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The essays on the subject of poetry are, for the most part, introductions to my 78 booklets of poetry. My intention is to place as many of the essays I have written on the subject of poetry in this document.
I now have some 78 booklets of poems totaling over 7000 poems and some four million words(circa) for the period 1980 to 2015. Each booklet of about 100 poems has an introduction and it is these introductions that are found here. These introductions try to place the booklet of poetry in context, a context that is my society, my religion and my life. There are, in addition, several other essays on the subject of poetry.

Essays on Poetry:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section VIII Poetry

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and A Study in Autobiography
What follows is Part 2 of an earlier document with the same title Pioneering Over Four Epochs(7th edition) found here at Bahai Library Online(BLO). In time, hopefully, I will add a Part 3. In time readers will also find here a 8th edition. This document tries to provide, with Part 1, a brief overview of my 2500 page(font 14, 400 words/page) autobiography or memoir. Those wanting to read more can go to eBookMall and find a third edition of this same work with the same title Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Readers can also find my writing in book form at and 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.

I should reiterate at the outset that readers will only be interested in this document if they are interested in the interplay, the interconnectedness, the interlock, between one Bahai life, the wider Bahai community and the general society in which this Bahai has lived in the last four epochs of Bahai history, that is the years 1943 to 2009.

This work also provides a retrospective taking in the years that are the meeting of my parents, the Bahai teaching Plan beginning in 1937 and more generally the years back to the very start of Bahai history with the birth of 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 process of self-renewal in which I was engaged, a process that occurs in the act of writing as I scrutinize and recapture my inner and outer life.

As I pointed out when introducing Part 1 of this work at the Bahai Academics Resource Library(BARL), 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-anged 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 unity and coherence to the overall text. I can only add, not really in defence 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. This wide-angled lens takes in a very wide ambit, virtually all of Time and Space.

I see this project as both a priviledge to write and an impossibility 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 use life-writing to voice complaints, make observations, write analysis and theorize about what makes them them and what makes their society the way it is. Writing for these academically inclined people isgrasped as a social practice which creates meaning as well as communicating it. The writing transforms the person, the writer, from silent witness and participant into engaged survivor. For this autobiographer, autobiography is not so much generic category as it is a literary strategy for, as Jean Paul Sartre once wrote "to write is to act." When I write an essay, a poem or, indeed, this memoir, I don't set out to teach directly. The Bahai writings and an immense print and electronic media do this with their burgeoning resources. I set out, usually, on a mission of self-discovery. I set out to find what I really think about a subject. I don't have fixed opinions or views when I start to write; it's writing that forces them out of me. I suppose there's a certain element of showmanship, of display, of play. But for the most part I'm really trying to figure out what I think of certain things.

I trust that what may appear initially to readers as extraneous or irrelevant, inappropriate or unnecessary--events, ideas and commentary--may come in time 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. This memoir is also more the record of multiple versions of the self in the guise of a self that has the appearance of being the same. 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. As the early years(60-65) of my late adulthood became the middle years(65-75)of late adulthood I like to think my life was characterized, as Alexis de Toqueville put it, the quiet possession of something precious. He wrote: "that which most vividly stirs the human heart is certainly not the quiet possession of something precious but rather the imperfectly satisfied desire to have it and the continual fear of losing it again."(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America) I could only say "sometimes, Alexis, sometimes."

Readers will hopefully by now have come to understand the meaning of the broad play of my mind, the reminiscent fieldwork on myself, the 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 a fine thread of many colours. As I contemplate 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.

It will take a certain intellectual posture on the part of readers, though, to wade through my 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 orfrom my life. I actually enjoy reading this work, a work in which I develop, as the sociologist Michel Foucault put it, 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.

"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 comedian and icon Barry Humphries, that life in Australia may be too boring to merit a literary record. But I am not an Australian; at best I am a hybrid having migrated here at the age of 27 in 1971. I am also not a self-absorbed self-promoter who is happy to talk endlessly about my favorite subject, myself; 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. Like that Australian-commedian Barry Humphries I write this to amuse myself and hopefully others.

I am not as hooked on applause, though, as 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 it is not strong as it once was. Whatever felt need for popularity does still exist it is satisfied on the internet in little ways, here and there, in nanoseconds and spread over 1000s of sites. 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).

Solomon also says that the adventures and the education of Quixote were shaped by the imagination, passionate commitment and moral vision of Cervantes. I like to think that these memoirs are also shaped by similar inner forces for this work is no leisurely stroll through my youth and adulthood. I like to think, too, that, as the memoirist Anais Nin once wrote, that "the personal life, deeply lived, takes a person beyond the personal" and so it is that much of this memoir takes both myself and readers far away from the personal, from my own story. This work is far from being a series of stories about my life. The first edition of this work, written in the years 1984 to 1993, took this narrative form of seemingly endless personal anecdotes and it bored me to death. I had to take another approach if I was to inject a sufficient amount of life into the work to give it a vitality to keep writing.

I found as I continued into later editions that the images of the past came to possess subtle secrets, insidious and complex arts for keeping me exploring their meaning when meaning could be found. They bribed me with their complexity, their beauty and the authroity of their intensity. Like Henry James whose work was written in the shadow of the threat of being engulfed by memories in over his head, I must surrender succumbing to the tangle of memories as incidents pull at my sleeve as I pass. There are so many imponderable extracts: loitering summers in my youth when occasions seem to stay and be tasted for their faint sweetness; shocking or bewildering events which melt into some succulence for my mind or like some resolute verbena insinuate themselves through the socket of despair's bleached skull; my memory moves as through an apartment or large house hung with garlands and lights, so many pieces of furniture and memorabilia. I only have to breath for an instant to see them again flush with colour and texture, to tenderly snuff the candles and see them twinkle afresh. And yet, I withhold myself from immersion in those memories and become occupied with the bonfires of thoughts kindled in my mind by their image and meaning, their flush and flare, their gleam and glow. I also become preoccupied with apparitions, their ghostly faces and their silent stares. Coherence comes by increasing degrees through my assiduous editing and the language I use to shape the experiential reality and reconstitute it.

Although I could accept some of Paul Hernandi's view(See his: "On the How, What, and Why of Narrative" in Critical Inquiry, Volume 7, Number, Autumn 1980) that stories, histories and narrative or descriptive accounts help us to escape boredom and indifference(ours as well as that of other people), still I felt there had to be more to my own raison d'etre for writing this work and more to the rationale of readers who might take the plunge and have a go at what had become a massive work by the 6th edition. If autobiography is, as the poet Wallace Stevens put it, "the supreme fiction," perhaps it would not matter. But, for me, this work is far from some supreme fiction. Did this work emerge from a felt need, an urge, to enscribe my signature, to name and perpetuate my life, in a future age? I can not say for sure. But one thing this work does do and that is: it imposes a certain logical coherence and rationalization on events and a time which, when lived, had no such clarity of definition, no such coherence or stability. This work also is somewhat like a pregnancy which gives birth in the process of writing to a self, myself. But unlike the Russian Nikolai Gubsky who had no inhibitions about undressing himself in his public autobiography work, I am more inhibited.

For years I tried to convey my ideas and life in novelistic form but unsuccessully. Had I the skills of a novelist I might have been able to put my narrative into an autobiographical form like that of, say, the account of Papillon based on the story of Alfred Dreyfus. This Jewish French army officer convicted on false charges of treason in 1894 spent nearly five years of a life term before eventually being pardoned on Devil's Island, the most notorious prison island in the world. The book captivated millions as did the film. The novel Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is partly autobiographical. Here the character Oleg Kostoglotov is admitted to hospital from a gulag, similar to the gulag Solzhenitsyn experienced. This character is later subjected to internal exile in the same region of the USSR.

I could list many other examples of narrative, novelistic or memoiristic, to illustrate my point; for example, The Sexual Life of Catherine M is exactly what it claims to be: a full account of the author's memories of her sexual life, from childhood masturbation--refreshing reflections for those whose sexuality emerged before it was culturally welcome--to an adulthood as a self-diagnosed ‘libertine.' For those seeking titillation, there is no need to skip pages in this book; if there is one page in the book that does not include words of explicit sexuality, blunt reference and the lexicon of four-letter words, it is certainly hard to find. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, I do not possess the novelist's skills and my sex life comes nowhere near providing the kind of material for the glut of explicit details, which in her erotic, perhaps pornographic, autobiography, has a desensitizing effect.

Our contemporary world is overlowing with autobiographies, memoirs, life-narratives, history on DVD, video, on TV, stories of every conceivable type and on every conceivable topic. I wondered to myself between my first and second edition: does the world need yet another story of someone's life? My answer was a decided "no." Did the world need a hierarchy of stories, of episodes, for a showy account of a life and its commonalities? No again. And so I took what you might call a slanted approach, a study of the genre, of my times, my religion and myself. I was not going to leave readers in the position many are left in at the end: what made this writer tick? Readers will learn something about what makes me tick. "There are two kinds of writers," wrote Joseph Epstein the American essayist, "One is a writer who's always telling you things you never thought of or didn't know before. The other is a writer who's telling you things that you do know but that you've never quite formulated for yourself. I'm the latter kind of writer." I am in that latter category. As Epstein writes: People are often saying to me, "You know, I've always felt that, but I never really thought to put it that way." It's pleasing when that happens. Simply to give pleasure to readers in this way makes my day. As Clint Eastwood challenges the bad guys to "make his day," I figure that some readers are challenging me to "make their day" and sometimes I hope I do.

From at least the time of Thomas Sprat's often-cited History of the Royal Society (1667), modern science has expressed ambivalence about language and specifically "eloquence," favoring what Sprat called the "close, naked" style. Sprat asserts that, in seeking truth, Royal Society members commit to "a constant resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men delivered so many things, almost in equal number of words." Baconian science aimed to "read the book of nature" not interpret it and, consequently, practitioners of the new science sought a discourse which eliminated the layered flourishes of euphuistic argument. Many a modern television and cinema experience is an extension of what you might call this Enlightenment manner: a fictional illustration of a longed-for world where deceit is no longer possible and where language finds a close, unbreachable connection to the events it seeks to describe. If we know how to look for it, the truth becomes self-evident. It will, in effect, narrate itself. To put this another way, there is in many places a contemporary preference for the rhetoric of clean, hard science in places that have traditionally been sites of humanist, interpretive dialogue and debate.

As Hayden White, an historian of literature, suggests, "narrative is not merely a neutral discursive form…but rather entails ontological and epistemic choices with distinct ideological and even specifically political implications." Narrative is, from this perspective, a poor or faulty mechanism for delivering information about an event. And, because narrative knowledge requires interpretation, it can only be "read" in terms of analogies and correspondences with other narratives from other times and places. A true narrative account is less a product of the historian's or the autobiographer's poetic talents, as the narrative account of imaginary events is conceived to be, than it is a necessary result of proper application of historical "method." Referring to Paul Ricoeur, by whom he was strongly influenced, White writes, "plot is not a structural component of fictional or mythical stories alone; it is crucial to the historical representations of events as well."

To raise the question of the nature of narrative is to invite reflection on the very nature of culture and, possibly, even on the nature of humanity itself. So natural is the impulse to narrate, so inevitable is the form of narrative for any report of the way things really happened, that narrativity could appear problematical only in a culture in which it was absent-absent or, as in some domains of contemporary Western intellectual and artistic culture, programmatically refused. As a panglobal fact of culture, narrative and narration are less problems than simply data. As the late Roland Barthes remarked, narrative "is simply there like life itself . . . international,transhistorical, transcultural." Far from being a problem, then,narrative might well be considered a solution to a problem of general human concern, namely, the problem of how to translate knowing into telling, the problem of fashioning human experience into a form assimilable to structures of meaning that are generally human rather than culture-specific. We may not be able fully to comprehend specific thought patterns of another culture, but we have relatively less difficulty understanding a story coming from another culture, however exotic that culture may appear to us. As Barthes says, "narrative ... is translatable without fundamental damage" in a way that a lyric poem or a philosophical discourse is not.

This suggests that far from being one code among many that a culture may utilize for endowing experience with meaning, narrative is a metacode, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted. Arising, as Barthes says, between our experience of the world and our efforts to describe that experience in language, narrative "ceaselessly substitutes meaning for the straightforward copy of the events recounted." And it would follow, on this view, that the absence of narrative capacity or a refusal of narrative indicates an absence or refusal of meaning itself.

The fortunes of narrative in the history of historical writing give us some insight into this question. Historians do not have to report their truths about the real world in narrative form; they may choose other, non-narrative, even anti-narrative, modes of representation, such as the meditation, the anatomy, or the epitome. Tocqueville, Burckhardt, Huizinga, and Braudel, to mention only the most notable masters of modern historiography, refused narrative in certain of their historiographical works, presumably on the assumption that the meaning of the events with which they wished to deal did not lend itself to representation in the narrative mode. They refused to tell a story about the past, or, rather, they did not tell a story with well-marked beginning, middle, and end phases; they did not impose upon the processes that interested them the form that we normally associate with storytelling. While they certainly narrated their accounts of the reality that they perceived, or thought they perceived, to exist within or behind the evidence they had examined, they did not narrativize that reality, did not impose upon it the form of a story. And their example permits us to distinguish between a historical discourse that narrates, on the one side, and a discourse that narrativizes, on the other; between a discourse that openly adopts a perspective that looks out on the world and reports it and a discourse that feigns to make the world speak itself and speak itself as a story.

There is currently a global audience of two billion viewers in over 200 countries for a program called CSI: Miami. The show's ideology, the fictional portrayals, the pretense of realism in CSI: Miami must be seen by even the most devoted fan as stylized fantasy, as exaggerated wish fulfillment. Surely, for some, the show's popularity derives from the acute ironic pleasure of witnessing a supremely efficient institutional effort and the team's clean mastery of complex human situations. And one reason that the program de-emphasizes language and interpretation is, of course, the banal explanation that much of the audience for the show is not English speaking. There is less to dub when there is less said. Sadly or fortunately, such a clean and simple story, such stylized fantasy cannot be found here.

In antiquity, in the middle ages and in the early modern period as well autobiographical works were typically entitled apologia, implying as much self-justification as self-documentation. John Henry Newman's autobiography, first published in 1864, is entitled Apologia Pro Vita Sua in reference to this tradition. My work here has aspects of this approach, this tradition. One of the first great autobiographies of the Renaissance is that of the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571), written between 1556 and 1558 and entitled by him simply Vita, Italian for Life. He declares at the start: 'No matter what sort of person one is, everyone has to their credit what are or should be seen to be great achievements. If that person cares for truth and goodness, they ought to write the story of their own life in their own hand; but no one should venture on such a splendid undertaking before they are over forty'. I could list so many more works that fill the pages of the historical record back to the Greeks and the Hebrews in western civiization, although as I point out elsewhere, autobiography as a genre did not emerge until the romantic period in English literature.

Had I the skills of a historian, a sociologist, a psychologist or indeed any one of the many specialists in the many fields of the social sciences and humanities that connect in some way or another with memoirs, I might have witten quite a different book; if I had the skills of a movie-maker I may have been able to make a bio-pic, had my worldviews and life orchestrated in a visual medium and gained a popular audience in the millions--if of course I had been successful in such an enterprise. This autobiography or memoir, for I use these terms interchangeably, is in many ways a pot-pourri, an interdisciplinary mix for a coterie. This explanatory and opening note here is intended to provide readers at this beginning to Part 2 with both a description of this lengthy literary product and a warning as to what they are getting themselves in for, if they have not yet read Part 1 and are coming to this part of my memoir somewhat cold as it were.

With the rise of public and mass education, cheap newspapers and cheap printing since, say, 1750, modern concepts of fame and celebrity began to develop as well. In the last two and a half centuries the beneficiaries of this development were not slow to cash in on this development by producing autobiographies and biographies. It became the expectation, rather than the exception,that those in the public eye should write about themselves. This was true not only of writers such as Charles Dickens, who also incorporated autobiographical elements in his novels, and other English writers like Anthony Trollope, but politicians like Henry Brooks Adams, philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, churchmen such as Cardinal Newman, and entertainers like P. T. Barnum. If readers here have never heard of these men, it matters not. The world has become, in our time especially if not long before in previous times, full of people whose names are not known by just about everybody. I just wanted to point to the ubiquity of this genre since the birth of Shaykh Ahmad in 1753, since the earliest years of the history of this new religion and its critical precursors. Perhaps this ubiquity is, in part, due to the emergence of individualism, of mass education and literacy, an emphasis on self and identity and what the American novelist Henry James said was "the ordeal of consciousness."

Increasingly, in accordance with romantic and popular taste, these accounts, these autobiographies, written during these epochs, also began to deal, amongst other topics, with aspects of childhood and upbringing. This was far removed from the principles of Cellinianian autobiography with its emphasis on a detailed account of career, one's loves, hatreds, passions and delights written in an energetic and direct style. As far as my work is concerned, my account is more an exception than an expectation in the Bahai community, but these volumes are equally in the traditions of Cellini and romanticism as far as autobiography in general is concerned. At least that is how I see my now lengthy work. This memoir provides readers with a periodic analysis of autobiography, its history, its types of discourse, its philosophy, inter alia and its role in and out of the Bahai community. And all of this is done within the wider context of my life, my society and my religion. This task, this aim, is probably a bit too much to try to chew and readers may find themselves wondering: (a) what this has to do with that, (b) what certain long pieces of analysis have to do with this autobiography or memoir or, indeed, (c) if they are even in the right ball-park at all or on the right page. This work is not some narrative, not some story with a plot, a character and a climax followed by a quiet denouemont. Nor is it a simple piece of philosophy, a how to do it book. This work is many things and, if the reader enjoys the first part of the trip in Part 1, he or she may stay awhile and read this Part 2. Alternatively, may I suggest to would-be readers that they just dive-in at any point and try their luck. Anyway, it's over to you dear reader to make of all this what you will. In the end that is what we all have to do with whatever comes our way in life and on the internet, in books and in relationships.

Experience generates different things in different people, a truism if there ever was one. This is true of writers, of gardeners and garbage collectors. For me multiple desires and motivations converge on the actions I take and have taken--and will take. These desires and motivations often impede the execution of my action and they have resulted in contributions toward this tumultuous literary creation. Here, then, is Part 2 of this single and tumultuous piece of literary action, this autobiography, this memoiristic palimpest at BLO. To remind readers just what a palimpest is let me explain briefly that a palimpest is a term used by some social scientists, especially historians, autobiographers and memoirists as a description of the way people experience their times, their lives--that is--as a layering of present experiences over faded pasts, a layering of values, beliefs and attitudes over social and cultural constructs, a layering of one's life over events, among people, over landscapes, among a pot-pourri of stuff that the writer tries his or her best to synthesize into some meaningful whole.

Much of early life: neonatal, toddlerhood, childhood, adolesence and early adulthood(20-40)--seems in retrospect to be a preparing for the middle adulthood stage(40-60) and the last stage(60++) is recovering from the middle part. Perhaps that is partly because as an older adult I can look back on my life with some degree of happiness and contentment, with a feeling of fulfillment, with a deep sense that life has meaning and I've made a contribution to life. One psychologist calls this feeling integrity. Whatever psychological strength I possess, continues this same psychologist, comes from a wisdom that the world is very large and I now have a detached concern for the whole of life, accepting death as the completion of life. The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote that "what I do is me. For that I came" and that is, perhaps, a succinct backdrop, literary mise en scene, to this memoir.(Poems. London: Oxford University Press, 1948, p. 95)

Some adults reach the age of 65, as I have, and feel despair or disappointment at their experiences and perceived failures and lack of self-fulfillment. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives, wondering "Was the trip worth it?" Alternatively, they may feel they have all the answers, not unlike going back to adolescence, and end with a strong dogmatism that only their view has been correct. I occasionally feel despair due to a personal failing or perhaps due to my bipolar disorder or both. I am concerned that I am still failing and dogmatism occasionally haunts my path. In this latter case, though, I am strongly aware of its presence and regret follows quickly in its train.

As I go about writing this memoir I try to fix my attention on the many objects and experiences in my life and society; in many cases I see immediately that no-one has ever examined what I am giving my attention to and that the most elementary things about it remain to be said. I propose, then, the opening of trap-doors in my inner self; I propose an invasion of the qualities of these things. Thus the best path for me to take is to consider all things as unknown and begin again from the beginning. T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets have many lines of relevance here and so I will quote a few from the section of that poem known as 'Little Gidding.'

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.

And from another part of that poem, No.3 of 'Four Quartets,' entitled 'Dry Salvages,' we find:

It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations—not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable:
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history, the backward half-look
Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent
With such permanence as time has.

Only one kind of thing can be narrated. That thing is an event in time. And strictly speaking, we require more than one event before we recognize that we are in the presence of a narrative. And what is an event? A narrated event is the symbolization of a real event: a temporal icon expressed in words. For any given narrative there are always multiple basic stories that can be constructed. The form and feature of any "version" of a narrative will be a function of, among other things, the particular motives that elicited it and the particular interests and functions it was designed to serve. These motives, interests and functions will be as clear as a blue sky by the time readers have finished Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this memoir here at BLO. Readers should be aware, though, as I too am aware, that much of an autobiography is often never written down but it lingers uninscribed in the background.

I have taken the writing of this memoir seriously enough to treat each section as a new obligation, not just as a new opportunity for dispensing more information about a life, a society and a religion. My obligation, as I have seen it, is to reflect the tumultuous variety of experience that has spent that period in my life sometimes fighting, sometimes scrambling and sometimes playing around on the edges of my memory to get out of my head. During the near-seven full decades of my life under review here the total amount of material could occupy several Mt. Everests. It is more than enough for this internal critic of my life to deal with. Anybody who complains about the monotony, the lack of significance to their story, the unimportance of what he or she is looking at in their personal existence is really complaining about: the condition of their own soul, the fact that they don't like writing, the possibility that their examined life is not worth writing about or, indeed, one or more of many reasons that their story is not worth putting on paper. Looked at more positively, though, those who don't write their story may, in fact, be genuinely self-effacing, other-focussed, just too busy getting on with living and again one or more of many reasons.

I am not a serious student in relation to many aspects of existence, but I am a serious person who, thanks to several factors, some of which I write about in this book, sees much of the funny side of life. There are many more serious students of life than I, many who have written about it, about specific facets of it with impressive results. They write books about trends, attend symposia at festivals and conferences, compose long profiles about key personalities in the Land of the Media or about the developments in the now increasingly interdisciplinary studies in the academic worlds. Much of this literary work is honest and useful labour. In some ways it as a step up from this memoiristic meangering. In the literary world it is difficult to arrange the products in some hierarchy of social utility. I have always tried to behave as if what I was doing mattered. Sometimes I have been successful in this aim and effort. Sometimes I have failed and thought to myself "what a waste of effort and time. I should shuffle off this mortal coil and trouble not myself or others any more." But I have recently acquired the confidence to write about what I have practiced: not so much as a model or mentor for others but in some ways to demonstrate the power of negative example. I preach the issue, the labour, the activity of autobiographical writing less on my own behalf than for the benefit of anyone else coming along who might feel like turning his hand to this kind of work but doubts its signicance, its utility and even its legitimacy.

Those who do find, with Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living and that their examination wants to extend into some written form will not have to deal with a steady landslide of thoughtful letters from readers, all of whom, it turns out, are critics of their own lives too. Practically everyone who lives has a critical attitude to what they have done and not done to some extent. All the socio-political theories about how individuals, people, society and the masses should live all have some things worth emultating and some worth rejecting. The fields of political philosophy, religion, sociology and psychology among other disciplines and sub-disciplines now fill libraries and cyberspace to overflowing. We are not short on theory. Those millions of people out there who read some of this stuff and those who don't are individual and alive. Anyone into autobiography as I am who treats his reading audience like dummies will not get far. A critical memoirist who patronizes the medium can rack up some mileage, especially if he adopts a solemn tone. But he will inevitably also patronize his readers, and will thus forfeit the immense pleasure and continuous education of being in contact with their views and enthusiasms. Such was the view of Clive James regarding his readers and his columns about television. I would like to be able to say, with Clive James, that "there is not a piece in this book which has not lead to discussion, and sometimes heated argument, with friends, acquaintances or even complete strangers." But, like Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame, I have embarked on this labour of many years almost inspite of myself, driven by a restless urge to use my faculties, to stretch my mind, to let nothing of significance escape and to create something.(Margaret Lane, The Tale of Beatrix Potter, London, 1970, p.50) This work is an important affirmation of my identity. This work is also a statement. It is an effort to express my own joy and to create my own happiness. This writing is also an expression of the view, the fact, that whatever troubles I have had they were endured. I survived. It helps if the sufferer has resources of his own to sustain him. But often whatever ones resources one has, sadness and despondency can still visit the soul.

As a performer, for life has been for me one long performance: first as a child, then as a student, then as a teacher and now as a writer, I now prefer to write and to only occasionally flirt with the social rather than appearing in that world as excessively as I did for decades. The reasons for this are explored in this autobiography. Almost nothing can now tempt me away from writing. Inspite of the despondency that has been part of my life as far back as I can remember, about the age of three or four, mostly due to a combination of chance and circumstance on the one hand and my bipolar disorder and the havoc it created in my life on the other, there has also been the thrill, the excitement. If some of that thrill is not in this book then I have failed as a writer. There can be no real and useful criticism without seriousness and it is equally true that real seriousness is, at least for me, a form of controlled excitement. That man of remarkable erudition, Clive James, said this and like many things other writers have said, some of these things will be found by readers in this book.



Book One of this autobiography has taken you, dear reader, to the start of the tenth and final stage of history, as Shoghi Effendi called the years, the time, after April 21st 1963. It has also provided a brief survey of the years up to the first year of the Nine Year Plan in 1964-1965, to the beginning of anything that could be called my sex life in 1965 and to the death of my father that same year as I turned 21. Book Two will take the story and the analysis up to the time of writing this work, a writing that took place in stages, over many years of a long process from 1984 to now—2009. I will then give you a final Book Three of interviews, poetry, essays and a discussion of history.

This Book Two begins, then, with volume 3 chapter 2 of my autobiography.



"To capture one's life textually is a doomed struggle....."-Author Unknown

Western autobiography has a strong emphasis on the individual and tends to be linear and chronological; autobiography among many non-western cultures has a strong focus on community. These tend to be non-linear, circular, include flashbacks and a range of techniques involving the perspectives of others in addition to the narrative position of the main storyteller. -Ron Price with thanks to Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, Random House, NY, 1976.

By the time my father died in May of 1965, several weeks before his seventy-fifth birthday and three months after the death of Winston Churchill, that relationship with the lovely 27 year old Kit Orlick was cooling off. It was the most serious of the unserious relationships I had in the sixties before my first marriage in 1967. Kit seemed totally unmoved by the Bahai Faith and its teachings, as I have already pointed out, even if we had each been mutually moved in other ways by our relationship, however brief that movement had been. In June 1965 I saw Kit for the last time. It was the start of a Canadian summer as we walked a block away from my mother's new flat near the centre of the CBD of Hamilton, a city of 300,000 where I was born twenty-one years before.

Downtown Hamilton, like lots of downtowns, was becoming a shadow of its former self by 1965. Urban centres, romanticized in the Petula Clark song, were losing their vibrancy just as I was about to make my first plans to live in a remote backwater of Canada that had no downtown. By 2005, forty years later, Hamilton was changing for the better, but it is not my intention to discuss the changes in urban life in that city of my birth in any detail. These details can be found elsewhere, especially on the internet.

Another aspect of my life had also cooled off in the months just before my father's death in May 1965 and I describe it in the following prose-poem which I wrote over forty years later:


Shortly after I retired from full-time work in 1999 and part-time work in 2003 as well as much of the voluntary work in 2005, work I had done for decades, I saw a documentary film entitled The Weather Underground.(1) I felt a certain nostalgia as I watched this television documentary since the complex and historical origins of the group at the centre of this TV doco, the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization, could be traced back to the 1960s and particularly my second year at university, 1964-5, when I was a history and philosophy student at McMaster University in Canada. The Students for a Democratic Society(SDS) was first formed in 1960 and the Weathermen was a split-off from the SDS in 1969.

The academic year, 1964-5, was the year of the free speech
movement centered at the University of California, Berkeley under
the informal leadership of students. It was also the year of SNCC:
the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee and other
groups concerned with civil rights and anti-Viet Nam protests.
Although I never joined any of these groups, I did take part in two
demonstrations in Hamilton and Toronto in the spring of 1965. I
attended one conference in Ottawa concerned with civil rights,
voter registration and specifically the treatment of Negroes in
Selma Alabama, among other concerns. I was, for a few months
anyway, caught up on the fringe of a complex series of socio-
political movements and their milieux on my university campus.

As a result of an all-night vigil I took part in on the steps of the American embassy in Toronto I got my picture on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator. I think it was about April of 1965, although the exact month is vague now. It was the only time in my life I made the front page of any paper. The confrontation was a display of masculinity on both sides, a declaration of toughness, which sidelined women physically and morally,2 even though women made up a proportion of the protestors--one of whom slept right under my nose and my lips that night.-Ron Price with thanks to 1"Hot docs: The Weather Underground," SBS TV, 10:00-11:35 p.m., August 15th 2006; Pioneering Over Four Epochs, August 16th 2006; and 2 R.W. Connell, "Politics of Changing Men," Australian Humanities Review, December 1996.

By the time you1 got going in
that summer of '69 I was just
heading for Cherry Valley to
teach kids from the farms of
southern Ontario in grade 6
and play soccer at recess….
and the world was on its way
to the moon and outer space.

You were right, the revolution
was on its way and you played
your part by blowing things up
and I played mine by working
within the nucleus and pattern
of a new world order born in the
Siyah Chal in 1853, ground in the
mill of adversity, such a different
scene than yours was back then.

And, yes, the revolution goes on,
quietly in some places, noisy in
others, largely unnoticed, in the
hearts of millions who have no
commitment except, perhaps,
their families, girlfriends and
some leisure-time activity like
sport, gardening and watching
TV and who spiritually dropped
out with a withdrawal that is almost
deafening from a world they have
long found to be quite meaningless
at the socio-historico-politico level.
The revolution goes on just about
entirely out of our control as we
work to produce a new pattern of
human life, little by little, day by day
with a social model and a vision that
penetrates to the very purpose of life:
mine and yours, history's, the future's.2

1 The group known as the Weathermen.
2 Douglas Martin, "The Spiritual Revolution," World Order,Winter 1973-4, pp. 14-21.

August 16th 2006

In April 1965 The House of Justice had referred to a sense of an impending breakthrough in large-scale conversion. What I was experiencing at the time was a different breakthrough, one of a different order, distracted as I was by the power of sensory and sensual stimulation, during the greatest drama in the world's spiritual history. It appeared that I was not girding myself for heroism but, rather, reaching out for a palliative when fear and depression had overwhelmed me. The world's confusion, which was increasing with every passing day, had invaded the centre of my life as it often would down life's track.

Leon Trotsky was right when he wrote that "a man must live in the service of a great idea." But I was finding it very difficult in these first months and years of pioneering. In some ways the main difficulty was working out just what to do in the midst of a torrent of rain and storms, a tempest of private troubles. Some troubles, both my own and the world's, were insoluble by action. One's only recourse was acceptance and a patience that soothed resignation's quagmire. It was my hope as an autobiographer, looking back over so many years of my life, that I might exhibit a literary versatility and what might be called a sophisticated amateurism, part of the English temperament that I inherited as a Canadian, to deal with the complexities of the life I had lived. It was a job I aspired to do well. If I had the skill that Churchill had in writing his four volume History of the English Speaking Peoples, a history he wrote from 1937 to 1957, I might do justice to my life and times. Lacking that skill, I shall have to settle for that amateurism in dealing with the complexities of my life, my society and my religion.

Half of my four year post-secondary training had been completed and nearly all of my Bahai enthusiasms had been given such a shaking that they nearly dropped right out of my life. In some ways I was lucky to get off so lightly from my sexual romp. Sexual expression had become a pervasive feature of western society in the sixties; it was difficult to escape its push and pull. There is no question that had Kit been interested in the Bahai Faith I would probably have married her, for in many ways she was all I wanted in a woman and, knowing no others, women that is, in the not-quite-biblical-sense, I could hardly compare or contrast. The older I have become the more I have come to think of this as an advantage. Find the woman you want when you are young and keep her for the distance, as she keeps you and you can grow together. Serial monogamy, although superficially attractive to me in the nineteen sixties, held less and less attraction with the years.

As this serious pre-marital relationship waned my religious proclivities waxed. I blushed "to lift up my face" to my Lord so often then and now, indeed all my life "my longing hands" have so often been "ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven" of His bounty. This sense of shame certainly kept me on track but it did not prevent me from doing all wrongs. Slowly, it would seem, Bahá'u'lláh pulled me back from the prison of delight in which I was caught and the phoenix of splendour that was His Cause rose again in my life. I put it in these lofty tones, these superlatives, because I have found over forty years, indeed half a century now, that there is something otherworldly, something that is a source of immense tranquility, something that is, paradoxically, "the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden" in my experience of this Cause founded by the Ruler of the kingdom of names and the most precious being ever to walk the face of this earth.

The fact that this autobiography is lacking in many details I do not see as a problem. The insistence on entering every fact, however insignificant, into the autobiographical ledger merely because it is there, results in a pedantry, a dry and tedious literary landscape that turns most readers off. The biographer Lytton Strachey once suggested to biographers to "row out over the great ocean of material and lower down into it a little bucket" and I have tried to follow his advice. It is the sheer girth of a work that dooms many contemporary autobiographies. At 2600 pages this work is doomed to extinction for this reason. If it does find a life it will be among a coterie so small as to have little to no significance in the wide-wide world. My aim is to produce a book that gives me a voice, that may contribute in its own small way to a wider culture, but I am not creating a literary monument. I do not believe biggest is best and if my book possesses an elephantine quality it is because, like those biographies of the Age of Empire, its author has come to possess what he likes to think is a deep familiarity with the world he has come to inhabit and an even deeper familiarity with his own self.

The mothlike spirit, the gentle life of the heart with its embryonic spiritual belief, within me had nearly died. Perhaps it was the paradox of choice that I was being tossed about with, that was part of a life of living and burning. The first three years of pioneering certainly provided a burn. Many people lack persistence and staying power in the face of difficulty. Paul Johnson says this was true of the great writer Tolstoi except in his true trade, his writing. When I compare myself to my second wife, perhaps the only other human being I have come to know to any depth, I don't seem to have that staying power. I think the fact that my wife and I are still together is due to her persistence. I have often felt like leaving but, when the point came to pack the bag, I don't think I had the courage and, in later years, the adventureousness. The relationship had become too comfortable even if it had had its tensions and dissatisfactions. The Bahai writings say that God does not test a soul beyond its capacity. If that is true, I have often felt that the measure of my capacity to withstand hardship could be contained in a thimble. Perhaps one measures one's thimble in retrospect. Of course, others, reading this work, might see in me a gallon measure of capacity to endure suffering. We all judege and see things so very differently.

So it was that I entered the third year of university still without any clear direction as far as job, career and future employment. All my subjects in this third year were units of sociology, thanks to Kit Orlick and her intoxications in what had become the dry and depressed life of a young man being thrown around by manic-depression. I had certainly found a new lease on life but I think it had more to do with those complex and elusive elements of body chemistry and several injections of erotic stimulation, not any spiritual and idealistic behavioural pattern in my everyday life. Of course, I knew nothing of this back then. On the first day of autumn in 1965 I was on my way to my first classes in: sociological theory, the sociology of the family, social control, comparative social systems, the sociology of work and research techniques. I was comfortable and I would sail through the rest of the year, my final year of university, on a slightly manic hit/high of that body chemistry and much milder injections of the erotic not so much with Kit who faded into the woodwork that summer, but with a new girl who appeared on my sensory horizon and who lived in Guelph.

I could certainly provide more detail here, the kind of detail that evokes many a scene with visual precision, as many a biographer has done back to Boswell and Johnson. Being there helps, although not always. The compact biographies and autobiographies that come out of the English tradition are, on the whole, absent in the United States. Australia, Canada and the USA are all amorphous, diverse and far too sprawling in their sheer immensity to produce compact life-stories or so it has been stated in overviews of those autobiographical traditions. I'm not blaming geography for this sprawling autobiographical product of mine, just using landscape as a partial explanation for this burgeoning book. But, however long this memoir may be, I trust readers will find here an imaginative reconstruction, a reconstruction which extends an emotional sympathy to myself, my religion and my society-I hope not too much.

By December 1965, though, when the Universal House of Justice raised its call for two hundred more pioneers, I had begun to acquire that sense of mission and purpose which had slipped to the periphery during the sensual assaults provided by Kit Orlick and that girl in Guelph who, by December 1965, had also slipped to the periphery and right out of the narrow constellation of my erotic life. I had left behind me, at least eight months before, that socio-political involvement that I mentioned above in that prose-poem. The key that began to unlock my sense of purpose was a deepening institute, a weekend series of talks in Chatham Ontario, a town that had been in the nineteenth century the end of the underground railway. It was the place where former slaves arrived in the freedom of a new country. I have often thought that at the time, in October 1965, I was one of those modern slaves to my senses and, more recently, to my intellect. There in Chatham, though, I found the beginnings of a freedom from myself that would take a lifetime to really attain. In retrospect it could be seen as a new prison, one that has been engaged with the Most Great Prison in one way or another ever since.

In October I heard the talks of two men: Jameson Bond and Douglas Martin. What they had to say and how they said it galvanized my being. Just about overnight I decided to pioneer among the Eskimo, to go to teachers' college after finishing university and to serve this new Cause in a remote outpost of Canadian society. It would take nearly two years to achieve that goal and that story follows in the pages ahead. Most books, writes William Allingham, are records less of fullness than of emptiness. I had certainly felt a profound emptiness in the first years of my pioneer experience. It was an emptiness that I did not seem able to fill and the years of employment ahead, at least the years before leaving Canada in 1971, did not fill that need to belong. The major collective centres: family, job, the opposite sex and marriage, material comforts and success, although each partially successful in their own way in my life, seemed to require some larger, wider commitment. That commitment, for me, took a big step in that weekend in Chatham in October of 1965. It became, as Victoria Glendinning called it, and has been all these years, my elsewhere community.

And as I look back on these seminal events in the trajectory of my lifeline from a distance of more than forty years; as I touch down on these highlights, these crucial decision-points, the memorable experiences, I can see the truth that Allingham expresses here. There was for me, as there has been for millions, a kind of hell of frenetic passivity in life in these four epochs, especially in the first and second epoch. It gradually turned into a heaven of often frenetic activity in epochs three and four. This dichotomy is not a simple one for life in all these epochs had both heavens and hells ad they provide the stuffof this narrative.

Working out how to live, what to do, where to find meaning, what to avoid, whom to marry, when to marry, what career to follow, whether to go fishing this afternoon or to watch the movie was, for decades, a conundrum. It is only in these years of my late adulthood, over 60, that these conundrums have significantly dissipated. This hell, as I say, could just as easily be called a hell of frenetic activity. It seems to me that millions become so adjusted to this hell that it became a normal behaviour pattern. Of course, it is not always experienced as a hell; sometimes the spaces seem to be filled to overflowing with life's rewards, life's juices.

Virginia Woolf put it this way: "We are porous vessels afloat on sensation, sensitive plates exposed to visible rays. We take the breath of voices in our sails and tacking this way and that through daily life we yield to them." Some live their lives from one great individual moment to the next, tumultuous thoughts and feelings transform chaos into meaning as they struggle to understand the violent moods of their soul. They learn to absorb what the fiery, the violent and the desolate moods might teach and to express heightened moments of remembered intensity, partly due to a sensitivity to the shudderings and inconsistencies of life, partly due to a gradual awareness that this is their road to survival, partly due to incapacities in other domains of life and partly, perhaps, to those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence and His many earthly gifts.

In the 1960s and 1970s I learned these things largely unobtrusively, largely indirectly, for the most part quite unconsciously. In the 1980s and 1990s the whole thing slowed down and by the new millennium I felt I could finally make a beginning again. I could tack through daily life without the frenetic passivity. The desolate moods eventually disappeared; the shudderings of life softened and a watchful Providence gave me new and milder tests to occupy my soul. I found, quite insensibly and without realizing the significance of the process until at least my fifties, that the Bahai Faith had provided a new kind of civic life, a new kind of civility, which I scarcely appreciated for it was so unobtrusive in its acquisition and expression in my daily life. I had been given a master plan back in the late 1950s and early 1960s and an interpretive and emotional complexity emerged as an overlay on this plan, this metanarrative, this explanatory pattern. The application of this plan to the complexity of my life seemed to take forever. The journey was slow and arduous--and still is in my mid-sixties. But along the way, over those several decades, there were many signposts, many defined forms, many decisions that helped me orient myself, enrich and evaluate my day to day life. I was not destined, as so many are in our western capitalist, consumerist, society, to experience an impoverishment of quality in my activity as more material goods were acquired. Indeed, by 1973, even amidst a heart-rendering divorce, I had begun to acquire that first attribute of perfection that 'Abdu'l-Bahá stresses in His Secret of Divine Civilization, namely, "learning and the cultural attainments of the mind."

As I try to translate this experience, indeed all my experience, into an autobiographical form I am reminded of the words of philosopher Maurice Blanchot who sees in literature life's fundamental mystery. The basis of this mystery, both literature's and life's, is partly due to the written word having such power over us and yet, at the same time, being so completely estranged from the world it supposedly refers to? In this paradox, this dichotomy, lies its mystery. I am more than a little conscious of this reality as I write my narrative. When we say that literature takes us to "another world", we overstate the case, at least for millions. For all of us this escape only applies to some of the literature. There is an asymmetry of experience in literature that Blanchot focuses our attention on relentlessly. This asymmetry is partly due to literature's mystery, partly due to its potential power, partly due to its very estrangement from the world and partly due to the quintessential mystery of life itself.

There is an a-cultural aspect, too, to art and literature which is hard to accept wholeheartedly, he says. Literature seems in a curious way divorced from life. In this age of shortcuts, in which the value of literature is judged by how well it effaces itself, we are hardly aware of this asymmetry. It is denied, avoided and even denounced. Blanchot's consciousness of this fundamental aspect of literature makes him a most important writer. For he describes the experience of the writer, certainly this one as I write this work.

Before continuing this autobiographical study, I'd like to insert two short poems here, poems which speak in an interesting way to my themes. I was, in the mid-sixties, a young adult, a third generation of Canadians of English stock in Canadian Bahai history. Some eighty per cent of the 220 million people in North America lived within 1000 miles of the Hamilton complex of towns where I grew up in what was and is still called the Golden Triangle. I was, among other things:

A man is a teller of tales;
he lives surrounded by his stories
and the stories of others
that happen to him through them,
and he tries to live as
if he were recounting it.
-Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

All men are invisible to one another.
Experience is man's invisibility to man.
Experience used to be called the Soul.
-R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience

This whole autobiographical exercise is like being an artist or poet-in-residence. The finest work you produce is yourself. The life you live and the life you tell are inseparable: in some respects they are twins, in other ways they are like friends, members of the same family or, indeed, hardly comparable. As we live, we organize and reorganize our story; we create ourselves as we go along. Charles Hartshorne, the major process philosopher in the last half of the twentieth century, says this is the ultimate reality: self-creation, making ourself, self-construction, self-fabrication. Your life-story happens on several levels: the outside story, the story at the level of existing, the events; the inside story, is your interpretation of these events, your meaning, your creation; it is what you do with what happens to you. The third level is the level you project to the world. Somewhere here is my everyday self that is seen and has been seen in a multitude of ways by those who have known me. This level for me is also my autobiography. The fourth and final level is the impression my story creates on others. It is their reading of my story, my life as I write or tell it and their reading has a thousand meanings from something profound to something quite meaningless.

Beyond these four levels, as Gregory Bateson argues, life for most of us is an improvisatory art; we make it up as we go along. Although it may be that the world is in-between stories, the Bahá'í feels he is part of the new story, part of mankind's one great story, the grand symphony that this world is, as Joseph Campbell calls it. My own story, told in many forms in this autobiography Pioneering Over Four Epochs, is an attempt to relate my small micro-world to the grand opus, as it is enviseaged in the Bahá'í literature. It is also a linking of past, present and future in some story-form, some alluring sequence. Hopefully the sequence is helpful or pleasureable to others. As Montaigne once wrote, the process is not easy because ideas are fleeting, difficult to define and often vague. Often it seems like a storm of thoughts blowing in my head, a storm that is quite impossible to order.

"All serious work must be at bottom autobiographical" says Thomas Wolfe: novel, poetry, autobiography, essay, etcetera. And we continually edit this story, we continually confer meaning and purpose, thus rescuing our story from randomness through some simple narrative lust. But, as I said above, for the Bahá'í there is still a master plot, a master theory, within which our life is but a sub-plot. However tedious, mundane, routine, repetitive, boring, uninspiring, smoothly ticking over our life may appear there are tensions and conflicts which never go away and which, unresolved or resolved, are one of the major sources of our meaning and purpose. The reader of autobiography, of my story, gets a neat package, gets some equilibrium, with passions spent, even though life is not so neat. The equilibrium is dynamic and passions are far from spent. Life often appears in the end like a daydream, "bearing the mere semblance of reality." Carl Jung says that we "can not know what we are really like. We can only experience ourselves as a scientific problem." Autobiography is an attempt to unravel this problem, to face the reality of life that we are often reluctant to face. Part of the problem is not that the autobiographer faces a blank page but, rather that he faces a mind over- filled vastly overfilled with mountains of experience higher than Mt. Everest and deeper than the deepest ocean abysses.

There is a pattern of build-up, climax and relief, a sense of what's next. These are found in the world I create as much as the plot that is developed. This is especially true due to the multiple-genre format to my autobiography. No matter how meaningful, how accidental, how significant or insignificant my story is, I can not help but be concerned with the literary. In fact, my guess is that most people never write their story because they are beaten by the literary. The literary dimension is simply too much for them. They really prefer gardening, or reading, or sewing or one of a thousand things. They are beaten, too, by the idiosyncratic, by the endless sense of life being in transition. Life, too, as we get older, gets longer, bigger, deeper, thicker and, thus, harder to put down. It seems to elude logical meaning, directionality, obvious and unquestioned improvement. It's all too complex, too beyond definition and the simple story.

I used to think, for example, that I was a pretty good guy, one of the better human beings around the place. I was much more blinded to my sins. When I said the Long Obligatory Prayer and I came to the part toward the end where it says "my back is bowed by the burden of my sins" I had trouble thinking what my sins were. Now, though, that I have lived forty more years and collected so many sins of mission and commission I have no trouble saying this prayer and finding in myself a host of sins in all categories.

"This world is not conclusion", says Emily Dickinson, "a sequel stands beyond". Perhaps those who have no sense of sequence or a sequel beyond find the whole idea of writing their story depressing. For me, Emily's words are so appropriate to my own story and I weave that "sequel which stands beyond" as best I can into the texture of this life. It is not conclusion; it is continuity. The neat chapters in my life, even my view of the afterlife, are culture-bound and held together by a sub-culture, the sub-culture of my religious beliefs, attitudes and values.` Whatever the chapters, whatever the sequel, the origin and end of autobiography converges in the very act of writing. Everything collapses into the act of producing the text. That which does not collapse, does not find a place and is left in the home of the nameless and traceless, an oblivion which the world will never locate.

One of the main features of this autobiography, indeed most autobiographies if not all, is narrative and identity. Both narrative and identity are at the core of any coherence that this writing possesses. Peter Brooks, a psychoanalytically oriented literary theorist, puts this concept, this idea, as follows: Mens sana in fabula sana: mental health is a coherent life story, neurosis is faulty narrative. Continuity, in my opinion, is at the centre of coherence. It is one form of coherence and the one that is specifically related to my narrative since it operates in time. Time is unquestionably a basic constituent of narrative. Continuity is a chronological linkage between the main three temporal dimensions in which we all operate: past, present, and future. In some ways this is only stating the obvious. But it is this linkage, characteristic of both stories and narrative identity, that is destabilized by illnesses. And it is the implicit or explicit assumption of continuity that underlies the experience of disruption as one of the traumatic aspects of illness. In this autobiography, in my own life story, disruption by illness certainly destabilized my life on several major and a multitude of minor occasions.

Other major and minor disruptions also occur in this story. They represent a critical core of this narrative. They are part of many of my life's splits into the "befores" and "afters." They permeate not only my life story shadowed as it is by varying degrees of personal tragedy and catastrophe, but also all life-narratives characterized by turning points such as migration stories, conversion stories, etcetera and or any one of the multitude of traumas people experience in life. Readers will find these tragedies and these turning points occuring here as they do in different ways in all our lives. These disruptions often make one feel a little like those Heraclitans of old who believed one could never step into the same river twice, so profound were the changes that take place in our lives. In the several periods I have had of lived chaos my reflections have also been chaotic and consequently any story-telling I might engage in confused, if not impossible. Telling this story and even more so writing it, as I am now doing, is a way of taking control, creating order, thus keeping chaos at bay.

Perhaps disruption, then , is more the rule than the exception. Sometimes narrative can present the burning process of life in too clean a fashion and the transformation that has taken place as too complete. Such an approach to narrative can implicitly deprecate those who fail to rise out of their own ashes. Often, too, we rise out of our own ashes, but descend in some of the quieter, silent moments of despair and anguish and that sense of transformation which we went through evaporates. The phoenix has risen but just as quickly it descends and wonders if it has ever enjoyed any fight at all. Fragmentation settles in for a moment, a few minutes, an hour, a day. My defense of, my brief reference to, fragmentation is at least partly motivated by the desire to legitimate and respect its reality in my life. Whether my construction of continuity or transformation is an attempt to control the anxiety of disruption, indeed, the several questions bound up with this discussion, I leave these provocative notes with readers to chew over.

One thing that I have found difficult to insert, include, add to this narrative is the whole conception of place. It is important to me in my understanding of the culture, the many cultures I have been a part of. Place is intensely personal but it is also a neutral category that helps in a curious way to define who I am. The link between place and myself, though, is complex. The houses I have lived in and the places I have worked in, the houses, halls and dozens and dozens of spots I have visited, drunk tea in, chatted to people in are all part of the landscape of my life, making my consciousness strangely horizontal.

Little did I know, indeed it was impossible for me to imagine, when my homefront pioneering life was in its early stages in the mid-1960s, that I would come to live in 37 houses in the years 1962 to 2002. Many of these houses, homes, are virtually meaningless to me now or, to put it more accurately, my memory can hardly bring some of them back into focus. In other ways, some of these houses seem to serve as starting points, as mnemonic devices, from which I aimed to get somewhere, to travel somewhere, do something. For movement has always provided for me a sense of difference between the past and the present. Really, it is impossible for me to even imagine this story without a base, a foundation, in place, in location, in landscape, in land, in the world and its several continents. Much of this experience, indeed most of it in more than forty years of pioneering, was not unlike that which characterized the experience of those in small settlements in North America or Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were morally demanding; there were constraints on individualism. There was always the capacity to move elsewhere. This latter fact promoted the extension of the Cause even further.

Mark Twain has sometimes been considered the first great American traveller. As far back as 1853, at the age of 18, his travelling began. His was not the ‘grand tour' of those enamoured of classical civilization. His was not the safe and secure, the comfortable and easy; he seemed hell-bent on seeking out the dangerous and the difficult. This is what makes a journey; this is what a journey means. So it was to Twain and so it has been to millions of travellers. In our age of the fast track and the fast lane often the traveler is suspended in an airplane as in a space capsule; he or she neither ages nor remembers. Life starts again on arrival. Torpor, stupor, listlessness, lethargy is often associated with travel-the long trip in the car, the train, the plane. Then there are the forms of disequilibrium: seasickness, nausea, bad headaches, temporal dislocation and spacial disorientation, lost time, other time. Twain seeks out the dislocations and tells readers about them in fine detail. Space and time are liquid, sometimes blurred or warped or distended. For when we travel we are experiencing a ride of passage. I've often wondered why Twain seemed to focus on failure even what he calls the "systematic monotony" of failure. Perhaps, like Twain, that is what we want when we travel. There is nothing surprising about humans seeking encounters with what seems threatening to their comfort, pleasure, and safety. What might be slightly more strange is our refusal to acknowledge that odd--but important--behavior.

