, and self-questioning author in his journals than in his work as essayist. His journals were the incubator of his sermons, lectures, essays, poems, and translations, almost all of which received their first transcriptions there. Beyond this, they were, as he wrote to his friend Thomas Carlyle, "full of disjointed dreams, audacities, unsystematic irresponsible lampoons of systems, and all manner of rambling reveries, the poor drupes and berries I find in my basket after aimless rambles in woods and pastures."

The operative word is “full.” In addition to such miscellanea, the journals contain detailed accounts of Emerson’s readings, travels, personal relationships, economic transactions, existential crises, professional life, and incessant mood swings. So great was his need for daily expression that on those occasions when he had nothing to say, and they were many, he lamented his listlessness loquaciously. A handful of specialists may feel obliged to trudge through the sixteen massive volumes of The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson published by Harvard University but those Journals won't find many other trudgers. As far as my Journals are concerned, they may never be published. I will, though, post several internet locations below at which I make some diary entries and some general comments about my journals and diaries, memoirs and autobiographies: (sroll down to read my comment)


Part 1:

What follows are some comments on a statement I wrote to the National Baha’i Archives of Australia(NBAA). The statement was 125 pages and 55,000 words and was a description of the documents I sent to the NBAA belonging, as they did, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia Inc. My decision as to which documents I had decided to send to these archives and which ones, therefore, were eventually accepted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, was based on the description and definition of the nature of these archives as outlined in the Australian Baha’i Archives Acquisition Policy.(1) It was necessary for the NBAA to send me these guidelines concerning individuals making donations to the archives so that I would have some idea of just what the NBAA housed and what they did not, what that agency of the NSA accepted as a gift and what it did not. I now see all of the documents I sent to the NBAA as part of the fulfilment of my role in Canada’s international pioneering experience, its national diaspora or exodus of Baha’is in its “glorious mission overseas.” I also see these documents as part of a record of my contribution to the spread of the Baha’i Faith in southern Ontario in Canada’s most southerly towns as far south as Windsor Ontario--through a series of homefront pioneering moves before and after participating in the opening chapters of the push of the Baha’i Faith to “the Northernmost Territories of the Western Hemisphere.” It is in this context, the context in which I see these documents, that this offering was made to both the NSA of the Baha’is of Australia and Canada.

Part 2:

Such were the most general perspectives on the place of my pioneering experience and my role in the Cause as both a homefront pioneer and an international pioneer. I am now living: (a) at the southern end of the spiritual axis mentioned by Shoghi Effendi in his 1957 letter and (b) in the outer perimeter of a series of concentric circles, circles which define the spacial parameters of my life, in several interlocking and important ways. The southern pole of this axis where I now live, where I have lived and where in all likelihood my body will one day be buried is "endowed with exceptional spiritual potency." Many years of my life have been lived at several points along the southern extremity of this pole, this spiritual axis: in Perth Western Australia, in Gawler and Whyalla South Australia, in Ballarat and Melbourne Victoria and in several towns of Tasmania. All of these points lie, too, at the outer perimeter of the ninth concentric circle whose centre is the "Bab’s holy dust." Nine concentric circles also provide the main geometry of the eighteen terraces in Haifa Israel. Just as the identification of a circle presupposes a centre, so the terraces have been conceived as generated from the Shrine of the Báb. The eighteen terraces plus the one terrace of the Shrine of the Báb make nineteen terraces total. Nineteen is a significant number within both the Bahá'í and Bábí religions.

The brief statement, outline, of the documents that seem to me to be of relevance to a national archive is not included here at this website. The decision to house this same material in the Canadian Baha’i archive, in the end, was left with the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. The Archives Department in Canada was not interested in my donation except a few letters to and from the Canadian poet Roger White. The NBAA was interested and four boxes of my letters from 1960 to 2010 are now housed in the NBAA. And finally, it goes without saying that I was happy with the decision of the Canadian NSA. The decision that my material could not be stored at the National Bahá'í Centre in Thornhill Ontario since the Canadian Bahá'í community did not have the room at their National Centre was understandable.
(1) The email to Ron Price on 28/11/08 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Australia Inc contained guidelines for individuals making donations of these national archives. This email of 28/11/08 was sent to me in response to my emails of 22/11/08 and 27/11/08 to the NBAA asking what documents they would like sent to them. By the end of 2010, as I indicated above, four boxes of my letters, from 1960 to 2010, were housed in the NBAA.


To be exiled, to be a refugee, is not to disappear, nor is it to shrink, to slowly or quickly get smaller and smaller. For one of history's great satirists Jonathan Swift, exile was the secret word for journey. Many of those who have been exiled, were freighted with suffering. All literature carries exile within it, whether the writer has had to pick up and go at the age of twenty or has never left home. Probably the first exiles on record were Adam and Eve. This is indisputable and it raises a few questions: can it be that we’re all exiles? Is it possible that all of us are wandering strange lands? For more on this subject go to this link:


Elfriede Jelinek(1946-), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, suffers from agoraphobia and social phobia, paranoid conditions that developed when she first decided to write seriously. Both conditions are anxiety disorders which can -be highly disruptive to everyday functioning yet are often concealed by those affected, out of shame, or feelings of inadequacy. Many writers suffer from a variety of disorders, disorders which have an important relationship with their writing. For me, bipolar disorder(BPD) has had an instrumental role, a creative role, in my writing. Readers can go to the sub-section of this site on bipolar disorder for my account, my story of BPD.

For access to a site with over four dozen essays, books and poems in relation to my autobiography go to the site below. Type the name 'Price' into the search box to obtain access to this body of autobiographical writing. (this site, bahai-library, is currently under repair and readers will have to wait to access these writings): 'Price' into the search box)

I don’t wake up sweating in the night wondering if I am going broke to no purpose with my site since it costs me nothing. I can check the viewing figures and remind myself that in the last three years I get two visitors/day at this site. I’ll never be famous or rich on this clicking-rate. Clive goes on to say that "the most glittering prize the web offers is that it gives a person a chance to put their life on the line in a constructive way." Perhaps, too, as he says, "the brightest young people, wherever they come from, are more likely to find an older voice worth listening to if it is talking about something beyond wealth and power." At two clicks a day, though, I’m not holding my breath waiting for this glittering prize, if it is that, to receive the recognition it deserves, if it in fact does. But prize or no prize, there is no doubt that this site is autobiographical.
Autobiography's traditional search, by way of writing, is for a significant personal past, a self as life-story, as personal narrative-among other purposes for the search, for the writing task. Essays and poems, interviews and books have immersed this writer in the pleasures and doubts of the writing process. These genres of writing also possess a fragmentariness and a provi=sionality that scale down the amplitude of autobiography by narrowing the retrospective gaze to single experiences and certain life-themes. One can not take everything in in one poem, one piece of writing or, indeed, in one’s entire corpus of writing any more than one can take all of life into one’s own life, one’s own living. This seems only obvious, hardly in need of saying. One touches the surface of existence and takes away an infinitesimal portion of the whole. One of my small portions is found here.

The study of a life, any life, is in some ways a religious act, a devotional exercise. "Look within thee", as Bahá'u'lláh says, "and thou wilt find Me standing within Thee mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." Many things are involved in this process of recreation, partly an invention and a defining of the self, partly a moulding and remoulding of myself and my world, partly a moving back and forth between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world. Had it not been for my life commitment for the last 49 years to the teachings, the philosophy, the spiritual principles, of this emerging world religion, I am inclined to think that this autobiographical poetry in all its forms would not have come into existence. This global Faith is the catalyst, the leaven, the enzyme, that has given rise to all that is found here. For me, as it was for the psychologist Alfred Adler, a sense of community is a primary index of mental health and the term 'community' for me has a host of meanings, as does the term mental health. Readers, it is hoped, will feel that my struggles, my triumphs, my failures and glories are, at least in part, their own. As the American poet Kenneth Koch said in a recent interview: when you read a poem, the poet's experience becomes, in a way, your own. I would hope that readers here might experience what Richard Hutch calls "inner empathetic rehearsals"1, experiments in imagining similarities and contrasts with their own lives when they read the poetry of others. The comparisons and contrasts with the lives of others provide a potentially fertile field for understanding one’s own life. Even comparisons and contrasts with those who have passed away can provide heuristic insights in this imaginative, subjective sense. I write occasionally about those who have passed on and inevitably, of course, I and my readers will also pass on. In mysterious and enigmatic ways we are all one, all one community: past, present and future.


By 1 September 2013 I had located from 4000 to 5000 other Ron Prices on the internet. I listed over 100 of these other Ron Prices in my computer directory a number of years ago, in my first years on Facebook since I had begun to experience the problem of people in cyberspace confusing me with others who had the same name. If I did not post extensively on the world-wide-web and have literally millions of words in cyberspace, this exercise of getting a general handle on all these others with the same name as mine would not have been necessary.

There are now special sites in cyberspace with lists of people who have the same name as you. These special sites and some of the numbers of Ron Prices include:,, ZoomInfo Business People, Linkedin,(25),, How Many of Me.Com, PeekYou(2223), White Pages USA(912),and Pipl Search.

Part 2:

How many of has a UK site, a US site, and possibly such a site for many other countries, although I have not checked this out. The most comprehensive people search site on the web is found at pipl search. Pipl search will bring you results you won't find in any other search engine. They use an identity resolution engine to link seemingly disparate results into a set of meaningful profiles so you can easily find the person you are looking for.

One site informed me that there were 1,004 people in the U.S. who have this name, and contact details were available for all the people named Ronald Price. There were, as of 1/5/’13: 78 in California, 75 in Texas, 67 in Ohio, 56 in Pennsylvania, 53 in Florida, and 43 in Michigan—with the same name.

Part 3:

My name Ron Price comes from the Old Norse personal name Rögnvaldr. It is composed of regin meaning: ‘advice, decision, the gods, and valdr meaning ruler. This name was regularly used in the Middle Ages in northern England and Scotland where Scandinavian influence was strong. It is now widespread throughout the English-speaking world.

The name Ron Price is an Anglicized form of Welsh: Rhys meaning son of Rhys: see also Reece. This is one of the commonest of Welsh surnames. It has also been established in Ireland since the 14th century, where it is sometimes a variant of Bryson.


Robert Gottlieb’s Great Expectations brings together, in almost schematic fashion, the lives of Dickens’s ten children. There is a short introduction to remind us of the main events of Dickens’s life, followed by accounts of his dealings with each child before his death and then of how each fared afterwards. The strange thing is that despite its unambitious, unassuming approach – often it seems that this short book was written simply for the pleasure of contemplating a man whom Gottlieb admires to the point of worship – Great Expectations is more intriguing than many weightier accounts, perhaps because it allows us to observe, as we might not in a long and dense biography, certain patterns of behaviour, certain obsessions, that we soon realise are absolutely central not only to the plots of Dickens’s novels, but to his whole approach to writing and being read. Dickens spoke of his readers as his extended family; to understand our response to him, it isn’t a bad idea to see how he dealt with his children.

Disappointment, as Gottlieb repeatedly tells us, was Dickens’s defining and constant experience with his children; great expectations coming to nothing. ‘I never sing their praises,’ he remarked, ‘because they have so often disappointed me.’ Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 when he was 24 and she 20. He had only recently got over his love for a well-to-do girl whose family rejected him because he was young and without prospects – another exclusion. The eldest of nine children, Catherine was better placed socially than Dickens; her father was an editor on a newspaper Dickens wrote for. Marrying her, he was gaining entry to more respectable society. The move was not entirely distinguishable from his urgent project of becoming part of the literary world and being loved and accepted by readers. Serialisation of The Pickwick Papers was underway, inviting everyone to become involved in the droll Pickwick Club. In 1837 the book’s success won Dickens election to the rather more real Garrick. I could deal in much more detail here with Dickens, his birth family and his children, but I will leave that to readers with the interest. I will come back to this section and write about both my birth family and my two affinal families when time and circumstances, interest and enthusiasm permit.


Section 1:

I was a very well-known baseball player in my teens, in the 1950s in the small town of Burlington Ontario, at the time a place of about 5000 people. I was the home-run king in the pee-wee league(1954/6) and the most-valuable-player in the midget league(1957/8) before I ran out of status at the age of 18 among the juvenile all-stars(8/62) and moved to another town where I played no more baseball. Later I was a young(in the 1960s and 1970s) and then middle-aged (1980s and 1990s)teacher, sometimes well-regarded even a celebrity of sorts. I never became addicted to anything more destructive than one cigar on Friday after a busy week with 200 students or a feeling that I was really someone special and deserving of recognition with my chest puffed-out imaginatively. I smoked the cigar slowly in the town of Gawler. I lived in this town which was 30 minutes by car from the school where I taught in Para Hills South Australia. I tried to keep a lid on my ego knowing, as I did, that popularity could make inroads into that subtle, often tenuous and obstructive veil of self, a self that builds walls that can shut me from my portion of eternal grace.(Selections, p.182). That cigar-smoking time was back in 1973 outside Adelaide in the Barossa Valley where I lived for just on one year. That ego-smoking time is one I describe in more detail in these memoirs and there is no need here to give an account of this mise en scene at this point. "There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart," wrote Samuel Johnson who compiled the first English dictionary, "a desire for distinction, which inclines every man to hope, and then to believe, that nature has given him something peculiar to himself." I think Johnson was onto something here but this idea, like alot of ideas and quotations, needs unpacking and I do not want to do so here.

I would like now to quote and paraphrase from an excellent essay on the subject of "The Culture of Celebrity" by Joseph Epstein in a journal entitled The Weekly Standard.(10/17/2005, Volume 011, Issue 05)Epstein, like Clive James, is another fine essayist that has been thrown up by journalism during the last two epochs. Both these men possess a fine mind, an erudition, and a wonderful sense of humour. As I say, I paraphrase Epstein here and intersperse some of my own comments as I go along.

The concept of and emphasis on celebrity at this moment in the West has reached epidemic proportions by sensible and insensible degrees since I was a child in the 1950s--and it's spreading fast--wrote Epstein only four years ago about a dozen years after I first read his writing and his book Plausible Prejudices. Sometimes it seems as if nearly everyone is into celebrity. Television provides celebrity dance contests; celebrities take part in reality shows; perfumes carry the names not merely of designers but of actors and singers. Without celebrities, whole sections of newspapers would have to close down. So pervasive has celebrity become in contemporary cultural life that one now begins to hear a good deal about a phenomenon known as the Culture of Celebrity. As the author of this five volume memoir, I can not ignore this subject either, if only because in this work, if nowhere else in the world, I am the chief celebrity and readers need to know some of my thoughts on the subject.

The word "culture" no longer--if it ever did--stands in most people's minds for that whole congeries of institutions, relations, kinship patterns, linguistic forms, and much else for which the early anthropologists meant it to stand. As I mention above, though, in relation to cultural studies, this memoir keeps its eye on culture in this anthropological sense. Only a coterie now studies or ever studied anthropology. Words, unlike disciplined soldiers, refuse to remain in place and take orders. Even when one is a student of anthropology and knows the meanings given to the word culture in that social science discipline, these students will still find that word an unruly entity in our media-saturated age. Words like 'culture' slither and slide around, picking up all sorts of slippery and even goofy meanings. An icon, another slippery term/word, has not stayed, has not remained, with its original meaning as: a small picture of a religious personage. The word icon has been transformed, transmogrified, into all sorts of uses. Just check out your Thesaurus for the multi-layered meaning that word now possesses in popular culture. "Language," the French writer Flaubert once protested in his attempt to tell his mistress Louise Colet how much he loved her, "is inept." It is useful for readers to keep this in mind as they trowl through the million words in this memoir or the several million if they include the several genres in which I have attempted to tell my story.

Section 2:

Today, when people glibly refer to: "the corporate culture," "the culture of poverty," "the culture of journalism," "the culture of the intelligence community," and even "the homeless community"--what I think is meant by "culture" is the general emotional atmosphere and institutional character surrounding the word to which "culture" is attached. Thus, corporate culture is thought to breed the selfishness practiced at the Machiavellian level; the culture of poverty breeds hopelessness and despair; the culture of journalism, a taste for the sensational combined with a short attention span; the culture of the intelligence community involves covering-one's-own-behind and a certain viperishness; and so on. The word "community" has similar problems. It has become another of those hopelessly baggy-pants words with uses up and down the culture's lexicon to mean everything from a man to his dog and much, much else.

Culture is now used to explain unpleasant or at least dreary behavior. "The culture of NASA has to be changed," is a sample of its current usage. The comedian Flip Wilson, after saying something outrageous, would revert to the refrain line, "The debbil made me do it." So, today, when admitting to unethical or otherwise wretched behavior, people often say, "The culture made me do it." Good old socialization, an endemic part of culture, has become a useful explanatory concept brought into the conversation, like reincarnation, to explain, at least partly, nearly and and every behaviour imaginable.

As for "celebrity," its standard definition is no longer the dictionary one but is found closer to that in use by the American historian and writer Daniel Boorstin which he gave in his book The Image: Or What Happened to the American Dream. "The celebrity," Boorstin wrote, "is a person who is well-known for his well-knownness," which is now simply misquoted as "a celebrity is someone famous for being famous." The other standard quotation on this subject is Andy Warhol's "In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes," which also frequently turns up in an improved misquotation as "everyone will have his fifteen minutes of fame." But to say that a celebrity is someone well-known for being well-known, though clever enough, doesn't quite cover it. Not that there is a shortage of such people who seem to be known only for their well-knownness.

The distinction between celebrity and fame is one most dictionaries tend to fudge. I suspect everyone has, or prefers to make, their own definition and differentiation. The one I like derives not from Aristotle, who didn't have to trouble with celebrities in the centuries before Christ, but from the career of the baseball great, Ted Williams. A sportswriter once said that Williams wished to be famous but had no interest in being a celebrity. What Ted Williams wanted to be famous for was his hitting. He wanted everyone who cared about baseball to know that he was--as he believed and may well have been--the greatest pure hitter who ever lived. What he didn't want to do was to take-on any of the effort off the baseball field involved in making this known.

As an active player, Williams gave no interviews, signed no baseballs or photographs, chose not to be obliging in any way to journalists or fans. A rebarbative character, not to mention often a slightly menacing s.o.b., Williams, if you had asked him, would have said that it was enough that he was the last man to hit .400; he did it on the field, and therefore didn't have to sell himself off the field. As for his duty to his fans, he didn't see that he had any. Whether Ted Williams was right or wrong to feel as he did is of less interest than the distinction his example provides. That distinction is one which suggests that fame is something one earns--through talent or achievement of one kind or another--while celebrity is something one cultivates or, possibly, has thrust upon one. The two are not, of course, entirely exclusive. One can be immensely talented and full of achievement and yet wish to broadcast one's fame further through the careful cultivation of celebrity; and one can have the thinnest of achievements and be talentless and yet be made to seem otherwise through the mechanics and dynamics of celebrity-creation, in our day a whole mini or not-so-mini, industry of its own.

Another possibility which we find in the realms of celebrity is that one can become a celebrity with scarcely any pretensions to talent or achievement whatsoever. Much modern celebrity seems the result of careful promotion or great good luck, things besides talent and achievement. Epstein sites the following examples: Mr. Donald Trump, Ms. Paris Hilton, Mr. Regis Philbin. The ultimate celebrity of our time, Epstein suggests, may have been John F. Kennedy Jr., notable only for being his parents' very handsome son--both his birth and good looks factors beyond his control--and, alas, known for nothing else whatsoever now, except for the sad, dying-young-Adonis, end to his life. I'm sure many will disagree with Epstein for we all have lots of opinions in this popular world of the celebrity.

Section 3:

Fame, then, at least as I prefer to think of it, is based on true achievement; celebrity on the broadcasting of that achievement or the inventing of something that, if not scrutinized too closely, might pass for achievement. Celebrity suggests ephemerality, while fame has a chance of lasting, a shot at reaching the happy shores of posterity. Oliver Goldsmith, in his poem "The Deserted Village," refers to "good fame," which implies that there is also a bad or false fame. Bad fame is sometimes thought to be fame in the present, or fame on earth, while good fame is that bestowed by posterity--those happy shores again. This doesn't eliminate the desire of most of us, at least nowadays, to have our fame here and hereafter, too.

Fame that is not false but wretched is covered by the word "infamy." "Infamy, infamy, infamy," remarked the English wit Frank Muir, "they all have it in for me." The lower or pejorative order of celebrity is covered by the word "notoriety," also frequently misused to mean noteworthiness. If you can find the time to read Leo Braudy's magnificent book on the history of fame, The Frenzy of Renown you will find his wonderful history of fame in civilization. Braudy illustrates how the means of broadcasting fame have changed over the centuries: from having one's head engraved on coins, to purchasing statuary of oneself and, for the really high rollers--Alexander the Great, the Caesar boys--naming cities or even months after oneself. Then there is the commissioning of painted portraits, to writing books or having books written about one, and so on into our day of the publicity or press agent, the media blitz, the public relations expert, and the egomaniacal blogger. One of the most successful of public-relations experts, Ben Sonnenberg Sr., used to say that he saw it as his job to construct very high pedestals for very small men.

And so, a reader may ask: "what has all of this to do with your autobiography, Mr. Price?" A simple answer is that the issue of fame, distinction, celebrity, identity and introspection all surround the statement attributed to Socrates that: "the unexamined life is not worth living." The American philosopher Daniel Dennett(1942-) once wrote that: "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the overexamined life is nothing to write home about either."(Elbow Room)If, indeed, I have overexamined my life, my society and my religion--as I'm sure many readers will conclude and stop reading this work early in the piece--so be it.

Although this work obviously has a personal, an introspective, focus, I would argue that I provide an access to non-partisan politics,a global political agenda of the first order. This memoir is no slide into a lifestyle, navel-gazing introspection; it is rather a life-changing analysis and interrogation of my life.

I have acquired a very proper suspicion of celebrity. What George Orwell said about saints, seems only sensible to say about celebrities: They should all be judged guilty until proven innocent. Guilty of what, precisely? I'd say of the fraudulence, however minor, of inflating their brilliance, accomplishments, worth, of passing themselves off as something they aren't, or at least are not quite. If fraudulence is the crime, publicity is the means by which the caper is brought off. This work is not intended to be a caper, even a minor fraudulence, a personal inflation of decades of achievements, an attempt to prove innocence, an outline of my guilt. That is not my intent, but in 2500 pages it is difficult not to have some of these aspersions stick to me for what I write, what I reveal of my life.

Section 4:

Is the current heightened interest in the celebrated sufficient to form a culture--a culture of a kind worthy of study? The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber defined culture, in part, as embodying values which may be formulated, overtly as mores, or felt, implicitly as in folkways, by the society carrying the culture. It is part of the business of the anthropologist to characterize and define these terms. What are the values of celebrity culture? They are the values, almost exclusively, of publicity. Did they spell one's name right? What was the size and composition of the audience? Did you check the receipts? Was the timing right? Publicity is concerned solely with effects and does not investigate causes or intrinsic value too closely. Epstein writes about a review of his book Snobbery: The American Version. It received what he thought was a too greatly mixed review in the New York Times Book Review. He remarked on his disappointment to the publicity man at his publisher's who promptly told him not to worry. The publicity man emphasized that the coverage was a full-page review on page 11 on the right-hand side. That, he said, "is very good real estate," which was quite as important as, perhaps more important than, the reviewer's actual words and final judgment. Better to be tepidly considered on page 11 than extravagantly praised on page 27, left-hand side. Real estate, man, it's the name of the game.

This work of mine is found hidden away on the internet, in a place that will bring me neither fame, nor rank, nor name, nor notoriety except among a coterie so small as to barely have any significance at all. In addition, I am my own publicity-man. My main interest is in the publicity of the religion that has been part of my life since the double helix that Watson and Crick discovered made it clear that DNA explained heredity. That discovery led to such practical applications as DNA forensics in law enforcement, testing for genetic diseases and the development of an entire biotechnology industry. With the recent completion of the Human Genome Project, it could radically change the way medicine is practiced over the next few decades. In 1953, the Bahai Faith celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first intimations of Bahaullahs revelation in the Siyah Chal, a revelation that initiated a drama that this autobiography is but a line, a word, in a play of many acts that has been, is and will be the basis for the transformation, the planetization, of this Earth. My contact with this new Faith began in that same year.

We must have new names, Marcel Proust presciently noted--in fashion, in medicine, in art--there must always be new names. It's a very smart remark and the fields Proust chose seem smart, too, at least for his time. Now there must also be new names, at a minimum, among movie stars and athletes and politicians. Implicit in Proust's remark is the notion that if the names don't really exist, if the quality isn't there to sustain them, it doesn't matter; new names we shall have in any case. And every sophisticated society somehow, more or less implicitly, contrives to supply them. The Bahai Faith has been playing its part in the creation and establishment of new names and the process has only begun during these four epochs that are at the base of this memoir--and the four epochs of the Heroic Age of this Faith from 1844 to 1921.

I happen to think that we haven't had a major poet writing in English since perhaps the death of W.H. Auden or, to lower the bar a little, Philip Larkin. But new names are put forth nevertheless--high among them in recent years has been that of Seamus Heaney--because, after all, what kind of a time could we be living in if we didn't have a major poet? And besides there are all those prizes that, year after year, must be given out, even if so many of the recipients don't seem quite worthy of them. Considered as a culture, celebrity does have its institutions. We now have an elaborate celebrity-creating machinery well in place--all those short-attention-span television shows, all those magazines. We have high-priced celebrity-mongers--Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Oprah--who not only live off others' celebrity but also, through their publicity-making power, confer it. They have also become very considerable celebrities each in his or her own right.

Section 5:

Without the taste for celebrity, they would have to close down the whole Style section of every newspaper in the country. Then there is the celebrity profile in magazines like Vanity Fair, Esquire and Gentlemen's Quarterly. These are nowadays usually orchestrated by a press agent with all touchy questions declared out-of-bounds. The television talk-show interview is central to the celebrity business. The show has its star and stars who are beyond parody. Well, almost beyond: Martin Short in his parody of a talk-show host remarked to the actor Kiefer Sutherland, "You're Canadian, aren't you? What's that all about?" But all is not a sorry tale of doom and gloom in that world of glitter and gloss. While all this celebrity trivia has been piling-high there has emerged in the last half century a literature in the humanities and social sciences that has transformed the academic world. It has not percolated down to the millions who consume and who are amusing themselves to death in the electronic media, but it is now found in thousands of good libraries around the world and, increasingly, on the internet. It is in the context of this new and quite exciting literature that I attempt to place this memoiristic work and ensconse it in what I hope is a context that illumines both this work and the braoder issues in relation to the media. This work has little or nothing to do with all this celebrity and fame nonsense that I am discussing here, discussing in order to completely eliminate it from the agenda of readers.

Many of our current day celebrities float upon "hype," which is really a publicist's gas used to pump up and set aloft something that doesn't really quite exist. Hype has also given us a new breakdown, or hierarchical categorization, of celebrities. Until twenty-five or so years ago, about the time I starting writing this memoir, great celebrities were called "stars," a term first used in the movies and entertainment and then taken up by sports, politics, and other fields. Stars proving a bit drab, "super-stars" were called in to play, this term beginning in sports but fairly quickly branching outward. Apparently too many superstars were about, so the trope was switched from astronomy to religion, and we now have "icons." All this takes Proust's original observation a step further: the need for new names to call the new names. Let me be clear. This work is no "hype" and I make every effort to place it far from the whole notion of stardom and celebrity as I have discussed it briefly above.

This new ranking--stars, superstars, icons--helps us believe that we live in interesting times. One of the things celebrities do for us is suggest that in their lives they are fulfilling our fantasies. Modern celebrities, along with their fame, tend to be wealthy or, if not themselves beautiful, able to acquire beautiful lovers. Their celebrity makes them, in the view of many, worthy of worship. "So long as man remains free," Dostoyevsky writes in the Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothers Karamazov, "he strives for nothing so incessantly and painfully as to find someone to worship." If contemporary celebrities are the best thing on offer as living gods for us to worship, this is not good news. I think Epstein is overstating things somewhat here but, I think for millions he is telling it as it is, as it is experienced. The interesting times that we live in, for me, have little to no association with all this media blitzing that has come to occupy the airwaves especially in my pioneering life, decade after decade.

Section 6:

The worshipping of celebrities by the public tends to be thin and, not uncommonly, it is nicely mixed with loathing. People, after all, at least partially, like to see their celebrities as frail, ready at all times to crash and burn. The famous actor, between the wars and after WW2, Cary Grant once warned the then-young director Peter Bogdanovich, who was at the time living with Cybill Sheppard, to stop telling people he was in love. "And above all," Grant warned, "stop telling them you're happy." When Bogdanovich asked why, Cary Grant answered, "Because they're not in love and they're not happy. Just remember, Peter, people do not like beautiful people." Well, Cary, that's partly true but some of those soap-operas have wall-to-wall beautiful people and they are 'liked' by millions, at least they are often watched by millions for many years on end, day after day.

Still, Cary Grant's assertion is borne out by what Epstein calls the grocery press: the National Enquirer, the Star, the Globe, and other variants of the English gutter press. All these tabloids could as easily travel under the generic title of the National Schadenfreude(i.e. taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others), for more than half the stories they contain come under the category of "See How the Mighty Have Fallen." One reads endless accounts of: Oh, my, I see where that bright young television sitcom star, on a drug binge again, had to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance! To think that the handsome movie star has been cheating on his wife all these years--snakes loose in the Garden of Eden, evidently! Did you note that the powerful senator's drinking has caused him to embarrass himself yet again in public? I see where that immensely successful Hollywood couple turn out to have had a child who died of anorexia! Who'd've thought? I discuss this theme in this autobiography in several contexts one of which is the tall-poppy syndrome in Australia where I have lived for nearly forty years.

Along with trying to avoid falling victim to schadenfreude, celebrities, if they are clever, do well to regulate the amount of publicity they allow to cluster around them. And not celebrities alone. Edith Wharton, having published too many stories and essays in a great single rush in various magazines during a concentrated period, feared, as she put it, the danger of becoming "a magazine bore." Celebrities, in the same way, are in danger of becoming publicity bores, though few among them seem to sense it. Because of improperly rationed publicity, along with a substantial helping of self-importance, the comedian Bill Cosby will never again be funny. The actress Elizabeth McGovern said of Sean Penn that he "is brilliant, brilliant at being the kind of reluctant celebrity." At the level of high culture, the novelist Saul Bellow used to work this bit quite well on the literary front, making every interview--and there have been hundreds of them--feel as if given only with the greatest reluctance, if not under actual duress. Others are brilliant at regulating their publicity. Johnny Carson was very intelligent about carefully husbanding his celebrity, choosing not to come out of retirement, except at exactly the right time or when the perfect occasion presented itself. Apparently it never did. Given the universally generous obituary tributes he received, dying now looks, for him, to have been an excellent career move. I don't want to ignore the possibility that I am regulating my publicity and the machine may really get going long after I leave this world, if it ever gets going. If I can play a part in the long-range drama that I have referred to above, I will rejoice, or such is my belief, in worlds wholly and spiritually joyous that will assuredly be mine--or so Bahaullah promises with several riders on His promise.

One has the impression that being a celebrity was easier at any earlier time than it is now, when celebrity-creating institutions, from paparazzi to gutter-press exposés and to television talk-shows, weren't as intense, as full-court press, as they are today. In the Times Literary Supplement, a reviewer of a biography of Margot Fonteyn noted that Miss Fonteyn "was a star from a more respectful age of celebrity when keeping one's distance was still possible." My own candidate for the perfect celebrity in the twentieth century would be Noël Coward, a man in whom talent combined with elegance to give off the glow of glamour--and also a man who would have known how to fend off anyone wishing to investigate his private life. Today, instead of elegant celebrities, we have celebrity criminal trials: Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Martha Stewart, Robert Blake, Winona Ryder, and O.J. Simpson. Schadenfreude is in the saddle again.

Received opinion, at least as I perceive it, has it that in American society and much of society in the West in the twenty-first century, there are only two things highly valued: money and celebrity. Whether or not this is true, vast quantities of money, we know, will buy celebrity. The very rich--John D. Rockefeller and powerful people of his era--used to pay press agents to keep their names out of the papers. But today one of the things money buys is a place at the table beside the celebrated, with the celebrities generally delighted to accommodate, there to share some of the glaring light. An example is Mort Zuckerman, who made an early fortune in real estate, has bought magazines and newspapers, and is now himself among the punditi, offering his largely unexceptional political views on television chat shows. This is merely another way of saying that, whether or not celebrity in and of itself constitutes a culture, it has certainly penetrated and permeated much of American culture generally.

Section 7:

Such has been the reach of celebrity culture in our time that it has long ago entered into academic life. The celebrity professor has been on the scene for more than three decades since about the time that I entered univeristy as a lecturer and tutor. As long ago as 1962, in fact, Epstein says he recalls hearing that Oscar Cargill, in those days a name of some note in the English Department of NYU, had tried to lure the then-young Robert Brustein, a professor of theater and the drama critic for the New Republic, away from Columbia. Cargill had said to Brustein, "I'm not going to bulls--t you, Bob, we're looking for a star, and you're it." Brustein apparently wasn't looking to be placed in a new constellation, and remained at Columbia, at least for a while longer, before moving on to Yale and thence to Harvard.