Paul Bowles, an American novelist after WW2, selected the wonderful title Without Stopping for his autobiography. It's a title that indicates that he never arrived and never returned, that he engaged in a continuous passage. That continuous passage, a characteristic he largely shared with Henry Miller, allowed readers to see the three characteristics of passage: danger, trance, and failure, in all of his travels. Incessant movement through incessant dangers, in a dream-like trance and lost to the activities of home are the themes of much of Bowles' writing. And all of this is a means to an end writes Bowles. It's going "there" and being "there" for which we quite strongly show our need, our craving. It's a craving for the new, for fresh experiences that break or extend our notions of ourselves and our fellow humans as well as our world. It is a notion that begins while we are at home and functions to take us into some other space or place.

More of us than we might suspect would agree with Paul Bowles when he declared "Each time I go to a place I have not seen before, I hope it will be as different as possible from the places I already know." We love the surfaces of the familiar but we love our ruptures, too, and need them. We all do. I think that is true of some of us, but not all—and it depends on what time in our lifespan. It was true of my desires for adventure and change back in the early decades of my life, early in my pioneering life. But after 40 years of it, say, 1959 to 1999, I yearned for the familiar and the same, the routine and the comfortable. Adventure was something I came to prefer in my mind, as long as my body did not have to go anywhere. Even here, though, the course of true love, of one's true desires and wants for physical movement and adventure of stasis, never do run totally smooth, as Lysander is want to say in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

There are, of course, aspects of life in which, as Shakespeare says, "the wheel is come full circle," by which we mean that someone's actions have passed through phases only to return to their starting point, a starting point to which we might ascribe to the inevitable workings of Fate--but not necessarily so. The only child that I was back in the 1950s, that child of middle aged parents who amused himself by himself, that learned to be alone so much of the time without anxiety and with only his mother around the house is now, half a century later, doing the same thing, amusing himself by himself.

"Men and women of little interest and no distinction," writes Anthony Storr, "feel impelled to record their life-stories." Storr goes on to say that such people are often less imbedded in a social nexus, feel impelled to make their mark in some individual fashion, are less dependent on others and ignore convention. All these factors I could apply to my life, especially as I have approached the middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80). Writers, generally, come from the middle class, where privacy is more easily obtainable and where solidarity with friends and neighbours is not so stringently demanded or desired. In addition, and finally on this note of the solitary, one's relationship with the divine and happiness itself is often easier to achieve outside of human relationships. This has certainly been true of my life now that I am in my sixties, but I dwell on this topic in many places in this length y work.

Whatever degree of that tendency noted by Tocqueville in relation to American life in the 1830s, that same tendency of Bahá'ís, indeed, of all peoples in the West where I had lived and had my being more than a century and later, to isolate themselves and "withdraw into the circle of family and friends" leaving the greater society to look after itself was to some extent unavoidable. The withdrawal into a small-town, small community, family, some localized, collectivized and communal orientation was always there, but the outreach was impossible to totally stifle even when few responded to the reach as was often the case with the Bahá'ís whose outreach during these epochs was irrepressible. Individualism, too, in its diverse forms, was never overcome by the inevitabilities of conformism in the Bahá'í groups I was associated with over the decades. The comparison between Bahá'í communities during these epochs and the communities of early American and Australian history is an interesting one but not my purpose here. There are myths surrounding both and I'm sure future historians will excavate the current historical sites and reveal any inaccurate and distorted representations of the actual situation.

The various people mentioned in my text are infinitely more complex than those who appear in novels. If I had the skill I might create these complexities for people to enjoy in fiction form. I could define them, analyse them and give them depth and texture. But I will leave this to others and to future generations. What makes them more complex than those characters in novels, at least for me, is that I became accutely aware of these complexities as a result of getting to know them in their daily lives, in their homes, around kitchen tables, in various microcosms. As I say, if I had the skill, I might create their lives on paper, on the basis of the reality of their lives. Sadly, I can not develop their personalities in a world of fiction. I have found this too difficult to do and, for the most part, I have left this in a separate file as a separate subject.

Although these people are known to me more intimately than the myriad strangers in my life, the host of associations who just crossed my path in the work place, in other interest groups that I joined, in the media, in neighbourhoods and in the towns and cities I lived, I never entered 99.9% of their homes. Even the ‘best known' remained, as I moved into my sixties, enigmatic, elusive, shadowy, incoherent, contradictory—strangers in a strange land.

None of those whose lives I came to know more intimately occupy a central place in this story, though, and for the most part their place could best be described as peripheral. Partly, of course, this is because I have moved around so much and most of the people that have been in my life have disappeared from my radar screen. There are a few in my address book in towns I shall never see again, in a country I shall never see again, or they have passed away or are part of that great jungle of humanity that is filled with literally hundreds of people I have known but for many strange and elusive reasons it is not likely that, in this earthly life, I shall come to know them in any intimate sense. I noticed, just the other day, that the address books I had until my late thirties, have virtually no one in them who continued on into my fifties and sixties, except a small handful of family members.

This should not be a concern especially in the light of the following vivid comments of R. D. Laing: "your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man's invisibility to man." But in another sense, the workings of our minds are perfectly visible to others in our actions and the workings of autobiographical minds like mine or fictional minds in novels are perfectly visible to readers from characters' actions. The conjectures, the hypotheses and the opinions of readers can make all sorts of constructions about who I am. I'm not sure I'd go all the way with Laing, but there is enough truth here to make a useful point.

The Bahá'í Faith, of course, occupies the pivotal position in the landscape of my mind. Jerome Bruner, famous educator in the last half of the twentieth century, once wrote that "perceiving and remembering are themselves constructions and reconstructions. What is laid down is not some aboriginal encounter with the real world, but is already highly schematized. There is no mental reference shelf of our aboriginal real world encounters." That is why, as Porter Abbott argues, "to recapture one's life textually is a doomed struggle with inherited literary forms."

Many theorists of autobiography these days say that there is little to distinguish autobiography from the novel. Both are acts of intentionality; both are corrupted by the present; both are stories more told than lived; both aim to make connections between a disparate, heterogeneous experience and some unified totality; both are narrative: dreaming, remembering, hoping, despairing; both surrender to the randomness of of life and action; both have to deal with what often seems like life's messy, irrelevant, redundant and contradictory clutter; both deal with the ordinariness and triviality of people's lives and their efforts to find significance.

And so it is that many writers flee from autobiography because they want to flee from their personal narrative and its conception of sequence, from the riddle of self, from what they see as a factitious and fictitious coherence consciously or unconsciously introduced into their path, their life, from the telling of their secrets, from what they see as the impossibility of the very existence of autobiography. Like the poet Sigfried Sassoon who had become alientated from himself due to WW1, many writers in the last half of the twentieth century became alienated from themselves and their societies by a different set of contemporary horrors. During the years 1980 to 2000 there was, therefore, a shift from fact to fiction in the writing of autobiography. But this was not true in the case of every writer of autobiographer. It was not the case in my own writing. I wanted my work "to be good medicine for distempered times" the way Benjamin Franklin's was for ours.

As central person, my role, my circumstances, my character changes again and again in this narrative. I am especially conscious of this for I am storyteller, character, audience, narrator and reader all at once. Like Sassoon, I too felt conscious of a war that had changed me, but it was a war of a quite different kind. Like Franklin, I felt in many ways my auto- biography was a rambling series of digressions. I felt, also, again like Franklin, it was a form of action. Part of the key was to "harness aspiration to possibility by small, gradual and unmomentous remedial acts and by self-discipline and self-trust." In these early years of my pioneering venture I had not yet learned the wisdom that Franklin advised, namely, to keep one's own counsel, to guard one's tongue and to proceed cautiously "given the unreliable mix of humanity." I'm not sure I ever fully learned this wisdom. But I was aware of the aphorism of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that "stories told about others are seldom good. A silent tongue is safest." It was one of His many many wisdoms I never quite fully learned to implement.

From time to time I refer to one of the primary or secondary relationships in my life. They are unavoidable. They are necessary. They have contributed so much to the pleasures and pains, the richnesses and routines, the day-to-day activities and meanings of life. This third edition explores these relationships in far more depth than the first two edition, but the potential for exploration is really quite infinite, certainly more than they have enjoyed thusfar. Perhaps in future editions these relationships will acquire the exposure they deserve. The relationships with the three central women in my life: my mother and my first and second wife, for example, all deserve much more attention than I have given them thusfar.

In both my marriages sexual ardor, or at least activity, was considerably reduced within a year or two of the wedding ceremony. That ultimate of heterosexual rituals, the honeymoon, was a period that promised much and delivered much but so much that I never anticipated—both good and bad. This is a common, a universal phenomenon. My sexual appetites did not diminish but my opportunities for their satisfaction clearly did. The pleasure in marital sexuality was mixed liberally with frustration over the years. And it was not until my fifties that these frustrations took a back seat, a more moderate place of acceptance, found a more relaxed setting in the spaces of my life. But before this cooling of the heat there were several consequential and inconsequential doses of female devotion that combined with my own narcissistic hunger, for the most part during the interval between marriages. Thankfully they were short-lived affairs without the persistent strain and intermittent depression that often characterizes these sorts of physical intimacies, relationships, when they do not end in fulfilling and lasting union. They were, too, essentially an expression of loneliness and strain; they were not about self-dramatization or an example of a taste for emotional effusion. But they were about the erotic. By March 1974 a series of intense erotic flings, begun in October 1973, were over and I was settled into a monogamous relationship once again. I have described this period elsewhere in more detail and, perhaps in a future edition I will return to the themes that are explicit and implicit here.
In October 1973, on the last night I co-habited with my first wife, I began a sexual relationship with one of my students, a fifteen year old grade ten student, Anne Mooney who lived in Para Hills where the school I taught in was located. By the end of December the relationship was over. Our relationship was not unlike that of the Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts in 1927 with a Constance Davies Woodrow who had shamelessly led him on from the moment she met him. Miss Woodrow also had a quixotic and unpredictable temperament and the inconstant Constance inevitably turned her attentions elsewhere after a few months. Roberts then turned his attention to a married woman Kathleen Strathearn, a Canadian west coast school teacher. Outwardly she possessed of all the physical characteristics that this 67 year old father of Canadian poetry, admired most. Roberts has been variously described as a womanizer, an adulterer, a rake or just a lonely man with some very human weaknesses.
Of course in my case, Mooney did not shamelessly lead me on, but I was a troubled, sexually-frustrated married bipolar man. A person who is under 16 is deemed as being incapable of giving consent and, therefore, a critical observer might use these same terms for me as the ones used for Roberts especially after and in relation to another three months of "womanizing" in Tasmania.

In December 1973 while in Sydney at Anne's brother's home, my young lover turned her attentions elsewhere and I split, as they say colloquially these days. I split to Tasmania.
In many autobiographies romantic entanglements appear tantalizingly opaque. Sometimes there is a deafening silence on the subject and at other times sexual proclivities are given excessive attention. Biographers often face the difficulty of separating a labyrinthine sex life from the rest of their subject or, alternatively, trying to merge the two and make sense of the whole. We often know a great deal about someone's sex life because they wrote it down in diaries, in their fiction and their letters. It is often the case that we know far too much. Do we need to know, for example, the fine detail: the number of times, the length of the episodes, the eccentricities, the SM, the hunt for the g-spot, if any of these potentially rich and sensitive aspects of a person's sexual life? Did the sensual intimacy bind the partners together? Whole chapters of some biographies and autobiographies concern the subjects and their wives, their girlfriends and their lovers. Readers here will not be given such a joyful, such an intimate romp, although I do not leave the subject totally out of the picture.

In this work there is the occasional hot scene but the liberal effusion of sexual activity is as rare here as it was in my life. I'm not complaining now, although in my thirties and forties I had my share of frustration and did my share of belly-aching. How much of this frustration was due to my being an only child cosseted by my mother, growing up helplessly self-centered, seeing life as one long indulgence as is so often the case with children, possessing a seemingly unshakeable egotism—or rather coming to maturity slowly or never growing up, period, is impossible to say.

My identity, then, is quintessentially biographical not biological. It is the answer to the question: what is your real, inmost story? What took place in those half a million hours, two hundred and twenty thousand days and sixty years of real autobiographical data? According to Lewis Thomas this is all we have and, after the trivia are eliminated, he says that all we get is eleven years or 4000 days or 64,000 hours, three time frames to define your period of meaningful activity in life even if we live beyond sixty. The past develops like a plot; it thickens. That is why I can write a poem about an early childhood experience and then write it differently next year. Raccontio ergo sum. I want things to come out right, I suppose; I'd like to be saved, especially from myself, my lower nature. Thus, I am religious in my persistence to tell my story, to create and define my world, to write a Grand Unified Story. I am also trying to get back time but, alas, it is unredeemable.

The memories I draw on connect what happened once upon a time with what is happening now in a process of synthesis which is quite mysterious, quite delightful and often immensely frustrating. At the core of the frustration for me is what I feel is an inability to make my story live as much as it lived in the act of living it. I read the words and they often seem flat, beyond reification. I am also conscious of just how brief the first edition of this narrative was: some eighty pages. The poetry is one simple, yet effective, way to overcome these frustrations. It conveys in quite apt, quite fitting, quite emotionally satisfying ways both my person- al experiences in pioneering and the heady days in these earliest years of the Universal House of Justice's assumption at the apex of the Bahá'í administrative system.

"Without forgetting" says Nietzsche, "it is quite impossible to live at all." The autobiographer must forget a great deal and use it, perhaps, as Graham Greene says "as compost for the imagination." We define our world very much by what we forget, by the nature or type of personality we have: gloomy, poetic, sentimental, joyful, melancholy, etcetera. Mine I might call Priceland. I'm not conscious of the type of land it is, not yet; I'm too immersed in creating this land at the moment, in defining it and describing it. We also define our world against what we might call a gestalt of pastness which is partly a prelinguistic darkness. Writing explodes this darkness and creates a new gestalt. What goes on the page flows mysteriously out of the incomprehensible moods of the present and what is forgotten in the competition among available memories.

Whatever anecdotal brilliance is created is derived from these moods, from simple literary skill, from the richly informative retrieval cues and from a host of other factors. It is these moods, this multi-factorial writing situation, as much as anything, which creates whatever wholeness comes into existence in the text. This wholeness draws more on the present, then, than it does the past. In other ways, the past is quintessential, the sine qua non of the entire exercise.

I do think my life has a certain direction, integration sub specie Bahá'í Faith. Obviously, too, there are contradictions between my personal goals, aims, purposes and what I actually do to achieve these. Until I die, though, I will try to make a comprehensible story of my life. I will try and tell if faithfully, fully and make it into one piece, a single journey. For I am conscious that the extraordinary lingers just behind the ordinary and I want to bring it out in my life and in the lives of others when it can serve as some form of meaning therapy, what Victor Frankl calls logotherapy. My imagination has been feasting for years on a diet of rich and diverse experience and rich and diverse ideas. This richness is in a narrow range of activity involving: people, places and books. "Rich", "diverse", "narrow", I could add other adjectives, adjectives which suggest a certain epistemological ambivalence. I am aware, though, of the anecdote about how Ezra Pound taught the young Ernest Hemingway to guard against over-populating his work with adjectives. I do some guarding in this text, but probably not enough to please a man like Pound.

The autobiographical act, like life itself, generates this ambivalence. It also generates lived facts, lived events, as artefacts. My poetry is part of, an expression of, these lived facts in these darkest hours before the dawn, before, while and after, the Arc on Mount Carmel was completed, for much of this autobiographical work took place in the years when the Shrine of the Bab was embellished with beauty and form on the side of Mt. Carmel. But, strangely, surprisingly, unbelieveably, "there is nothing in this world as invisible as a monument," as Robert Musil argues. There is something Musil emhasizes, which a monument is impregnated with that repels attention. Roger White makes the same point in his poem The Artefact. White says in that poem that the monument is "coffined in glass--a pity that such beauty not be seen." We "set it in a place of honour in the central square," but were not conscious of the "exquisite power" there. I trust this autobiography, while emphasizing and symbolizing larger themes, is in part a tribute to the permanence of the commitment enshrined both there and in my heart. It is difficult to convey the power the Bahá'í edifaces and terraces on Mt. Carmel possess to evoke the sublime. These monumental creations have created a space for themselves in the visual vocabulary of Bahá'í experience. For millions of Bahais it is the experience of the visual that contributes to making their faith unique. This is also true for me.

I should say something about self-deception, since there is in narration an inherent straying away from what actually happens, however slightly or innocently, a quiet but discernable progression from fact to fiction. Self-deception, lieing, secrecy, forgetfulness, confusion, gaps: they are all part of the story and our processing of the story, we who would venture into autobiography. Everything we communicate, some analysts argue, is an orientation towards what is secret without ever telling the secret. As Henry Miller puts it: "I am I and I have thought unspeakable thoughts and done unthinkable things."       We aim in our autobiography to monitor our hearts for self-deception. We aim for artistic coherence and ethical satisfaction as we attempt to integrate, analyse and identify the countless versions of our story and their inevitable secrets. This is unending work-poetic work-and it is central to self-creation. In other ways the self-deception is accidental, incidental.

Margaret Atwood, in a lecture on poetry given in Wales in 1995 said: "About no subject are poets tempted to lie so much as about their own lives."       We need to be aware of our own deceptiveness and our tendency to avoid discrepant and uncomfortable information, to block it out. Embracing this knowledge is part of the construction of our self-concept. As Yeats put it: "I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper." Well, this is mostly true for me, except that I have consulted a small handful of letters.

There were three men went down the road
As down the road went he:
The man he was,
The man folks saw,
The man he wished to be.
-Source Unknown

Our ultimate aloneness in the universe is a truth which some find frightening. This aloneness is a part of the core experience in writing autobiography, part of its very raison d'etre. It may just be that one of the best routes to self-forgetfulness, which ‘Abdu'l-Bahá says is at the heart of self-realization, is through self-understanding on the road travelled by means of autobiography.

The road, thusfar in this narrative, has taken me to December 1965 where, in Davison Michigan, I attended a pioneer training institute. The decision I had already made to pioneer among the Eskimo was consolidated. I had only to complete my several courses in sociology by the end of April 1966, enrol at Windsor teachers' college in the summer, complete the course by May of 1967 and then it would be off to pioneer among the Eskimo in August of 1967. It looked easy. It proved to be far from easy. The hurdles came both before and after pioneering.

Before pioneering to Baffin Island in August of 1967, some nineteen months away, I had three girlfriends that kept my emotional life on the boil: Heather Penrice from October 1965 to April 1966; Dorothy Weaver from May 1966 to March 1967 and Judy Gower, April 1967 to August 1967. Rather than describe the fine points of these three relationships, I'll include three poems here to suggest some of the flavour of the physical side of these relationships and at the same time not saying much that is specific to these relationships. Each girl brought much that was a source of pleasure and delight into my life and I remember much from our time together; even after nearly forty years I remember them all as if it was yesterday.


The sexual impulse is the most vehement of cravings, the desire of desires, the concentration of our willing. -Arthur Shopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 1844.

That's certainly true for some, Arthur,
but others are endowed
with desires of a different willing,
cravings with different filling,
appetites aimed at a different tilling
on the adventure of the road to death.

Personally, I've found it an annoying itch,
certainly has absorbed my concentration
far more than I have liked, wished, desired,
caused me a lot more trouble than I ever
imagined and I will be glad to rid myself,
eventually, of the concupiscible appetite's
never ending pull, its insistent urge.

I often wondered why Bahá'u'lláh
spoke so little about this thing
which has plagued me and stopped
me often from being able to sing.
1 November 1999


Poetry is like trying to remember a tune you've forgotten... A poem is written because the poet gets a sudden vision.....he juggles with sounds and associations which will best express the original vision. It is done quite intuitively and esoterically. That is why the poet never thinks of the reader. The vision has something to do with sex. I don't know what it is; it's subtle, elusive, indefineable. It's not surprising, obviously two creative forces in alliance, closely connected.

The result is a poetry of self-indulgence, the patter of the entertainer, fodder for future social historians from a poet who needs emotional isolation, from a poet who touches our hearts by showing his own, who reveals the paradoxes and enigmas of our lives by putting his own on the table, who provides, for me, perspectives on unity that emerge out of aloneness and solitude. -Ron Price with thanks to Andrew Swarbrick, Out of Reach: The Poetry of Philip Larkin, St. Martin 's Press, NY, 1995, p. 21.

He pursues self-definition,
the nature of identity,
through separateness,
exclusion and difference,
negative self-definition,
a voice of Englishness
back in that ninth and
early tenth stage of history1,
after the loss of imperial power,
diminished influence, a new value
to English experience.

A remorseful tone, secular
but communal and telling,
not untrue, not unkind, on the margins,
exposed to the beyond,
imprisoned in a personality,
something hidden,
something he has been given,
reticence, the English privacy ethic:
where difference merges
into absolute unity;
where uniqueness and loneliness
are clarified as oneness,
endless continuities
and discontinuities.

Ron Price
29 June 1998

1 1953-1963-ninth stage of history; 1963-1973-first ten years of the tenth stage of history. Larkin did not write "many poems after 1973."(ibid., p.164)


This organization of formed words, this noble energy, which comes to rest in this apparently natural, but partly artificial and mysterious place, which attempts to know the meaning of humankind and the world with clarity, form and beauty and with choice, uses the most succinct, memorable and affective speech---the poem. The engine of this process is the imagination and it tends toward greatness when it is inspired by a systematic vision of civilization, global civilization, what Jung called the big vision. Strangely, we know the real poem when we touch it. But, like sexual intercourse, explaining and doing it are only remotely connected. The poet writes poetry for the experience, the reality, the joy. -Ron Price with appreciation to Dave Smith, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press, 1985, chapter one.

There's not the tactility,
hunger not as pitched,
taken up and up,
always more to touch,
to excite, but the feelings
play with the brain,
the brain massages,
moves out, over, over and up
into unpredictable spaces,
places, surprise by joy,
don't know what's coming,
feels like it was done by someone else
when you look at it
and you can look at it,
can leave something behind
beside some wet excrescence
and rumpled sheets.

There's a fullness, a detumesence,
a relaxed ease, a feeling of coming close,
of arriving, if only for a minute,
a second, at a place of satisfaction,
at a real point-like touch.

Ron Price
7 June 1996

There was not much detumescence involved with each of these three women, the last of whom I married. With each of course there is a story. The major woman in my life until then had moved down the street when my father died and occasionally we had dinner together in her little flat until early September 1966 when I left for Windsor and teachers' college. In April 1966 the second phase of the Nine Year Plan was announced and at the same time I was writing my final exams in sociology. When the House of Justice called for heroic deeds "such as are performed only by divinely sustained and detached souls," I was only beginning to be conscious of just what that heroism was in my own life, my own pioneering trajectory. From May to September 1966 I experienced a more penetrating notion of just what heroism meant in my inner life and private character, for I had become conscious that I would have to leave my mother only a year after my father had died.
In her 1963 consciousness-raising classic, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan called the plight of the suburban housewife the "problem that has no name." These women were cooks, cleaners, diaper changers, and lovers, but they lacked identity as individuals. Their hopes and dreams remained secondary, blending with the needs of the families they nurtured. In a figurative sense, they were invisible, even to themselves. Friedan's description partly describes my mother and her description helps to explain why my leaving home in 1966 was so difficult for my mother. She had, it seems to me in retrospect, more of that umbilical cord to me than I had to her.
May 1966 also witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the writing of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. I had only just heard of them some seven months before in October 1965 in Chatham, in that southern corner of Ontario. It was a document that came to have more than a little significance to my life, especially thanks to Jameson Bond who had spent the 1950s in the District of Franklin and seemed to treasure the Tablets of the Divine Plan like these were a document for war, or what I'm sure he would have called 'the war metaphor.'

So much was happening in the wider political and social world in the sixties. It was being documented in books, newspapers, magazines and journals, on the radio, television and in the movies and has been since then as well. There is little need for me to tell any of the story here or, indeed, any of the multitude of versions of that history or the social analysis that might go with it. Matthew Hart, though, in his review of Christopher Hitchens book Why Orwell Matters, wrote that George Orwell illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, that it is much more crucial how you think and how you express what you think. Orwell, Hart goes on, thought that "politics are relatively unimportant........principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.

Orwell, Hart writes, was a man who struggled to master strongly-felt prejudices and emerge on the right side of history. The absorbing thing about his independence was that it had to be learned; acquired; won. The evidence of his upbringing and instincts is that he was a natural Tory and even something of a misanthrope. He had to suppress his distrust and dislike of the poor, his revulsion from the "coloured" masses who teemed throughout the empire, his suspicion of Jews, his awkwardness with women and his anti-intellectualism. By teaching himself in theory and practice, some of the teaching being rather pedantic, he became a great humanist.

There is no doubt that we all have to master many strongly-felt prejudices. If we are to see with our own eyes "and not through the eyes of others" and know of our "own knowledge and not through the knowledge of" our neighbour, we will have to learn this, acquire this capacity, win this victory over intellectual and social conformity. My own upbringing and my own instincts provide a base for a battle I have been fighting and will fight all my life.

Some writers, like Barthes and Foucault, see the text as something quite different from the writer who writes. The text, they argue, exists quite separately from the author. As Barthes once put it: "I am my own symbol, I am the story which happens to me."       They both see the text as something which consumes the writer. It consumes him to such an extent that both author and world become lost in the text; both endlessly disappear. Barthes claims that authors are the only persons, by definition, "to lose their own structure and that of the world in the structure of language." This gives writing a kinship, they continue, with death itself. In the process the self is obliterated. Both Barthes and Foucault agree, though, that writers must take responsibility for their work and must work with and through their institutions with the ideas in their written works. And so it is that this autobiography seeks the imprimatur of Bahá'í institutional review and support, seeks a place in the Bahá'í community and in a strange way, seeks to become something quite separate from the one who wrote it. I feel it is both me and not me in a curious sort of way.

I shall list here a few of the events of the sixties just to capture some of the flavour of the times. They are events that had a tangential relationship with my life and, in a strange way, were both part of me and separate from me. The war on poverty began in January 1964; the Civil Rights Bill was signed in July of 1964; LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President from 1963 to 1968; Marilyn Monroe was assassinated in August of 1962; Jackie Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963; Bobby in June of 1968 and Richard Nixon began his Presidency in January 1969. We took our first pictures from the Moon in 1969 and saw the blue oasis of our earth out in the middle of nowhere. These events all took place in the USA, but they seemed part of an emerging global community. In the midst of all this, in 1967, the rock era peaked or so Simon Frith states with conviction, with the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album. The 150th anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's birth in November of that year was largely incidental, certainly no more significant than that Beatles' album. At the time I had my hands full with teachers' college, my last year of school, with my impending marriage and with fifteen Eskimo kids aged 8 to 10 on Baffin Island.

In Australia the long run of the Liberals in government, begun in 1949 was nearing its end as the 1970s began; the Aboriginals got the vote in Australia in 1969. Canada had its own story, as did Europe and the U.K., Russia and China, Africa and Asia: the list is endless and it is not the purpose of this autobiography to tell this secular story in any detail. Readers can go elsewhere to many places for the story in its many forms. There are literally mountains of material and the principal concern of this autobiography is not to tell that story. Occasionally I will refer to it, like the background colour of a painting, to widen the text and the texture of my story. Global civilization emerged in my lifetime, with a 500 year warm-up begining with Columbus, with those pictures from the Moon. A true paradigm shift certainly occurred in the sixties; perhaps it was part of that tenth and final stage of history that Shoghi Effendi referred to in 1953. While I was going to university, teaching Eskimos and recuperating in a psychiatric hospital, the world began to be All Connected Now.

A generation of hippies and student activists made what is often called the modern counter culture between 1964 and 1968, the years of my early twenties, according to one writer. It was their attack on technology, work, pollution, boundaries, authority, the inauthentic, rationality and the family that was the centre of their ethos. The essence of a generation, according to the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset, is a particular type of sensibility. One study of the sensibility of the generation that came of age between 1964 and 1968 was done by Richard Flacks at the University of Chicago in 1965/6. He studied activists, non-activisits and parents.

In some ways, I feel, his study was a study of me, my generation and my parents. Since my picture had been on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator, the major daily paper in the Hamilton area, for protesting the treatment of negroes in the USA some time in 1965; since I was the only student in Hamilton in the years 1963 through 1967 to achieve that distinction, if that is what it was, I could be seen as an activist, although somewhat further west than my confreres in Chicago. My involvement in the Bahá'í Faith was also a type of activism. I was the only Bahá'í student on campus during those years at McMaster University. I have documented my Bahá'í activities during these days in a letter to 'The Campus Association of Bahá'í Studies' dated July 15th 1992.       McMaster was founded in 1957 and my activities came in its first decade of its existence. Before that time the university had been a Baptist college/university. By the 1950s that religious affiliation had ended, but the religious and philosophical influence of McMaster filtered into my life through some of the lecturers and professors I had in the years 1963 to 1966.

Flacks' study revealed that parents of activists placed more stress on intellectual and artistic pursuits, humanitarian concerns and self-expression than issues like career, material success and winning. That certainly described my mother in the 1960s. Flacks argued further that my mother's generation exhibited four value-patterns: aesthetic and emotional sensitivity, romanticism and intellectualism, humanitarianism, moralism and self-control. I think my father was more interested in winning and working to win but, by 1960, he'd given up with winning in the material world and retired to work in the Bahá'í community, for a time, and then to read his detective novels before happily and not-so-happily passing away in 1965. I'm sure there were many exceptions but, insofar as my mother was concerned, these value-patterns could be said to describe her to a tea, at least in the years of my childhood, adolesence and young adulthood.

Inevitably, the questions and issues are much more complex and can not be properly dealt with in a short space and in the brief analysis that I have provided here. My father, for example, may have had much more idealism than I have given him credit for but, in retrospect, I don't think I ever got to know him very well. I was just coming of age when he was on his last legs. He died when I was 21. At 21 I was just beginning my 'spiritual affliction,' as my mother might have termed it, with a grand vision, an urgent purpose and the need to fast in March to 6:45 pm. Forty years later it appeared that this affliction was showing no signs of losing its bite and this vision was more firmly entrenched than ever. In some ways everything I have written here is woven, as deftly as I can, around this vision.

In the introduction to the autobiography of George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, Rufus Jones writes that "There are mysterious moments in the early life of the individual which we call 'budding periods.' They are incubation crises, when some new power or function is coming into being. The budding tendency to creep, to walk, to imitate, or to speak, is an indication that the psychological moment has come for learning the special operation. There are, too, similar periods in the history of the race, mysterious times of gestation," writes Jones, "when something new is coming to be, however dimly the age itself comprehends the significance of its travail. These budding periods, like those others, have an organic connection with the past. They are life-events which the previous history of humanity has made possible." Jones, of course, is writing about the period 1640 to 1660 in England, known as the Commonwealth Period, when something knew came into the consciousness of people. The parallels, the paradigm, here are relevant to this time and this autobiography. Fox's work is literally soaked in theistic terms, what you might call a god-language. Although I have been inspired by a new Revelation, the nearly 700 pages of this autobiography do not seem to be imbued with that God-intoxicated idiom that Fox was over three hundred years ago.

This autobiography is as much interested in the process, the psychology of autobiography, as it is interested in telling my own story. Richard Beach, for example, has described the way adults who were once teachers write their autobiographies. Beach said that ex-teachers are less likely to retell events and more likely to use description than are younger writers. That is certainly true of me, an ex-teacher. Another analyst, Lynn Bloom, in her analysis of autobiography and autobiographers, says that writers, philosophers and academics tend to write autobiographies that emphasize adult performance in various ways. They focus on childhood and end with marriage and parenthood, quite often. Often, too, they carry sophisticated assumptions about strategies, subjects, purposes and readership. If readers find too much analysis here for their taste, they should keep in mind Bloom's comments here about 'sophisticated assumptions and strategies' of autobiography.

Pioneering, then, was gearing me up to a move to the far north of Canada. In September of 1966 I drove my 1954 Studebaker on its four hour drive down to Windsor to set up shop in a flat and ready myself for the first classes of primary teacher training. I'd gone down to Windsor in May, driving Dorothy Weaver's parents' yellow Cadillac but, after several weeks living in three houses and taking on the job of vaccuum cleaner salesman, I found myself very depressed, slightly or extremely paranoid depending on what day you saw me, and attempting to adjust to my role as trainee pioneer. But the fear, the paranoia, the episode of my bi-polar tendency, beat me and I retreated to my mother's flat in Hamilton where she had moved after one year of trying to live in Dundas after my dad's death.

I got a job as a Yummie Man, for the Good Humour Company, and spent the next ten weeks working eighty-five hours per week selling ice cream in Burlington, Hamilton, Ancaster and nearby places whose names I have long forgotten. I think that was the only summer in my life that I went to the movies by myself but, on the positive side I had some quality time with my mother and driving every day for so long gave me lots of time to think about the question of pioneering to the north or staying with my mother and helping her out in her old age and aloneness.

There were no girls in my life from perhaps March to September 1966, for the first time in a year, the only year in which there had been a strong input from the feminine element in my life. Dorothy Weaver had entered on the perifery, but there she remained after several weeks in May. This helped me focus on the major issue at hand: my career and my future. On the first day or the second of September I was off to Windsor in my nearly breakless car. I could see my mother crying as I drove down the street away from the flat I had spent the summer in with her, under her roof for the last time in my life.

The first letter to youth from the Universal House of Justice had gone out to youth in the week before I started to sell ice-cream. I had been at Davison Michigan at the Bahá'í summer school at the time in an intense preparation program for my pioneering ahead. The summer school was clearly, as I look back in retrospect, the consolidation of an idea. I remember talking to Douglas Martin while there about my role in the Cause. There was only one direction to go in but, due to my love for my mother and my sensitivity to her need for my support, I needed the summer months to finalize my decision. Perhaps some of the influence on my decision-making back then in 1966 was the ‘protean self' that I was developing through the sixties. This protean self was many-sided and more fluid, more appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time. It is a type of self which enables us to engage in continuous exploration and personal experiment. The emphasis is on multiplicity not fragmentation, on fluidity not fixed and firm, settled and self-assured personalities. The bi-polar swings I had experienced for four years by 1966 encouraged these discontinuities and, in the end, may have enabled me to make what was for me an epochal shift from home and hearth to Eskimo culture.

The House of Justice was "supplicating Divine confirmations expansion consolidation" in their cablegram of September 1st. Perhaps some of these confirmations showered down on me as I headed for Windsor. I'm sure my mother did not think so at the time, if she ever did. It was one of my most difficult decisions in life.

The year in Windsor, at least until early May of 1967, was occupied with studies, Dorothy Weaver, Johnny Weetaltuk, Jamie and Gale Bond and their two children. I came within a hair of marrying Dorothy, of having a big argument with Johnny, the Eskimo boy, of losing whatever virginity I had left and of getting kicked out of college for not wearing a tie and not taking my science class seriously. I got through the gauntlet, though, received a sixty-six per cent average, passed the Bahá'í deepening program and insensibly got entangled with a lovely young woman named Judy Gower who lived in Toronto. The relationship went back, and I must confess it is now somewhat hazey, to mid-1965; it got fertilzed at a Bahá'í conference in Waterloo in December 1966 and, through a series of letters in early 1967 the relationship was cemented. I asked Judy to marry me in about March or April and five months later we were married.

That summer I worked for the Motor Vehicle License Branch of the Department of Transort as a clerk in their Brantford office. I took a train to Scarborough on weekends to be with Judy and her family and on August 18th 1967 we were married on a Friday evening outside centrefield at a baseball park in Scarborough. There were hundreds of people in attendance and the next week we went to Canada's capital, Ottawa, for our honeymoon and an orientation program for those working with Eskimos. The next week we flew to Baffin Island and the town of Frobisher Bay in the District of Franklin to start our marriage, to begin teaching grade three Eskimo children and to fulfill the Canadian Bahá'í community's top priority goal.

I came across a delightful passage written by Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain as he is more popularly known, about the process of writing autobiography. His own autobiography is fragmentary, instinctive and contains often unrelated reminiscences and anecdotes. He seems to take pen in hand, like a brook running down through the woodlands as he goes on and on, and writes his narrative according to one law, namely, that there is no law. Mark Twain emphasizes that the writer must make the trip and not worry about the how.       With this liberating and refreshing concept in mind I will include the following addition to this account that I wrote with some two months to go before the end of the thirty-fifth year of pioneering, in June of 1997. I first inserted this piece into one of the appendices of the second edition of my story and it looks like it may end up somewhere in this final edition, if final edition it is.

A brief analysis of African American autobiography indicated that a large number of African American writers wanted to document their lives not so much to celebrate themselves but "because they believed that the most treasured possessions of a people are the records of their activities".       My intention here is not to flatter or raise my estimation in the eyes of some future readership, not so much to write of success as to talk of meaning and discover it even as I write, not so much to write a story of celebration as one of survival and struggle, where pride is mitigated by the elusiveness of the prize and the sense of failure in so many areas of my private experience.

My intention is simply to place on record the account of one of the many who have served in the international pioneer arena in the first half century of the last stage of history as the Guardian defined it back in 1953. It is an experience of service of a pioneer in the first generation of Canada's overseas Mission and the second generation of the international Bahá'í community's Mission.       As I have indicated previously, I think it is unlikely that many will write their accounts. If many do, mine will be just one more. Either way, I think it is important enough to write.

My first ‘up-date on pioneering', which became part of the second edition of this still unpublished work, written on 8 October 1995, mentioned that my journal and poetry had really taken over the role of narrative, although the journal has not been utilized much in the last several years. Samuel Clemens' encouragement certainly helped me take up my pen here, but there were several other factors that contributed to the rise of this third edition. In the years 1993 to 2003 there were many winter rains coming down in teeming torrents, much summer heat and the slow and unobtrusive passing of time, over three thousand days, which served as a backdrop to this third edition.

So much of the external world is repetitive, mundane and difficult to see in a perspective of significance. The ordinarily ordinary and the humanly human seem to fill up our days, our space, unavoidably. As Murphy put it in his inimitable style and phrasing: "ninety per cent of everything is crud." While I don't hold that to be literally true there is a great deal in the external world that ninety-nine per cent of humanity could never write about because they could never find the words to make it sound even the remotest bit interesting. I find it difficult and I must say, often uninspiring, to write about developments in the Bahá'í community, within my family, my work or indeed any of the external facets of my life. What I write here will be more about the inner life, more philosophical, general. Privacy, that remarkable discovery, which became a realistic possibility about the time that Shaykh Ahmad was born in the mid-eighteenth century, became for millions no, billions, of people in my time an aspiration and a necessity. Linked with leisure and comfortable surroundings, privacy became the basis for what Disraeli called, a hundred years before, "the cult of Home, the enemy of community." It was certainly the place, the domain, for me and most of those I have known in my life, for "the closely monitored, highly charged interaction...the staging area for emotional conflicts and sexual catastrophies," where the foundations for attachments were formed and where resources were amassed for any autonomous adult ventures in love, in society, in employment, in life.

The modern domestic setting, my home, provided, too, unsurpassed protection from unwanted witnesses. By the time I wanted to set down the circumstances of my life in what were these refinements to a third edition to my autobiography, I had had a lifetime of interaction, enough to last me until the day I die, or so I felt as I passed the age of sixty. As the nineteenth century philosopher Walter Bagehot wrote in 1853, "Behind every man's external life, which he leads in company, there is another which he leads alone, and which he carries with him, apart." Great painters of men have an enormous capacity for solitude, Bagehot mused. He was thinking of Shakespeare at the time. I had determined, after some forty to fifty years of really quite massive human interaction, to live a more solitary life.

But with the coming of the precurors of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and the inevitable march of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, aspirations to having a room of one's own had become virtually universal at least in the West and in the middle and upper classes. And in writing this work, that is what I had acquired. I did not become a hermit as a further exploration of this autobiography will reveal, but I did not have wall to wall people in my personal space day in and day out as I had had for years. I still responded, as I had for so many years, to expectations and intimations that these days, these epochs of my life, were associated with "climactic changes of direction in the collective life of the human race."

This autobiography provides readers with several modes of seeing, modes that are interconnected, interdependent, if this work is to be at all successful, at all pleasing to me. Some of these modes are excessively intimate and confessional, some philosophical and excessively detached. I try to create a sympathy that is performed across the paralyzing distance of a life, a time, an age, a distance that leaves readers free. I don't want to tell readers what to think; I want to leave them quite free to interpret this work in their own way. The relation between these two kinds of seeing, two modes of experience, provides the meat for the ideological frame, for any realistic interpretation. There is here a realistic theater of disclosure and one of concealment. The space of concealment that I inhabit may be exposed in my journals, my poetry or my essays. For I do not, indeed can not, tell it all. These areas of concealment were implicit, complicit in the making of my world. I try to deal with this complicity in ways that are comfortable to me. The words of Ovid, the motto of Descartes, are useful here: "He lived well who concealed well, he who was private and unobtrusive."

The connection between the privilege, the necessity, of privacy and the consequences of public display, the ability to stage my life, so to speak, while still remaining private and unseen is a tool, a sign and an instrument of the privilege of writing. In this sense, realistic dramaturgical writing thematizes the relations of visibility governing the theater of my life, the social environment of my world that I show, I put, on this literary stage. The drama, the theater, and the society of my life are all a natural part of what for me is the working out of what for me is a realistic and idealistic vision at the centre of my life. This vision is a feature of my environment, a determinant, a constitutive part of reality itself.

"Instead of advice" says Donald Hall in his book about poets and poetry, "I offer the gift of my existence and endurance."       One tires of advice and we seem to have a great enthusiasm for giving it to each other. I have already given enough of it to drown any particular recipient and so what Hall says here has a refreshing candor, a lovely way of putting what I am trying to do. I do have some inhibitions, justified and appropriate it seems to me, about undressing myself in public. I have already said too much, in some ways, about my private self and this is in some ways a reflection of the influence of modern psychology and all that is involved in the self-development movement. I do not think that it is necessary to talk about one's inner life in order to be close to others, although in some situations it is essential, adviseable. But whether it is necessary or not, the inner life serves as a refuge from the external world. The story of that external world and my comings and goings in it are often, it seems to me, not illuminating in any way to the lives of others who chance to read it.

Wordsworth said he found the desire for fame decreased as he got older.       I can't remember if I ever had much desire for fame. I don't think I did but, whatever the case, I have little to none now. Looking at the stars, the famous, the celebrity, now involves looking underneath their skirts, inspecting their pants, sniffing their bedsheets and spying through their bedroom keyholes. Today the biography of a celebrity is expected to chronicle not just their lavish homes and priceless jewelry but the personal anxieties and emotional tensions and the drunken collapses and nervous breakdowns that lead to frenetic and distasteful contests of luridity between the tabloids, gleeful at the misfortunes of the rich and famous. How could anyone want that?

There are many styles of celebrity-watching. Indeed, the industry is burgeoning. One of the major styles is a standard mix which emphasizes certain formulaic features such as veneration and magnification. But it is a veneration so extreme as to rewrite history, even at the cost of refusing to acknowledge sometimes fairly well-known facts. Though presented as biographies, these glossy-portrayals are in fact disturbingly reductive rewritings of history: official portraits, glossily sliding over the surface of events. They vastly magnify the significance of some rather ordinary people, with melodrama, with good and evil stylization, with musical-sound affects and visual-stimulus-background with little nuance and little probing into the motives or psychologies of their purported subjects. A showbusiness-like style, a host of stock phrases, a documentary and reporting ethos and often all one has is a type of promotional video. The net result so often is: reality is kept at bay.

Inevitably, though, autobiography requires an element of assertiveness of the self. Writing is a way of engaging the entire self and all the senses-and both sides of the brain I am told. Deep impulses, deep inspiration, are involved at the same time as one orders one's life on paper. One could also refer to it as tinkering with one's life, writing about it to work it out, to transform life into art. If the process of personal growth is, as James Joyce said, linguistic then what I do here links my own growth with my writing. Certainly autobiographical writing makes more vivid those parts of the everyday one chooses to probe. The placcid surface or the not-so-placcid surface of ongoing life gets an underpining of some kind, perhaps with the deeper currents of the past. In so many of the biopics in the media the personality in question is portrayed as both one of the best of the human race and just an average person. I would like to be seen as neither. I am neither a man of the people nor an outstanding person/ality/a. In some ways I come from quite ordinary stock and in other ways the generations which proceded me had outstanding qualities. The bag is mixed, complex and far beyond some simple stereotyping.

I find much of my past richer now. Many of my recent poems are about the act of pioneering, the beginning of the pioneering process, back in 1962, as if I can only get some just appreciation of it from a distance. Perhaps, too, this is part of a longer process extending into eternity when one can begin to judge one's life the further one gets away from it, like some shooting star or distant galaxy. I'd like to include here a poem I wrote during the last months of my teaching career about fame. In a strange way I sense thart if I achive any fame in life it will come to be associated with this pioneering process. This poem provides, for me anyway, a helpful perspective on the subject, a subject I've dealt with, gone into, early in this autobiography and in my poems as well. Readers should keep in mind that when I insert poems into my text it is based on a view of poetry not unlike that of Robert Duncan who wrote: "We begin to imagine a cosmos in which the poet and the poem are one in a moving process." Duncan goes on to say that the poet is part of one long historical process beginning with creation, going through both his own long journey and the world's. "The real is what is given to us," says Duncan, "and the most real" is seen in our falling away from perfection which we see again and again in what happening to us. "Between the god in our story and the god of our story," continues Duncan, "between the form and the realization of what is happening to us lies what stirs the poet." To answer that call, to become the poet, means to be aware of creation, creature and creator coinherent in the one event.


After reading several of Emily Dickinson ‘s poems , strongly suggestive of a breakdown(i.e. 599, 937, 410 and 341), I thought I would try to describe my first intense episode of the bi-polar tendency, as it is now called, or manic-depression as it was then termed, back in late May and early June of 1968. Dickinson brilliantly translates her experience into art. These poems are among her most powerful. She is in some ways the precursor of the many poets of the twentieth century who have tried to describe some of their fearsome, their traumatic, experiences in poetic form; and, sometimes, the mysterious integration of the personality that eventually results. -Ron Price with thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, "Soul at the White Heat": The Romance of Emily Dickinson's Poetry, Critical Inquiry, Summer 1987.

The first day's night had come
with no idea of what fearsome
terror was soon to make me numb.

All the next day I tried to sing,
but my strings had snapped;
the bow, it had no ring.

And on the second night,
until the morn
unrolled in horror from a height,

I remember, well, that trip to hell.
The second night-and third-
was utter madness; for to tell

the story now, ‘tis like some yarn,
a happening to someone else,
quite long ago, some mountain tarn.

But bone by bone I dropped in fear.
A cleaving of my mind, my brain had split.
I was alone, noone was near.

A great abyss had swallowed me.
A pain so utter, schizoid me
had left my world a fearsome sea.

Now, of course, those days long gone,
a formal feeling covers their tomb,
a quartz contentment, like a dawn.

Some new life was born back then
in those freezing moments, when
a stupor entered in and after years,
many years, there was a letting go,
and, yes, a funny side, a laughter, low.1

Ron Price
25 March 1999

1 some of this humorous side which I now see in so much of my experience is, I have little doubt, due to living in Australia for nearly thirty years. The tragic here is neutralized, to some extent if not always entirely, through the lens of humour; or, as the Australian poet Bruce Dawe put it, the dry landscape has sucked all the tragedy out of the Australian psyche and left him with, at worst, a dessicated soul; but, at best, a soul that sees the lighter side of all of life. Given the difficulty that religion, that other tool for dealing with tragedy, has had in providing that soul with some therapeutic, some visionary, form in the late 20th century, this humour may just be part of the package that is the key survival tool downunder. There is something about the human capacity to confront tragedy and the difficult in life that is a, perhaps the, source of human dignity in life. But, again, this theme must remain unexplored, unfinished here.

Dorothy Richardson, a nineteenth century Australian writer, made of her life a work of art. Her writing was a journey to the heart of reality for her. So much of the everyday is mundane, a passing dream that one does not have the time to react to except in a fleeting and perfunctory way. When Henry James says we must "observe perpetually" he is talking about the fine tuning, the stopping to have a good close look, reacting and storing up for detailed analysis. Often, too, autobiography is not what one writes, but what lingers in the background uninscribed, undescribed. This unwritten story comes back from time to time in a poem. Poetry allows for this nearly unconscious response, or conscious response to the unsensed.

I have written many pages now about autobiography and, not wanting to reread it all again before entering a comment that I may have made before, I want to underline what is essential to this whole exercise. It is the vision of the future at the heart of this Cause and at the heart of my life. I want to contribute a part, and I feel I am doing something here in this written exercise, to contribute to the perifery of this great foundation stone that is being laid in these first two centuries of the history of this Cause. Part of the challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present. So much of the surface of my contribution in everyday life involves planting seeds that are essentially early precursors to the harvest and recreations of the past in the present. Seed planting is such a quiet, uneventful process or, more importantly, so often unmeasureable. The contribution comes and goes, in defineable and indefineable ways. This one, this writing, this contribution, may last.

And so I leave this self, this meaning system, identity, entity, steeped as it is in my own history and the history of humankind, the person that is writing this ongoing account, even something new that seems to arise out of a complex pool while I write; I leave it on the page for those who follow in the years, the decades, perhaps centuries ahead. I leave this voyage, this journey that I place on paper, free of linguistic or stylistic confinements and, like Samuel Clemens, I simply let it flow down the hillside free of any laws, except perhaps gravity. This is my trip, this writing and I trust as the years go on I will not worry about the how, or even the why. I have thought about these things enough for now.


"A bi-polar disorder led revolt...."

Determining just what it means to be involved in self-study research has proven very difficult. Many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles.


They must be understood in terms of public issues and in terms of problems of history-making. Public issues and personal problems are intertwined.-Ron Price with thanks to C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959, p.226.

In late August 1967, then, my new wife, Judy, and I arrived on Baffin Island to get our rented unit in order so that in the first week of September I could begin teaching a class of grade three Eskimo kids. If the ethos of teenage revolt that George Melly describes in his Revolt Into Style: The Pop Arts was evident in much of North America and western civilization, it manifested itself in unique ways in Eskimo culture and its fringes in Frobisher Bay. The songs of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger from 1962 to 1966 that Melly analyses and which he argues reflect this spirit of revolt among the young did not float through the air-waves on Baffin Island because all they got in the sixties was the CBC and the BBC. But still the revolt was on anyway.

My life manifested a certain degree of revolt; at least from 1963 onwards there were signs of it in my personal life. While I attended university, 1963-1966, I experienced some of that bourgeoisophobe that Gustave Flaubert raved against as far back as the 1840s and 1850s and Frederick Nietzsche later in that same century. Flaubert devoted his literary career to exposing the weaknesses of the middle class and Nietzsche raged against the cultivated philistinism and mediocrity of the same group. This rage against what I saw as the moral platitudes and hypocrisy of the middle class lasted from 1963 to , to my year among the Eskimo. But the schizo-affective disorder of June to December 1968 that put me in several psychiatric hospitials knocked this antagonism for six and ended this middle class sensitivity or conscious rejection of the middle class. When Martin Luther King was murdered in April 1968, one writer argued, a decade characterized by a sense of determined mission and often chaotic change came prematurely to a cataclysmic close. As it did come to a close my own sense of determined mission and its cataclysmic change came to a premature close in a series of four mental hospitals from Frobisher Bay to Whitby Ontario.

I had come from a culture which in the last two centuries had been increasingly rejecting its inherited tradition and especially once the sixties arrived, once that tenth stage of history came into our lives in April 1963. Andy Warhol's art, the Mods and Rockers, a Pop culture had come to play its rhythms in the interstices of my life and affected my ambience, my philosophy of life in complex and indefinable ways. Improvisation, the instinctual urge, creativity, they were all the buzz in those years before my wife and I went to this hunting and gathering community then going through a transition from their stone age culture which was dizzying in its speed.

I had had my first year of service on an Assembly in Windsor in 1966/7; I had felt the breasts of three women although had yet to be involved in any penetration, as if virginity could be so clinically defined. Kissing had, as Shoghi Effendi emphasized so clearly back in a letter he wrote in the late 1940s, inclined its practitioners to go too far. I had gone too far in one direction if not in another. I had logged many months of depression and fear; I had had my faith and its intellectual foundations challenged by my philosophy professor as early as 1964 and by the demands of just getting through the day as early as 1962. I was, indeed, fortunate to survive from the zanniness of my youth: driving a car with little to no breaks, having no idea of what career to follow as late as my twenty-first year even after fourteen years of education, running the guantlet of the puzzles and peculiarities of the opposite sex and just how to deal with them and my own passions and desires.

I always liked Roger White's poem "Applesauce" for his clever comment on sexuality. He sent it to me just after I arrived north of Capricorn on yet another pioneer move, fifteen years after the one I am writing about here and long after the sixties had ended. So I include it here:

I tire, Eve, of innocence,
Let's kiss and grow contented.
Suppose we touched, where I protrude
And you're cunningly indented.?

Oh Adam, what a sweet pastime!
I'm glad that I consented.
Tell me, dear, what shall we call
This game that we've invented?

With half my heart I'd call it love
And not have it repented;
The other half would name it sin
And urge it be prevented.

Had I not led you to the fruit
Guilt would be circumvented.
My punishment's to have my crime
Eternally resented.

Spake the snake:

All Adam's sons are cursed to woo
A maid and gently take her;
But after they've made applesauce
They'll like as not forsake her.
And down the centuries men proclaim:
We'll take the pleasure, she the blame.
Let posterity lament
That mother Eve gave her assent;
In slithering wisdom I rejoice
That she gave birth to slippery choice.

In April 1967, at the National Convention in Fort William Ontario, Judy and I studied the Ridvan Message of the Universal House of Justice. They had referred to "perpetual movement" and "the ceaseless surge of the sea" and the Cause with its "spiritual charge which no force on earth can resist." They had also defined deepening as "a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation." I have spent the last thirty-five years trying to implement this definition. The celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh was announced in June of that year. By the time it arrived in November 1967, Judy and I had been living in our pioneer post for nearly three months. We had plunged into the sea of pioneering and I nearly drowned. The change in personal status from bachelorhood to married man, from student to full time employee, from resident in the familiar landscape of southern Ontario to Baffin Island, precipitated an episode of schizo-affectivity. But more of this later.

By April 1967, too, I had served on my first local spiritual assembly for eight months. Not to mention LSA work as it is called would be to deprive this autobiography of some of the most significant experience of my life and the most difficult. I last served on an LSA in 1999 in Western Australia. From time to time in this account I will refer briefly to some of this Bahá'í work in groups. In 1966 I was elected vice-chairman and so had little paperwork to do in this city of Windsor, Canada's most southerly city. I think we had ten Bahá'ís at the time.

There is something about an LSA that brings out both the best and the worst in its participants, at least that has been my experience. Before going north to Baffin Island in August 1967 I had my first taste of LSA work while I was at the same time a student at Windsor Teachers' College. All the meetings were at the home of Jamie and Gale Bond. Johnny Weetaltuk and I would come up from our flat as would Dorothy Weaver where we lived a cross from a whiskey distillery, Bruce, an old man and Knight of Bahá'u'lláh, Gerald Robarts, a son of John Robarts, Jan Jason who went on years later to write a biography of Marion Jack and an Iranian accountant, a man whose name I have long forgotten joined us. The names will mean little to readers and it is not my intention to expatiate on our many meetings, our long agendas, the interesting interpersonal dilemmas we got into and my relatively passive role, lokking back nearly forty years later. It was a mix of humanity to keep any normal person quite busy, sitting as we did in a small lounge-room discussing Bahá'í affairs for two to three hours once or twice a month. It was unquestionably a training ground in relating to and working with a degree of human diversity which would be of more use than I could then appreciate and invaluable as the years of my life progressed. I have often come to see my LSA work as a crucible for my maturation in the wider world. I shall return to this topic later in this account. I was not to serve on an LSA again until 1975.

When I look as far back as the sixties, when I try to classify, to organize, my impressions, I find, with Helen Keller, that "fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present." Gertrude Stein once said you are never yourself, so trying to find this elusive figure the self is impossible; or to put this enigma another way: to read one's own face is as difficult as to read the face of God. Perhaps it is this fundamentally mysterious quality to the autobiographical experience that leads some, and certainly me, to a greater consciousness of time, a greater sense of its movement, a greater sense of being an agent of time. And at the day to day level, I seem to have almost an obsession, albeit a quiet one, with time. A sense of urgency, a sense of crisis, has been with me all of my adult life and both the Guardian and House of Justice have described these features of modern life in their spiritual, moral, social and political aspects again and again. Major social scientists, historians and philosophers have also voiced similar sentiments in my time. Perhaps Jacques Barzun, who was appointed a Professor at Columbia University at the outset of the implementation of the teaching Plan in 1937 and published that same year his Race: A Study of Modern Superstition, is one of the best examples of a contemporary cultural historian who sees our times in terms of decadence, confusion, farce and cultural desolation.

Perhaps some general reflections of a poetic nature and a short essay are timely here, before I continue with my narrative into the Canadian Arctic in August 1967.


What is ‘real' has to do with what we believe and experience, not necessarily with what ‘is'.1 Some find the best guide to the mechanisms of history in a prophet, a Christ-figure, an academic, a Marx;2 and others in pop-psychology, astrology, or nihilism. -Ron Price with thanks to 1L.P. Turco, Visions and Revisions of American Poetry, University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1986, p.154. 2Eric Hobsbaum "synthesized myriad competing social swells into great epochal waves" in his four volume study of history: The Age of Revolution, Capital, Empire and Extremes, respectively.

The snowgeese, wild voices of the Arctic, have been increasing in numbers since the 1950s. -David Attenborough, Wildscreen, Channel 2, Perth, Western Australia, 14 September 1995, 8:30 pm.

They've been increasing in numbers
in a big way since the ‘50s,
a vivid reminder that there's power
in natural cycles.
Ever since Jamieson Bond went north
beyond the Arctic Circle,
these wild voices of this northern clime
have been flooding south more than ever.

Snowgeese, you were never part of The Plan.
Was there a new spirit in the north,
calling you, calling you by the thousands?
Or was it instinct, nature, some specific
environmental process that led your
dazzling floods of whiteness to travel
three thousand miles across a continent?

What took me, not much later, across
two continents as the numbers increased?
I was part of The Plan, part of the
dazzling floods of the beauty of the rose,
bent on rising above water and clay, and
flying with the nightingale unfolding
inner mysteries high above the earth,
close to that Voice from on high,
beyond the blue-white sky.

Ron Price
14 September 1995


Poetry is not meant to be a time capsule of enigmatic and profoundly mysterious wisdoms, nor is it a psychiatric catalyst for confession. Sometimes, inevitably, it seems, it is. All poetry is decided by context. It exists as act and as meaning simultaneously between the concrete and the abstract. Meaning is crucial, central, the essence of its art. Profound feeling, meaning, authenticity: these are found in great poetry. Poetry is like the music which creates, releases, clarifies the feeling, the meaning. There is the poet's single ‘sound' and the common ‘sound' of all men. These two sounds exist in tension, synchronisation, oscillation. To put this question of sound differently one could ask the question: where exactly do time, place and eternity meet? Well, it's like skiing on a surface of snow all winter. They all meet right now, as the poet glides, bounces, pushes, slides, over a surface of stubborn, exacting, threatening, exciting words as he conquers yet another mountain, peak, hill, snow-clad place, or is defeated as sometimes he must be. -Ron Price with thanks to the ABC: Wide World of Sports, 11:00 to 12:30 pm., 7 June 1996; and Dave Smith, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1985, p.13.

The precipice always seems steepest
just before the first big drop,
but then there is a rush:
down, down, down,
through the mountain slope,
over the edge, through the air,
no sides, at first, only a feeling
of openness, emptiness, nothingness,
will it come? what will come?

This is no orgasm: no predictability.
Of course, you say, some words will come;
they usually do, out of the great mountain-side:
the snow is always there this time of year,
great depths, inches and inches, waves upon waves,
turned up by the skis, words swimming from life's ocean:
a million events and a hundred billion atoms
swimming around in my world alone.

Then, up and over and down, down, down:
you've got your sails set now, ready for the final turn,
ready to do it again sometime soon, maybe now.

Ron Price
7 June 1996


With a little less than sixty hours to go before spring, before my thirty-sixth year of pioneering came to an end, we journied to the King's Park and Botanic Garden, walked around its pleasureable treasures and returned home. Spring in Australia is considered the first day of September. This park is the former meeting place of Aboriginal tribes; it is now the home of 450 species of plants, 70 types of birds and many small reptiles. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 August 1998.

How is it I have come here?
A taste of spring verdure,
running water, sweetest flowers,
green, endless green, a sea of green,
my eyes drink it all in, pace after pace
through garden paths made for me,
for the world. Especially the yellow snow,
from the wattle. You never see this on Baffin.
Especially the reds, purples, blues and whites,
a different array than Frobisher Bay.

There is, too, the cacti's perfect geometry;
especially my wife's face of intense delight
and my son's casual insouciance;
especially my heart, relaxed,
tranquil at last.

Ron Price
29 August 1998


Anyone who has examined seriously the literature on autobiography in recent decades, in the very years that this pioneering story has been taking place, say, 1953 to 2003; anyone who has attempted to fathom the nature and meaning of both his Bahá'í community experience and his inner life; any pioneers, and especially international pioneers, who have attempted to regulate their lives to the rhythms of crisis and victory and become the fundamentally assured and happy people they are asked to try to become; will immediately recognise complexity at all levels: global, community and the inner person. They will recognise the contradictions and paradoxes in their behaviour and the divergent identifications which barely ever fuse to make one coherent and continuous self. The ever-elusive and evanescent quality of experience makes it difficult to grasp, apprehend, define and formulate. This work, which runs for some 1000 pages, tries to grasp this experience, however elusive, in the form of a meta or mega-autobiography. However massive this work is, it is not my life work, as Augustine, Beckett and Rousseau's was. I did not even approach this work seriously until I was nearly sixty. Much of my life work was in fact behind me. A member of the generations of the half-light, my light was waning when I picked up my pen to really put this story together. The evening of my life had begun. Of course, the Bahá'í day begins at sunset. And as I wrote this work I felt I was making a new beginning. I was writing what that theorist of autobiography, James Olney, calls autography and periautography, words that denoted an emphasis on the inner life as much or more than the outer form. Beckett said that in the end only two things decisively shaped his life: memory and self. As I turned the corner into late adulthood I put them both on paper as best I could. I felt the autobiographical imperative intensely. I was also conscious of its potential futility, even the impossibility of the enterprise. Yet I entered again and again to the field. For my field was not so much myself and my memory but the presentation of the self in life-writing and insight into a human being and humankind, at perhaps the greatest climacteric in history. For my journey was also the journey many others would take. There is--and was--some altruism here.

Pioneering, of course, has always meant quite simply--to Bahá'ís--leaving their homes often to far-distant countries to spread the message of Bahá'u'lláh across the surface of the planet. The second task of pioneers has been, as Bahiyyih Nakhjavani puts it so well, is to make their home elsewhere and, more importantly, "remove strangeness" in that place. The process, she emphasizes, is "arduous, often unrewarding, lonely and immensely routine in many respects." Making a home for this new Revelation is often the most difficult of tasks. My eariest Bahá'í experiences, in the late 1950s and early 1960s made me pioneer-conscious. The Guardian's letters, the emphasis at meetings, indeed, one of the major thrusts of my Bahá'í orientation by the time I was 18 was one of pioneering. The year 1962, then, launched me into what was in fact, although I did not realize it at the time, the start of the second generation of 'pioneers' raised up by the Guardian's insistent and persistent call. As the years went on pioneering felt richer and richer, like the discoveries of a gold mine. Inevitably, too, the search for gold on many a prospecting exercise often led to nothing but dust and heat, fatigue and emptiness. But I felt the promise, the hope, the vision. In a much larger sense, too, it goes without saying that anything I write is pro-Bahá'í in the same way that what the negro W.E.B. Du Bois wrote was pro-Negro.

There was, without doubt, an innocence when I started out on the venture. Slowly, unobtrusively, it became a lost innocence. An elegiac note deepened with the years as people died, as illness took its toll, a marriage failed, as unrealistic expectations found sensible, sane and natural courses to run in and my own burden of sin and human heedlessness evoked, often in subtle, often in obvious and direct, ways a solemn consciousness. It was a solemn consciousness to which societal conditions contributed their often melancholy notes. Millions had died in the first half century through two major wars and the next sixty years, those of my own life, saw hundreds of milliions of dead creating a slough of despondency that well-nigh drowned the world in tears. As the Universal House of Justice wrote so beautifully in 1991, though, this solemn consciousness was "itself the wellspring of the most exquisite celebratory joy." In the spirit of this joy and this solemnity so much of the activity of my life as a pioneer can be found. There is a dynamic and redemptive effect on everyday life resulting from this contatenation of forces. Whatever burden, whatever loss, is entailed, and it often is, still there is light at the end of the tunnel and hope's springing eternal.

Slowly one comes to understand the meaning and the secret intent of one's personal myth, as Jung called the inner core of one's life. One must be conscious of underlying and often unconscious tendencies to invent the story of one's life, so that the reality we create will defy any tendencies we have to doubt. Seizing the authentic story of our lives may just be our essential, but difficult to attain, goal and aim. That might be how the psychoanalytically-oriented autobiography theorists could put the process.

There is little doubt that what we experience we process, we elaborate, in unending sequences of images and acts. We call this thinking. New experience becomes ordered and integrated as part of this unending process. We try to fit it in without straining and disquieting the self. We also want to know who we are, how we should behave and how to achieve order, coherence and continuity in our lives. Autobiography deals with all of these processes, all of these fundamental questions. There is the ‘me' and the model I am trying to emulate in the person of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and the extensive elaborations in the writing of the other legitimate successors to Bahá'u'lláh. Albert Thibaudet argues that the great essayist Michael Montaigne originally set out in search of paradigms in order to write a manual for the perfect gentleman. But his attention turned to the exceptions and the discrepancies that contradict the paradigm. It was Montaigne's view that no human act could claim to be a fixed model or universal rule, or polar star. All exempla, no matter how noble, should be treated as mere anecdotes, dissimilar entities, unique features of a diverse world, Montaigne concluded. To him anyone's behaviors were pieces of a disorderly world, instants in an ever-changing state, figures in universal flux. Any paradigmatic figure becomes, in the end, part of an accidental existence, an irregular universe. "Every example is lame" Montaigne argued. His instruction to us all was not to hobble ourselves before exemplary men. I am cautioned. Although I still believe in an Exemplar, I am aware of all the individual discrepancies, exceptions and idiosyncrasies.

The goal of orderly daily life, Montaigne went on, is unity. So is this true of the Bahá'í. The Bahá'í becomes his own theatre. My life has been my theatre. Repose cannot be attained, said Montaigne. The mind is like a runaway horse and gives birth to chimeras and monsters. So much of our thought is inept and strange and to put these thoughts in writing makes us ashamed. Looking for a silent conversation with himself alone, he experienced feverish disorder, a proliferation of worries, a swelling horde of unreal creatures. Montaigne states that if he uses the word "I," this I is "different from rather than identical to what he discovers within himself. He also saw a close relation between solitude and melancholy, especially for those engaged in intellectual pursuits. One of the effects of such a melancholy is ‘brilliant inspiration". I quote these words because I find them to be significantly true of my experience.

Unity, consistency, aims and goals, degree of self-mastery, resistance to the telling of certain stories whose confessional nature makes resistance a normal and necessary event: are all part of our search for our authentic and idiosyncratic self at the centre of the lives we lead and our relation to the complex of social and historical factors that make for the great sweep of chronological, geographical, technological, economic, inter alia, time and movement that shape our perceptions of what is taking place. This is a view of history, founded perhaps by Jacob Burckhardt, which sees the total life of a people at the centre, not some single factor like economics or religion. It is a view which I find useful in this autobiographical work. But it is not the only view of history which has influenced me. Isaiah Berlin's focus on ideas, investing ideas and ideals with personality, with corporeal shape, with the breath of life, with something beyond mere abstraction is close to my own focus.

There is an inevitable selective reporting; The true and indigenous autobiography is only a narrative inchoate as Frederick Wyatt calls the fragment of our lives we have conveyed. Anecdotes are chosen for their illustrative power, to further a line of thought, for their narrative smoothing effect. That is why I have chosen poetry as my main autobiographical genre, with journal and narrative, letter and essay, notebook and novel, as the back up, as a critical support staff. Narrative tends to evenly hover in its attention. Poetry tends to plunge and even to crash. It is difficult, even undesireable in some important ways, to make the story smooth. There is a tendency as we write the story of our lives to convey deeply entrenched platitudes. Trying to be positive, as so much of the popular psychology in the last several decades has emphasized, we try to be comfortable and safe and avoid the bewilderment and the unsettled places "where certainty shifts and reason shakes." We avoid the hazardous and settle for the facile. As I survey the forty-odd years of my pioneering life, I became tired of the hazardous. My spirit wanted to settle in a quieter abode as the fortieth year of pioneering crossed my threshold. Whatever outrage and frustration I experienced from time to time, they dissipated by the turn of the millennium when I began my life in Tasmania and sought to find some effective, some new, way I could promote this Cause. For so much that I had been doing seemed not the slightest bit effective. And, if it was, I had simply grown tired of meetings, endless meetings or, as commedian John Cleese put it colourfully in his training films, "meetings, bloody meetings" and "more bloody meetings." My new approach can be seen and summarized in a paper presented by Graham Hassall at the World Association for the Promotion of Bahá'í Libraries and Archives in August 2003 in San Francisco. I shall leave this subject for now.

Narratives, like those of biographies and autobiographies, which purport to tell the truth have had limited value in American psychology. Science has never been able to deal with their complexities, some writers argue. I would argue, as many do now,that hermeneutics and reconstruction both are useful tools in examining autobiography. They can bring out its meaning; delve into cultural-historical context or indeed a host of other contexts; examine inconsistencies, baises, textual distortions, dishonesties, basic assumptions, omissions, the power of perspective. For the longest journey, as former secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskold once said, is the journey inwards. It is a sacred journey and one that has to do with coping and surviving. It is part and parcel of the autobiographical act.

With some six thousand poems, millions of words, hundreds of letters, two or three hundred pages of journal, four hundred pages of narrative, some two hundred essays: there is at the very least a base for analysis and interpretation. More importantly, there is a solid foundation for future Bahá'í historians to gain some clarity of insight into these four epochs of the Formative Age and especially the experience of one pioneer.

Back to that story in 1967:

For nine months, in 1967 and 1968, I strove valiantly to teach sixteen Eskimo children. Judy took on a pre-school class in our home and was quite successful at her job. Judy had always been successful with children and still is, as I write this narrative. In 1968/9 she went to Toronto Teachers' College and got her qualifications as a primary school teacher. We cultivated a few friends; in December Dorothy Weaver visited us from Ft. Chimo Quebec; in April an attractive woman in her late twenties, Daphne, arrived as a pioneer; later that year she married Doug Green. In June Josephee Teemotee became a Bahá'í, the first declared Eskimo in the district of Franklin. Someone told me he tried to murder his father the next day and they sent him to a correctional institution in Yellowknife.

It was a difficult year to put it mildly. I found teaching the Eskimo children very difficult, although there seemed to be no symptoms of manic-depression in my life. The visual, the aestheitc experience is different in the Arctic. Things are very small: you look at tiny little beautiful flashes of flowers in the summer; or they are very big, magnificent vistas where you can see for 50 miles. And this means I looked at my human world from an entirely different perspective than I did in southern Ontario where I had spent all my life to this point. On Baffin Island the visual provided a transcendent experience in that you necessarily focus on the things smaller and the things larger. Things human-sized, the middle-range, are often fairly unattractive; a lot of the landscape is gravel; it's bleak and yet the people who say it's bleak have usually been conditioned not to see the tiny beauties or the great vistas.

In June 1968, though, I seemed to competely flip. It was due to body chemistry not the landscape. I have described the experience elsewhere, a number of times in my life. So I will turn to that description and insert it here:

I have integrated the words of Leonard Woolf from his autobiography Beginning Again published in 1964 in which he describes the British writer Virginia Woolf's life and her history of manic-depression. I have integrated her story into my own experience because I found a remarkable similarity. Leonard Woolf's description of Virginia Woolf's manic-depressive history, the first description I have read of such an illness in any significant detail, was so apt that it seemed pertinent to apply it to my own experience with alterations to suit my own particular case. The account below may be of use to some with a similar life experience or with some other 'difficulty'. If we never know the difficulty others have gone through, we may find our own battles, sometimes, insufferable. We may lose the plot, the courage to go on. The light may simply burn out.

There seemed to be a process in which I crossed from sanity to insanity, from normal behaviour to abnormal behaviour. Due to this "process" it was difficult to define just where one was along that 'normal-abnormal' continuum. This was true at both the depressive end and the manic or hypomanic end of the spectrum. So it is that I find it difficult to actually number the times when I crossed over, perhaps as many as eight, certainly as few as four, in my whole life, or at least until the last brief episode in 1990 when I went off my lithium for between one and three months when I made one of the dozen attempts to write the only novel I have ever tried to write.

At the hypomanic end there were experiences like the following: "violent emotional instability and oscillation", "abrupt changes" and "a sudden change in a large number of intellectual assumptions." 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 or a few days, as I was plunged into a sea of what could be variously described as: emotional heat, intense awareness, sensitivity, sleeplessness, voluble talking, racing mental activity, fear, excessive and clearly irrational paranoia--and in 1968 virtually total incoherence at times--at one end of the spectrum; or intense depression, melancholia, an inner sense of despair and a desire to commit suicide at the other end. The latter I experienced from 1963 to 1965, off and on; the former from 1964 to 1990, on several occasions. It is really quite impossible to summarize this quarter-century of episodes, so varied were they in intensity and expression. But if, as Toynbee argues in his history, that "the greater the challenge the greater the stimulus," the greater the energy evoked, the more vigourous and more versatile the response, then the 1970s, and especially in Australia, saw the beginning of the forging of a potent instrument in my personal and professional life. It was an instrument that gave aesthetic and intellectual expression to the emotional experience of crisis, of calamity, of ordeal which had been part of my life from the start of my pioneer experience in 1962.

The longest depression was in 1963 and 1964 with perhaps two six month periods from June to November and July to December, respectively. The longest episode of hypomania was from June to November 1968. The hypomania in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1990 were treated quickly with medication, although the 1978 episode, beginning in January, seemed to last for at least three or four months and had a mostly depressive component. Unlike Virginia Woolf, I had no experience of this variously characterized illness in childhood. It was not until I was 19 that any characteristics of this illness became apparent in my day-to-day life. Unlike Woolf, who experienced the two phases of mania and depression one after another in sequence, my episodes seemed to be quite separate tendencies; they did not follow each other within several months, mania leading to depression. In the 1978 episode, though, elation and depression followed each other within a two to three month period. Clearly, in the episodes in the late '70s, fear, paranoia and the extremes of depression seemed to be much less than those of the 1960s. I like to think, and the Bahá'í teachings repeat, that God never tests us beyond our capacity. So it is that the more ruthless the execution that is done by the Pruner among the shoots that he finds sprouting in springtime out of thew willow's head. The more abundant will be the vitality "that the tree will concentrate into the shoots which are spared." The pruning that took place in the 1960s produced a vigorous growth in the 1970s; the pruning of the 1970s produced another growth in the 1980s and again in the 1990s and so on. Such is the pattern in my life as I look back.

There are a variety of manic-depressive profiles. Mine is different than Woolf's but it has a typicality. It is bipolar because both ends of the spectrum, the mood swings, were experienced over the period 1963 to 1990, twenty-seven years. Thanks to lithium it was virtually over by the time I was 46 years of age. And it would have been all over by the age of 36 if I had stayed on the medication rather than trying to live without it. I could go into more detail comparing Virginia's experience and my own, for her story goes on for over 350 pages; but this short account will suffice. Perhaps at some future time I will go into more detail. This account has none of the fine detail that I could include like: mental hallucinations, specific fears and paranoias, electroconvulsive therapy, psychiatric analysis and diagnosis, experiences in and out of several hospitals with a great number of people, situations and, looking back, humorous and absurd events. Perhaps one day, when the enthusiasm exists, I will go into that kind of detail. For now, this general account, these few paragraphs, must suffice.

I think it is important to state, in conclusion, that the whole notion of 'madness' is really not an appropriate word for a clinical disorder, a bio-chemical, an electro-chemical imbalance having to do with brain chemistry. Other words like nuts, loony, psycho, crazy betray a lack of understanding of the disorder and the stigma and ignorance of history. For the one to three percent of the population who suffer from this illness it is now largely treated by lithium carbonate, or other medications which any good psychiatrist can prescribe. I don 't have to search for the 'real me' which I used to think I could find between the depressive and the manic end of some behavioural spectrum. Like everyone else I have my battles between my lower and higher nature, as Jung might have put it, and I must battle on, fighting my battles, in the end, by myself as we all must, with the help of friends and loved ones when necessary, as it so often thankfully is.

In the last twenty years I have had no experience of clinical depression, except for a short period in 1990 when I unwisely went off my medication. Of course, I have had the occasional circumstantial depression, the kind of depression any human being gets from time to time when the hurts of life become more than the spirit can bear. But these short-lived periods are suffered through easily compared to those 'clinical' experiences in manic-depression, or the bi-polar tendency as it is now labelled, which went on for days or weeks and, on occasion, months. "Every trouble in life," wrote Bagehot, "is a joke compared to madness." While I would not use the word ‘madness,' and while I would not call many of my other trials and tribulations ‘a joke,' there is some truth to Bagehot's words.

Generally in these recent twenty years the most uncomforable experiences I have are: "the flu" for two or three days a year or, more recently, in the last four years since retiring from employment, fatigue in the evenings due to overwork, too much writing, arguements with my wife, the various embarassments and problems we all face from day to day, frustrations of Bahá'í community life and an exhaustion with my work as a teacher. But compared to the bi-polar episodes of earlier years they were, for the most part, child's play. There is a secret strength in all that suffering and whatever peace of mind I now possess it is in part due to having lived through all those years of anguish. It was a tempering process: "With fire We test the gold; and with gold We test Our servants." With T.S. Eliot, too, I was only too conscious that decent men often have as many nightmares as the not-so-decent. And I had plenty of them yet to come.

I write the above for the occasional person who may one day read this. It is intended to be as much use to the reader as it has been to me in the writing. It may encourage the reader to write his or her own story. From my experience as a teacher I know that we all have 'our story' and, for some, it is useful that some people tell that story on paper. The very constitution, the elements, of my experience consist not only of the objective, external realities of my society, my culture which become part of the very air I breathe or insinuate themselves into my mind and emotions often unbeknownst; but also of internal elements: slips, gestures, symptoms, silences, thoughts and feelings which become part of my emphatic conduct or my noisily trumpeted convictions. These convictions are often distorted expressions of wishes which sometimes are the precise reverse of their overt manifestations. There is a complexity to belief that we have only begun to read. Perhaps that is why Bahá'u'lláh says at the hour of the soul's ascension belief or disbelief can be completely reversed.

As I look back over those first episodes of manic-depression, perhaps the package of them for the first 18 years of my pioneering life, from 1962 to 1980, that the experience which Thomas Henry Huxley had when he referred to "the long wait" in which "the faith in self" finally seemed justified, when a "turning point came," seemed like a helpful perspective on my own experience. In the case of my Cape Horn, as Huxley called it, the ship was actually wrecked and its inhabitant withered. But after a recuperation on the shore of life, a sleep on the shore, on the sand and a rejuvenation with the fruits of the land, I was ready again for the assault of life.

These bizarre, strongly abnormal, bi-polar experiences made me at first attracted to and then skeptical of conspiracy and mental illness themes in films and finally drawn to them again. Characters with mental disabilities or mental illnesses have long been staples of literature. In the forty years associated with my pioneering days, I did come to enjoy the range of conspiracy films such as JFK, All the Presidents Men and Dave, inter alia with their underlying presence of paranoia; films on various disabilities like Repulsion, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Shine, Awakenings, Rainman, Lorenzo's Oil, My Left Foot, inter alia; and films exhibiting several kinds of visionary or sensory paranoia based on and appealing to feminism or right-wing politics such as: Basic Instinct, Dirty Harry and Rambo, among others. But I am no conspiracy theorist myself like my fellow traveller Noam Chomsky. I do not hold the view, as Chomsky seems to do, that if people only knew what was going on, they could rise up and sort out the world's problems.       The utopian force I have been identified with for half a century is no panacea. Even if the world becomes, for the most part--and as I believe it will--affiliated with this new Faith, there will be many problems to deal with, many complexities. The peace, love and unity that the Bahá'í Faith offers to humankind is no simplistic rabbit's foot. It requires tireless, continuous effort on a planetary scale for many generations. This story comes from one of these generations.

Sometimes with genuine and believeable story-lines, such films were often fanciful, delusional and irrational. Sometimes inspiring, they were not always the visionary films, not examples of the visionary paranoia and the heightened awareness of real possibilities their producers claimed them to be. If they did illuminate the hidden dimensions of history and of the personal, they were dimensions that for this Bahá'í illuminated the political and the social, the historical or the contemporary in quite different terms than they did for the mass that watched them, although that was not always the case. Bahá'í perspectives provided for me, anyway, representative glimpses of a counterpoint to the conventionalities and social puerilities often conveyed by these films. My own experience of mental hospitals and mental illness gave me, I often felt, a depth and a nuance and, as the years went on, a quiet and realistic base from which to assess the many emphases and claims that were voiced in the visual medium on these subjects. I have probably bunched together too many films here, but during these epochs there were films that dealt with so many of the personal and social problems of our times and problems I suffered from as well. They were films that were entertaining and informative, inspiring or dull. I could write my autobiography solely around films that served, in some ways, as the backdrop of my life.

If I were a Hollywood actor in the last fifteen years(1990-2004), I would be calling my agent to be on the lookout for roles in which I could play a mentally troubled character. Kathy Bates earned her Oscar playing a madwoman in Misery in 1990; the next year, Anthony Hopkins earned one for the role of a cannibal, Hannibal Lecter; in 1993 Holly Hunter was the mute heroine of The Piano; 1994 produced Tom Hanks as the strange but winning Forrest Gump; in 1995 there was the alcoholic Nicholas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas; Geoffrey Rush won the Best Actor award for his 1996 performance as schizoaffective pianist David Helfgott; 1997 was Jack Nicholson's turn for doing obsessive compulsive disorder; James Coburn picked up his Oscar as the sadistic paranoid father in 1998's Affliction; and in 1999, Michael Caine was a narcotics addict and Angelina Jolie co-starred as the sociopath of Girl, Interrupted. That's ten Oscars in ten years and I am not counting many films since then and the many borderline cases like Jessica Lange who is half mad in most of her movies and has already collected two Oscars. The illness I had suffered from, starting over forty years ago, had become, in some ways, a source of claim to fame.

But it was not all a story of a new age of understanding. On television, that most popular story-teller in modern society, people negotiated their attitudes to and their understandings of different social and political issues of which mental illness was but one. The most common disability portrayed on television during the years that this autobiography was being written, 1984/5-2004/5, has been mental illness. People's information and knowledge of the subject comes, for the most part, from TV which often perpetuates the stigma and the negative sterotypes by inaccurate depictions, misinformation and uninformed dramatic sketches. This has been part of the world of the mentally ill for centuries and it has been part of the backdrop of my own experience in these several epochs. In some ways it is difficult to appreciate how far society has come in its knowledge and understanding; in other ways the problems are massive.

This autobiography suggests, exemplifies, a psychological reality that opposes and withstands the plague of popular fantasies that bombard consciousness in these epochs. My identity is not merely an image, ultimately empty, a symbol of another's demand on my life in an image-conscious society. I accept that image has become a central aspect of life today; indeed to some extent I revel in it. I play the game, but realize it's a game. I know that much of my desire I have been taught through my only partly avoidable immersion in society's realities. I have been hooked, as we all have been in varying extents, by the "aesthetics of consumerism." "Coolness" and "glamorousness" I am aware of in some symbolic world that I inhabit in a depthless realm of masks, of images and brand names whose cache and status inevitably change, revealing no stable core at best or no substance at all. But I know my reality is not this. The movies I have seen are entertaining but have only what some writers call a secondary reality. Consequently, I am plunged into and forged by a sea of signifiers which, while stimulating my sensory emporium, ultimately signify something approaching nothing. I am conscious of body image but I get no sense of identity from my body. My psyche, to the extent that it is filled with electronic media products, is a void because that environment is an abyss, and the inner world, if one can call it that, which it recreates in this narration is just as depleted. This subject, which I have alluded to here only briefly, is a long and complex one. But I shall leave it here.

Throughout this entire pioneer period I was able to use my mind first as a student, then as a teacher, then as a lecturer and finally as a writer-poet. I was able, by the 1990s, to make poetry out of human life, out of a human life in which I had ceased to want to play such an active part. The words of the poet Shelley were pertinent here:

Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,
But feeds on the aerial kisses
Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses.


But from these create he can
Forms more real than living man,
Nurslings of Immortality.

In early June 1968 I went into a hospital in Frobisher Bay and in early December 1968 I came out of the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital having been treated for what has been variously named over the years: a mild schizo-affective state, manic-depression, a bi-polar disorder. Perhaps some day I will describe the eight shock treatments, the experience of the bizarre and the disturbing which I saw every day in this vast mental hospital, my visitors and how I treated them, the people I got to know in the hospital, the other treatment programs which were tried and my own internal fears, anxieties and strange behaviour patterns. However traumatic this experience was and however much it led to a breaking of continuity in my life, a radical fragmentation, a shattering of narrative identity, for a time, it has not led to a ‘before' and ‘after' bi-sected, bi-partite division of my life as is often the case in illness narratives.

In October 1967 the House referred to humanity entering "the dark heart of this age of transition." I had just begun to enter yet another dark heart of a mental disorder which, in a strange and secret way, strengthened my entire life. The third phase of the Nine Year Plan also began in the first two months Judy and I lived in the District of Franklin. The Six Intercontinental Conference were over and some nine thousand believers had attended around the world. The first oceanic conference was held in November celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh. In April the second election of the Universal House of Justice took place. In June 1968 the Continental Board of Counsellors was established. Much was happening in the Bahá'í world as it began to experience the entry of thousands of young people into the Cause. The history of these experiences are described in various Bahá'í books and I shall not go into the events in the Bahá'í community in detail here.

However difficult my own life was during 1967/8, there were other sufferers from bi-polar illness whose attacks were far worse than mine. The American poet Robert Lowell, for example, had a series of attacks from 1949 to 1974, every year. In a book about his experience the illness was defined as: that terrible condition in which the mind is bombarded by more sensation than it can accommodate, when associations succeed one another so quickly and so intensely that the mind feels stretched to the breaking point." By December 1968 my psycho-emotional life seemed on track again and so it remained until the late seventies, for the most part.

During all of these experiences in the 1960s, the Nine Year Plan proceded apace to eventually more than exceeding all of its goals. When the statistical report for the progress of the Cause in the USA came out in August of 1968 I was headed for the first of a series of eight shock treatments in the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. Statistics were far from my mind at the time. I was having a great deal of trouble just getting through the day, although a set of different therapies were being tried, none of which seemed to be of much help. Hundreds of new centres had been opened to the Faith in the first four years of the Nine Year Plan. As I walked around the various 'cottages' where I was being institutionalized, as I was being locked in rooms and marched around like a prisoner; as I seemed to be hallucinating, having visions that both I and the Cause I belonged to were under attack, the news was out that great progress in the advancement of the Cause was taking place.

Whatever progress there had been in the growth and development, the consolidation and extension of the Cause around the planet--and from the time my mother first had contact with this Cause in 1953 until today, in 2003, this Faith has grown 25 to 30 times--it was necessary to keep in mind that "civilizations come to birth in environments that are unusually difficult and not unusually easy." To put it a little more precisely, "the most stimulating challenge is to be found in a mean between a deficiency of severity and an excess of it." But the skills, the knowledge and the attitudes involved in writing about that challenge take a lifetime to acquire. For we are all works of art in progress. When I write I like to think of myself as a conduit; I am available for something to enter, perhaps that "leaven that leaveneth the world of being." Like any other art that is taken seriously, writing is a discipline that must be learned if, as Thomas Hardy once wrote, "one is to contain the monstrous and self-dividing energies of existence." But, like anything else, there are effective and ineffective ways of learning. Levine, in his analysis of Hardy, says that "the effect of a refined sensibility is to write books," while the effect of pure sensitivity is to be crippled.

The war in Viet Nam and the government policy sending troops to the first television war was under seige in America. The following poems widen the perspective on war; for it is not my aim here to expatiate on the pros and cons of the war in Viet Nam or indeed on a host of other political events which the reader can find exhaustively analysed in books and in the electronic media and analysed ad nauseam in the last half century. It is my hope that I can provide, especially for Bahais and the seekers among their contemporaries, some perspectives that they will find refreshing, illuminating and, hopefully, both intellectually surprising and provocative. For the most part these perspectives will not draw on the dead weight of the classics, what Marx said was like a weight, a nightmare, on the brains of the living. My perspectives are largely from those of a new world religion and a literature that draws from the humanities and social sciences and a multitude of stylizations of reality that are born in the initimate, personal and subjective processes of writing of many a modern. For it is these stylizations that determine the dominant category of experience, the essential event, for the reader.

Besides being an histroical document, this work is, or so I like to think, part of an ``early warning system'' that art opens in the ``doors of perception.'' As media changes have accelerated during these four epochs, technologies have begun to perform the function of art in making human beings aware of the impact of technology. Using Erza Pound's definition, the artist can be seen as the ``antennae of the race'' in anticipating social and technological changes by several decades. The prophetic artists' work enables consumers to prepare to cope with these changes. Technology, McLuhan believes, reaches beneath consciousness and alters sensory balance and perception without human awareness or resistance. The artist is not the only social player who can counter technological effects but the artist brings a certain expertise, a certain awareness "of the changes in sense perception." McLuhan, like many philosophers and certainly most Baha''s, endows human beings with a limited freedom. The artist provides a map to adjust the psyche. Of course with many artists there are many maps and in the last several epochs people get exposed to a plethora of maps. The media bring many of these maps into our lives and they deeply affect people because the media are, for McLuhan, human extensions. However, it is possible to assess media effects before media are introduced into society, thanks to the artist. I like this idea of McLuhan's which he says serves us with a freedom of action through the arts. But the idea is too complex to deal with here in more detail.


Carl Von Clausewitz's On War which he wrote in the years 1817 to 1829, aimed at an understanding and clarification of the principles of conflict, of war. The nature of war seems to be changing, certainly for me and my daily life and most of my contemporaries in this half century, 1953-2003. In my lifetime the nature of warfare changed a great deal. But all the wars I fought were in my personal life. Even here the principles of warfare outlined by Clauswitz were relevant. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 9 February 2003.

It's a different war these days
than the ones my father
and his father and fathers before
went to with guns and uniforms
and marching, marching. Marching.

A tightening in the gut, real fear,
morning after morning,
wanting to run away
from this stoney, narrow and tortuous path,
learning to love it, slowly, slowly, slowly--
well, most of it.

It's the kind of war that wears you
down, year after year as you learn
to keep your forces concentrated-
that simple law of strategy-
and keep faithful to the principles
you--and he--have laid down.1

1 These were the first two principles laid down by Clauswitz in his book.

Ron Price
9 February 2003.


Thucydides began his history of the Peloponnesian War with a short prelude, a description of critical events from 435 to 432 BC. He believed it was going to be "the greatest war of all" and "worth writing about"1 The war that is the chief concern of this poetry begins in 1937 with a hiatus period covering major events of the twenty years back to 1917. Thucydides gives a short account of the period before the war, the period 479-431 BC. He called this period ‘the Pentecontaetia.' The years before 1919, back to 1844, seventy five years, I shall call the Heroic Age. Some of my poetry is devoted to events of that three-quarters of a century. -Ron Price with thanks to Thucydides, History of the Pepolonnesian War, Penguin, 1972, p.35.

There's a perpetual restlessness here
as I hop-along from place to place
through an immense complexity1
only touching down, sharp edge,
on a life, a place here and there
where I lived and watched it rage,
far from the fringes of that Golden Age,2
hardly knowing, unbeknownst,
like some kind of game,
light electric entertainment,
as an old world fell apart
and a new one was born
in which self crystallized
little-by-little around a world
of language and I tried
to describe that war, so different,
create it in words for the first time,
to perpetuate in memory deeds
which should not be forgotten,
which supremely tested beliefs.

Travelling and reading, I derived
from my generation new understandings
of the early stage of this new war.
And so I write an everlasting possession3
which time may vindicate, just may.

1Thucydides does not off the reader a resting place or a solution to the complexity of history. He offers perpetual restlessness.(James Boyd White, When Words Lose Their Meanings: Constitutions and Reconstitutions of Language, Character and Community, University of Chicago Press, 1984, p.88)
2 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, 1965, p.21.
3 P.A. Brunt, Studies in Greek History and Thought, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993, p. 137.

Ron Price
1 February 2001

I'd like to close this chapter with a letter that pursues this war theme in a different direction. I wrote the letter about the same time as these two poems. It provides some useful insights I think on this overall venture that has been the pioneering experience. It is a letter I never sent but I entitled it: THE NEW-OLD WAR . I wrote it on Christmas Day four months before retiring from teaching. The letter draws on metaphor which, during these pioneering years, came to have increasing importance to an understanding of my pioneering venture and my life. Literary theorist Marshall McLuhan was one of the masters of metaphor. He recognized how to leverage the power of metaphor for both rhetorical and pedagogical value. In literary critic Donald Theall's critical review of McLuhan: The Medium Is the Rearview Mirror, published in 1971, he described McLuhan's method as follows: "In McLuhanese, his metaphors could be described as providing a "Do-It-Yourself-Creativity-Kit." In this way, even the initially less adequate metaphors, those that seem to confound more than clarify, can be useful for meditation which will lead to some kind of creative insight. For me this became increasingly true for virtually the entire history of the Bahá'í Faith.

86 Fitzroy Road
Rivervale WA

25 December 1998

Dear Universal House of Justice

This is a letter I will probably never mail but I must write it anyway to get a few things off my chest. I suppose what I write was precipitated by watching a recent movie Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks. The movie showed, possibly better than any has since movies started their journey a hundred years ago, the horror of war. With the aid of the best in sound technology and cinematography and a gripping storyline the eyes, the ears and the emotions were mixed and stirred as they never have before in a war movie. As is so often the case with film, description was wonderful; analysis was lacking. The audience was left, as it so often is, to figure out the whys and wherefores.

This letter, as a result of the intensity and emotion of the film, may be equally intense, overly emotive, over-the-top as they say in Australia. But I trust this letter will convey a slice of truth as did the movie. Some notes, some musical themes, in this poetic autobiography that I send in the form of booklets of poetry like this one, are created and played for the listening ear of a future reader whom I have in my mind's eye. And that is an essential part of this poetic opus: finding reflections of myself, my religion, the realities of life, in many of the pockets of life to which I turn and conveying them in print(J. Hatcher, George Ronald, 1984). Here a future reader will find impressions of the battle from an individual soldier during the earliest years of the tenth stage of history, 1963-1998. I should note, before passing on to other themes, that I often draw on the writings of other artists in the obvious and blatant ways as well as the most subtle in the form of quotation, emulation, allusion and absorption. That is why there are over 1800 references in this entire opus.

We all know about the terrors of war, we citizens of the emerging global civilization. These sorts of wars have an enemy, guns, swords, uniforms, bullets, tanks, aeroplanes, all sorts of military paraphernalia. As far back as civilization goes wars were obvious, blatant, clear-cut, although often complex in their logistics and battle plans as well as other features of what were often long and tortured affairs.

But the battle, the war, of which I write and which we are all engaged in this final stage of history is not in this category, not based on military materiel. It involves a destruction far more drastic and terrible than any of the ones I have described briefly above. This battle does not have a ‘front', as the wars had which we are used to describing in this century, or in those more limited engagements of previous and recent centuries. The battle now is everywhere and it is often, usually, not visible to the senses. Sometimes, of course, it is visible. Sometimes people die in one of literally hundreds of ways from one of thousands of causes. But most of the deaths are spiritual and most of the battles not visible to the outward senses by, say, interested observers.

One of the reasons I will never send this letter is that my own particular battle is just one of millions now. Mine is really no worse or no better than most of the others; or to put it more accurately, it is difficult to measure, to quantify, the individual soul's battle. There are marginal and sometimes extreme differences from person to person, of course, but they are impossible to judge or place in any hierarchy. If some of these individual ‘battlers', as they are called in Australia, ever wrote to you about their battle, their story would be different than mine: we all have different battles. But these battles, these post-modern wars, are infinitely more complex than those of yesteryear. Many people would not even begin to see their lives in these quasi-militaristic terms, as days lived in a war zone on many fronts. They would simply not use the language of war. They see life as a game, as theatre, an exercise in winning and losing, a play on a stage. Some would see it filled with meaning and others with no meaning. But either way, the notion of life as a war, as a battle, would be foreign to them. This is partly due to the seductive, insinuating nature of the process.

But it is not foreign to me and this is what I write about in this letter. This letter will serve as a representative of one that I'm sure millions might write, millions of often stoic souls who battle on and on year after year each fighting in their own way for the truths they have espoused. I tire of this old-born war. After thirty-six years of pioneering, three years of getting ready for it and six years of watching it from the sidelines back in the 1950s, I think I have dried out. Like this dry dog-biscuit of a land, Australia, I have had all my juices sucked out. I feel as if I have lived life to the full, recognised and embraced the ocean of this Cause and thrown my whole life into its service. As Saint John says "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die."

I have drowned.       My imperfections, imbalances and immaturities, as long as your arm and nurtured over many years, do not appear so epically egregious as once they did. I avoid wasting precious energy on guilt and a host of unproductive mechanisms, although unacceptable behaviour still dogs my path. Action is the willingness to dramatize intentionality, and therefore knowledge, faith and love. Sadly, this wllingness is not always there, even with an intense inner life. Sometimes, as William Hatcher notes, there are "precious moments of despair, of utter helplessness and defeat, of shame and repentance."       The angels, I imagine, yawn at the mention of my troubles and my sense of shame in all likelihood bores these angels to death, although it probably protects me still from even more shame. My suffering, now and over the years, is so ordinary, banal, trivial. Still, I must and I do take stock and make deliberate efforts to bring my life into balance, harmony and consistency with the standards of this Cause.

However much suffering has made me the man I am, it seems to have lost the old bite it once had. Its flavour, its spice, its enriching function lies, it seems, in its retrospectivity. And so I, a sorry soldier, with my camp in ruins, speak from a weariness of battle far prolonged, as a bird weary of flight. The shining names of others on scattered tombs no longer appears as radiant, as they once did. They have become overly familiar and not as sweet as their remembrance once was. A legion stretching to horizon's end, they have, I trust, by now entered the Garden of Paradise, they who are champions of the Peerless One.

But all is not a sad tale. I find aspects of this war, this set of endless skirmishes and engagements, enchanting in some ways. I have even become enamoured of some of the very intransigence of the enemy's army. Their implacability, their very immoveability, is an aphrodisiac, though fatigue makes me call truce each day. I make my own noose each day out of my failings and I stroke the face of the traitor: for how can one describe one's infinite failings which one lives with so finitely year-after-year? I seem to love the enemy and seek the Friend. This Friend is echoed in these lines from Shakespeare's sonnets:

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings/That then I scorn to change my state with kings. and

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,/All loses are restored and sorrows end.

The joy I possess is an inward one, for the Friend is, in the end, an inner One and it is difficult to share except indirectly. That is why I write so much poetry. It is as if I write it to my Lord, for the world does not seem to want to listen, or to write to me: nor would I want it to most of the time.

And what is this war-like tempest that blows year after year tearing down the very foundations of the earth with its subtle and not-so-subtle terror? What is this mighty wind of battle whose origins I can neither perceive nor probe? What is this rampant force that silently fills my ears with jingles, the Ten Top Tunes, the most wonderful classics, sports highlights and tinkling trivialities as millions die in the blazing cross-fires of life on battlefields that have no guns, trenches or signs of military might? As I feast on the fleeting and the false I am delivered from greatness. I endlessly magnify the mediocre, the ignorant and the second rate. The very complexity of it all makes it difficult to define the excellent. In these early years of this tenth stage of history, as the Guardian defined the years after 1963, a great maelstrom blows and blows.

My trouble, indeed society's, seems rooted in our souls and, however much analysis we pour unto our problems, the answers elude us. For they are immensely complex both for those of us who are the promoters of this Cause and those billions of souls who will one day embrace its message. For there are a million questions in this complex jungle of modern life.

Some of the ocean's turbulence I can no longer face. I have swum in its pearl-promising waves before. I know of the adventurous excitements and the wet dangers. I want to turn back now to a sun-warmed sand and leave the waves for another day, a future time. I can not swim in some of these great pools any longer; the poisoning stone fish frighten me. I feel like a frightened bird who has torn his pinion and bloodied his head. I want to go home and ‘neath the shade of protecting wings I want to nestle forever. The sea always asks more and in some of these watery escapades, in some of these wild and mounting waters, I no longer want to sail. I can no longer even look upon the frothed treachery that laps on some of the sea's shores. I say prayers now, but only lines, never finishing.

My prayer book feels like an overworked horse that I must leave alone to rest out in the pasture. I tire of the language, the words used year after year to say and do what must be done year after year, again and again. For what we must do seems to repeat itself again and again. The same story is told over and over in its labyrinthine forms, unvarying. Now I face the long wait for the salient dove to bring that living twig. Devotion feels like a lean provision for this journey now. This devotion brought me far and now I must go the distance on the heart's thin soil with a fatigue whose name is so ancient as to have no name.

For many years I have identified intimately with the Guardian who, by at least the 1940s, was worn out from the burden of his labours. But he carried on until his passing in 1957 at the age of 60. Of course, I carry my own burden, much smaller than Shoghi Effendi's. I am currently making some adjustments in my employment and residence in order to carry this burden more effectively into the future. Life seems to be a series of such adjustments until the Lord relieves one of the burden and its accompanying weight, responsibility, pleasures and joys.

I feel He has given it all to me. I have been blest with the ocean, but I must swim alone in the sea. Always there is "the work" upon which to expend my energy. This "work" I feel is partly my reward for coming this far in the battle. This is the deepening, the understanding, the insight, the sweeter pleasures, the joyous even tearful end of things. It is an end that possibly, probably, would not have come had there been no war. For war is productive of much good and my days have tasted a sweet new life, a spiritual springtime filled with the fresh leaves, blossoms and fruits of a consecrated joy. Had there been no war there would not have been this consecrated joy. I no longer have to do everything, as once I did; I can and do find joy in some of the work. I have found my corner where I can watch the tempest blow, where I can deal with a manageable chunk of the war. But from some of the action, some of the fronts on which the war is being waged, I must retire.

Swift would I be, though, Lord, if Thou wouldst but call, for You are my aim, my hope, my all. I have chosen death, Lord. In this old-new born war I know there is no escape. I've seen my candles fail, my petals rust. But I have found a golden seam of joy, consecrated joy, seemingly imperishable joy. This inner brightness, inner light, can be found in my poetry, along with the rusted petals, the failed candles and the story of my retirement from some of the battlegrounds.

Saint John writes in that same chapter 12 that "the resurrection of the dead" is "sown in corruption" and "raised in incorruption." When I view my life as a whole I can see aspects of corruption beginning when I was a child. I trust that my life will see me "raised in incorruption."       By the time I arrived in Australia in 1971 at the age of twenty-seven I had collected perhaps two dozen years in which evidences of corruption had entered my life. They were not my last. The insistent self, which manifests itself from one's earliest days, requires a lifetime to work on. 'Tis a tenuous entity the self and, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed it in a pithy phrase, "however tenuous that veil may be, at the last it will completely shut a person out."      

Readers willl find in this work, if they have not already surmised, that my most favoured centre, my natural focus, for observation, for gaining perspective, for orientation is the Bahá'í World Centre, the spiritual axis, indeed, the nucleus and pattern of World Order as it was evolving on the earth in its pattern of Centres and Institutions. Readers will find that I extoll this framework of Order as my most favoured centre, my preferential System for defining my world. It is not that I am indifferent to other places and systems; indeed, often where I am, home and hearth, serves my immediate purposes of comfort and companionship, love and the satisfaction of personal needs. I bring my readers back to both this home and the larger home within which my spirit moves and has its being. I trust I do not observe men as some writers do--like the lepidopterist who collects butterflies and pins them to his board for study.

Again and agan in life we all reconstitute our memories. I have done this agan and again in relation too the Bahá'í World Centre and in relation to so many other people, places and things. These reconstituted memories form the basis of my remembered self. The shared stories and memories I have within my family, my friendships, my religious community and other individuals and groups define my particular social self. These new memories sometimes bolster and sometimes compete with my previously remembered selves and my previous memories. The narrative construction of human reality, in particular the social reality, and the role of stories in communication and social interaction, forms the story, the autobiographical story or autobiography which is central to human personality. Readers will find, if they have not already, that I come back often to the process of autobiography. Consciousness of this process is, I think, crucial to understanding our own personal lives.