Genuine scholarship, power of ratiocination glowing brightly in the classroom, is distinctly not what makes an academic celebrity or, if you prefer, superstar. What makes an academic celebrity, for the most part, is exposure, which is ultimately publicity. Exposure can mean appearing in the right extra-academic magazines or journals: the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Atlantic Monthly; Harper's and the New Republic possibly qualify, as do occasional cameo performances on the op-ed pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post. Having one's face pop up on the right television and radio programs--PBS and NPR certainly, and enough of the right kinds of appearances on C-SPAN--does not hurt. A commercially successful, much-discussed book helps hugely.

One might have assumed that the culture of celebrity was chiefly about show business and the outer edges of the arts, occasionally touching on the academy (there cannot be more than twenty or so academic superstars). But it has also much altered intellectual life generally. An intellectual is the man or woman who engages in critical study, thought, and reflection about the reality of society, and proposes solutions for the normative problems of society, and by such discourse in the public sphere gains authority from public opinion. Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics, either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by producing or by extending an ideology, and by defending one or another system of values.

In the 20th century, the term "intellectual" acquired positive connotations of social prestige derived from him or her possessing intellect and superior intelligence, especially when the intellectual's activities in the public sphere exerted positive consequences upon the common good, by means of moral responsibility, altruism, and solidarity, in effort to elevate the intellectual understanding of the public at large, without resorting to the manipulations of populism, paternalism, and condescension. Hence, for the educated man and woman, participating in politics (the public sphere) is a social function that dates from the Greco–Latin Classical era. The determining factor for a thinker (historian, philosopher, scientist, writer, artist, et al.) to be considered "an Intellectual" is the degree to which he or she is implicated and engaged with the vital reality of contemporary times; that is to say, participation in the public affairs of society. Consequently, being designated as "an Intellectual" is determined by the degree of influence of the designator’s motivations, opinions, and options of action (social, political, ideological), and by his or her affinity with the given thinker.

Section 7.1:

The past half century or so have seen the advent of the "public intellectual." There are good reasons to feel uncomfortable with that adjective "public," which drains away much of the traditional meaning of intellectual. An intellectual is someone who is excited by and lives off and in ideas. An intellectual has traditionally been a person unaffiliated, which is to say someone unbeholden to anything but the power of his or her ideas. Intellectuals used to be freelance, until fifty or so years ago, when jobs in the universities and in journalism began to open up to some among them.

Far from being devoted to ideas for their own sake, the intellectual equivalent of art for art's sake, the so-called public intellectual of our day is usually someone who comments on what is in the news, in the hope of affecting policy, or events, or opinion in line with his own political position, or orientation. He isn't necessarily an intellectual at all, but merely someone who has read a few books, mastered a style, a jargon, an authoritative tone, and has a clearly demarcated political line.

But even when the public intellectual isn't purely tied to the news, or isn't thoroughly political, what he or she really is, or ought to be called, is a "publicity intellectual." In Richard A. Posner's interesting book Public Intellectuals, intellectuals are in one place ranked by the number of media mentions they or their work have garnered which, if I am correct about publicity being at the heart of the enterprise of the public intellectual, may be crude but is not foolish. Not knowledge, it turns out, but publicity is power.

Section 8:

The most celebrated intellectuals of our day have been those most skillful at gaining publicity for their writing & their pronouncements. Take, as a case very much in point, Susan Sontag. When Susan Sontag died in 2004, her obituary was front-page news in the New York Times, and on the inside of the paper it ran to a full page with five photographs, most of them carefully posed--a variety, it does not seem unfair to call it, of intellectual cheesecake. Will the current prime ministers of England and France when they peg out receive equal space or pictorial coverage? Unlikely, I think. Why did Ms. Sontag, who was, let it be said, in many ways the pure type of the old intellectual--unattached to any institution, earning her living entirely from her ideas as she put them in writing--why did she attract the attention she did?

I don't believe Susan Sontag's celebrity finally had much to do with the power or cogency of her ideas. Her most noteworthy idea was not so much an idea at all but a description of a style, a kind of reverse or anti-style, that went by the name of Camp and that was gay in its impulse. Might it have been her politics? Yes, politics had a lot to do with it, even though when she expressed herself on political subjects, she frequently got things mightily askew: During the Vietnam war she said that "the white race is the cancer of human history." As late as the 1980s, much too late for anyone in the know, she called communism "fascism with a friendly face" (what do you suppose she found so friendly about it?). To cheer up the besieged people of Sarajevo, she brought them a production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. She announced in the New Yorker that the killing of 3,000 innocent people on 9/11 was an act that America had brought on itself. As for the writing that originally brought her celebrity, she later came to apologize for Against Interpretation, her most influential single book. I do not know any people who claim to have derived keen pleasure from her fiction. If all this is roughly so, why, then, do you suppose that Susan Sontag was easily the single most celebrated--the greatest celebrity--intellectual of our time?

With the ordinary female professor's face and body, I don't think Ms. Sontag would quite have achieved the same celebrity. Her attractiveness as a young woman had a great deal to do with the extent of her celebrity; and she and her publisher took that (early) physical attractiveness all the way out. From reading Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock's biography Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, one gets a sense of how carefully and relentlessly she was promoted by her publisher, Roger Straus. I do not mean to say that Sontag was unintelligent, or talentless, but Straus, through having her always dramatically photographed, by sending angry letters to the editors of journals where she was ill-reviewed, by bringing out her books with the most careful accompanying orchestration, promoted this often difficult and unrewarding writer into something close to a household name with a face that was ready, so to say, to be Warholed. That Sontag spent her last years with Annie Leibowitz, herself the most successful magazine photographer of our day, seems somehow the most natural thing in the world. Even in the realm of the intellect, celebrities are not born but made, usually very carefully made--as was, indubitably, the celebrity of Susan Sontag.

Section 8.1:

One of the major themes in Leo Braudy's The Frenzy of Renown is the fame and celebrity of artists, and above all writers. To sketch in a few bare strokes the richly complex story Braudy tells, writers went from serving power (in Rome) to serving God (in early Christendom) to serving patrons (in the eighteenth century) to serving themselves, with a careful eye cocked toward both the contemporary public and posterity (under Romanticism), to serving mammon, to a state of interesting confusion, which is where we are today, with celebrity affecting literature in more and more significant ways.

Writers are supposed to be aristocrats of the spirit, not promoters, hustlers, salesmen for their own work. Securing a larger audience for their work was not thought to be their problem. "Fit audience, though few," in John Milton's phrase, was all right, so long as the few were the most artistically alert, or aesthetically fittest. Picture Lord Byron, Count Tolstoy, or Charles Baudelaire at a lectern at Barnes & Noble, C-SPAN camera turned on, flogging (wonderful word!) his own most recent books. Not possible!

Some superior writers have been very careful caretakers of their careers. In a letter to one of his philosophy professors at Harvard, T.S. Eliot wrote that there were two ways to achieve literary celebrity in London: one was to appear often in a variety of publications; the other to appear seldom but always to make certain to dazzle when one did. Eliot, of course, chose the latter, & it worked smashingly. But he was still counting on gaining his reputation through his actual writing. Now good work alone doesn't quite seem to make it; the publicity catapults need to be hauled into place, the walls of indifference stormed. Some writers have decided to steer shy from publicity altogether: Thomas Pynchon for one, J.D. Salinger for another. But actively seeking publicity was thought for a writer to be, somehow, vulgar. At least that was the case until the last few decades.

Edmund Wilson, the famous American literary critic, used to answer requests for comments with a postcard that read: "Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to: Read manuscripts, Write articles or books to order, Make statements for publicity purposes, Do any kind of editorial work, Judge literary contests, Give interviews, Conduct educational courses, Deliver lectures, Give talks or make speeches, Take part in writers congresses, Answer questionnaires, Contribute or take part in symposiums or "panels" of any kind, Contribute manuscripts for sale, Donate copies of his books to Libraries, Autograph books for strangers, Allow his name to be used on letterheads, Supply personal information about himself, Supply photographs of himself, Supply opinions on literary or other subjects.

A fairly impressive list, I'd say. When I was young, Edmund Wilson supplied for me the model of how a literary man ought to carry himself. One of the things I personally found most impressive about his list is that everything Edmund Wilson clearly states he will not do, Joseph Epstein has now done, and more than once, and, like the young woman in the Häagen-Dazs commercial sitting on her couch with an empty carton of ice cream, is likely to do again and again.

Section 9:

I tell myself that I do these various things in the effort to acquire more readers. After all, one of the reasons I write, apart from pleasure in working out the aesthetic problems and moral questions presented by my subjects and in my stories, is to find the best readers. I also want to sell books, to make a few shekels, to please my publisher, to continue to be published in the future in a proper way. Having a high threshold for praise, I also don't in the least mind meeting strangers who tell me that they take some delight in my writing. But, more than all this, I have now come to think that writing away quietly, producing what I hope is good work, isn't any longer quite sufficient in a culture dominated by the boisterous spirit of celebrity. In an increasingly noisy cultural scene, with many voices and media competing for attention, one feels--perhaps incorrectly but nonetheless insistently--the need to make one's own small stir, however pathetic. So, on occasion, I have gone about tooting my own little paper horn, doing book tours, submitting to the comically pompous self-importance of interviews, and doing so many of the other things that Edmund Wilson didn't think twice about refusing to do.

"You're slightly famous, aren't you, Grandpa?" my then eight-year-old granddaughter once said to me. "I am slightly famous, Annabelle," I replied, "except no one quite knows who I am." This hasn't changed much over the years. But of course seeking celebrity in our culture is a mug's game, one you cannot finally hope to win. The only large, lumpy kind of big-time celebrity available, outside movie celebrity, is to be had through appearing fairly regularly on television. I had the merest inkling of this fame when I was walking along one sunny morning in downtown Baltimore, and a red Mazda convertible screeched to a halt, the driver lowered his window, pointed a long index finger at me, hesitated, and finally, the shock of recognition lighting up his face, yelled, "C-SPAN!"

I was recently asked, through email, to write a short piece for a high price for a volume about the city of Chicago. When I agreed to do it, the editor of the volume, who was, I think, young, told me how very pleased she was to have someone as distinguished as I among the volume's contributors. But she did have just one request. Before making things final, she wondered if she might see a sample of my writing. More than forty years in the business, I thought, echoing the character played by Zero Mostel in The Producers, and I'm still wearing the celebrity equivalent of a cardboard belt.

"Every time I think I'm famous," Virgil Thomson said, "I have only to go out into the world." So it is, and so ought it probably to remain for writers, musicians, and visual artists who prefer to consider themselves serious. The comedian Richard Pryor once said that he would deem himself famous when people recognized him, as they recognized Bob Hope and Muhammad Ali, by his captionless caricature. That is certainly one clear criterion for celebrity. But the best criterion I've yet come across holds that you are celebrated, indeed famous, only when a crazy person imagines he is you. It's especially pleasing that the penetrating and prolific author of this remark happens to go by the name of Anonymous.

Joseph Epstein who, as I say, is the source of much of the above, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. An earlier version of this essay was published in "Celebrity Culture," the Spring 2005 issue of The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia (

Section 10:

The use of the Bible and religious motifs often serves literary, not mere autobiographical, purposes. Better is an approach to some writer's works that focuses on artistic merit and aesthetic qualities - how are the biblical texts used? In a study of Charlotte BrontŠ's Jane Eyre, Catherine Brown Tkacz reminds us that use of the Bible can have everything to do with art and nothing to do with self-disclosure: An author who has thoroughly assimilated the ideas and images of Christianity, who has gained easy familiarity with the Bible, and who then thinks readily and freely with these materials, animating and embodying them in new ways, may be said to have a Christianized imagination.

I trust the above remarks by Epstein place this massive autobiography in some context. I'm not sure what context. But let me say that I am at least sensitive to the issues he raises as I write all this stuff about my life, my religion and my society. Perhaps in the months and years ahead I will make some more personal comments on where I come into this great mud-puddle of celebrity and fame if, indeed, I have a place there at all. Since the gradual emergence of civilizations in the several millennia after the neolithic/agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago, the world has been the private preserve of a small leisured class. Almost overnight, in the wake of the universal Revelation of God promised in all the sacred scriptures of the past, people everywhere are awakening to the possiblities in human life. Something that can be truly called humanity is being born. The revolution of our time is one toward a global, unified civilization fit for people to live in and, however long and bloody the process humankind is struggling toward the creation of a world community. This is the widest context for my life and the life of all this focus on fame and celebrity which I have discussed above and which readers can continue to explore in their lives in the decades ahead.

For decades I have faced life in this emerging global society. I was forced by the circumstances of my bipolar disorder to face it or gas myself in the garage. Never having the courage or the stupidity or both to end my life I always lived to see another day--at least thusfar. Ironically, my desire for death lit my life up when I was neither manic nor depressed: and this was most of the time. I write of this polarity in my life in other places and will not dwell on that theme here in these introductory words.

I am not one of those who are lavishly talented, who are endowed by genetics, socialization or cirumstances with immense gifts from the gods. I would never have been a major poet whatever the circumstances. Even if I lived as long as my admired philosopher Goethe or any other long-lived man or woman of fame, I would never have been in their league. In baseball terms I was not even double-A material, just a local boy who did well in the pee-wee league. I have tried to put two things together in my life: whatever talent with which I was endowed and whatever tragedy I had to face. Sometimes I was successful at this and sometimes I wasn't. Goethe and many a person of great talent die of old age which is another way of saying their's was a natural death. What such people often want is more of what they'd spent many years enjoying in life and sometimes describing in their literary works. They just don't want to leave this old world. It is or was just too good a place to leave. That's understandable. Because of their successes they could scarcely complain that life had dealt them a raw-deal or that they had never really arrived on terra firma and experienced its delights, the good things life had to offer. Nor could I complain and I rarely do these days except after midnight when the affects of my medications begin to wear off. I have no problem with the prospect of leaving these terrestrial habitations. Although I have, in overview, in summary, enjoyed my life I would not want to live it again or come back. Reincarnation has never interested me. I would take oblivion over reincarnation any day if that was my basic choice. I would not want to return as a rich man, a wise man, as a tree, a flower or any other living thing: thank you very much.

Section 11:


Had I been a television performer I would have become accustomed to being told by confident pundits that I am engaged with a mass audience as the more or less willing victim. In fact, though, the mass audience in TV Land is confined to the studio and usually consists of four cameramen plus two floor-managers and a group of scene-shifters reading magazines. The television audience sits at home and consists of a lot of individuals sometimes referred to as couch-potatoes. The literature that now analyses TV audiences is burgeoning and it is not my intention here to get into these endless and reasoned inquiries about individuals and the mass. A mass I would argue, though, is the last thing a TV audience is. At Nuremberg, when Hitler was on the rampage in the 1930s, his audience was all there in the city square together in one lump: a mass was the first thing that audience was. That mass did not feel inclined to address its operatic-political-phantom. Indeed, it could not. Paraphrasing Goethe's remarks about the lay-out of a Roman amphitheatre Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect, said that an assembly building for the Nazis must be so constructed that a whole people could become ‘impressed with itself'. The audience for this work is also no mass entity. It is a largely unknown set of individuals all over cyberspace. They are individuals who rarely communicate with me but we have many things in common because, in the main, these individuals are Bahais. After nearly sixty years of association with this international Bahai community,a community with a global ethic, it must be said that this autobiography is totally unconnected with a mass audience. Cyberspace brings to me endless fragments, individuals I will never meet and, for the most part, do not want to meet. As I said above, I'm not into the celebrity business. If I have any aim it is a quiet recognition because I know that some people out there on the planet are enjoying reading some of what I write and that what I write is a source of some social good. The revolution that I am engaged in is a quiet one: it is universal, spiritual and significantly out of man's control. My role is but a small part in a big picture and that big picture has a very specific outline and description. It is a Bahai cosmology, a Bahai metaphor, a Bahai view of history and a Bahai sociology and psychology of our times.

Many of the more off-putting aspects of our abundant West arise from its freedoms. The first thing we can be sure of about and in a free society is that it will be teeming and throbbing with things we don't like. We live in a sort of immense Luna Park or Fun Park with thousands of think tanks, universities and other organizations taking care of the serious end of town. We do not inhabit Plato's Republic or a Bahai golden age. Artists, Everyday man and we Bahais should be grateful that we have been given such variety to be creative about. There have been, and there may always be, plenty of despots ready to give us a lot less. One could very well say: " Welcome to the crazy house." One could also say: "Take deep satisfaction from the advances of society in our age." It is only too apparent that we are going to have to reinforce the foundations of our society as the edifice of society shakes with the urgent vigour of its productivity and with the tempests that sometimes feel like they are tearing the world apart. This reinforcing process, though, might be difficult to do. The process of reinforcing society could be seen much like the process of getting new reinforcing rods into concrete while that concrete is being squeezed from within by the expansive oxidation of the old ones.

Recognition is just such a reinforcing rod. Unequivocally, recognition is a proper aim in life. Although recognition is obviously a worthy personal goal it often catches its votaries unawares. To be recognized means to be reassured that you were right to pursue a course that often had no immediate rewards. That same course may also have got in the road of activities that do have such rewards. Poetry is something I have given at least part of my life to: a fact on which I once upon a time preened myself, at least in private. It's rewards were inner ones and not social/external ones. When a Roman general returning from his conquests abroad was awarded what the Romans called 'a triumph', a special herald rode in the chariot with him through the cheering city to whisper in his ear and remind him that he was made of dust and shadows. The occasional general no doubt said to that herald beside him: "Bugger off, I've had this coming for years." In my case, though, I have had no triumph; I do not expect one and, if it came my way, it would only interest me if that triumph was able to exalt this Cause in the process and magnify its international community at the same time. I feel little to no need of any formal and public recogntion in these middle years of my late adulthood with enough recognition under my belt for a lifetime. And the inner rewards are sufficient unto themselves.


Tragedy is arguably the most powerful narrative force of all, since it is in conflict and suffering, in human failure and unhappiness, we most perceive the frailty of the human condition. A powerful story of tragic conflict is irresistible. Add to that the spice of sex and intrigue and you have the ingredients of classic drama. Perhaps someone at a future time will make of the ingredients of my life such a narrative. There has been tragedy, the spice of sex and suffering, and I have written about these things in my 2500 pages. As I look back from nearly 70 years on this earth, compared to so many my life has been mostly success and wins, useful service to the Cause and more joy than sorrow. My wife has suffered much more than I have done and I have watched her deal with with sorrow in a heroic way, battling on. I have certainly had my times of sorrow and tragedy: leaving my mother which was far more tragic for her than for me; the failure of my first marriage, my bipolar disorder, various difficulties associated with my jobs, with raising 3 children, with the Bahá'í community.

Most poets lose out when they abandon some overt poetic form in their work. But I was one of the lucky few who gained. At least that was the way I felt after I found the non-poetic form that suited me after more than 30 years of trying to write poetry. By this happy time I was in my fifties. I don't think this poetic pleasure was due to my ear; my poetry never felt so sound that I could develop a seductively articulated texture of echo over any group of unrhymed lines. I wrote no villanelles and other systematically repetitive forms. Flatness in my poetry and a sense of my repetitiveness are things that many a reader will experience in my work. I have little doubt of this. Anything in my poetic that sounds willed or manufactured to a template probably is. But it is my template and it is written, in the main, to please my ears. One of the main marks of my poetry is its autobiographical aspect, its mild confessionalism. Readers are left to interpret my experience: I have done everything I can to bring such an interpretation on. I try to say in poem after poem that real life, this part of my life in this particular poem, was like this or that or the other. It was like this and it took place at the same time as that event in history, in society or in my life. This autobiographical emphasis will be a significant part of my immediate poetic appeal, among other possible appeals, if my poetry ever does receive any appeal in the wide wide world.

Perhaps this wide societal appeal will lead to annotated editions of my work for future use in high schools and colleges across the English-speaking world should some publisher feels there is a market for my scribblings. Such a publisher may or may not include footnotes to explain what was once an Australian short-hand for some cultural artefact. The global culture in the generation after next might need to be told what 'a ute' or 'a tip' was, when there were dirt roads or trips to the garbage dump in one of my poems. My poetry might say what the dirt roads or the tips were, and how they sounded through the floor of my vehicle or how they smelled through my ute's open windows. And my poem may not. I have tried to make my poetry easily understood but I am not always successful.

Section 32: COURAGE

Courage in oneself, saying one has courage, is difficult to do. It is difficult to measure or even identify in oneself. At least I find such an admission to be the case. All I can do is comfort myself that it has become only one of the factors, if indeed it is there in my life at all, in the self-understanding that has come to me before my death in these years of the evening of my life. If valour, whether moral or physical, were the sole criterion for recognition, most of us would have to give up on the idea, and stick with what celebrity we can get. I hasten to add that I haven't quite given up on celebrity or recognition. These things can help with getting one's writing read. Perhaps I would have had a lot more success getting my poems published if I had been able to get my face on television. It always seemed to me that such exposure has helped many a writer. But I sometimes think that being published is like being in love. Rejection in both these cases is often more memorable than acceptance and it often nourished the waters that run underneath one's life in the acquifers of the soul.

Section 33: THIS EPIC WORK

The document above, below and elsewhere is a necessary abridgement of a narrative work of 2500 pages; only 1500 pages are found here in this 6-part document. This extensive work has been truncated here to fit into the small space for this document at Bahai Library Online. This document is both an outline and a curtailment of an epic-opus, an abbreviated, a compressed, a boiled down, a potted, a shorn, a mown, a more compact version of my larger epic-work. This abridgement of the 7th edition of my autobiography will include changes in the months ahead. When a significant number of changes are made an 8th edition will be brought out. It is my hope, although I cannot guarantee, that this brief exposure here will give readers a taste, a desire, for more. The inclusion of quotation marks, apostrophes and accents has often proved difficult as have the addition of footnotes. Hopefully this will be remedied at a later date. I should add before opening with volume five of this work that it is in need of an editing pen--one that it does not look like getting while I am alive and while this work remains only on the internet and not in a hard or softcover.

Like the first and the second Parts of this memoir, of what may eventually be a several-book set of this burgeoning multi-genred autobiography, this Part 3 will seem to many readers as a text that looks and handles like a doorstop from Valhalla, as Clive James described the 2nd volume of George Bernard Shaw's correspondence( Nearly a thousand pages is found here in Part 3, most of them I like to think unskippable: the reader must forge on in the spirit(I also like to think) of a kind of despairing delight, overwhelmed by the abundance and vitality of what is on offer and secretly grateful that he knows only as a statistic what I know for a fact; namely, that the complete set of this work with all the genres included will contain perhaps 40 or 50 volumes of writings and communications which I actually wrote. Perhaps that reader can be grateful that the complete set of volumes of my writing may never see the light of day saving, to the delight of conservationists, an immense number of trees; to that reader's delight he may save a good deal of money that he might have spent without an intellectual payoff, so to speak and saving as well the mental effort he would have had to exercise to read the works in the first place. Inshalla

I continually pose many questions in this memoir. One such question is where my creative identity is located, where it was born, its quality and purpose. The answer can be found by both readers and by myself when we look far enough back. The multiple activities of my life, its career, its interests, its wins and losses, are all anchored, or so it seems to me in retrospect, in my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood my growing up years and the first years when "I growed up." I must voice a certain cautionary note, though, insofar as creativity is concerned. The poet and polymath Paul Valéry once said that the word 'creation' has been so overused that even God must be embarrassed to have it attributed to him.

Section 34:


Part 1:

The autobiographies of others, as I have indicated in several previous essays, illuminate one's own attempt to understand one's life through writing it down. St. Augustine's(354-430 AD) Confessions has a distinctly ‘before' and ‘after' flavour, before his conversion and after. Mine begins, essentially, with my conversion, although in my poetry the decade before my contact with the Bahá'í cause receives some attention. Like Augustine I certainly possess a sense of participating in an eternal plan. This is also true of Dante's(1265-1321) La vita nuova. For these writers and for me, the account is no final story, but a preparation for even more on the horizon.

Four hundred years later John Bunyan(1628-1688) wrote in his Grace Abounding(1666) about his life. Truth became known through his experience. For me, as well, it was truth becoming understood through my experience. I had had a massive influx of truth at fifteen and before. Indeed, my life was one of continual access to truth. Conversion was a beginning point for me and life provided one long, unending process of coming to understand its myriad ramifications. Dante accessed truth in dreams, some five in his autobiography; Bunyan had some ten mystical experiences, or visions. Not for me a series of ecstatic moments in my curve of learning, much more a process which the Guardian has described as a series of seven stages that we go through in our life, from crisis to victory. Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys provides another delineation of the process. It is complex, much more complex than anything autobiography had revealed by 1666.

For Bunyan all experiences partook equally in his ultimate deliverance. For me, certain events in my life stood out: getting to know several personalities well and dozens, if not hundreds to a significant extent; my psychiatric illnesses; my moving to Australia; my two marriages; my parents; my career; my attempt to live a life consistent with the teachings of the Faith; my role as a pioneer. The presence, the sense, of the divine has been critical to my life as it was for Bunyan, albeit in different ways. By the time Bunyan wrote, the structure of belief upon which all previous historical autobiography was built, was beginning to fall into disrepair. With Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790) the edifice of autobiography came to be built entirely on human recollections alone. Deep in the national mythos of the cultures I have lived in: North America and Australia is the glorified figure of the loner: the farmer, backwoodsman, cowboy, gold miner, or other adventurer who lives by wit and grit a step from the frontier, needing no organized religion or government to show him the way. In some ways the pioneer which I have now been for nearly fifty years partakes of this mythos. At the same time, though, the pioneer struggles as the decades of his or her experience lengthen to define themselves geographically, culturally and in a non-partisan political sense and, in so doing, to assert some communal identity. The Bahai ethos, its history and teachings are crucial in this regard.

Augustine whose life and writings have had an immense impact on the western intellectual tradition, at least until modern times, had a contact outside of time through Christ; mine is and has been through Bahá'u'lláh. He is the ground of my being and the basis for any human consanguinity. My position is not unlike that of all autobiographers up to Franklin. Augustine addresses his narrative to God; what he writes is like a devotional colloquy. My entire corpus is addressed to my readers, in my minds eye, generations not yet born and holy souls who have passed on and who assist me in ways I do not know; as well as, and especially, to a body of men which represents an institutionalization of the charisma at the heart of my belief system. Unlike Franklin, I do not offer up my autobiography on the authority of personal conviction, I offer it as a contribution to understanding how one person lived his life within the framework of an emerging world religion, at an early stage in its development, its second century. I am not seeking, as Franklin apparently was, to get men to imitate me; far from it. But it is my hope that they would gain greater understanding of their religion and its history, its history as it was embodied in the life of one of its ordinary practitioners, one of its votaries during the second to the fourth epochs of its Formative Age.

Augustine, Dante and Bunyan used the form of autobiography to dramatize their belief that an eternal truth guided their lives. For Franklin it was reason which centred and dramatized his life; in writing his autobiography he was essentially reliving a successful life. It was his hope that the lessons of his own individual experience and self-reliance, would replace the role taken by revealed truth. The truths of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and their legitimate successors(1844-1995) are a critical anchorage for my own story; understanding and experience are the fruit of my life; they do not replace revelation but are important buttresses of everything that has come to constitute me, my identity, my self, indeed, my soul.

Part 2:

Rousseau(1712-1778) tries through his autobiography, his Confessions, to secure an honoured place in history. For him truth lies in his feelings and in the continuity of his soul. I have written about this theme of fame or renown in my poetry and in my journal. If I secure some place in history through the efforts contained in all that is represented by Pioneering Over Three Epochs it will be because there is something worthwhile in what I have written, there is some meaning and historical significance of some kind that illuminates a future age. I find this an inspiring goal: to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization. This would make my contribution ongoing, beyond my life in a very concrete sense. If this does not occur, it will be because people do not find it of use, of interest. I will have gained, I trust, through my examination of my inner life and my outer life as I am asked to do in the Writings of my Faith.

Rousseau, like Franklin, secularizes historical autobiography. He describes how he came to be the way he was. I do the same. Rousseau tries to remake society in his image.. Franklin tries to get people to imitate him. I try to do neither. Experience for Rousseau, as it was for Augustine, is the enemy of truth and happiness. For me the relation of the two is far more complex than this; indeed, it would require a separate essay to begin to explore this relationship. I, like Rousseau, enjoy my visits into the past to write autobiography. There is a nostalgia, a warm richness that coats the past. Unlike Rousseau I do not see the past as a sad concatenation of events that has led to my wretchedness. Rather, I see a series of events coated with many colours from dark blacks and browns to warm reds and spiritual blues, if one can give colours physical and psychological equivalents. There is sadness and there is joy; it depends where I look.

Augustine found true being outside of time; I do too, but I also find it in time. Rousseau found the thread, the link, the life of his soul in the undercurrent of feeling that ran through his entire life. Here he found a coherent, continuous whole and it was here that he re-experienced in imagination his enthusiasms, his hopes, his ambitions and pleasures. To tap into these feelings the narrator must relive his life. I find this particular aspect of Rousseau's approach to autobiography very helpful. He has put into words what I have tried to do. When I have been successful I have achieved a kind of root-tapping. Rousseau saw this retrospective activity more a form of self-realizaton. To him it was divine. It caused the world to vanish; it caused the writer to enter an ecstatic plane of self-possession, a necessary stage perhaps en route to self-forgetfulness. Rousseau came to see all his past wanderings as pointless and destructive. Viewed sub specie aeternitatis, I have found my pioneer wanderings as part of a meaningful whole, especially the suffering.

The action that is my past has been characterized by a certain degree of faithfulness and a certain degree of passion. Augustine emphasized the former and Rousseau the latter. Experience has been both my enemy and my friend; passion both the life of my soul and its death. This is true of just about everything one does. Everything changes with each movement. Remembered feeling becomes the criteria for the truest autobiographical statement. Autobiography, for Rousseau, becomes not so much the life he lived as the life he lived in the act of composing his life. I find this to be true of my own writing in whatever genre the autobiography is found. I find myself in autobiography, like some flickering light of an ineffable bliss.

Part 3:

It helps in making the road to the grave profitable, enlightened by the two most luminous lights of intellect and wisdom. To claim any wisdom makes me a little uncomfortable in Australia, a land of an unpretentiousness and cynicism that lives luxuriously slightly beneath the surface of everyday events.

I am more than a little conscious of the transition from a relatively unreflective young adult to what could be seen as an excessively reflective man of middle years. But, like Bunyan, I ‘fetch invigorating thoughts from former years' and recreate an energy that has been lost or, better, transferred from brawn to brain. Like Wordsworth I ‘rescue from decay the old/ By timely interference' and so ripen ‘dawn into steady morning', or perhaps late afternoon.(for surely the last half of middle adulthood-50 to 60-can be equated with late afternoon). My purpose here is not so much to tell the story of my life, although I do achieve this in my narrative, but to look within, self-examine, gain self-knowledge, achieve some union between the knower(me) and the known. I find there is a certain stasis, quietness in my movement, reposeful condition, as a result of this writing process. The knowing and acting self has finally been brought together. The slow process of looking within and finding God, of acquiring virtues and contributing to the development of civilization, or of experiencing generativity and integration is all partially understood in the act of autobiography.

And so, like Wordsworth in his Prelude, I became a traveller in my own life. My primary vehicle has been poetry, although I have provided other genres largely for future readers should there be any. For poetry reveals, in Wordsworth's words, ‘our being's heart and home'; it allows discordant elements of our life to harmonize; it renovates the spirit in a priestly robe; it precedes from some creative and enduring source and becomes a source of knowledge, power and joy. Poetry is like a regulating device. It comes to see the parts of life in terms of the whole; indeed the recollected hours, again in the words of Wordsworth, ‘have the charm of visionary things.' Again, in Wordsworth's idiom, poetry diffuses:

Through meagre lines and colours, and the press
Of self-destroying, transitory things,
Composure and ennobling Harmony.(VII, 769-71)

Wordsworth was not able to find his centre in an urban landscape. He always returned to nature for his centre. My centre has only been threatened in a deep and serious, a conscious and obvious way on rare occasions in the course of my life: during university for about a year in 1964-65; in 1968 during a stay in a mental hospital in Whitby Ontario; in 1974 in the losing of my voting rights and the events that led up to them and, arguably, in 1995 when my experience of Bahá'í community life dried up. Much else could be said on this theme but now is not the time. One thing should be said; namely, that if my Centre did disappear from my life the very raison d'etre for my life-and hence my autobiography-would go with it. In contrast to Wordsworth, who turned to nature when his centre was lost, I turned to prayer, to a process of waiting and withdrawal, as well as a gradual reorientation to Bahá'í community life. Slowly the pattern of Bahá'í life, so eloquently and extensively described in the Bahá'í literature, would begin to emerge again in a form that I was comfortable with, which gave me joy and meaning and which was clearly an expression of finding my centre, safe and secure.

Wordsworth stated that life was like a river of remembrances which we try to shape into some pattern. But for him the view was dark and the movement of the soul was hidden from the reach of words, like forgotten experience which is hidden from our search on this intricate and difficult path. There are though, he stated, spots of time that nourish and invisibly repair our minds. They have a special virtue. This concept has some place in a Bahá'í perspective: our declaration of belief, our hearing of the Faith, the Fast, moments of prayer, etcetera. In some future and fuller autobiographical account I might pursue this theme further. In the end, Wordsworth was left with thought and faith and his own words, his life: this was his truth, the true being that he sought. At the end of my work, this autobiography, the reader will find something quite beyond a writer, a personality, in however much detail his life is displayed. He will find a human experience that is touched by the white radiance of eternity, by the spirit and teachings of several souls who are continuing to energize the whole world to a degree unapproached during their earthly lives.