Human stories are rich and of such a complexity and variability that it is difficult to define human narrativity and to separate this narrative from the living body which such narrative abilities emerge from. However, embedding such a story-telling capacity in human agents like ourselves with our rich behavior repertoire, our complex biology and our arguably even more complex social reality, makes for paradox, irony and subtlety and requires a brilliant inventiveness, understanding and wisdom to unravel it. After nearly twenty years of working on this story I feel I have only begun.



"Three rules for writing an autobiography......"

If there are three rules for writing a novel or an autobiography and noone knows what they are, how do we know there are only, or even, three? -Ron Price with thanks to Somerset Maugham in D. Brodie, Writing Changes Everything, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1997, p.15.

We come now to the last phase of the homefront pioneering part of the journey. Of course, at the time when I left that great psychiatric hospital by the side of Lake Ontario in Whitby, I had no idea that my homefront pioneering had just thirty months left in its itinerary. Australia was not even an idea in my mind except perhaps a map I'd drawn in grade four with some sheep on it. This homefront journey was nearing its end. I was not a recorder of the events during these homefront years, a Bahá'í recorder then, nor am I now, of the events in the history of the Bahá'í community at the local, the national or the global level. This would be done in more detail than I could ever achieve by thousands of others around the globe. I was writing a particularistic work that was not based on painstaking recording, detailed description or a peeping and prying into the events of others. In some ways I was not writing anything new. For what I experienced I am sure would have been experienced by many others Bahá'ís, more refined and with deeper insight and understanding than I would ever achieve. My life was not any more felicitous or happy than a myriad other Bahá'ís who travelled the path I travelled in these epochs. It is probable, too, that this work, however lengthy or some might say 'wordy,' will not add appreciably to the facts and figures, the significations and appreciations, of these times or life's incredible mystery. I lack the detective's eye; the dews and hints of nature, the quick flashing moments and movements of people and palces in my day to day life, pass me by and, usually, quite willingly. But I give the reader endless interpretations, endless speculations, endless subjectivities, endless preoccupations with soul. I sometimes wonder if this book can bear the weight of my preoccupations. I would like to be able to say that I give readers self-forgetfulness and self-abandonment on the one hand; and entertainment and a good laugh on the other. But, sad to say, readers will have to look elsewhere for these admirable qualities. 'Abdu'l-Bahá advised us to be self-forgetful and to use humour. But that does not seem to be my lot, the creature of the half-light that I am. It may be that there is some truth in the advice of Norman Mailer; namely, that "it is often impossible to comprehend anyone else until one has plumbed the bottom of certain preoccupations about oneself." After twenty years of being preoccupied with this story I feel, in some ways, as if I have just begun the plumbing.

In December 1968, then, I came out of the hospital and Judy and I settled down in Toronto. In the opening weeks of 1969 I got a job with a security firm, drove an armoured truck, counted money and carried a loaded gun for the first and only time in my life. The loaded gun I'd carried for several years before then had nothing to do with bullets or shooting people. It was a spiritual gun and it had enormous amounts of ammunition, largely hidden, symbolic, of the imagination. After about three months of trying to secure the worlds of various organizations, I got a job as a systems analyst with the Bad Boy Company in Toronto. And this led, sensibly and insensibly, after another three month period to a few weeks of unemployment in the summer months. I never really got a handle on that job. I think the only reason they hired me from a group of some 450 applicants was the fact that I had worked with Eskimos and my supervisor, a young man of about thirty, had had a stint in the Virgin Islands and these brief dips that each of us had had into the third world had created, mostly unbeknownst to me at the time and especially during the interview process, a psychological bond that went a long way to endearing me to him and thence to the job. But, in the end, I really had very little idea just what I was supposed to do most of the time. Eventually this became painfully apparent and, after much discussion back and forth, I decided to leave before they fired me.

The day Apollo 11 was launched for its manned moon landing, July 16th 1969, I was hired by the Prince Edward County Board of Education as a primary school teacher in the country town of Cherry Valley. I was given a grade six class of boys and girls from country farms and hamlets. And there I stayed for one year. Teaching is a consuming activity. You really have to focus on what you do. Your main time goes there. There is little time left for a personal life. It's like a monkey on your back; the process bosses you around, takes over your life.       It is a good preparation for writing. Thirty years later I would be ready for a new focus, a new passion, a new place for my energy.

The week I started teaching, in early September 1969, I had been a pioneer on the homefront for seven years. There were many areas I had been tested in during this period: the dominant personality, the perfectionist, I had had to deal with for most of the three years I was at university. This was a personality that kept reappearing in my life, in Bahá'í communities, in my professional work and in my private life. I had lived in the remote wilderness of Canada with its coldness, its vastness and with its emotional chaos which gradually wore me out. I had come close to a spiritual death before I had gone to the north. On the other hand, I had been given, by the grace of God, those mysterious dispensations of Providence, North America's only psychiatrist to care for me at the Verdun Psychiatric Hospital in Montreal where I was placed when I came out of Baffin Island. I had been given a good wife and two good parents. Indeed, the litany of goods and bads that we all recite when we review our life added up in my favour both then and now.

When the second message to youth from the House of Justice arrived in October 1968 I could not help but note the emphasis on "outstanding obligations to others, including those who may be dependent on him for support." My mother could be said to be in this category. Not that I could do much about it at the time for I was in the middle of that set of eight shock-treatments in the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. In August 1970, after I had been back in the teaching profession for a year, the House referred to pioneers as "associates in the execution of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan." After eight years in the field I felt I had earned this accolade. And I still feel this way. There always seemed to be a degree of romance, a flavour of excitement in the vocabulary of the Bahá'í teachings. My mother always said the Bahá'í Faith was meant for anyone who had a theatrical sense in life. Solzhenitsyn, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in December of that year, 1970, said that "in recent decades mankind has imperceptibly, suddenly, become one, united in a way which offers both hope and danger." This theatre, this one world, I had entered at my birth in 1944. In 1959 I joined a global community motivated by concerted action towards that single goal of the unity of humankind. It was a group that had a map for the journey to that goal and not just vague sentiments of good will. It had explicit agreement on principles for co-ordinated progress.

Of course, there was no assumption, then, nor is there now, that I or this group of Bahá'ís have achieved some state of lofty perfection; rather it is a view that Bahá'ís possess and that I possess as helpers in the execution of His Plan. I think, too, that what is involved, at least for me, has been a quest for selfness, a search for identity. This is a theme that has been part of, has resonated through, American literature since the martrydom of the Bab. I was conscious, too, of the bankruptcy of the culture I had grown up in. The Guardian had expatiated on this theme time and again in his letters. By the late 1960s, after being a Bahá'í for a decade, I had become conscious of my role as a "fisher of humankind." The valley of the shadow of death, mentioned in the Book of Psalms, the 'slough of despond' which was the world, the society, I lived in with its "thousand forests of wild trees" had rare and fruitful trees. My task was to find them. My task was also to "be born from the womb of the world of nature." Both these tasks required a superhuman effort. I was not always equal to the superhuman challenge.

As I write these words I am listening to Augustin Burrows who is describing his autobiography Running With Scissors with its black humour, its very entertaining format, its high degree of readability. It is one of those few autobiographies that is funny and written in a way that is attractive to readers. It is full of eccentricity, strangeness, violent scenes, mental illness, the chaos and rebuilding of a life, the use of writing as therapy, a survival mentality and immense human resilience. I do not possess Burrows' gift for writing in the style he does nor is my life filled with the horrors his was. Mine is a more middle-of-the-road life, or so it seems to me, even with all the ups and downs included. There has been much that has burned in me over the years and this Cause, the Bahá'í Faith, has been a place for me to deal with the fire. Mark Twain wrote that it would require a library to deal with the burning inside him and "a pen warmed up in hell to record it all." I, too, have had my hell, but in recent years there has been a cooling and it is this cooling that has allowed, that has stimulated, the writing.

The famous American writer, Doris Lessing, said in an interview just over two years ago now that the sixties generation, those who came of age in the sixties, were the most self-indulgent generation that had ever existed. They were, she went on, the least self-critical. It was also a generation filled with suicides, drug addicts and casualties of various kinds. Former certainties, those that had existed up to and including WW2, were eroded quickly in the late forties and fifties. Empires that looked like they would last forever in the 1930s, the British, the Fascist and the Nazi, were blown apart or gradually replaced by new worlds, new paradigms, new perspectives on world politics.

To most Canadian and Australian historians who began writing in the 1960s, the imperial past was at best irrelevant and at worst embarrassing. They sought to invent new conceptions of national identity that focused on the multicultural roots of their societies and on the need to compensate the native peoples who had been dispossessed of their lands by the European invasion. These new interpretations did not go uncontested and became the subject of what has been called in Australia "The History Wars." When I came to maturity in 1965 I was hardly aware of these issues even though I had begun in that year to focus my own interests on pioneering among the Inuit(Eskimo), even though I was a second year student in history and philosophy and even though I was just completing an 18 year experience of school which had a significant British content. Questions of national identity and the British connection were largely peripheral to my life as I struggled with a host of my own personal and intellectual issues.

I think there is some truth, though, in Lessing's analysis. There had been a good deal of social criticism in American writing as I was growing up, although I was too busy with my life, with the private world of family, friends and school, a private world that millions never leave as they go through life. Mummy and daddy and life as endless indulgence is, for many, the last and the only analysis. I have certainly had my share of self-indulgence, so I take a cautionary stance on criticizing others for theirs. I hesitate to give a great expose about by roots, about my ordinariness, my humanity, my devotion to family, hobbies, children, my great love for my friends, and so on. For in all these areas of life, often given such an emphasis and even exaggeration in so many autobiographical narratives, the unpromising, ordinary surroundings of those who became celebrities and sometimes great men and women are described in detail. Greatness springs from a very mortal clay. Focusing on their struggles, their suffering, and their triumphs over adversity, their stories thus reconfirm the American/western democratic mythology about great people arising from the mass; or in Australia the triumph over adversity without religion, money or talent but, rather, some marvellous combination of several central aphorisms from Murphy's Law and Shakespeare's intellectual corpus.

If there is any myth at the heart of this narrative it is the Bahá'í myth, a myth I am unable to reduce to an aphorism or two or indeed some general philosophy of suffering. I suppose with a pleasant and persuasive voice-over narration, mood music, reconstructed events and manipulated time sequences, a cohesive and engaging drama of my life could be presented. But whoever did the job, whatever team took on the task, I would want some significant engagement with the Bahá'í myth, some sculpting of my life not in the mythology of Hollywood, western democracy or, indeed, one of the many myths that now litter the contemporarty western intellectual tradition. I think the requisite understanding of the Bahá'í myth will be some time off in the future before our age or, indeed, my dear self, appreciates its depth and its meaning.

For my life has a host of incommensurate juxtapositions, local, space, time and relationship gaps, distortions, incompatibilities and pieces of contradictory information that can not be smoothed over into a tidy narrative sequence. Some future biopic industry needs to consciously and unconsciously question the elusive border between fact and fiction which make up all our lives. Producers and directors need to be full of self-doubt about their status, their role, as organs of truth and reality. The highly personal interventions into public life that biographical narrative often makes need to focus audience attention on the realities of the human struggle not on the formulaic, mythic structures and familiar narrative paradigms of the lives of celebrity entertainers. I hope I have helped readers focus on this struggle in this now lengthy work.

Our culture seems to have a profound need for unsullied heroes, possibly even saints. The many popular biographies of the last several decades seem to have far more to tell us about our present society which produces and consumes them, than about the celebrity subjects they purport to expose and explore. In some ways this is understandable and I would be the last to criticize them for I have often enjoyed them along with millions of other viewers. But my more questioning spirit tells me we have only just begun to explore the telling of a life. If this account contributes a little in this latter direction it will have all been worthwhile.

Lessing referred to Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, Dwight MacDonald, W.F. Buckley and David Reisman as all part of the "high water mark of American social criticism." A review of social criticism since 1960 is beyond the framework of this autobiography but, needless to say, it has been burgeoning. No one can keep up with it anymore and this autobiography only makes a passing glance at some of the major analysts of the last forty to fifty years. But I like to think that this work succeeds like good fictional texts in representing life: in underlining its fullness, complicatedness, inexplicability, fragmentation, and its subtextual richness, a richness which cannot be represented by traditional uses and the linear narrative of historical facts.

It was several years before the confidence and ego strength I had lost in that massive bi-polar episode, or mild schizo-affective state, returned. "There is a courier in the heart", writes Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "who carries messages of inner meaning to the soul." This episode, however 'mild' it was labelled by one psychiatrist, was terrifying to me as a young man in my mid-twenties. Striving, too, to understand the Bahá'í System I had been a part of for a decade now could only yield a partial result. As the House of Justice wrote in December 1969 "we stand too close to the beginning of the System ordained by Bahá'u'lláh to be fully able to understand its potentialities or the interrelationships of its component parts." In time I was confident that this was a Cause that would prove "to be the thing which the world of religious and thoughtful men" would long for. During these first ten years of my pioneering life it would appear that the time had not arrived, although there was a response in the last twelve months of my time on the homefront that seemed to be the evidence of a 'spiritual elan.' As the darkest hours before the dawn were fast descending on civilization all across the planet, an enterprise, the great in the world's spiritual history, was unfolding unobtrusively before the world's multitudes. As I prepared to go overseas in 1971 that enterprise was only thirty-four years old. Indeed, it was just the start of a process comparable, perhaps, to the laying of the foundations of Christianity during Rome's darkest hours in the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

God had long ago spoken to Abraham in Exodus with the words: "Leave thy country, leave thy father's house and go to a country which I shall show you." In my case, my first wife had spoken to me and, for various reasons, her words seemed like a good idea.

The Guardian said that we stood to close to this new System back in 1930 and three quarters of a century later there is still much truth in them. The everyday experience of many Bahá'ís is a testimony to the truth of these words but, at the same time, there has been great advancement. There is often "blurring of vision;" and "errors of judgement" for we who are the generations of the half light. When the House of Justice called for 733 pioneers at Ridvan 1969 I had just taken that job with the Bad Boy Company and I felt that my whole life had been a 'blur" and one long 'error of judgment.'

The scene improved by mid-summer 1969 with the offer of that job and for the next two years I worked as a primary school teacher in Prince Edward County Ontario. When Judy and I left Picton and Canada in July 1971 there were some fifteen or more youth who had joined the Faith in that little country town of five thousand people. Dozens more whose lives had been touched by the spirit of the Cause would hear about it again in future years, long after Judy and I had gone to Australia. Perhaps some of what Judy and I had both been looking for, the House had described in their June 10th 1966 letter to youth: amusement, education and experience. We were certainly getting some of all three in the first four years of our marriage.

In April 1971 the House of Justice announced that the Bahá'í community was approaching the end of the first half century of the Formative Age. The Eastern Proc Team, as it was called, had come to Picton and we had had many teaching sucesses as a result. A few months before, in late 1970, a French terrorist group, the FLQ, had climaxed several years of bombing by murdering the Quebec Labour Minister. The War Measures Act was invoked. To most Canadians, though, as Mordecai Richler noted, it was a non-issue. An exodus from Canada followed, nevertheless, in the months ahead. Judy and I were part of that exodus, unbeknownst to us.

That same Ridvan message of 1971 pointed toward "a new horizon bright with intimations of thrilling developments." A wonderful spirit had been released by four oceanic and intercontinental conferences and the "practical benefits which accrued to the Cause from them" were seen in the months and years ahead. But that is part of the story in the chapters ahead. On July 12th 1971 Judy and I left Canada and on the same day the House announced plans for the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The early years of our lives had been lived remarkably close to those years of the life of 'Abdu'-Baha; indeed, He passed away a brief twenty-three years before I was born.

Nine years of pioneering on the homefront were nearing their end and during this time I had lived in ten towns: Dundas, Hamilton, Windsor, Frobisher Bay, Whitby, Scarborough, King City, Toronto, Brantford and Picton. I had also taught primary school in other towns: Cherry Valley, two of Toronto's suburbs whose names have long since left me, and two small towns outside Windsor: Amherstburg and Kingsville. I had served on two LSAs and on one registered Bahá'í Group. It had been a traumatic period. The tempest that Shoghi Effendi had referred to back in the opening paragraph of The Promised Day Is Come had been a part of my life during this nine year period. It had also been parts of the civilization I was part of and the global civilization that had been emerging some historians argued since the 1840s.

"It is difficult" wrote David Hume in 1776 as he began his eleven page autobiography, "for a man to speak long of himself without vanity." Vanity, defined as an ostentatious display, as empty pride, as conceit, as an emphasis on personal attainments, I know there to be something of in this multi-faceted autobiography. In my poetry this vanity is dealt with more comfortably. It would seem to me impossible that these things not be present in some degree for life is, in part, "vain and empty". It is not misplaced in autobiography; it is inevitable, in some degree.

More importantly, I'd argue, there is what the autobiographical theorist Roy Pascal calls "an assertion of inner standing."       For self and identity are not so much 'facts' as they are ways of thinking about self and others and their: actions, bodies, personalities, competencies, continuities, needs, subjectivity, space and geography, ways of pointing forward and back. As such self and identity are constructs of memory and imagination and, therefore, as I have said before in other analyses of autobiography, there is danger of falsification, of creation for defensive purposes against the encroachments of the world on the self, of an oversimple explaining of the self to the self and its world. There is what Lionel Trilling calls "the inauthenticity of narration". By that he means that part of life is beyond explanation, beyond narration, comprehension. There is also the problem in this connection, this thinking about self, that Hamlet had. One view of Hamlet that has been part of the mainstream of interpretation is that he is "the victim of an excess of the reflective faculty which unfits him for action." My wife, I am only too conscious, has often told me that she sees my life, especially since my retirement in 1999, as one dominated by "an excess of the reflective faculty."

In a review of Boris Pasternak's Hamlet, a poem of Pasternak's is quoted at the outset. This poem speaks to this autobiography and I will, therefore, quote some of it here. "I'm grasping in the echo's distant range/What will occur during my years....Father, I beg you, take this cup from live a life is not an easy task." Like Hamlet, I appear I be waiting, to delaying, as I write and read day after day. But I trust that "there's a divinity that shapes our ends. Rough-hew them how we will." I have, too, as Pasternak noted in his autobiography, a sense that life is "devoted and preordained to a task." Hamlet is, if noting else, a mysteriously personal play. And so too is this autobiography, at least I hope I have conveyed some of the mystery. Hamlet marks a cultural and historical watershed as does this work in relation to certain aspects of Bahá'í history like: the completion of the Arc, a survey of four epochs; certain aspects of secular history and certain aspects of my own life. The comparisons of Hamlet to my life, to all our lives, are extensive but, for now, I will leave the analogy at this point.

We need to tell our story, to understand our life, hence our "subjective faith in continuous personal identity", in existence itself. Hence we invent ourselves, selves we cannot directly perceive. To read my autobiography, as any other, is to encounter me as an imaginative being.

There is, then, self-affirmation and self-justification in my autobiography. This would seem inevitable, indeed necessary, qualities in any autobiography. The process of writing is the process of shaping, shifting, perhaps even sanctifying, one's life. I am like the main character in a novel, my novel. The challenge of the infinite, of causality, of sheer description is perplexing in both novel and autobiography. Like Edward Gibbon I find much of the meaning and shape of life in my work, my vocation, my writing. Like many autobiographers I find much of the meaning in my religious affiliation and its related activities. Much of what could be seen as the chaos of human experience is made reasonable, explainable. There is sense and sensibility among the dark and enigmatic aspects of life's run. But the web of psychic action, of complex psychological and moral perceptions is still mysterious. Life often lacks orderly and revealing patterns. A logic of events is often just not present in the flux, the impermanence, of immediate experience. These events are simply, and not-so-simply, constructed in autobiography, in my autobiography. The exercise rescues life, my life, from any incipient confusion, from the precarious, in part at least.

But as many autobiographers draw to our attention: words are precarious. They are not dependable. They impose on our understanding. They can be changed at will. But they can be the story of the self's inner experience. This is my intent; hence my gradual turning to poetry. I articulate, again and again, some significant form for what is often simple incoherence, vague and unformed thought, a partial understanding of Providence's plan. For I am a process as much as a state of being and these are both reflected in my autobiography, in the story of my life. The form I find in poetry is an emotionally acceptable one that allows a balance between fact and interpretation.

My students over thirty years would, if ever interviewed, see me in a multitude of ways, as would the individuals and the Bahá'í communities in which I lived and had my being since 1962. Such a process, if undertaken, might help to answer the question always implicit in autobiography: why am I worth writing about? The face presented to the world: its role, image, appearance, pose, the public self, the self as others see me, the social or historic personality, the sum of my achievements, my appearances, my personal relationships; and my personal self-image, my private self are difficult to reconcile. The teaching profession affords one of the best vocations for obtaining an assessment of how others see you in a day-to-day public sense. I have had some negative reactions to my teaching style, in the first several years of teaching and in occasional groups over the rest of my career but over the 29 years of teaching perhaps 23 or 24 were virtually free of significant negative reaction. Over this period I became the entertainer, the guy who knew a lot, the friendly Canadian.

Writing autobiography, writing about the self, implies profound exposures. Even disguises may often function as instruments of revelation. It is difficult to get the balance between revelation and concealment. I am more comfortable with poetry as a form to help me obtain the balance, as I have pointed out above. The unmapped territories of the imagination and feeling are more easily described in the securities of poetry's more flexible forms.

"The value and truth of autobiography are not dependent on the degree of conscious psychological penetration, on separate flashes of insight;" says Roy Pascal. They arise out of "the monolithic impact of a personality (which) creates a consistent series of mental images out of its encounter with the world." Perhaps that is why I write here, to help create this picture because something remains unsatisfied. I'm after that 'consistent series of mental images' that Pascal refers to here. I want to dominate and define a life, as Gibbon did. But that is impossible to do in the daily course of events. Perhaps it is the desire for intellectual companionship, a stay against confusion and drifting, a natural disposition to repose after the endless verbal and administrative rigeurs of my work as a teacher and the love of study which renews itself again and again, as it was for Gibbon. It would appear that whatever talents I have at writing, at writing to any significant extent, I need some tranquillity in which to work, in which to liberate the forces within me.

In recent years I have come to accept a certain degree of human limitation which I had hitherto not done. This has underpinned my life with a degree of comic vision to soften the sense of the tragic which operated in the early stages of my autobiographical narrative. There is some fear in me that I will be found wanting, but alas that is the lot of us all and that fear is now vague and amorphous. It only occurs in my lower moments when life itself looks like a gloomy lot. Perhaps, as Patricia Spacks argues, autobiography "in its essence amounts to an insistent demand for attention. Apology of one sort or another is built into the undertaking."

There is an atmosphere of unceasing activity involved in writing. It is not just coincidental that my writing has taken place at the same time that my interest in LSA activity, going to talks, deepenings, so many forms of standard Bahá'í activity has ceased, or significantly attenuated. Perhaps this writing is partly a way of keeping busy in a meaningful sense when the usual things that occupied my time do not do so any more. There is a freedom, a pleasure, a depth, a meaning, I achieve in written reflections on my experience that I do not achieve, in quite the same way, in my several social roles.

Turning life into story, into poetry, provides a means to account for everything. It helps to overcome that sense of superfluity "which restlessly and uselessly torments" human beings and which they "longingly alter and realter."       Individuals ceaselessly view and review their lives in a type of endless contest; in the process they develop a hermeneutics of suspicion or positive meaning which thinly or thickly coats their lives during so many of their leisure and working moments. Perhaps that is why so many garden, read, watch TV and engage in an endless list of 'occupiers.'

Writing autobiographical poetry helps to define, to separate that sphere of action and of life which has meaning and that which is, to a large extent, superfluous. It increases the connectedness, the coherence of the life process, the daily acts of significance and trivia which inseperably interact. It puts them on display; they reveal uneasiness, concealment, self-justification, sincerity. I adjust my character; I define its nature not unlike a woman does before a mirror, only I deal more with the inner person than the external image.

Like Boswell, I am, myself, my most significant audience and meaning is significantly expressed in my poetic discourse. If it is not written down it seems, perhaps, that it will not endure. Boswell describes how actively his imagination responds to the fancied demands of others and that in this sense he, and we, can in some degree be whatever character he, and we, choose. I have found this to be the case and, in fact, the possibilities of choice become virtually infinite when in the public domain. The attendant responsibilities are enormous. Social life I find is both light and frivolous on the one hand; and serious and significant on the other. The affects are, for me, punishing; they seem to deny the reality of limitation, but only in part, for limitation is part of the very pith of life. I find my forays into the social send me back to my study, to my privacy, for a sense of renewal, a sense of consolidation, of meditation.

I think it is timely to include another interview at this point, the point at which homefront pioneering becomes international pioneering. Since I refer so often in my narrative to the poetic aspect of my autobiography I would like to insert here one of the twenty interviews and approximately thirty thousand words I simulated in the first ten years, 1992-2002, of my writing poetry in the intensive way I did producing during these years nearly six thousand poems and two million words. The subjects suitable for poetry seem to be anything that has ever happened. And within that anything, I am free to interpret, reinvent, and juxtapose, all in the service of producing a greater understanding of what it is to be alive, what it is to be a Bahá'í during these epochs.

Ted Koppel wrote in his book History in the Making and the Making of Television that "a live interview on television is more than an interview--it is the whole editorial process: the interview, the editing, the structuring and restructuring of a story on the spot." I feel that way about these interviews which I have choreographed, so to speak.


Now that you have finished sending your poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library in celebration of the Arc Project, fourteen years of poetry, nearly all of what you had written up to the end of the twentieth century; now that you have been out of full-time employment in the teaching profession and out of an extensive attendance at Bahá'í meetings of various kinds for over two years; now that you are on the eve of your fortieth year of pioneering, I think it's timely that we continue these interviews as a means of marking your progress or the lack of it and as a means of defining the ongoing process that is involved in your personal and poetic life. This seems like a good time to catch you in: it's quiet; it's raining; we won't be disturbed, although you might get a little tired since it's after midnight. If you do, we'll finish this interview in the morning after you've had your haircut. How does all that sound to you?


Yes that's fine, but I'll just get some Weet-Bix if you don't mind and put on Beethoven's Fourth Symphony as a little background music.(Gets up, returns with Weet-Bix and puts the Beethoven record on his record player)

I: How is the writing coming along?

P: Quantitatively I think I'm averaging about 8 hours a day of reading and writing, although I don't time myself: some in the morning, some in the afternoon and evening. Qualitatively it is always difficult to measure. I tried writing novels in the last two years, three or four attempts, but ground to a halt after several thousand words on my major attempt. I could list several essays and odds and ends for magazines which I have been able to get published since 1999, but the poetry is still centre-stage, still magnifying my life and what I'm thinking about, making it new again, making it shine, as David Malouf once put it in discussing poetry..... Look, let's pick this up in the morning. I'm getting a little too tired for this.....

I: Sure(they go off.....) See you in the morning......

P: (early afternoon) Sorry for putting you off so long; I hope you enjoyed your walk around Pipeclay Bay and down at Bass Strait and Low Head. There were a number of important e-mails that came in this morning: several form Western Australia and two from the Bahá'í World Centre. I also wanted to listen to an interview with Robert Dessaix and get some information off the Internet on Somerset Maugham. I'm always better after lunch anyway....

I: You are now working on your 47th booklet of poetry and are at the end of your ninth year of serious poetic writing with an output of about 5500 poems. Are you producing more poetry now that you have freed yourself from the various constraints you operated under until mid-1999? What do you think keeps you at it, at the poetic response?

P: Keeping track of how many poems one writes after several years gets a little tiresome. But I don't think I'm writing any more poetry now than I was when I was a teacher and a Bahá'í in a large Bahá'í community. I would guesstimate that I am writing now, as I have been for many years, a little less than two poems a day. Essays and interviews help me clarify what I'm trying to do; novels seem to get in the poetic road. I must have a dozen attempts since the early 1980s gathering dust in my files.

Also, I have an immense freedom now that I did not have before. I'm not famous; I'm an unknown really, so noone is watching over me. There is none of that pressure which comes from being in some public's eye. And I use that freedom to write poetry. The poetry I write makes me focus on reality, on what happens inside my head and out in the world. So, although it looks like escapism, what I am doing, it is really quite an intense involvement in life. When you write poetry, the poem takes you on a trip, not a fantasy or an escape, but an integrative exercise where everything in your life, your knowledge and your experience, comes together to focus on a particular direction that the poem is assuming as you write. There is a bit of a risk, a bit of a punt in the process. Life, a spark, arises between what you see, what the external experience is, and what's inside you. You could call this the spark of reflection, an arising from, an answering to, the depths of your life.

I: To keep churning out these poems you must have something to say and, of course, you can't always take that for granted, can you? There's no guarantee, is there?

P: No, that's true. I remember reading about Emerson's concern, quite a strong one if I recall, that his creative edge would disappear and he'd have nothing more to write. Well, in nine years that has not happened to me. There always seems to be a reservoir of something, a rich interaction between the three foci in my poetry: my self-society-religion, churning out those sparks I mentioned above. And the Internet is paying off more than I dreamed. There is enough print there to keep the fires stocked forever. That was a bit of a worry before I retired because, while I was living in Perth, I'd been used to having a dozen or more books around my study at any one time from several libraries in that big city. Finally, this period, both in the Bahá'í community and in history, is part of a great climacteric, a great paradigmatic shift. There is just a teeming mass of stuff to put on paper, it seems to me.

I: Now that your role in life is quite different, now that you spend your time largely with print and much less with people, as you did when you were a teacher and going to "endless meetings", as you once put it, do you feel any different?

P: Well, I can't call myself a teacher now, perhaps a "retired teacher." I'm not "the chairman" or "the secretary" of the LSA; I don't have to respond to as many 'personal requests for my time' as I did, say, from 1992 to 1999 and for many years before that. I still feel it's a little pretentious to call myself "a poet." As one poet I once read in an interview put it: other people can call me a poet. I prefer to say: 'I write poems' or 'I write prose-poems' or 'I do alot of writing.' Also, I'm still a husband and a father, a step-father, an uncle, a step-grandfather. These roles take some of the edge off the immense amount of solitude which is at the centre of my life. I'd say generally that I'm much more organized and, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá once put it in a letter, more focused on a single point.1 I am trying, as He put it in that same context, to become an effective force.2

I: How do you see your role as a Bahai now? Is it different than it was in, say, the 1990s?

P: I am one of those Bahais who lived through those "three decades of struggle, learning and sacrifice"(1964-1994)3 and who is now trying "to capitalize on the insights gained" by these years of experience. I trust that what is now, for me, more than forty years of service in total will refine my present endeavour and purify my motivation so that I will be, as the House says in that book Century of Light "worthy of so great a trust,"4 the continued involvement in the prosecution of the Divine Plan. I want to find more and more meaning in life. I have always refused to believe it's merely a dreary sequence of events. So I write poetry. My work is my testimony . . . I want to give myself in sacrifice of some sort, to participate in the common body of human life . . . my poetry lets me do that as does my religion.

I have always, at least since October 1964 when I was first exposed to what could be called 'the military metaphor' in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, seen the whole exercise, my whole experience as a Bahá'í, in terms of a very serious undertaking. Life was no game, no fun parlour, it was serious business, very serious. As two of the teachers I had back in 1964 put it: it was war! But the war is played out in the theatre of our daily lives. My thirty years in Australia had taught me to play it with humour. By the late 1990s, as I approached the age of 55, I had worn myself out in the particular theatre of operations where I lived. It had not been the first time. So I moved to northern Tasmania to refocus, recoup, redirect my energies. This I am now doing.

I: You seem to have quite a range of content in your poetry: from the great processes of history to the ordinary little things. Could you put this aspect of your poetry into perspective for us?

P: All the little things that happen to us in our lives never get recorded. I try to get some of them into my poetry, so that they won't get lost. All that is not recorded--and there is so much--needs to get a look in now and then. You can't get it all down or we'd all drown in the trivia, the boredom and the chowder as well as the 'deep and meaningfuls.' I want to preserve things, some of the rich experience of these past decades, some of the sacrifice, learning and struggle, some of the things that never get into messages and letters. I want to keep this recent history and keep it in context. My poetry provides a host of contexts for our Bahá'í experience. Generally the contexts are three: my own life, my community's, my society's and the world's.

Also, and finally with respect to your question, language, the language I use in poetry, is a way of defining who I am, of defining what holds us together in our communities as Bahá'ís, of specifying identity. To do this I have to relive history, to relive the big and the small. They are both part, important parts, of the complex and simple world we live in.

I: Isn't there something in your poetry about making the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar, to choose someone's clever phrase?

P: No question about it. But it's time for my afternoon walk. I've had about five hours of pushing words up a hill or down a hill or along the plane and it's time to take by body, the temple of my soul, and give it something to do other than sitting, walking around this house and talking to you.

I: Can I join you?

P: If you don't mind listening to my saying prayers out loud. That's one of the main functions of my walk.(the two go off on a walk and return)

P: That was a pleasant hour. It is an important hour to me to get that exercise, to do some deep breathing to counter a COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), to say some prayers for a range of purposes not the least of which is protection, the purposes are multiple and are indicated by each prayer and too many to outline here. The prayers also allow me to finish off the eight hours that are my working day. With the interviews I hear on the radio, the news programs, the dinner and lunch, the domestic work and a little TV, the day passes very pleasantly. This is how I am spending my recuperative period, my preparation period, my time of an intensive writing of poetry. There is in this increasingly long exericse a delicate recuperative strategy for dealing with the charging lorry of life.
I: One final question comes from a similar one asked to Australian writer David Malouf by Helen Daniel about the stillness in his novels. Do you think your poetry slows life down or moves things along?

P: I think it does both. With many of my poems I want time to stop completely so that I can move into the moment, explore the second, the event, over many stanzas. At other times I want my poem to survey a vast track of land, of space, of time and only this poem can take such enormous distances and focus them as succinctly as I do on, say, one page. Time and space are dimensions in your hands as a poet which you can play with with great freedom and purpose.

I: I think that is all for now. I look forward to returning to these and other themes in the years ahead. Happy writing and happy living, Ron.

P: You, too! What was your name again?

1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Haifa, 1978, p.111.
2 idem
3 The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p.108.
4 ibid.,p.111.

I will close this section on homefront pioneering and its four parts with two poems which tend to paint some of the big picture in different ways:


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 Bahá'í 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.


F. Scott Fitzgerald "began assembling his Notebooks"1 some time after May 1932. He was thirty-six and had eight years to live before his death in 1940. He used his Notebooks to record ideas and observations. Bruccoli, in his review of these Notebooks, says they are not that interesting as literary documents but, since they were from Fitzgerald, they are important.2 Two novels and a collection of short stories appeared from the eight years that Fitzgerald utilized Notebooks.

R. Frederick Price "began assembling his Notebooks" in the 1960s and 1970s, but little remains from these collections. In the 1980s and 1990s Price began to assemble an extensive collection of notes from the humanities and the social sciences, not so much observations as quotations from his reading, photocopies from books, magazines and journals and, by the late nineties, material from the Internet. A vast amount of this, too, has been lost, given away or left behind where he lectured and taught. His poetry, of course, contained the sorts of notes that came from observations and ideas. By 2003, as this statement was being recorded, over one hundred and fifty two-ring binders and arch-lever files as well as over fifty booklets of poetry filled with notes represented Price's collection of Notebooks. -Ron Price with thanks to 1&2Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor, The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, NY, 1945, p.viii & p.ix.

It had become a massive embrace,
filled the spaces all around him
like a sprawling glove
that noone could wear,
like a collection of old shirts
nicely hung and arranged
to wear on cold or warm days.

He'd been warming to them for,
what, forty years now?1
It had been a lifetime
since that early start
with lots of practice
even in those earlier years,
perhaps as far back as '53--
surely not that soon,
not in grade four2
when the Kingdom
was just arriving
and that Crusade
to conquer the world?

1 1962-2002
2 I have vague recollections of 'notebooks' from school from about 1953 through 1958, grades four to eight in Ontario Canada. Nothing, of course, remains from this period except a few old photographs. The oldest item from a 'notebook' that I possess comes from 1962. After 1962 the term notebook was more accurately: arch-lever file, two-ring binder and booklet to describe the place I put notes.

Perhaps the following lines from the poet Coleridge put some of the origins of that Kingdom and my efforts over half a century to collect notes, in perspective:

"...And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."
VOLUME 4: International Pioneering



"Writing autobiography requires boundary construction....."

The truth of a well-rendered autobiography is deeper than the life it describes. This depth is found in its link to history, sociology, psychology and much that is outside the individual but which he or she becomes a part of simply by living, often consciously but more often quite unconsciously and by learning and the cultural attainments of the mind. -Robert Bullough and Stefinee Pinnegar, "Guidelines for Quality in Autobiographical Forms of Self-Study Research," Educational Researcher, Vol.30, No.3, pp.13-21.

The writing and the reading of an autobiography is not a timeless process, but embedded in an ongoing history of the search for identity of both the writer and the reader and the communities in which they live.1 This writing is embedded in many places: consciousness, conversation, wordless action and the many modalities of sense. The writing requires boundary construction of gates and fences, small and large buildings, roads, driveways, indeed a whole geography, both physical and psychological.2 For I do not enjoy the freedom of Humpty-Dumpty who is known to have said in a rather scornful tone: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."3 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Bruce Mazlish, James and John Stuart Mill: Father and Son in the Nineteenth Century, NY, Basic Books, 1975, p.163; 2Rethinking Psychology: Vol.1: Conceptual Foundations, editors J. Smith, R. Harre and Luk van Langenhove, Sage, 1995; and 3Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass.
There have been times in my life when, like Anne Frank, that Jewish prisoner in WW2, I've had to carve an enclave of normalcy out of a milieux of fear and mental terror. There were times when I could not do this and fear and mental terror simply won the day. Thankfully this did not happen many times in my life. Such horror was only periodic and rare. Only on the rare occasion, too, did the city or town I lived in assume a fantastic Dostoevskyan diabolical identity. The nightmarish quality of life only visited me several times and, then, for short periods of several months at most. It is not my intention to make of this story what in autobiographical parlance is often called an illness or disability narrative. Looking back at the forty years in which symptoms of bi-polar disorder have manifested themselves and casting a sideward glance at others who have also had this disorder, it seems to me inaccurate to place this illness and its several manifestations at the centre of this account, although I recognize that explicit consideration of this illness has enriched the repertoire of the writing of my life. By showing the interrelations of my bodily dysfunction and the cultural conventions of my time, I challenge the stigmas attached to my bi-polar condition by simply--or not so simply--telling my story.

The creation of meaning in the midst, too, of life's surface tedium, trivia, repetition and anxiety has often been an ongoing challenge. These sorts of experiences are much more common than rare, at least in my life. In fact, as Georges Gusdorf once put it, "I exercise a sort of right to recover possession of my existence now and later." As I draw the past up into the present I make a pledge and try, in a quiet way, to prophecy the future. There is more than a chronologically unfolding testimonial here. I like to think there is insight and understanding about my life in such a way that it can illumine other lives. The act of shaping life into a story in itself implies, suggests, creates, meaning. As I deplore my weaknesses, failings and disappointments I express an equal desire for a spiritual change in my own life and in the world. My preoccupation with moral self-improvement has become a part of life, but in a gentler, milder, less self-accusatory form than it once was. Shaping my life does not involve the creation of some artificial construction, some stereotype, which I can completely fathom. At the heart of my life is a mystery, a moral mystery and no matter how much I am concerned with self-improvement, mystery confronts me at every turn. Some understanding exists, of course, but always mystery.

The projection, the understanding and anticipation of events of the near future critically affects the present. As a writer I am conscious of this. In some ways the anticipations I had on arrival in Australia are similar to the ones I have now. In some ways they are different. There was a great expectation in the air in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many thousands of people had become Bahá'ís in those few years. In the last thirty years the pattern of enrolment in North America, Australasia and in Europe could be described as "discouragingly meagre," as it was described by the House of Justice in its Ridvan letter of 1979. Slowly, too, I regained my confidence and composure and was able to launch into my career as a teacher in Australia and find a success I had never anticipated.

On my arrival in Australia in 1971 I was hoping to make it in my career as a teacher; now in 2003 my hopes have been transferred to writing. "My future changes my present and past," writes Margaret Farley, "at the very time that it is the future which I am anticipating." There is a unity to the recollected past, the unfolding present and the antipated future. Always there is in the Bahá'í life the antipation of great things to come on the horizon.

In 1971 "a new horizon, bright with intimations of thrilling developments in the unfolding life of the Cause of God" was discernible. The continuing transformation of society, what some called the Third Wave, what others called yet another stage of the industrial revolution and still others came to call a series of paradigmatic megatrends, continued the catastrophic changes at a far deeper level than the major revolutions of the past or so it seemed and as some analysts described it. At a more mundane within a year of my arrival in Australia: the Two Ronnies appeared on TV, the Watergate story began to unfold, the Beatles went solo, Rod Stewart released 'Maggie May,' and George Harrison 'My Sweet Lord.' In the world of popular culture there was always much going on and the only way to avoid it was to not have a TV, not listen to radio, avoid readings newspapers and magazines and stay as far away from society as you could.
There has emerged in the last decade or two what are sometimes called technology autobiographies. Such autobiographies focus closely on an examination of the interaction of the writer with technologies. As citizens of a highly technological culture, most writers see and use technologies as a daily experience. As Kitalong et. al explain, "Technology is taken for granted, invisible, a mere backdrop to their lives. Writing technology autobiographies encourages a writer to reflect upon their own and sometimes other people's experiences with technology. This leads a writer to think critically about technology. In the process, the invisibles become visible, the implicit can be made explicit." My method here is to deal with technology serendipitously as I go along rather than in some systematic way.

In the first eighteen months in Australia, from July 1971 to December 1972, there were some thirty people who joined the Faith in Whyalla. An LSA was formed and the town of 30,000 in that semi-desert country was lit up, so to speak. "Thrilling developments" did occur. In the political world of Australia the Labour Party under Gough Whitlam came into power in December 1972, the first time for Labour since 1949. In the USA President Nixon, who had come into office in January 1969 was on his way to impeachment and resignation in 1975 due to the Watergate Affair of June 1972. In October 1971 Iran also celebrated the 2500th anniversary of the inception of the Persian Empire. Were I to list all the events on the national and international scenes this narrative would lead to prolixity.

Perhaps part of the process, for both Judy and me, was the breaking of the cake of custom as a result of travelling half a world away from our home thus releasing energies which crystallized in this new environment. Toynbee describes how the Saga and the Epic arose in response to a new "transmarine environment." It would be a dozen years before the saga that I was to write began to emerge and over thirty years before it took some public shape in my epic poem. Perhaps, like "the art of the Homeric Epic and the Icelandic Saga" mine would "continue to flourish when the stimulus which had first evoked it was no longer at work." Perhaps my work would attain its literary zenith in the altered circumstances of a later age when I was, hopefully, beholding some splendours on a lofty mount in that land of lights that 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to so frequently when describing the afterlife. The chief creative force at work in the world, the Bahá'í Faith, had only begun its journey in the wider world, had only just begun to manifest its transforming energies in any obvious and recognized way. In the next thirty years I was to witness more of this slow unfoldment of creative drive and energy.

Some very powerful claims have been made about the frontier-like qualities of the Bahá'í pioneering journey. In some ways they are not dissimilar to those made about outer space. In both cases there is a liberating promise to those currently earth-bound or bound to a local region in which they were born. Indeed, people around the world, at least those submerged in television's delights, are familiar with Star Trek's Captain James Kirk's famous words, "Space: The Final Frontier." We frequently draw analogies between the outer-spatial frontier and the 18th and 19th century North American frontier, often in an effort to motivate the public to support the exploration and colonization of Mars and the general space program. "The frontier that was opened by the voyage of Christopher Columbus is now closed," astronautical engineer Robert Zubrin has argued. The North American frontier was closed in 1894, but the frontier represented by the global teaching plans for pioneers is still wide open after a little more than a century of its operation. In 1958 when the then Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson boldly positioned space as the primary concern of the Senate agenda, the Bahá'í community had had a different pioneering space on its agenda for, arguably, more than half a century. Johnson's language was militaristic and part of a Cold War era rhetoric; the Bahá'í language is essentially spiritual and is concerned with the spiritual conquest of the planet. It is through dealing with this concern that one deals, directly and indirectly, with the many public concerns of the planet. The religious dimension that the Bahá'í Faith allows me to interpret my historical experience, the experience of my time, in the light of a transcendent reality.

One of the key structural elements of the Bahá'í Faith, like that of American civil religion, that emerges from this Faith's history and its theology is an ongoing tension between inclusion and exclusion, expressed religiously as covenant and conversion, expressed politically as democracy and theocracy, and expressed in its extensive literature and themes of chosenness and closeness to God. The truth claims explicit and implicit in the myths and metaphors of Bahá'í history make the metaphorical dimension of the Bahá'í Faith so important. In other words, Bahá'í history not only convey values, it also claims that those values are true at the most fundamental level. There is, in other words, a sense of myth as "true story," where truth is understood not only in terms of facticity, or historical accuracy, but also in terms of ontic reality and, therefore, meaning. That is, the Bahá'í history and its doctrines not only claim to take its believers beyond what seems to be the facts, the events, contained in its narrative past, but also to show them the truth of existence. As an ontologically true story, the metaphorical nature of the Bahá'í paradigm claims to be both a model of and model for ultimate reality. At its heart, then, is a myth which claims to be paradigmatic. Although I could not have expressed this complex thought as I have here back in my teens when I became a Baha'I, I was more than a little conscious of these wider implications of my belief.

I find it interesting to contemplate a comparison between Donald Pease's description of most American national myths which "presuppose a realm of pure possibility where a whole self has internalized the norms of American history in a language and series of actions that corroborates American exceptionalism" and those myths, those great truths, at the heart of the Bahá'í journey. The myth of the American frontier presupposed just such a realm of pure possibility to support a dream, perhaps a fiction, of American exceptionalism and, in so doing, sutured over individual identities with a fiction of a collective, national identity, such is the provocative argument of Catherine Gouge, an argument that contains some truth. Sometimes the Bahá'í dream seems like a fiction, but generous helpings of reason, faith and experience within the Bahá'í community has given this dream the status of vision. And vision creates reality. Time, of course, will tell if that dream in fact becomes reality.

A country, a movement, an individual, always needs some frontier. The Bahá'í community will certainly have that for some time to come as I have had all my life as a pioneer. Individual roles in this theatre of life are unscripted and there are jobs for just about everyone. Each individual has the freedom to "play" any part he or she desires, if they have the talent; hopefully that part will be useful to the Bahá'í community and others. I don't want to overestimate the extent to which the crossing of an ocean or a national boundary sets international pioneers apart from those who are born and raised in a place, for this overestimation can easily be done as it was for emigrant writers who crossed the Atlantic in previous centuries. I have found there to be a strong element of the fragile and the tenuous in the experience of this pioneer. What Whitlock calls "a conflicted relation to experience" is part of the journey. But neither do I want to underestimate the experience.

It is certainly pertinent here to mention the era of globalization which had just dawned as I got into my late teens. National sovereignty became more fragile in such an era; national cultures began to be penetrated by transnational flows of ideas and media products. National identities became increasingly porous. This is not the place to provide readers with a focused and carefully researched analysis of the response of Canadians and Australians to these flows of ideas, to this fragility of identity. For both Canadians and Australians questions of identity and external pressures were not entirely new. The proximity of both of these cultures to the American giant, in the case of Australia primarily through television; the linguistic permeability of the Anglophone regions to U.S. culture, and a complex and fragmented national identity have produced longstanding challenges to maintaining a distinct national culture. In contrast to places where languages such as Catalan, Basque, and Welsh formed sturdy quasi-natural barriers to cultural incursions from powerful neighbors, Anglophone regions like Canada and Australia experienced more difficulty in preserving a distinct culture in the face of the bombardment of their cultures by the United States with its global power and corporate backing. Their capacity to confront the U.S.giant in any terrains of cultural expression is a story unto its own that I do not want to get into here. Globalization has many implications for this autobiography but it is a theme that requires its own separate analysis and that analysis is not to be done here.

I've had, during all these epochs, what you might call a three-tiered construct of myself. There's the ideal self that I struggle to attain; there's the flawed self which obstructs my progress and there is some third self that tells the story here, that watches the struggle between the ideal and the reality, between the desire for self-improvement and the reality of defeat and victory, loss and gain, the allurements of the trivial, the passions and the daily response where wining and losing take place. Of course, it is impossible to be absolutely good; any such aim is doomed to failure. There is a process, though, where the deeper, purer, the better self can emerge. I find it difficult to paint the portrait of my self-development. In some ways it has been remarkable, if I go back to the start of these pioneering days at eighteen. In some ways I seem to be battling the same forces in my environment as I was at eighteen and still losing. Of course, the more evidence about a person which one gathers--and as one gets old one gathers a great deal of evidence about oneself--the more complex and difficult it is to "know" that someone. As the great essayist William Hazlitt once wrote "interest and prejudice take away the power of judging, especially of those we love. The harder and longer you look, the more impossible it becomes to attain knowledge of others." And this, it seems to me, is also quintessentially true of yourself, true for the autobiographer.

I have a fighting spirit and it has been exemplified time and again over these forty and more years. But it is nothing like the fighting spirit of my wife, the woman I have lived with now for nearly thirty years and who has exerted more influence on my life than anyone else with the possible exception of my mother. I also seem to have a spirit that gives in, that lacks the self-discipline, that does not possess the strong and plucky fighting quality or the persistent energy to overcome the temptations and excitements of the external world, at least not anywhere near to the extent I would like to be able. Of course, like so many things, my assessment of this quality of self-discipline is a matter of perspective. Passivity and stagnation, being overcome by the passions of the moment, the inability to exercise the requisite self-control which "undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general," I am only too aware of. The effort required for a true and extensive self-improvement I simply do not possess. I feel like I am simply one of the millions in the middle range of accomplishments. "A film about goodness threatens to bore its audience," says Jean Schuler in her analysis of the film Babette's Feast. So is this true of an autobiography about goodness or, indeed, about holiness, should the autobiographer manage to aspire after this oft-sought-after quality. It is as impossible as roses blooming in winter. Readers should not be concerned that goodness or holiness occupies centre-stage here. I'd like to think that there was more of these things, these personal qualities, in my life than there has been. The recesses of domestic space, for example, I have often found to be the sites of my life's most intricate invasions where my spiritual inadequacies stand revealed in all their baseness and everyday dullness. God accepts from us what we have achieved in our days, I believe, I trust, I certainly hope.

After six months in Australia, after teaching a grade four/five class for five months, I was ready to give up teaching as a profession. I did not feel at the time that I could cope with bottoming out yet again. It was at this point that I transferred to secondary terching and in February began to teach the social sciences at Eyre High School in Whyalla. I remember praying out in the bush, outside Whyalla, in January sometime for some help with my life because I felt as if I was bottoming out yet again. The prayer on this occasion was said with a degree of intensity I don't think I had expressed before, nor have I since. If I ever experienced a type of divine intervention in my life and there were several which I could list in this category, if I wanted to write a type of narrative in which as a mortal I was approached by a god, who intervened decisively in that mortal's life, this was one such occasion. One never knows this sort of thing for sure. But this divine encounter motif, found in the literature of several religious traditions, I have included in several examples, at several points in this narrative. In Whyalla in January, at some time in the hot dry afternoon or early evening, I said prayers with an intensity that I look back on now as marking an epiphany between my life ‘before' and my life ‘after' the prayers.

At Ridvan of 1972 the House of Justice had referred to youth as "storming the gates of heaven for support in their enterprizes by long-sustained, precedent and continuing prayer."       I had done my greatest, my most intense 'storming' some three months before. I was then twenty-eight. I still had two years of life left as a youth, a youth as the House had defined this age group back in 1966.       By September 1972 I had been a pioneer for a decade. Prayer had from the start been an important part of my life as a pioneer from the fall of 1962 on those back streets of Dundas when a certain loneliness, isolation and an inner sense of battle caused me to storm the gates of heaven in a much quieter and far less intense way.

Often I paint a picture of some event, some experience, something I did in those first six decades of living and it is not pleasing as I put the colours on the page, as I contemplate the events. I get a sense of embarrassment, a sense of shame, a sense of guilt, a sense of wrong done, a feeling that I wish I had not done what I did. But I can not deny the truth of what I am and what I have done. In some ways the stuff that does not please me is as much evidence that I have really lived as the stuff that pleases me. The ups and downs, the heights and depths, the firey course and the dull grey skies that are all part of my life, will tempt you, dear reader, to look shyly and suspiciously at me as you read this document. You might ask: what are these things Price has done? My answer is that I tell you some of them and I leave some things out. If I met you in my daily life and we both got to know each other, even then both you and I would not tell it all. No one dumps all their personal detritus on others unless they are in some kind of therapy program. And, although this autobiography serves as therapy in some ways, it is not part of a psychiatric therapy program of 'tell it all.'