Part 4:

Thomas de Quincey's Confessions place opium at the centre of a life, not a man or a divinity. De Quincey, like Franklin, had to rely on his own experience and the shared convictions of his culture to find any truth there was to find. De Quincey said that time breaks the self into impermanent, unrecapturable feelings, but that suffering brings it all together. Sometimes. There is a type of permanence, a type of capturing that autobiography creates. The fierce condition of eternal hurry which concerned De Quincey I have been conscious of at least since the beginning of my pioneer life in 1962. I refer to it as the sense of urgency. I feel as if I have been running for three decades, although in the last several years the running has been more frequently in my head. In other ways, the road has been too slow and tortuous to suit me. One seems to have only some degree of influence on the process, a degree which can not be measured.

De Quincey said he never heard the eternal, celestial music of life, although he believed in it. If I examine the entire period of my life beginning in 1962, several years after I joined the Cause, I find an increasing intensification of the music of the spheres, punctuated by no sounds at all and such stygian gloom that the soul wondered if it would ever recover.

My poetry, though, allows my words to enter or become the reader's reality in unique ways, if the reader possesses the necessary susceptibilities. He becomes infected with a mode of utterance; his mind whirls around in mine. It is not the historical events that make the life; that life is essentially ungraspable. I can not find my life in the narrative or, indeed, in some of the philosophically intertwined material there. I find only a handle of some kind which is graspable; I find a work about itself, about a ghost that is me. I find something that tries to tie me together, my past to my present. How does one express what it is that ties it all together. Poetry provides better linkages: fuller, deeper, more intimate; these linkages are linkages to my past, my society, my self and the future. The poetry seems to provide the oneness I seek. It connects me with the infinite through Bahá'u'lláh and provides a vehicle for expressing this connection. For how does one know what one thinks about a connection until one has put it in words, however briefly. The poetry brings together an outer man and an inner man, two men who are so very distinct. They each provide two distinct sets of feedback about who I am. My poetry throws a light which both unites and separates my selves in paradoxical and ironic juxtapositions.

The surface externalities: where I worked, what I did, those I knew, etcetera in some basic ways hide the man rather than displaying him; they veil the inner person. The inner person can be found much more clearly in my poetry: both the darknesses and the lights are there, the mystery and the simplicity, the ambiguity and those paradoxes. The inner passages of my being, all its chambers, its treasures and its rubbish heaps are found here. The emblematical gold, the priceless gem, that writers like Hawthorne looked for in vain, was handed to me on a platter at the age of fifteen. "Thou without the least effort did attain thy goal." Yet, as Bahá'u'lláh says, I remained "wrapt in the veil of self." To put it another way my life has been a testing of the gold with periodic fires. It is quite a different battle than it was for writers like Hawthorne fight. But my autobiography has many parallels with his. It is, as Spengemann puts it in describing the fictive autobiography of Hawthorne, a series of actions performed in the act of composition, a historical record and an interpretation of them. The process and the result tells me who I am, at least in part. I find some of my immortal self, a lifelong task. The search yields only some result; the definition of success, the measuring rod so to speak, is found in the framework of a body of ethical and moral insights of the Bahá'í writings.

Part 5:

Hawthorne and most of his contemporaries never possessed this framework and their search did not yield "the beauty of His countenance."(HW, Persian, 22) All they found was a self, one created in the autobiography. A great deal of the who that I am, the what that I am, the garment of words can never tell. I am God's mystery. But every atom in existence is ordained for my training. And so, on and on the quotations from the Writings pile high providing the perspective, the framework, that the contemporary secular autobiographer lacks. Every Bahá'í that follows the autobiographical road has this same framework, this same centre, within which he can sift the experience of his life.

It may just be that modern man in search of his soul requires a particular Centre; that the Augustinian assumptions regarding the soul and the self are not adequate for these days; that the reshaping of the self, the soul, can not be accomplished by autobiographical efforts in the context of experience itself without getting lost in an inherent subjectivity. As Keats put it for many: "I have no Nature." As Eliot put it: the self is "everywhere present, and everywhere absent" in the act of writing. The autobiographical experience is so enigmatic in this kind of framework as to discourage, frustrate and, in the end, seem just about meaningless. For the Bahá'í who has been exhorted to understand his inner life, his private character; to take account each day before the final reckoning; to see with his own eyes and know of his own knowledge; to find the inner light and get its radiance, be content with it and seek naught else; for such a Bahá'í who has turned his sight unto himself he may, through autobiography, find his Lord standing within him "mighty, powerful and self-subsistent."(HW, Arabic, 13)

One thing I am very conscious of finding as I tell and retell, examine and reexamine my life, is a series of progressive and regressive periods repeating over time. Repose and adventure seem to be unstable states. Much of what could be called the romance of my story can be found in the oscillation between the saint, the hero, the courageous adventurer and the little fat man who preserves his comfort, his security, the chrysalis of everyday life To put the contrast another way: it is the contrast between the ordinary self and the heroic self, between ourselves as anti-heroes and heroes, that makes the real adventure, the colouration, the heart of the journey. The struggle with the ordinary self always involves courage and it is here that the road to high adventure is found.

Roger Bannister describes the moments when he neared completion of the four-minute mile this way: "I had a moment of mixed joy and anguish, when my mind took over. It raced well ahead of my body and drew my body compellingly forward. I felt that the moment of a lifetime had come. There was no pain, only a great unity of movement and aim. The world...did not exist....I felt at that moment that it was my chance to do one thing supremely well."(J.A. Michener, Sports in America, Random House, NY, 1976,p.77.) My experience in the last three to four years has been much like this ‘moment' of Bannister's. The world did not exist for Bannister as he headed for victory. The world provides a fertile base of material for writing poetry as the world provided Bannister with the misc-en-scene for his achievement. In this sense I find the world is like a window into the future, richly laden with meaning. It drives the engine of my writing, endlessly it would seem. One day, inevitably, I will run out of gas. After what seems like an endless sequence of adventures and security blankets finally an integration has occurred. It is like winning the race, the game, the prize, the lottery. The drudgery, tedium and gracelessness of so much that is ordinary life is gone. This is the most apt thing I can say that brings this autobiography up-to-date. Time will tell what sort of longevity this experience possesses. Each writer, each poet, has his own story.

Ron Price
31 December 1995



(Part 1)

The relative success of my poetry and essays may also have something to do with the diminishing national attention span and the pervasive spread of mediums which keep people's eyes busier than their minds--or so we are so often told. These days one sees a novel of four hundred pages, sighs, and says, "There goes a week of my reading life." In my case how could this five volume autobiography ever really make it? Still, as I approach the end of this somewhat rambling autobiography, the inclusion of the following essay seemed perfectly appropriate. So much of my life has been a 'life-in-community' that I thought I would give some of the last words on the subject to that brilliant tactician of the personal and interpersonal, 'Abdul-Baha, who survived a most difficult community and advised us on how to live in community in our time. As our own communties have been, are and will be challenges for us to live in this analysis of some of 'Abdu'l-Bahás final words before He passed away several years later will be timely. This section of my autobiography, then, will deal with biography, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's treatment of the subject and, then, a few brief notes of mine.

"A Study in Community," Pioneering Over Four Epochs," 2003.

"With penetrating detail, crisp style and emphasis on the compression of facts; with vivid images, usually not more than three or four pages, with a concision of explanation or commentary, with a specific point of view, a style of biography has continued from classical times into the twentieth century. This is biography in miniature. It has a certain bias toward the person over the event, toward art as smallness of scale, toward structuring the confusions of daily life into patterns of continuity and process. There is a broad intent to sustain an interpretation or characterisation with facts teased, coloured, given life by a certain presentation and appraisal. Facts about the past are no more history than butter, eggs, salt and pepper are an omelette. They must be whipped up and played with in a certain fashion." -Ron Price with appreciation to Ira Bruce Nadel, "Biography as Institution," Biography, Fiction, Fact and Form, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1984, pp.13-66.

Nadel, whom I quote in the opening passage of this essay, goes on to say that the "recreation of a life in words is one of the most beautiful and difficult tasks a literary artist can perform." Freud said the recreation of a life, the getting at the truth of a life, can not be done; and if someone does do it, as inevitably biographers try, the result is not useful to us. People have been trying to write about the lives of others for millennia and, even if Freud is right, they will probably go on doing it anyway. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá gives the exercise a parting shot, to put it colloquially, in the evening of his life, when He was in His early seventies. His work, Memorials of the Faithful, is squarely in the tradition Nadel describes above: commemorative, didactic, ethical, psychological. His is a work of art as well as information, a work of pleasure as well as truth. His is a work of selection, as biography must be if the reader is not to be snowed in a mountain of useless detail. He unravels the complexities of seventy-seven lives and in doing so he answers Virginia Woolf's questions: ‘My God, how does one write a biography?' and ‘What is a life?' If one can not answer these questions, Woolf wrote, then one can hardly write a biography.

The act of reading Memorials of the Faithful is an opportunity to see how ‘Abdu'l-Bahá answers Virginia Woolf's seminal questions about life, how He answers them again and again in the more than six-dozen of His biographies in miniature. Biographers and autobiographers arguably have one freedom, a freedom that overrides the genetic and social forces that determine so much of human life. It is the freedom to tell the story, the narrative, the freedom to explain a life, any life, even one's own life to themselves and others the way they desire. This freedom is part of that active force of will that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá wrote, in his pithy summation of the historico-philosophical issue of ‘freewill and determinism,' is at the centre of all our lives.

Of course, it is incontrovertible that what has happened in a life has happened. There is no going back to change any one of the events, decisions or results. Life bears the stigmata of finality in a certain sense. There has been a relentless succession of facts, at once inflexible and in some ways arbitrary. All story-tellers are slaves to these facts, if their story is to enjoy the imprimatur of truth.

Charles Baudelair once wrote that a biography "must be written from an exclusive point of view, but from the point of view which opens up the greatest number of horizons." There are many ways in which one could define the point of view in this subtle and deceptively simple book. The point of view is that of a lover of Bahá'u'lláh, one who wants to be near Bahá'u'lláh, one who wants to serve Bahá'u'lláh. The point of view is really quite exclusive. All the men and women in this biographical pot-pourri were lovers of the Manifestation of God, the most precious Being ever to walk on this earth, or so they believed, and they all had some relationship with Him during the forty year period of His ministry: 1852-1892.

Restlessness is a dominant theme, a strong characteristic, in the lives of many people 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes. They 'could not stay quiet', 'had no rest', were amazingly energetic', 'awakened to restless life', 'plagued by yearning love'. Nabil of Qa'in was 'restless, had no caution, patience or reserve'. Shah Muhammad-Amin "had no peace" because of the love that smouldered in his heart and because he "was continually in flight'. This restlessness 'Abdu'l-Bahá sets down among a galaxy of other qualities and a multitude of other people. Some of the most outstanding believers had this restlessness. Tahirih was 'restless and could not be still'.

Quietness is also valued highly. One does not have to be a great talker to attract the attention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Quietness also has its place in Bahá'í community life. There are people who are 'inclined to solitude' and keep 'silent at all times'. They possess an 'inner calm'. They are souls 'at rest'.

The gregarious types and the type who keeps to himself are part of this quintessential dichotomy, a dichotomy that was as much a part of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's world as it is our own, although there seem to be a slight preponderence, a dominance, of the gregarious person. Ustad Baqir and Ustad Ahmad both kept to themselves and "away from friend and stranger alike". Mirza Muham- mad-Quli "mostly...kept silent". He kept company with no one and stayed by himself most of the time, alone in his small refuge". The more sociable type, like Haji 'Abdu'llah Najaf-Abadi "spent his days in friendly association with the other believers." Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq "taught cheer- fully and with gaiety". "How wonderful was the talk,"says 'Abdu'l-Bahá of Nabil of Qa'in, "how attractive his society".

There are all of the archtypes that the various personality theorists have given us in this century. In addition to Jung's introvert and extrovert, there is the artist, the suffering artist-soul within us all, Mishkin-Qalam. He survives in all his seriousness, as we might, with humour. There are the types who William James describes in his Varieties of Religious Experience: the personality constitutionally weighted on the side of cheer and its opposite, the somber, more reflective even melancholic type. The two carpenters, Ustad Baqir and Ustad Ahmad were examples of the former. The examples we find of the latter were often the result of the many difficulties these lovers of Bahaullah were subjected to and it wore them "to the bone."

‘Abdu'l-Bahá addresses all of us, all of us on our journeys while He describes many of those He came to know in His life. For He is describing not only the lives of these men and women in the nineteenth century, He is describing us in our time. He is addressing us on our own travels. He addresses the restlessness in us all. He speaks to us in our victory and our loss. He speaks about what Michael Polanyi calls the tacit dimension, the silent root of human life, which is difficult to tap in biographies, the inner person. This private, this inner person, is the one whom He writes about for the most part. He sets this inner life in a rich contextualization, a socio-historical matrix. He describes many pilgrimages and you and I are left to construct our own. We all must shape and define our own life. Is it aesthetically pleasing? Intellectually provocative? Spiritually challenging? ‘Abdu'l-Bahá shapes and defines these lives given the raw-data of their everydayness added up, added up over their lives as He saw them. How would He shape my life? Yours? How would we look in a contemporary anthology of existences with ‘Abdu'l-Bahá as the choreographer and the history of our days as the mise en scene?

Some of the lives of the obscure, the ordinary and representative members of the Bahai community are recovered for history and for much more. Their private aspirations and their world achivements, their public images and their private romances, their eventual successes and their thwarted attempts are lifted onto the pages of a type of Bahá'í scripture. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is setting the stage, the theatre, the home, in these pages, for all of humanity. The extrovert is here, the introvert, those that seem predisposed to cheerfulness and those who seem more melancholy by nature. All the human dichotomies are here, at least all that I have come across in my own journey. They are the characters which are part and parcel of life in all ages and centuries, all nations and states, past, present and, more importantly, future. Here is, as one writer put it, the rag-and-bone-shop, the lineaments of universal human life, the text and texture of community as we all experience it in the crucible of interaction. It is somewhat ironic that the host of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's contemporaries that we find here were resurrected and for us, found, at a time when the lost generation between 1914 and 1918—were getting lost in the trenches of Europe.

Memorials of the Faithful is what might well be this age's Canterbury Tales, that compendium of personalities who exemplify, as William Blake once put it, "the eternal principles that exist in all ages." We get a Writer Who delights in other people but Who has an active and incisive mind, a practicality that He brings to bear on what are often difficult personalities. He dwells only on the essentials; His purpose is inveterate; His feelings sincere and intense; they never relax or grow vapid during His cursory analyses. He is exquisitely tender, but clearly wily and tough to survive in the burly-burly life of exile, prison and the unbelievable difficulties He had to bear along life's tortuous path.

Interest in biographies of Bahá'ís in the 19th century Iranian Bahá'í community is not exactly a booming business these days. But that time will come sensibly and insensibly in the decades ahead as this new world Faith comes to play a critical part in the unification of the planet. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's work is more than a little prescient.

The heroic age was coming to a close when ‘Abdu'l-Bahá put His pen to paper; and it was over by the time the Haifa Spiritual Assembly published this His final book. A remanant remained, Bahá'u'lláh's sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf who died in 1932. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had played a prominent role in the epic that was the heroic age. He played a dominant role in writing that epic's story. Memorials of the Faithful is an important part of that epic. This epic tradition was not essentially oral but quintessentially written: a written tradition par excellence. Since The Growth of Literature by the Chadwicks(1924-1926) the heroic epic has been seen in literature's epic studies "as a cultural rather than a literary phenomenon." The Bahá'í epic has grown out of a complex and fascinating set of cultural conditions. Indeed ‘Abdu'l Baha's work has contributed to the resolution of problems involving the relationship, the transition, between oral narrative and written text. But this relationship is a question to occupy epic enthusiasts and is not our principle concern here.

Within three to four months of completing this last of His books, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had begun His Tablets of the Divine Plan , the action station within which the community He was addressing could put into practice all the good advice He had given it in His Memorials of the Faithful. Like The Will and Testament, though, it may take a century or more to grasp the implications of this surprisingly subtle and, deceptively simple, book.

In the next two decades we shall see the end of the first century of the Formative Age. Perhaps the time has come to begin to seriously grasp the implications of these shining pages from ‘Abdu-l-Baha and His interpretive genius.

We do not know much about the circumstances of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's writing, at least I don't. Some writers we know, like Beethoven, are intensely physical people who seem to fight their thoughts onto the page, splattering the ink, breaking nibs, even ripping the paper in the process. Beethoven had none of the serene penmanship of a Bach or the hasty perfection of Mozart or the quasi-mathematical constructs of Webern. But we do know some things. We know, for example, that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá often worked all night with a large part of the night devoted to prayer and meditation. It was then He did His writing; He was too busy to scribble down things in the daytime as some writers do. He had a short sleep after lunch. After writing one of the biographies he would often read or tell the story at one of the meetings in the next few days. Now, we can read them in a book or access them on the internet, in very readable English, in authorized translations. Gone is the Persian and Arabic in which He wrote; gone is ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's innimitable script or that of one of His secretaries. Having flashed onto the screen with the speed of light or into the book in some electronic form with every character proportional, every paragraph in alignment, these words, written six years before His passing, are now free to penetrate our own lives as the lives He wrote about penetrated His.


The material on Chaucer that follows was obtained from Derek Pearsall's The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer: A Critical Biography, Blackwell, Oxford, 1992, pp. chapter 6. The following is not a quotation.-Ron Price, Tasmania

The whole organization of Chaucer's narrative is in the historical lattice-work of a world of ecclesiastical routines and needs. 'Abdu'l-Bahás narrative, played as it is in the lives of seventy-seven souls, exists in the interstices of lives transformed by a manifestation of God. Instead of the ubiquity of the Christian Faith and its practices we have a new religion emerging in the soil of people's lives. Both books give us a narrative of faith. Women are dominant in Chaucer and men in Memorials of the Faithful. Both books provide us with a spiritual journey. There is a gusto and carnivalesque spirit, a contempt for marriage and sexual urges, in Chaucer while none of this is to be found in 'Abdu'l-Bahás work. There is no sense of social and moral commitment in Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's London is a turbulent and dangerous place; so too in 'Abdu'l-Bahás world. He writes of the domestic world rather than the politics of power. Both men possess a remarkable acuteness of observation; there is little of the sense of outrage. Chaucer makes a magpie-like raid on scholarly texts, perhaps more from conversations. The pilgrims are infinitely various. The sense of dramatic vitality is so strong the temptation to read the tales as principally an expression of the characters of their tellers is strong.

Chaucer is a self-concealing and evasive character. This father of English poetry is a figure who eludes the biographer's grasp even more fully than Shakespeare. There are no private letters or journals, no anecdotal reminiscences of friends, and precious few autobiographical clues in the poems themselves. The tools for understanding Chaucer are literary history, philology and the history of patronage and court politics in the 14th century. These disciplines need to be part of a biographer's strong suit if he or she is to excel in their recreation of Chaucer's life. In dealing with the life of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá none of these problems exist for the biographer.

Chaucer's audience in the imagination is "a miscellaneous company, of lettered London men, to be appropriately scandalized and delighted by the Wife of Bath and the fabliaux, flattered by the invitation to share in a gentleman scholar's easily carried burden of learning and intrigued by the novel expose of London low life in the Cook's Tale. The audience is, probably exclusively an audience of men. ‘‘Abdu'l-Bahá has no audience until 1928 more than a decade after He has finished writing the book.

A mission to Genoa and Florence on the king's service in the early 1370s was especially important for Chaucer's poetic development because it gave him the opportunity to discover the riches of Italian literature. Fifteen years later he began writing The Canterbury Tales his maturer reflections upon the life of men and women in society and in the Christian faith. They were written in the last dozen years of his life, 1387-1400. He was almost entirely occupied with writing 'The Canterbury Tales' in these last years.

For Chaucer poetry was an accomplishment and a vehicle for self-display, a means for his advancement at court rather than an activity of his profession. His poetry benefited his career and vice-versa: his earlier works, coinciding with his French connections, were influenced by French poetry, notably the great allegorical love vision of the Roman de la Rose, while his middle period, inspired by the Italian journey, was dominated by his version of the Troilus and Cressida story, written in imitation of Boccaccio's treatment of the same subject.

He refrained from direct allusion to public events and it is difficult, unsafe, to make any deductions about specific connections between his life, his works and the events of the time. Some scholars prefer to see his work as chaotic and inexplicable.

The comparisons and contrasts with the work of 'Abdu'l-Bahá make a fascinating study to those interested in both Chaucer and the Bahai Faith. But even those who hold no particular interest in Chaucer can find the contrasts and comparisons valuable in helping them understand the work of this Central Figure of the Bahai Faith writing as He was at the very beginning of the Lesser Peace and the new Age the world was entering in all its tragic swiftness, amazing perplexity and fascinating juxtapositions.

In my more than fifty years of pioneering and nearly sixty involved as I have been in the Bahai community, I find this seminal work of 'Abdu'l-Bahás absolutely crucial in my attempt to understand and deal with the complexities and problems that arise in Bahai community life. It is as if 'Abdu'l-Bahá has given me the Bahai community in microcosm. Although He wrote the book nearly a century ago, it speaks to me about my life and so I pass the dialogue I have had with this book to you, dear reader.....and a final word on Chaucer….


Chaucer had a simplicity and directness of style. He was able to step into a child's mind and an adult's; indeed, he could take on the life, the mood and the personality of anyone or anything he knew or could know. That is the basis of the vividness, the individuality of his characters. He pleads authenticity, faithfulness to actual life and speech. -Ron Price with thanks to Collier's Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Britannica.

Oh Father of English poetry-
the King's English-when English
was finding its East Midland dialect
and first being used in Parliament,
some six hundred years ago1, whose
poetry was in the language of the man-
in-the-street, with simplicity, naturalness,
freshness and vitality—which we have
recently rediscovered in our time and
which I strive for in my poems and in
what I write of history and character in
my pioneering tale, pilgrimage-like across the
world, painting some realistic portraiture, with
no struggle to invent, only to suit my purpose.

1George H. McKnight, The Evolution of the English Language: From Chaucer to the Twentieth Century Dover Publications Inc., NY, 1968(1928), p. 18.—25/5/97.


CHAPTER 6: Part 2:



It is fitting that the following short descriptions of my efforts at biography should be preceded by an analysis of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's biographies. Twenty-eight years ago now, in 1981, I took my first excursions into writing biography. I had, of course, written little pieces for my students since the beginning of my teaching career in 1967. Those excursions beginning in 1981, though, became part of, first, The History of the Bahá'í Faith in Tasmania: 1924-80 and; second, The History of the Bahai Faith in the Northern Territory: 1947-1997. The short biographies I wrote in the 1980s and 1990s are, for the most part, now in the archives of the Bahai Councils for Tasmania and the NT. Some of these short sketches of human personality are in a file I keep in my study, a file which has increased in size since it was first created in the early 1990s, but this increase is due to the resource, the source, material I have added to the file not more biographies themselves.

Some of the sketches I wrote in those two decades are on the internet at the site They have all become part of a larger work Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section IV. But they will not be included here in this edition of my autobiography which I am posting on the internet since the people I have written about are, for the most part, still living.

In addition, the notes in this file on the subject of biography, which I began to collect sixteen years ago in 1993, have begun to assume a far greater extent, a wider ambit than was initially planned due to the plentiful resources on the subject of biography available on the Internet. Perhaps, in time, I may write more biographical material, hopefully material in greater depth of expression than I have done thusfar and hopefully from a more fertile base than I have been able to discover in my first attempts in the 1980s and the 1990s.

Whatever biographies I write, they will in time be part of Section IV of my larger work, Pioneering Over Four Epochs. This biography file has, as I say, developed into a more substantial resource in recent years and a brief examination of its table of contents will show the range of relevant sub-topics. This biographical interest provides some balance, although I must confess very little so far, to all the autobiographical material I have collected in other files; perhaps, too, readers will also find in them some balance and help avoid any impression of my narcissistic tendencies which critics may be inclined to dwell upon. As I say, hopefully, this material may prove useful in my efforts to write biographies in the years ahead as part of Section IV of my autobiographical work Pioneering Over Four Epochs. --3/3/06.

Beginning in 1993, after living in Perth for five years and after more than 30 years in the pioneering field, I began making notes on people I knew. For various reasons I found the experience unsatisfactory and, by 1997, I had discontinued the process. It was my second effort at writing biography, the first being a similar period of four years in Katherine. These latter notes are found in the several volumes of writing on 'The History of the Bahai Faith in the N.T. and the Northwest of WA.:Vol.2 Part 1.' I also wrote a few short biographies in 2000 to 2002 when finalizing that same history.

After some 20 years of occasional efforts at writing biography, I had the experience Anthony Trollope and Henry James had with their efforts.1 They became disenchanted with the process. Limited to historical narrative they became bored even dismayed by the exercise. My essential problem was that I hardly knew any of the individuals well enough to chart their biographies. The exercise of delving into historical documents involving those who were dead or having extended conversations with individuals who were still living, I realized was beyond my interest, my enthusiasm and, perhaps, my ability. After the initial sketches I had drawn in the years 1981 to 2001 I simply ran out of details to extend my accounts. -Ron Price with thanks to Ira Nadel, Biography: Fiction, Fact and Form, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1984, pp. 137-8, 8/7/03.


In writing biography and autobiography one is confronted with a number of questions: what is its place in history? Is it simply a sort of sophisticated entertainment, a bedside companion better handed over to novelists? Is it a scholarly pursuit in itself? Is it a generator of cases to help us explain, in this case, aspects of the psychology, sociology or philosophy of religion? Is it a window through which we can learn to tackle existential questions in life, through which we can identify ourselves with others, come to understand ourselves emotionally and intellectually and help change and create ourselves?

The approach I take to both autobiography and biography is that these genres can help us reorient ourselves, our familiar ways of looking at things in unfamiliar terms, by the power of a certain strangeness. The exercise may also help us to become the new human beings we would like to be. There is, as Michael Polanyi emphasizes, a private, tacit passion at the root of much in life. It is a passion that is difficult to explore in an individual's life, is tinged with the personal, keeps the world at a distance and can often be seen chiefly only in the written works of the person. The ‘real individual', the unique self, the argument goes, can only be seen in what he or she writes.

James Wood writes in the Guardian about English writer Martin Amis's book Experience: "it is an escape from memoir; indeed, an escape into privacy." Although the book seems at first glance to be exhibitionistic in reality, Wood emphasizes, it is a retreat into the provinces of himself." And so is this true of my work, or so it seems to me. My work does not vibrate with an atmosphere of wounded privacy as much autobiography does.

Some analysts of the written word argue that it is of no help to the reader to understand the state of mind, the personal life, of the writer concerned. Still others see the individual only in a socio-historical context, as the product of their times, as part of a sociological discourse or matrix, a rich contextualization, a historical situatedness. The historian, Wilhelm Dilthey saw it the other way around: individuals construct their own society and, therefore, each person, each writer, lives in a different society even if, ostensibly, in reality, they occupy the same territorial space.

The implications of the post-structuralist thinking and the deconstructionists is that the subject matter, the person, is a product of language, a language construct, a product of the text and its incarnated vocabularies. Any attempt at a unitary identity, at any definition of a self, is a simple error since the self is constantly shaped by forces of ideology, changing its representation with each situation it faces. This view of the self makes the view of the coherence of the person---a myth. In reality the self is a discontinuity, beyond documentation, essentially unknowable in its many variations, unrecoverable. The best thing to do is to avoid trying to construct a narrative line, a central focus. Given the slipperiness of language, language's need to create non-referential figures to construct the self, no real, individual 'face' is possible.

Of course, this was not the view of Virginia Woolf who argued in her Collected Essays, Vol.4 that the age of biography had just begun. Woolf wrote this at the start of the Formative Age in Bahá'í history in the 1920s aware as she was of the writings of famous historians and biographers like Plutarch and Thucydides in previous ages. Woolf would have agreed with Nadel that "the recreation of a life in words is one of the most beautiful and difficult tasks a literary artist can perform."1 Part of this beauty and part of this difficulty is the fact that these qualities are rooted in individual difference and idiosyncrasy, as A.L. Rowse emphasizes in his study of Matthew Arnold.2

Such are some of my thoughts on biography in these first years of my retirement. I have for the most part lost my interest in writing biography after 3 periods, 3 attempts in the last 20 years. –Ron Price with thanks to 1 Ira Nadel, op.cit., p.152 and 2A.L. Rowse, Matthew Arnold: Poet and Prophet, Thames and Hudson, London, 1976, p.160. –2002.


Autobiography is the unrivalled vehicle for telling the truth about other people. -Oscar Wilde in The Oxford Book of Quotations, John Gross, OUP, 1983.

As he worked at the Decline and Fall, Gibbon became convinced that the true character of men was so complex and elusive that it could be only tentatively described....If even a contemporary could not unravel the complexities of character, what could a historian hope for?.....Gibbon became increasingly reticent about judging character and motivation. Gibbon presents history as preeminently a construction, a literary work with aesthetic rather than systematic order and coherence. -David P. Jordan, Gibbon and His Roman Empire, University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1971, p.5.

Whoever turns biographer commits himself to lies, to concealment, to hypocrisy, to embellishments…..for biographical truth is not to be had and, even if one had it, one could not use it."-Sigmund Freud in Freud: A Life For Our Time, Peter Gay, WW Norton & Co., NY, 1988, pp. xv-xvi.

This is an anthology of existences. Readers will find here lives of a few lines, of a few pages, more than a few pages on occasion. Readers will find adventures gathered together in a handful or several handfuls of words. There is such a contraction of things in the process of writing about these lives that one does not know whether the intensity which traverses them is due more to the vividness of the words or to the violence of the facts which jostle about in them. There is a series of singular lives here, created through I know not what accidents of life what strange poems. This is what I wanted to gather together and this is what I got in a sort of literary herbarium. -Werner Sollors, editor, Book's Name Is Unknown, Oxford University Press, 1989, p.155.

Some time in 1981, as accurately as I can estimate after the evolution of fifteen years, I began to write the history of the Tasmanian Bahá'í community. It was the first such exercise in Tasmania and in my own life, as far I know. I also started to write poetry about that time. The first poem I have in my collection was written in August 1980. On 23 July 1982 I left Tasmania and arrived in Katherine. I immediately set about collecting materials for a history of the Bahá'í Faith in the Northern Territory. I also continued writing a few poems from year to year. I collected great quantities of information and made brief biographies as part of a narrative history. I have since sent all the material, all of my writing, to the Bahai Council of the NT or the, then, RTC of Tasmania.

As I point out in the introductory biographical sketches, pieces written over the last two years(1994-1996), I have not had much success in writing Bahá'í biography. I did write many short pieces and had each person's agreement to the piece I wrote about them. It is a sensitive exercise this biography business. I take some comfort in reading about Edward Gibbon's reticence about judging character and motivation. To him, people, like history, were constructions, significantly his constructions. What he did was attempt to unravel the complexities of character, however elusive they might be. He did this en passant, as he composed his history of the Decline and Fall. I do my writing about individuals en passant, as I compose my Pioneering Over Four Epochs.

In a book whose name is now lost to me, Werner Sollors refers to pieces of biography as "an anthology of existences...a few lines or a few pages...gathered together in a handful of words..." That is certainly the simplest characterization of a process I have scarcely begun in these fifteen years. The annotation to my collection of twenty-five years of letters collected while in Australia(1971-1996), has yielded little fertility, as far as biography is concerned. I hope in the coming years, the last half of the second decade of my effort to write biographical material, that I will have more success than the meagre twenty pages I have thusfar accumulated and whatever additional pages are currently housed in the archives of an LSA and a RTC. -1997


Montaigne says, in discussing human changeability, "He that would judge of a man in detail and distinctly, bit by bit, would oftener be able to speak the truth."(Second Book of Essays, p.1) It is difficult, he goes on, to find men who have "formed their lives to one certain and constant course, which is the principle design of wisdom." Vice, he argues, is essentially irregularity, lack of constancy. My mood swings give to my life a lack of constancy that is with me even now from morning to night. Since the age of eighteen, I have been a teacher of the Bahai cause to the best of my ability. This is one of the constants in my life, although aspects of my work for this Cause have been sporadic. Service on LSAs, for example, I have found to be an exercise that changes from year to year. My role on the LSAs of Windsor, Whyalla and Belmont in 1967, 1972 and 1988, respectively portrayed very different Ron Prices at the age of 23, 28 and 44 respectively. One would need a profile over a whole life to get an accurate picture of this soul's service on local spiritual assemblies--or anyone else's for that matter. Unable to do this I have, for now, discontinued writing biography. Leslie Stephen says that "reading a biography often leaves one pretty much in the dark as to the person biographised."(1) I can understand why. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Leslie Stephen, Biography.–June 1996(ca


When I first came to Perth in 1987-8 I began a series of biographical sketches. By 1992 I had ceased making these sketches. I took up the pen again in 1993 writing sketches of Bahá'ís in Perth, but I ceased this exercise in 1996/7. On May 17th 1991 I sent three volumes of notes to the Darwin LSA and ceased any work on the "History of the Bahá'í Faith in the NT and Northwest Australia". That effort had contained a good deal of biographical material I had written from 1982 to 1987. About one decade, then, of biographical work came to an end in that Holy year.