I have of course commited wrongs to people I have loved, as millions have done before me and would do after. The sharp edge of guilt I often felt in relation to my children, my parents, each of the women I married, friends in the Bahá'í community I had come to love each in their own way. Perhaps some of the pleasure I took in applause was "a need for forgiveness," as it was for the poets Robert Frost and Ezra Pound. Perhaps the guilt took the edge off my egotism. Since, as T.S. Eliot once said, "no intelligent writer knows if he is any good," guilt works here to deepen, to soften, the writer's self-perceptions and keep any over-enthusiastic, over-the-top sense of identity and self-image more realistic. Regret and remorse can, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá, once wrote, root out weakness. Even a genius like Leonardo said, at the end of his life, in a melancholy mood containing some of that regret and remorse: "Tell me if anything ever was done." The seeds, the roots, of these emotions are many and my life has had its share. Perhaps these very emotions will make, as they did for the poet Robert Frost, my best work in my old age. And the combination of doubt and certitude that I live with will be, as it is already, the base of my passion. Tennyson put the dilemma succinctly in his poem In Memoriam XCVI:

                                                There lives more faith in honest doubt
                                                Believe me, than in half the creeds.

Of course, with an issue as complex and difficult as the doubt/certitude dichotomy, one needs Shakespeare's balancing comment from Measure for Measure:

                                                      Our doubts are traitors
                                                      And make us lose the good we oft might win
                                                      By fearing to attempt.            

I have extracted something that goes beyond the facticity of life's action. As I contemplate my life within the context of this autobiography, I feel as if I am regaining time, reliving my days, as if time, coiled in some essence, enveloped in that essence, has become identical to eternity. I take all that I have done and all that I have not done and, like you, I take it into eternity. Perhaps these poems will tell something about the process:


Emerson wrote that every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature, in this physical world, corresponds to some state in the mind. That state in the mind can only be described by presenting that natural fact, that physical world, its appearance, as a picture in the mind. The "correspondence" between mind and world is a sort of circuitry which we associate with art and creativity, with reception and projection, with memory and imagination-Ron Price with thanks to Emerson in American Fiction 1940-1980, Harper and Row, NY, 1983, p.17.

That garden in my heart
where you both1 did live;
the sweet-scented stream
that ran past the willow
and the spruce;
that great blue lake2
where we swam together
in the summer;
the green fields and parks
where we3 played baseball;
the beautiful young girls
who will remain clear as glass
in my mind's eye,
carved from beauty's rose;
those uncles, aunts and cousins
who defined what family was
then and now: you4 help me feel
a lowly evanescence
and fill my heart
through the vitalizing fragrance
of His Day
in these spaces of existence
where I strive to possess
a spiritual conscience,
where memory melts my spirit
in a warm light that tastes
even of the fruits of eternity.

Ron Price
18 January 1999

1 my mother and father in our garden: 1950-1962
2 Lake Ontario
3 my friends and fellow baseball team members
4 all of existence, but especially the memories


Roland Barthes, among many critics of autobiography, says that the conception of the narrative life, of a series of sequential events defining that life, is a fantasy. Life, he says, is mobile, dynamic, complex, intricate and mysterious. Each literary work is unique, a new style and the self which creates it can not be known. One simply cannot recover one's life textually. Such an effort is doomed by means of inherited literary forms.

While I have no trouble with Barthes' view of autobiography; while my poetry expresses this mobile and dynamic conception of my life and my world, I also strive for a stable inner narrative or, at least, a transfer of narrative from my poetry to life by means of the unifying entity of myself and my religion and my world. It seems to me that both views have some useful perspectives to offer my poetic idiom and how I view what I do. Barthes' perspective, though, makes me more inclined to see my work in a modest vein, not as some monumental exercise with a remarkably significant potential influence but, rather, as something mysterious and intricate, subtle and elusive, far removed from some series of events called my life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 20 June 2003.

This ark of eternity, launched
nearly forty years ago1
on this ancient sea,
wings its way through space,
even as favoured birds.

It inhaled the perfume
from His flowers and now
it tells its tale
in these many poetic lines,
in these days of darkness,
carnage and confusion
in which it has flowed
over these four epochs
while He summoned it.2

1 My arc of pioneering, launched in 1962.
2 The Bab, Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p.127.

Judy and I lived in Whyalla, a four hour drive from Adelaide, for eighteen months. I had my first taste of success in the teaching profession in the high school in west Whyalla. My relationship with Judy deteriorated, though, and within a year of leaving Whyalla, in October 1973, we separated, never to join again. In the last months of 1973, as Judy and I were separating, I formed one of those dangerous liasions that teachers are advised not to form with one of my fifteen year old students.

Her name was Anne and for several months, from October to December of 1973 we had a more intimate relationship than was professionally advised. The reason I refused to break with her earlier in those three months of that dangerous liaison, even as the end of the school year loomed which would have been a logical time, was my eager pleasure in our activities, a loneliness and emotional instability after my separation and my sheer attraction to this sweet, young girl. I visited with Anne and her brother in Sydney in December when the school year came to an end and on December 31st we parted company, never to meet again. Those three months were difficult ones for me. I found the break-up with my wife was much more full of anxiety than I had anticipated. I was happy to finish the school year and move on to Tasmania, to a fresh start, a fresh job and a new life.

The following poem by Emily Dickinson seems timely in this context:

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 as Act
Or is entombed so still
That only to the ear of god
Its Doom is audible--

The concepts of deviance and normalcy had become disturbingly fluid by the early 1970s after a five decade slide that began entre des guerres, if not before. To Alfred Kinsey and the perspectives emerging from a scientific study of sex, Anne might have been seen as a normally developing female experimenting with her sexuality. But my interpretive or epistomological frame was not that of any of the post-war sexologists. I viewed my sexuality and Anne's from a Bahá'í perspective. The control I needed to exercise was lacking. Anne was no archetypal temptress or femme fatale. In female relationships before my marriage in 1967 I had "stolen the honey of a spasm," to use Vladimir Nobokov's words, "without impairing the morals of a minor." This time there was more than some "surreptitious spasm." At the mercy of my lust, of my sexual predation, of female magnetism, then, I now recall this transgression with Anne repentantly. It did not help me then, nor does it now, to know that male and female sexual proclivities of post WW2 adolescents and adults often strayed far beyond familiar notions of normality. Sexual experimentation has taken millions since, say, the end of WW1 into a brave new world that had little to do with sacrosanct notions of the purity and relative innocence of men or women. And if historian Peter Gay is to be believed, that brave new world was happily or not-so-happily occupied by many of the nineteenth century's middle class more than a hundred years before my indiscretion. Desire was, at the end, a malady, or a madness, or both for me and for many another soul.

David Bohm, a physicist, has described the process of scientific discovery in which imagination and insight play a part. He depicts the researcher who is engaged in intense work over a long period of time without apparent result. In a moment of relaxation, he emphasizes, an image or insight will appear within the researcher's consciousness, unbidden and unexpected. There follows a further sequence of diligent work to fathom the meaning of the insight.

"The function of insight is twofold: to remove blocks in our customary and fixed conception of things and to gain new perceptions. When we fail to attend to the central role in knowing of this deep imagination or insight, we become trapped in the already given." I like to think that my experience with this young woman, at a critical period in my life, as I went through the first months of the separation and divorce process, was a source of new insight and new perception that was to last me all my life.

As I try to weld my life into one seemless whole, into one granite-like solidity of truth with its rainbow-like intangibility of personality, I look back on those days in late 1973 and I think Jean-Paul Sartre offers some helpful words: "There are no true stories. Things happen. You tell about them one way. They are often quite the opposite when viewed by another." Or, as Lytton Strachey puts it: "Facts about the past are not history any more than butter, eggs, salt and herbs are an omlette." You have to whip them up in a certain way. Sometimes I have whipped myself as I whipped the story up. Sometimes I have been kinder. I leave it to the reader to make his own bacon and eggs here.

...a Revelation which, flowing out, in that extremely perilous hour, from His travailing soul, pierced the gloom which had settled upon that pestilential pit, and, bursting through its walls....infused into the entire body of mankind its boundless potentialities.-Shoghi Effendi,God Passes By (1957), p.93.

The last forty years(1962-2002) have been jam-packed with massive quantities of communication, very successful much of the time, not so successful at others, extensive seed planting, but a meagreness of outward results in the teaching field, much joy and not a little despair. I have tried in this poem to capture this process within the context of perspectives gleaned from the Tablets of the Divine Plan and God Passes by. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 January 2003.

Sharp and clean, right through,
heart to heart, man to man,
person to person, straight shooting,
we know where we stand,
as much as anyone knows
this sort of thing
given that we are talking
about human communication.

For a most wonderful state
of receptivity is being realized.1
I've seen it, experienced it
at least since that new horizon,
bright with intimations of thrilling developments2
and then the new paradigm of opportunity,
the silver lining and dazzling prospects.3

We tried to be heavenly armies,
freed from the human world,
divine angels, with that trumpet,
that Israfil of life,
blowing sweet new breath,
but we got trapped
by the defects of nature
and the promptings
of the human world
and could not conquer.

Ideal forces and lordly confirmations
did come to our aid.
It may be that we will be crowned
with brilliant jewels....may irradiate
upon centuries and cycles.4

But there was so much
to which we did not attain;
we burned out several times trying,
trying and, at times, we lost the plot.

But, thanks to him, our vision
now has form on that mountain side
and all that work,
going back all those decades,
has been revitalized.
It is as if that maiden
who spoke to Him
in the depths of the Siyah-Chal
was giving us, too, a sweet new life
born of beauty for our own hour
of extreme peril.

1 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan(1977), p.41.
2 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1971.
3 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1988, 1990.
4 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, op. cit., p.48.

Inevitably when a writer tells a story, his own or some fictionalized account, it is open to interpretation in ways other than those intended. Often, too, the story is part of some ongoing self-examination. This is true of the autobiography here. This self-examination holds out possibilities for recomposing my life, for working on the inner script with which I compose the meaning of my life. This examination also illustrates, sad to say, the reality of stagnation and repetition in my life.

The Bahá'í writings say we are either going forward or backward; we are never standing still. Often it may feel like it is. It is often difficult to understand the dynamics of what is going on in your life, although you may know how you feel quite precisely when you are going through some intense experience. Bob Hass, who was interviewed on The Jim Lehrer Hour in 1998 said "with most intense experiences we hardly know what we're feeling. We can reflect on it later and put it together." And so I reflect here on an event that took place thirty years ago. It makes me more conscious of what the twentieth century thinker H. Mencken said of autobiographers. "No man," he wrote, "can bring himself to reveal his true character, and, above all, his true limitations as a citizen and as a believer, his true meannesses, his true imbecilities, to his friends or even to his wife. Honest autobiography is, therefore, a contradiction in terms." The moment a person evaluates their life, Mencken went on, they try to "guild and fresco" the events. I would add, after thirty years in Australia, they either play up themselves and the events or play them down. To get an accurate perspective, tone, manner, mode, is difficult.

My autobiography, it should be obvious by now, reveals some of my limitations but all the unsavory aspects of my life are not set out for everyone to see. It is not different in one's everyday relationships with others. To some we reveal much; to others we reveal nothing at all. On the rarest of occasions we reveal all. But, in the end, "life bears the stigmata of finality. There is a relentless succession of facts, at once inflexible and arbitrary....He who tells of his life is the most oppressed of all slaves among storytellers," if he does not go on some imaginery journey. Autobiography from the start has been steeped in history but, however ancient its pedigree, it lacks standards of quality and objective foundations on which to judge its worth. Of course, it's just as difficulty to judge one's worth as a person. One evaluates one's life; one can not help to do so, but the final word, the final assessment, can never be in. As Jung points out: it is difficult to know what and who one is really like. But, still, we must take account ere we art "summoned to a reckoning." And the longer one lives the more there is to take account of in toto. Failings and sins add up and make us who we are as much as our successes and wins. And the society we live in plays a very strong role in determining what we experience.

A host of unrepentantly Marxian critics have described the baleful impact of capitalist production on those whom it exploits and the depoliticizing effects of commodity fetishism on consumers. The Bahá'í could also point to this same 'commodity fetishism' and its baleful impact on people's search for religious truth. On the other hand postmodern ethnographers and sociologists have argued that consumerism empowers capitalist subjects by granting them a limited but politically important space in which to live out utopian fantasies of autonomy. Perhaps the Bahá'í Faith occupies some of this utopian space created by the capitalist enterprise and the pioneer, as he searches for seekers among his contemporaries, is assisted by this general capitalist thrust.

I'm not sure that shopping Malls and the burgeoning host of individual shops have much potential for the Bahá'í teacher, though. A study conducted at Temple University indicates that malls are the most popular gathering places for teenagers in the United States. The same study could be duplicated or close to it in Europe or Australiasia. In a controversial paper presented to the Popular Culture Association, Richard Francaviglia compared malls to amusement parks such as Disneyland. William Severini Kowinski expands on this notion by describing malls as "the feudal castles of contemporary America." By keeping weather out and keeping itself always in the present—if not in the future—a mall aspires to create timeless space. Removed from everything else and existing in a world of its own, a mall is also placeless space. By the 1980s, if not before, I was unable to put up a poster for a Bahá'í activity in any shopping mall. Malls are not public places where citizens can express their views or distribute leaflets, so went a supreme court decision some twenty years ago now. Even congregating freely is not the same as it was in the old town squares. Individual shopkeepers put up my posters and give me an opportunity, for a quick chat.

To keep people inside the mall and encourage them to see shopping as entertainment, designers attempt to create a "carnival" atmosphere. Once inside a center, shoppers have few decisions to make. Corners are kept to a minimum so the customers will flow along from store to store, propelled, as the developers say, by "retail energy." Said one observer of mall design, "The mirrors, the music and the sound of rushing water create a sense of distortion. There is never a clock to remind one of the world outside the mall." "I think this is a pretty fair description of most of the cinema today," so write Jonathan Rosenbaum in a recent book. "Both films and shopping malls function as media that aim at producing and controlling the notions and measurements of space and time, designed to supersede all others. They offer themselves to us like self-contained planets," he concludes among other remarks. I'm not sure how accurate Rosenbaum is but, given the amount of time I have spent watching movies and wandering around shopping centres in the years 1955 to 2005, it seemed to me that Rosenbaum's remarks deserve a place here. They already occupy a place in my media studies files along with those of dozens of other electronic media and popular culture theorists. I have found the ideas of many of these social scientists provocative. Like so much that I read in the social and behavioural sciences and the humanities, what they write stimulates my mind. If all goes well, it may stimulate my readers. But whether is does or does not, so much of my experience as a person, especially since my years at university, 1963 to 1967--over 40 years—has been in this domain of ideas and from time to time I am compelled to place some of them in this autobiography.

Those eighteen months in Whyalla exerted many pulls and pushes, strains and stresses in the midst of my most successful teaching experience both personally at the high school and in the Bahá'í community. This was one of the many episodes of entry-by-troops that the Bahá'í community had in the first forty years of my pioneering experience and in the first four decades of the full institutionalization of the charismatic Force that gave it birth(1963-2003). After the opening of the temple in Chicago in 1953 and the election of the apex of the Bahá'í administrative system in 1963, the process of entry-by-troops brought about "a rapidly increasing supply of active believers." An episode of particular concentration of new believers occurred in my life from 1970 through to 1972 in Whyalla. I have often thought that this process of entry-by-troops in many places involves very few people becoming Bahá'ís and, paradoxically, noone joining at all in others. But this theme requires a separate essay.

The prevailing political paradigm, during all of these epochs, until at least the 1990s, was the "phenomenon of the Cold War." It began in the middle of the Seven Year Plan(1946-1953) and began to get hot in 1950 with the Korean War. I was six at the time. A materialism with complex and sinuous roots got a new lease on life after WW2 and by the late 1940s it was becoming "a kind of universal religion claiming absolute authority in both the personal and social life of mankind." Religion was reduced in some places during these same decades to a "kind of personal preference" and often an "endorsement for campaigns of social change." In other places an outright fanaticism, a fundamentalism and an extreme reactionary conservatism had left it with an anachronistic voice in general liberal circles. In these decades, too, society had become increasingly atomized, "a new stage in the process of disintegration" which Shoghi Effendi had described so well. The Universal House of Justice had begun its period of office less than ten years before my experience of entry-by-troops in Whyalla and Picton. Society was disintegrating at a rate which was deafening and often in ways which were seductive, insinuating, silent and obscure. Perhaps the process had started a long time ago. Alexis de Toqueville in his two volume study Democracy in America, which he wrote after his visit to America in 1831-2, pointed out many of the deleterious aspects of American democracy as well as its strengths. "As men grow more alike, each man feels himself weaker in regard to all the rest," he wrote. This aspect of American culture, of democratic culture, may, in the end, be part of that quality 'Abdu'l-Bahá exhorts Bahá'ís to attain at Feasts, namely, to "feel less than the rest." But much that Toqueville writes says a great deal about why the process of teaching others, of extending the Cause to a greater numerical portion of humanity is difficult if not impossible. He writes, among many relevant passages and examples, about the privatization of the individual. "Everyone shuts himself tightly into himself and from there claims the right to judge the world....(and has)...a tendency to invest little energy in public concerns."

Here are two poems that say something about and Bahá'í Order and the institution at the apex of the Bahá'í administrative Order. For it was in this Order that I invested much energy, much sense of commitment, much concern, indeed, one could argue, my life. The Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin suggests how this investment of energy and language are interlinked. Language, he writes, "lies on the borderline between oneself and the other …it exists in other people's mouths … is populated with the intentions of others."


The Romans all loved or hated Augustus didn't they? The same with kings and queens: there was a personality factor, something extraordinary, personal, often something divine. These authority figures elicited responses of awe, deference and devotion. They range from frenzy-creating preachers to quiet, meditating sages. An inherent instability was part of their authority, their charisma.       -Ron Price with thanks to Douglas Barnes, "Charisma and Religious Leadership", Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1978, 17(1), 1-18.

We had our prophetic revelation,
our charisma, our unified world view,
our consciously integrated,
meaningful attitude to life1,
our perceived extra-ordinariness,
our doctine, mission,constructed
beyond-the-human, a gift of grace,
of history, of God, otherness,
revolutionary and then, then:
routinized, depersonalized,
adhering not to persons,
but to institutions, authority,
central order-relating events,
a legitimating force,
the function of the need for order
in what we could call
a charismatic community
with its collective excitement,
transforming the inherently precarious
into a superhuman facticity
that seems eternal,
free of disenchantment,

Ron Price
7 November 1997

1 Max Weber, some aspects of charisma.


Biological weapons(BWs) have led in recent years to an increasing threat from biological terrorism, especially since 1995 and events in Japan associated with a religious cult and their use of biological weapons. -ABC Radio, 31 August 1999, Symposium of the International Union of the Micro-Biological Society.

By the end of the first phase of the Plan: 1937-1944,
biological weapons, associated terrorism
had become a threat,
a threat which did not go away,
kept breaking out again and again;
and now programs are being put in place
for the first respondents, the front liners,
in case this new terrorism becomes a reality
and not just a remote threat.

As the Universal House of Justice
approaches the fortieth year
of its trusteeship
of that global undertaking
begun over a century before,
of the institutionalization
of His charisma,
the heat seems to be going up
and up.

Ron Price
31 August 1999

The temperature from the political and social domain had been going up in these years still coated with the political paradigm of the Cold War. After Whyalla's 18 months Judy and I moved to Gawler, another town in South Australia on the edge of the Barossa Valley, and we both began our new teaching jobs in early February of 1973. We had none of the success in the Bahá'í teaching realm that we had in our professional life. After eight months in our new jobs we decided it would be best if we parted company, if we divorced. I had already accepted a position in Tasmania as a trainer of teachers and three months after we separated I had begun work in Tasmania. Judy went on to marry our carpenter in 1974, Evan Noack.

In Gawler, the walks that had been a part of my life from 1962 to 1966 while I was a student, walks that had functioned as release of pent-up emotions, physical exercise and as opportunities for prayer and meditation, were continued. Walks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had been spiritual as well as physical experiences for all intellectuals, poets and philosophers; now it is still a form of escape from the pressures of the material world and I was to be drawn to this activity again and again throughout my life. My gifts, my endowments, seemed to find their expression in some mysterious, some strange, association with these walks. I seemed to be perfecting, mainly for my own satisfaction, a skill at writing and poetizing, a skill that even to this day has only begun to manifest itself to the eyes of the world.

I arrived in Tasmania on January 1st 1974 at the heart of what later became known as the "Me" decade. Tasmania had its first Bahá'í fifty years before and the state had some fifty Bahá'ís in 1974. Thirty years later there were four times this number. I was not too concerned with numbers, though, on my arrival. I missed Judy terribly, but a series of three young women helped me overcome my loneliness. They were like the "pretty little things" that John Fowles, the famous British writer, said gave him a self-professed solace when his wife Elizabeth died suddenly in 1990. These relationships lasted Fowles eight years before he settled down in 1998 with Sarah, or "she of the Ravishing Auburn Tresses" as he preferred to call her. The third, in April 1974, was one I went on to marry, Christine Armstrong, nee Sheldrick. Here is a poem I wrote thirty years later about Christine and our relationship. "The periods in which men can work together," wrote Kenneth Clark, "happily inspired by a single aim last only a short time-it's one of the tragedies of civilization." Christine and I have now worked together for nearly thirty-five years. The Bahá'ís have been working for 145. And my poetic evocation of this experience has been a serious exercise for nearly twenty. This evocation has involved an immersion in a pool of memories and sensations and has resulted in a more intense consciousness of being.


Frieda loved D.H. Lawrence, even if he drained her emotional reserves or failed to fulfil her needs. The marriage had become her life's work and it's disappointments were inevitable. Frieda believed she had what few women ever have: "a real destiny." The marriage was also Lawrence's life work, although he acted under a different set of assumptions: a belief in the sanctity, worth and permanence of the institution. He also had a belief in the rescuer's responsibility for the rescued(Frieda). Divorce was putrid and out of the question. Separations, though, were frequent. -Ron Price with thanks to Janet Byrne, A Genius for Living:The Life of Frieda Lawrence, Harper Collins, NY, 1995, p. 316.

Love was not a word that either Chris or I liked to use to characterise our emotional attachment to each other. We both found it too abstract. We both had had our disappointments, disappointments largely ironed out in the first two decades of our marriage, but which continued in varying degrees of residual quality into our fifties. I believed I had what few people ever have: "a sense of destiny." I believed, like Lawrence, that I had done a rescue job on my wife, on Chris. She was the rescued. We both acted under the assumption that marriage was a challenge, something worth working at and, hopefully, permanent, although divorce was an option which, by the last years of the third decade(1999 to 2004) of our relationship, was never seriously contemplated. A sharing of solitude, "an exchange of two solitudes", as the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset put it, was certainly a philosophical view that underpinned my marriage, as I saw it. -Ron Price with thanks to Ortega y Gasset, Man and People, p.50.

Marriage in the third and forth epochs
of the Formative Age
was an unstable affair
in and out of the Bahá'í community,
but, however unstable, I found it
that fortress-for-well-being
especially when pioneering,
travelling from pillar to post,
producing he who would
remember His Lord, thus
acquiring the means of
attracting perpetual grace.

And that barrier, there was
always that barrier, a solitude
in the heart and soul of man
and woman, a mystery that is
the Source of our light and life.

Ron Price
24 May 1999

The following words of the poet Byron seem appropriate to apply to the waters of both my religion and my marriage and I quote them here:

Once more upon the waters! yet once more!
And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows his rider. Welcome to their roar!
Swift be their guidance, wheresoe'er it lead!

Sometimes, indeed on more than a few occasions, this process, this ride upon the waves seemed painfully slow. Various crises threatened the unfoldment of the potential, the virtues, latent within both my marriage and my religion. From time to time my hopes were blasted. This decimation of hope led to the end of my first marriage and on several occasions nearly brought about the end of the second. The roar was on occasion far from welcome.

There was always a great deal happening in the wider Bahá'í community as my own small life continued on its merry or not-so-merry course as the fifties and the sixties tumbled into the seventies and the eighties. As the years of the fin de siecle turned the corner of the new millennium more and more began to happen in the global community that was the Bahá'í Faith which I had joined back in the 1950s. It became impossible to keep up with it all by the 1980s. The number of published books in the 1980s and beyond also got to be beyond most Bahá'ís who either could not afford to buy them or could not keep up with them and read their contents. Email and the internet brought information by the mid-to-late 1990s, to those who wanted it, tumbling in from all over the world. It was all part of the creation and development of a religion which had been born in the mid-nineteenth century. The creation of a new religion is not easy as the revolutionary Robespierre found out in the 1790s and as many others who have since tried have also found out. In many ways this autobiography is an attempt to look at life through the eyes of an emerging community, with revolutionary potential, with a significant, an immense, role to play in the future of humanity.

But in the early 1970s it was still possible to follow the major developments in the Bahá'í community without too much trouble. The revolution in Iran in 1979 seemed to bring about a speeding up of the process, of the release of the liberating energies of this new religion. In the first eighteen months we were in Australia: four intercontinental and oceanic conferences were held(1971), the fiftieth anniversary of the Passing of'Abdu'l-Bahá was commemorated (November 1971), the developments at the World Centre which led to the Arc Project were initiated(December 1971), the Panama Temple was dedicated(March 1972), the nature of the Continental Board of Counsellors was elucidated(April 1972), the decision to build the Seat of the Universal House of Justice was made(June 1972), the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice was adopted((November 1972) and the synopsis and codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas was completed(January 1973).

If I added to this list the developments in the political and social world, those in the international arena and especially those in Australia and Canada; if I added the scientific advancements which were increasing, it seemed, with every passing day, as knowledge seemed to be expanding exponentially; if I also added the developments in the several disciplines of the humanities and social sciences and the myriad books, papers and seminars being published in areas I am familiar with ignoring those I am not; if I commented on changes on the domestic front in food, garden implements, cars, urban life, home furnishings, indeed a host of consumer products, then this short autobiography would assume impossible dimensions. And so, for the most part, these features of life and many others in the last half of the twentieth century I have omitted from this work. Inevitably this autobiography must confine itself to a core of influences and features of my life, my society and my religion.


One hundred trillion nutrinos go through our body every second.1 Indeed, it is safe to say that most of what happens both in this world and in the universe remains completely outside of our awareness. Ron Price with thanks to 1"Stephen Hawking's Universe", ABC TV, 6:00-7:00 PM, 21 March 1998.

It's more than coincidental that
we've been mapping the universe
while we've been institutionalizing
that charismatic, wonderfully unique, Force.
That soul which is now energizing the world
to a degree unapproached while on earth.
We are now mapping
the cosmos and the microcosm
and building those institutions
which will map our way
for, perhaps, half a million years:

For knowledge's twenty-five unknown letters
are being unveiled before our eyes;
the supreme moving impulse in the world
of being is leavening this earthly dust.

Ron Price
21 March 1998


Socrates once complained, in his Apology, of the inability of poets to talk analytically about their work. According to the significance of the Greek root of the word ‘poetry' it covers all forms of art or human productivity. In the tradition of the great books, novelists like Cervantes, Fielding or Melville called themselves poets. Poetry with these writers was regarded as narrative, the invention of good stories. A poet was a teller of tales. Aristotle in his Poetics emphasizes subject matter in poetry not language; plot was the most important thing made by the poet in narrative poetry, not the verses, not the rhyme or metre, according to Aristotle. So, the historian and the poet differed not. "Epics," wrote Cervantes, "may be as well written in prose as in verse." So it is in this epic, this series of thousands of poems written in the fourth epoch of the Formative Age, that I continue a form of poetry, a poetic tradition, going back to the Greeks. -Ron Price with thanks to The Great ideas: A Synopticon of Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 2, William Benton, Toronto, 1952, p.400.

This is no imaginary construction,
no fable or fantasy of words,
no warble for some made-up tale.
This is a contribution to knowledge
and would pass Kant's muster1
of serious business for understanding,
imagination and a certain play.

I hold the mirror up to nature,
to life and to the world
and have it speak as it lives
and moves before my eyes
over this half century or more.
I strive to be clear, but not ordinary
and use words as simply as possible.

Bacon associated poetry with history;
Aristotle put philosophy in its camp.
My emotions communicate to my intellect
with the power to sap and upheave my world
resulting from some inflamement,
some being carried away with thought
and I heed only one dream: this poetry.2

These many years now I have been drawn
unto Him in prayer and He did answer me
so slowly I was not sure it was Him;
now I am unsure whether I hear with His ear.
Is this the spring whereof the near ones drink?
It is hidden under the veilings of sense.
Have the wrappings of illusion been stripped?3

1 This is how Kant judges poetry: its contribution to knowledge.
2 Emerson's essay "The Poet."
3 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p.24.

Ron Price
15 November 2000

And so the 1970s saw a new world open before my eyes. That world was Australia. That world saw career success and marital failure by the third year of the seventies. To a poet like Thomas Hardy memory was immortality. Divorced from one's memories and the memories of others, immortality simply ceased to exist. Perhaps this is the basic reason for the undertone of sadness in Hardy as well as in the whole Greek literary tradition and in its many modern veins of secular thought. "The reason," as George Townshend puts it, "is that it is humanistic-and nothing more." By the time I had arrived in Australia I had been cultivating a sacred not a secular tradition that was theistic at its core not a secular humanism. For a dozen years I had been exposed to a Movement which claimed to offer human beings "the Day of Reunion," "the Day of God's fulfillment, the Day of Joy." But no generation of human beings on earth found so much in the world to amuse and divert and flatter and gratify" their senses than mine. It appeared that no religion was needed at all, although paradoxically, the manifestations of the religous seemed to increase with every passing day.

The mallee scrublands of Whyalla and the nearby semi-arid steppe in South Australia which greeted my eyes in July 1971 were one of the most uninviting landscapes I'd ever set my eyes upon in my life and the enthusiastic response to our teaching efforts were more than we could cope with. Within a few months, though, after Judy and I had left Whyalla in December 1973, the town returned to its normal non-responsive state. It would appear, in retrospect, that the people of Whyalla had no felt need for religion at all, at least not the one we offered.

Much of the landscape that came into my purview possessed what Henry James referred to as a "huge insignificance." I found this to be the case on Baffin Island, in Whyalla, South Hedland, the multitude of disfigured places in an industrial landscape. The physical world was so often, for me, some kind of blank screen or empty stage on which I performed the tasks, the pleasures, the activities that are now a part of my consciousness. This screen, this stage, was one to which I was at times acutely attuned, at times immersed in its pleasures but, unlike my wife, I was usually unable to tell you the name of a plant, a bird or an animal. When required by necessity or circumstance I could write a vivid evocation of a landscape or some part of it. But life usually kept me occupied with cultural and intellectual facets of my existence in which nature was just a part of the texture, the setting for some human activity, for the development and display of human consciousness, rather than a subject in its own right. I was rarely in the posiiton of a tourist, a consumer of views.

Of course one could not complain for it was that very industrial technology that made it possible for me to live in these barren outposts where one would either freeze or roast and where, if one had to remain outside for long, one would expire. And I complained little; I was never a wilderness advocate. We all fill our brains with issues of different kinds. Generally, I found if it was an issue in the media it was not an issue in my intellectual agenda. The electronic media were able to enthuse many a mind and heart for the items on an agenda that were the liberal effusions of its great cornucopia.

In many basic ways the Bahá'í Faith was simply reviving the great tradition of unity and stability by which the ideals of Greece and Rome were transmitted to the Middle Ages, only on a much more pervasive and comprehensive base. Bahá'ís believed the world needed unity more than anything else and that its problems were all linked to the absense of unity. But it was not a unity, Bahá'ís believed, which would be achieved by a Napoleonic thrust or an Alexandrian conquest. It would be achieved by a Bahá'í inspired world Order, qualities, skills, talents and attitudes that were part of this Order and a sense of glory that underpinned this Order. It would also be achieved, as Kenneth Clark informs us, as it always has: "by the skin of our teeth." At least that was how I saw it from a perspective of the epochs in which I lived and had my being.

Many in the partisan-political world had no consistent purpose save a determination to make a name for themselves. The ideological framework and apparatus was often threadbare, anachronistic, based on a simple pragmatism and, often, devoid of any firm political principles. Many of these worldly-wise lived for "political expediency," were "completely without any ideological preconceptions," and "never took up and pursued a policy which might not aid their political interest." Of course, the opposite was also the case with many upholding: policies, programs, principles, schemes and sectional interests with passion, energy and conviction with their attendant conflicts and controversies. In the end, many make of the political world and all of life an adventure with drama, color, and style. The central problem faced by so many, as Walter Lippman noted back in the 1920s, is our low capacity to believe in precepts that restrict and restrain private interests and desires.

The Bahá'í Faith, growing amidst a corrupt world of global forces, a brutalized poor and a veritable maze of human problems in the world, was hopeful and energetic. It possessed fine spirits: poets, painters, novelists, playrights, professionals and tradesmen of a hundred ilks, all heirs of a religious history going back more than two centuries. There was an immense chasm between the work of the Bahá'ís and the work of the world and one of the central ambitions of the Bahá'ís was to fill this chasm with the consecrated joy of their new Faith. For perhaps fifty years I had seen the evidences of these efforts. Although slow, often painfully slow to be manifested to the eyes of men, the creative power and the enlargement of human faculties which the Bahá'í Faith clearly engendered, the heroic self-confidence which became evident from time to time in both individual lives and in the institutions that had grown up especially during the several teaching Plans, augured well for the future. And architecture, that specially communal of arts, began in this half century of my pioneering journey to manifest a beauty that housed the strongest of creative impulses that was born of this new Faith. But the relationship between the arts and society I find is far from simple and predictable. So I close these remarks on creativity and the arts here.



Kalle Paatalo(1919- ) is a Finnish author who has written the most extensively selling autobiography in the world. His opus consists of 26 volumes and over 10,000 pages. He has sold over 100,000 copies. My own autobiography is found in one volume of about 1000 pages and has yet to find a publisher or to make a sale. A few read it on the Internet. Such is my modest start.-Ron Price from The Encyclopedia of Life Writing, Internet, 30 July 2005.

Poetry of the kind that has been discovered by a growing number of modern writers is a poetry of self which surpasses fiction and revolutionizes it. You do not so much perceive relationships as experience them and then translate this experience into poetry. I am eternally grateful for being forced by a mysterious and partly understandable set of circumstances into being a poet. Without this method of escape from self that is the process of writing poetry, I would never have known that there was this other world I can live in. My respect for the act of creativity now knows no bounds.-Ron Price with thanks to Karl Shapiro, To Abolish Children and Other Essays, Quadrangle Books, Chicago, 1968, p.237, p.267 and p.271.

Gibbon wrote somewhere in his Decline and Fall that freedom was "the happy parent of both taste and science." It was also the source of a certain barbarism which in the late twentieth century, if not for millennia before, was daily becoming more apparent. Certainly in the world of the professional teacher control is the word around which so many problems that the teacher faced crystallized. Much of what is happening in the modern world can find no analogy in the past. For this reason the great sociologist Max Weber wrote that "we can learn little or nothing for our contemporary social problems from ancient history."

This may be the case. But whether it is or not, the Bahá'í community is striving to create a new, a living community, based on more than a century and a half of divine guidance. This community would "see life steadily and see it whole." But the process of achieving this whole was a difficult and slow road. At least that was the experience of this pioneer in the four decades of his pioneering journey that this autobiography is describing. If this slow, stoney and tortuous road had not been evident to me in the first two decades of my Bahá'í experience it became painfully obvious in the second two decades.

I have often thought that my role as autobiographer, in what has become a much longer 'movie' than I had originally anticipated, has been very much like that of a film director. "A director," writes Stanley Kubrick, "is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decsions, and the director's job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible." A director's taste and imagination are crucial in the making of a film, says Kubrick in that same interview. The film, he goes on, is anything the viewer sees in it. This is certainly true of this work. Kubrick sees film as operating "on a level much closer to music and to painting than to the printed word." It conveys complex themes without the traditional reliance on the printed word. In that sense the autobiographer and the film director clearly part company. The editing process, which I have scarcely begun, takes a long time in both writing and film-making. But, as another film director Roman Polanski wrote, the director "makes the film; he creates it." This is certainly true of this entire analytical narrative. An autobiography, like a film, is an intimate expression of a man's sensibilities, of facets of his personality, a kind of self-analysis. Gelmis concludes the introduction to his book on directors by discussing briefly the obsessive nature of the director. That is certainly true of the work I do here but, in time, this work will end and this obsession to write autobiography will also end. Perhaps in the meantime I could call my work 'the auteur theory of autobiography.' What other theory is there?

When I arrived in the Australian Bahá'í community in 1971 there were less than one thousand believers on what was then a remote continent. There were, perhaps, a million Bahá'ís in the world. In the next twenty years this number rose to five million. I lived in South Australia from July 1971 to December 1973. During this time I served on two LSAs, taught in two high schools and one primary school, became a single man again and knew what it was like to have a girl friend again and not a wife. I'd served as a chairman and as a secretary. My sense of success professionally was matched by a sense of failure, personally. It slowly dawned on me or perhaps I just became more conscious, more aware, of what I already knew, namely, that a person can believe in and love the Cause--even be ready to die for it--"and yet not have a good character, or possess traits at variance with the teachings."

It was here, too, that there began a process which I wish I had began earlier in my life. Perhaps it was the seriousness of Canadians that prevented it. "Not taking anything too seriously," writes Ayn Rand, "is the chief rule Americans adhere to. Everyone makes fun of everyone else, not maliciously, but very wittily and that is the essence of America." If this was a characteristic of Canadian culture, I had missed it, raised as I was by older and more serious parents. But it was a core quality in Australia and, like America, you had to learn to laugh at yourself and others if you wanted to survive. It was a useful skill, but I went on taking life as seriously as before only now it was with a coat of humour. I will be eternally thankful to the culture of Australia and the literally hundreds of people and its media for helping me acquire a lightness, a cynical and skeptical attitude below life's surface, an understanding without which I'm not sure I would have had the capacity to endure the absurdities of life and those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

"To understand the meaning of actions in a life story," A. Nelson informs us, "the author-interpreter must become aware of what his actions point toward in disclosing a possible world. Interpretation puts autobiographical learners in a position to imagine what might take place in their life and how to enact their own account of self." I like to think that my experience, my life, receives fresh relevance, fresh interpretations which decide the meaning of what has gone before, satisfying in the process, to some extent, present and future human needs. I'm sure this takes place all the time, but one can never be too sure whether one's interpretations are always helpful, accurate or true.

As F.C.S. Schiller pointedly informs us regarding the philosophy and religion that is at the heart of our lives, it is so often "the offspring, the legitimate offspring, of an idiosyncracy." The history and psychology of each adherent has far more to do with the development of this idiosyncracy than we are usually conscious of. We need to view the Bahá'í system, he might have said, not from the outside as a logical system and structure, but from the inside, as part of a personal, a psychological process extending over a lifetime and centered, insofar as we experience it in daily life, on these idiosyncracies of the individual.

I think there is something in what Schiller says here, for human idiosyncracy, human behaviour, often seems incorrigible and there seems to be a persistence that individuals have in going in a certain direction. It might be called temperament and it is often the real basis for a bias. People seem to trust their temperament, even when they recognize the weaknesses which arise from it. Often this temperament is also the source of people's sense of anxiety and inadequacy. People of opposite temperament seem out of key, even incompetent, even should they excel and are clearly superior in general ability. To put this yet another way the "inner biography" explains a great deal of the thought of an individual or, as Jung would have it, their "psychic constitution."

I would not go along with the wisdom of David Hume who advises that we "recollect our dreams in a morning and examine them with the same vigour that we would our most serious and most deliberate actions." I wrote the following introduction to a collection of my own dream experiences several years ago and I insert it here with some poems since it seems relevant to the broad questions and issues that relate to dreams, dreams which take place in that one-third of one's life which rarely gets a mention in people's life history.

"In The Bahá'í Holy Year 1992-1993, after thirty years of pioneering, I began to collect my dream experiences. That Holy Year was, as the Universal House of Justice stated, "an opportunity…for inner reflection on the part of the soul." It seemed an appropriate thing to do. My dreams before 1992 had virtually disappeared from my memory except for perhaps six major dreams and dream sequences going back to the beginning of my Bahá'í life when I was fifteen, in 1959. In 1992 I also started collecting notes and photocopies from various sources, various commentators and analysts on dreams, that were relevant to my search into my dreams and their meaning. Now, after more than a decade of recording some of my dreams, keeping notes on dreams and trying to make a succinct summary of the previous thirty-three years of my dream life(1959-1992), I have established a base of understanding, a base for the integration of my dreams into my autobiography. What I will actually do with this base, though, is another question. Perhaps I have made a start with some of my poems that allude as they do to dreams and my dream life. Two of these poems can be found below.

Freud says dreams are the royal road to one's inner life, but there is a tangle of thought and feeling in dreams. Jung said he was helped to overcome the egotism inherent in autobiography by the dream process. He also felt dreams helped us contact the shadow self or, what Adler saw as, the antithesis of common sense and reality. Alfred Adler also saw dreams as the arch-enemies of common sense and reality. Our life-style is vulnerable from reality and common sense and dreams lessen our contact with this reality. Scientifically-minded people seldom dream it is said. This hard-nosed realism, as an approach to dreams, stands as a sharp contrast to many of the other interpretations that see dreams as glimpses of immortality, fragments of a fable, an archtype, etcetera. For that reason I find it attractive as an interpretive system or non-system. But, in the end, no single interpretive system can prove that its dreamwork methodology is comprehensive and unassailable. Dreams arouse impressions of meaning and stimulate inquiry and that is why I write on the subject here. Interpretive authority is absent in dream studies. It is a world of do-it-yourself dream analysis.

I would like to see my dreams as a monument to the women that I have loved in my life, the religion that has inspired me and the many images have been important to me in my waking life. But it would be a monument that did not reflect the content of my dreams. My dreams seem to have been, as Shakespeare said, "more inconstant than the wind." When my external senses were at rest, the dreams that arose seemed wild and absurd; when that gentle tyrant sleep came to me and with it my dreams, I was left in the morning with feelings which left me with a sense of less contact with reality, with elusive tangents of meaning, with a bridge between the problems in my life and their solutions but it was a bridge that seemed to be made mainly of air.

Brian Finney says that dreams arouse "expectations of significance that remain unfulfilled because of their private and indirect nature."       If I were to include some of my dreams here they would reveal some of these expectations and some of my radical departures from common sense and reality, throwing light, I trust, on this autobiography. It seems to me that the many quotations from various sources relevant to my understanding and experience of dreams are at best provocative and at worse just a strange melange of ideas. I read them from time to time when I am trying to sort out a dream and its meaning. In the first ten years of description, comment and analysis, 1992 to 2002, I have not often plunged into my dream world with my pen in hand, only when some leftover affect stays in my mind on waking, perhaps two or three times a year during those ten years. This emotional review of the events of the waking life seems to take place, for me, periodically, irregularly and quite unpredictably.

I hope this brief essay will be of use to whomever comes upon it. It is certainly of use to me periodically as I begin these years of retirement in late middle-age. It provides a pleasurable resource from time to time as I play with the stuff of my dreams as it slips into my waking life from REM and non-REM sleep.1

1 REM sleep was discovered in 1953. This was the first empirical breakthrough in dream science. (John Holt, "Does Sleep Make Sense?" The Australian, 19 January 2000, p.29)


In Hamlet we have the personification of human nature brooding over its own weaknesses and corruptions, endless suggestiveness, nothing wholly explicable, the utterance of thought in solitude moving slowly in verse, the timidity which we all experience in the many corners of our life. For we are all Hamlet, at least some of the time.1 W. B. Yeats said he was a timid man "except before a piece of paper."2 My timidity, my shyness, over 65 years now would be a complex phenomenon to discuss in detail. It comes partly from bipolar disorder, although in my youth and young adulthood my timidity was rooted in my social inexperience and a degree of natural reticence. Now in my mid-sixties it comes mainly from an extreme fatigue with social interaction and a concomitant desire to write, a solitary sport if there ever was one.

We are all presented with potentially vivid intellectual, rational and or sensory activity and we all exhibit some inert conduct to juxtapose with that activity. Our emotional response depends on our intellectual perception, our several sensitivities. And this perception is often ambivalent. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Claude Williamson, compiler, Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1950 and 2W.B. Yeats: Essays and Introductions, MacMillan, London, 1971(1961), p. viii.
It is in desire, clearly defined,
strongly felt, the exercise of power
derived from a connection with the
chord of divine reality, the shout of
Ya Baha'u'l-Abha, that we overcome
the dichotomy of the active and the
contemplative sides of life, irregularities
and unexpected turns in the gorgeous
and not-so-gorgeous oriels of many
coloured thought. Melancholy comes
and, God-willing, its antidote humour.

And for some, a poet's soul, dreams
paint thought with wonder and mystery,
the unexplained and inexplicable
singularities in all of existence.

Ron Price
16 November 1997


Poetry is in essence a symbolisation of the spaces and tensions of mental life; it shows the poet in the process of discovering the world of his own mind, and the consequent drama of identifications between self and objects. Unhindered by the fear of not being understood by its audience and propelled by the duty to transcribe the internal dictates of its Muse, it has an inexhaustible meaningfulness. -Meg Harris Williams and Margot Waddell, The Chamber of Maiden Thought: Literary Origins of the Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind, Routledge, NY, 1991, p.184.

Mysterious, inscrutible, writing
an inside story, asking the reader
to work, to work it out,
shows how his mind creates its world,
how he shapes his place, his patterns
of privacy and interdependence,
interrelated to all things,
an ordering of labyrinths,
recreating a life, its times
of great pitch and moment
and times sicklied over
with the pale cast of thought,
losing the name of action
and gaining the meaning in a man:
a king of infinite space,
of inexaustible,but exhausting,

Ron Price
27 March 1998

My dream-life has taken place virtually entirely at night when I have been asleep. During the period of, say, midnight to 10 am, the one-third of one's life that rarely gets much of a mention, I had a busy time of it. I often go to bed at 2 am or after. I could write a long and separate story of this thirty-three percent of my existence on earth. Having an active brain and a body chemistry that gave rise to manic-depression which was one of the causes of my active night life. Sometimes my eyes were shut with Keat's "careful fingers and begign." Sometimes I enjoyed a "forgetfullness divine." For a short-time at university, feeling that lectures were to a large extent a waste of my time, I used to sleep in the day and study all night. But then Sid Tukeman, the then chairman of the LSA of Hamilton and the chief executive officer of a business firm in Dundas, just down the street from my flat above the Dundas Restaurant, dropped in one morning and got me out of bed. I don't think I ever returned to the habit of sleeping in the day. This was in the autumn of 1965, just after my father died and Sid had taken a fatherly interest in my welfare.

Without going into a long and detailed history of my night time litany: my going for walks at night, my reading habits after midnight, my depressions and dark nights of the soul, my television watching and radio listening, my smoking and eating, my drinking and endless struggles to sleep, my praying and writing, let me conclude this section by saying a little about fluvoxamine which put an end to night-time depression and most of the desires of thanatos. I began to take this medication about two months after completing my fortieth year of pioneering. Often I still do not sleep until after midnight or perhaps as late as 2 am, but there is none of the experience of depression I had at night, off-and-on for forty years. I could say more about the dream process, fit my dreams into a history of dreams, say, among the Hebrews, the Greeks or in contemporary times. But I will leave that subject for now.

It is often said that our world is transformed by the supreme emotion of sorrow. If that is true of sorrow it is true a fortiori of depression. I sometimes think that the sorrow-depression axis is one of the supreme emotional experiences and determinants of whatever I have achieved in life. Oscar Wilde once wrote in his long 50,000 word letter that sorrow was "at once the type and test of all great Art." While I certainly agree with these sentiments, it seems to me there is so much more to be said about the subject of great art, at least from a Bahá'í perspective. I'd make joy and happiness another axis of great importance. Being faithful to principles is also critical and more important than personalities which, to Wilde, were the touchstone of progress and civilization. However one philosophizes about Wilde's ideas, his autobiography is to be found in his 1500 letters. This substitute autobiography reveals Wilde's inimitable amiability and, in his last dozen years, his hubris and self-indulgence.

The experience of entry-by-troops in Whyalla and my own success in the teaching profession, a success denied to me in the first years of my professional life were clearly the highlights of the years in South Australia. My separation from Judy was clearly the low ebb in my fortunes. I often wondered if there was some relationship between the flauting of Bahá'í law in my personal life by my cultivation of a relationship with a fifteen year old girl and the drought in the teaching work for the next thirty years. But then, I mused, the drought occurred all over the Western world and, as White put it in such a clever way, "my nurtured imperfections (were) 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." We are so very often hard on ourselves. Perhaps it is a leftover of the Puritan tradition. To strive is good, but we seem to have more talent at beating ourselves over the head for our failures rather than finding the energy and the wisdom, the perspicacity and practical good sense, to pick ourselves up and move on.

In these early years of my international pioneering venture I had not begun to say what could be called intercessory prayers. That would be another half a dozen years before I would try to draw on the assistance of those who had gone on to the next world. But it was not because their help was not needed; indeed the years after my arrival in Australia were years of heavy testing of my metal and assistance from holy souls who had gone on to that undiscovered country would have been invaluable. In the years 1968 to 1973 wonderful souls had passed on: Hermann Grossman, Lutfu'llah Hakim, Tarazu'llah Samandari, Alvin Blum, Sara Kenny, Maud Bosio, Naim Ward, Ruth Brown, Agnes Alexander, Musa Banani, Matthew Bullock and Marion Little.

In these same years the world of international politics, economics and sociology was filled to overflowing as any international journal covering the issues of the time will reveal. In 1973 alone: a Viet Nam peace agreement was signed in January and again in June. The Fourth Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, in Algiers, urged the establishment of a new world economic order, one of the first references to such an order. In the last months of that first year of high school teaching, 1973, the Arab petroleum-exporting countries placed an embargo on oil shipments to the United States, Western Europe, and Japan in retaliation for their support of Israel. The unstable oil situation resulted in shortages and price increases throughout the world.

This was the start of great price increases in Australia in housing and indeed a host of products as well as salary increases. The process seemed to begin earlier in Canada. In the late-1960s my first wife and I, while living in Toronto and both working were unable to buy a house. It was just not something we seriously contemplated. After moving to Australia in 1971, I bought five houses in the period December 1972 to September 1999, first in South Australia and finally in Tasmania. The house I bought in Tasmania for $100 thousand was worth $300 thousand six years later.

On September 11 of 1973 the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown during a CIA-backed military coup. At that time I had three months of my second year of high school teaching left in Para Hills South Australia and by the time that oil embargo was in place in December of 1973 I had begun my move to Tasmania to teach in a College of Advanced Education. Were I to outline in even the briefest of ways the international events of the period 1968 to 1973 this autobiography would become too skewed to the political realm. My intention in this narrative is to just lightly stroke the world of politics at all levels, the world of economics, the world of sociology, inter alia.

The year in Gawler was much quieter after the hectic days in Whyalla. In the pain of separation and what led up to it, a grief I had not anticipated, I nearly lost my belief system. It was the closest I have come, with the exception of my first year in Tasmania in 1974, to losing the plot of belief. Our marriage ended after six years,1967-1973, after all those pioneer moves and years of service, after such high hopes and promises of things to come. The Bahá'í divorce was not completed until 1975. Much of the problem I faced then, in my marriage, was too intense an enthusiasm for the Cause, an insufficient knowledge of sex and the need to focus more on the relationship and less on the external community activities in the Faith. Generally, a more light-hearted approach to the serious truths of life would have helped. As Umberto Eco once said in his The Name of the Rose "perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at truth. In doing so we can free ourselves from the insane passions and dark interstices that often accompany truth's expression." I don't think my problem was that I did not try hard enough; it was that I did not understand the dynamics, the processes, the realities of life.But I was learning and, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá once said in a talk: "Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings." Life seemed to present me again and again with evidence of these inadequacies. But strengths were also inevidence in Australia in these early years and they gave me a basis of hope.

The certitude of one's interpretations of the past can never be demonstrated. All one can hope for is that one interpretation is more probable than another, that one's analysis of the events is a judicial consideration of alternative and opposing views, that the analysis is as comprehensive as possible, that it is fruitful and possesses explanatory power, that is possesses an internal coherence and does not violate reason and is compatible with the general context of the narrative. At this stage, the third edition of this story, I am not inclined to delve too deeply into thorough and detailed analyses of events such as my divorce, my remarriage, my sex life or lack of it or my knowledge of zoology or botany or, as I point out in another context, popular culture. I possess the general desire to know and understand my life, my society and my religion and what I experience in these several domains. This search for explanations is what sustains me, what propels and gives logic to my various drives to write.

So many events in one's life: marriage, divorce, the various sins of omission and commission that the mind and the flesh is ere to, education, work and and daily routines of one's latter years, are repeated a billion times in a billion different ways in autobiographies, biographies and in the day to day run of things by people who never write their story. And I can see little gain here from accounting an endless and thorough explanation of my marriage, the concatenation of events that led to why it failed and how I coped with the process. Perhaps I will do so in a fourth edition written in the later evening of my life.

Obviously, as I reflect on those events in the breakdown in my marriage, a breakdown which began to be seriously set in motion thirty years ago this month, my reflections on these disorienting events lead me to reinterpretations, new stances, new ways of seeing my life and its story. They are stances that the philosopher Paul Ricoeur says belong "to the realm of the poetic," the metaphorical dimension, and they have a revelatory function. Here truth no longer means verification but, rather, the truth and its meaning is found in some physical manifestation of events, a manifestation which involves a letting what shows itself be. "What shows itself is in each instance a proposed world." It is I who do the proposing; it is I who projects my innermost understandings and my own possibilities. And they go beyond the previous understandings; my reflections emerge unexpectedly from and within my past experience. On the one hand I am critically aware of the tradition within which my life has been lived, namely the Bahá'í tradition, its religion, philosophy and everyday understandings. This tradition is of sovereign importance for my present and future understanding. It cannot and should not be dismantled. On the other hand, I am critically aware of the importance of not imposing my own finite capacity of understanding on my experience and at the same time I must be aware of the power of the Bahá'í tradition to throw new light on my experience.

Some readers may find the above somewhat 'thick,' a little too analytical for their liking. I can understand that. So, I'll conclude this discussion of my first marriage with an anecdote from the marriage of Robert Louis Stevenson and some poetry. Stevenson's wife, Fanny Osbourne who was forty when she married the thirty year old Stevenson, thought he had far too many people in his life. She could not get a moment alone with him. I have found in what is now some thirty-five years in two marriages that getting the balance between sharing solitude, quiet companionship without others being present, between having a home that is like grand-central-station and between having a small circle of friends and acquaintances is difficult to achieve. This equation, the solitary-sociability equation, is a difficult one to work out for many. It varies from person to person and from stage of life to stage of life. I simply mention its cruciality here and may comment on the details with respect to my life in a later edition.

I would, though, like to look directly and obliquely at this first marriage through the following poems:      


Wisdom seems to dictate a cautious approach to teaching, far removed from the more evangelical enthusiasms of the door-to-door salesman. It is not so much a question of finding the correct way, the right way but, rather, what is appropriate to the situation. This differs from person to person and is the resultant, the product, of the interpersonal and historico-cultural dynamics of each situation. -Ron Price, Reflections on a Lifetime of Teaching, 8:37 am, Thursday, 19 December 1996, Rivervale, WA, Australia.

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear:
-Shakespeare, Sonnets, Number 102.

When they're well-reared,
like a good tree,
they seem to come straight and tall
into life with their branches flowing over
with a rich luxuriance, sweet colours,
blossoms and fruits,
an untutored innocence,
a fresh charm,
pure and goodly issue grown,
rooted into earth's soil, unconsecrated,
unsensitized, yet, not yet simple
and sincere through seasoned burning
and reason's firey-lights, unsullied,
mirrors dust-free, waiting, uncrowned,
yet, with that diadem
of a far-off and eternal life.

Then, a tarnish comes;
the blossoms wither
or the flowers die in autumn,
sometimes never to return again,
sometimes coming back with sweet new life
and a reconsecration, a joy even, unknown before,
some inner disposition, some shadow of bounty,
yes, tender now and simple, a strengthening
by some perpetual force,
an empowering to raise other trees
to that new life;
but there's an inner drying, notes of loss,
shame and battles lost,
perfection's imperfection;
sweet's grown common do not possess that old delight
and I do not publicly enthuse,
though my love is no less
than ever it has been in former days of joy
when I was young and wet
and my tongue did publish everywhere.

19 December 1996


I'd call it love because
it takes so many years.
-With thanks to Adrienne Rich, Two Songs*

A hot alliance forged in bed
is no guarantee
that the two will stay together;
it's so often just not to be.

The promptings of the flesh
are sweet,
but can be sundered in a breath
no matter how high the heat.

Our chilly inner selves we find,
after all the heat and spice;
limbs contorted, hair rearranged,
then cold estrangement throws its dice,
sometimes not once, twice, but thrice.
Slowly we learn to deal with lust's
libidinous desires,
but it often takes a lifetime
to control and tame the fires.

Ron Price
1 January 1996
* Adrienne Rich puts it this way in her poem:

I'd call it love if love
didn't take so many years.

As Price approached sixty he became more reclusive in his private life. By 1999, when he retired, he had worked as a lecturer/teacher for nearly thirty years, except for a four year period either recuperating from teaching, being on the dole or doing other jobs. He felt burnt-out, dried out, strung out, but quietly so. He had finished his years of teaching in a Technical and Further Education training institution, full-time; he attended LSA meetings until 1999. Feasts and the occasional social gathering that obligation necessitated continued to be part of his routine. For the most part he 'performed' well in this theatre of life. Hopefully retirement, which he had now enjoyed for the last four years, would continue to bring him a new lease on life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2 February 2003.

Do not doubt that love renews itself
under the cool, metallic stars,
springs up intractably
like the pesky weed
to outrage our stark order,
and being lopped or trampled
yields its head but not its root
which feeds insatiably
in the heart's thin soil.1

Denied, it finds a new taste of wet leaves
on the tongue; it does not die;
only its normal harvest,
having had the fire of its hope
fall to ashes and despair,
finds a new green and wily succulence,
quite unknown, telling of a new crop,
some inner chill, some new heat,
a neck caught in a noose,
endlessly drinking from the seven seas,
his thirst still unquenched,
he asks for more,
but would have it end,
shunning himself, a' times,
drawing away from life's poison.

Ron Price
23 August 1998

1 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, 1981, p.71.

I have often felt since, in these intervening thirty years, that Judy was somewhat like a diamond: hard, clean, frank, high-spirited. She was like a wild-horse that I could not tame, should not have even tried. I did not have the survival skills then to handle her spirit and her mind. Late in 1975 I saw her plane leave the Melbourne airport. I did not see it leave the tarmac but I saw it off in the distance as it rose high into the sky. I returned to the Melbourne suburb of Kew where I was living at the time and where I stayed until March of 1976. The failure of the marriage made me take sober stock of myself and required a pensive girding up of the loins of my endeavour in order to persevere along my chosen highway. Girding, though, was not the only thing I did with my loins in the two years after the separation from my wife. In fact, there seemed to be a direct relationship between one form of girding and another.

I had just entered, too, the period known as middle age, the years from 30 to 70. Human development theorists say it is "the least charted territory in human development" and people generally have the wrong idea about what really happens in midlife. Perhaps some of what readers come across here will challenge stereotypes about midlife. The overload stressors continued to manifest themselves during these years, although by the age of 60 they had virtually disappeared from my life-line. Equanimity was not part of my experience; special vulnerabilities continued to distress me: bi-polar illness, job and marriage crises, illness and crises in my family as well. Recent research suggests that mid-life crisis is a myth, but in my case it was a reality, although the job changes I had made early in my life seemed to be beneficial in my midlife years.

Lionel Trilling wrote in his book Sincerity and Authenticity about the new radicalism that had come into society in the 1960s, the last years of my adolesence and the first years of my adulthood. He said that resisting impulse was the true basis of human liberty and the basis of our growth as people in human perfections. He said that this growth came from taking on limitations not throwing them off. I had found this lesson a difficult one to learn all my life. If I had been able to accept it more fully in that first marriage I might have been able to save it. But self-indulgence was a "characteristic of the late 1960's and '70's counter-culture movements," movements for which the word 'authority' was anathema. And, although I was not part of these movements, I was influenced by them, by their emphasis on subjectivity and privacy, on the inner basis of knowledge, on being your own person and a general exaggerated emphasis on individuality.

The 1960s had given birth to what some called the counter-culture and a rebirth of classical paganism. Variously described and defined, this new ethos was anathema to traditional values. The motto of the times was, in the words of one of the counter-culture's most articulate spokesman, Theodore Roszak, "do your own thing." Authority, as I said above, was anathema and structure the antithesis of the world this new culture wanted to create. But trying to create community without authority placed increasing demands of governments. Many looked for community, for informal, organic structures and some of these joined the Bahai Faith.

A chaos of private belief, in which respect for anybody or anything, virtually disappeared or, should I say, had to be earned; in which emotions increasingly replaced reason except in one's professional life; in which what was useful replaced what was true as the guide to the perplexed; in which a moral revaluation without morals aimed at authenticity, wholeness and the search for the Real-Me--these came to define the spirit of the time.

It was difficult for many young Bahá'ís, for I was a young Bahá'í in the sixties, to maintain their belief system in the face of the frontal-attack of these new values or new expressions of old ideas. I was fortunate or perhaps it was due to those mysterious dispensations of Providence, to maintain my belief system intact in the years up to, say, 1975. Some historians and social analysts defined the sixties as ending in 1974. The early 1970s in Australia were in many ways a continuation of the sixties in North America where I had lived and had my being. In 1975 I lived in eight houses trying to establish an LSA in Kew. I was still a Bahá'í and in one piece. I was indeed lucky to survive those heady days, however one interprets their meaning.

The following poem comes from the Psalms. I had lived half of my life, half of my life to the age of sixty. There was a blunt reminder here:

Our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years
Or perhaps eighty, if we are strong.....
They are soon gone and we fly away.

In this context much of life is remembering. In some ways this remembering is a disease of the graying and the balding. To go back is to bore and to praise the good old days, to bask in the past, to enter an Eden that never existed, a paradise as legendary as Atlantis. In other ways to remember is to start dieing. The opposite is also the case. Much of religious literature can be summed up in a single word: remember. The Bahá'í religion is, in some ways, like that of the Judaism of ancient Israel, at least insofar as it is embedded in history. To forget one's history is a crime, a crime against yourself and your memory. You become the accomplice in your own demise. To forget the life of Bahá'u'lláh is to partly dismantle your own life. To remember His history is to start living.

In April 1973, when I had just begun, two months before, the best job I had had in my life, until then, in South Australia's first open plan secondary school and when I was at the height of my career in primary and secondary teaching, my marriage was in its last six months, little did I know it at the time. The House had written that month that the Bahá'ís were raising "on this tormented planet the fair mansions of God's Own Kingdom wherein humanity may find surcease from its self-induced confusion and chaos and ruin." I had just begun to serve on the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of Gawler where there had been a Bahai community for less than twenty-five years. That was the case nearly everywhere I lived in this half century of my Bahai experience (1953-2003). They were nearly all very young communities with the possible exception of Toronto where I lived in 1969, where I served briefly on its Assembly and where the Bahai community went back as far as 1913 and the early years of the twentieth century.

The Nine Year Plan ended that April, too. It had been an "overwhelming victory." It had been the second global campaign of the world Bahá'í community. I had certainly been the recipient of Bahá'u'lláh's "unceasing confirmations." A little more than four years before I had just left my fourth mental hospital at the bottom of yet another of the proverbial barrels we go to in life. Bahá'u'lláh had raised me from the depths of a mental sickness that had completed bewildered me and placed me in an educational environment, a professional teaching job which was at the top of my field. Obviously I had to initiate the action, apply for the jobs, move to Australia, et cetera. God only helps those who help themselves, as it is said.

Sixty-nine National Spiritual Assemblies in 1964 had become one hundred and thirteen, 5000 Local Spiritual Assemblies had become 17,000, 16,000 localities had become 69,000. The statistics were im- pressive. My own life in this period had gone from the start of my university life at the age of twenty, from the early sixties in Canada to a pioneer post thousands of miles from my home. I had married in this period and I was just about to divorce. The opportunity to "strengthen (my) own character" and "influence those around" me in the months ahead by obeying Bahá'í law, I lost. We lose many opportunities in life through disobedience.

At the same time: all was not lost. "The acts we perform, the attitudes we manifest, the very words we speak," wrote the House of Justice in 1972, just as I was about to begin my career as a secondary school teacher with more success than I had ever achieved in my life, "should be an attraction a magnet." And so had they become. I had been raised from as close to death row as one can be with eight shock treatments buzzing through my head only five years before. I could not have had that success if that magnetism had not begun to manifest itself in my personal life. Perhaps some of the advice from Frank Sinatra a decade before was paying off: "Whatever else has been said about me is unimportant. When I sing, I believe, I'm honest. If you want to get an audience with you, there's only one way. You have to reach out to them with total honesty and humility." In the teaching profession there is much more than this. That "more" is too complex to deal with here. Sinatra's words, though, have some ring of relevance to my teaching success at this time, in 1973. Reaching out took many forms by the early 1970s. The first male nude in Playboy was Burt Reynolds in 1972; the first gay nude in a leading magazine was in 1982. The emphasis on female sexuality in the 1960s became an emphasis on male sexuality in the seventies and eighties. With the male menopause in the 1990s the would-be pioneer who was male in these four epochs came to see sex, male identity and role as one of that period's dominant themes. But there were so many themes that the result was a certain dizzying effect.

I could see a future on the personal front for the first time since wandering around four mental hospitals as a patient in the summer and autumn of 1968. A world devoid of a future, one that I had to recreate, had a certain lifeless quality. The heart had to struggle day after day to get back on track in mind and soul. But in Australia a new life was injected into me, year after year, or so it seemed, especially as I look back from a perspective of thirty to forty years. A sense of teleological meaningfulness is an essential ingredient for any kind of happy life. International pioneering brought this to me as if it was a gift from God. This gift did not seem to be so much as a result of trying but, rather, it was something given passively, something not entirely my own, someting resulting from a fortuitous combination of waiting, praying, serving, sufffering, obeying.

The sense of life as a humourous adventure, where you learned that complaining must be kept to a minimum and where there was enough happening in one's own life that one hardly needed anyone else around to provide material for a story seemed to be a scenario that was developing on this Australian shore as decade succeeded decade. And, finally, I became conscious that what I was doing and saying and writing might, in the end, have little permanent value, have been in fact a waste of my time and have messed up my life, if not others, for nothing.

I had slowly, insensibly, become involved in a process that would, by my fiftieth year, make me "tired to the bone of life and men," by my fortieth year make me "too weary for more life/But death of oblivion" and by my thirtieth year bring me as close as I would ever come to giving up my very belief in a Faith that had over two decades brought me so much in meaning, purpose, direction and sheer joy. But my faith in 1974 was bleeding on the sands of time and I nearly died, spiritually. I was at the end of my tether. The loss of my first wife had had a devastating affect on my inner being. I felt broken, frozen, burnt through, only bone, nakedness, was left. Lacking faith, I reached out for the tender touch, the warm embrace, the sensual excitement, of a woman. From October 1973 to April 1974 four women appeared on the horizon of my sensory emporium. As a senior tutor in human relations I did a lot of relating. It got me over the loneliness, the emptiness, the sense of loss and it nearly bearied me in the world of the senses.

Bahá'u'lláh's judgement of human behaviour, a rightful function of prophetic office, "is neither too condemnatory, nor reflective of a view of the individual that is dark, negative or pessimistic." The nobility of man is stressed again and again if he comes under the guidance of the Manifestation. But Bahaullah also tells us frankly and truthfully to confront ourselves honestly and not be tricked by fantasy's illusions and delusions, passions and desires. He offers us His forgiveness and mercy. He is not trying to break our spirits or to heap on us heavy guilt. Waging jihad on my passions has always been difficult for me to do in some areas of life. I needed the "help of the Holy Spirit." This help has been in evidence during these four decades of pioneering; I am still in need of its strength and power as late adulthood and old age beckon. I still need to turn the mirror of my heart "squarely toward God." I still need to guide and control my imagination. I still need to release myself from "the multiple identities of passion and desire" and their predictable companions of fantasy. Thirty years after arriving in Australia the battle goes on. I still do deeds that are "unacceptable in the path of God and which, I am confident, impair my spiritual development." It is battles of this nature that lie at the core of this autobiography. It involves the "creational, tumultuous, struggling, never-ceasing, energetic agent" of the imagination.


All social and scientific activity is grounded in ideological structures. Alternatively, all writers develop particular narrative styles that reveal their ideological positions. Autobiography is enmeshed in ideology for no man is free of ideas, systematized and unsystematized. Ideology is part of the air we all breathe. But we breathe different air, -Ron Price with thanks to Herve Varenne, "The Social Facting of Education: Durkheim's Legacy," Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol.27, 1995, pp.373-389.

In 1974 I extended and deepened my reading and this process began in January as I prepared for my role as Senior Tutor in Human Relations at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. I had been a serious reader going back to the beginning of my pioneer venture in September of 1962 when I attended classes for thirty hours a week and studied at home for another twenty-five to thirty. Teaching older adolescents and adults a variety of subjects in the trainee teacher curricula required of me a more serious reading regimen than when I was teaching primary and secondary school students in the years 1967 to 1973. Nearly thirty years later this 'serious reading' continues. In some ways, though, it is not a matter of how many books one reads in order to find the tone, the vocabulary, the manner, the mode to describe this pioneer experience; nor is it a matter of how many committees one serves on, how many LSAs or even NSAs, how many kilometres one has put on the Bahá'í-odometre. The writer-poet searches for a language adequate to the mission, the engagement, the venture, the narrative, the story of these several epochs in the last three quarters of the first century of the Formative Age. For it is language, style, that vivifies the raw data of experience, thought and emotion into poetry and prose.

Reading was not all that was deepened in 1974. A physical relationhsip quickly deepened and by April I was living with a young Tasmanian woman and her two children, daughters aged three and eight. The desires of a corrupt inclination, the passions, the concupiscible appetite, there are a host of phrases to describe what continued to occupy my attention as it had before and as it would again. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá put it so eloquently and so succinctly, "desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes uncounted lifetime harvests of the learned." This devouring fire can not always be quenched by knowledge and in 1974 it nearly devoured my spiritual life as a Bahá'í.

I arrived in Tasmania on the first of January 1974 wondering to myself if that young girlfriend or, more accurately, ex-girlfriend of mine back in South Australia was pregnant. It was with a great sense of relief in mid-January or thereabouts that I received a letter from her to say there was no worry. I also received a telephone call in late January or perhaps it was mid-February 1974 from my wife Judy to say she was thinking about getting back together. Some time in the last half of February Judy took a flight to Launceston to discuss the possibilities of reconciliation. She said, when she saw me at 1 Hillside Crescent, the house we had bought together in September 1973 in Launceston, that she had changed her mind again. She did not want to renew our marriage. I was devastated.

But I assuaged this devastation, as I have written above, in the arms of three different women in the next month. There were two one night stands, as it is said in the vernacular and there was Christine Armstrong, one of my students in Human Relations. She lived with her sister's family in Launceston in a small room with her two daughters, Angela and Vivienne aged three and eight respectively. Christine moved in to my home and into my bed some time after the fast in early April 1974. For the next eight months I agonized over breaking Bahá'í law, but the agony was not sufficient to put the law over the passion, at least not until December. In early December, just after the Feast on December 12th, I left my job, my home and Tasmania and took a plane to Melbourne obeying in the process the Bahá'í law which I cherished and which I had come to understand more deeply by breaking it.

At the time I left Launceston I felt the wisdom of Shakespeare's words about love and passion: "These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder which, as they kiss, consume." I have often felt the sexual urge to be something like an itch that needs to be scratched; over time another itch came into my life, an itch which could only be cured by the scratching of a pen. Not that the itch had died but a second marriage helped me find a place for the "proper use" of "the sex instinct." Self-control, "when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general," wrote someone on behalf of the Guardian in 1940. I have certainly had lots of practice at the exercise of self-control since August 1967 when I first got married. In the last forty years(1967-2008) my soul has had many opportunities to progress due to this exercise of self-control. The occasional lapse, largely due to the process of divorce, is in some ways more a measure of the "hard struggle" it has been. I found the need for self-control as necessary, and as demanding, within marriage as outside of it. The advice from the House was timely, just as I was beginning to contemplate a separation from my first wife in early 1973.

As I write these words about my life back in early adulthood, in the 1960s and 1970s, I am in the early years of late adulthood(60-65). The glories of youth have gone and their beauty and strength. Now contemplation fills my hours and what William McNamara, a carmelite brother, defined as "a long loving look at the real." I have begun to look at life in its totality, as Erik Erikson said must be done in one's latter years. I am aware that the old Adam has not died yet, that I have much to repent and that only some of my confessional is revealed here. Even Oprah Winfrey or Andrew Denton, two television interviewers who get their guests to spill their beans, as we say colloquially. They would not get all of it out of me. I see myself, in the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins' phrase: "wound/With mercy round and round/As if with air." For, without that mercy, I'm not sure I would ever be able to approach the "gates that open on the Placeless."

I sense, as Hopkins and a host of others have sensed, the mysterious shaping of my spirit and my life through the spirit of God. In Hopkins' case the shaping was "to the image of God's son." In my case the shaping is with a much more complex metaphorical connection. The following phrases of Bahá'u'lláh may capture some of it: "the sweetness of thy melody may attract the hearts of all men;" "faithfulness unto the covenant of God;" "may my life be a sacrifice to Thee." There are so many phrases to capture the nature of this shaping process. The Bahá'í writings are filled to overflowing with moral and spiritual admonitions regarding the shaping of the spirit which, one day will assume a form that befits its immortality. This shaping was also a shaping of character "the underlying qualities of a person's moral or ethical knowledge, attitudes, values and commitments that are systematically displayed in one's behaviour." At the centre of this shaping process, unquestionably, was the Bahá'í Faith. The Bahá'í Faith and its writings serve for me as a lens through which I can assess the whole of a particularly complex, often dizzying and confusing time in history and my own life within that time.

While I was learning about the wisdoms of Bahá'í law in 1974 I was able to utilize the passion I had developed for putting up posters. Every Friday night for several months I put up some 50 posters all over Launceston advertising the Friday night firesides. Noone came, if I recall, but the amount of advertising was massive. I also served on the Regional Goals Committee that year, as secretary and editor of the newsletter. I was part of that "vast reservoire of spiritual energy, zeal and idealism" mentioned by the House of Justice in its Ridvan 1974 message. And it would be the last year I could be included with the youth in this connection, for in July I was thirty years old. The House had defined youth as 'those in their teens and twenties" back in 1966 and in July I would be thirty years old. Perhaps "the abundant evidences of Divine confirmation" mentioned in that same message for "dedicated and strenuous service" were demonstrated by the fact I was still able to hang on to my beliefs in spite of not following the law. Perhaps these "evidences" were part of the high energy characteristic of a mood swing approaching the hypomanic phase. Perhaps the accession of energy had more to do with the new job I had, a job which was immensely enjoyable: a senior tutor in human relations. These evidences of energy are but one manifestation of what you might call my style, that matrix of personality, temperament, ways of learning and ways that define one's uniqueness. For we are each and all unique in this complex of factors that make up style. Style and character are the two core elements, says W. Huitt, which make up the 'brilliant stars' that we are and that we should try to become. I had first head the term 'brilliant star' in one of the prayers for children my mother read, probably in the morning before my going to school, during 1953-54, her first year of contact with the Canadian Bahá'í community.

I should insert a word about the idealism in my life. Chesterton once wrote that: "life is worth all this trouble: that in gratitude for the gift of living, no price is too high to pay in love and understanding." I certainly felt that way much or even most of the time, but I never regarded myself as someone who suffered stoically and when the depths of depression or despair got turned on strong enough my sense of appreciation for suffering's moral and psychological worth was experienced only in retrospect and for the time I experienced the price as too high. And so I had to add to Chesterton's admirable expression of a fine and admirable ideal: "most of the time."

So it was at Ridvan 1974 that the Five Year Plan was outlined(1974-1979) and the eighteen year period leading to the centenary of Bahá'u'lláh's Ascension in 1992 began. I was as close as I would get in the first half century of my association with this Faith(1953-2003) to compromising my spiritual credentials and actually leaving a religion that had been such a formative influence in my life. When the announcement of the beginning of the work on the construction of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice was made I was struggling with loneliness, obedience to Bahá'í law and my lower nature. At the same time I had the best job I'd ever had. Such a mixture of the good and the bad, the ups-and-downs, happiness and sorrow, with which we live our lives trying to see both the forest and the trees, trying to demonstrate a happy and well-oriented life even in the presence of anxiety: a keen test if ever there was one.

"The problem of how to access and deploy the explanatory power of culture" wrote Anne Kane, "in historical accounts has long remained vexing." At the nexus of culture, social structure and social action the observer finds meaning and meaning is what must be as the explicit target of investigation. Meaning certainly kept me firing those posters up onto shop windows week after week even as I broke Bahá'í law. Meaning had me seek the removal of my voting rights at some time in September of 1974. Meaning had me give up my job, my home and my career just to obey a law that I feared disobeying. Pleasure and the satisfaction of my instinctual urges made me disobey the law. That has always been the case. As Peter Kahn pointed out in a talk he gave: "Satin will appear to you in the guise you find most attractive." Kahn is not talking here about some personification of evil; rather, he is talking about the power of one's lower self. My precipitous move to Melbourne, had been unwise. In retrospect it would have been wiser to simply move to another part of town, thus enabling me to obey Bahá'í Law.

I was being tested where I was weak, an area I found most attractive and the process continues even unto today. I may come back to this theme later in this narrative because I think it is a crucial one for my spiritual path and, indeed, anyone's spiritual path. I was not the only one being tested. In the years 1969 to 1974 the American Bahá'í community went from 13,000 to 60,000. Canada went from about 4000 to 10,000 and Australia from under 1000 to perhaps 3000. Growth in the following thirty years more than doubled in all these countries. Growth measured from 1959 when I became a Bahá'í, or 1953 when my mother first expressed her interest, went from 10,000 in North America, Europe and the Anglo-Pacific region to some 400,000 in the next fifty years. Statistics, of course, can be played with endlessly to prove all sorts of points. I mention these statistics here because this whole question of testing not only militates against many ever entering this Faith, it also forms an important part of the experience of Bahá'ís once they become part of the community.

This 'testing' can be measured in virtually an endless multitude of ways. Community inactivity, non-involvement, withdrawal, loss of voting rights, resignations, divorce, domestic violence, interpersonal rivalries, jealousies and conflicts, varying degrees of alienation and tension that result from people in community, were all part of the texture of community as I experienced it in the years 1953 to 2003. One not only sees many forms of testing; one experiences many oneself. These forms could make a separate book unto themselves should I decide to expand on them in detail. I often think they are not unlike the difficulties that families endure. Some families, like some Bahá'í communities, seem more harmonious; and others more fraught with problems. Inevitably, too, how others read this work and my views depends on what their minds are full of.

My lack of desire to participate in much of the overt Bahá'í activity in greater metropolitan Perth in the 1990s is part of a theme going back at least to 1962 and before: an object so highly cathected with energy--community life—that it becomes a source of both identity and warmth as well as tension and estrangement." This is a theme that could be explored in some depth and yield a long story both in my life and in the lives of my fellow Bahá'ís. For the process of knowing and understanding is, as van Oort puts it, fundamentally one "of interpreting increasingly more complex layers of reference." And this theme is undoubtedly complex. And time, writes Jesse Matz, "becomes human time to the extent that is is organized after the manner of a narrative." Putting this theme into narrative form is difficult. So more on what is involved here another time, another season.

Another aspect of this whole question was raised by Judith Butler in her most influential book Gender Trouble (1990). "Butler argued that feminism had made a mistake by trying to assert that 'women' were a group with common characteristics and interests. That approach, Butler said, performed 'an unwitting regulation and reification of gender relations' -- reinforcing a binary view of gender relations in which human beings are divided into two clear-cut groups, women and men. Rather than opening up possibilities for a person to form and choose their own individual identity, therefore, feminism had closed the options down." The issue is not exactly the same for Bahá'ís, but there certainly is a tendency, as I have observed, in the early stages of Bahá'í experience to see all Bahá'ís as painted with the same brush. My experience in this regard, deepened over half a century now, is that Bahá'ís are as individual, as individualistic, as unique personages, as any one can find in any community of human beings. they have in common the teachings, the Revelation, the Bahá'í organizational form but, after that, its open slather on who does what and what to expect.

So, in the same way that Butler sees gender as a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times, the Bahá'í needs to see his fellow believers as an equally fluid variable which shifts and changes. In the same way that it is what you do that defines gender, it is what you do that defines what a Bahá'í is. As the Bahá'í Faith moves from its present six million to, perhaps, several hundred million or more in the twenty-first century, the kinds of free-floating identies that Judith Butler talks about in relation to gender are, I think, strongly applicable to the Bahá'ís in terms of belief, always keeping in mind the centripetal forces of the Covenant to keep the whole thing together.

Then, of course, there are the multitude of sins of omission or commission and which should at least get a mention in an autobiography. John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, in his last book of lessons worth passing on, suggests we should all cultivate a streak of vulgarity. I'm not sure whether this is a good idea or not, but there are several ‘irregular inclinations' which have been part of my life for years. Mortimer describes the vulgarities of several famous people and the sins, major and minor, of the Mozarts, Shakespeares and Leonardos. Whatever vulgarities I possess, they are at least in good company. Besides smoking for thirty years and emiting a great deal of gas, probably from eating too fast; having a temper, which is now for the most part controlled as I near sixty; various sexual irregularities, obsesssions and inclinations which surfaced from puberty onwards and were a source of both pleasure and anxiety; I could list of number of other natural inclinations associated with my anatomy, my use of words and my emotional and mental life. But for fear of disturbing myself, perhaps some sense of shame or is it guilt or simple embarrassment, I hesitate to make the list any longer than I have already made it. I'm not sure, either, whether exposing readers to every sordid detail of my life, to the contemplation of what has been vulgar, excessive and coarse would be either edifying or useful to readers. Such an exposure might be colourful, if I could frame these traits in a humorous context. It might take me off any pedestal readers might be inclined to place me as a result of any reverential tones they find in this lengthy work. The contemplation of the weaknesses and incapacities in my life might appeal to those inclined to heap opprobrium on the broad canvas of my days and darken the picture of my hours and the photos of my years. I have done enough of that myself and would not wish such an exercise on my readers.

In February 1975 I moved into Kew from Elwood, both suburbs of Melbourne. I had been living with three other young men in Elwood for two months after my arrival from from Tasmania. I lived in Kew with Wayne and Anne Williams, New Zealanders who had come to Australia and who, after returning to New Zealand in the 1980s, came back to Australia it would seem to stay. I lived in seven houses that year in an attempt to get nine adults into Kew to help form an LSA. In the end we missed by one believer. Chris and her girls came to Melbourne in April and we attempted to obey the Bahá'í law, this time more successfully. I've often thought, looking back on Chris' persistence in coming after me to tie me down as a future husband, that Shakespeare might have been right when he wrote in A Midsummer Night's Dream that I "should be woo'd and was not made to woo." This abdication of the traditional male role in courting was, perhaps, fitting given my lack of discrimination, my instinctual needs, my impetuosity and my bipolar disorder. Was this experience the role of fate? I will never know with certitude.

I taught at a Tafe college in Box Hill and continued there until March of 1976 when I got a job at the Ballarat C.A.E. lecturing in the social sciences.

From the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, the rock ‘n' roll music world had provided much pleasure to my life. But with two children to care for, with the increasing cost of records, with the burgeoning quantity of sounds available and limited supplies of money I was not able to continue buying records. Simon Frith argues that the rock era died around 1976 with the Sex Pistols. Many rock historians would, of course, disagree, but my experience of it lost its previous intensity. The promised mass cultural revolution that many believed would come out of rock ‘n' roll simply fizzled out. From my point of view there was a revolution. It continued quietly, part of a process that had been initiated over 130 years ago in 1844. The two decade rock experience(1954/6 to 1974/6) which arguably had ended, had run its course, according to Frith, was simply one of the multitude of societal expressions of a deeper, wider much more profound revolution, a revolution which was spiritual, global and out of human control.

In Kew I served as a secretary of the LSA or what we were hoping would be an LSA. I remember throwing a carton of milk on one of the members, so distraught did I become at one evening meeting which we had in Chris' flat on Pleasant Avenue. Perhaps it was the frustration I was experiencing in trying to obey the Bahá'í law on no sex before marriage as Chris and I now lived in separate residents; perhaps it was the sheer frustration of LSA work; perhaps it had to do with moving to half a dozen houses that year; perhaps it was part of my bi-polar disorder. I have always found it easy to list a series of life's frustrations or tests to justify or explain whatever aberrant behaviour I exhibited. But, lest readers see the throwing of cartons of milk at fellow members as a normal part of LSA work, let it be said that I never saw such an occurance again or heard of it happening to others. Frustrations, anxieties and traumas were part of LSA life as they were part of marriage and part of the problems at the work place from time to time. Perhaps in a future edition I will write about these experiences in more detail.

John Palmer points out in his analysis of autobiography that historically autobiography has served "the traditional power structures." He argues that now autobiographies, at least those found on the Internet, are part of a network of inter-related writings, part of a greater whole, connected to thousands of other texts of every conceiveable genre. A single autobiography is not a discrete document any more, at least not if it is on the internet, but is, rather, part of a diffused body of knowledge that is more easily accessible as a body of interrelated material than are books on a library shelf. This makes the text more fluid, the context more fluid and reader reactions more fluid. Palmer calls this version of autobiography hypertext, as opposed to the traditional constructivist view of autobiography. Palmer sees manipulation as simply a process that is more difficult to take place because the reader had more ready access to more tools of critical analysis. For this reason it is my hope that what I write here will be found located on the Internet as well as in book form and, if the latter can not be achieved, then the former will more than suffice.

Living as I did in a large metropolitan Bahá'í community of several hundred people from December 1974 to March 1976 as well as carrying out the tasks of a job as a teacher I found to be a demanding responsibility. By early 1976 I was feeling exhausted again or, perhaps, I just needed a change; perhaps it was a combination of both. Ballarat, an hour's drive from Melbourne, was an attractive country town, Australia's biggest country town. It had a Bahai community of about fifteen souls. The smallness of the place and the nature of the job were both points of attraction and Chris and I and our two girls moved there in March 1975. And there we stayed until December 1978. As things turned out Ballarat was as busy a place as Melbourne had been. The job required all I had teaching a range of new subjects and requiring another extensive reading program. In addition, for these three years I was either chairman or secretary of the local Bahá'í community. On the home front the demands were no less.

Daniel was born in August 1977; Chris had post-natal depression as she had had in the years after the birth of Angela in 1970. The girls went to primary school. I had the first of a package of three episodes of bi-polar disorder in early 1978; this was followed by a second in 1979 and a third in May 1980. The 1978 episode began in Yerrinbool where I was teaching a course in Bahá'í Administration. Each of these episodes was extremely disorienting and in May 1980 I was finally treated with lithium which put an end to most of my symptoms forever.

I knew at some time early in 1978 that my one year contract at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education would not be renewed at the end of the year. So I began yet again to apply for jobs; I was offered another one year contract at the Churchlands C.A.E. in Perth Western Australia teaching open plan education. But Chris and I decided this was too tenuous an employment situation and we would be better off going back to Tasmania. And this we did in December 1978. I could provide a detailed picture of LSA meetings, deepenings, children's classes, regional meetings, friendships and various relationships, crises and failures, successes and achievements that were part of the texture of my life in Ballarat. I could do this in every town I lived in and perhaps a fourth edition will see a ballooning of this third edition with many more details. But I'm not sure what benefit, what use, this would be to readers.

One development I would like to outline in some detail, though, is one which began in 1978 when I began to pray for the assistance of holy souls who had "remained faithful to the covenant of God and had fulfilled in their lives His trust." I was feeling desperate, mostly as a result of the onset of another episode of manic-depression, at the depressive end of the scale. I was looking for the intercession of those who had "stood unwaveringly firm in His path." I started to pray for the departed Hands of the Cause. I photocopied their pictures from The Bahá'í World, Volume XIV and to this day I often carry the list of their names around with me along with a list of less prestigious mortals, people I have got to know in my travels, now some seventy people. It has been nearly twenty-five years now that I have had a strong emphasis on prayers of intercession. It is very difficult to measure the specific effects of this intercession. There began, in these years around 1980, a distinctive fascination with one of life's imminent contingencies, death. It became a source of adventure, of wonder, of involvement, as a base of reflections and a cornerstone of life's enigmas. It was not an obsession but, rather, a periodic puzzle which, in the 1990s, came into my poetry frequently. It grew out of my bi-polar disorder, the intense depressions associated with the condition and the many obstacles to the satisfaction of life's unappeaseable appetites. It grew out of a recognition of my need for a philosophy of suffering and grew into an acceptance of the unattainable, the unconsummatable and the unrevealable and a recogniton of my limits. My life's core teleology was shifting. It grew out of and was deepened with daily prayers for intercession by "holy souls" and it grew into a sense of peace and a creativity I had never known.

You might say that I have ascribed member status in the club of my life to people who are significant to me, but have passed on to an immortal realm. My interactions with these people constitute and give meaning to my life in powerful ways. These people constitute communities that co-produce and authenticate the stories that shape my lived experiences. (Myerhoff, 1980; White, 1989, 1995, 1997; Hedtke, 2000, 2001). Rather than moving or getting over the loss of these special people, I keep their stories close with mine and they intermingle. Our bonds and ties are strengthened; conversations are constructive, therapeutic; remembering has a healing function here. Many vignettes from their lives are evocative and stimulate my understanding of life. I am animated by the storied nature of their lives and mine; my identity comes from relationship. A living connection is established that grows and shapes and changes over time. When intimacy is nurtured, membered status can grow more important. This is certainly the case in the twenty-five years I have been praying for departed souls with some interest and enthusiasm. I see myself as carrying on their 'story' and their 'legacy,' keeping alive their relationship, their memory and their honour and, perhaps, mine by association. Such an exercise gave and gives vibrancy to the present.

A fascination with, a desire for, a preoccupation with, an interest in, a puzzling over, death conjoined the lives of numerous creators from Emily Dickinson to E.A. Poe, from James Agee to John Berryman, from Jack Kerouac to Sylvia Plath. Even whole philosophies have been crafted out of the subject of death by the likes of Albert Camus and Martin Heidegger. Kierkegaard saw death mastery as a prerequisite for true religiosity. Shopenhauer called death "the truly inspiring genius of philosophy." Albert Camus saw himself as serving an "apprenticeship in death." For me the experience was largely a concern that visited me at night; it has been a concern that has touched me repeatedly since about 1980, since my mid-thirties. It had nothing to do with suicide or suicidal intentions as it did in the case of Camus or Wittgenstein. It had some connection with the concept of sin, my personal ‘badness' or what the Bahá'ís call our lower nature. Its etiology had to do with at least several extended episodes of intense depression over nearly twenty years: 1963 to 1980 and a nightly visitation of a tedium vitae until 2002. My preoccupation with death and immortality was not as intense as it was for some writers. It was not the "Flood subject" it was for Dickinson and it did not involve any fear of annihilation.

I have never been concerned with planning a cathartic deathbed confession, a confession that sought psychological absolution. This was not part of my belief system as a Bahá'í. I accepted the promise and enjoyed the hope of a better after-life. The possibility of being spared from the consequences of wrongdoing through confession seemed to me inappropriate, unrealistic. I'm sure there would be some 'cleaning up' at the end of my life, but I had no idea just how or what that would involve. If, as Barbara Meyerhoff suggests, we view those whom we have known in our life as members of a club, we may not be able to 'restore membered status' on more than a provisional basis to some; we can only allocate a distant membership status to some whose behaviour was so abhorrent to us. Priviledged intimate membership status can not be resumed in our final hours. She says that it is not possible for some of us to forgive some people. Their member status in our club is downgraded. What we need to do, says Meyerhoff, is construct a transformative story, a story where forgiveness and apology may come into the relationship over time. But trying to do forgive initially, at the hour of death, could actually be harmful to the development of positive stories and strength. We continue to examine, reinstate and renegotiate membership after a person has died. By the age of sixty, there may have been two or three people I would have had trouble admitting to "the club." But that story is included elsewhere and it would consume too many words to deal with it here.

The desire for death, even though it was only late at night, paradoxically turned me toward life and seemed to give me a new freshness in living, an admiration for and a cherishing of life. This new lease on life, though, did not come immediately. My prayers were answered but insensibly over two decades. I grew close to holy souls in quiet and quite undefinable ways. The feeling was not ever-present. Problems did not cease to exist. The desire to write and the act of writing, the fullfillment of the desire, the great wish to fill my mind and heart to overlowing, which I had had back as early as the age of eighteen, finally came to be realized. My heart and mind, by degrees, filled again and again with an exhilaration, a "taste of liquor never brewed." That liquor, if I gave it one word, was meaning. This had been my main desire back in 1962 and over the years from 1962 to 2002, that desire was achieved, fulfilled. the experience was just about tangible but it was also fleeting. And it would return the next day and, as i write this, it has been returning daily for thirty years.

One thing I can clearly say, though, is that now I have passed from out of the shadow of manic-depression and most of its eccentricities. The sanity, the emotional steadiness, that is largely the result of the two medications I now take and those mysterious dispensations of Providence, has a delightful feeling, an exquisiteness even, that augers well for the years ahead and should help me endure any of the frustrations of life that seem to be an inevitable part of the texture of our days, particularly in late adulthood and old age, the two stages of life that remain to me. Even now, though, I often lose a spiritual battle. Old age is not about winning all of one's battles as a result of all the lessons one has learned in younger years. Indeed, as Mahavash Master, one of the Cause's outstanding teachers whom I got to know in 1975/6, used to say: the tests get bigger as you get older. It's like a school. While I don't find this a particularly attractive notion, I can understand its wisdom.

I found there was more of an awefulness to life's leisure "when viewed in the context of death" and as I headed down the back stretch of this earthly life my continuing quest intensified but at a deeper and quieter level; perception seemed to make the colours of life richer and more selective. The fleeting experiences of daily life remained the same, for the most part, the same in their context of time and much of the ordinariness of life's journey. My awareness, my consciousness, produced, as it had for so much of my life, either a hopeful or a not-so-hopeful vision of my ultimate fate as my mood and circumstances dictated. I often felt burdened by my incapacities, usually at night and in the early hours of the morning. The remaining part of the day, though, was usually filled with hope over these epochs.

In this connection the words that Shakespeare gives to Cassius: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings." These two lines have often been interpreted to mean that fate is not what drives men to their decisions and actions, but rather the human condition. In my case, the human condition had a multifactored base that contributed much to my experience of life. This memoir deals with this base of experience in some detail. Sometimes I felt I was master of my fate, so to speak, and in control. The words of Bahá'u'lláh are pertinent here:

"...the decrees of the Sovereign Ordainer, as related to fate and predestination, are of two kinds. Both are to be obeyed and accepted. The one is irrevocable, the other is, as termed by men, impending. To the former all must unreservedly submit, inasmuch as it is fixed and settled. God, however, is able to alter or repeal it. As the harm that must result from such a change will be greater than if the decree had remained unaltered, all, therefore, should willingly acquiesce in what God hath willed and confidently abide by the same. The decree that is impending, however, is such that prayer and entreaty can succeed in averting it."

The journey for the first forty years of my pioneering experience seemed, looking back, to be one of movement from place to place and town to town, from job to job and relationship to relationship. By 2002, forty years down the pioneering track, the focus had insensibly shifted to an equally, perhaps even more, arduous journey, an inner one. So much of this inner journey has no pattern, although with much of it the pattern is only too clear. But whether patterned or patternless, this inner world has its own mountains, deserts, seas and valleys, things to conjecture with and things of "unconjectured quantity." There is often a precariousness to conjectures. There are often suppositions which are tentative at best and faltering at worst. I find, as Dickinson found, "my Horizon blocks/With steady--drifting--Grains." And my goals would have no value without a proportionate amount of danger and frustration:

What merit had the Goal--
Except there intervene
Faint Doubt--and far Competitor--
To jeopardize the Gain?

This narrative is the story, the artistic description, of my continuing journey with colours and textures, patterns and problems in a host of areas: job, study, friendships, Bahá'í activities, marital relationships, fate and socialization, freedom and choice, inter alia. But "what's past is prologue," as Antonio says in The Tempest or to put it less succinctly: What's already happened merely sets the scene for the really important stuff, which is the stuff our greatness will be made on or our dreams are made of.

My relationship with each of the women I married has had its ups and downs and provided some of my keenest tests. Now my relationship with Chris is more comdradly, affectionate and united. After nearly thirty-five years(1974-2008) we have come to accept each other's peculiarities and shortcomings with lots of space between us, as Rilke describes the process in his letters. My poetry derives to a great extent from this experience not a classical or a literary tradition and from the sense, as I indicated above, of seeing the past as prologue. I will return to this subject later in this account for it is an important relationship that requires more attention in the pages to come.

In the 1980s and 1990s, after the Universal House of Justice had given an emphasis to the development of the intellectual aspects of Bahá'í community life in their 1979 Ridvan message, there was a burgeoning of Bahá'í books and print and electronic resources. This burgeoning needs to be given some emphasis here both in terms of its expression in the general Bahá'í comunity and in my own life. My many files, now developed into dozens of two-ring and arch-lever files, give ample evidence to this process, this new development in the Bahá'í community. I hope to come back to this theme at a later date. John Palmer, whom I have quoted earlier in this story, says that autobiography is the "artful manipulation of details and events that acquire the status of facts during the construction of a particular persona." I think this process is unavoidable no matter how one writes autobiography; one attempts to construct particular models of a self and what it ought to do and ought not to do, however fragilely it may exist in the expanding circles of linkage on the internet or in the intricate societal network that is coming to exist in today's world. For some writers, like Rilke, the preoccupation with self was the essence of their art. I certainly share some of Rilke's obsession in my own art. It was Rilke's view that it was better to write later in life when you have gathered "sense and sweetness" from a whole lifetime, when you have gathered more experience. For autobiography and poetry are experiences. Here again for me this sense and sweetness are part of this prologue.

If this literary effort is relatively free of inventions and exaggerations, if I have not changed names and physical descriptions to conceal identities, then the book, it seems to me, is more autobiography than novel, more truth than fiction. There has been much ecstacy in my life-the mere pleasure and sense of living has been joy enough. But there has been much frustration, sadness and despair as well. The result is not a chaos of words, a pessimism and a dwelling on the dark side as there is in so much contemporary writing. My words may meander from time to time, may touch on sadness and melancholy but, I trust, they touch on life itself, its ultimate mysteries and extract some of its precious essence. Like that oil, the product of the crushing of that holy Seed, that got ignited in the Siyih Chal and in time lighted the world, I like to think that the unbearable stress that I had to endure from time to time had a similar function of igniting a light in my own life. In the process, perhaps, I have been able to rejuvenate the hackneyed and the trite, the commonplace and the quotidian that inhabits so many of life's interstices. In time, by my fifties, poetry and writing provided the needed release for yearnings and pent-up energies, for spiritual and intellectual intuitions and for the tensons that had come from chemical imbalances which had been at the root of my bi-polar disorder, which had periodically threatened my equilibrium and shackled my daily experience in incapacitating mood swings.

As early adulthood changed insensibly to middle and late adulthood, fear and grief became a rarer and rarer occurrence. The tribulations that were showered upon me over three epochs were gradually dispelled or transmuted by Providence's all-compelling power, especially was this true as yet another epoch opened in 2001; or perhaps it was my capacity to divert, by the labour of thought, the sense of misfortune that seems to grip the soul from time to time; or perhaps it was simply a combination of retirement and the wonders of an antidepressant called fluvoxamine. Human character seems to be replete with contradictions and inconsistencies, rich and flexible with twistings and turnings, beyond some simplifying theory; and while reason and virtue may pursue their uniform or unpredictable course, the extravagent wanderings of vice and folly seem ever ready to use our natural inclinations and tastes, our attachment to the allurements and the trivialities of the world, to bend whatever loyalty we have acquired to sacred principles toward some inner and insistent self, human nature's frail edge and the destructive and negative forces of society.

But always there was teaching and, if not teaching, a thinking about teaching and how to achieve it more effectively. Given the importance of telling others about this Faith in to the day to day process of life as part of the core of this autobiographical story, I will include an essay I wrote on the subject some thirty-four years after my pioneering life began and thirty-seven years after I joined the Faith. Given the fact, too, that I live my art, my writing, and see it as part of an on-going organic process that flows into autobiogrpahy as naturally as water down a river, I include this essay below:

"Usually I tell my classes that I am a Bahá'í and in a typical year that means about three hundred students from late teens to late forties. Such was the case through the 1980s and 1990s and part of the 1960s and 1970s. Occasionally someone follows up my statement with a question to tell them more. Needless to say, I eagerly respond. In twenty-six years of teaching this has meant some six thousand students hearing of the Cause directly and having a Bahá'í for a teacher. Thousands more would have heard of the Faith since usually I was the only Bahá'í in the school. Each level: primary, secondary and post-secondary has had its story of various seed-planting experiences. Looking back over some three decades what surprises me and saddens me, somewhat, is the lack of response. Except for one year in a primary and one year in a secondary school, in 1970-1 and 1972 respectively, I can't think of anyone actually joining the Bahá'í Faith. There seemed to be something in the air in the early seventies, some real receptivity, if one measures receptivity in terms of any obvious, expressed interest in the Faith. But, in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi about ten days before the outbreak of WW2, it said that we "should, under no circumstances, feel discouraged." Slowly one learned this mental attitude.

I'm told there is something in the air again but, as yet, there is no evidence of it, not in the places where I've lived. Whatever receptivity there is it is a general and philosophical one that does not lead many to enquiry about the Cause. Few are stunned by the range, the complexity and sheer beauty of the words of Bahá'u'lláh. The pearl of spiritual knowledge, if it is sought at all, it is sought elsewhere. One must be on one's guard lest the expectation be unrealistic and the term entry-by-troops not be really understood. Otherwise a gap is created between expectation and reality and frustration comes in to take the place.

I have for years developed a close relationship with my students. I know they have a high degree of respect for me. I know I have been one of the most liked teachers wherever I have taught in the twenty-five years in classrooms during the years 1972 to 1999. After an initial mention that I am a Bahá'í, placing that mention in a context relevant to the discussion, I occasionally mention the word ‘Bahá'í', or the Bahá'í Faith, hoping to get some response. Using the platform of a teacher in a school to promote the Cause is not something that I have ever regarded as a wise line: a gentle and appropriate, an occasional and fitting mention is all that seems wise, at least in the first instance.

Thusfar, the climate just does not seem conducive to a fruitful and extensive entry by troops. First, it would seem, the Cause must "become part of the consciousness and belief of the people that hear" its ideas. Over the years when I bring the Cause to the attention of a class of students, the word goes onto the soil but one gets little idea of just what the response is. Students seem to be largely disinclined to talk about my religion. They will talk about religion as a subject and the themes that are raised seem endless. But the Faith seems to awaken no special interest, at least no interest that students are generally willing to discuss. Occasionally I talk to one of my fellow staff members. Here one or two questions are raised, but rarely anything of a substantial nature. It has been this way for all of my teaching life as a pioneer, since 1962, except, as I say, those two years in the early 1970s when as many as two dozen students actually joined the Cause and some fifteen in a small town in Canada. I have described these events elsewhere in my autobiography and it is not my intention to do so here again.

The first memory I have of ‘entry-by-troops' is in the early sixties just before my pioneering life began and just after I became a Bahá'í. Of course, at the time the term was not used in the west to anything like the extent it was by the 1990s. I think the Guardian first used it in a letter in July 1953, about the time my mother was taking her first interest in the Cause. An Iraqi Bahá'í friend of mine informed me back in the mid-1990s when I lived in Perth that 'entry-by-troops' is an Arabic expression used by the Muslims over 1300 years ago. Whatever it's origins it has been applicable to the Bahá'í experience in the West for half a century, but it has not been part of everyday experience of many individual Bahá'ís, uness they fully understand the implications of the term 'process' which the House of Justice emphasized increasingly after about 1993. Most of the response in the places I've lived, in the two continents I've lived and had my being as a pioneer, has been, as I've said on numerous occasions quoting the Universal House of Justice, "discouragingly meagre." At one level I have made an enriching and significant contribution to the spread of the Cause, by the grace of God; at another level I have just been one of the thousands of souls who have planted seeds without much visible response. The classroom, although a potential source of converts, has yielded very little. At least the exercise has been an enjoyable and happy one, if tiring.