There were several reasons for this: (i) the response to what I had written seemed so far from enthusiastic as to be possibly detrimental to the Cause, in spite of the best of British intentions; (ii) my new interest in autobiography, essays and poetry, emerging clearly by 1992 and (iii) the difficulty of getting material from the people I did get to know in Perth. There seemed to be a positive disinclination on the part of most people I met to have anything about them written at all. Over the first five years in Perth I wrote approximately ten pages of material on several people I had got to know.

I began collecting notes and photocopies of information about biographies and, by early 1996, I had collected some sixty pages of interesting resource material. Biographies began appearing, about the time I began writing extensively in the early 1980s: in the Bahá'í community. I was not interested in taking on any serious book-length exercise, but I was interested in writing short character sketches. Most of what I was reading about biography applied to major studies.

Like Andre Maurois, perhaps the world's greatest biographer thusfar, I was searching for the formula for the short character sketch. Perhaps I should read collections of essays. I have and I will. In the meantime some of the literature on biography is useful to me in defining my perspectives. J.A. Symonds, for example, says there is an "undefinable flavour of personality...which repels or attracts, and is at the very root of love or dislike.(Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays, Vol.2, The Hogarth Press, London, 1967, p.273) Virginia Woolf says we get glimpses of that personality, but never really find it. The vast majority of lives remain nameless and traceless to history, she goes on.(p.221)

She traces a brief history of biography, but it is not my intention to review that history here. I think I have, to some extent, achieved in some of the sketches I have written, the intensity of poetry and something of the excitement of drama in the context of fact. Perhaps I will rediscover this process in future efforts. I am only at the beginning of my efforts, as biography itself, as Woolf points out, is only at the beginning of its journey. I shall strive, in the years ahead, to make some good mini-biography, if that is an appropriate term for my end products, my outlines, sketches, my fertile facts, my creative facts. Perhaps something can live on in the depths of the mind, some bright scene, some startling recognition. Perhaps something useful, significant, can be found; perhaps, like Boswell, I can invest the ordinary facts with "a kind of hyperactuality and heightened import." (Wimsatt, Images of Samuel Johnson, p.359)

Perhaps a man should not live longer than what he can meaningfully record; like a farmer, he should plant only what he can gather in. Writing biographies can give me another feather in my bow, so to speak. Thusfar, the initial enthusiasm has become a laborious drudgery and so I have discontinued the exercise of writing biography. I am so disinclined to participate in much social intercourse that it is not surprising that writing biographies does not take place. I felt a strong affinity to Nathaniel Hawthorne and particularly the description of his life in The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Vol. XV(p.61). Here George B. Loring discusses Hawthorne's anti-social proclivities which may be a useful basis for novel writing but not necessarily for biography writing.

A third period of biographical writing followed in the early years of the new millennium, 2000-2001, as I put the finishing touches on The History of the Bahá'í Faith in the NT: 1947-1997. When this task was complete my interest in writing biography ceased again, although I still studied the subject and kept notes on the genre. Biography was a challenge to both my reason and imagination. It called for attack. I really had to pounce on it, fasten my teeth in its gristle, worry it and drag it around in circles if I wanted to come out on top. This I had no desire to do. The sense of attack never entered my being after some early wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s. I had pounced on it for three short periods, grabbed it with my reason and imagination and dragged it around. Perhaps one day I'll get it between my teeth again when the need or the desire arises. Perhaps next time I'll really get on top of it; at the moment, though, I'm not holding my breath. Indeed, one of the many lessons that writing biography, poetry and narrative has taught me over the last two decades is that no literary or poetic expression, be it epic, lyric, narrative or something that falls in between them, can exist in any meaningful way without a receptive community. And I do not have the skills or the interest to write biography that will have a significant appeal.--10/1/97—5/3/06.


CHAPTER 6: Part 3:

Section 1:

One of the most famous of poets during these four epochs, and especially in the last two, beginning, say, in the 1980s, was John Ashbery. In 1995 he was referred to as an "essentially ruminative poet." He turned a few subjects over and over in the wider perspective of a mythology of self. This could very easily describe my own work but I aim to have my work yield meanings; whereas, Ashbery's poetry seems to militate against the very possibility of articulating them. Although Ashbery turns a few subjects over and over readers have difficulty finding any unifying principles, any particular tactics, figures or concerns in his poetic output. As poetry critic Helen Vendler has remarked, "it is popularly believed, with some reason, that Ashbery's style itself is impenetrable, that it is impossible to say what an Ashbery poem is about."

As one critic argues: "What is at stake in the criticism of Ashbery is the meaning and status of what it is to be 'American.' One could very well frame the meaning and status of my work around my Bahá'í identity. The central concern of both mine and Ashbery's poetic career could very well be defined as the self-world relationship. With this in mind, I present to readers some 7000+ prose-poems by 2015. Here are some.


Price's autobiographical poem can be read, in some ways, as the biography of a generation, the generation that came of age in the sixties, grew into middle age in the eighties, into what some human development theorists call late adulthood, the years 60 to 80, in the first decades of the twenty-first century and into old age in the years beyond 2525. William Wordsworth's poem The Prelude could be read as the biography of the romantics of the 1790s who grew into old age, if they lived that long, in the years after 1850--although a man was old much sooner in 1850 than he is today. More importantly, though, as far as my autobiography is concerned, Wordsworth's Prelude is the most sustained self-examination in English poetry and its real importance lies in not what it tells of the past but what is promises of the future. Such is the view of Stephen Gill in William Wordsworth: A Life(Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989,) and, as Gill goes on to say, Wordsworth's "rewriting stems from a determination to treat his poems as living presences and to change or discard what no longer seemed adequate(ibid., p81).

The case is obviously an arguable one and, at best, only partly true as a comparison. In the case of Wordsworth or Price, the mind, the imagination, is a binding, sympathetic medium and the poems which come out of their poetic matrix speak with or against the historical grain. Their lives and those of their contemporaries or coreligionists are at the heart of their inner life which is given a primary place in the ideology of both men, in the creation of their personal identities and it is the place where the important changes of life take place, albeit slowly and unobtrusively. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 6 April 2009.

Yes, perhaps, in some ways,
to each man his own story.
Mine is quite precise in places,
but there's a matrix here for
everyone to tell of their own.

Mine, growing out of the first epochs
of this Formative Age has a certain:
tone, mode, manner, content, style,
relevance, timeliness and scope--
bound together in this sympathetic
medium, this inner space for and
about the seekers my contemporaries--
and me and what it all means for, if it
means nothing to me, it is nothing.

Ron Price
6 April 2009
(updated from 3/2001)

Section 2:


When the hardback or softback edition of this multi-volumned work is published, if it ever is, readers will be able to see only some of the courage of my convictions. Courage is difficult to measure in our Westernizing world, as I have mentioned before, with wall-to-wall comforts and more entertainment than ever before in history pumped into ourlunge rooms decade after decade. Putting out 2500 pages in three Parts on the internet could be seen by critical observers, of which the world is not lacking, as an expression of narcissism, of a sense of the writer's self-importance and of his enormous egotism. If this man(myself) had any courage it was in a context of such self-obsession as to neutralize any claim to courage.

If life was and is a fleeting phenomenon, how much more fleeting must, indeed, should be the reviewing of it in a memoir? In this work I have had enough nerve to say that life, my pioneering life, even though it was fleeting, its ephemera might be of lasting interest. I thought the business of reviewing my life in all its detail might have its own importance. Often as I wrote this ballooning work I didn't entirely think so. Even now I have me doubts. But here it stands in cyberspace to be scrolled down page after page. Martin Luther once said: "Here I stand! as the Protestant reformation was about to take off. And I say the same thing as the Bahai Faith is just coming out of an obscurity that has coated its life for more than a century and a half.

It is said of the essayist Thomas de Quincey(1785-1859) that "The brilliance of his articles was marred by an incurable tendency to digress, which, though harmless and even enjoyable in his famous Confessions of an Opium Eater, is a constant irritation in an essay on an abstract subject. His vast and curious erudition, too, got in his way and he did not know when to stop." I trust readers here will find, what may appear initially as digressions, are found to be at worst harmless and at best enjoyable. The following prose-poems are intended to be in this vein.

Section 3:


One of the myriad challenges in any autobiography that attempts to be as comprehensive as this, an autobiography covering as it does some 3 centuries, has been to describe and analyse the zones I have lived in and to a large extent taken for granted. There are micro zones. These are small intimate spaces that are very temporary and circumscribe activity between two or three people. The second category of zone is we might call mezzo or mid-range zones. These are zones wherein activities that occupy us for several hours take place. These could include bars, restaurants, playgrounds, and of course the rooms in a house or workplace. Finally there is the city level macro zone. Most of us live in cities. This is an aggregation of time and space we relate to and identify with over a long period of time. We identify with city sports teams and landmarks. For various reasons to do with cultural evolution cities are symbolically important to how we live and form our identity. City zones are meaningful to us.

Zones proscribe and prescribe, but usually without any visible rules. They enable and govern complex social routines without anyone being able to explicitly explain how. They encode narratives spatially. That is, zones as spaces, have material, social & symbolic layers. The material environment is the most basic layer of a zone, that is, buildings, furniture, roads and so on. However zones have two other important layers. The first is the social layer—that is, the people that are in the zone. In addition zones have a symbolic layer—that is the meanings that are found or created in the zone. This includes the aesthetic style; the actual and implicit messages in the space, as well as any personal associations the place may have or invoke. Clearly zones operate at different scales, in different time frames, and with different symbol systems. However, they no longer need be actual spaces at all, because many zones we now inhabit are purely virtual or purely discursive. Zones can be virtual too, such as Facebook. Zones can be an area of conversation as implied in the phrase “Lets not go there!” We now think and talk as if our mind was spatial.

Perhaps a zone might be defined as a bounded system of agents and resources, governed by a unified and discoverable set of rules, which determine relationships that dictate how agents and resources are linked. Or perhaps you prefer the dramaturgical metaphors of front and back stage, actors, roles, scripts, and choreographies. But the truth is, there is no agreed definition or theorisation, although many disciplines use the term freely (e.g. cultural geography; urban planning; human ecology). Jeremy Hunsinger invites us to think about a street-corner, as an “interzone,” a complex assemblage of meanings, things, and people. Here the material infrastructure, the road, the sidewalk, the streetlights with their cabling and electrical grid, the sewers, and their gutters, intermix within semiotic and governmentality politics. He argues zones are inscribed by codes and conventions to form pragmatic regimes through which we enact our lives and our roles. Though these zones are integral to our lives, we are “zoned out” about the zones in which we live. That is, dispersal of these zones has impeded our awareness of them and disguised the meanings we can assign to them. Through this dispersal they are alienated from our subjective experience within our day-to-day experiences of integrated world capitalism. The challenge of knowing an interzone is a challenge of territorialisation, and thus of subjective awareness. To operate with subjective awareness within these zones is form of semiological guerilla warfare, allowing us to interpret, and influence the governance of, our techno-semiological existence. The paper seeks to “challenge us to rethink our subjective positions in relation to zones, their aesthetics, and their legitimation as functions of semiological warfare … to find new opportunities to make a mess of these spaces, to transgress and create new spaces of autonomy for ourselves and future participants in the zones.”

There is much more that can be and has been said about the zones to which I have referred. Readers with the interest can go to this online journal for a series of relevant articles.M/C Journal of Media and Culture(Vol. 14, No. 5, 2011)


Part 1:


If these booklets of poetry, some sixty-three now, help to establish nothing else it will be my search for a context in which relevant fundamental questions about the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, the societal need for legitimate and just authority and our need as individuals for solid thinking about the organic change in the very structure of society that the world has been preparing for but has not yet experienced—can be examined. In some six thousand six-hundred poems and four million words, a massive corpus, this search for a context for the examination of fundamental questions may not be so obvious. For I try to do a great deal in this poetry of which this particular search is but one of the facets of my journey.

The fluid and elastic qualities that underpin the expression of freedom assume a different latitude from one mind to another. Indeed in this Faith there are "unique methods and channels" for the exercise and maintenance of freedom. The very meaning of freedom has been deepened, its scope extended. The very fact that my writing poetry, an expression of art, is elevated to an act of worship augers well for the "enormous prospects for a new birth of expression in the civilization anticipated by His World Order."

Much, if not virtually all, of my poetry is about personal experience, a personal view of some sociological or historical process or fact. I see this poetry as essentially lyrical, as capable of expressing a sense of commonality and, for me, unparalleled intimacy. Some of what I write could be termed confessional. The first person "I" is vulnerable, dealing as it does with varying degrees of self-revelation. But even in the second and third persons there is the poet's view, less direct and self-revelation is less obvious. The poetry is self-serving; the reader is invited to share in my experience, in my thoughts. Whether he or she experiences the intimacy that I do in the act of writing is another question. The poetry also serves the community, however self-focussed my poems are, and they all are to some extent. They deal with the universal and with the growth and development of that universal Force and Cause behind these poems. They deal with community. And the quest for community, it would seem, has always involved some conflict, some anxiety.

I strive, of course, for moderation, refinement, tact and wisdom in any of my poetic expressions of human utterance. But for everything there is a season. Thusfar, the season of my poetic writing in public has been minimal except on the internet where there ar enow millions of my words. I have been quite happy that the public utterance of my poetry, at poetry readings, has been minimal. I have written about this before in the 26 interviews recorded in my booklets of poetry and in other places. Bahá'u'lláh, Himself, reinforces this idea in the maxim that: "Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed...nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the ears of the hearer." As the Universal House of Justice says in its expatiation on the theme of speech and freedom "an acute exercise of judgement" is called for. Perhaps when, and if, I become "public property" I will have acquired more of that quality of acute judgement.

The freedom of the poet to declare his conscience and set forth his views is at the root of the foundation of this Order, but I try to avoid poetry with a various types of negative quality; indeed, I impose on myself a strictness, attempt to give to my writing a certain etiquette of expression in my efforts to prevent confusion and discord reigning in community life. I try to remedy the divisive tendencies at play in the world. The process of criticism is baneful in its effect and, therefore, the nature of my poetry is intended to counteract dissidence which I see as "a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating" my words. What I write is simply ordinary speech, sometimes emotionally loaded, raised to a high level, the highest level I can, of expressiveness. I strive for what the Greeks called kairos: tact, discretion, prudent restraint, maturity, for the quality that poet Pindar expressed. I also strive for some of that wisdom shown by the Greek philosopher Epictetus who wrote that: "If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say: 'He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned'.(Enchiridion)

In declaring my conscience I think of the words of Jerome K. Jerome(1859-1927), the English writer and humorist, best known for his humorous travelogue Three Men in a Boat. He makes a useful point about the immensely complex, subtle and highly emphasized term 'conscience' in our culture. "How good we feel when we are full after a good meal," writes Jerome, "how satisfied with ourselves and with the world!" Jerome goes on to say that: "a clear conscience also makes a person very happy and contented. But a full stomach does the business quite as well. In addition, it is cheaper and more easily obtained. A person feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal: so noble-minded, so kind-hearted." My own conscience has played an important part in this pioneering journey as I go about setting forth my views in this literary work and as I go about living my daily life. It is a stubborn and complex entity, a little creature this conscience, and I allude to it often. Its implications can not be avoided in any complete autobiography.

Humanity today needs that communitas communitatum and this Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, has an important role to play in this unifying process. This poetry is part of that wider process, that wider phenomenon. I seek a judicious exercise in my writing as a contribution to this communitas communitatum. I try to be sensitive to content, style, sound, tact, wisdom, timeliness in order to "give birth to an etiquette of expression" worthy of that term 'maturity', which Pindar possessed, and which this age must strive to attain. There must be a discipline here in this poetry if it is to attain the status of being a "dynamic power in the arteries of life." If my words are to attain "the influence of spring" and cause "hearts to become fresh and verdant", they shall have to be seen as "acceptable to fair-minded souls." I can not make such a claim of my poetry, yet.

I am sensitive to my poetry's tenderness, as I am to the tenderness of the Cause which motivates so much that underpins my poetry. The rigorous discipline that must be exerted when putting print before the public eye, I have not exerted, not entirely. For I have assumed that, for the most part, the public will not see most of my poetry, at least for some time to come. But I strive to speak the words of both myself and my fellow human beings as part of a whole; this autobiography tries to serve the whole. It resonates in the immediate and the concrete, in the inner and the outer values of our lives, or in some socio-historical framework. However idiosyncratic and autobiographical a particular poem may appear it is related to the totality, the cosmic, the grand-scale, the great system of time and place. For mine is the poetry of a metanarrative. Hopefully different readers will be cheered or saddened in different ways as my poems drift through diverse human situations. The humanistic psychologist Erich Fromm has written that: "There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as "moral indignation," which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue."(Man For Himself) Moral indignation is just one of the many thorny interpersonal issues we face as humans in community and I only have part of this complex problem sorted out. We all only get part way along the road of life with all the tests that life provides us in its crucible with its often burning chemical contents and mixes.

Spontaneity, initiative and diversity must be encouraged, but everything in its time, the right time under heaven, so to speak. The individual in this Cause is "the focus of primary development"(8), but within the context of the group; for the individual is essentially subordinated to the group. The individual should be seen as a source of social good. This is his most supreme delight. This is the essential context for poetry. When, and if, this occurs my poetry will find its right and proper place in community life. Dealing as my poetry does with the fragile, confused and ever to be rediscovered and redefined self, the place of the inner life and private character, the delight to which I refer will, hopefully, be associated with understanding, with intellect and wisdom, the two most luminous lights in the world of creation.

Ron Price
28/11/97 to 16/12/09

Part 2:


Were my poetry to become significant enough in the public domain I would certainly like to direct the attention of scholars to adaptations of and responses to its contents in music, drama, dance, and the visual arts. I'm confident that studies of my poetry in music, for example, could take the form of, say, something like Aaron Copland's song cycle of 12 of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Copland completed this creative work in 1950. While the poems of Dickinson that Copeland chose centered about no single theme, they treated of subject matter particularly close to Miss Dickinson: nature, death, life, eternity. It was Copeland's hope, nearly a century after Dickinson's poems were conceived, to create a musical counterpart to Emily Dickinson's unique personality. However desirable such an exercise might be to my spirit, I leave that activity to a posterity that I can scarcely imagine. Whatever aspects of my work that a future age might seek to highlight through song or indeed any other form of the creative and performing arts is, for me, a tantalizing consideration that can scarcely occupy any of my time at present, indeed, it seems somewhat pretentious to do so. I can not help but offer one thought in this direction; namely, that the poems which a future composer, for example, might select would, of necessity, be filled with the dissonant noises of the life of these four epochs. A counterpoint was developing, of course, but they were still early days, early days of the Kingdom of God on earth.

I have never understood music and my experience of it in a vacuum, as a pure structure of sounds as if fallen from the stars onto my faculty of musical perception. Music seems rather inextricably embedded in my several forms of life, forms that are, as it happens, essentially linguistic. Music is necessarily apprehended, at least in part, in terms of the language and linguistic practices that define me and my world. These words, this memoir, has for me a musical context and texture.

Music is manifested, as the philosopher Wittgenstein once wrote, by a complex of behaviours, such as illustrative gestures, apt comparisons, suitable hummings, and appropriate movings, incarnations, of thought. Gesture, in music, can be defined as "a movement that may be interpreted as significant." So is this true in words, in writing. Indeed all the musical terms seem to me to have literary analogues. Some analysts of music see gesture as affecting performance and experience more directly than the thematic and harmonic categories of conventional analysis. Gesture is seen as central to the performer's conception of the musical work--and mine.

Performers, like writers, attend primarily to the ‘shape' of a piece. Shape is analogous to structure but it tends to be more dynamic through its sensitivity to momentum, climax, and ebb and flow, comprising an outline, a general plan, a set of gestures unfolding in time. I say this because these considerations lie at the background and in the texture of my work.

To say one final thing about gesture, its definition in musical terms has some application to my writing and so I include it here in full: "a holistic concept, synthesizing what theorists would analyze separably as melody, harmony, rhythm and meter, tempo and rubato, articulation, dynamics, and phrasing into an indivisible whole. For performance, these overlapping strands must be further melded into a smooth, and at some level undivided, continuity. That melding is achieved most efficiently by means of an apparently natural, human gesture. Performers strive to create a shaping and shading of each phrase that is more than the sum of the motivic and harmonic units of which they are composed."

Gestural analysis in music, like analysis of this memoir, should focus on short events---motifs, figures or short phrases. The sense of unity in a composition and in this work is forged through a recognition of the gesture's internal continuity and coherence, and of the interconnections between gestures. This enables performers like myself to recognise and project seemingly disparate and distinct "motifs" as manifestations of the same "gesture". This work is like one single gesture.

Language, like music, is manifested in a complex of behaviours. Both music and language are forms of thought. Understanding music should therefore be analogous to understanding language. Both are a matter of use, that is, of knowing how to operate with the medium in question in particular contexts of communication. This 'knowing' is not about propositional knowledge but, rather, about behavioral and experiential abilities and dispositions. Hence, if music is thought, we should naturally come to understand it as we come to understand thought in words. This is done not by learning how to decode or decipher it, but by learning how to respond to it appropriately and how to connect it to and ground it in our lives. How I respond to language and how readers respond to my language is at the core of this memoir.

Intelligible music stands to literal thinking in precisely the same relation as does intelligible verbal discourse. If that relation is one that takes its form in expression, then music and language are, at any rate, in the same, and quite comfortable, boat. The performer and certainly this writer allows the articulation, accentuation, even the tempo to be different from page to page or on every few notes if that seems to be the natural shape of the lines. Everything is dynamic, fluid, in flux. That is certainly how I felt as I wrote this memoir.

Musical performers who over-emphasize their gestures through exaggerated emotional expression are similar to an actor who accompanies every movement with exaggerated facial and bodily expressions. I am conscious of having over-emphasized some gestures in this work as I have also over-emphasized some gestures in my life. This is not surprising given the bi-polar nature of my experience, my various enthusiasms and their gestural performances which undoubtedly have disrupted the overall architecture of my life and both enhanced and disrupted its continuity.

Musical sounds and these words flow in the same world and, although these comments comparing music and writing say nothing about my life, they are an appropriate inclusion as this memoir winds its way to its conclusion.

Part 3:


We each map a unique landscape of thought, frailty, drama, bewilderment and belief. The biographies of our life, if any are ever written, are other people's stories and descriptions of our map. Norman Sherry, in the second volume of his biography of the famous novelist Graham Greene, writes that Greene "seemed homeless just wandering the streets" in a state of "acute solitariness." This was a period in the 1950s when Greene was in a condition of "great unhappiness and great torment. Manic-depression reached its height in that period." Sherry continues: "Greene wheeled obsessively around the world." With alcohol and women he sought to kill the despair and the formidable desire for self-annihilation that rose up within him. He was "compelled to wander the earth until death; an unending traveller, an unending writer, he laboured like Sisyphus."1 It seemed in his nature to go beyond permitted limits.2 -Ron Price with thanks to Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene: Vol.2: 1939-1955, Jonathan Cape, London, 1994, 1pp.507-508 and 2p.258.

I, too, have wandered my streets
in a state of acute solitariness during
many of these my pioneering days.
I've had my torment and unhappiness,
but have now, in the evening of my life,
left behind me that very debilitating chaos,
darkness and fear;1 obsessively I have drunk
the air and killed despair with His sweet-scented
streams, tasted even in my hair with its fragrance
in my prayer and with my medications oh so fair—
without which God knows what I would have dared!

I, too, will wander until death, an unending traveller,
an unending writer and labour like Sisyphus at the door,
but the stone, the weight, will one day be no more.

Many, too, wander with their morbid predilection
for the darker sides of life—not surprising in a time
after two wars, millions of dead in the fields and
millions more to come—trying to put it together,
each finding the cosmic drama in their own way,
creating their forms, their styles in this slough of
despond with the phantoms, so very often, of their
wrongly, so very wrongly, informed imaginations.

1 my manic depression was successfully treated first in 1968, then in 1980, again in 2001 and, finally, I trust, in 2007: four medication regimes to remove most of the fear, the darkness and the despair.—15/12/01 updated 18/6/'09.

Part 4:


The five years which followed my drive to Yerrinbool from Ballarat in December 1977; and the five years which followed my first days at university in September 1963 were without doubt the years of my life in which I experienced the most intense and extensive depression, confusion and disorientation. These years of internal and external crises, of varying severity were devastating in their immediate effects. Each of these five year periods resulted in the complete breakdown in my capacity to earn a living and function in day-to-day society. But by December 1982 and September 1969, it could be argued, these crises were beginning to release a corresponding measure of divine power. My life could and did continue unfolding my potential, my capacity. A fresh impulse had been lent to this process of unfoldment by these same crises, at least that is a dominant view I now take looking back from these years of my late adulthood. Readers should examine the foreword to God Passes By for Shoghi Effendi's ouline of the stages in the evolution of the Cause and, arguably, our own lives.

It took me some years to understand what could be called a 'life process;' some years to begin to regulate my life to its rhythm. It became my view, my understanding, slowly with the years, that my very happiness as a Bahai depended, in part at least, on the extent to which I understood this life process. -Ron Price with thanks to the NSA of the Bahais of Canada, "Letter to All Pioneers," Pulse of the Pioneer, January 1979, p.2.

I was stimulated to write the above paragraph by reading a paragraph in a biography of the English novelist Thackeray(1811-1863), the first novelist to "hold a mirror up to real life," or so one literary critic put it. It was a paragraph written by this same critic which began "......The five years which followed his night flight to Paris were bitter and restless ones for Thackeray." (Ann Monsarrat, The Uneasy Victorian: Thackeray the Man, Cassell, London, 1980, p.121) For some reason my own mind immediately switched, on reading this line about Thackeray, from his bitter five years to some of my own.

I believe my journey, intellectual and otherwise, becomes more complete through the study of biography. Our personal troubles are, partly, public problems. Such was the view of sociologist C.Wright Mills in his Sociological Imagination(1959) written the year I became a Bahai.

It's about linking happiness
to understanding, keenness
of our tests, the test to be
happy and confident both
within and without the Bahai
community, a whole of life process. forcing, you're not responsible
for the present condition in the community,
only a small part. Trust to the life processes
set in motion within our life in this Cause and
in your own dear life which seems to take the
whole of life to decode, process, interpret.

Ron Price
22 January 2002
updated 18/6/09

Part 5:


Stephen Coote writes in his biography of John Keats that Keats "was battling to preserve the integrity of his vision, and what he described as the pride and egotism of the writer's solitary life formed as a protection against the intrusion of merely practical matters."1 Keats saw his development as an inward process, a long and patient observation of the rhythms of his consciousness. True poetry, he believed, came from this, not from manufacturing verse for the marketplace.

Price had battled for years, at least until the early years of the new millennium, to acquire that solitary life which was protected from the intrusion of the endless and inevitable practical matters of life. As 1999 evolved insensibly to 2006, he was able to move beyond those endless volunteer activities and responsibilities which occupied so much of his time in his middle adulthood. By 2006 he had been able to focus on the inward processes of development that accompanied writing for at least eight hours a day keeping practical intrusions to a limit. He felt he had written about that process as much as he had written poetry itself. Poetry, he had concluded, was impossible to define. At best, it served for him as a form in which he could deal with that first attribute of perfection which 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes, and which it was his task to acquire, in The Secret of Divine Civilization: learning and the cultural attainments of the mind.2 -Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Coote, John Keats: A Life, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1995, p.268; and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35.

By the time I had arrived here
in this town by a river by the sea,
at the bottom of the Antipodes,
I had defined and refined that
inward process and the rhythms
of my consciousness and mind.

I had found the form in which
I could deal with the vast tracts
of learning and those cultural
attainments of mind's lifeline.

I occasionally toyed with essays,
with novels but, in the end, turned,
always returned to this form and
these processes which enabled me,
at last, to declare myself a poet.
I did not so much collapse into
late adulthood, although there was
some of that tedium vitae, as die
to my former self as much as I was
able, but so much still remained like
honey and poison making me seek
from a cup a pure and limpid water.

Ron Price
January 2002 to March 2006
(updated 6/3/09 and 18/6/09)

Part 6:


This afternoon, in mid-summer here in Tasmania, I sat under a tree near the beach at Low Head on Bass Strait and read Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography by Peter Alexander.(1982). This South African poet(1901-1957) had, according to Alexander, a magnificent constitution. According to the famous psychiatrist, Laurens van der Post, Campbell was a man "born on fire." He could only live by burning himself out: drinking much and eating and sleeping little. It is difficult, it seems to me, to determine what, in fact, is a 'magnificent constitution.'

Have my history of manic-depression, the slow development of a mild emphysema, a certain psychological fatigue as I came into my sixties and, perhaps, several other illnesses like pneumonia and some polio-like disease contracted in my childhood, had the effect of weakening my constitution? Is writing millions of words a sign of a strong constitution? I don't know, but I do know I have experienced varying degrees of burn-out several times in my life. It would appear that, like Campbell, burning myself out was part of my central life experience, although the causes of the burn-out(mine and Campbell's) were quite different. It would appear that, in this the early evening of my life, I have learned to live without burn-out and without its tragic consequences thanks to psychiatry's medications. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 22 January 2002(updated 6/3/09).

A million impressions,
impressed themselves
over these several epochs
in the last half-century,1
pressed themselves upon me
and annihilated me2 as Keats
said;3 I surrendered, lost myself
to these poetic acts of creation,
acts of love4 in which I imagined
myself intensely, merging with a
great sea of life beyond the me and
becoming one: mystic, seer, poet...
integrated circuits with the past
containing the seeks of its future.

1 1952-2002
2 Looking back it would appear that at least 3 reconstructions of personality were required: 1968, 1979/80 and 1999; inevitably there were some continuities, one of which was poetry in 1999.
3 Keats, Letters, 27 October 1818
4 The World of Poetry, p. 92.
Ron Price 22 January 2002

Part 7:


"A biographer can be a most uncomfortable visitor for a living author and his family. Skeletons clatter in all our closets; everyone's life has black patches, shames and sorrows: no one, you would think, would willingly submit to Judgement Day come early." So writes Peter F. Alexander at the start of his book Les Murray: A Life in Progress(Oxford UP, 2000). But when such an author, like myself for example, is a virtual unknown; when he has never published a book; when virtually no one in the literary world has ever heard of him, then such a discomfort would not be experienced by that author. Indeed, such an unknown author would probably think to himself that no one in his lifetime would ever venture to seriously consider writing a biography about him at all. Skeletons in his closet and the darker side of his life would, therefore, concern him not a twit, for he would know that no writer would ever be likely to probe into his private life while he was alive. Such is the way I feel as I approach the age of sixty-five.

When I eventually pass from this mortal coil, though, I would be more than happy to grant any aspiring biographer complete access to everything: manuscripts, letters, diaries, various documents private and public, even accounts now found on the internet and memorabilia of all sorts. I would be equally happy for such a biographer--should he or she ever exist--to interview whomever they want and as frequently as they want, ever mindful of the courtesies required of such potential intrusions into other people's lives. I would like to think that such biographers should feel free to prod, probe and uncover whatever they could find, for we are seen by others in such varied ways. Such is the attitude, I currently hypothesize, that I shall possess after my demise as I gaze at this world from the domain of light. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Alexander, Les Murray: A Life in Progress, Oxford UP, 2000, p.9.

Should I give full and exclusive
access to my voluminous papers?
How easy should I make detective
work for the possibly impertinent,
not especially skilled, wanting to save
a life for future generations? Am I the
sort of man you might want to see live
again and dance in the pages of a book?

If you know of my battle on the road,
will it help you with yours? Whatever
will help future generations. Do you
need all my sordid details, my hind parts
and their contemplation and an exploration
of mountains of trivia?...whatever will help
and only if it helps.....

Ron Price
16 March 2002

PS I have come to feel the way the Russian writer Boris Pasternak did when he wrote on January 15th 1960 three months after I became a Bahá'í: "the artist starts to get to love his new design and it seems to him that the slowly developing work is larger and more important than he." For me this ‘work' is both my life and my writing.-Evgeny Pasternak, Boris Pasternak: The Tragic Years: 1930-1960, Collins Harvill, London, 1990, p.244.

Part 8:


The sociologist C.Wright Mills tried to make his readers aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of our own lives and the course of world history, as ordinary men do not usually know what this connection means for the kinds of men they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part. They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world.1 The Bahai Faith, in contrast, gives to its votaries an historical consciousness that is both providential and humanistic, that stimulates the process of making connections and finding patterns between individual lives and the course of history.-Ron Price with thanks to 1C.W. Mills, the Sociological Imagination, 1959, p.4.

A lot of things relate
to a lot of things, big-
and-little-pictures in
this tenth stage of history
and a lot of isms and wasms
have collapsed as explanations
of the world and ourselves.1

Meanwhile, there has been
an influence not dwelling
elsewhere in literature or
philosophy that shatters the
cup of speech that we cannot
contain-we cannot dam the sea.2

This influence asks us to stretch
ourselves beyond the here-and-now
and present awareness, subtlely
reminding us of what we already
know in the big world that has made
us what we are, as sub-creators in our
own understanding of our own life.