There is a Regional Teaching Conference today on the theme of 'the process of entry-by-troops.' I decided several weeks ago, when I first saw the notice in The Eagle, I would not go. I do not think I could bear all the enthusing and I would not want to be a damper on the enthusiasms and intensities of others. We, Bahá'í communities, have been talking about this process for six or seven years now; I have been involved with this Cause for forty years. It has all been a slow process with little overt response and I have become tired of talking about teaching. I do the best I can; at least I say I do, I suppose one never really does one's best because one can always do better.

I would like to mention here, before leaving this topic of entry-by-troops, that some believers during this period did experience a massive influx of new believers. One such person was Dempsey Morgan who pioneered to Africa. Now in his eighties, Dempsey has been a Bahá'í pioneer for more than 40 years and earned his own way around the world twice. He says that the general public doesn't understand the term pioneer. The term missionary is hardly applicable to this Bahá'í veteran who has pioneered in 11 countries, served on 4 different NSAs, 4 different NTCs with 4 different languages and 11 different LSAs. He has been instrumental in bringing into the Cause literally tens of thousands of believers during his productive years. Dempsey's story would be so different than mine and not likely to be written down, if he is typical of his generation of Bahá'í pioneers. Indeed, the experience of Bahá'í pioneers around the world in these same years that I have been pioneering, the second generation of pioneers during the Divine Plan(1962-1987), has been infinitely diverse. The kaleidoscopic fabric of this Faith resists reduction to a single volume, a single story, no matter how carefully constructed.

Some thirty LSA meetings annually for seven years, a multitude of special committee meetings, interminable discussions at Feasts, RTC exercises, conferences and informal conversations since coming to Perth in late 1987, added onto thirty years of more of the same in a host of other places, and one gets a little worn thin to put it mildly and utterly exhausted with the subject to put it frankly. In some ways it is not so much the subject itself that is the problem, it is that so few show any genuine interest and the few one does get into a conversation with present such a ‘mess of intellectual pottage' for the brain that one often wishes one hadn't raised the subject in the first place. It's enough to test that proverbial patience of Job and wisdom of Solomon, as I've mentioned before in another context.

I find teaching the Cause is a little like sharing my poetry with people. It often requires such an elaborate explanation and rational processing that, by the time one has finished ‘explaining things', one often wishes one had kept one's poems in the file. From time to time I read a few poems to a group. People don't seem to know what to say; a gentle murmur of interest is expressed, perhaps out of kindness, politeness and I wonder to myself if it has been worth it. My inner self answers a resounding "no." Sometimes a deep-and-meaningful conversation results, a conversation that goes down a labyrinthine channel where the Cause gets waylaid on the side of the river or falls quickly to the riverbed near the start of the journey.

Surely, it is not all as bad as that. Well, actually it is. It is far worse, but we don't like to admit it or talk about it because we need the enthusiasm to keep on going and honest talk seems to put people off. It seems to me that being realisitc does not necessarily mean being discouraged. In the 1960s authority became anathama. The individual became for millions the supreme authority and so in one's teaching efforts so many turned off before you got going because at the centre of their lives they themselves had become the supreme authority. Of course, the opposite also had begun to take place in my society: a fracturing of authority, the world of a thousand authorities. This problem really requires a separate essay and can't be dealt with adequately here.

I found that in my analysis of people's lack of interest in the Cause I was seen as being a dampener of enthusiasm, a negative thinker, one of the unfaithful, at least to some of the Bahá'ís. As I said above, except for those two years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, few have joined the Cause in the west, at least the parts of the West where I've lived and had my being; at the same time the trajectory in the years 1953 to 2003, the trajectory that this autobiography is concerned with has been onward and upward: two hundred thousand believers globally in 1953 to some six million. In the end, no matter how meagre the response, "it is not for us to wait passively." Vast surges, crises and victories, alternate.

In my personal experience and in the experience of most Bahá'ís in western countries, we can point to one person joining here and one there: one in four years in Katherine, two in eighteen months in Zeehan, one in Launceston during three periods of residence, a small handful in the eleven years in Perth; this is just the start to the litany. My wife became a Bahá'í in 1974 in Launceston. If I was a door-to-door salesman I would have been fired by my superiors long ago. Of course, I'm not selling Amway products, encyclopedia or shoes. I'm into ideas and I know the process takes longer to convey than the multitude of consumer products that dot the windows, the media channells and the store fronts all over the consumer world where I've lived in for the last forty years of my pioneering experience.

Thankfully, I'm not selling a product and the approach one takes is more gentle. Inevitably, one battles on in classrooms and on the road, in one's home and any place one can find to teach the Cause. And joy comes trickling down the stream because there is a pay-off. However meagre the response, however frustrating the effort, the battle must be waged. Teaching must be attempted and the angels of heaven give us their hidden and not-so-hidden graces. As far as possible I have cultivated what Sallie Munt calls the "visiting self, which leans into the experience of others and listens and learns" After forty years of implementing this style, this way of interacting, trying to learn from others, there has been a wear and tare on my psyche that has contributed to my present fatigue at the age of sixty. The white radiance of eternity gets stained by many things in life, but there are compensations. For me one compensation was that Pearl of Great Price, another the gift of writing, both of which allow me to transform my experience, come close to it and, in a way, recapture it in the form of many lesser pearls. These artistic pearls were counterbalanced by various obsessional anxieties, an illness over which I seemed to have no control. Obsessions seem to be part of my life; moderate interests, of course, have always been there, for one could not be obsessional about everything. I've always liked the Guardian's phrase "dominating passion" which he applied to teaching. I've simply extended this business of passion to several other human interests as well. Australian cartoonist, Bruce Petty, talking about obsessions said today there is an "endless search for endless, huge excitement, and it's obsessional." "It's an undercurrent," he went on, "of an awful lot of life, well my life." To me the word "excitement" translates to "meaning." I get excited about meaning and greater and lesser passions.

Here are several poems in various ways about teaching and passion. I preface these poems with several statements and quotations, epigraphs, whose relevance I trust will not seem obscure.


Price moves in language the way a Jazz musician moves in melody, inventing continuities and harmonies from moment to moment out of the stubbornly disharmonious materials of contemporary life. To understand the kind of discipline and imagination entailed by an aesthetics of improvisation, we might compare a jazz musician with a symphony player. Whereas the symphony player follows the external promptings of the score and conductor, following by rote a continuity forged by others, the jazz musician, in Martha Nussbaum's words, forges continuity freshly, remaining at every point awake and responsive as he brings an intimate understanding of the history of his art and of his fellow musicians to bear upon the requirements of each unique occasion.

To improvise freely does not imply or license ignorance of the past or lack of commitment to tradition, but a desire to renew tradition by testing it at every moment against the discontinuities and surprises the artist invites and accommodates. Price defines the responsibility of the artist in just this way. The artist's first responsibility, he says, is to continue the art, but he can only fill this first responsibility by a second opposing responsibility, which is, to change the terms of the art as given. To continue the art is to acknowledge the historical and communal nature of the artist, but to change the terms of the art as given is to acknowledge that the artist is never entirely possessed or defined by any one community or tradition. To fulfil both responsibilities is to acknowledge continuity and discontinuity, tradition and individual talent. It is to harness individual and collective memory to the dense, particular, mongrel, contradictory, ever mutable energies of the present. In the process I seem to have moved over the decades from various inherited interpretations of the Bahá'í Faith viv-a-vis man and society to a personal and dynamic vision. -Ron Price with thanks to Alan Shapiro, "Introducing Robert Pinsky: October 25th, 1997, Internet Poetry Archives.

You can feel the way it opens
in your brain, your eyes
half seeing some room, street,
a house, Susan Gregory,
the bend of the hockey stick,
the smell of the baseball glove,
the classroom at lunch time
in that geography teacher's room,
the garden golf course
made from old Spud
cigarette tobacco cans
and clubs you found in a garbage can:
a thousand pieces of the past
arise like smoke and drift
off and up into your mind
and out just as fast
as if they did not exist
except in that moment,
so precious, so fleeting,
so much of what you are.

Ron Price 3 January 2003


Some lines from some poems stand out to such an extent, make such an impression, that I can't resist putting them into my own poems. The first line of this poem is an example. There is a pervasiveness to existence which alternately attracts and repels, makes me feel a sense of awe and beauty and makes me feel alienated, confused and overwhelmed. These physical "streets" can be numbered in the thousands in the over two dozen towns and cities I've lived in. Then there are the spiritual-psychological "streets" which lead away in our lives in "silence."

Much of the landscape in Australia has a sparseness, different from the sparceness of Canada's landscape. The brilliance of the colours in the Antipodes is different again. In Australia the primal force of the sun shapes the environment. With the wind and the sand it bakes and cleanses all signs of decay. There is no cleansing by water. The rivers flow beneath the earth, and rain falls too rarely. In Canada, there is much water, much snow and ice. These are the primal forces that shape life. Both are lands of strong contrasts and there is a majestic quality to the land masses and their features. Australia is bathed in shimmering light. In the winter in Canada a combination of the sun and the snow's whiteness can just about blind you.1 Ron Price with thanks to 1Jill Ker Conway, The Road from Coorain, Vintage Books, NY, 1989, p. 198 and pp.5-6.

Great streets of silence led away1
in endless towns I've been.
I can't contain the all of it
no matter how quick or keen.

In this same immensity
Thy chosen Ones have dwelt.
They too have seen its beauteous forms
and felt just like I've felt.

There is a riddle, too,
that is my self and life.
I've thrown a veil of poetry
over what can't be cut with knife.

1 Emily Dickinson, Poem Number 1159.

Ron Price
26 February 2002

And finally this poem specifically about teaching the Cause since my first efforts, perhaps, forty-five years ago:

                                                            THE ART OF GLORIFICATION

A poetry which glorifies, which accords values to the previously undervalued, is part of poetry's very raison d'etre. Poetry should glorify itself, its writer, the community which gave it birth and culture itself in all its diversity. It is poetry of this kind (the kind which glorifies, which shows the true value of the undervalued) which we lack and which we desperately need. -Frederick Turner, "Mighty Poets in Their Misery Dead", Poetry After Modernism, editor, Robert McDowell, Story Line Press, 1991, p.368.

I've been trying all my life
to befittingly glorify
what has yet to be glorified
by my society, my culture,
my friends, myself,
with a distinctive human voice
and now I have found it, in poetry:
such a small, solitary, but vital part of life.
But, it is just as difficult to share as ever,
bearing some inverse relationship
between popularity and quality.
Still, I come alive,
with the smallest acts of courage
as I play my part
in this greatest renaissance of history
with this hard won,
toughened resolve and realism,
with this autobiographical impersonality.

Ron Price
27 November 1996

THIS WILDERNESS                                                                  

Prepare the coward for this daunting deed.
Who calls and points the path knows pain the steed.
      -Roger White, "Choices", The Witness of Pebbles, p.57.

"Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once."
      -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2, lines 32-37.

What would have happened if I'd not found Your name
and I'd gone on to play at passion's game?
I think I would have tried wine and spirit,
anything to kill the pain of life, as I feared it.
And later drugs to help me cope with mood changes,
and months of time in the strangest ranges.                                                            
Perhaps I would have passed that mental labyrinth,
gone on to drown in depression's despair
and bleached my skull of everything that's fair
and come out so empty I'd have taken my life
absent of friendship, money and wife.
I'd have ended it all in some pit of gloom
in some remote and dry dock room.

So now I toil-mind, limb, heart and soil,
a coward still, died many times and yet
again I will, far from having had my fill.
Such is the nature of this old-born war
which I would shorten, but I have come
to ruinously adore each strategem your
consummate cunning devises; your
enamouring intransigence enchants me;
your very implacability an aphrodisiac.
There's pain, of course, here too, but
you have saved me from such a mess
I can never repay you--keeping me from
such endless wilderness....*

Ron Price
28 December 1995
(updated 4/8/08)
THIS POETIC VAULT poetry the enjoyment of poetic experience of any part of the world is fraught with the necessity of discovering a wider and more inclusive imaginative apprehension, in which more and more elements in experience are caught up and incorporated. The imagination of the great poet at least never rests from this momentous labour which endeavours to encompass the whole of life, and to achieve a comprehensive unity of imaginative pattern. -In Skepticism and Poetry, George, Allen and Unwin, London, 1937; quoted in The New Apologists for Poetry, Murray Krieger, Greenwood press, Westport, conn., 1956, p.107.

Time will tell who and what is great,
but there is momentous labour here,
just recently embarked, energies
transferred to this poetic passion.
We joke about it around the house
and I don't talk about it much:
all part of keeping the serious unserious,
the heavy, light and Murphy's Law
firmly entrenched in an Aussi psyche.

When you're doing something
that never seems to let you rest;
that hangs around your head
waiting to be fed like some new
behemoth; that waits to be translated,
incorporated, tucked into this
comprehensive, imaginative pattern
that encompasses the whole of life--
and by God you've been trying
to play your part, find your place,
do your thing, make your home
in this global Crystal Palace
all your life, with your life, for your life,
to your life and the lives of others
all over the place, so many specific places--
you get an enormous weariness
that keeps coming back after it has
sucked out every conceivable energy
you've got and you die.

Of course, morning always comes
and a more inclusive imaginative apprehension,
some rich and elaborate organizaton of impulses;
more and more is caught up and absorbed
into this great poetic vault which you offer up
to a place as near to your Lord's casket--
His alabaster sarcophagus, where lies
that inestimable jewel--as will be accepted.
If this vast construction, which labours
like a pregnant woman, will not lie on
the spot round which the Concourse on high
circle in adoration may it repose nearby
in the library as your gift for His gift.


* Bahá'u'lláh, Long Obligatory Prayer.                                          

And so I leave you, dear reader, at the end of this third chapter of my international pioneer story, finishing my years in Ballarat, that old gold-ming town where gold was discovered about the same time as the first intimations of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation. Yet another burn-out, a bi-polar burn-out, it seemed, celebrated the end of nearly three years. Four months before the beginning of the Seven Year Plan in April 1979, Chris and Dan and I returned to Tasmania. Perhaps, if I had married a girl from Tuvalu I would be going back to one of those beautiful islands of the Pacific. As it was, Tasmania had its own beauty, a beauty I have now come to love and feel a part of quite intimately in these early years of the new millennium. In December 1979, four days before Christmas, with some 20,000 Local Spiritual Assemblies and 85,000 localities where Bahá'ís resided in the world, although "still very thinly spread throughout the world," I was on my way to the southern end of the southern end of the spiritual axis. Still feeling, even after twenty years as a Bahá'í that so crucial were "these times that the future course of human history" was daily "in the balance." My feelings of "optimism, confidence, determination and courage" had been given yet another kick in the groin, to choose a metaphor I had come to frequently use. My vulnerabilities were at another all-time-high and I had recently, in the last year to eighteen months, turned to prayer,a specific intercessory prayer to aid and assist me. Only the future would tell in what ways that assistance would manifest itself. In the capacious theatre of my disposition, there seemed to be room, or so it seemed from the first twenty years of my experience as a Bahá'í, for the complete range of qualities: from despair to ecstasy, from suicidal depression to utter joy, amiability and geniality, withdrawal and isolation, for the living of many lives.




However much we create our own reality by what goes on in our heads, the world of everyday life never originates in our thought. It is irreducably external to any individual or plurality. This was how the sociologist Emile Durkheim saw things. Others see our reality from a different perspective, as an inner thing that is intimately associated with our thoughts and, therefore, self-created.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, February 2003.

In December 1978 Chris and I and our three children returned to Tasmania. I got a job in Smithton, in the far northwest corner of Tasmania, in February and we lived there for three months. I took a job teaching primary school but found the rigidity of the school style more than I could bear and the emphasis on keeping the kids quiet all the time not part of my approach to teaching and so, after four days on the job, I quit. We returned to Launceston where we lived for the next twenty months. In Launceston I got a series of part-time jobs: as an editor with the Tasmanian CAE in its external studies section, with ABC Radio, as an advisor to unemployed youth with an agency called the Resource Centre Association and as a tutor in organizational behaviour with the same Tasmanian CAE. About four months and again twelve months after being in Launceston I had episodes of hypomania. During the second episode my psychiatrist, a Dr. Glinka, strongly recommended lithium carbonate as the medication, the basis of treatment. I never looked back.

In 1979 I had asked for prayers from the Bahá'í World Centre and within the year I had found the appropriate treatment. In April 1979 a new Seven Year Plan was announced. "The universal anarchy" the House said in their Ridvan message, was part of the engulfment of the world "in a maelstrom." The dark heart of the age of transition was twelve years into its process, a process which it could be argued had started many, many years before. Immediate horizons were dark; the Iranian revolution had just broken out and Bahá'ís were being killed again. In the previous Plan, though, from 1974 to 1979, the number of localities in the world where Bahá'ís lived had gone from 69,000 to 96,000. More than 2000 pioneers had settled in their new homes in that same period. Always, as my own life took its unpredictable course; as I got older and advanced to the next phases of my personal development; as the battles raged on the home front, the Cause advanced inexorably.

Eight months before Chris, Dan, Vivienne, Angela and I left Ballarat for Tasmania, the Universal House of Justice had written: "The Faith is passing though a time of tremendous opportunity and development....and of growing complexity in the problems confronting it." In the next five years these opportunities became evident in our own lives as we were able to pioneer to several places, several localities, where the Cause needed Bahá'ís. I was able to work in organizations where seed-planting could go on and I was finally treated for my manic-depression. In the midst of all of this, unbeknowst to me as far as its significance was concerned, I wrote the first few of a series of thousands of poems.

In 1980 in April I got a job as a probation officer in Devonport. My bi-polar disorder broke out, too, in the first week I had my job and by the end of the week, on Friday evening, I was in the Launceston General Hospital, psychiatric ward. Eighteen years after the first symptoms of this disorder appeared in my life I was still fighting this bi-polar battle. There I stayed for a month. I was offered a job in late May in Papua New Guinea, in Rabaul, teaching communication studies at a university or teachers' college. But, on informing them of my mental illness, they withdrew their offer. Is the lesson here, "not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed?" On my release from hospital at the end of May 1980, I settled down to life in Tasmania and, after eight months of job hunting I got a position in Zeehan with Renison Bell at their tin mine as a maintenance scheduler. And there Chris and I and our three kids stayed for eighteen months.

In the six years since about 1997, I have come to see my life and the Cause I have been a member of since 1959 in terms of an epic. I remember reading how both Arnold Toynbee and Edward Gibbon acquired the initial conceptualization for the magnum opus, the epic of their lives: A Study of History in the case of Toynbee and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the case of Gibbon. In 1997 I began to think of writing my own special epic poem and so fashioned some ten pages as a beginning. The poetic work of my own life, my epic, I have now begun to see in terms of the entire body of my poetry and the other writing I have done, some of which I have sent to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. I have now come to call it: Pioneering Over Four Epochs.

I have begun to see all of this poetry somewhat like Pound's Cantos which draws on a massive body of print and is a massive body of print. I could call the entire opus The Analects, a word which means literary gleanings. The Cantos, the longest poem in modern history, over eight hundred pages and written over many decades, 1917 to 1972, are a great mass of literary gleanings. So is this true of my poetry. The conceptualization of my poetry as epic, in other words, has come long after its beginnings. I have come to conceptualize my poetry, in retrospect, as one immense epic poem. What I write here in this narrative is a sort of background for this epic or the narrative aspect of the poetic part of the epic.

Written over a period of a little less than twenty-five years, this poetic epic now covers a pioneering life of 40 years and an involvement with the Bahá'í Faith of fifty years. I have sent 43 booklets of poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library: one for each year of this pioneering venture and one for each of the three years of preparation, 1959-1962. But the epic journey that is at the base of this poetic opus is not only a personal one of forty years pioneering, it is also the journey of this new System, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh which has its origins as far back as the 1840s and, if one includes the two precursors to this System, as far back as the middle of the eighteenth century when many of the revolutions and forces that are at the beginning of modern history find their origin: the American and French revolutions, the industrial and agricultural revolutions and the revolution in the arts and sciences.

Generally, the way my narrative imagination works in this epic is to attempt to connect this long and complex history to my own life and the lives of my contemporaries, as far as possible. I have sought and found a narrative voice that contains uncertainty, ambiguity and incompleteness among shifting fields of reference. Since this poetry is inspired by so much that is, and has been, part of the human condition, this epic it could be said has at its centre Life Itself and the most natural and universal of human activities, the act of creating narratives. When we die all that remains is our story.

I have called this poetic work an epic because it deals with events, as all epics do, that are or will be significant to the entire society. It contains what Charles Handy, philosopher, business man and writer, calls the golden seed: a belief that what I am doing is important, probably unique, to the history and development of this System. This poetry, this epic, has to do with heroism and deeds of battle in their contemporary and historical manifestations. It involves a great journey, not only my own across two continents, but that of this Cause as it has expanded across the planet. The epic convention of the active intervention of God and holy souls from another world; and the convention of an epic tale, told in verse, a verse that is not a frill or an ornament, but is essential to the story, are found here. I think there is an amplitude in this poetry that simple information lacks; there is also an engine of action that is found in the inner life more than in the external story. In some ways, this is the most significant aspect of my work, at least from my point of view.

I am sure that in the decades to come film epics will be made, not so much of my life, but aspects of the epic of which my life is a part. I have certainly provided enough data for such an epic but film makers will have a host of people from the Bahá'í community to choose from, making this work only one of a multitude. Film producers must be cautious though, as they go about their epic exercise, that they do not simply commodify the past, reproduce a consumer product, a consumer discourse, around a materialist spectacle and provide a vehicle for cinematic exhibitionism that enables Hollywood to promote itself by reproducing or recreating the lives, the scale and the ethos, of bygone times.

Of the five top-grossing movies in the seven years before I became a Bahá'í, the first seven years of the Ten Year Crusade, three were epics: Ben Hur(1959), The Robe(1953) and The Ten Commandments (1956). My life has been surrounded by epics. I was born in the midst of the greatest war epic in history. My life has been nourished by epic from cinema, from books and from Bahá'í historiography. In some ways it is surprising that I was in my early fifties before I began to see my own life in epic terms.

No film or no printed text is ever simply the product of an authentic, coherent and unique national, religious or even individual culture. On the contrary, all forms of artistic expression are part of the process through which struggles over the very definition of culture are fought. In other words, the inclusion or exclusion of certain films, books or poems with respect to specific definitions of culture or just some item of culture tells us more about the power relations within which these definitions operate than they do about some inherent feature of the production of the cultural item, its formal features or the way it is consumed. Furthermore, cultural texts are also involved in the production of certain notions of culture, nationhood or religion. This autobiography not only tells a story of the experience of a Bahá'í in the first century of the Formative Age, but it also constructs that history, that society and the Bahá'í Faith itself in specific ways. It presents a teleological history of aspects of a life and a culture. This is not to say that this autobiography is inherently conservative. Autobiography is not a monolithic object but is itself a site of struggle between various opposed groups and conflicting sources.

Indeed, if I am to make my mark at this crucial point of history, it will be largely in the form of this epic poem and this autobiography which tells of forty years of pioneering:1962-2002. Obviously, not all of what I do has meaning and significance to the wider world: in reality most if not all of my doings is neither known nor significant to this wider world. Perhaps that wider world will, one day, take those elements from this story that have relevance to its life. I will not hold my breath waiting.

In the Greek tradition the Goddess of Epic Poetry was Calliope, one of the nine sisters of the Muses. The Muses were the inspiration of artists. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus who was known to have a keen understanding of both music and poetry. We know little about Calliope, as we know little about the inspiration of the Muses, at least in the Greek tradition. In the young and developing artistic tradition of the Bahá'í Faith, on the other hand, although gods and goddesses play no role, holy souls "who have remained faithful unto the covenant of God" can be a leven that levens "the world of being" and furnishes "the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest." In addition, among a host of other inspirational sources, the simple expression ‘Ya'Baha'ul'Abha' brings "the Supreme Concourse to the door of life" and "opens the heavens of mysteries, colours and riddles of life." Much could be said about inspiration but I shall leave the topic with the above brief analysis and comment.

Mary Gibson says in Epic Reinvented: Ezra Pound and the Victorians that one question was at the centre of the Cantos. It was the "question of how beauty and power, passion and order can cohere." This question was one of many that concerned Pound in the same years that Bahá'í Administration, the precursor of a future World Order, was coming to assume its embryonic form in the last years of the second decade of the twentieth century, a form that would in time manifest those qualities Pound strove in vain to find in a modern politico-philosophy.

At the heart of my own epic is a sense of visionary certitude, derived from a belief in an embryonic World Order, that a cultural and political coherence will increase in the coming decades and centuries around the sinews of this efflorescing Order. Wallace Stevens' sense of the epic "as a poem of the mind in the act of finding what will suffice" is also at the centre of my conceptual approach. This epic is an experimental vehicle containing open-ended autobiographical sequences. It is a didactic intellectual exploration with lines developing with apparent spontaneity and going in many directions. The overall shape is in no way predetermined. In many respects, this long poem is purely speculative philosophy, attempting to affirm a romantic wholeness in a world which has been long fragmented, something the poet Hart Crane tried to do in his poetry in the 1920s.

If I quoted extensively from the most authoritative and readable guides for this half-century of human experience there would be many, too many, and prolixity would be inevitable. Timothy Garton Ash, to choose but one example, for the twenty years, 1980-2000, provided incisive reporting and insightful analysis in The New York Review of Books and in such books as The Uses of Adversity and The Magic Lantern has illuminated complex issues and introduced us to a broad range of diverse personalities.

Pound was intent on developing an "ideal polity of the mind". This polity flooded his consciousness and suggested a menacing fluidity, an indiscriminate massiveness of the crowd. The polity that is imbedded in my own epic does not suggest the crowd, probably because the polity I have been working with over my lifetime has been one that has grown so slowly; the groups I have worked in and with have been small. My style, my poetic design, though, is like Pound's insofar as I use juxtaposition as a way to locate and enhance meanings. Often several blocks or paragraphs of relatively heterogeneous content abruptly juxtapose all sorts of material. Like Pound, too, I stress continuity in history, the cultural and the personal. At the heart of epic poetry for Pound was "the historical." It was part of the reclaiming job that Modernist poets saw as their task, to regain ground from the novelists. But unlike Pound I see new and revolutionary change in both the historical process, in my own world and in the future.
Those who are quite familiar with the poem Leaves of Grass may recall that Walt Whitman often merges with the reader. His poem expresses his theory of democracy. His poem is the embodiment of the idea that a single unique protatonist can represent a whole epoch. He can be looked at in two ways. There is his civic, public, side and his private, intimate side. While it would be presumptuous of me to claim, or even to attempt to represent an entire epoch, this private/public dichotomy is an important underlying feature of this epic poem. I also like to think that, while this poetry has a focus on my own experience, this experience is part and parcel of the experience of many of my coreligionists around the world. The poem The Heart of History in an Age of Extremes is one crucial perspective on this experience.


This morning on ABC Radio National I heard an interview with a Professor of Politics from La Trobe University. He was talking about Eric Hobsbaum's new book The Age of Extremes: 1914 to 1991. His analysis of the twentieth century was a useful one to a pioneer like myself who had grown up, according to Hobsbaum, in the period of the greatest prosperity and advancement in material conditions in the history of humankind: 1945-1970, but had seen a decline in traditional religion as the main psychological support structure for human beings in the West, in and after the 1960s; and the collapse of socialism/communism as a hope for civilization. This poem tries to place Hobsbaum's analysis in the context of my pioneer life(1962-1999) and some of the Guardian's perspectives on history beginning in the second epoch of the Formative Age, in 1944.-R Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

I'd made contact with
what seemed like
an unrevolutionary
revolutionary Force
in the midst of an age
of prosperity, an epoch,
among the earliest,
in the morning of my life,
epochs which would stretch
to the fringes of a Golden Age.

But as part of that long history
of infinite toil,
I would forge a pioneer experience
in these days
before the Lesser Peace,
with the hosts on high demonstrating
the irresistable force of their might
in ways that I could not see
or comprehend,
but which, when looking back
over these past forty years,
have seen the vanguard of the
torchbearers of a world redeeming
the systematic conquest1 of the planet,
the first stirrings of a spiritual revolution.

That, Eric, is........
at the heart of history
in this Age of Extremes.

Ron Price
9 December 1999

1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, USA, 1965, pp. 21-27.

Hobsbawm, who finished the first of his four volumes on modern history in 1962, the year I began my pioneering venture, said the following about his autobiography: "In some ways my autobiography, Interesting Times, was the hardest book to write. How could I interest readers in an unspectacular academic life? I tried to aim it at two kinds of readers: those too young to have lived through much of the most extraordinary century in history, but who want to know what it was like; and those old enough to have passed through some of its passions, disillusions and dreams. And perhaps also those who want to understand how history has shaped the life of at least one of those who has tried to write it." This could very well serve as a raison d'etre for my own work. In trying to achieve this aim readers will find many and successive restatements of ideas, events and pieces of my life. Like the successive restatments found in many musical scores, the element of repetition in this work is for me a source of depth but, I'm sure, for some readers, a source of annoyance.

In my poetic opus, my epic, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, it is my aim that the reader sense a merging of reader and writer, a political philosophy, a sociology, a psychology, a global citizen--something we have all become. There is in my poetry a public and a private man reacting to the burgeoning planetization of humankind, the knowledge explosion and the tempest that has been history's experience, at least as far back as the 1840s, if not the days of Shaykh Ahmad after he left his homeland in those halcyon years of the French Revolution. If readers are to sense any development, progress, change or movement in this work, they will find that it derives in large part from the lengthening, the shortening, the reshuffling, the reiteration of fragments, of concepts, ideas and experiences in my life as they appear and reappear in the text of this lengthy work. I try not to overdo this aspect of the literary nature of this autobiography but I find it unavoidable to some extent.

There is much more than verse-making here. I have no hesitation in making what Donald Kuspit calls "identitarian claims" for my poetry. Here is the ruling passion of my life: the Bahá'í Faith, its history and teachings. They seemed to have wrapped and filled my being over my pioneering life. Indeed, I have seen myself as part of what ‘Abdu'l-Bahá called a "heavenly illumination" which would flow to all the peoples of the world from the North American Bahá'í community and which would, as Shoghi Effendi expressed it "adorn the pages of history." My story is part of that larger story, the first stirrings of a spiritual revolution, which at the local level often seemed unobtrusive and uneventful.

It is the narrative imagination that is at the base of this epic poetry. As far as possible I have tried to make the narrative honest, true, accurate, realistic, informed, intelligible, knowledgeable, part of a new collective story, a new shared reality. As I develop my story through the grid of narrative, I tell my story the way I see it, through my own eyes and my own knowledge, as Bahá'u'lláh exhorted me in Hidden Words, but with the help of many others. I leave behind me traces, things in your present, dear reader, which stand for absent things, things from the past, from a turning point in history. The phenomenon of the trace is clearly akin to the inscription of lived time, my time and that of my generation, upon astronomical time from which calendar time comes. History is "knowledge by traces", as F. Simiand puts it. And so, I bequeath traces: mine, those of many others I have known, those of a particular time in history. There is in these traces of my life and the life of my society, in these time frames, synchronization and non-synchronization, stable and unstable periods, fragments and event structures. The blooming and buzzing confusion which people often feel as they contemplate their life and times is caught up in this concept of traces and what I have tried to convey here.

There are so many passions, thoughts, indeed so much of one's inner life that cannot find expression in normal everyday existence. Much of my poetry is a result of this reality, a search for words to describe the experience of our age. This is part of what might be called the psycho-biological basis of poetry. My poetry allows me to release surplus, excess, energy and an abundance of thought and desire which I am unable to assimilate into the everyday. This poetry is an expression of a thought and desire which I am unable to find a place for amidst the ordinary. It adorns the ordinary, enriches my everyday experience. Some of this desire is found in a poetry whose content has been virtually impossible to discuss in most of my everyday life, except as if it were a breeze en passant: my multifaceted religious faith. I do not write this poetry to convince or proselytize, but as a form of affirmation of all that has meaning and significance in life. I write of that foul rag and bone shop, as the poet Yeats called the heart, and of that golden seam of joy in life, of frailty and strength, the abyss of mental anguish and a heart exulting unaggrieved. It is all part of that trace. And I play with time frames, going forward and backward along the continuum of my life in much the same way as movie-goers have experienced time sequences in: Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, inter alia.

In June of 1980 I drove a taxi for a few weeks in Launceston and, although I enjoyed driving, I made such little money I went onto the dole in July and there I stayed until I was finally able to find a job on the day before Christmas Day in December 1980. The effort to get that job involved hitch-hiking to the West coast and down to Zeehan. It rained that day; I remember it well, standing as I did on the roads down to Zeehan thumbing a ride.

Many teaching opportunities had arisen in the first two years in Tasmania, December 1978 to December 1980, but as I recall only one person joined the Faith in this time, a Wendy Williams in Rosebery, a small town on the West coast of Tasmania. Perhaps we talked in a suburb of Launceston; I've forgotten now. Was she my sifter of wheat whom Mulla Husayn found in Isfahan. Each of my jobs had its own story and, perhaps, in a fourth edition I may provide more details on the happenings associated with them. The details of daily life, as Mark Twain did say back in the nineteenth century, are mountainous in quantity and simply impossible to relate in toto. There is so much everywhere we go and in ourselves that we don't see, or can't see, or don't want to see. If that were not the case, those mountains would all be Everests and our brains would explode, overwhelmed with detail.

On February 1st I drove down to Zeehan and began work. In the afternoon the mine shut and everyone went out to fight the fire that was threatening to burn the houses of the town. I had not fought a fire as part of a fire brigade since May of 1968 on Baffin Island. In the first twelve months in Zeehan it rained 243 days of the 365. There had been only one or two Bahá'ís who had ever lived in this remote part of the state. Muriel Handley was one soul who had, that was back in the 1960s. She had lived in Queenstown. One other person had lived in Zeehan, I recall from a history I wrote over twenty years ago now. I had gone on a teaching trip with Hassanah Ransome in 1979 and I remember sleeping in the car while Hassanah had gone to a hotel in Queenstown on some typically wet night.

I was thirty-seven years old and happy to have a full-time job again, after two years of only part-time work and unemployment, after more episodes of the bi-polar disorder behind me, after five years in a second marriage with my first son now three years old. I was pioneering at the other end of the earth from Baffin Island where I had begun the journey fourteen years before. I had found a house to rent at $2.00 per week and the salary was far in excess of what I had got on the dole.

While in Zeeham I continued the poster-game and put posters up all down the west coast from Tullah to Queenstown. Having begun postering seriously in 1974, this was to be my last serious postering year in 1981. Eight years of postering had seen hundreds, perhaps, several thousand go up on shop windows. We also advertised firesides in the weekly papers and in that time had two attendees, a Chilean named Joe Fernandez and a Belgian who eventually became a Bahá'í, Ludwig Vinkier. I joined the Lions Club and a Film Society while in Zeehan and also was part of a Folk Music Club which met in Rosebery. Two young men became Bahá'ís as a result of these various involvements. Occasionally I would visit the world of posters again, but it never became the passion that it was from 1974 to 1981.

Chris and I also sold Amway products and this helped us to get to know many people in town. I spent a good deal of my time visiting people and being involved with the only two groups in town: the Lions Club and the Little Theatre Group. In this eighteen month period it was my hope that I could befriend a soul or two, form some relationship and, in the process, introducing them to the Cause. I had been in the pioneering field for nineteen years and in the international field for ten. For various reasons I did not continue this practice of visiting people or joining groups quite as extensively when we moved north of Capricorn. My job consumed my time for 50 to 60 hours a week; the Bahá'í community consumed my time in Perth in the 1990s. Consumed gradually and insensibly by my own inner fire, I seemed to require a quieter life-style by the age of 55, a style in which that fire could burn in a more measured but no less intense way by writing about life rather than taking part in its endless pecularities and pleasures. More could be said here and I will do so later, if and as I refine this work in future editions.


The essential ideas in this poem come from Hugh Kenner's 1997 Massey Lecture in Canada and William Wordsworth's poem "A Poet's Epitaph." The greatest shift in the last thousand years has been from a Eurocentric, Christocentric, tradition centered, civilization to a gradually evolving global civilization with no special political and moral centre in a universe of infinite space and time. It is this phenemenon that this poem tries to speak to, of, about. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1998.

I have my own Grand Tour1 now,
my ‘elsewhere community',2
my journey through what I know
to what I have yet to learn;
and when the war is over
I will go home.

There are no more Colosseums
or Roman Forums.
My education takes me down
different paths past other Alps,
another Paris, some other Channel
en route to finding out who I am,
absorbing life to make me someone else,
to discover impulses of deeper birth
which come to me in solitude.
The harvest of a quiet eye,
random truths around me lie.

In these verses I impart
what broods and sleeps
what in my own heart
and in my mind I keep.
In the meadows of His nearness
I try to roam to get some clearness.
For the Grand Tour is my own creation
and can't be found on any tourist guide,
only in my own world where I now abide.

Ron Price
27 December 1998

1 In the eighteenth century the Grand Tour was the trip from some place in western civilization through Europe to Rome. This is no longer the Grand Tour. We all make our own, define our own, now.
2 We all have what Hugh Kenner calls ‘elsewhere communities', places we travel to and things we do and think to find out who we are. The traveller absorbs this ‘elsewhere community' into himself to become what defines him throughout life.


Odysseus is both hero and poet; he lives his experience twice, once as he endures it, again as he recreates it into art. Odysseus is both doer and knower; he sees and describes everything, even his own house....The notion in the Odyssey of a poet/hero is in epic terms a paradox. The heroic life is a life of action; the arts are relaxations from action....for Odysseus the poem is good in that it revives his sorrow. Poetry is a kind of mourning.-James Redfield, The Making of the Odyssey, Parnassus Revisited: Modern Critical Essays on the Epic Tradition, editor, Anthony C. Yu, American Library Association, Chicago, 1973, pp.150-153.

Could you say there is
an unwavering splendour here,
a ruthless poignancy
in a single, fundamental order,
as if embodied in a divine justice,

There is, here, some intrinsic
sense perception and timeless meaning
in a wondrous drama
of particular circumstance, activity,
the felt presence of some grace
in the now, in memory and in
our anticipated days,
so blest that past ages and centuries
can never hope to rival it.1

Yes there is a belongingness, here,
and a strange sense that
this is not our home,
but our tomb, so it is.

My words flow in this grand epic of return,
this grand journey through a rich storehouse
of new and wonderful configurations,
helping to crystallize a vast reservoir
of thought and its ever-varying delight.

No Mount Olympus for my muses,
no definitive Voice of the Past
here in this performing art,
this newly hatched war poem
on a global Trojan plain2
of strikingly diverse battle scenes
with trumpets of life
blowing across vast distances.

Battle is only part of this epic story.
There is spiritual fatigue
and a weariness beyond words,
part of a solemn consciousness,
wellspring of a celebratory joy,
exquisite, part of a rendezvous of my soul,
I like to think, with my Maker, some great Ocean.

No incurable bitterness here,
but a wishing for death,
a loving of life, endless paradox.

1 Bahá'u'lláh, The Tablet of Carmel, p.1.
2 G.S. Kirk, Homeric Subjects and Styles, Parnassus Revisited: Modern Critical Essays on the Epic Tradition, Anthony Yu, editor, American Library Association, Chicago, 1973, Chicago, pp.203-204.

Ron Price
10 November 1996

I have placed this poem here because I think the epic tradition going back to Homer and the Bible is relevant to this autobiographical work. The most important part of this epic tradition is the most recent chapter in the lives of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and it deserves a special treatment. One of the more interesting treatments of Odysseus is by Jonathan Shay. His comments seem particularly pertinent for me due to my bi-polarism, my life in so many different places and the probability that I will spend my entire life away from my homeland, after leaving it as a young man. I will mention only one aspect of Shay's analysis. He writes about the term thumos. It literally means 'soul' or 'spirit.' But it also means, says Shay, 'fighting spirit' and 'noble fighting heart.' It is also close to the word 'character.' The ideal soldier, he says, needs to be 'great souled' to be able to adjust to all that comes one's way, to accomplish one's mission, to be able to be that spiritual warrior that is required in life, at least in Bahá'í philosophy. It is difficult as assess, to judge, the quality of one's own soul.

The search for home and attempts to create homes away from home is a key issue that runs through the literature on diasporas, migration, the search for identity and the epic tradition—and it is a part of this memoir. I would argue that the term "home" needs to be subjected to greater scrutiny by literary analysts if we are to enhance our understanding of the concept of home and of how our understandings of home shape the relationships between people and places. There are multi-dimensional perceptions and experiences associated with the word "home." Some writers use the term "emplacement" to express the process whereby a space that previously had no particular significance to an individual or group is rendered meaningful.

The identification with and the longing for a return to a particular place is often replaced by an identification with and longing for other places and spaces. The yearnings of people searching for home often culminate in a range of different uprootings and resettlements. In my case I returned home to Canada for a brief 24 hour period nearly 30 years after I left and I moved to many homes and towns along the way. And at the age of 55 I was more like a tourist when I finally got home again after 30 years away from my original home.

I had left a country in the first half century of its postcolonial period to arrive in another country in the first half century of its postcolonial life. The term ‘postcolonial' is, of course, a fuzzy, complicated, arguable concept. I use it here to express a set of processes rather than as a temporal moment which permits a neat, though far from incontestable, sidestepping of the many particular historical moments and struggles through which indigenous and minority claims on the modern nation come to circulate and be heard in the public sphere. Often 1931 is considered the official break with the mother country in Canada and the fall of Singapore in 1942 is often considered the parting note, the turning away point, from England by Australia. While not wanting to select a date, as Gelder and Jacobs suggest, I do emphasize that a set of processes in my life and in both Canada's and Australia's history synchronized with the emergence of other processes in their postcolonial history and literature. It is not my intention here to delve into the history of the early decades of this literature and history. My life as a homefront and international pioneer took place in the larger context of these early decades of the postcolonial history of these two nation states and in other larger contexts as well.

While regions like the Caribbean have long been regarded as particularly, if not paradigmatically, postcolonial, Australia and Canada could be said to be representatives of the gradualist style of postcolonial political, literary and historical evolution. If one was to map the field of postcolonial writing and if one were to see the Caribbean as a crucible of a most extensive and challenging postcolonial literary experience because of its history of extreme uprooting and forced hybridization, then Australia and Canada could be seen, a fortiori, as other crucibles for a rich postcolonial literary experience. By the time my writing began to be published in the early 1980s this richness had clearly emerged in the literary traditions of both these countries. As the Bahá'í Faith slowly spread in Canada and Australia in the third, fourth and fifth epochs that I am concerned with in this memoir(1963-2021), the postcolonial literary experience of both Canadians and Australians blossomed. But it is not my intention to describe this blossoming of postcolonial writers and writing nor document the writing of Bahá'ís working in the backdrop of this new literary heritage and age.

Postcolonial studies is, in a very general sense, the study of the interactions between European nations and the societies they colonized in the modern period. The European empire is said to have held sway over more than 85% of the rest of the globe by the time of the First World War and as the heroic age of the Bahá'í Faith was ending. That empire had come to consolidate its control over several centuries. The sheer extent and duration of the European empire and its disintegration after the Second World War led to widespread interest in postcolonial literature and criticism in my time. I was writing at the very start of this postcolonial literary period that emerged. It emerged just as I began my association with the Bahá'í Faith and in 1959 became one of its members. In the decade or so after(1960-71) my pioneering life began, first on the homefront and then as an international pioneer in Australia and postcolonial literature was on the launching pads. But, again, this is not the place for the documentation of the development of postcolonial literature in general and the evolution of Bahá'í literature as a distinct genre.

To return to my time in Tasmania in the second period(1978-1982), it was completed while I worked in a tin mine in one of the remotest parts of this lovely island. I delivered mail all around the mine and got to know many people as a result. Chris and I and the kids often would go into the bush or down to the ocean on the weekends. Occasionally a Bahá'í would visit us; occasionally we would travel to Burnie where a small Bahá'í Group existed at the time. After a year I began to hanker after a job with more meaning and in about April of 1981 I was interviewed in Melbourne for an Adult Educator's position in Katherine Northern Territory. On July 12th 1981 Chris and Dan and I got on a plane and flew to Katherine. Vivienne and Angela had already gone back to live with their father, a chemist, in Longford. Thereby hangs another tale for another edition. It was a move with many after-affects, many long-range implications, a move that I often wish I had never made.

By 1982 when we moved north of Capricorn, Chris and I had been together for eight years. Certain patterns had developed in our marriage which were not to change. I would like to highlight these patterns by contrast with the relationship between nineteenth century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. Nathaniel tended to live a secluded life, to avoid polite society, to mix with the uncultivated classes if he mixed at all, to be verbally playful. Sophia was a humble, tender, enlightened woman whose life had much sadness. She lived for her husband and her children. She transcribed his journals after he died and felt near to him spiritually. He was difficult to know unlike many superficial men who are more easily described and understood. "Men like Hawthorne can never be touched and dissected because the essence of their character is never concretely manifested." "The true revelation" of their character, writes Julian Hawthorne in conclusion, "will be made only to those who have in themselves somewhat of the same mystery." Personally, I am inclined to think we are all mysteries and we should exercise caution before yielding our mind to some superficial expression. Some people are able to put that mystery in words for others to read.

Certainly in my late fifties I had become more secluded in my behaviour after years of teaching and community work both inside and outside of the Bahá'í community. I found my character was quite chameleon-like, playful and suited to the situation. My wife and I had a relationship more characteristic of late twentieth century marital twosomes where the wife is much more independent than her nineteenth century equivalent. This is what interests me in the main about Hawthorne and his wife: how much of their relationship is a result of the society they lived in and how much of the relationship with my wife is socially determined. We can not divorce our behaviour from the general society in which we live, no matter how independently minded we may feel.
For someone like myself, an avowed practitioner of a spiritual life centred on this new religion, whose life was at the mercy of a religious vocation he had been committed to for some forty years, the acquisition of a fellow aspirant in marriage, an aspirant both willing and worthy to give and take support along the way, was a blessing of almost mystical proportions. I don't think I really appreciated this blessing until I had been in the relationship for some thirty years. Perhaps the most intimate union that a practitioner on a spiritual path can ever forge in the world of practical realities is with someone who shares, not his bed, but his head.

Of course, my wife's life has had much sadness, in the main due to ill health. Also, in marrying me she moved away from her two daughters, adding fuel to the fire of family tensions which have plagued her for decades and moreso when we moved back to Tasmania a final time in 1999. "The richest of human love is between a mother and daughter," says a wistful Sharon Wohlmuth in her book Mothers and Daughters. "It's more varied than any other." The closeness of that relationship was something I could not and did not compete with. There seems to be a much more profound connection between women and I came to understand some of that profundity by the time I reached sixty.

The Bahá'í Faith, although enriching my wife's life, has added an additional tension and responsibility. In our relationship there is much more playfulness than there was in the 1970s or 1980s. The essence of a character is, it seems to me, never really manifested and dissected. It remains an enigma and this is true of the cultivated and uncultivated. We see qualities but not essence. We see change and some continuities.

We see what people do and, as Russian writer Boris Pasternak wrote, "man is real and authentic when he is doing something." I think, too, that the reality of man is his thought. Perhaps that comes closer to his soul than his actions. For someone like me who writes I come to feel that what I write is more important than I am and this life becomes, through writing and other activities, as Pasternak concluded, a preparation for a world after death. By 1982 I had been pioneering for two decades and had become quite conscious of the afterlife, the post-mortal existence. The sense of mission "which ran like a thread" through my life, unbroken but on occasion somewhat fragile, the yardstick against which I tried to measure all my decisions and the guide I instinctively followed in my actions, did not weaken. But I did tire of "this old-born war." Fatigue often called truce. I often felt I would be unequal to the struggle and I plotted my own demise, especially after 1980 when I was 'finally' treated for my bi-polar tendency. At night I often felt "alienated from angels and celestial concerns." Slowly, with the years, I came to see that my imperfections were "not so epically egregious." And, paradoxially, a certain calm and joy prevailed more than ever before. For it was not a fatigue, a weariness, like that of the Victorians which was born of pessimism, that dimmed my energies. It came from work in and toward a Cause, a vision, that required the work of its adherents, its devotees--and the work was not easy. When I die it will be not from self-destruction as has been the case with many writers in the last century but from self-fulfillment as was the case with Joseph Conrad. I see no signs on the horizon of any self-imposed silence or any abandonment of my writing vocation. I shall work, it is my hope, to the end both as a writer and in the service of this Cause I came to know half a century ago. Writing is not, for me, a dangerous journey into the unknown as it was for Conrad. Although I experience a certain loss of life, it is simply a natural fatigue that comes from the hours of work. The overall exercise is life sustaining. I get worn thin but do not go into a state of utter collapse.

But it was not until my retirement in 1999 and the subsequent working out of what might be called a modus operandi, a modus vivendi with a wife who was not well and a husband who was, even after more than thirty years of marriage, not sufficiently domesticated, that this joy and calm took a firm and pervasive hold. This writing, it seems to me, comes from an interaction of this calm and tranqillity and the memories, tensions and passions of tests and trials of earlier years. As I look back over sixty years, I see myself as a man of naturally equable temperament but, from time to time, I exhibited the contrary emotions of hot-bloodedness, passion, anger, depression and elation It required great self-control on occasion to play the role of an urbane and unruffled man. Sometimes that role was thrown to the wind as some emotion came to dominate. We all vary enormously in our natural emotional temperature. Some vary more than others.

But in July 1982, after eighteen months working in a tin mine and after two years stabilized on lithium carbonate, I was ready for the adventure north of capricorn, a priority goal that had emerged in Australia early in the Seven Year Plan; I was ready for "the golden opportunities for teaching and further proclamation" in an area of Australia, the Northern Territory, where the Faith had been first planted some 35 years before and was struggling when we arrived through the fourth decade of its first half century.

Before passing on to the fifth chapter of this international pioneering narrative, I'd like to say a few things about the land, the environment within which this life of activity takes place. One of the finest descriptions of a part of the vast landscape of Australia is provided by a contemporary writer Jill Ker Conway. She describes a part of Australia where I never lived, but the description she provides could be repeated again and again for areas I have lived in both in Australia and Canada. I provide her words here, only slightly altered, because they tell something of the nature of the land and its features, something of the sense of the earth and its habitation that I often was unable to see because I did not know enough, because I did not take the time to look, because the sense of beauty and understanding for many, for a particular type of person, for me, comes from knowledge and perception and these, it would appear, do not come easily to me in life.

"The Western plains of New South Wales are grasslands. Their vast expanse flows for many hundreds of miles beyond the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers until the desert takes over and sweeps inland to the dead heart of the continent. In a good season, if the eyes are turned to the earth on those plains, they see a tapestry of delicate life. The design is not luxuriant by any means, but it is a tapestry nonetheless as if designed by a modern artist from a somewhat spartan view. What grows there hugs the earth firmly with its extended system of roots above which the plant life is delicate but determined. After rain there is an explosion of growth. Nut-flavored green grass puts up the thinnest of green spears. Wild grains appear, grains which develop bleached gold ears as they ripen. Purple desert peas weave through the green and gold, and bright yellow bachelor's buttons cover acres at a time, like fields planted with mustard. Closest to the earth is trefoil clover whose tiny, vivid, green leaves and bright flowers creep along the ground in spring to be replaced by a harvest of seed-filled burrs in autumn. They are burrs which store within them the energy of the sun as concentrated protein. At the edges of pans of clay, where the topsoil has eroded, live waxy succulents bearing bright pink and purple blooms, spreading like splashes of paint dropped in widening circles on the earth."

"Above the plants that creep across the ground are the bushes, which grow wherever an indentation in the earth, scarcely visible to the eye, allows for the concentration of more moisture from the dew and the reluctant rain. There is the ever-present round mound of prickly weed, which begins its life a strong acid green with hints of yellow, and then is burnt by the sun or the frost to a pale whitish yellow. As it ages, its root system weakens so that on windy days the wind will pick it out of the earth and roll it slowly and majestically about like whirling suns in a Van Gogh painting. Where the soil contains limestone, stronger bushes grow, sometimes two to three feet high, with the delicate narrow-leaved foliage of arid climates, bluish green and dusty grey in color, perfectly adapted to resist the drying sun. Where the soil is less porous and where water can lie for long after a rain, comes the annual saltbush, a miraculous silvery-grey plant which stores its own water in small balloonlike round leaves. This plant thrives long after the rains have vanished. Its sterner perennial cousin, which resembles sagebrush, rises on woody branches and rides out the strongest wind."