1 Immanuel Wallerstein, "Louis Horowitz, C. Wright Mills: An American Utopian," Theory and Society, Vol.15, 1986, pp.465-474.
2 Horace Holley quoted in the Ocean of His Words, J. Hatcher, Wilmette, 1997,p.3.

Ron Price
8 November 2002

Part 9:


"Before you are through with any piece of work," wrote C. Wright Mills at the end of his Sociological Imagination, no matter how indirectly on occasion, orient it to the central and continuing task of understanding the structure and the drift, the shaping and the meanings, of your own period, the terrible and magnificent world of human society in the second half of the twentieth century. -Ron Price with thanks to C.W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford UP,1959.

Or, as the House wrote eight years later,
to strive to obtain a more adequate
understanding of the significance of
Bahá'u'lláh's stupendous Revelation
is ourfirst obligation and the object
of our constant endeavour.(1)

And so has this been the case
in what you might call
'The Bahai Imagination'
which we approach
with a sense of high mission,
with an ethic,
with an articulation of ideas,
with definitions of personal,
social and passing realities.

For we knew, too,
that liberalism and socialism
had collapsed
as frameworks for democracy.
We knew, too,
personal troubles were public ones,
as we tried to capture contemporary reality,
its fleeting fragments and the big picture
as the years passed through this dark transition
and we grew unobtrusively into old age.

(1) The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.113.

Ron Price
25 November 2000

Part 10:


When the Guardian died in 1957, C.W. Mills was working on his The Sociological Imagination, published two years later. Mills referred to our being "at the ending of what is called The Modern Age." He saw the hallmark of the postmodern period as one of "skepticism towards metanarrative." The major metanarrative he referred to in his book was "the collapse of an acceptance that liberalism and socialism are adequate explanations of our world."

By 1959 I had not rejected what the left-wing idealists of my generation saw as the answer and which Mills saw as having already collapsed. In 1959 I was into sport, schoolwork at the grade ten level and girls. I was successful in the first two categories of my interests but not in the third. That was probably a good thing looking back half a century later with the wisdom of age. It was not until 1965 that I even discovered Mills and intellectually understood, at least to some extent, the issues involved. As I studied sociology again and again from the 1970s to the 2000s I came face to face with the bankruptcy of liberalism and socialism. Still I had to face the idealists and the non-idealists who hoped that their party, some political saviour would rescue them and their society. The continued acceptance of the liberal and/or socialist(and by the 1980s and 1990s the conservative) metanarrative was everywhere to be seen. By the 1990s the acceptance of these several metanarratives was becoming more difficult in the face of the problems of late twentieth century western society, problems discussed under the umbella of postmodernity and postmodernism among other umbrellas.

The new metanarrative that I had accepted as early as 1959, while all other metanarratives were dieing, slowly became the centre of my own philosophy, my own view of postmodernity and my own cosmology. I defined it with increasing sophistication and detail as the last decades of the twentieth century closed and the new millennium opened. This metanarrative was far from fixed; indeed it celebrated rather than lamented the incoherence and fragmentation in society. There are many ways of looking at the modernist-postmodernist division of the modern age. The metahistorian, Arnold Toynbee, saw the post-modern age beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century after four hundred years of the "modern." But sociologists generally have seen postmodernism beginning sensibly and insensibly in the 1950s, 1960s and/or 1970s.

Personally, I find there are many ways of looking at this dichotomy. One way I favor is a "modernity" synchronizing with the period 1754-1963, two centuries of preparation for, and the ministries of, the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith; and a "post-modernity" synchronizing with the fully institutionalized charisma in the Bahá'í Faith beginning in 1963.-Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Crook, et al., Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society, Sage Publications, London, 1992, pp.41-42.

His death divided the Age(1)
and postmodernity could
be the tenth stage of history,(2)
the final part of the meta-
narrative which would be
the rest of my life and my
children and my children's
children and their children.

Ron Price
12 January 2000

(1) Shoghi Effendi
(2) 1963, the last stage of history in the paradigm of history outlined by Shoghi Effendi.

Part 11:


"The world of everyday life is not only taken for granted as reality by the ordinary members of society in the subjectively meaningful conduct of their lives. It is a world that originates in their thoughts and actions, and is maintained as real by these members."1 The French sociologist, Emile Durkheim did not see it this way. The world of everyday life, for Durkheim, could never be said to originate in the thoughts and actions of "members" because everyday life is irreducibly external to any individual or plurality. It is always already there when one enters it, as a child, or as an adult when one, for example, joins the Bahai Faith or moves to a new Bahai community as a pioneer. The implication is that the social world is made of historically constituted positions or situations through which people move and differently exist.2 In my poetry I have tried to both describe the world I've lived in and the one I have created in, assuming as I do that both have some reality, especially a metaphorical one. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality, 1967, pp. 19-20; and 2Herve Varenne, "The Social Facting of Education: Durkheim's Legacy," Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol.27, 1995, pp.373-389.

There's an intersection here
of self and other, biography
and history requiring some
virtuosity to get at it, at the
story, subtle and mysterious.
Much of the data is slippery,
elusive, tentative, something
that has seized my life,
startling and bewildered,
sometimes wrenching:
is there an essential whole?
Are there patterns and nodes?
Is the truth of my story deeper
than my life itself? Have I
provoked and illuminated it?1

1 R. Bullough and S. Pinnegar, "Guidelines…of Self-Study," Educational Researcher, Vol.30, No.3, pp.13-21.
Ron Price 12/11/'02.

Part 12:


I first came across the ideas of sociologist Emile Durkheim while studying sociology at university from 1963 to 1967. Many of his ideas I have always thought were relevant to a Bahai perspective. One thing he wrote certainly reflects my experience of intellectual, artistic and literary pursuits, what 'Abdu'l-Bahá called "learning and the cultural attainments of the mind." Just as Bahai administration was taking its first form under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi in the 1920s, Durkheim wrote that "the love of art, the predilection for artistic joys, is accompanied by a certain aptitude for getting outside ourselves, a certain detachment or disinterestedness….We lose sight of our surroundings, our ordinary cares, our immediate interests. Indeed, this is the essence of the healing power of art. Art consoles us because it turns us away from ourselves."

After forty years of pioneering
I find here my peace and supper
as if after a long day's work. Yes,
Emile, this is its own reward, yes!

Just a simple artistry in these poems,
part of my search for the right idiom
and the best ways of meet life's lot.
I do not feel like Frost, stricken,
intensely conscious, suspicious of
my struggle. A healing came, to me,
at last, and all that gloom, obsession,
temper, rage, depression softened
with the years and easy sleep
without the pain dulled, at last,
life's sharp and ragged edges.

And my style could lighten, take an easier road
without that heat and the tortuous heavy load.

Ron Price
22 September 2002

Part 13:


Many writers and thinkers, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, have felt that society has been undergoing a stage of transition and moral mediocrity in which the old gods were dead or dying and the new ones had not yet been born. It is a process that has been repeated throughout history; like individualism it has been a feature of the historical process in one form or another within the different forms of community at least since the neolithic revolution. -Ron Price, An attempt to summarize a core idea in: Durkheim and Postmodern Culture, S. Mestrovic, Aldine de Gruyter, NY, 1992.

The Bahá'í community and the individuals within it will play a crucial role in defining a unifying vision of the nature of man and society and laying the foundations for a global society to which the mass of humankind can commit themselves. -Ron Price, a paraphrase of some of the opening paragraph of "Bahá'u'lláh", A Statement of the Bahá'í International Community, Office of Public Information, 1991, p.1.

As we internationalize our world
and seek to bond ourselves together
emotionally with Disney World, Mc
Donald's and olympic games, souvenir
spoons, greeting cards, nostalgia channels,
synthetic flowers and other faint-and-not-so
faint-embodiments of human sentiment, a new
version of community is emerging, a new
collective morality, beyond left and right
infighting, emerging from a common
experience in one world culture, humanity,
social unity and congruence and we are
just at the beginning of the process, the
enormous task of resacralizing our world.

Ron Price
26 December 1997

Part 14:


Unfortunately we can learn little or nothing for our contemporary social problems from ancient history. -Max Weber, "The Social Causes of the Decay of Ancient Civilization," 1896 in Max Weber: The Interpretation of Social Reality, J.E.T. eldridge, NY, Scribner, 1971, p.256.

All that societies require to be held together is that their members fix their eyes on the same end and come together in a single faith. -Emile Durkheim in Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work, A Historical and Critical Study, S. Lukes, 1973, Penguin Press, London, p.341.

The classics are just about ancient history
around here. They've been dropping like
flies in this tempest of modernity,
and unpredictable post-modernity
which would have blown old Caesar's mind.
We'll have to do our modelling elsewhere—
hardly anyone's reading Aristophanies, et al, anyway.

We seem to have moved to pop-psych,
organization science, Skinner and Carnegie,
filling in the gap until we come of age
and penetrate the most complex, subtle
and comprehensive aspects of existence,
as we establish a practical basis for order
and our common humanity, beyond
the vague sentiments of good will.

Ron Price
18 January 1998

Part 15:


In the prelude to his biography of Henry Moore, Roger Berthoud tells of Moore's life-enhancing quality. Both Moore's personality and his work, Berthoud writes, had this quality. "One felt the better," he continues, "for having talked to him or for having contemplated his creations."(1) There is no doubt that in my life I possessed this life-enhancing quality. I possessed it in many of my years as a teacher. But I did not possess it all the time. You just have to ask either of the women I married. I did not possess it with all my students; I'm sure there would have been dozens of students over those thirty-five years who were not impressed with my qualities as a person or as a teacher. For, as a pioneer, I was in many ways just an average bloke, certainly no saint and, if distinguished, only from time to time and not as a consistent feature of my life from the word go to woe. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, Faber and Faber, London, 1987, p.15.

I, too, Roger, am more complicated
than I seem and am also addicted
to this poetic work, as my restless
mind wanders over the world's mystery
settling for the partial and incomplete
portion that is our lot due to life's
contingencies, mysteries and paradoxes.

For whatever truths I find there's so much
that is provisional, with an emphasis here
but not there.1 And whatever confidence
I have found there is worry still about the
apparently trivial, this complex and difficult
product that I have created to market2
in the interstices of these my latter days.

1 Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, Hogarth Press, 1991(1940), London, p.xi.
2 Roger Berthoud, op.cit., p.13.

Ron Price
14 December 2002

Part 16:


Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both. Yet men do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional contradiction. The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals. The first fruit of this imagination and the first lesson of the social science that embodies it is the idea that the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within this period, that he can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstances. We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society; that he lives out a biography, and that he lives it out within some historical sequence. -Ron Price with thanks to C.W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959, pp.3-10.

There's a massive complexity here.
But, at the core, there's been a fine
compression, an intensification of
global consciousness, making of this
world a single place, coexistence in a
single spot, humankind's oneness, yes,
taking off, by stages, since 1475, 1875,
1975 with more and more world images
in this single place.….since I was playing
baseball and we went to outer space and I
joined the Bahai Faith by stages beginning
with that most wonderful and thrilling motion
which appeared from that point of light the spirit
of teaching…..1 Half a century, since then, since
that inception of the Kingdom of God on earth2
when I was nine and John and Hattie Dixon
served us rose-hip tea in that little town by that
great lake in southern Ontario's golden triangle.

1'Abdu'l-Bahá in God Passes By, p.351.
2 idem. The completion of the temple in Chicago inaugurated this inception.

Ron Price
8 November 2000

Part 17:


According to Ulrich Beck, the most dominant and widespread desire in Western societies today is the desire to live a 'life of one's own'. More and more people aspire to actively create an individual identity, to be the author of their own life. The ethic of individual self-fulfilment and achievement can be seen as the "most powerful current in modern societies." The concept of individualisation does not mean isolation, unconnectedness, loneliness or the end of engagement in society. Individuals are now trying to 'produce' their own biographies. This is partly done by consulting 'role models' in the media. Through these role models individuals explore personal possibilities for themselves and imagine alternatives of how they can go about creating their own lives. They are, in effect, experimenting with the project of the self, with strategies for self. -Ron Price with thanks to Judith Schroeter, "The Importance of Role Models in Identity Formation: The Ally McBeal In Us," Internet, 11 October 2002.

I define myself in community
which is not the same as being
surrounded by people ad nauseam,
nor does it mean doing what I want
as much of the time as I can or being
free of difficulties, stresses and strains--
which seem unavoidable. I've been
creating my own biography--my own
autobiography--for years and getting
very little sense of who I am from the
media and their endless role models.

I've been in a community with two
hundred years & fifty years of models
historical models and hundreds, over
the years, of people I have known who
have shown me qualities worth emulating,
helping to make me some enigmatic and
composite creature on this God's earth.

Ron Price
11 October 2002

Part 18:


Experiences become sedimented in that they congeal when they are recollected as recognizable and memorable entities. For me, they become part of my autobiographical poetry and narrative. Intersubjective sedimentation occurs when several individuals share a common biography, the experiences of which become incorporated in a common stock of knowledge. This social sedimentation can become recognizably objective and shared by others in a sign system. Language becomes the basis and the instrument of a collective stock of knowledge. It becomes the depository of a large aggregate of collective sedimentations. The objective meanings of institutional activity are conceived of as knowledge and transmitted as such. With the full institutionalization of charisma in 1963 in the Bahai community, the institutional transmission of knowledge has been mostly in the form of letters. It is difficult to achieve consistency between institutions and the forms of transmission of knowledge pertaining to them. But, for the most part, this transmission in the Bahai community has possessed a consistency and a logical coherence. The problem of logical coherence in the transmission of this knowledge arises first on the level of legitimation and secondly on the level of socialization. In the Bahai Faith the former is not a serious problem. -Ron Price with thanks to "Sociology Notes from Reading in the 1990s," 15 November 2002.

We've been sedimented,
this community and I,
for several decades, but
noone is kidding no one
that the sharing of His Signs
is a totally consistent, smooth,
run from year to year. Yes,
there is grace and favour to
joyously press on in battle;
then, too, there is whimpering,
fright, trembling and shaking.
There are veils which shut me out.1

There is a life congealed in recollection,
a thousand memorable entities and an
aggregate of sediment with seeds sown
in a forest of wild trees, pebbles with
some fruit and rare precious stones.2

1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, p.181.
2 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1977, p.87.
Ron Price 16/11/02.

Part 19:


To students of twentieth-century modernism, 1971 was the year when Valerie Eliot published a facsimile edition of The Waste Land's pre-publication manuscripts. 1971 was a significant year in my own life for it was the year I left Canada and moved to Australia. Thirty-six years later it looked like I would lay my bones in that vast dry dog-biscuit of a continent. The publication of the pre-publication manuscripts of The Wasteland was an event which invited new accounts of the poem's genetics and fresh assessments of how those might bear on our understanding of the poem. My move to Australia invited a different set of life studies and interpretations of my life-narrative and as the decades advanced fresh assessments of their meaning. -Ron Price with thanks to Valerie Eliot, ed., T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, Harcourt Brace, NY, 1971.

One year later, in 1972, I started teaching high school in South Australia. That same year Hugh Kenner and Grover Smith published two essays which, while differing sharply in premises and procedures, reached a consensus that Part III, "The Fire Sermon," was the earliest portion of the poem to have been written, probably around midsummer 1921, followed first by Parts I and II, then by IV and V, the latter completed in December 1921. I was always impressed, at least since I first studied Eliot in 1963 and then taught his poetry in 1988, 25 years later, at the remarkable synchronicity between the writing of The Wasteland and a crucial stage in the institutionalization of charisma in the Bahá'í Faith associated with the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. -Ron Price with thanks to Hugh Kenner, "The Urban Apocalypse," in Eliot in His Time: Essays on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the The Wasteland, ed. A. Walton Litz, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1973, pp. 23–49.

By 1988 when I studied this poem
to teach it at matriculation level,
a quarter century after studying it
in English Literature so I could get
into university in Ontario at age 18,
pre-publication dates for the poem's
writing were defined as far as possible.

This central poem, this determinant
of our modern consciousness, which
told us something of who we are was
finished in those same transition months
after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's death to the start of
the laying of the foundations for the
erection of the Administrative Order of
this Faith as set forth in His final Will.1

1 Lawrence Rainey, "Eliot Among the Typists: Writing The Waste Land," Modernism/modernity, Volume 12, Number 1, January 2005.

Ron Price
12 January 2007



The spiritual, mental and emotional autobiographies of the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived have never been recorded. For many thousands of people in the last two centuries, though, a detailed, a scanty, a fascinating or a tedious record has been left. In recent decades writing biography and autobiography has become somewhat of a popular sport or discipline. In the case of a very few, people like the French novelist Gustave Flaubert, the preservation of documents about the self has been carried to the point of mania. With Flaubert, the student of the individual creative process has a microscopic view for perhaps the first time in history of the development of the creative process in one individual. My own particular poetic narrative presents what I am to myself, how I see myself and how I have lived with this self for sixty-five years. I go about this exercise with a certain style. Style to me was what it was to Flaubert "the rendering of content in a form in which both style and content would be one."1 Style is the filter, the means, of rendering externality. -Ron Price with thanks to Benjamin F. Bart, Flaubert, Syracuse UP, 1967, Preface and 1p.340.

Style is, ultimately, a matter of the precise
words used and their arrangement in some
structure, some form, some continuous,
composite whole, a physiological-anatomy,
in the cultural repository of history.1

Content, the work, came to me insensibly
over several years so that, now, it is the work
of my whole life. It is always on my mind.
I am always preparing for it. Even my rest
are rests for the work ahead down the road
1 Some of Flaubert's view of 'style'

Ron Price
13 April 2002

I trust the above prose-poems were a source of social good.


A symbol of poet Les Murray's vastly eclectic interests "The Great Book' was a large, hard-covered ledger-book which he had adapted as a scrapbook.1 Into it went postcards, newsclippings, poems he liked, cartoons, inter alia. My mother kept a similar book which was sent to me from Canada when she died in 1978. Not as large as Murray's, it contained the literary memorabilia she had collected from about 1930 to 1955.

The symbol of my own eclectic interests can be found today in my study here in Tasmania. Of postcards and cards there are few; of cartoons and assorted newsclippings there are more. The absences, the empty spaces, in my Big Book are voluminous, for one cannot record it all. Quotations abound in some 300 arch lever files, two-ring binders, A-3 loose-leaf and other sized files on a host of subjects: history, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, fiction, drama, psychology, media studies, anthropology, Greek and Roman history, various religious themes, graduate study programs, journals, novel writing attempts, biography, autobiography and much else. inter alia. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Alexander, Les Murray: A Life in Progress, Oxford UP, London, 2006, p.255.

So this is my 'great book.'
I've divided it into a library
of files over the years.
Part of my soul is there
on the shelves of my study,
extremely agreeable friends
from everywhere in the world,
past and present,
always at my service;
they come and go
as I am pleased.

Sometimes they are difficult
to understand and require
special effort on my part.
My cares are often driven away
by their vivacity. They teach me
a certain fortitude. I keep each of them
in a small chamber in a humble corner
of my room where they and I
are delighted by the happy symbiosis
of my retirement and their presence.1

1 Plutarch, On Books.

Ron Price
16 March 2002
That's all folks!


In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by the salient points, what seems to stand out in his life, and seeing them clearly and repeatedly we jump to conclusions. That is natural. These conclusions may even have some validity. These qualities that stand out may be likened to a lighthouse guiding our way in the night or, in the day, serving as a landmark in our travels. But they are only a guide. They tell us little of the surrounding landscape, none of the geology, the history, the botany, the geography of the nearby terrain. This is even more true of a man's life, so far removed from the general sketch, the highlights, which at best are all that is usually passed down to succeeding generations.

The man of letters on the other hand is, in truth, ever writing his own biography or autobiography. What is in his mind he declares to the world, to whoever reads his works. If he finds a readership, if his work is well written, this memoir, this biography, this autobiography will be all that is necessary. It will take us far beyond that lighthouse into geology, history, botany, geography--a total view. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Trollope, The Life of Cicero, quoted in Trollope, Victoria Glendinning, Pimlico, London, 1993, p.v.

There are some lighthouses here.
I've set them out along the coast
to guide your way through the night
of my life and there has been much
night, black clouds and darknesses.

I've also provided rich and varied
collections of flora and fauna
to tell you something
of the living tissue of my days,
some of its green shoots,
its flowers, its bright colours
and some of its exotic texture.

I've even left you a map
to help you connect
with nearby towns and villages;
for I have belonged to a community
where people knew me
and would tell you something of me.

But, again, do not jump to conclusions
about the nature of my person and self.
What I have left behind can only,
like the lighthouse, guide your travels.

I have tried to be faithful
to the Covenant of God,
to fulfil in my life His trust
and in the realm of spirit
obtain the gem of divine virtue.1
But how successful I have been
that is a mystery to me, as much as thee.

1 Bahaullah, Hidden Words, Introductory passage.

Ron Price
17 January 2002


It is not so much authorial ego or that I am a compulsive self-historiographer which compels me to document my life more fully than most. All this poetry is my workshop where my awareness of life expresses itself quintessentially. I also see myself as part of a global pattern, a representative figure, part of a mytho-historical process which may be of use to future generations. I was born into a new age with the Kingdom of God just beginning when I was nine years old. In my lifetime the Bahai administrative process, the nucleus and pattern for a new Order, went through a radical growth period. I have been committed to the promises and possibilities of this new way of Life.1 As F. Scott Fitzgerald was committed to and had a belief in American life in the 1920s, as American was going through new beginnings so, too, do I feel strongly, passionately, a new commitment, a new belief and new beginnings.

George Bull points out in his introduction to his massive biography of the life of Michelangelo that people are often best understood "in the crowded context of the significant changes and continuities of the age."2 The age I have lived in and through has also faced "significant changes and continuities." My life, I have little doubt, can be understood, too, as Michelangelo's and so many others have been understood, in this same general context of their age. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Matthew Bruccoli, editor, The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, NY, 1945, p.vii; and 2George Bull, Michelangelo: A Biography, Viking Press, 1995, p.xviii.

I, too, saw myself as coming
at the end of a complex
historical process
that had its beginnings
in the district of Ahsa,
those birds flying over Akka
and those Men with beards
and I identified with it.

I was born near the start
of yet another Formative Age:
would it last as long as the Greeks?1
I understood profoundly well
the claims of this new belief
as you did the claims of your craft.2
I was, like you, fortune's darling
in this new age and I was, too,
the shell-shocked casualty
of a war that was more complex
than any of us could understand.

1 Their Formative Age lasted from 1100 to 500 BC; this one began 23 years before I was born.
2 F. Scott Fitzgerald, arguably the major American writer between the wars: 1919-1939.


CHAPTER 7: Part 2:


I find writing poetry is somewhat like the way a stream flows down from the mountain to the sea, its course changed by every boulder it comes across, which never goes straight for a minute unless the terrain dictates otherwise. It follows one law, is always loyal to that law which, curiously, is no law. There is nothing for it to do but make the trip to the sea.-Ron Price with thanks to Alfred Kazin in Mark Twain, Harold Bloom, editor, Chelsea House, 1986, pp.132-33.

I have tried in my poetry to overcome the problem that Milton refers to in Paradise Lost. I spoke, I wrote poetry and other genres and, in the process, defined the who, the where, the cause. I trust that very little of my poetry verges on the incoherent,1 although I have had enough people in the last 15 years(1990-2005) either express the fact they did not understand what I wrote or they simply did not enjoy my poetry enough to bother commenting; perhaps they did not want to hurt my feelings by being honest.-Ron Price with thanks to John Redmond, "Review of Les Murray's Subhuman Redneck Poems, Jacket, Vol.1, 1997.

My self I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, and lively vigour led:
But who I was, or where, or from what cause,
Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake,
My tongue obeyed and readily could name
What e'er I saw.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, pp. 253-73

Before including the first part of my only attempt at a single epic poem, I would like to include a personal reflection on my own character that arose from reading a reflection by Thornton Hunt who went on to become an accomplished man of letters in his own right. Hunt's reflection was on the life and character of William Hazlitt, a famous English essayist(1778-1830). Hunt wrote that "William Hazlitt was sensitive, captious, anxious to please, ready to fear that he had displeased, prompt to take offence; quick of insight into definite character and bookish qualities; half genius in art, but only half; trained in a narrow dissenting school, conscious of deficiencies in the very alphabet of literature, at a loss in the world, perplexed by fanciful mistrusts that others are ridiculing him; jealous, bitter, eloquent, generous, confessing a weakness for rackets and tea, at war with himself against foibles he despises, but confident in honest purpose, and the permanent rule of intellect and beauty."(See Appendex 2, Blunden, Leigh Hunt and his Circle (London: Harper Brs., 1930), at p. 3362)

I have always been anxious to please and, often, far too quick to take offense. One of life's challenges has been to feel at home in the world and not at a loss although, at times when I was in the grip of my bipolar disorder, I was far from at home in the wide-wide world. I was not troubled by bitterness or jealousy but had a degree of inner-warfare. The rule of intellect became stronger with the years. Biography provides, I find, a useful bridge to understanding self and for this reason I include the above reflection.

A study of passages from the Bahá’í writings indicates that art in its many forms, of which writing is but one, can render services of a mystical, moral, and social nature. Such services taken together constitute the spiritual role of art, whose highest purpose is to ennoble the individual soul and the collective life of humanity. When playing such a role, art draws its inspiration from the vision of life unfolded in divine Revelation, harmonizes with the fundamental teachings of the world’s major religions, and seeks to reinforce their original objective, which is to foster spiritual growth and social harmony. In realizing a spiritual role, art employs beauty, whose purpose both in the world of creation and in the realm of human creativity is to attract the soul toward its Creator and to draw it into a spiral or spiritual growth. Art also employs emotion, which can reinforce the various facets of the service art renders. I find writing does all these things and this has been especially true in the last 20 years when it has come to occupy centre-stage in my life.

"Religion ... is not a series of beliefs, a set of customs," writes 'Abdul-Baha, "religion is the teachings of the Lord God, teachings which constitute the very life of humankind, which urge high thoughts upon the mind, refine the character, and lay the groundwork for man’s everlasting honour. (Selections 52–53) The Universal House of Justice indicated that the arts have not escaped the effects of the general chaos this spiritual decline has unleashed: "Every discerning eye clearly sees that the early stages of this chaos have daily manifestations affecting the structure of human society; its destructive forces are uprooting time-honoured institutions....The same destructive forces are also deranging the political, economic, scientific, literary, and moral equilibrium of the world and are destroying the fairest fruits of the present civilization.... Even music, art, and literature, which are to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations and should be a source of comfort and tranquillity for troubled souls, have strayed from the straight path and are now the mirrors of the soiled hearts of this confused, unprincipled, and disordered age. (From a circular letter, dated 10 February 1980, published in Bahá’í World 18: 358)


At the centre of this wondrous epochal shift
is a cultural story of saints, martyrs and
messengers and endless connective tissue
with past and present. Heroic exemplars,
deep in history back to the enlightenment,
say, in Bahrain, the core of the vision
with the force to slowly actualise a reality,
new political and social harmonies
and disharmonies. My own ordering of history
here in its legitimate and beauteous form
with law and design, touchstones of order,
writ large across chaotic and energised
multiplicity, the endless disasters of time,
extinctions and near-extinctions,
the human slaughters and the pain
as I connect, in situ, my subjectivity
and history with meaning—yes, yes,
a place of refuge, partly in desire,
in mind or imagination and in the Beauty
of the Unseen shining forth above the horizon
of creation1 and in creating myself through
commitment to a complex personal synthesis,
through a relationship with myself
in a fascinating and difficult elaboration2,
inventing, producing myself with this poetic art.

And all these endless particulars cohere,
far beyond a personal order,
an autobiographical imposition
from this finite brain
in a dramaturgical translation,
a richly allusive, highly imagistic in-gathering,
not simply for some love of nature,
but to unlock a beauty and a truth,
to taste a choice Wine
with the fingers of might and power
and slowly establish a spiritual kingdom
in a physical form-order and beauty linked,
power and love united yonder, world's away,
around history's bend. Hesitation and doubt
I have heard and seen by gallon measure,
things that throw consternation into the hearts of all men—
and so the showers of tests come to pass
to free us from the prison-cage of self and desire,
to help us attain the meads of heavenly delight,
with gifts from the Unknowable Friend,
those shudders of awe that are mostly a quiet shimme
and shake, a tightness, dynamic tension.

All my days surrounded by this growth,
this organism, two generations now, incipient,
beginnings of a System, potentialities
and interrelationships of component parts
only partially understood, often like sinking
in a miasmal ooze, but a good terror, this one,
as we have inched our consequential and necessary way
toward a humbling summit only seen,
with the secret of conquering a greater world than ourselves
only little known, and so we prayed. I seem to have prayed
for years, over three epochs, and then ran into the door
of meditation and it opened into another world.

I have seen devotion, beyond human strength,
exhausting, making heroes of many men.
I watched my moods like a cat as I pursued this path,
convinced of the significance of my days sub specie aeternitatis
at the core of my art, my poetic, the oneness of my experience.
I trust its connection with the Royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty.

I have thrown my life away in this great cause
but, as my arm has arched and flung, there was
down in my heart something sung, some voice
that met my joy and tears in great fatigue with all the years.
Truth here was what one long endured with persistence,
feet and passion sure, some burning vitality of mind
and heart, an intensity that once threatened to tear me apart.
I had my time with sexual heat, a blazing contact,
direct and real. It nearly sucked my life away with lust
the core of search. It tried to kill my loneliness and isolation.
Beyond, beyond the horrors and fears, to make some meanings
of our years we turn to sex, to self, to God
so as not to wither on this sod. And me no less.

And if, by some mysterious dispensation of Providence,
we feel we can play a part in changing the world,
not just get a grip on it and so endure it with a taste of joy,
with a taste of destiny minimising that everlasting self-concern,
the fierce inner pressure of problems with no solution
or with just transient existence, we can live with our guilt,
with sin, with our evil doings having our heart
melting all our life. This is the feeling of redemption.

And so there is a grimness here, and redeeming belief,
supernatural sanction. There has been a speed, a power,
a talent, a fertility-one matchless time-after forty years of
wandering between two holy years-a single human self
struggling to become what he is capable of becoming,
to know who he is, a lot of pennies dropping without
an endless recitation of the quotidian, unremarkable fact.
Some rich burgeoning, some rich hermeneutic tradition
opening up for all to see, read and understand,
like some elaborate systems theory which defines social reality
in terms of relations: right back to his birth, the birth of the universe
and endless other births and deaths and relationships
among relationships, networks of information that only I can bring
into some integration, dynamic analytic distinctions
of complexity, instability, quantity and quality...for this
universal human community, the end and object
of the highest moral endeavour, has at its root needs
and interests universally similar. We must free ourselves
from history's conceptual jails in this remade world
and keep remaking it.

And so an intensified global interconnectedness,
a post-international, post-industrial transformation
is taking place under our eyes and, what, three
hundred million will have starved from 1969 to 1999,
since Paul Ehrlich wrote his Population Bomb?
Global historical civilization, being born amidst
chaos and middle class complacency, is reconstituting
the world as one place. Do we not need, therefore,
some universal truths, perennial but not archaic?
Do we not need some philosophical stance with
which to view modernity and post-modernity?
Some sense of the ultimate becoming, some teleological
evolutionary scheme? Some utopian vision
within which to frame the struggle? Yes, yes, yes:
some magnetising value core, firey furnace,
magnetising our convergent efforts,
as Durkheim might have said.3

And while I have answered "yes' to all of this
since at least the days when we sent the first
men into space and since the Zeal of the Lord
passed on, I have enjoyed and feared a constant
swing between ecstasy and exhaustion, the heavy-
weight and lightning speed, galactic, radiance in the
smallest of patches and dull emptiness: overwhelmed,
dazzled and awed, a rush of images, a flow of phrases,
needing this epic form to express the burgeoning,
the out-pouring, the excess, the prison of the longue duree,
the patterned, the inchoate, the world beyond
the commonplace and the self-evidentnesses of view;
needing synthesis, mediation, unification of ideas
among the children of men.

But my sense of the beauty everywhere has been
so long clouded by so many things, emotions,
intensities, the pulse of a greater dynamism beats
with a heavier heart. The Bridge, the basis of that
new dynamism, is that new unity, innocence and
freedom which we first saw in Shaykh Ahmad
when he left his home in northeast Arabia in 1794;
when Robespierre was in power and Pitt was the
Prime Minister of England. Trying to create a tradition
where none existed, the Committee of Public Safety,
guillotined 10,000 seen as some kind of moral revolution
in the making, after Rousseau. But the moral revolution
that would last for centuries was proceeding to Najaf and
Karbila to begin its long road, becoming the leading mujtahid:
the Bridge was an idea, a terror struck in the hearts of the Sufis,
while that other terror issued dechristianization decrees and
relentlessly uprooted public order. And so this poem begins
in the early dawn of this modern age, over two hundred years,
with appropriate quantities of analysis and introspection,
bewildered and bedazzled as I am by it all, pushing through
all the ramifications of thought, burning myself up, candle-like,
drop-by-drop the wick will come in time to only a pool of wax
on this table and I shall be gone, across the Bridge, home.

History's weakness and my own is found here
amidst the blaze of visionary sense
and an infinitude of correspondences:
a mystic on the loose, synthesizing, mediating,
watching the slow realization of vision in action,
seeing this Bridge and these White Buildings4
across a span from ancient Greece and Rome
to our own age, this one on a hill. This bridge
takes you up and down to ideals as remote
as Arctic winds but as close as your life's vein.
But I do not try to speak to a whole culture, here,
Hart, and its infinite fragmentation, only to a coterie
on its way to the fulfilment of His vision
set in a world of diamond words, sweet-scented streams
of His eternity, an orderly matrix of values.
This is no diversionary flight, scheme, temporary assuaging
of a longing, magical society of dreams, life's flickering grace,
but some battle for the conquest of men's souls
but oh so gently, as the teacher distils eternity
from the transitory with a spark of heroism amidst decadence,
a filtering of the harsh refuse of modernity,
conscious of a new savagery in the midst of civilization,
the endlessly arbitrary and fortuitous, the hasty grasp
and exploitation of ephemera, of the momentary.
And so the teacher learns not to take the fleeting moment
too seriously, to be detached, while at the same time pouring
forth all his concentration into the thing in front of his nose.
If the pioneer can do this he has the world by the tail—
and boredom, distraction and an over-excited worldliness
are problems far beyond him. For he has new nourishing food—
the food of knowledge—duration with a purpose
as deep as the ocean and as wide as the sea,
realising the ideal lines will be completed
beyond this momentary reality. And so I capture it all
in this written portraiture, capture the fleeting,
the transient and the eternal, the inevitably fragmentary
phenomenal world in a metaphysical unity,
gradually letting it ripen-or it captures me,
and I warm it over, gestate it for some future public.

In this forest of symbols, voluptuous labyrinth,
sometimes ghostly landscape of damnable
and not-so-damnable pleasures and professions
we must close our eyes to luxury and attachments
to the material world and long, as I have long longed,
for eternal life. The real department store,
the primal landscape of consumption,
the secret labyrinth of dreams
is the jewelled wisdom of this lucid Faith.5

End of Part One

The above poem is only Part One; the rest will not be included at this stage of the writing of this work.


The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset writing about the Roman Empire said that "the heads of the most powerful state that existed....did not find any legitimate legal titles with which to designate their right to the exercise of power...they did not know the basis on which they the end of the whole thousand-year process which is Rome’s history, its chief of state went back to being just anybody. Hence the Empire never had any genuine juridical form, authentic legality, or legitimacy. The Empire was essentially a shapeless form of government...without authentic institutions....but the famous Roman conservatism resided in the fact that a Roman knew what law is that which cannot be reformed, which cannot be varied. -Jose Ortega y Gasset, An Interpretation of Universal History, WW Norton, NY, 1973, p.120, 197 and 293.

We may eventually learn that
nothing in life is meaningless;
that it has all happened
with one grand purpose,
one unifying scheme;
that the tragedy of history all fits,
is not purely fortuitous,
not a set of chance-couplings,
on-and-on forever.

And that a genuine legitimacy
is a slowly evolving entity
like man himself, or homo erectus,
or the events of the Carboniferous:
you need several thousand years.

Developing out of a prophetic
an exemplary charisma,
the legitimacy of its institutions
found in a routinization
that has successfully negotiated
the first century and a half of its life:

Is this the genuine article, the key
to the puzzle of history?

Ron Price
10 January 1996


During the 1980s, the concept of globalization began to permeate a diverse body of literature within the social sciences. An intellectual fascination with globalization, in which daily processes were becoming increasingly enmeshed in global processes, contributed in subtle ways to that rampant force that seemed to be part of the dark heart of this transitional age. During these dark years, too, perhaps as far back as the 1960s, it became obvious that the controlling strain of my character was clearly emotional. It would have been impossible for me to work as a teacher and serve in the Bahá'í community as a pioneer if my character had not been dominantly emotional.1 For both these 'jobs' came to diminate most of my life. The other parts of my nature merged into or were contained in an earnest expression of devotion to God and man in a framework defined by this new Faith. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 October 1997 and 1Alfred Marshall, "On Arnold Toynbee: Marshall Studies," Bulletin,Vol.6, editor, John Whitaker, pp.45-48, 1996. The mystical and the emotional seem to be strongly linked.

While I was watching the slippage
of civilization into its heart of darkness,
like some kind of secondary reality
or should I say primary reality,
out there, on the box, periscopes up,
bringing it in through the tube,
some intensity was sucked out,
down, in, away from my heart,
day-after-day, hour-by-hour,
year-by-year, until now
a strange quietness invades my soul,
an easy peace, as I watch
the endless succession of signs
in an endless conversation with life,
where an uneasiness, cold and dark,
whispers through the spaces,
the rooms and high into the trees,
harrowing up the souls of the inhabitants
like some mysterious, rampant force.

Ron Price
29 October 1997


Civilization lies in an awareness shared by a whole people. And we, all six billion of us, are slowly acquiring a common awareness.1 Increasingly, the cities of the world in which I had been born and lived during these epochs, began to fill like Rome, the capital of that ancient empire or some great monarchy of old, with travellers, citizens and strangers from every part of the world. Some introduced and enjoyed the favourite customs and superstitions of their native country. Some abandoned them. The sound and the clamour, the diversity of appeal, the richness and the confusion of cultures was incessant. In the midst of all this cultural diversity, the decline and the diversification of authority, an authority which once had been transmitted with blind deference from one generation to another, now provided opportunities for human beings everywhere to exercise their powers and enlarge the limits of their minds.

The name of Poet was in most places forgotten, although their number increased with every passing decade. Many of the orators were like the sophists of old. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning. At the same time learning was advancing by leaps and bounds the world over. If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, not name that time which elapsed during the epochs of this Divine Plan serving as the background for this autobiography. Although the benefits of this period to many millions of people have been obvious and impressive, a sense of optimism has not resulted. A slough of despond has resulted from the troubled forecasts of doom and the light of the twentieth century is hardly appreciated. The vast array of changes and the complexity and the relativistic ethos of the times makes humanity, for the most part, ill-equipped to interpret the problems of society.2 And so the sense of drift, of chance and a social determinism comes to possess a stronger presence. –Ron Price with thanks to 1Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries, Ticknor and Fields, NY, 1984, p.143; 2 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 156, p.4 and Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Internet Quotations.

It kept moving west,
civilization on the move,
centre of gravity:
Fertile Crescent, Greece, Rome,
north and west Europe,
then North America.

And He kept sending Them:
One by One,
every thousand years or so.
And where now is the centre
as we go global?
Yes, He's popped Them
all over the place,
but did not tell us
until just recently.

Can we prevent extinction
so we don’t go the same way
as the Easter Islanders,
or the Anastazi Indians?

Where will our children be
after the disappearance
of the tropical rainforest in 2030?
Or all the primary products in 2050,
in a global population
of twelve billion in 2040 or 2060
when they are sixty or eighty
and we are long gone?

Perhaps civilization will continue
its drift west into the middle of the ocean!
Perhaps that spiritual axis
he told us about before he died,
just after the first satellite
showed us ourselves as round ball,
this federated ship, beginning to sail
behind its powerful lights of unity,
for there is a manifest destiny
beyond this tempest blowing,
which will take us, crying, pleading,
bleeding humanity to the blessed mansions
of a global father and motherland.

Ron Price
19 January 1997

So much that we do in life we know we could have done better. Our sins of omission and commission are legion. It is not my intention to commiserate on the long list of my failings; the world will not benefit from such a litany. This autobiography is not quintessentially confessional. From time to time, though, I mention some failing, some sin; an autobiography would hardly be an autobiography without one or two or three of such confidences. It may just be that history is the essence of innumerable autobiographies, however confessional they may be; however private, silent, obscure and ordinary; however glamorous and in touch with the seats of authority and influence. If I felt the world needed more sins of omission and commission to lighten and enlighten its burden I might include many more than I have. But the world is drowning in the dust of sin and is not in need of my dark contributions here to clarify its direction and deepen its appreciation of my life. Some of the words of Roger White are pertinent here. “My nurtured imperfections,” White says he has come to see as “not so epically egregious/as to embarrass the seraphim ruefully yawning/at their mention;/nor will my shame, as once I thought,/topple the cities, arrest the sun’s climb.”

4. I would like to quote a poem by Emily Dickinson which puts so much that we do in life, whatever our role and place in society, in perspective. Her poem is philosophical, theological, psychological and speaks to both our hearts and minds:

A Deed knocks first at Thought
And then--it knocks at Will--
That is the manufacturing spot
And will at Home and well

It then goes out to Act
Or is entombed so still
That only to the ear of God
Its Doom is audible.


According to Ulrich Beck, the most dominant and widespread desire in Western societies today is the desire to live a 'life of one's own'. More and more people aspire to actively create an individual identity, to be the author of their own life. This involves an active process of interpreting their own experiences and generating new ones. The ethic of individual self-fulfilment and achievement can be seen as the "most powerful current in modern societies." The concept of individualisation does not mean isolation, though, nor unconnectedness, loneliness, nor the end of engagement in society. Individuals do not live in society as isolated individuals with dear cut boundaries. If they ever did, now they exist as individuals interconnected in a net work by relations of power and domination. This is how Edmund Leach put it.

Individuals are now trying to 'produce' their own biographies. This is partly done by consulting 'role models' in the media. Through these role models individuals explore personal possibilities for themselves and imagine alternatives of how they can go about creating their own lives. This is also done partly by reading history, for it is in history that some theoretical framework can be found. It is also done partly by reading biography, for here the autobiographer can find himself at every turn. In effect, it is one grand experiment or project of the self, with strategies for self and reinventing self, as it is often said in contemporary parlance. -Ron Price with thanks to Judith Schroeter, "The Importance of Role Models in Identity Formation: The Ally McBeal In Us,", 11 October 2002.

I define myself in community
which is not the same as being
surrounded by people ad nauseam,
nor does it mean doing what I want
as much of the time as I can
or being free of difficulties,
stresses and strains--
which seem unavoidable.

I've been creating my own biography--
my autobiography--for years
and getting very little sense
of who I am from the media
and their endless role models.

I've been in a community
with two hundred years
of historical models
and literally hundreds,
of people I have known
who have shown me
qualities worth emulating,
helping to make me
some enigmatic,
some composite creature.

Ron Price
11 October 2002

The lives of others, that is biographies, often shelter autobiographical features within them. We collect these features or, at least we can, into bunches of flowers, ones that brought sweetness into our life and present them, as Andre Maurois suggested, as an offering. He suggested the offering be made to “an accomplished destiny.” Saul Bellow places excellent snatches of autobiography into his novels. I might put it a little differently and suggest the offering, snatches or extensive passages, be made to “the souls who have remained faithful unto the covenant of God and fulfilled in their lives His trust.”


Zygmunt Bauman, one of the leading sociologists at the turn of the millennium, wrote in his book In Search of Politics(Polity Press 1999, 1988, p.54) that "sufferings which we tend to experience most of the time do not unite their victims. Our sufferings divide and isolate: our miseries set us apart, tearing up the delicate tissue of human solidarities." In the Bahá'í community, as a pioneer in isolated localities, small groups and larger Assembly areas, in my family and in the wider community, I have found this to be only partly true during the more than forty years 'on the road,' so to speak.

"Belief in the collective destiny and purpose of the social whole," Bauman continues, gives meaning to our "life-pursuits." Being part of a global collectivity with highly specific goals, purposes and a sense of destiny has not only given meaning to my life-pursuits but it has tended to unite me with my fellows even when isolated from them. I do not mean to imply that this collectivity is a homogeneous, univocal entity. I am only too conscious of its immense diversity. But my existence within this collectivity, however diverse, gives me a special sense of consecrated joy; the consecration comes from the difficulties endured and shared. Although these difficulties seem to tear that "delicate tissue" that Bauman refers to, they also provide some of that chord which binds. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 July 2002.

Often it was largely in my head,
that tissue of solidarity,
especially in Frobisher Bay,
Whyalla or Zeehan,
on the edge of a universe.

But always, they visited me
when I was sick, somehow
they were always there,
even when they left me alone.

For this is a polity which
gives you lots of space
when you need it and,
you can always go and get it
because there's so much out there:
solitude and sociability
in these vast and spacious lands.

Life is no mere sequence
of instantaneous experiences
without a trace left behind.
Here is a trace with my inscription
of lived time on astronomical time.
This is no singular, self-same identify,
shared or common ancestral, historical,
self. Fractured and fragmented it is,

spread across two continents,
two countries and four epochs,
cutting events out of flow
turning grief into lamentation
and lamentation into praise,
little by little and piece by piece.

See ibid., p.165.

Ron Price
29 July 2002

I’d like to say a little about the landscape of the Baha’i community that has been part of my being for more than half 60 years. I try to map its unique landscape of vision, hope, relevance, tolerance and aspiration in my poetry. Defined and described in my poetry, then, is a landscape with what I think is a distinctive voice. It is a deceptively insinuating, complex, quotient with a quality of religious feeling and thought that is not over-ethereal and that includes much of the raw material of life, perhaps too much for some. But the Baha’i community has supplied me with a great deal of raw material, a little too much at times. My poetry and the Baha’i Faith contains within it a landscape of human frailty and burnt-out cases of which I am one. Perhaps I am too honest like those confessional poets of a few years ago. But the people I have known in this community are ordinarily ordinary, humanly human.

There is so much that arouses my imagination and that I want to add to this landscape to paint its picture as accurately as possible. On an initial inspection of my poetic oeuvre this landscape contains a world, a world I have set out in over two million words, too much really for most people in this audio-visual age. With several million words, then, in my prose-poetry such a conclusion is not surprising. But there is much that is left out for there is a great deal in life which is of little interest to me. I am no encyclopedic Leonardo da Vinci. Readers will search in vain for material on a host of topics that have occupied little of my time and none of my interest.

This landscape is distinct, a composite of several climatic, soil and vegetation zones which geography students find on their maps, with repeated high and low pressure zones, isohyets, isobars, the familiar languages of life’s commonalities. These zones, these maps, these terms, all exist in a vocabularly that contains both an individual ethos and the bonds of community, bonds which are themselves private renditions, private perceptions, private needs and private strengths sketched out in a pattern of interdependent other privacies.

But perhaps most important of all, the foundation of this landscape, was and is an intense, emotionally and sensually charged outpouring of words that Horace Holley says “create new faculties.” Without such revelations of the Central Figures of this Cause I have concluded, paradise itself for this poet would have no appeal. Such revelations have been heaven. Intimate, detailed, often ephemeral, not always present to my sensory emporium as I went about the business of my quotidian life, autonomous sources of power and truth, they captivated, enthralled, held me in awe and required effort on my part. Indeed, these words, this Word, required that I invest my own creative thought with the aim of understanding and, having understood, reinvesting that understanding with my own creative action. It was this action that brought the landscape alive and without that action it often seemed flat and without meaning. Even with the action there was often “sparse nourishment” in my “slow years.” Wingless I clambered and songless I screamed more often than I like to think or admit as I streaked across the firmament of this mortal coil like some maddened comet.


Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Keats felt 'the burden of the mystery' that was part of 'this unintelligible world.'(1) This orientation of these romantic poets fits into what Horace Holley calls "the principle of struggle" which is our reality, which is deeply rooted in the very being of man. "The first sign," writes Holley "of the purification of the human spirit is anguish."2 There is, too, a great mystery in all of life: no man can sing that which he understandeth not, nor recount that unto which he cannot attain.3

Out of this struggle over many decades I came to feel the following words of Keats as if they were mine: “When I feel I am right no external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary reperception and ratification of what is fine.”4 The choice of the word 'reperception' is apt, conveying as it does the delighted surprise of finding that what I had written from the depths of my concentration was true to the hopes of my own achievement. After more than 20 years of extensive writing of poetry, 1991-2013, and more than sixty years of picking up a pen to write(1952-2013), I could not express my own sentiments about writing more accurately than Keats does in the above. Even the slip-shod, unsatisfactory, work that I often write, only confirms the reality of Keats’ words, what he defines indirectly and underlines eloquently. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Stephen Coote, John Keats: A Life, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1995, p. 151; 2Horace Holley, Religion for Mankind, GR, London, 1956, p.217; 3Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p.121 and 4Stephen Coote, op.cit., p.191.

I can, I can, recount His tokens,
tokens that tell of His handiwork.

I see them in the community,
in the proximity and otherness
which stirs me: a beautiful face,
an exquisite mouth, such kindness,
a gentle voice, a garden of beauty
and, yet, it wore me out to the bone.

Pleasures they know nothing of,
worlds I can not enter: community
we are just beginning to learn to build.

Emblems of a mind that feeds on infinity,
sustained by transcendence,
attempting converse with a spiritual world
and the generations of humankind
spread over past, present and to come.1

1 Wordsworth, "The Prelude," Book Fourteenth.

Ron Price
23/1/'02 to 25/1/'13.


W.B. Yeats' last poetry was "the fulfilment of his whole life; it made him write about our times as no other poet has."1 He had seen the world he wanted and the woman he wanted move further and further away; he saw, too, that his work and his misery had been useless. R.F. Price's poetry, especially after 1992, was especially fulfilling. He, too, had had his misery, his sense of uselessness, his sense of the world moving away, even his desire for the world to move away and disappear entirely. This, among other things, was what brought poetry near and, by 2004, in six thousand poems. -Ron Price with thanks to Randall Jarrell, "The Development of Yeats's Sense of Reality", Kipling, Auden and Co: Essays and Reviews: 1935-1964, Carcanet, 1981, pp.97-99.

You had wanted that unity of culture<
and only got that bitterness
and a fanatic for a lover.

The world had been split in pieces
in a bundle of fragments
with specialized abstractions.

And you thought you could
bring it together through your poetry,
your sense of life and vigour.

And all you got was one long struggle
with reality—which is all some get
if the cause is worth fighting for,
for others a consecrated joy.

Unity is this dark age,
this formative age,
this age of transition
is a slow working out,
a tortuous, stony road.

Accepting this, then,
everything is easier.

This is really the only fight
to accept, to quit life
and then reenter it,
becoming one with all creation
and tasting some of that joy.

Ron Price
21 June 1998(begun)
21 January 2004(finished)


We must be others if we are to be ourselves. For the imaginations which people have of one another are the solid facts of society. To observe and interpret these imaginations must be one of our chief aims. The definition of our inner life and private character must, in the end, be partly a product of how we see and interact with others. At the same time we can't put everyone else in our books. There is only so much of life and of others that can be assimilated, absorbed, made a part of our life. Because we have a strong reading taste for a background which is solid, for documentation, for accuracy, for likenesses we are familiar with, we are often confused about the borders between art and life, between social history and fiction, between gossip and satire, between the journalist’s news and the artist’s discovery.

What I write about here is the spillage, the leftovers, the excess, the largeness and passion of temperament and much that is on the borders. In the end most of life seems to be on a border somewhere bearing the mere semblance of reality. -Ron Price with thanks to George Herbert Mead, Charles Horton Cooley and Shoghi Effendi Rabbani in Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason: Logological Investigations Volume 1, Routledge, NY, 1996, p. 267; and Guidance for Today and Tomorrow, George Ronald, Oxford.

So much of who we are
is socially constructed,
through detours
into the referential perspectives,
the attitudes of others
we come back to ourselves.

It is as if we are enveloped in others,
in their encompassing signs and voices
and we are literally made from words
and speech which interweave themselves
into our being and we rise,
differentiate and evolve.

We respond to our own responses,
making our experience and the self
which emerges in this process.

Networks of social interaction
produce highly complex
individual self-understandings,
enhanced creative existence.

We are socially constructed realities,
needing large helpings of solitude
for our highly divergent minds.

Ron Price
6 December 1997


Whatever kind of life a writer lives, what he writes is infinitely more important than the way he lived. This remark was made of the great Russian poet Pushkin1 and it has been said of others. I’d like to think it is true of me for, as I approach the last years of middle age, I am only too aware of my many accumulating sins of omission and commission. I would like to take refuge in this writing; I would like to think of it as a wondrous legacy, as part of the important traces left behind from my age. That’s what I’d like to think. But I can not afford this luxury.

The vulnerability of the soul is only too apparent. How often, Baha’u’llah declares, at the hour of the soul’s ascension ‘the true believer’ can descend, speaking metaphorically, to ‘the nethermost fire.’ How we live, the composite of inner and outer activity, is unquestionably important. But this poetry will remain, whatever I have done or not done in life, as a series of pictures of what I trust is meticulously observed spiritual experience.2 At the heart of both my poetry and my life, is mystery, loss and victory, sadness and joy. -Ron Price with thanks to Robin Edmonds, 1Pushkin:The Man and His Age, Macmillan, London, 1994, p. 240; and 2H. Summers in The Autobiographical Passion: Studies in the Self on Show, Peter Steele, Melbourne UP, 1987, p.79.

Is there some authoritative sway
of imaginative perspicacity here,
which cannot let go of what it finds
uniquely precious,
nor leave isolated
what it finds congenial, collegial,
but which must stitch together
across the wounds
of a psychic and a social fabric
the fibres of private and public meaning?1

I write to overcome death,
in a state, as I am,
of intense expectation of it,
in these lingering moments
of a life that will be over
in less than the twinkling of an eye.

1 Gerald Manley Hopkins in Peter Steele, op.cit., p.113.

Ron Price
3 May 1999


After reading and indexing my poetry from 1980 to 1995 I feel as if the entire body of work is "Warm-Up." The period September 1992 to June 1995 inclusive I shall now call "The Golden Dome." It is phase three of my 'warm-up.' The period July 1995 to May 2001, nearly six years, I shall now call "The Terraces." Reading my poetry from phase three, perhaps the first time I have read it as a whole body of work, allowed me to make the first overall assessment of my poetry from this phase of its development. It still seems to be, for the most part, 'juvenilia,' immature and, except for the occasional poem, singularly unimpressive. I have, though, established a new general structure, sequence, order, for my poetry during the years 1980 to 2001, a twenty-one year time span. It is a structure in which I have utilized the names of the general phases of architectural development for the Shrine of the Bab and the gardens and terraces which embellish it.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 17 April 2001.

I am that modern hero
who preserves and maintains
a face of my own--no epic,
no universal epic,
but an epic of sorts;
no romantic hero--just
a personal self now formed
around more than twenty years
of poetry symbolically developed
as the Shrine of the Bab was developed
over more than one hundred years.

And here I have access to such power
as can generate the attitudes and names
of God1 as citizen and philosopher,
as public and private poet and person
in this the beginning of the fifth epoch.

1 Thomas Lysaght, "The Artist as Citizen," The Creative Circle: Art, Literature and Music in Bahá'í Perspective, editor Michael Fitzgerald, Kalimat Press, 1980, pp. 121-157.

Ron Price
18 April 2001.


It is the nature of sociability to free concrete interactions...and to erect its airy realm...the deep spring which feeds this realm and its play does not lie in...forms, but exclusively in the vitality of concrete individuals, with all their feelings and attractions, convictions and impulses....Yet it is precisely the serious person who derives from sociability a feeling of liberation and relief. -Geoege Simmel, The Sociology of George Simmel, Kurt Wolff(ed.), Collier-Macmillan, NY, 1964.

This is unquestionably the community,
an instrument of mega-proportions
with a community feeling that will
triumph over everything and become
as natural as breathing, necessity itself....

So: what is crucial is
our subjective orientation
toward the community
in all its manifold aspects.

This is our elan vital;
this is our therapy, our centre,
our norm, our basis of judgement,
our overcoming of antisocial dispositions,
our indestructible destiny.

Here is creative tension:
the individual and community,
much talked about dichotomy
that stifles our capacity for joy;
where we are learning new bases,
new instrumentalities for happiness
after centuries of darkness;
where guilt and innocence play
in a drama whose roots are largely unseen;
where the alone and the lonely are found
in a complex web of social interstices;
where the greatest theatre of all
plays life on the stage
and we play with a required courtesy,
hopefully genuine, a certain reservedness,
but not as stiff and ceremonial as the past.

It seems purely fortuitous: the harmony,
contact and dissonance, the easy replaceability
of everyone we meet, the democracy we play at.

And we must play on the stage as players
with our parts-not indifferent-interesting,
fascinating, important, even serious,
with results: after the action,
the play of several acts with many scenes
and exchangeability. Ourselves, our self,
our personality may just vanish
or become coated with the many colours
of ‘otherness’.

Enter thou among My servants,
And enter thou My paradise.*
For here you must lose your self
to find community
and we have much to learn
about loss of self.
It is here we shall find
the community feeling that will triumph
over everything, as naturally as breathing.

Ron Price
1 December 1995

* Seven Valleys, (US, 1952), p.47.

These are perspectives on conversation, on the social, written after more than thirty years on the pioneering road. In the first years, the first decade, 1962 to 1972, I found the conversational milieux, a source of great, perhaps, chronic, frustration. There was pleasure, too, but frustration made up many of its threads. The intensity and frequency of this seemingly chronic frustration waned with the years and became, too, a much less frequent and less intense experience after my retirement in 1999.


When life touches us
poems appear like bruises
-Roger White, “Bruises”, Occasions of Grace, 1994, p.164.

“Surely, this game evening
was not bruising.”
-Participant in a game evening organized by a friend for a group of nine.

The candle splutters in the cool evening air;

it has been a hot day, one of the first of the summer.

The air is so refreshing, it matters not if

the games this evening,

the basis for tonight’s sociability,

are somewhat tedious.

This is another of those

‘make the best of it’ settings;

you get better at it with the years,

even become a bit of the entertainer,

synthesizer, unifier, charmer, raconteur

(for that has been your ostensible goal)

in one of these planned or thrown together,

four hour, eight hour stage performances,

leg-on-leg, the finest and subtlest dynamics

of broad, rich, oft-repeated, social existence.

The girl beside me, Kate,

catches the warm light

on her brown legs and hair.

Her eyes are the colour of rain.

I’m sure the frangipani frequent her boudoir.

We talk, so briefly;

we could have talked long, dined,

perhaps had an evening swim and made love,

but not in this world and probably not the next.

The art in art, he said, consists in:

having the courage to begin,

the discretion to select

and the wisdom to know when to stop.

I have gone too far, for some,

not far enough for others.

But what of me?

What of my many selves

that I’ve been trying to bring together

into some wholeness, an integration,

in a perpetual balancing act,

an unstable reconciliation of forces

in my psychic life, a battle that

once tore at my edges, but now

provocative stimulation,

challenge and response,

assertion and withdrawal,

no erotic push or poetic madness.

And so we chat; we play the evening’s games.

The air cools, the balmy breeze blows Kate’s hair

across a thousand stars. Like liquid crystal

our words dance in unpredictable patterns,

as if blown by the wind

in serendipitous, if unremembered,

weavings, gropings and groupings,

never too turbulent.

I think of a way to make a quick exit

for I have tired of conversational ping-pong

in a group of nine. It is an old game for me,

at least since 1962. I’ve never played it well,

although I’m better at it now,

just about comfortable.

I play it better in groups of two.

It requires a brilliant inventiveness,

after 255 minutes of backs-and-forths

I exit as courteously as possible.

8 January 1996

And, finally, a third poem:


Described below is an evening spent in the home of an Australian couple. It was a typical evening. The conversation flowed smoothly and quickly. On other occasions, with other couples, the conversation is often not as flowing. This couple is one which my wife and I have known for about five years. I have tried to describe, as graphically as possible, the nature of the evening and the difficulty of talking about the Cause in any meaningful sense. The evening represents one venue, one situation, one typical teaching activity in a person’s home. It must be repeated ad nauseam across Australia and has been for many decades. -Ron Price, 11:00 am., 1 January 1996, Rivervale WA.

Well, there’s a five hour
evening, occasionally coming up for gas
conversations, all very stimulating
as long as you can keep feeding
the machine with verbal fodder
just to maintain the pace at all times
with lots of food and drink thrown in
for good measure and sociability.

How many evenings I’ve had
like this in twenty-five years
on the international pioneer stage
in the Antipodes: Australia.

By God, I can talk
with the best of them now,
shift conversational gears1
with razor-sharp speed,
touch down on the serious
or the inner life just to measure
the waters, mention the Cause
once or several times en passant
just to see if someone
would like to pick up on it,
play mental gymnastics,
a pot pourri, keeping it light,
humorous, dexterous,
from here to eternity.

I question the mileage gained,
the meaning, the purpose, the value
of endless discussions about trivia.

Make friends, you say,
get to know people, lay the foundation,
make a start, lay before these contacts
your inner life and private character
which mirror forth in their manifold aspects
the supreme claim of the Abha revelation.2

You become the entertainer, the raconteur,
the man-for-all-seasons, everybody’s somebody,
bouncing the verbal ball for five hours;
maybe there’s an infinitesimal glimmer,
the smallest of look-sees
into the inner chambers
of each other’s hearts, minds and souls.

Perhaps to the extent that
the outer is a reflection of the inner,
we make a start, build a bridge.

How many only saw the outer life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha?
Only a few seemed to see what Howard Ives saw.

So, too, do we dance around each other’s outer shells.

After twenty-five years of playing
pass-the-parcel in lounge rooms
and gardens all across Australia
I’ve become quite adept.

I’ve heard that faith is patience to wait;
I wonder if my inner life
will ever be good enough
and I ponder at the nature of a society
which rarely gets beyond the outer layers
of the parcel.3 I’m tempted to yell:
take it off! take it off! Let’s go all the way!

Ron Price
1 January 1996

1. "The ability to change topics easily and quickly is part of the nature of social conversation." Georg Simmel, op.cit., 1964.

2. Shoghi Effendi, Guidance for Today and Tomorrow. This quotation is part of one of the more famous of the Guardian’s statements. It begins: “Not by the force of numbers...” Shoghi Effendi says that our success in teaching ultimately rests on our inner life and how that inner life mirrors, in its manifold aspects, the teachings of Baha’u’llah.

3. pass-the-parcel is a children’s game that can also be played by adults and consists of passing a small article, wrapped up in many layers of paper, from one person to the next. The person who has the parcel when the music stops takes off one layer of paper and then must leave the game. The person who is never caught with the parcel when the music stops wins. The game usually generates lots of laughs and excitement and the pace is quite fast. I have a theory, developed from twenty-five years of playing this game-as a pioneer-that social evenings like the one described above are just that, social. We take layers of ourselves off. The Baha’i should not attempt to get into anything serious insofar as the Cause is concerned, or indeed any other serious topic for that matter in the course of the first few evenings. People seem to find it difficult to take off too many layers to pursue the serious, the inner person.(See the writings of sociologist George Simmel on sociability for a theoretical/analytical discussion of what I am saying here). Serious stuff comes outside this context on a one-to-one basis or a special meeting convened for seriousness because the person has indicated their interest or you have spontaneously invited them. These are just a few reflections on a ‘fireside’ situation I have been in so many times and which this poem attempts to describe.

If artists, writers and others, refer in their work to the darker as well as the brighter side of human nature, they should try to do so in such a way as to engender within the participants’ souls an experience that will aid them to journey on “the road which leads to divine knowledge and attainment.” In the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Man must walk in many paths and be subjected to various processes in his evolution upward. Physically he is not born in full stature but passes through consecutive stages of fetus, infant, childhood, youth, maturity and old age.... Unless you have passed through the state of infancy, how would you know this was an infant beside you? If there were no wrong, how would you recognize the right? If it were not for sin, how would you appreciate virtue? If evil deeds were unknown, how could you commend good actions? If sickness did not exist, how would you understand health? Evil is nonexistent; it is the absence of good. Sickness is the loss of health; poverty, the lack of riches.... Without knowledge there is ignorance; therefore, ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge. Death is the absence of life. Therefore, on the one hand, we have existence; on the other, nonexistence, negation or absence of existence. It is my hope that my writing will, in various ways, uplife the human spirit of its readers.


I conclude this Chapter 7 with this extended essay on the above topic. These, and other similar incidents connected with the epic story of the Zanjan upheaval, characterized by Lord Curzon as a "terrific siege and slaughter," combine to invest it with a sombre glory unsurpassed by any episode of a like nature in the records of the Heroic Age of the Faith of Bahaullah -Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 46.

Epic: narrative poem of heroic type or scale; poem of any form embodying the conception of the past history of a nation or group of people.-Dictionary

The number of long epic poems written the world over is increasing. World history and the history of its many nation states is characterized by epochal statements and epics of various kinds as far back as The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address were both epochal if not epic statements, to choose but two from American history and one could choose many others from the history of other nations. Then there are epic movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind and epic figures from cinema, like John Wayne. John Wayne himself directed a film on an epic event, the Alamo. He also wrote a book on the making of this film. He called it "The Making of the Epic Film." Epic, it seems, comes up everywhere when one thinks about America and increasingly in relation to all sorts of historical and contemporary events in today's world. It also comes up in relation to my poetry and the Bahá'í Faith and that is my reason for writing. I have brought it up.

This continent and this world has epic voyages, battles, wars, figures, poems, prose. Calling up all the titles of books from recent decades that contain the word "epic" in the catalogue of a good library will reveal scores of books. The same is true on the internet. The word is now applied indiscriminately to appropriate and inappropriate subjects. Does the story of United Methodist preaching or the study of the genitals of boll-weevil properly warrant the label "epic"? Yes and no. The question has become complex. We speak of "epic" not only in the strict sense of a long poem on certain topics, with certain characteristics more or less based on the founding epics of our Western epic tradition, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. We speak of epic in a broader sense, as a story recounting great deeds, typically in wars or battles or on dangerous voyages or as an application, an example of the definition that begins this essay. The use of the term "epic" has spread out in a burgeoning fashion from these points, these definitions, these senses.

One is not surprised, therefore, that Robert Hughes' huge current book on American art, American Visions, is subtitled The Epic History of Art in America. Hughes tells us, in a TV interview, that the subtitle is the publisher's. Is then the association of "epic" with things American all just a matter of merchandising, American hype, the spirit of P.T. Barnum? Are we dealing only with the epic of American salesmanship, which almost all foreign visitors to America have commented on, or is there something about America that properly summons up the idea of "epic"? One would not expect a book on British art, for example, to be subtitled "the epic of British art," though there are of course wonderful buildings, paintings, and sculptures in Britain. Is that only a matter of characteristic British understatement? Perhaps. And yet, when one rolls the phrases around on one's tongue, the strong impression cannot be denied: Whatever the crass motives of the publisher of American Visions or of filmmakers who dub many a film "epic," epic seems to suit America and American topics better than it suits many other countries. Epic becomes America–in the sense in which Eugene O'Neill used the term, in his great play, Mourning Becomes Electra. Was his play an epic?

The artist Willem de Kooning who was born, raised, and educated in Holland has an interesting comment on what happens when one sees oneself as American, rather than, say, Dutch. It's a certain burden, this American-ness. If you come from a small nation, you don't have that burden. "When I went to the Academy and I was drawing from the nude," says de Kooning, "I was making the drawing, not Holland. I feel sometimes an American artist must feel like a baseball player or something–a member of a team writing American history." Certainly Hughes would agree. America's size, its newness, its wonders engaged many American artists in the nineteenth century. They took up the American landscape not only as a subject but as a duty. In the early twenty-first century, it is still some particular idea of America–today, however, generally evoked satirically, ironically, critically, indignantly–that seems to motivate much of the oversized work of contemporary American artists. And then there is the "great American novel," an obsession with some novelists, and the fact that America's greatest poet writes in a grand, elevated style about America. Indeed, his work is labeled by some an epic, as in James Edwin Miller's Leaves of Grass: America's Lyric Epic of Self and Democracy."

I did not take up writing about the Bahá'í Faith as a subject, as a duty but, rather, as something which engaged my mind and perhaps to an extent as an obsession, as a member of that team which is writing about the Bahá'í Faith. As someone who grew up in the northern half of America, of North America, in what we used to call the Dominion of Canada when I was a kid, I have little trouble identifying myself with the epic experience, the epic history of the Bahá'í Faith. With six thousand poems and several million words under my epic belt, so to speak, I feel tied to, part and parcel of, this epic experience which for me goes back to 1753 and the birth of Shaykh Ahmad--a quarter of a millennium ago. My life, since 1967, has been part of "The historic mission beyond the confines of the Dominion," and part of the "push to the outposts of the Faith to the northernmost territories in the Western Hemisphere." The greatest drama in the world's spiritual history, the Bahá'í story, is an epic of mamouth proportions. My writing is simply one of the infinite number of expressions of this story.

America as "epic" raises the question, what is unique, what is central, about the American experience that deserves the epithet "epic"? The same question can be raised in relation to the Bahá'í experience as an international community, in the form of its more than 200 national communities and in the lives of its some six million adherents. It reminds me of another, soberer effort to get to what is unique about America, the discussion of "American exceptionalism," conducted principally by sociologists. Seymour Martin Lipset has recently collected and updated a considerable body of his writings on this subject, one that has engaged him for many years: American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. Daniel Bell has also pondered American exceptionalism in The End of Ideology and elsewhere. The issue, as they discuss it, arises because of the interesting question of why there has been no major socialist movement in the United States and what makes the USA unique among advanced industrial societies.

The question was perhaps first raised in 1906 by the German sociologist and economist Werner Sombart. There is little that we would consider distinctive about America that has not been raised to explain the failure of socialism to develop here. Thus Bell writes that Sombart "pointed to the open frontiers, the many opportunities for social ascent through individual effort and the rising standard of living," and goes on to give many other reasons why socialism didn't take in America. "In the end," Bell writes, "all such explanations have fallen back on the natural resources and material vastness of America." And Lipset writes, "Political exceptionalism, the failure of socialist parties in the United States, has been explained by numerous factors–so many that the outcome seems overdetermined." He then goes on to list no less than 12 significant features of the United States, societal and political, that could explain the absence of a major socialist movement and its unique role and function in the world.

The theme of American exceptionalism is related to the topic of America as epic because as a concept this notion of exceptionalism provides, in part at least, an explanation for what is unique about America, what makes it so successful economically and so dynamic socially. American exceptionalism directs us to look at basic values, institutions and social forces which since the 1940s have made the USA the strongest, the most prominent nation on earth. Exceptionalism is part, then, of the subject of epic in America. One could build similar arguments about the uniqueness of other nation states or, indeed, the Bahá'í Faith.

The epic proper recounts great and terrible deeds, founding ages. One sometimes reads that with Milton or Wordsworth, or Whitman, the intellectual or spiritual development of the poet–Blake's "mental fight"–replaced the struggles of warriors as the proper subject of epic scope in narrative poetry. The sequence of Achilles, Rinaldo, Wordsworth or Whitman brings to mind Carlyle's unintentionally funny list of "heroes," which begins with the Norse God Odin and ends with Samuel "Dictionary" Johnson. Often moral courage and physical courage go hand in hand when one is examining the epic in history, although not everyone would agree with this line of thought.

Deeds, inner explorations of feelings, discoveries to improve the lot of man, the world of the epic has broadened. The proper subject of epic can now be found just about anywhere. Some are troubled by this democratization of something that historically had an elitist image in literature. Some literary critics, who after all are often the first people to discuss what makes an epic, who set up its canons of legitimacy, assert that the purely personal is no subject for epic. Perhaps they are right. I am happy to include my poetry in the category ‘epic' because it is inspired by and about the history of the Bahá'í Faith. Although much of my poetry is personal, it is not only personal. It is also about what is unique, what is special, significant, original about Bahá'í history and Bahá'í experience. Both this experience and my poetry, I would argue, participate in the concept epic. Were my life and thought not tied to the Bahá'í Faith it is doubtful that I would have associated it with the notion of epic. Indeed, it is doubtful that I would have written any of it at all.

Walt Whitman, despite his insistence on the purely personal nature of his achievement, incorporated within his poetry the entire American experience of his time. He wrote: "Leaves of Grass ... has mainly been the outcropping of my own emotional and other personal nature–an attempt, from first to last, to put a Person, a human being (myself, in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, in America) freely, fully, and truly on record. Note Whitman's determined reference to time and place. And Whitman wrote elsewhere, "I contain multitudes within myself and these were the multitudes of America. As Samuel Beer has argued in an interesting essay, Whitman reaches out much further into a political community than the typical poet. In my poetry I do the same, but I reach out into the Bahá'í community not the American people at Whitman did.

Wordsworth or any one of a host of poets in the last 200 years, contemporary Americans and others, record their personal responses and personal development. They are not celebrating a nation, its democracy, its multifariousness, and, as American art does, its variety and newness. They are not celebrating or commemorating the events of the history of a nation or a group as I am doing in my poetry in relation to Bahá'í history. They are quintessentially individualists. I suppose one could argue that that is the other epic theme in recent centuries: the theme of the individual. Wordsworth's Prelude is certainly an epic venture and it's all about him and his critique of the age--not unlike my own work here.

This is not to say, of course, that poets of the last 200 years have not had any political, religious or group affiliation: no group identity. Everyone belongs to a group in some way or another. The theme of "America as epic" directs us to think, initially, not about the multiplicity of America and Americans but of a single dominant story, carried by heroes. The epic of America, dominant until at least the 1930s and 1940s, has been in recent decades eclipsed by another and quite different "epic of America." It is a multicultural America with a host of epics.

For Bahá'ís who are also poets the epic that arises in their poetry is the history and the culture of their Faith and in the 1930s and 1940s that epic started to take form as the American Bahai community expanded to include all of its states, to be "a national unit of a world society."

The first American epic, dominant until at least the first teaching Plan(1937-1944) emphasizes the newness, the vastness, the openness of America–the freedom thereby granted Americans. It is the old, or at least the older story, about America. Connected with it are such terms as the American idea, or the American creed, or the American dream, or Manifest Destiny. It is true that the frontier as a continuous line of settlement to the West no longer existed by 1890. It was in the first few years of the 1890s that the first Bahá'í pioneers arrived on American shores, precursors of the pioneers who would later leave America's shores. That first American epic and the epic in Bahá'í history associated with the heroic age, one could argue, lasted into the 1930s when Bahá'í administration advanced to assume a form which allowed it to focus on a national, an international teaching Plan. It was here, in this international teaching Plan, that the second stage of the Bahá'í epic emerged.

There was still much of the West to be settled even after 1890; there was to come an overseas expansion expressing very much the same values; and then there was the brief "American Century," carrying forward similar and related values. The second epic, which I place in opposition to the first, is a somewhat more problematic epic. It emphasizes racial and ethnic diversity, whether in an optimistic or pessimistic mood. The first epic was connected with an ever available frontier denoting free land, free institutions, free men. The second epic is city-centred and finds its frontiers, if any, within a physically completed society. The first is the epic of the forests, the prairies, the plains. It is the epic of discoverers, explorers, pioneers, of Columbus, Daniel Boone, and Lewis and Clark, of the Oregon trail, the Mormon trek, the transcontinental railway. The second celebrates quite different voyages: the middle passage, the Trail of Tears, the immigrant ship, the underground railway, the tenement trail from slum to suburb. The first is the epic of the Anglo-Saxon, the Scotch-Irish, in lesser degree the German and the Scandinavian. The second is the epic of the Native Americans, the Africans, the "new immigrants" from southern and eastern Europe, the new immigrants of the last three decades, cast generally as the victims of the protagonists of the first epic.

The first epic has not fully lost its power to evoke response in American consciousness, and the second is not entirely new but has been with us from the beginning, even if hardly noted. From a Bahá'í perspective that first epic is, as I said above, synonymous with the Heroic Age(1844-1932). Whitman is a bridging figure from the first to the second and maintains an optimistic stance embracing both. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá or the Guardian or even the Greatest Holy Leaf serves as the bridging figure from this first to the second stage of epic in Bahá'í history.

One sees, in the last few decades, a transition in which the first epic, once dominant, becomes recessive, while the second asserts its problematic claims as the epic of America ever more sharply. Here, too, in these same decades the Bahá'ís, just one group in a host of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith groups, find expression for the epic in which my own life has been involved. It is here that my poetry finds its place as part of that faith-epic. The second Bahá'í epic or at least its second stage also asserts its problematic claims in the epochs of the Formative Age, thusfar.

One can select many symbolic events to mark the change from phase one to phase two of the epic experience both in American and in Bahá'í history. In American history consider the contrast between the writings of two presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Roosevelt wrote of the frontier, the "winning of the West." He celebrated the expansion of American power and settlement westwards, and the projection of America's power beyond our continental boundaries, much of which he engineered as president. During his presidency, the greatest stream of immigrants in American history was entering the country. He saw immigrants as adding to the strength of America, filling its factories and mines and armies. But he did not celebrate diversity. He insisted on a full Americanization. "We freely extend the hand of welcome and of good fellowship to every man and woman, no matter their creed or birthplace, who comes here honestly intent on becoming a good citizen, but we have the right and it is our duty to demand they shall indeed become so." David Brooks, quoting this passage in an article in the Weekly Standard, comments: "That meant, in Roosevelt's eyes, the immigrant had to leave Old World quarrels behind. It meant he had to learn English–We believe that English and no other language is that in which all school exercises should be conducted.... We have no room in a healthy American community for a German-American vote or an Irish-American vote and it is contemptible demagoguery to put into any party platform [rhetoric] with the purpose of catching such a vote."

The tone changes with John F. Kennedy, another friend of American power and of immigration. He wrote A Nation of Immigrants, lauding the immigrant contribution to the United States, and he and his brother sought to open the doors of America wider to immigrants. The first Roosevelt, when he thought of immigrants, thought of a growing and ever stronger America that needed manpower. His successor president thought rather of appealing to a new electorate or of displaying compassion for the victims of a troubled world. One will detect a marked change as one moves from the first to the second. Kennedy did not use the term "Americanization": It would not have rung right even in 1958, and, today, it is quite banned from politics. Every president since Kennedy, Democrat or Republican, has lauded immigrants and immigration. President Reagan presided over the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, a great national festival. Long before, the meaning of the Statue had been quite transformed from that originally intended. It was no longer "Liberty Enlightening the World," but "Liberty welcoming the immigrant."

The Bahá'í epic associated with its heroic age is not the same as the epic associated with its Formative Age. The potentialities that the creative force of that first 77 years-that heroic age-had planted in human consciousness, in the consciousness of Bahá'ís, would gradually unfold. My life and the life of my parents would see the first century of that unfolding. The poetry I have written, while inspired by that heroic age, is written in the main about the epochs, the four epochs, of my life in the Formative Age.

In a recent book by Nathan Glazer We Are All Multiculturalists Now, Glazer tries to understand and to analyze the change in how we envisage America in our schools and what it teaches about our past. In explaining the book to various audiences he has sought to find an emblematic expression of the very different time when there was no great argument as to what we meant by "the epic of America"–when no hint of the great change of the last few decades was yet evident. He explained that the title of Theodore Roosevelt's first great success as a writer and historian, The Winning of the West, characterized this earlier period. It is a title that without restraint or second thoughts or apology celebrates the American epic of expansion. Today, the title The Winning of the West would lead us to think immediately of whom we won it from–the Indians, the Mexicans, the environment. Its celebratory note would grate on us. But it does tell us what the epic of America once was.

Perhaps its equivalent in Bahá'í literature is The Dawnbreakers, with its thrilling passages and the splendour of its central theme which gives the chronicle its great historic value and its high moral power. Beginning with nine years marking the "most spectacular, most tragic, most eventful period of the first Bahá'í century," this heroic, this apostolic, age ended with the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921. In the 1920s and 1930s Bahá'í administration and Bahá'í teaching Plans came to take on a central focus in this second stage of the Bahá'í epic.

To place The Winning of the West in its time: The first volumes were published in 1889 when Roosevelt was only 31. He had already served as a New York state legislator, had written a well-received book on the War of 1812 and a biography of the frontier statesman Thomas Hart Benton, had turned himself into a ceaseless advocate of the strenuous life, had ridden with cowboys on cattle ranches in the Dakota Territory on the western frontier when Indian wars were still a reality, and had written a book of his experiences there. That experience led him back to earlier frontiers in American history. As Harvey Wish tells us: The task of writing four volumes of The Winning of the West ... had to share his time and energy while he served as an active member of the United States Civil Service Commission and then as President of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners. He investigated slums, sweatshops, and graft.... In 1895-6, he managed to issue his final two volumes while campaigning for McKinley ... for which he was rewarded by receiving the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

He went on to become governor of New York, vice-president, and, upon the assassination of McKinley, president in 1901. Despite his auspicious beginnings as a historian, he was never to complete The Winning of the West as he had originally intended. The completed volumes end with the acquisition of Louisiana and Lewis and Clark's exploration of the vast new territories that had been added to the United States. The Winning of the West was republished again and again, in many editions, even before Roosevelt became president, but I note that the last full printing was in 1927. Harvey Wish's little volume of selections from the four volumes, from which I have quoted, was published in 1962, and the book was, surprisingly, reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1995, perhaps another signal of a modest Theodore Roosevelt revival. We should be aware that the book was greatly respected in its time and for decades after, and not only by popular and literary critics but by the leading academics of the day.

Roosevelt did do a remarkable amount of research in archives and wrote the book from primary sources, not secondary materials. Albert Bushnell Hart of Harvard admired it. Frederick Jackson Turner, the propounder of the enormously influential thesis on the role of the frontier in the shaping of American society, also praised it. He wrote three reviews of it as successive volumes appeared. Turner's own seminal paper, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," was presented in Chicago in 1893 (after Roosevelt's first few volumes had been published) during the great Chicago fair celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America, as it was once described. Indeed, the contrast between the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage and our embarrassed effort to deal with the 500th anniversary is symbolic of the change I am trying to characterize. It was clear then that the opening of the West was the great theme of American history to almost everyone who thought seriously about it at the time and that its closing, as noted by the Superintendent of the Census on the basis of the findings of the census of 1890, had to portend some significant changes.

Of course, the opening of the towns, localities, states and all the countries of the world to the Bahá'í Faith by its pioneers was also a great theme of Bahá'í history. And that theme can be found expressed again and again in my poetic-epic, an age of pioneering from the 1920s and 1930s onward. My poetry is a work of unabashed religious enthusiasm and I know it will not attract many because of this. The Winning of the West is a work of unabashed nationalism. It is a nationalism that exalts the role of one element of the American population and takes bare notice of the others. There is no political correctness in The Winning of the West, of course. The first volume is labeled, "The Spread of the English-Speaking Peoples," and will remind us of one of the books by a later great nationalist leader, Winston Churchill, who wrote a multi-volumed history of the "English-speaking peoples." Roosevelt begins: "During the past three centuries, the spread of the English-speaking peoples across the world's waste spaces has been not only the most striking feature in the world's history, but also the event of all others most far-reaching in its effects and its importance."

Today, we would sit up and notice that the lands over which the English-speaking peoples spread are called "waste spaces." We would think of all the people who already lived there when the English-speaking peoples arrived. The Indians to Roosevelt are "savages." They are cruel and treacherous, by our standards of course, but Roosevelt does not take much account of the standards of "the other": "Not only were they very terrible in battle, but they were cruel beyond all belief in victory.... The hideous, unnameable, unthinkable tortures practised by the red men on their captured foes, and on their foes" tender women and helpless children, were such as we read of in no other struggle, hardly even the revolting pages that tell the deeds of the Holy Inquisition." (In these latter days, Roosevelt might also be condemned for male chauvinism because of the way he refers to women.) Roosevelt respects the Indians for their warrior prowess, but has no regret over the outcome.

The history of the border wars ... makes a long tale of injuries inflicted, suffered, and mercilessly revenged. It could not be otherwise when brutal, reckless, lawless borderers, despising all men not of their own color, were thrown into contact with savages who esteemed cruelty and treachery as the highest virtue, and rapine and murder as the worthiest of pursuits. Looking back, it is easy to say that much of the wrong-doing could have been prevented; but if we examine the facts to find out the truth, not to establish a theory, we are bound to admit that the struggle could not possibly have been avoided. Unless we were willing that the whole continent west of the Alleghenies should remain an unpeopled waste, the hunting ground of savages, war was inevitable. And after examining briefly Indian claims that they were the first present and the possessors of the soil, Roosevelt writes:

"The truth is the Indian never had any real title to the soil; they had not half so good a claim to it, for instance, as the cattlemen now have to all eastern Montana, yet no one would assert that the cattlemen have a right to keep immigrants off their vast unfenced ranges. The settler and the pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages."

I hope it is not necessary to emphasize that my point is not to expose the prejudices or blind spots of an earlier time, but to present as clearly as possible how a representative great American, an historian as well as a national leader (Roosevelt was, in time, to serve as president of the American Historical Association), thought of what was noteworthy, great, and of epic character in American history. And here we must say something more of Roosevelt's view of the protagonists of this epic, the pioneers.

The pioneers are, of course, representative of the English-speaking peoples, but they are also a new people shaped by the experience of colonization and settlement in a new and dangerous place. "At the day when we began our career as a nation we already differed from our kinsmen of Britain in blood as well as in name." The original English stock, which Roosevelt points out was already the result of a mixture of peoples, mingled with and absorbed into itself immigrants from many European lands, and this process has gone on since. It is to be noted that, of the new blood thus acquired, the greatest proportion has come from Dutch and German sources, and the next greatest from Irish, while the Scandinavian element comes third, and the only other of much importance is the French Huguenot.

But then he adds, remarkably for 1889, when the sources of American immigration had recently undergone a great change, from northern and western Europe, to eastern and southern: "Additions have been made to the elemental race-strains in much the same proportion as those originally combined." He defines the guiding, leading, pioneering element more sharply:

"The backwoodsmen were American by birth and parentage; but the dominant strain in their blood was that of the Presbyterian Irish–the Scotch-Irish as they were often called.... It is doubtful if we have wholly realized the importance of the part played by that stern and virile people.... They form the kernel of the distinctively and intensely American stock who were the pioneers of our people in their march westward, the vanguard of the army of fighting settlers, who with axe and rifle won their way from the Alleghenies to the Rio Grande and the Pacific."

They are the heroes of the epic. They were not to be displaced for another 50 years. But, of course, new elements were being added to the American population, in great number, and they were not pioneers, except metaphorically. Willa Cather titled her novel, O Pioneers!, but they were not pioneers in the same sense as the Scotch-Irish who crossed the Alleghenies, fought Indian wars in the Old Northwest and Southwest, conquered Texas from Mexico, made the way clear for German and Scandinavian farmers who followed after. Perhaps Cather's Norwegian settlers in Nebraska could, to some extent, be incorporated into this American epic. But then, what of the newcomers crowding the cities in the 1890s and 1900s and 1910s?

Turner had propounded the most influential thesis in American history in 1893. By 1914, he had to take notice of a great change in America: "If we look about the periphery of the nation, everywhere we see the indications that our world is changing. On the streets of ...New York and Boston, the faces we meet are to a surprising extent those of Southeastern Europe.... It is the little Jewish boy, the Greek or Sicilian, who takes the traveller through historic streets, now the home of these newer people ... and tells you in his strange patois the story of revolution against oppression."

In this same address, a commencement speech at the University of Washington, Turner creates a striking image of these two worlds in contact. It seems Turner had to pass through the Harvard museum of social ethics–an early expression of sociology at Harvard which no longer exists–in order to get to the room in which he lectured on the history of the westward movement: The hall is covered with an exhibit of the work of the Pittsburgh steel mills, and of the congested tenements. Its charts and diagrams tell of the long hours, the death rate, the relation of typhoid to the slums, the gathering of all Southeastern Europe to make a civilization at that centre of American industrial energy and vast capital that is a social tragedy. As I enter my lecture room through that hall, I speak of the young Washington leading his Virginia frontiersmen to the magnificent forest at the forks of the Ohio. Where Braddock and his men ... were struck by the painted savages in the primeval woods, huge furnaces belch forth perpetual fires and Huns and Bulgars, Poles and Sicilians, struggle for a chance to earn their daily bread, and live a brutal and degraded life. He writes "Huns" but presumably means Hungarians.

We will note little reference to African Americans or slavery in Theodore Roosevelt or Frederick Jackson Turner: The epic of the westward movement had little to say of them. Roosevelt did write that the early settlers, "to their own lasting harm, committed a crime whose short-sighted folly was worse than its guilt, for they brought hordes of African slaves, whose descendants now form immense populations in certain portions of the land." But slavery plays no great role in his story: He makes little distinction between the frontiersmen pushing out from Pennsylvania, or from Virginia and the Carolinas, and indeed asserts that they made little distinction. They were all mountain men, and the issue of whether slave or free was of no great moment then. It was before the great conflicts over whether the new western states were to be slave or free. Turner depreciates the significance of slavery as against the significance of the frontier in American history: "Even the slavery struggle ... occupies its important place in American history because of its relation to Westward expansion."

This perspective astonishes us today: It is as if once the conflict over whether new states were to be slave or free was settled by the Civil War, race was no longer of great consequence in American history. Indeed, during the first half of the 20th century, the question of race, urgent as it was for black Americans, was little noted by others. If there was an alternative epic to the epic of westward movement, it was then (as in measure it still is) the Civil War and the destruction of southern plantation society, seen entirely from the point of view of the slaveholder. And so, the first great American movie epic is The Birth of a Nation, and the greatest is Gone With the Wind.

In 1931, a popular historian of the day, James Truslow Adams, published a one-volume history of America and boldly titled it, The Epic of America. Published by a leading Boston publisher, it was a Book-of-the-Month club selection; it still makes interesting reading today. The attitudes of more significant figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick Jackson Turner are still dominant, if somewhat cruder, in the year before the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is still the epic of westward expansion and manifest destiny, now generalized into the American dream, that is "the epic of America." When Adams writes of "three racial frontiers in the West" around 1800, he does not have in mind white interaction with Indians and Africans. He has in mind the French and the Spanish and the English. His three racial frontiers remind me of the "historical convergence of European, African, and Native American people" which stands at the beginning of American history, according to the recently proposed National Standards for History. The historically important "races" have undergone a radical change.

Adams, a New England writer and the author of such previous books as The Founding of New England, Revolutionary New England, New England in the Republic, and The Adams Family, finds no problem in celebrating the culture of the antebellum South. "The type of life which now evolved in the South was in many ways the most delightful America has known, and that section has become in retrospect the land of romance."

William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist weekly, The Liberator, is to Adams "fanatical," as is John Brown. The Civil War was not merely a question of slavery. It was a question of interpretation of the fundamental compact between the states ... whether property guaranteed by the Constitution was safe or not...; whether an agrarian civilization could preserve its character...; whether a section of the country should be allowed to maintain its own peculiar set of cultural values or be coerced to conform to those of an alien and disliked section...; a question of what would become of liberty if union were to mean an enforced conformity.

Yet the epigraph at the beginning of the book is from Whitman: "Sail–sail thy best, ship of democracy." One does detect a muddle here, but no more of a muddle than characterized American democracy as a whole at the time. We will also have to tut-tut over Adams's treatment of the new immigrants, as they still were in 1931: "These Slavs, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Lithuanians, Jews ... were of a very different type from the Irish, British, Germans and Scandinavians." More were illiterate. They were also "much more 'foreign' in their background and outlook than those who had come previously, and less assimilable to our social life and institutions." Though they were peasants, "they did not seek to become farmers and to establish homes in this country, but congregated in huge racial groups in the larger cities, or became operatives in factories and mines." They preferred to accept day wages, maintain their old low standard of living, and even go below that, to save as much money as possible.... The earlier immigrants had come to make homes, raise their standard of living, and become citizens; these new ones came as birds of passage.... This also kept them from the desire to assimilate themselves to American social life, to learn English, and to adapt themselves to American ways.

And yet, there is the quotation from Whitman, and he writes of the prophets of American democracy, that only Emerson "glimpsed the real essence of Americanism and its dream of democracy.... Whittier was too concerned with the problem of the slave, and, like Lowell, who would have sacrificed the union because of his dislike of the South, saw America too much in terms of sectional evil. And the muddle only increases. After his criticism, typical of the time, of the new immigrants–and progressives as well as conservatives indulged in it–Adams ends his book with a vision of the American dream and one of these new immigrants dreaming it on the steps of the Boston Public Library:

"That dream ... has evolved from the hearts and burdened souls of many millions, who have come to us from all nations. If some of them have too great faith, we know not yet to what faith may attain, and may hearken to the voice of one of them, Mary Antin, a young immigrant girl who comes to us from Russia.... Sitting on the steps of the Boston Public Library, where the treasures of the whole of human thought had been opened to her, she wrote: "This is my latest home, and it invited me to a glad new life.... The past ... cannot hold me, because I have grown too big; just as the little house in Polotzk, once my home, has now become a toy of memory, as I move about at will in the wide spaces of this splendid palace.... America is the youngest of nations, and inherits all that went before it in history. And I am the youngest of America's children, and into my hands is given all her priceless heritage.... Mine is the whole majestic past, and mine is the shining future."

So we see new epics being born even while the old one is being celebrated. And by the time the Bahá'ís began to use the term pioneer, just as their first teaching Plan(1937-1944) was about to be set in motion, "the whole majestic past and the shining future" awaited them. In 1951, Oscar Handlin, who was to become the major historian of American immigration, and the leading figure in a generation of historians studying the old and the new immigration, summed up his vision of immigration in a book titled The Uprooted. (The second edition of 1973 bears on its cover the subtitle, The Epic Story of the Great Migrations that made the American People. The first sentence of the book reads: "Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were America."

The eclipse of the first "epic of America" seemed complete. Theodore Roosevelt would not have used the term "immigrant" to refer to his Dutch ancestors or to the frontiersmen he celebrated. They were colonists, settlers, pioneers–immigrants were something else. The notion that we were all immigrants was still somewhat surprising in 1951, though Franklin Delano Roosevelt, speaking to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who had refused to allow Marian Anderson to sing in their hall in 1939, did say, "We are all immigrants, and the descendants of revolutionists." However, this was then still a surprising and provocative thought. Twenty years after Handlin published The Uprooted, it was only common wisdom, or commonplace. A half-dozen presidents and a hundred judges inducting new immigrants pronounced we were all a nation of immigrants. And desperate efforts were being made to induct the non-immigrants–Native Americans, as the Indians had become, and the African-American descendants of slaves–into American epics that had ignored or disdained them.

It was not long before Handlin was alarmed at the terms of inclusion. Supplementing The Uprooted, 20 years after its original publication, in the Spring of 1971, Handlin wrote: "a committee of the United States Senate held hearings on an amendment to the higher education act. In the parade of witnesses, there were no dissenters. From many different parts of the country, representing many different organizations, they reiterated an identical woeful refrain: ‘We have been made victims!'"

The tone was varied, from undiluted bitterness to a plaintive awareness of offsetting gains. But unfailingly the complaints expressed a tone of deprivation which was also a sense of emptiness, the ache of which required stilling. America had created the void by the theft of their ancestors; now the victims needed the healing pride of ethnicity.

Handlin was speaking of the hearings on legislation that would assist ethnic groups in developing curricula on their culture and history which could be used in schools. No Mary Antins appeared to celebrate the openness of America, the pleasures and rewards of integration–which inevitably does mean the loss of the past. No Theodore Roosevelt was present to insist that that is what America expected of immigrants. The single story was becoming many stories. Black studies at the time were spreading rapidly and were soon to become a fixture in the academy, along with Latino, Asian-American, and Native-American studies. The women's movement had exploded in the universities. No one in 1971 realized what a sturdy trunk of academia it would shortly become, nor that it would be joined by gay and lesbian studies. Perhaps other forms of diversity that we are not yet conscious of will become equally sturdy growths. The one grand epic has been succeeded by many fragmentary little epics. One great theme of epic is the founding of a nation, as in The Aeneid. The new fragments of nations create epics that celebrate the destruction of a domineering and false oneness by a manyness; and we wonder whether that means also the fragmenting of a nation.

This brings us up to date in considering America as epic. The epic of the frontier closed a long time ago. Many have worried about what succeeds it. Let us project America overseas, some said, in imperialist conquest, or in fighting tyranny, or in improving the lives of other peoples. We have now withdrawn from the empire, though a few pieces remain. We face no great tyranny, and our will in facing even small tyrannies is not strong. We are now doubtful about our capacity to improve the lives of other peoples. The new frontier, we are told, must be education, or space, or good group relations. How often have we heard it said: How come we can reach the moon and not improve our cities or race relations? Clearly, it must be easier to reach the moon, and that does require heroes and is a subject of epic stature. I doubt whether the improving of group relations can replace the conquest of a continent as the subject of epic. Of course, we can live without an American epic. But that does diminish us, and it is easy to understand why some of our poets, artists, writers, and historians keep on trying.

And for the Bahá'í community the heroic-age stage of its epic has long passed. ‘Abdu'l Baha provides the linkage between the two stages in His Memorials of the Faithful and, perhaps, the Greatest Holy Leaf who died in 1932. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá addresses all of us, all of us on our journeys while He describes many of those He came to know in His life in that heroic age. For He is describing not only the lives of these men and women in the nineteenth century, He is describing us in our time. He is addressing us on our own travels. He addresses the restlessness in us all. He speaks to us in our victory and our loss. He speaks about what Michael Polanyi calls the tacit dimension, the silent root of human life, which is difficult to tap in biographies, the inner person. This private, this inner person, is the one whom He writes about for the most part. He sets this inner life in a rich contextualization, a socio-historical matrix. He describes many pilgrimages and you and I are left to construct our own. We all must shape and define our own life. Is it aesthetically pleasing? Intellectually provocative? Spiritually challenging? ‘Abdu'l-Bahá shapes and defines these lives given the raw-data of their everydayness added up, added up over their lives as He saw them. How would He shape my life? Yours? How would we look in a contemporary anthology of existences with ‘Abdu'l-Bahá as the choreographer and the history of our days as the mise en scene?

Some of the lives of the obscure, the ordinary and representative members of the Bahai community are recovered for history and for much more. Their private aspirations and their world achievments, their public images and their private romances, their eventual successes and their thwarted attempts are lifted onto the pages of a type of Bahai scripture. 'Abdu'l-Bahá is setting the stage, the theatre, the home, in these pages, for all of humanity. The extrovert is here, the introvert, those that seem predisposed to cheerfulness and those who seem more melancholy by nature. All the human dichotomies are here, at least all that I have come across in my own journey. They are the characters which are part and parcel of life in all ages and centuries, all nations and states, past, present and, more importantly, future. Here is, as one writer put it, the rag-and-bone-shop, the lineaments of universal human life, the text and texture of community as we all experience it in the crucible of interaction.

And here, in this autobiography and this poetry is some more of the text and texture of the Bahá'í community and an ordinary life set into the rag-and-bone shop of life, however epically I might want to envisage it. Language becomes here the means of reconstituting the past state of an element of Bahá'í culture and its context. At the same time my language is a way of detaching, of distancing the past from a person who is most committed to reconstituting it.

It is difficult in an autobiography not to make oneself the central figure of the text. Seen as a whole, this text describes an ascent from childhood, through adolescence to adulthood and old age. In some ways this ascent only touches all the peaks and periods of my life and then begins the long and slow decline with its attendant troughs, a decline that has just begun at this stage of writing, a decline into an inevitable physical enervation and death, shadowed and enlightened by the memory of the Bahá'í community's experience over several epochs. The global Bahá'í community was created in my lifetime, spreading from a small group of countries and a relative handful of centres, to well over 200 countries and territories and 1000s of centres.

The millennial hope, the dream of the destiny of the Bahá'í community, began to take a more definite shape in my lifetime. The Bahá'í story is much fuller than it was in its first century, 1844-1944. The Central Figures of this Faith occupy more space; their somewhat austere figures never stray from their importantly narrow roles as charismatic founders, lawgivers and interpreters. Bahá'u'lláh comes to us in the Bahá'í literature as a quietly brilliant youth, divine revelator and a man in full, a matchless hero equal to every occasion. And yet although, or perhaps because, we see him in that narrow role, we somehow never get a complete picture of him. His story, in the Bahá'í historical narrative, is often fragmentary and elliptical. He remains slightly, perhaps necessarily, elusive. Marked by accounts, terse notations, motives sometimes left unstated, gestures and phrases whose meanings we've lost, He can not be grasped even in the first century after His passing. Trying to grasp him, we embrace a vapour.

Like every true dancer, I have been a figure of constant change: vivid, elusive, unforgettable. Perhaps it takes a poet to do justice to such mutability, but not this poet. An author of many volumes of poetry might be an apt choice for an autobiography: "The Life of Ron Price." I have read the autobiographies of many others in my lifetime and I do not feel confident as I engage in such an attempt.

Unable to write biographies of any of the Central Figures or even of one of the saints, heroes, martyrs or significant Bahais in the first two centuries of its history, I use Bahai history, its narrative account for other purposes. I use it to illumine my own life and its experience. I supplement that history in places with secular history and, in the process, I try to bring alive the only person I know at all well—myself. In episode after episode, I braid a narrative together with literary interpretation and psychological conjecture, drawing out patterns of correspondence, filling gaps in a record which would have got lost had I not taken pen to paper and taken advanage of the computer and its word processing technology. I like to think my work is characterized by acutely engaged speculation. Perhaps it would not have mattered if this account had got lost or if it had never been told at all, for I have only been one of the multitude of the warp and weft of a community of Bahais, a community which sees itself as the core of an emerging world religion.

Mostly bypassing but occasionally touching the accretions of, perhaps, 40 centuries of religious piety and veneration, peering behind what is often a spare record of action and speech and at other times a burgeoning historical record bordering on anarchic confusion, I seek to discern the feelings and intentions of the living person that I have been and am now, this thing which I call myself. If the world and myself were good for nothing else, they are both fine subjects for speculation.

It's a risky business, fleshing out remote historical figures into what often seem essentially novelistic characters. I have long recognized this as a student of biography. This is no less true of figures close to us and, perhaps, even most true of our own dear selves. My kindness, a trait ‘Abdu'l-Bahá says is a Canadian characteristic and exhibited on many an occasion in the first sixty years of my life, may be rooted in guilt or show, policy or love, all of these or none. Behind the facts of life and the human qualities of its actors, lie a swarming mass of causes. Part of the role of the historian, the psychologist or the autobiographer is to turn the microscope sensitively to the minute causality in life and its often subtle and obscure effects.

I hope that readers find my characterological insights interesting and my literary arguments astute. Corners of the Bahai myth, the historical metaphor, light up with the glow of my imagination and I hope they light up those of readers. My life, it seems to me anyway, grows increasingly strong as it moves from my early years to the years of middle and late adulthood, but weakness runs along beside it never to be entirely extirpated and trampled beyond my sight. My individual perspective on the quite revolutionary transformation of the Bahai community from a small, western, post-Christian culture of individuals to the early stages of a visible, enumerated, global and inclusive civilization, is, I like to think, a tour de force of historical imagining and the experience of any Bahai who has been a part of this Cause for several decades.

Most importantly, I like to think, in writing this book I achieved my stated goal of making the Bahá'í Faith more accessible without making it cease to be refreshing, exotic in a sense and or a delight to the mind. Any history, any figure, about so remote a culture as 19th century Iran, must always remain somewhat remote to the votaries of future generations. Some might argue that a work of this kind ought not be attempted in the first place, that to embroider Bahá'í history and its text is slightly false and, if not false, at least presumptuous to a degree. But what I do here is squarely within the historical tradition of narrative elaboration, even if my methods and sensibility are unmistakably modern. Whatever may be said of my life and my community, my family background and Bahá'í history, what I write it is a kind of creative engagement that makes this history live and endure. At least that is my hope.

And, finally, some poems:


"Poet" names an aspiration not an occupation...Once a poem is resolved, I lose the sense of having written it. I can remember circumstances, but not sensations, not what it felt like to be writing. This amnesia is almost immediate and most complete when poems are written quickly, but in all cases it occurs. Between poems I am not a poet, only someone with a yearning to achieve. What is it that I want to achieve? It is that same concentration again. -Louise Gluck, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, Ecco Press, NY, 1994, p.125.

I lose the sense of
even having written it.
It's like someone else's.
It surprises me;
I may remember some trace element,
some vague origin, circumstance.
Yes, being a poet, like being a Bahá'í,
is an aspiration.
It often feels like an occupation
because of the intensity, energy,
time, thought, devoted to the process,
especially when the flow comes
as fast as it has in recent years.
I must stop now:
it makes me tired
even thinking of it.

Ron Price
15 October 1995

It is difficult to live to the age of seventy and not have death touch you in different ways. In addition to several family members who have passed on, I pray for more than fifty Hands of the Cause and seventy-five friends and people who have been important to me over the years. Due to my belief system the emotional disarray that often touches people when loved ones die has been rare and short-lived. Like Ludwig Wittgenstein, the founder of modern language theory, I have since about 1980 had a certain preoccupation with death. There have been times when the word obession seemed an appropriate one in relation to my feelings about death, but since my treatment with fluvoxamine in 2002, the experience of death as impending only occurs at night for short periods of time. When I wrote the following poem nearly ten years ago now I had what was, in some ways, an obsession with the subject of death.


From Sappho to Dickinson, Rossetti, and the nightingales, death has been an imaginative obsession for many women poets-an obsession resumed in the twentieth century by poets like Millay, Mina Loy and Laura Riding, Smith and Plath,1 male poets like John Berryman and Jack Kerouac and other writers like James Agee, Poe and Magritte. Knowing this pleased me because, since 1980, death has both haunted and attracted me. Somehow it did not seem right and yet, in another sense, it seemed the most natural of obsessions. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Jahan Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994, p.291.

These words, these prayers, so many deeds,
so many years have helped dissolve those walls
which thankfully separate us from them:
you wouldn't want to go around hallucinating,
would you? Enmeshed as we are
in each other's lives and will be,
through these words, this unpopular art
which can't be hung for all to see
or moulded like that stone statue,
or turned into fine sound over time,
but will remain on paper
after the dilapidation of dilapidations,
after the night wind wimpers,
the leaves are all gone
and we come forth and on
with fragrances just beyond
and we slowly emerge,
exposed to our essential life,
this real world, at />
Having grappled so long,
so long with bits of paper
and what they all were saying,
a clearness fell over the river,
so smooth with a thousand diamond
sun-studding: you could see them
as you drove along the river,
even in the night, a thousand eyes
but one mind, at last, at last,
even if the heart aches
for one has been there
so many times before.

Somewhere in the stale familiarity,
half-dead, weary-sings
something tastes of home,
just around the corner,
beyond that cloud
where the sun is breaking,
strong and clear:
at last.

Ron Price
2 July 1995

It is timely that I refer to Wiggenstein as this autobiography comes near to its end. This major twentieth century philosopher saw the object of philosophy as "the clarification of thoughts." Surely, if nothing else, this autobiography is intended to do the same thing. It tries to make what is opaque and blurred the centre of clarity and sanity, of health and understanding to the mind. Like Wittgenstein, too, I see no division between my life and this work. It is all of a piece. I may not be able to remedy all the deep emotional difficulties in my life by untangling them philosophically, as Wittgenstein thought he could do. Lucidity, joy, wonder, the mystical, are all important to me as they were to Wittgenstein, too much to go into detail here.

But as I pass sixty and go into the first months of my sixty-first year, with the great bulk of my bi-polar illness behind me I do not anticipate suffering the way many do after the age of sixty. I have a strange premonition that the worst is behind me. Unlike Mark Twain, whose life from age 60 on was blasted by calamity and sorrow; unlike the cinema director Alfred Hitchcock who was plagued by alcohol and depression from sixty-five until his death at the age of eighty, unlike many others in their declining years of late adulthood, I see my life as just beginning, albeit a different life than the one I have known, but one I am looking forward to with relish. This is not to say that fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety will not afflict me and forces at large in the world will not assail me. I may require the perserverence I have seen in my wife for the last twenty years.


"The generation born in the mid-forties...were the most indulged, cared for and ‘liberated' children in history...the narcissistic trend began in the 1920s...The two generations, between-the-wars, and the war-babies, were the parents of the post-World-War-II generation....who formed the ‘hippie generation'... still relentlessly ego-absorbed generation."(1) These two generations have been the main pioneers of the second, third and fourth epochs.-Ron Price with appreciation to Ronald Conway, The Rage for Utopia, Allen and Unwin, 1992, pp. 146-148.

There's nothing like a parting
to make you feel a piece.
Nothing like a starting
to make you ill-at-ease.

Partings are a sorrow;
I think I'll keep them few,
as I head down the home stretch
to the newest of the new.

‘Cause one day we'll part forever
on this terrestrial coil;
we'll make this the last one
on this our earthly soil.

I may not talk with you so deeply
that you feel connected with,
but I'll learn that one some day,
as we become both kin and kith.

I think Conway has touched the core
of a certain ego-absorption
at the heart of all these plans
that make difficult their adoption.

It also makes it difficult, dear,
to grow close as you would like to.
It may just be this narcissism
which I must overcome too.

Ron Price
10 July 1995

I would like to make one or two parenthetical remarks here before continuing and concluding with more of my poetry. Part of the way I view language and thus the way I view the writing of this autobiography is reflected in the way the philosopher Wittgenstein views language. He sees it as a game consisting of varied and various relationships among different strategies, approaches, multiple interacting conditions, ways and means not simply a configuration or tradition based upon "empirical stability." As I have pointed out earlier in this lengthy work, there is a basic facticity, empirical stability, in my life, my society and my religion that one can not get away from this. But they are no more history than butter, eggs, salt and pepper are an omelette, as that student of biography Ira Nadel noted with his humorous edge. One needs Wittgenstein's culinary talent in the autobiographical kitchen. This poetry provides readers with some of the basic constituents of the language game and the multiple conditions as I see them.


There's a mystery in poetic writing, some kind of creation ex nihilo, from within, but within bounds, the bounds of your way of living, of who you are. It's like magic, a varying splendour, a stirring of atoms to find connections to release compulsions and find other selves. Scratch the itch of disconnection, the soup of this and that sometimes feeble, pathetic self, sometimes rich, fertile self in the core and an architectural correctness, balance, density, emerges: as if from the journey of one's life-long, tortuous, sometimes lost. In the end you've preserved something of yourself and you wonder why. It's quite mysterious. -Ron Price with thanks to Sue Woolfe and Kate Grenville, Making Stories, Allen and Unwin, St. Leonards, NSW, 1993.


The writer, unable to chose his language, can no more choose his style, this necessity of his mood, this rage within him, this tumult or this tension, slowness or speed, which comes to him from a deep intimacy with himself, about which he knows almost nothing, and which give his language as distinctive an accent as his own recognizable demeanour gives his face....a language inseparable from his secret depths, that which, therefore, should be closest to him, is also what is least accessible to encounter and then to silence the empty depths of ceaseless speech...of uninterrupted poetry. -Maurice Blanchot, The Blanchot Reader, editor: Michael Holland, Blackwell, Oxford, 1995, pp.146-149.

The revolution has come: the break!
It twists and turns
in metaphorical equivalent
at special times, at any time
it seems appropriate;
for the whole history has,
what shall we call it,
mythological significance?
This is the new myth!

The end of history has arrived!
Yes, this is the eternal Return
and world shaking, world reverberating
institutions have come, born, growing
in a majestic process launched in 1953
within a rhythmic life pattern
of fundamental happiness
which itself contains anxiety and grief
and a time for healing in those secret depths
of ceaseless speech and what seems to be
uninterrupted poetry.

Ron Price
7 December 1997

During the last quarter of the twentieth century, while I was writing this autobiography, science was turning away from regular and smooth systems in order to investigate more fragmented, more chaotic phenomena. So, too, in the study of the writing of autobiography there was an increasing consciousness of its complexity, ambiguity, indeed, its chaotic content. There is certainly an element of the fragmented, of the chaotic in my own life. Sometimes the feeling of fragmentation is pervasive and sometimes it is short-lived, momentary. Rather than seeing form, literary or physical, as something divided into the classical binaries of order and entropy, form now is often regarded as a continuum expressing varying degrees of pattern and repetition, elements that are at the core of structure, any structure. At one end of the continmuum we find extreme order, pattern and traditional forms and at the other end we find gibberish, chaos and disorder. Fragmentation is something we all experience and it is found between life's extremes. Fractal autobiography works in the ground between these extremes of life. Digression, interruption, fragmentation and lack of continuity, then, are part of the normal world of autobiography. Fractal comes form the Latin for fragmented or broken: hence the term fractal autobiography.

As architect Nigel Reading writes, "Pure Newtonian causality is an incorrect, a finite view, but then again, so is the aspect of complete uncertainty and infinite chance." The nature of reality now is somewhere in between. One writer called this interplay between chance and causality, a dynamical symmetry. It occurs to me that this shift in focus from a simple, a polarized view of life to a more dynamic, more complex, more chaotic view is something that is expressed in, can be found in, literature as postmodernism. In any case, the poetry, the autobiography, I am calling fractal shares many defining traits with that contested term: postmodern. Some contemporary poetries and genres of autobiography show an allegiance to romantic, confessional or formalist traditions. Fractal poetry, fractal aesthetics, fractal autobiography describe one feature of my literary topography. When poets and autobiographers address aesthetics, their own work inevitably shades their views.

But somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the emergence of new technologies re-structured, violently and forever, the nature of the author, the reader and the text, and the relationships between them. In postmodernism one read, watched, listened, as one had done for decades before. In pseudo-modernism one phones, clicks, presses, surfs, chooses, moves, downloads. There is a generation gap here, roughly separating people born before and after 1980.

Whereas postmodernism called ‘reality' into question, pseudo-modernism defines the real implicitly as the self, myself, now, ‘interacting' with its texts. Thus pseudo-modernism suggests that whatever it does or makes is reality and a pseudo-modern text may flourish the apparently real in an uncomplicated form.

Postmodernists saw the eclipse of grand narratives and pseudo-modernism sees the ideology of globalised market economics raised to the level of the sole and over-powering regulator of all social activity. This new world is monopolistic, all-engulfing, all-explaining, all-structuring, as every academic must disagreeably recognise. Pseudo-modernism is of course consumerist and conformist, a matter of moving around the world as it is given or sold.

This pseudo-modern world, so frightening and seemingly uncontrollable, inevitably feeds a desire to return to the infantile playing with toys which also characterises the pseudo-modern cultural world. Here, the typical emotional state, radically superseding the hyper-consciousness of irony, is the trance – the state of being swallowed up by your activity. In place of the neurosis of modernism and the narcissism of postmodernism, pseudo-modernism takes the world away, by creating a new weightless nowhere of silent autism. You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved', engulfed, deciding. You are the text, there is no-one else, no ‘author'; there is nowhere else, no other time or place. You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded. I outline briefly the shift from postmodernism to pseudomodernism which has occurred in the time I have been writing this memoir because my writing is, to some extent, a reflection of this change. But I do not want to go beyond these few, these brief remarks.

Conversion and a religious conversation prevails in my poetry. It is part of an archtypal pattern because it represents part of a maturing process and a move toward self-discovery. It is part and parcel of this autobiography, unavoidably, I find. It is part of a personal life, which Anais Nin says, if it is lived deeply moves beyond the personal.1-Ron Price with thanks to Suzanne Nalbantian, Aesthetic Autobiography, MacMillan, 1994, p.6; and 1Anais Nin in ibid.,p.171.

CICERO(106-43 BC)

A poet must be clinical, dispassionate about life. The poet feels much less strongly about these things than do other finds realized (in Auden's work) a verbal and intellectual pleasure so pure that one feels as if the lowly human faculty of mere enjoyment had been somehow ennobled. -Frederick Buell, W.H. Auden As a Social Poet, Cornell UP, London, 1973, p.41.

Cicero came long ago,
at a critical juncture,
he urged his combative peers
to end their recriminative posture,
political moralist who saw the
value of philosphy in politics,
an idealist in an age of extremes,
complex personality
who saw kindness as a means to
justice, the goal of society.
The main branches of society must
work together, love each other
for this is the foundation of law
which holds society together.

Popular Assemblies, like today,
no longer expressed the will of the people,
no longer aspired to higher culture,
honesty, propriety: for real politics
was a way of life.

Ron Price
10 June 1995

Source S.E. Smethurst, "Politics and Morality in Cicero", The Phoenix, Vol. 10/11, 1955-57, pp.111-121.


If poetry is an intellectual/intuitive act it is not a random indeterminate process, but is governed by a previsional end....there must be a ruling conception by which it knows its quarry: some foresight of the work to be done, some seminal idea. -James McAuley in Meanjin, Summer 1953, vol.xii, p.433.

The conception here's been getting more detailed,
massive, as the decades have come on since 1953.
The conception was extraordinary, then,
with the ten stages of history and the ten year crusade
just having begun the Kingdom of God with a bang,
a quiet one, not much of a bone crusher,
pretty unobtrusive then, even now,
with that conception described in a thousand books,
too much for most.

And the LSA Handbook getting so big
you needed a degree in law
or big biceps just to carry it to the meeting.
By God, the quarry! Nothing less than
the spiritual conquest of the planet,
the conquest of self and the attainment
of a tranqill heart:
and a thousand other mysteries
waiting to find form.

Ron Price
16 December 1995


Of the many currents of contemporary modern poetry in Australia I have selected Bruce Dawe's poetry and particularly his book of poems No Fixed Address, published in 1962, as the starting point. This title is taken from one of his first poems, written back in 1954, by the same title. It is a suitable starting point for 1962 was the year when this pioneering venture got its start. By the time I began writing poetry seriously there were, arguably, 40 to 50 years of a tradition of the colloquial to build on, to help me on my way.-Ron Price from information in A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry, Geoff Page, University of Queensland Press, 1995, p.2.

They started to say it differently,
to use the colloquial, the vernacular.
the everyday stuff as early as 1962,
if not before, when I had started my
pioneer life, quite early.
Had many fixed addresses.
I counted them once:
37 in twenty-five towns.

You had been writing for some time
with that ‘No Fixed Address'
the first that I knew about:
that one who in solemn state
lies garlanded in gin
part of a poetic legacy
that takes us back to the beginning
of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The whole world started to change its spots
in that ninth stage of history when, coincidentally,
I entered the field. And now I'm trying to say it
using the new form, wave, style, humour, normality
of the ordinary, unpretentiousness, highest spirituality.
A late starter, building on thirty or forty years
of other writers of contemporary modern.

Ron Price
9 December 1995


Indifference to response of the immediate audience is a necessary trait of all artists that have something new to say. They say what they have to say...Communicability has nothing to do with man is eloquent save when someone is moved as he listens....Those who are moved feel, as Tolstoi says, that what the work expresses is as if it were something one had oneself been longing to express...the artist works to create an audience to which he does communicate.-John Dewey, Art as Experience, Capricorn Books, NY, 1958(1934), p.105.

Complete and unhindered communication,
in a world of gulfs and walls
that limit our experience of community,
can be found in some works of /> Was that why I cried in looking
at your paintings on the wall
when normally art galleries
make me sleepy?
Was that why I wrote so many essays
about Roger White's poetry,
though noone would publish them?
Is that why I write all this poetry,
to serve the unifying forces of life
breaking out all over this planet?

Ron Price
23 December 1995


The poet is a hunter consciously and aggressively active in the hunting process of composition. The poetry is what's hunted down and transformed by that process in a wilderness of language...The poet is an intermediary hunting form beyond form, truth beyond theme through woods of words tangled and tremendous....through a forest of mystic meaning. -John Taggart, Songs of Degrees: Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, University of Alabama Press, London, 1994, p.174.

Myriads of mystic tongues find utterance
in one speech and myriads of hidden mysteries
are revealed in a single melody*
and the poet hunts in forests of mystic meaning,
searching for the tongues of utterance,
pursued by hounds,
clawed by talons,
with pitiless ravens lieing in wait on the mountain side.
And while he hunts other hunters stalk
and assault him in the bright meadows of his search.
His head falls to the earth, even brims with blood,
but Peace comes at last and the dark night of tangled
trees is no more, only the tall independent pines,
so straight and tall and spacious, with the sun
falling though their intersticies on the book
of his own self, dead at last in a summit of glory
left behind on the earth beside the crystal cool water
that the Cup-Bearer bringeth! In the journey unto
the Crimson Pillar on the snow-white path.

Ron Price
11 October 1995

*Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic, 16.
** Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, pp.55-59.


The poetic idea unites aspects of existence that ordinarily remain unconnected, and in this lies its value. The secret of genius is perhaps nothing else than this greater availability of all experience coupled with larger stores of experience to draw on. -I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism, 1929.

Experience is never is an intense sensibility, a kind of huge spiderweb, of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. -Henry James, ‘The Art of Fiction', Partial Portraits, 1888.

I think of experience as acting, not upon, but in and with the poet-I conceive the poet, not as having, but as being, his experience. -H.W. Garrod, Poetry and the Criticism of Life, 1931.

Guessing the unseen from the seen,
tracing the implications of things,
judging wholes from patterns,
feeling the whole and sensing corners,
travelling underground to get at the mountain,
imagination supersaturated,
dropping stuff all over the place:
vivid concentrations, realer than real,
intensified in the memory,
truth not yet achieved.

Precision instrument for storing impressions,
instant and complete,
trusting imagination and memory,
showing the world reflected in broken glass
to sharpen it for the reader, if he can;
recreating a complex world:
simply, deeply.

Ron Price
18 September 1995

Pioneering across two continents, from south to north, over more than forty years has imbued me with a certain creative spirit. It was a spirit that was expressed within the context of a disintegrating civilization with a sophisticated individualism at its core and a more sophisticated sense of unity at the core of a new, emerging, global civilization whose nucleus and pattern were to be found in the Bahá'í community. The differences between the two were increasingly accentuated by proximity. During all these years I lived with what could be called "a frontier feeling." The "frontier feeling" is evident in this autobiography, in my poetry and several other genres. It is not defiant, not bellicose toward my neighbours, but manifests the spirit of friendliness and goodwill. In my eagerness to experiment, to push the boundaries of consciousness, and to restlessly, ceaselessly innovate over those four decades I became intimately familiar with as much of the intellectual culture that my academic proclivities allowed. This border spirit, this frontier feeling, this pioneer orientation intensified my antipathy for and estrangement from much that was in my culture. This antipathy for or, perhaps more accurately as the years went on, exhaustion with so much that was part of this disintegrating civilization became an important component of the creative agon and the raison d'être of my lifelong campaign within the Bahá'í community and its teaching and consolidation programs operating at a global level. The other component of the cultural limen of this growing Bahá'í civilization could be "aptly described as the hospitable threshold of an ever open door." This threshold was a humble one, but it was secure.

This creativity, this expression of psychic energy, as Toynbee goes on to describe it, is at its maximum when the society that is the transmitting agent is a civilization in the process of disintegration and decomposition. I have often wondered just where the accretion of energy came from beginning right at the start of this pioneering process in 1962. Is Toynbee providing a theoretical underpinning for what might be called a psychological explanation of my creativity, in part related to my bi-polarism? I do not know; I simply offer the theory here as this autobiography comes to its close. There were so many cross-currents that operated between the individual and society, between my own life and the wider life of society and that flowed into the life of the pioneer, this pioneer.

One such current was put in a clever way by Paul Tillich. Arguably the twentieth century's greatest Protestant theologian, once said that when citizens believe they have no effect on the life of society, the result is favorable to religion but bad for democracy. In Canada and Australia I think it was bad for both. The lives of these citizens became locked in job, family and play and the bigger social picture is one that was just talked, viewed on TV and in the media about but never or rarely acted upon. The big picture, of course, was complex and filled with so many issues. I have written on this theme elsewhere and so will leave its complex tentacles here.

But now to some prose-poetry beginning with that poet-activist James Dickey:


Dickey wants to change the reader; he wants to use the poem as a medium through which the reader is raised or torn out of himself into a larger, more energized state of being...This is a poetry that forces the reader to know he is in the presence of a kind of truth at which (he) could not have arrived at by himself. -Bruce Weigl and T.R. Hummer,"Introduction", The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1984, p.2.

...a curious tension exists between poetry and belief, idea, principle, or reason. That is, while we hear a good deal about poetry's need to be based upon an explicit view of the meaning of existence, we are often very bored and exasperated by the poetry which testifies to such a view.-Howard Nemerov, William Blake in Poetry and Fiction: Essays, Rutgers UP, New Brunswick, 1963, p.vii.

You want to get the reader in,
move him about emotionally,
intuitively, physically even,
out of complacency, drift,
help them find their real lives,
combating the malaise, do some purging,
undistorting, unblunting: your poem
is something that matters--
a two hundred year old romantic dream--
and we've been moved.

Some transforming, healing,
life-affirming impulse:
pretty ambitious stuff, eh?
From an initial repulsion
Through acceptance to a full embrace--
sounds like something I'd like
to pull off, too!
Can we call you a poet
of the second and third epochs?
A foundation poet for the Kingdom
of God on earth? I don't know, James,
but I like what you're into, so much of it:
the dramatic confrontation of self and guilt,
the presence of such joy as to remove self-pity--
good gear, James, good gear!

The search for the energizing Truth:
now there's a goal worth pursuing.
How are you coming now, James
in your redeeming search of the depths?
That divine intermediary?
Is it more than the poem?
More than imagination?
Is there something beyond
these sacred and resplenent tokens
from the planes of glory?
Is there something beyond
the green garden of these blossoms
in the lands of knowledge, beside
the orient lights of the Essence in the
mirrors of names and attributes?*

2 October 1996
*Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, pp.3-4.


Since I went pioneering in 1962 there has been what Robert Bly calls "a domestication of poetry". "That's one metaphor" says Bly "to explain the amazing tameness of the sixty to eighty volumes of poetry published each year, compared with the compacted energy" of the poetry that came from the "wild knots of energy" of the poetry going back at least to the 1920s. --Robert Bly, "Knots of Wild Energy: An Interview With Wayne Dodd", American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity, Harper and Row, NY, 1990, p.300.

We have never before faced what it's like in the culture when hundreds of people want to write poetry and want to be instructed in it...We know how to instruct a hundred engineers, or computer technicians...We don't know how to instruct in the area of poetry.-Robert Bly, ibid., p.318.

Such a burgeoning, multiplicity,
everything happening at once.
But, you know Robert,
I've met a lot of engineers
who aren't too happy with their instruction.
We've got much to work out in this
incredible planetary fertilization,
bifurcated merging, cross-fertilization,
exploding tempest, increased intensity,
desperately troubling times.
Wondrous leaps and thrusts cross-firing:
leaving people bewildered,
agonized and helpless.

Those knots of wild energy, we had them too,
as the great Order began to form back then
in the first two epochs of this Formative Age:

Our earliest pioneers1 had what you might call
a conflagrant holy urgency.
I came in on the firey end
of that ninth stage of history
and caught the comet's burning ice
and after thirty years I try to translate it
into a poetry of dazzling prospects,
a poetry of two more epochs.
Is it wild, Robert? Is it wild?
I was wild; I was. And I, too,
have been domesticated.

1 1921 to 1961: 40 years

Ron Price
16 October 1995


I suspect that the greatest poetry is, as a rule...a concise and simple way of saying great things...this does not necessarily mean ‘un-complex' or ‘easy to understand'. Not everything or everyone is always concise and simple; even the simplest souls have complex moments. -With appreciation to John Livingston Lowes and C.Day Lewis in The World of Poetry, Phoenix House, London, 1959, pp.133-134.

You're not looking for some top-40 tune here
or a delightful ditty like:
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
Some easy style, light reading,
a little amusement, to be taken over breakfast
with your morning paper, come on mate!
What do you take me for? I'm not a comedian
with a quick fix, instant laugh, insight guaranteed.

I bring you a certain darkness in which I labour
to enshroud you, certain fluctuations and associations
which I melt down for your purpose and make distant
for you to reach for: buy those spectacles,
for this is no dead vacuum, floundering place, dimness.
You must cultivate your poetic receptivity,
accept unknowingness when it comes, as you would
in those mysterious places, the faces of friends,
those you love and associates you hardly know.

Ron Price
20 September 1996


Dickey's sense of personality (is)....a series of imagined dramas, sometimes no more than flashes of rapport, kinships with....the which personality is gained only when reason is rejected...The process of increasing every existential role in the universe abandoned...reverence for life...his own personal history as an analogue exploration of twentieth-century....a fundamental helplessness of man....the poet a shaman, a specialist in ecstacy, a participant in the divine... -Joyce Carol Oates, "The Imagination of James Dickey", The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1984, p.68, p.72

The main thing in poetry is the discovery of an idiom and the exploitation of it over an area of thought for a long time.-James Dickey in Jane Bowers-Martin's, "Jericho and God's Images", The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, Bruce Weigl and T. Hummer, editors, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1984, p.150.

Poetry is a happening in that level of the personality where things really is a divine intermediary between the poet and the world in which poetry functions bringing with it an enormous increase in perceptiveness, an increased ability to understand and interpret the order of one's experience. The pleasure, the gift, is one of being able to get as far as one can into a great good place. That place is the poem itself. -James Dickey, "The Energized Man", ibid., pp.164-165.

The terror that many feel
in the silence of infinite spaces
when the wind blows whistling
through the edges of the doors
and windows on a cold rainy night
at the edge of a great sandy desert
in a new suburban house
with the garden not-yet-planted,
or in a thousand other infinite spaces
on this whirling ball,
I have not often felt.

I have for many a long year,
since somewhere in my teens,
seen the universe as a benign place
and a meaningful one, purposeful,
a direction to an evolutionary process
and poetry, imagination, aliveness
fill the space, give me a feeling
I have lived and defined that order,
meaning, purpose, reality.
I have sensed I am nothing.
Out of this nothingness I attempt to become.

In this attempt I begin to live, to write
and to use my imagination to enrich
all that I live for and believe,
all that I see in this dizzying universe
of suns, moons, space--
this abode of dust on my way to
the heavenly homeland.

Ron Price
2 October 1995

*Bahaullah, Seven Valleys, (US, 1952), p.4.


I had already reached the conclusion that we are in no wise free in the presence of a work of art; that we do not create it as we please but that it preexists in us and we are compelled, as though it were by a law of nature, to discover it because it is at once hidden from us and necessary.-Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Passed, trans. by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.

Several of Roger White's poems I have taken and reworked the themes. I felt a little like Proust. I felt I was somehow finishing off the sculpting process, tidying up the edges, expanding on White's pithy language. I was discovering something else in the form which was hidden and waiting to come out. Here is one that came out. -Ron Price, 9:00 am, 29/12/95, Rivervale, Western Australia. See Roger White, "It is an Easy Thing to Love the Dead", The Witness of Pebbles, p.58.

I have loved the dead for years,
have talked to them in prayer
with occasional answering tears.
It is not difficult to love these souls
who can not wound or tell a lie.
They seem to satisfy some need
as we are told they can perform a deed,
a deed of miraculous force from their
special place right near the Source.
They are like some fruit beyond the seed
which small and dry would never yield-
we thought-such a full and luscious field
of grain to help us here, to help us gain.
Now who would argue with a rose?
Who'd expect a tree to turn up its nose?
Both were grown, so long, so free,
with quiet charm for all to see.
Do not tell of pain and dung
of tortured sap and spirit wrung.

Ron Price
29 December 1995

I define my poetry, my autobiography, my individuality in the context of a community of individuals. Ben Franklin did as much as America was laying its foundations and I do the same as the Bahai Faith lays its foundations in country after country, especially during these four epochs and especially in Canada and Australia where I have lived my life. I think, too, that my autobiography & my autobiographical poetry is as much a literary strategy as it is a generic category; it is like some reminiscent fieldwork on myself where I take a leap. It is not so much a leap into the past as it is an introduction of invention into my existence in a complex layering of vastly disparate elements. If there was ever resentment in my life & for years there was, healing and reconciliation has come, partly through autobiography's protean forms, partly through prayer and partly through those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence.

There remains Part 3.2 of this autobiography here at BLO, and readers with the interest are advised to go to that part 3.2

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