"Very occasionally, where a submerged watercourse rises a little nearer the surface of the earth, a group of eucalyptus trees will cluster. Worn and gnarled by wind and lack of moisture, they rise up on the horizon so dramatically they appear like an assemblage of local deities. Because heat and mirages make them float in the air, they seem from the distance like surfers endlessly riding the plains above a silvery wave. The ocean they ride is blue-grey, silver, green, yellow, scarlet, and bleached gold, highlighting the red clay tones of the earth to provide a rich palette illuminated by brilliant sunshine On grey days these eucalyptus possess a subdued blending of tones like those observed on a calm sea."

And so Conway tells us of the land as I might tell you of the land, of the lands, where I have lived. But Conway tells it so well. Many people, as Australian writer David Malouf points out, talk about some aspect of the land when they are asked to define or describe what makes them Australian. I'm sure this is true of Canadians. It is also true of me and, now that I have lived for half my life in each of these two countries, I define myself partly by some identification with the land. I'll close with some lines from Roger White's poem We Suffer In Translation because they so aptly describe some of my identification.

In Australia I have for years been intimidated by the relentless sun that oppresses the dusty gardens, the sidewalks, everything in sight. I move through "the unalleviated glare" of a Katherine, a Whyalla, a South Hedland, a Belmont or Stirling or Gawler. The world is "bleached to a silvered insipidity" and even the green leaves gleam weakly on their smooth and shiney surfaces. I run for cover to the air-conditioned coolness of my house or to the beach where I can lose myself in the waves below the ocean's diamond studded surface and where only sun-glasses will give my eyes what thye need to endure the endlessly sparkling interplay of water and light.

In Canada the story is, of course, different. Images of northness, seasonality, spaciousness, magnificence, an extravagant teeming abundance where nothing is moderate and where on my mind's canvas Canada has become obdurately autumnal or gripped intransigently in the hushed or howling drama of winter's death, all this remains etched on my brain as if carved by the finest sculptor with alternating subtle and sharp lines. Somehow, in some way, a piece of my soul is there in those lines. These images cover my life or, perhaps better, they come from within, mysteriously creeping out to the edges of my consciousness unasked, unobtrusively, defining me in ways I can hardly put to words. But they make me that hybrid that I am: a Canadian who lives here, more plausible than a tourist, someone who has been asssigned a slight substance, grudgingly or with a mild enthusiasm.

The sense of place, of space, is an extension of the sense of self. It is rooted in the notion of continuity and it is in keeping with the fashionable concept of psychogeography, the idea that history and the self is imprinted on landscape. Psychogeography impinges on all that we do and, as Howard Stein writes in his final words in an article on the subject, it helps us "gain considerable breadth and depth of comprehension into spacial meaning and action" on life's stage. Increasingly history, geography, psychology, all the social sciences, are coming into play to explain places and peoples. This autobiography certainly draws on many disciplines in its effort to explain my life, my society and my religion.

Autobiography is a literary form by which I attempt to centre my life in a literary way, a way that embellishes and defines, describes and delineates, that has been centred at least since my late teens when this pioneering venture began. This literary effort is not the only form; it is also method and function. I bring together form, method and function in one process, one expression. I like to think there is an intellectual, a spiritual union, a conjoining, here. Poetry attempts to whittle this conjoining away, to scatter it, fragment it. Life is an immense series offragments. Perhaps my poetry, as well as some of my prose, especially my more confessional journals, even defaces my life from time to time by inscribing, describing some of my sins of omission and commission which have been many.
There are many forces that attempt to fracture whatever unity, oneness and centring there has been in my life.       That is putting the function of poetry about as negatively as one can. On a more positive note, poetry does more for me than I can describe in a few words here. Since my autobiography is really poetic autobiography, I think I try to combine the positive aspects of both genres. My autobiography weaves continuities and digs holes to find air-pockets. It engages in ventilations, drillings, exposures, divergencies and plays with time and space in a multitude of ways.-Ron Price with thanks to "Poetry: The Autobiography of a Thirst," Poetry and Autobiography: Internet.

I don't think if we had stayed in Zeehan there would have been much movement toward the Cause. One never knows, of course, but one can not help but have intimations, intuitions on the subject. To serve the Cause north of Capricorn in Australia seemed to be much more of a priority by the early 1980s, although leaving Tasmania at the time had implications for Chris and her two girls that I had no conception of at the time. After six years north of Capricorn, Chris and Dan and I moved to Perth where we lived for eleven years. I was, by then, 55 years of age and I wanted to retire from teaching. And so I did. We then moved to Tasmania to live in George Town and here we still are as I head for the age of 59 in three months' time.

In the six months before going to Zeehan I began writing poetry. I had written the occasional poem since the start of my pioneering life in 1962 but none of that poetry was kept. In Canada, in the same week I got out of the hospital in Australia, treated at last for my bi-polar disorder, my mother's brother had my grandfather's autobiography copyrighted. Four years later I got a copy of this one hundred thousand word story of his life from 1872 to 1900. I mention this here because, looking back, it would appear that something was coming together in my life that represented my mother's poetic interests, my grandfather's autobiographical interests and my father's energy and vitality. For this reason I will include something more of their story, my mother's and my grandfather's. The following is included from essays I wrote several years ago.
"Twenty-five years ago this year, in 1978, my mother passed away. All of her poetry, art, letters, selected quotations and verses from some of her favorite authors and other memorabilia has found a place between two covers, all of her work with the exception of two small booklets of her photos and a small volume of her poetry which I have kept in my own library with my collection of photos and my books of poetry. I received all of this a few weeks after my mother's death on September 1st 1978.

Requiring further organization and ordering, the material in this file has now found a suitable home that hopefully will endure for some time to come in the hands of the family I leave behind me on my passing one day. One day I hope to write a more comprehensive introduction and perhaps even annotate some of the resources in this arch-lever file in which all of her work now lies. For now, though, these few words will at least introduce some of my Mother's artistic endeavours and this binder will give them a more deserving place than the loose files and folders where most of her work has been since it was sent to me by my Mother's older sister, my Aunt Florence.

For the most part, these artistic ‘remains', these works, these ‘leftovers' from my mother's life, were from the last twenty-five years of her days: 1953-1978. It was during this time that she came in contact with the Bahá'í Faith. I have tended to use 1953 as the first year of contact. She remained a Bahá'í until 1963.

Some of her poetry and some of the inspirational material from other writers which she gathered over the years goes back to about 1930, when she was in her mid-twenties. Most of my poetry, like my mother's, comes from a period beginning in my late forties. I find it more than coincidental that the initial flowering of my writing and that of my mother's came about the same time in our lives. Even Alfred Cornfield's writing, my mother's father's work, came when he was about fifty. Thus, three generations, began to seriously write at about the same time in their respective lives: Alfred Cornfield in the 1920s; Lillian Price in the 1950s and myself in the 1980s. The family feeling that has characterized English people and their culture since early modern times if not as a constant for many centuries back is, in my case, bound up with the sense of continuity, literary and personal, with these two individuals.

I have a dozen drawings of my mother's work, nine of them are in this file: six complete and three partially complete. Three are on the walls of my study here in George Town. Art was a new medium for my mother and occupied her in the 1960s and 1970s in the years after she left the Bahá'í Faith, after my father died and I left home--and before her death in 1978, perhaps a fifteen year period.

I trust that, as I pray for her, for my grandfather and other family members and friends, as well as Hands of the Cause, among others, that these, the major literary progenitors in my family, will guide me, from what I hope to be their 'retreats of nearness' and help provide the leaven that leavens the world of being and "furnishes the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.""

For years, especially after coming to Australia, I felt a degree of guilt, like a prodigal son who had never returned; repentant I continued my wandering for, in time, my mother passed away. The need to return to Canada was no more. I used to think, with much of modern psychology and with that popular attitude from the sixties, that guilt was unhealthy. Perhaps to those individualists for whom community has no meaning that may be true. But for anyone who lives in community, has some sense of its importance to one's life, it is obvious how much guilt can feed community's roots rather than being a form of illness or anxiety. Guilt can be and is culturally creative. Like a weight it often functions to inspire, to move us to action. Guilt imposed by others, what has come to be called 'guilt trips,' I have never felt was productive in community, but self-imposed guilt can very well be. Again, this is a complex topic.

In addition to this brief essay on my mother's poetry, her art, I started to write a biography of my grandfather's life but realized I had too little information on his life after 1900 when he was twenty-eight. I did have his story up to that point, some one hundred thousand words. But I had little after that date until his death in 1958. I have written only a brief outline of Alfred Cornfield's life. It is found above.

To return to the main story:

One of John Ruskin's sayings was to: "Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them." I'm not sure how plain my words are, but they certainly are not few. I become conscious of this everytime I return to my story. We had been in a remote part of Tasmania, a point of light in a beautiful wilderness. We arrived there the same year that 279 pioneers settled in 80 countries. It was the first year of the second phase(1981-1984) of the Seven Year Plan(1979-1986). I have often felt somewhat like a travel teacher having lived in some two dozen towns during this pioneer venture. Now we would be part of a point of light in Katherine in the Northern Territory. I turned thirty-eight the day of our arrival in Katherine. Angela and Vivienne were left behind in Tasmania. They were sixteen and eleven. They said it was too far away to live in the Northern Territory. Vivienne wanted to pursue her career, her friendships, her family connections and, in Angela's case, her home life with her father.

This autobiography deals far less than it should on the lives of my three children. Vivienne and her mother were close friends, intimate friends who got on well together, if one measured their intimacy by how much time they spent on the telephone in our first years in Tasmania, 1999 to 2006. Vivienne was always kind to me and I always felt she was perfectly suited by temperament for nursing, a profession she had been involved with for some two decades by the time I wrote this: 1986-2006. Daniel's main function was to make me laugh; although he got annoyed with me he never got angry. We did not argue once in all our time together: 1977-2006, although I spanked him once and kicked him in the leg in an effort to discipline him. He was also the only child who became a Bahá'í. Although we did not talk a great deal, there was between us a quiet intimacy; he was one of those quiet Aussi achievers, I always thought.

Angela got a degree in Public Relations at RMIT in the early 1990s. As a child and into her young adult life, Angela had something of the heat that I had as a youth and adult. She gave me a run for my money in the ‘blow-your-cool' department. It cost her, as it cost me, much remorse and many frustrationss in her attempts to learn to govern it. As I say, I had had a temper, too. I often thought and hoped it might become what became of the temper of Mark Twain's daughter Suzie, namely, a wholesome salt. Twain wrote in his autobiography that Suzie'character was the stronger and healthier for the presence of the energy of that temper. It enabled her to be good with dignity; it preserved her not only from being good for vanity`s sake, but from even the appearance of goodness for vanity's sake. I lived in hope that as I got in late adulthood and old age and as Angela entered middle adulthood we would grow closer and that the heat of our personalities would produce that wholesome salt. Time will tell as it will the lives of all three children.

In looking back over the long and vanished years, some thirty-two now(1974 to 2006) in which I have played the role of step-father, and slightly less in which I have been a father, it seems only natural and excuseable that I should dwell with longing affection and preference upon incidents of their childhood and adult life which made it beautiful to us, and that I should let their often understandable, often excuseable, often frustrating and annoying offences--justified or unjustified--go unsummoned, unmentioned and unreproached. Misunderstandings and difficulties arose in our family life, as they do in most families, from passionate attachments to all sorts of things, from the rubs and tensions that come to exist between souls. Being in possession of many immaturities myself, even into my sixties, I find it hard to criticize them in others, especially my own children. Ultimately, all the battle in life is within the individual. Accepting our own imperfections and those of others is essential if we are not to allow ourselves to get too upset over the unfortunate things which occur in our relationships with others, in our jobs, our marriages, inter alia. In the end these things are essentially superficial and, for the most part, are outgrown in time.

Angela left us in 1981 and moved in with her father as did Vivienne the following year. Daniel moved out in 1999 and again in 2005. As I came to
autobiographies. The 50 or so members of these families really require a separate book.

put the finishing touches on the 5th edition of this autobiography, Chris and I were on our own for the first time in our marriage. To go back to Zeehan and Katherine, though…..

Daniel was three in 1981 and I had been in a second marriage for six years. In 1982 we moved to Katherine which had about 3000 people on our arrival. It went to 10,000 within a decade. We stayed for forty-four months. By the time we arrived in Katherine, the pioneering journey was twenty-years in the making. Bahá'í experience now went back nearly thirty years. In my collection of unpublished essays I have written about: prayer, fasting, meditation, service on LSAs, Bahá'í books, special events, community life, indeed, I have some seventy essays that explore special themes. My essays and their topics could occupy a chapter all to their own. But for now, I have integrated some of their content, content that seemed relevant to this autobiographical work, in the body of this narrative, en passant, as I journey from one town to another, one year to another, one experienc eto another.

I could describe the nature of my job in Zeehan and in Katherine in great detail; I could describe how my marriage was developing after some ten years and how my relationships to my children were coming along and perhaps I will in some further edition of this autobiography. Rage, anger and depressive feelings that had dogged my life in the sixties and seventies had, to a significant extent, disappeared by the 1980s, although I'm not sure how much of this was due to chemotherapy and how much to maturity. Chris and I still had our problems and it would be another two decades, the early years of the new millennium, before we could put paid—for the most part--to these old emotional dogs that had been barking at the edges of our life.

Perhaps some of the positive developments in the new millennium were significantly due to a second medication, fluvoxamine in 2002, which added to the lithium put a control on my emotions that I had never enjoyed before. The acquisition of virtue in my life has had a strong corelation with psychopharmacology and I have always found it difficult to measure my spiritual growth.

Many men and women, often barely in control of themselves, are still indisputably careful, obsessively committed and very hardworking. Artists, labourers and office workers, people in all walks of life, exhibit paradoxes and contradictions which contribute to a certain type of personal mystique, personal complexity that is difficult to define. I had lots of company. Frank Sinatra, arguably the most successful American performing talent produced in the twentieth century, also possessed a bullying style, a personal charm and a vulnerability that shaded into one another. It took all of my young and middle adult life to even out, so to speak. As I came to write this autobiography I was finally levelling out.

In 1982 my step-daughters stayed in Tasmania causing us, especially Chris, a range of problems. A new supervisor at the Adult Education Centre was frustrating me more than any relationship had since, perhaps, the latter stages of my first marriage. Dr. Spock's voice continued to be raised in child rearing circles, as it had been for nearly half a century, a voice that turned back the Victorians' harsh, "scientific" approach to raising children and told baby boomers that their children were essentially reasonable. I mention Dr. Spock here because by 1982 I had been involved in child rearing for eight years and been a teacher for nine. In that time I had developed a philosophy of approach which emphasized giving children lots of room to breath, to be independent, to know the limits and discuss them. I tried to avoid what came to be called an "Attention Excess Disorder." Given this name by Anne Cassidy, it was a disorder that Cassidy said was the "Malady of the 1990s." I did not have all the answers as a parent, far from it. Indeed, this theme could consume many pages, if I let it. It certainly consumed many an hour in my life as both a teacher, a parent and in my last years as a student: 1964-2004.

My life had many borders, boundaries, edges, limits, marking posts, turning points, critical periods in long processes. They each and all helped to establish identities: national, local, location, international. All these contributing factors to identity tended to reduce complexity, to fix what is difficult to define. Toynbee, in his discussion of these borders, frontiers, fronts or limes, says they are "the hospitable threshold of an ever open door." I have said enough and will say enough about these marking points in my life in other places in this autobiography. But I would like to focus, for a time, on the limen, the frontier between the growing civilization that is contained in the seed that is the Bahá'í Faith and the homelands of the potential proselytes. Toynbee says that frontier is like "a gentle tree-clad slope in which the roots preserve the soil from erosion." Toynbee's analysis is a rich and valueable one for the Bahá'í, especially one who has been working on the slope for so many decades. That much of Toynbee's metaphor is military, as is ‘Abdul-Baha's is entirely consistent with my human experience of life as battle, as war, in these decades since 1953 when the Kingdom of God on earth had its inception.
Certainly anyone reading the collection of my letters which became more voluminous beginning in the early 1980s, as the third epoch was coming to a close in 1985/6, would get a more detailed picture of my life than the generalities I have stated in a simple summary form here; they are generalities which I hope do not trivialize. I hope they avoid the Australian tendency to treat everything lightly in the name of humour. Humour is a useful note and I have learned much much its application in life and in letters. I think one gets in letters what could be called a vox populi authenticity. I will include here some comments on the collection of my letters from these years to provide some perspective on my life from an epistolary point of view. These comments were written several years after leaving the towns north of Capricorn where my small affinal family, the family one acquires and adds to with marriage, lived from 1982 to 1987. In letters, as in life, only a small proportion of all the things that happen can, ultimately, leave a permanent written record. Even if readers have access to a complete collection of my letters this would in no way mean that this collection would be replete with the conflicts and contradictions of everyday life, the vast assortment of my comings and goings within or without the Bahá'í community or so much that has constituted my life, my times and the experience of the many Bahá'í communities in which I lived during these four epochs. I'm sure it will seem to readers that, at times, I appear to turn my back on social questions, issues facing my religion, issues that I was faced with personally but which modern and future readers consider much more important that the little attention I paid to them in this voluminous, compendious work. My letters, my diaries, indeed, my total oeuvre is filled with gaps you could drive a train through, as they say.
"There do not appear to be any letters received or sent for the following years: 68, 69, 71, 76, 77 and 79. During the sixties and seventies I had no plans of saving letters for some future literary collection. It is natural, therefore, that there be gaps. What I did keep was partly accident, partly genuine interest. What there is for the period up to the time I lived in Katherine in 1982 is largely fortuitous. The period of homefront pioneering from 1962 to 1967 has no correspondence at all in these files. And the ten years of my earliest association with this Cause contains not a letter, although I'm sure several were written during this late childhood and adolesence.

I would have liked to have kept the many letters I wrote to and received from several young people back in the years 1962 to 1966, others to my first wife and ones I received in the first five months of 1967 and still others to my Mother and received from her in the period 1971 to 1978 the year she passed away. There are literally dozens of letters from this period that were just thrown away, discarded as part of the inevitable flotsam and jetsam of life: perhaps one a month for sixteen years, perhaps two hundred letters. Similar letters to my aunt Florence, my Uncle Harold, several friends in Canada, I think about half a dozen at the most, recipients of an annual ‘form' letter which Judy and I sent while living on Baffin Island, and others now lost to my own memory would make a collection of, I would think at the most, some three hundred letters.

A two volume work, of which I have just examined the first volume, by Martin Seymour-Smith: Poets Through Their Letters, Vol.1(Constable & Co. Ltd, London, 1969) has suggested to me a whole new perspective to my letters. It's all a bit ‘ify', a bit tentative, somewhat hypothetical, but of sufficient meaning and possibility to set my collection of letters in a certain ultimate perspective and context. The idea came to me when I was reading about the collected letters of Alexander Pope. According to Smith, Pope was the first poet to actually care about what happened to his letters. He seemed to have a great need for self-glorification. Self-glorification is the last thing that interests me. The glory of this Cause, unquestionably. This is the linch pin, the underpinning, the contextual ethos for keeping these letters. Any glory I attain will be as a result of my association with, my commitment to, my involvement with, this emerging world religion.

These are the days in which the Lesser Peace is taking shape. It may have been taking shape as far back as 1917 when my mother was just entering her teens, my father had just become an adult and my grandfather was just forty-five. I don't think any of them, indeed, very few people on the planet, have seen or now see, the major process of our time since the first world war in terms of peace. It is in the horrors, the blood and gore that peace is slowly emerging on this planet. It is turning out to be a process that is taking its time for those of us who are living through these years of the fourth epoch. My letters go back to 1967 with a commentary extending back to the Ten Year Crusade. These are the collected letters of an international pioneer and, given the probable disinclination of most Bahá'ís to write, let alone keep, letters in these years in the dark heart of an Age of Transition, it is coming to be more and more my view, especially after examining this book by Seymour-Smith, that caring about the future publication of these letters is not an inappropriate spiritual, lifetime, goal, among other goals. Interesting collections of letters, poetry, indeed any effort to tell the story of a pioneer experience will probably be more the exception than the rule. Overseas pioneers have probably tended to be more men of action, people who did things and took no thought of writing about them, than men of contemplation who wrote, thought and saw action in terms of the via contemplativa. We shall see in the generations and epochs ahead how accurate this prediction becomes.

These days of the third and fourth epochs, the first half century of the elective institutionalisation of that awesome power, are very much formative ones. Unlike the poet Pope, I have no desire to create a favourable impression of myself for the sake of a future audience. Rather I want to create an honest portrait for that future audience, especially if it is the only portrait conveyed, in this case, through letters by an overseas pioneer. I am not driven by vanity; I am driven by a compelling force, a vision of the future, that is enthralling and captivating, that has inspired me in my work and in this work, that is as compelling as the vision the onlookers acquired as they listened to 'Abdu'l-Bahá describe the future of Haifa when He was laying the foundation for the Shrine of the Bab in the first years of the twentieth century. I am especially conscious of how these early years of the tenth stage of history have laid a foundation for the institutional and social development of the Bahá'í community all over the planet, in spite of the apparent and very real social instability and incoherence much of the time. Much, if not most, of this foundation is not much more evident than what those onlookers could forsee in their minds' eyes, but vision creates reality. It also inspires the heart and the mind.

Literature, of which autobiography is but one genre, does not simply reflect life, it validates and creates life, or so it is the argument of Miguel de Unamuno. As an autobiographer I can not write anything I fancy. I must narrate it for narration is the most profound way of living. We have a primordial need to tell stories, our story. It is a trade mark that God has imprinted on us. In film sometimes the director, drawing on a particular script, portrays just a few years of a character's life and viewers are left to judge the whole by the part. Richard Attenborough, for example, decided to stick with screenwriter Nicholson's portrayal of only a few short years in the life of C.S.Lewis. This work deals with the whole of life.

All assessment of evidence, and beside narration the rest is assessment--must be the work of the intellect, of the reasoning faculty. The autobiographer attempts, as far as possible, to work on the assumption that whatever happened is capable of rational explanation and that evidence is the product of an act discoverable by reason. And yet we all know that this is not quite true; that we act, react and reflect from motives which have little to do with reason and much to do with other influences like intuition, the senses, tradition, circumstances over which we have no control such as ill-health, a quarrel with people not involved in our immediate life, whim and lack of thought, inter alia. In the many years, perhaps as many as fifty by the time I left teaching in 1999, I got personally and familiarly acquainted with all the different types of human nature that are to be found in fiction, biography, or history. This familiarity came from experience and from reading, but the struggle with human diversity did not end there. At 55 it was possible that I might still have half my life to live, that there would be many an interpersonal challenge ahead and some of these challenges I would lose. Experience is no guarantee of success.

I am reminded how a certain instability and incoherence was characteristic of the Greek city state in its embryonic phase, in its own heroic and formative ages. Until the last two or three years, since perhaps 1992, I have had no conscious thoughts of portrait creation. I am not sure, at this early stage of the process, I am even aware of just how this affects what I write in my letters. I shall leave commenting on this connection for a future time. There is a seriousness that is often not present in my letters because of a desire to be humorous, to play it light. I try not to appear too academic, too serious, too religious. My aim is to please, endear, foster closeness and, ultimately, bring my correspondent close to the Cause when that is seen as possible. There are, too, although moreso after 1982 when the number of my collected letters increases markedly, aspects of depressive-reactions, an element of despair at the ‘discouragingly meagre' response to the Cause. The expectations, fostered by teaching successes in the 1960s and 1970s, became too high. Disappointment was just about inevitable. Emily Dickinson has a helpful take on disappointment which I am slowly learning to apply in life--at least on certain occasions-for sadness is as much a part of life as the air we breath. It is simply an inevitability: "I always try to think in any disappointment," writes Emily Dickinson, "that had I been gratified, it had been sadder still, and I weave from such suppositions, at times, considerable consolation; consolation upside down as I am pleased to call it."

I will insert here some of my introduction to volume 8 of my personal correspondence, a volume begun in August/September 2003. It illustrates something of the general context of my letters:

"This volume was begun at the start of my 42nd year of pioneering, just before the mid-point in the Five Year Plan(2001-2006). At the time, I had been collecting letters for 36 years. This volume may take me to the 40th year of letter collecting. Time will tell. Barry Ahearn, a professor of English at Tulane University and the editor of the letters between Zukofsky and Williams, says that a poet's correspondence is the raw material of biography: the poet's firsthand perceptions, unguarded, unpolished, and uncensored. "It's a way of recovering the warts-and-all humanity of these individuals, because they are writing things about themselves which they might not otherwise," says Ahearn, who also edited a selection of letters between Pound and Zukofsky, published by New Directions in 1987, and Pound/Cummings: The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E.E. Cummings, University of Michigan Press, 1996.

In the letters between some writers, there is often a persistent and passionate debate around some issue. The 450 letters written between 1953 and 1985 that are collected in The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, edited by Albert Gelpi, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, and Robert J. Bertholf, curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection at SUNY Buffalo are an example of such a debate. "It's a huge argument," Gelpi says. "It brings the correspondence to a remarkable personal as well as literary climax because these two poets, who were so close, who thought of themselves as anima and animus to each other, as brother and sister, suddenly found themselves having to recognize that there are actually fundamental disagreements about what poetry is and how the imagination works and how poetry functions in society."

Thusfar, the eight volumes of personal correspondence and many other volumes on special topics, to particular institutions and individuals, there is very little of what you might call sustained debate. There is often disagreement, but it is usually dealt with in one or two letters at most. Disagreement is rarely if ever sustained. This is not to say that there are not areas in which my correspondents and I disagreed, but for the most part the areas which were critical were simply not discussed. Whereas Levertov and Duncan wrote one or two letters a month for thirty years, the longest correspondents thusfar in my life have been Roger White at 12 years and John Bailey at, perhaps, 8. Roger and I wrote some five or six times a year while John and I write once a month."

But to return to the main story....Only one person joined the Faith while we were in the north, an Aboriginal tribal elder named Larry Ahlin. We got much advertising in the local paper in Katherine and I was able to write a column of 800 words each week for some one hundred and fifty weeks. We used to drive to Darwin occasionally to help in the teaching work and while we were on the west coast we became part of the teaching drive in Bidyadanga near Broom. All other teaching work in remote towns was periferal, part of my job and there were only rare visits to: Carnarvon, Broom and Derby, Arnhem Land, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. The simultaneous unfoldings of past, present and future that are alway a part of my time consciousness; the chains of ideas, half formed thoughts and sensations, some of which enthralled and some of which were scattered to the wind as soon as they mformed in the mind, create a sort of quasi-system flow; the narrative act that combines engagement and resistance in what might be called a periodic and frequent therapeutic remapping of the mind's landscape, all this went on in all these towns. Were I to recount these events that took place in my mind in these places, were I able to remember any of them, this account would lead to prolixity. For each place had its Bahá'í history; each place was involved in the new processes of the Six Year Plan: 1986-1992; each place had its geography and its people. The events of the world continued on in their dizzying speed as did my own life, my family, my job and my own spiritual battles.

It was here too that I began a series of essays on the Bahá'í buildings then being constructed around the planet. The essays were never published but, with the essay writing I had done in the 1970s on Bahá'í themes a foundation was laid for my writing in the 1990s. This brief summary of our experience in Katherine would be pertinent here. I wrote it while living in Tasmania just after retiring. Narratives help us interpret and make explicit our own social behaviour and that of others. They help embed real and imagined scenarios within what is my current context of talk. They serve as a fundamental resource for what Erving Goffman calls "laminating experience," an experience that is coated with thought, thought that is nicely distributed over the time frame involved---in this case Katherine in the Northern Territory.

"Twenty years ago now, in July 1982, Chris and Dan and I arrived in Katherine. Some 150 essays appeared in the newspapers of a small town in the Northern Territory in the next three years. Many of my essays were about popular culture. Looking back it would seem that whatever intellectual gifts I have been endowed with were first in evidence in these published writings, these essays, in what was then and still now a remote part of Australia. None of this material had been transferred to this website. I had, ten years before these essays first appeared, been a lecturer in a college of advanced education, but the gift of writing was not really substantiated until the essays started to appear in the Katherine Advertiser in 1983.

My little family, at least littler was it now than it had been since my first wife and I made up a nuclear family of two back in 1973, arrived in Katherine on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passing of Shoghi Effendi in November 1957 and the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf in July 1932. This event was commemorated at five International Conferences and by the publication of a book comprising texts about her and some hundred of her own letters. I did not get a copy of this book until later in the year. The Universal House of Justice moved to its permanent Seat in November, four months after our arrival in Katherine. It was a busy year, a year not without its significances. In April 1983 the fifth International Convention elected the Universal House of Justice. By then we had fully settled into Katherine and I in a job that brought me in touch with a great cross-section of the town's people. It was during these first months that Chris acquired some illness that, in different forms, seemed to plague her for the next two decades with dizziness, nausea, headaches, backaches and earaches and make her life a test from which she has yet to recover. The "stuff" of daily existence only rarely assumed a ludicrous absurdity as Chris tried to cope with her daily tasks. Housekeeping only became a pointless ritual when she bottomed out emotionally. Nearly always Chris approached her domestic work with a sense of duty, thoroughness and meaning. Failing to understand what these duties had to do with real life was an attitude I often experienced but, as the years went on, I was trained to see these household activities as important to the commonweal.

There was, too, the intermittent navigation through tension and conflict. Partly due to the elevation of sensuality and sexual gratification to unrealistic heights; partly due to ill-health; partly due to the problems and pressures of job; partly due to the tensions of raising one child and having two in far-off Tasmania; parlty due to the continuing lack of response to a Cause we hoped to propagate among our contemporaries. Published autobiographies should contain some elements of the confidential, of the private, if they are to contain the detailed record of people's lives, if they are to be the trusted repositories of the intimate feelings and the intense encounters of their authors.

"Time, which puts an end to human pleasures and sorrows", said Samuel Johnson, "has likewise concluded the labours of this Rambler." It would be three decades, in 1784, before Johnson's labours were concluded and my own, in the field of writing, had just begun. A meticulous researcher can find articles in former college magazines in Ballarat and Launceston at their Colleges of Advanced Education, in newspapers in Tasmania and in Bahá'í magazines and archives in the period up to 1984. But, in the main, even up to this date, most of my published works are in this collection of essays.

For those who find my poetry not to their liking, or who find my autobiography in its many forms not to their taste, they may find here manageable chunks of interest. Here is autobiography in another form. In the years before the Lesser Peace it was difficult to get direct Bahá'í ideas into the print media; few in Australia had been successful, although when I came to Perth I met two or three individuals who were more successful than I, or at least successful in different ways. Indirection was often the only way in most situations in both the print and electronic media. In addition, several Bahá'í academics had published their work in academic journals, but I have not acquired any list of their efforts.

"The distinctions between living, writing and reading were beginning to become blurred" says Tony Tanner in his analysis of the life of Henry James and the Art of Fiction". James saturated himself with, immersed himself in, his own writing. These essays represent the beginning of this process which ten years later was well advanced in my poetic efforts, but was kept from the extremes that James and other writers expressed in their lives. A job, a family and a community kept me from total immersion. There is none of the sacrificial vicariousness found in James' writing, the heroic proportions found in the erudite performances of some of the great writers of history, none of the immense energies applied to the effort to write as they were in the case of Xavier Herbert. Most of my writing in the decade after these essays appeared was in the form of poetry and this poetry was mostly a font of pleasure with a great weariness at the edges. Perhaps this weariness was experienced as it was for millions and as Susan Sontag put it, due to the openness of the world and history, hypersaturated awareness, the provisionality of our assertions and the constant need to discard warn-out meanings for fresh ones. Readers may experience a certain weariness, too, as they go from chapter to chapter in this work conferring an elemental order, a simulacrum of coherence, on what is often random, often jumbled, often puzzling in life. In the course of this story boundaries between present and past, living and dead and animate and inanimate, fade and dissolve, and the reader is left uneasily pondering the fragility of rational categories of experience. With my many years of peripatetic experience, occupation and enterprise behind me, a most varied mix, I liked to think the sheer diversity of my labours would serve a useful purpose for the making of a successful writer both now and in the years ahead.

Some of my essays deal with why I write and I will not reiterate these reasons here, but I should refer to the articles about Harold Ross, Shiva Naipaul, Brian Matthews and Norman Podhoretz since they contain some useful perspectives which I have integrated unknowingly into my own writing. I have not sent these articles to the BWCL. They are in my home collection. I would also like to refer to James Olney, one of the great analysts of autobiography, who said autobiography can "advance our understanding of the question ‘how shall I live?'" If these essays contribute in some small part to answering this question I shall be amply rewarded. And if this I cannot do, I hope at least that I can give the reader a little pleasure." I do strive to help readers answer the question "how shall I live?" And I strive on many fronts. I probe beneath conventional surfaces and I hope readers find this probing useful. "Analysis will, in time," said the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, "enable synthesis to become your habit of mind." I may not have found total synthesis in this work, but I am on the road. If Wright is also correct in another of his aphorisms, namely, that "an idea is salvation by imagination," then there is much salvation here.

In the early 1980s I began to write short biographical sketches of various Bahá'ís which I hoped to include in a Bahá'í history eventually. When I moved to Tasmania and wrote a series of over thirty instalments on Bahá'í history in the Northern Territory: 1947-1997 some of these biographical sketches were included. Here is a brief summary of my efforts to write biographies of Bahá'ís.


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. Character was something ultimately unfathomable and, however much one attempts to explain it, one will fall short. If a contemporary, therefore, cannot unravel the complexities of a character, what hope would there be for a historian? 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.

This is an anthology of existences. Lives of a few lines or of a few pages, adventures gathered together in a handful of words. Such is the contraction of things said in these texts 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. Singular lives, through I know not what accidents, strange poems: that is what I wanted to gather together in a sort of herbarium. -Werner Sollors, editor, Source Unknown, Oxford University Press, 1989, p.155.
Some time in 1981, as accurately as I can estimate after the evolution of a quarter century of Bahá'í experience, I began to write the history of the Tasmanian Bahá'í community. It was the first such exercise as far I know and my own first flight into writing a history of a Bahá'í community. I had been in the pioneer field by then for nearly twenty years. I wrote several pages and sent it to the then Regional Teaching Committee before leaving Tasmania in July of 1982.

At about the same time or perhaps a few months before, I began to write poetry. The first poem I have in my collection was written in August 1980. On 23 July 1982 I arrived in Katherine and began to collect materials for a history of another section of Australia: the Northern Territory and outback Australia. I also continued writing poetry. In the next twenty years I wrote more than two dozen biographies of a few paragraphs to a few pages each. I also collected biographical information and made it into a narrative history of the Northern Territory. It appeared in the Bahá'í Council newsletter in 33 instalments. In 2002 I sent my entire archive of material to the Bahá'í Council of the NT.

As I have expressed the view before, I don't feel I have had much success in writing the biographies of Bahá'ís. I did write those many short pieces and for the instalments that appeared in the NT I obtained each person's agreement to each of the pieces I wrote on their lives. It is a sensitive exercise this business of writing about others. It was one of the motivations for me to turn to autobiography. Then, I could only offend myself. I would not puzzle and perplex others by what I wrote about them.

I took some comfort in reading about Edward Gibbon's reticence in 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 last twenty-five years. The annotation of my collection of thirty-five years of letters has yielded little fertility, as far as biography is concerned. Perhaps the best that can be said is that my sense of failure to write biography has been one source of inspiration to write an autobiographical work. One's life, anyone's life, is embedded in multidimensional and multidirectional contexts. There is a plasticity to the overall process and there are dynamics of gains and losses which must be kept in mind as one attempts to analyse the life. A lot is happening when one examines a life, one's own or someone else's.

Before leaving this topic of biography I would like to encourage readers to examine that history I wrote of the Bahá'í experience in the NT because it contains the evidence of a new lease on life as far as biography is concerned for me. If readers are not particularly interested in the history of the Bahá'í Faith in the NT: 1947-1997, it may be best that they give that as miss. I would also like to include here a brief essay on a topic tangentially connected with biography which I wrote in 1996 three years before retiring from my profession on the subject of people's appearance which we attach so very much importance to in our lives. We live our lives immersed in the physical and so it seems reasonable to say a few words about it.

An essay by Joseph Epstein "About Face" in a collection of essays deserves some comment in terms of its relevance to my several attempts to write brief biographies of people I have known in life. Epstein writes about the difficulty of making assessments of people on the basis of their facial expression. My initial thought on the subject is that the relationship between physical facial features and behaviour is so complex and subjective as to be nearly useless in terms of drawing any significant corelations. One of the more famous faces was that of The Elephant Man. He had an apparently ‘beautiful' character, one that appreciated culture and the arts and one that was highly refined. Yet his face was so repulsive that in everyday reaction it was difficult for people to even look at him.

In my earliest years of pioneering, in the early 1960s, I used to know a Bahá'í lady who always looked depressed. I always found myself uncomfortable when I had to look at her for any length of time. She was a kind and gentle hostess whenever I was in her home and I was in her home frequently. Some beautiful people on the other hand, externally attractive, have been the sort of people whose company I tried to avoid. The mystery of a person is only partially revealed in their face and gestures; there is much more than the surface textures, lines and shapes. But, as Epstein says, the revelations don't always jump out, perhaps, seldom. They must be read subtlely, painstakingly and patiently. Like wine, faces age; but unlike wine they don't classify with the same ease and predictability. They don't fit into easy classifications, I find, inspite of all the body language psychology that has become prevalent since the 1980s. We all have biases. I like the faces of young women; I like their freshness, smoothness, firmness of skin, often, a sheer and quiet impressive beauty, admittedly subjective. Perhaps this preference is cultural; perhaps I am responding to more than fifty years now of print and electronic media hype in relation to the features of young women.

When you get to know a man's life, you can translate what you know into his face as a sort of parlour-game exercise. I always found the faces of several Bahá'í men I came to know in Perth: Kevin Croft, Gary Olson and Ian McFarlane mirrored their various personalities to some extent. They were all likeable men and I liked their faces. Nancy Campbell, whom I did not like much when I was young, but whom I came to admire and love as I got older, remains in my mind's eye, a quarter of a century after her passing, as a very beautiful woman. One's own age, development and maturity are obviously critical factors in making any assessment of a person's character based on facial feature. In my twenties the difficult people were difficult classes of students; in my thirties I became my own worst enemy; in my forties supervisors in my place of work pushed my back to the wall; in my fifties I became battle weary from simply too many people in my life, too many students and too many Bahá'í responsibilities. These are all, of course, oversimplifications but I wanted to cover the territory in a broad sweep.

Whatever remarks I might make, then, about the thousands of characters and their behaviour and facial features, remarks that would embellish my characterizations, would seem to me to have little relevance except as items to satisfy the curiosity. I can't imagine writing anything here that would be unique, that would not be repeated ad nauseam in the life stories of a myriad of other people. The reality of man is his thought, not his external features. It seems to me one can measure soul, to some extent, by what people do; but ultimately one can not judge the justice or compassion of the acts of other human beings. And so, in this short essay, I will summarily dismiss the short physical descriptions I might make of those characters, those people, I have known during these three epochs of this Formative Age. Both those who have influenced me a great deal, like Jameson Bond or Douglas Martin, or Elizabeth and Michael Rochester, and those who have had lesser or little influence, will receive little physical reference to widen my analysis. Those who have been difficult people and those whom I have liked very much receive little space here. Another edition could easily amplify this and cover the ground I have left out.

Finally, it is my hope that in a future edition I will devote more attention to those whom I have known in my life. If treated with understanding and wisdom such attention, I think, would clearly embellish this text. In addition, the influence of the major women in my life: my mother, my mother's sister, my first and second wife, my two step-daughters, among a core of other women; and the major men: my grandfather, my father, my uncle and my son, among several other critical males--could be examined in fine detail, certainly more than the little attention I have given to them all thusfar. This matrix of people, at the intimate centre of my life, offer many understandings to the mystery of my own development and should not be removed to the perifery as I have done to a large extent in the reconstruction of my life. But still, if I was asked what sort of people this great throng of intimate and not-so-intimate individuals are, I would not be able to answer. They are not this or that, they are just people. I can no more define the initimately known or the not so intimately known. I am either too near to them and I have lived too intimately with them or they are too distant to make any definitive description even with the benefit of much psychology and philosophy.

The great cook and restauranteur Marco Pierre White, who succeeded in elevating British cookery to previously unscaled heights, on the publication of his autobiography talked about his three wives. His sentiments were in some ways the way I felt about the women in my life, the two wives I have had. White said his work with restaurants and food was like one long love affair. "I could never really have a woman in my life because I wasn't in love with them like I was in love with my work, with my restaurant. My wife was almost a mistress, because I was so into winning……so into creating perfection. It took so much out of me there was nothing for anybody else." And how did his wives deal with that? "Don't know," he said sulkily. "I never asked. I must not have ever thought about it."

I certainly have thought about it. My work, my career, the energy required to do my job day after day took everything I had. I don't think I ever did much of a job as a husband or even as a father, although I think I got better at at by the time I was fifty. The first twenty-five years resulted in one failed marriage and some serious difficulties in the first two or more decades of the second marriage. Now, as a retired man, my wife recognizes what White said as true of my relationship with her for much of our life together.

I seem to have examined just about all the conceivable influences and given attention to a multitude of various ideas as I have attempted to explore my life. There was a veritable explosion in my writing of poetry beginning in the early 1990s after my pioneering venture passed the thirty year mark and my contact with the Bahá'í Faith the forty year mark.

This synthesis of my existence and my essence based as it is on frail and fallible memory, on understandings of people and phenomena that were only dimly apprehended at the time or even now, on mental constructs and a selection process whose validity is arguable at best is inevitably egotistical. There is a necessary assertiveness in this exercise of autobiography. The ideal autobiographer does what the ideal historian does, according to Macauley "relates no fact, he attributes no expression to his characters, that is not authenticated by sufficient testimony." Rather, "by judicious selection, rejection, and arrangement, he gives to truth those attractions which have been usurped by fiction."

This work also draws on a heritage of love and admiration, of being cherished by people like: my mother, father, two wives and three children, among others whose influence was primary and yet others whose relation to me was secondary but charged with admiration. My mother's love, for example, although expressing a necessary maternal control and discipline and of what I have come to see as a just balance between freedom and dominance, gave me a certain self-confidence, security and strength, which with the passage of time and with maturity, allowed me to distance myself from whatever smothering effects that love might have contained.

The positive sense of their own significance and abilities, my mother's, my grandfather's and my father's, among a list too long to put on paper, were conveyed in varying degrees to me as I grew into adulthood, conveyed by example, consciously and unconsciously and by the direct and indirect transmission of human values. I am sure, that in many respects, my life has been the realization of the ambitions, the hopes and desires, of my parents, my grandparents and my mother's sister, aunt Florence. By my early thirties all my parents and grandparents had died and I was not able to have that "reassuring experience" that Margaret Mead says is the "priviledge that comes to those whose parents live beyond their children's early adulthood."       At the same time, ironically, I was beginning to live into the truth of that aphorism: "Live long enough, and you'll finally understand your parents." Another aphorism or perhaps formula, that of the French moralist of the enlightenment Joubert, expressed a truth I was also coming to appreciate as memory increasingly refracted a past life within me, "Do not express yourself as you feel, but as you remember."

My parents had a reverence for culture. They both played the piano, read, sang in choirs, took a serious interest in religion and politics. They were both children of working class people from the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century and they cast their cultural sites to books, art, intellectualized religion and music with a certain disposition against popular culture. So it was by the mid-1950s that I began to find this milieux somewhat suffocating or stale, overly familiar and I began to get turned on by the loud "down home" humor of disc jockeys and by the ferocious theatricality, aggressive festivity, and sensuality of mass mediated working class culture in its burgeoning forms. But it was, for the most part, a moderated enthusiasm. The intensity of my enthusiasms were, for the most part in sport and school work. By my twenties they were expressed in religion and my changing jobs. I also had an enthusiasm for sex but was usually thwarted in its expression.

By the time I came to write this work in my late fifties I had trouble applying the wisdom of Winnie the Poo, namely, that one has to learn to "bounce back and adapt to the new." I did bounce into the world of writing but, clearly, some of the bounce had gone out of my system. I knew that was the case and it was for this reason that I retired to one of the backwaters of the backwater where little was expected of me socially and I could bounce where my enthusiasms took me and not where obligation dictated. Perhaps, like Winnie the Poo and Mickey Mouse, I too may go on living but not in the hearts of millions as they have done and will do, it seems, for some generations to come. My posthumous fame, if indeed I have any at all, may come to lie in quiet global pools and green nooks inhabited by frogs and birds, small animals and fish. Beyond that?

I also had trouble applying, with the wisdom of Winnie the Poo, the very useful approach to the past of historian Thomas Babbington Macauley. "To make the past present, to bring the distant near, to place us in the society of a great man or on the eminence which overlooks the field of a mighty battle, to invest with the reality of human flesh and blood beings whom we are too much inclined to consider as personified qualities in an allegory, to call up our ancestors before us with all their peculiarities of language, manners, and garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rummage their old-fashioned wardrobes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture, these parts of the duty which properly belongs to the historian have been appropriated by the historical novelist," such was Macauley's advice if the writer was to make the past live, if imagination and reason were to work together in a happy ambience, if history was to be picturesque.

I could continue developing the themes of my inheritance; I could continue expressing the pride in and understanding of the generations before me as well as the children I had cared for; I could discuss the qwhole question of national character and identity formation in some details here but, for now, these brief allusions will suffice.

There have been several, perhaps a dozen people and groups in my life, whom I found tested my spirit and my capacities to the limit. Besides the people I loved dearly and were closest to me, most of whom pushed me to the edge at some time or another, two supervisors, one in Katherine and one in South Hedland, several classes of students and particular individuals in those classes and several Bahá'ís in various Bahá'í communities I lived and worked in. For the most part, though, my relationships throughout my life have been positive ones. Given the intensity of these difficult people and difficult relationships, I could explore their affect on my life in great detail. Again, perhaps I will do this in a future edition of this autobiography.

I'll close this chapter with a brief piece on the history of the Bahá'í community in Katherine where Chris and Dan and I moved in July of 1982 and stayed until March of 1986. It will give some sense of character, place and everyday life as I lived it for four years in the Northern Territory. I will also close with a succinct summary of my life in overview.

"Within two years after the Leyton family left Katherine in 1980, the town had a new Bahá'í Group: Ron and Chris Price. Maryanne Palliaer moved in in 1983 and Heather Dryden in 1985. Katherine was able to keep at least one Bahá'í, maintain its 'isolated believer', its 'locality', status, for the rest of the first fifty year history ending in 1997 thanks to the presence of Larry Ahlin. The story of Larry Ahlin's becoming a Bahá'í has been told before. I will review it briefly here.

Some time in 1983, while Larry was working in the Legal Aid Office, he came into the Katherine Adult Education Centre. Here we talked briefly about the history of his people and their land. At the time Larry was the spokesman for the Jawoyn people. I don't remember if we discussed the Faith at that first meeting, but over the next twelve months Larry came to our small firesides. We talked together in many places around the town and he joined the Cause in April 1984. Larry was the first Aboriginal elder in the NT to become a Bahá'í and the only person to become a Bahá'í during the nearly four years Chris, Dan and I lived in Katherine.

This second contingent of Bahá'ís in Katherine went on to different places. But Larry stayed in his traditional home, a home where he could trace his ancestry as far back as 1788. Here he continued to serve this new Faith into the second half century of Bahá'í history in the NT."

Rousseau's conception of confession had nothing to do with repentance and everything to do with how one worked out the conflicting tendencies intus et in cite, inside and under the skin. The major conflicting tendency in the nearly four years I was in Katherine had to do with how to work with someone who did not seem to like me, who made my life difficult; how to be positive and harmonious with the difficult personality. For the most part, in most towns and most situaitons, I liked those I lived and worked with. I worked this situation out by running, by getting out of the situation. I tried to work it out for two years, unsuccessfully. The second conflicting tendency was how to deal with my wife's illness which no matter what she and we did did not get better; or with the Aboriginal problem which just went on and on. These were the years 1982 to 1986.

Louis Zukofsky said that "we write one poem all our lives." I wrote several lines of this poem of a life in Katherine during its wet and dry seasons, coping with problems that never went away and enjoying, at least for a time, a year or two, being a big-wig in a little town, in a little pond, on the edge of the never-never land. The poem was part of what could be called a conversion poem as this narrative could be called a conversion narrative. Given the quiet edge to Bahá'í evangelism it could be said that "conversion" is too strong a term. There has been over these forty years so little converting. Those who got converted, including myself, occupied such a small quantity of time that it would be more logical to call the narrative by another name, perhaps 'confrontational' or 'farming' or some quiet military metaphor like 'soldiering on.'

"Autobiography is the highest and most instructive form," argues Wilhelm Dilthey, "in which the understanding of life confronts us." I am confronted on page after page with understanding or its absense and conversion plays such a small part of all those years from one end of the earth to the other, except for a small handful of souls. Perhaps another generation, a future generation, may call their story, their narrative, conversion. We shall see.

One of the many series of letters that I wrote and received in the mid-1980s resulted from my involvement with a Bahá'í magazine called Dialogue. A group of Californian believers began the magazine. All the articles were submitted for prepublication review to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. A feeling of distrust developed between the editors and Bahá'í administration in Wilmette and in Haifa. Like so many situations in life the context for this story is complex and I do not want to go into a long digression here to elaborate on this particular facet of my story, my life experience.

In the spring of 1988 the editors proposed that a 9-point reform package be published. It was called "A Modest Proposal." They submitted this proposal for review. The proposal pointed to the decline in conversions, argued against the continued process of review and even proposed term limits for N.S.A. members. The response of N.S.A. secretary Robert Henderson and Firuz Kazemzadeh, according to senior editor Steven Scholl, was a critical one. The story is long and tortuous and I was at the receiving end half a world away. My role in the magazine was as editor of culture and the arts.

In some ways I have come to see the 1980s as the beginning of my writing career, but it was not all on a happy footing. I had never possessed the hereditary ache for sudden wealth nor even sexual fulfillment, although I often wonder why this latter desire did not dominate my motivational matrix more than it did, but I did possess, perhaps as far back as my late teens, an ache that had never been discouraged by my various failures of health and circumstance. It was a quiet ache, as insidious as a seed, for a certain literary, intellectual and academic success. This impulse, this ache, was not a strong one, but it lingered on the edges of my life as if waiting for something to happen. And something did happen from time to time, an insensible add-on of rays of light that gradually grew into a sun-burst.

During these forty years of pioneering I often felt a sickness to the depths of my very soul but, I think for the most part, this was just about always associated with my bi-polar disorder. My sickness of soul found its panacea in medication. I say sickness of soul because of the depths of the mental disorientation that was part of my life off and on for the forty years 1962-2002 and produced, by 1980, a nightly deathwish. I did not require a panacea of quiescence or the more common response of indifference to the world's dilemmas. What I needed was the help of chemotherapy. I was aware of the world's, life's, imperfections and of the vast physical and social problems, but life did not therefore interest me less but more.

I had the will, the desire, to live and the persistence to grapple with the globe's complexities. I did this grappling within the framework of the Bahá'í teachings. This grappling increased insensibly beginning with my own turning away from the established forms of political and religious orthodoxy in my late teens and twenties. There was, too, a certain intellectual daring that forced received opinion into the new jurisdiction of a new world religion. By the 1980s this grappling had begun to take a turn to writing. Whatever emotional imbalances there were in my life due to this bi-polar tendency there was on the whole a prevailing sanity and balance. As far back as the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan were written new forces had been expressing themselves in the Canadian temperament influencing both the artist, the poet and their manner of expression. In Canadian verse, as in its painting and sculpture, the pervading sanity and balance of the Canadian temperament, its obstinate antagonism to extremes, saved Canada from the grotesque excesses indulged in by some of their English and American contemporaries. Modernism, so called, came without violence to Canada. So was that true of may other developments in Canada.

Indeed, the context within which my first serious writing was done from 1982 to 1987 were two very demanding jobs. I was literally run off my legs. The tension resulting from two of the most difficult relationships with supervisors in my life also placed demands on my nerves as did my wife's continuing ill-health. Two more towns, requiring all I had as a person: life had been rich but exhausting yet again. North of Capricorn was anything but laid-back. You'd think in a place with temperatures that were frequently in the forties you'd be able to have a bit of a siesta. I must have worked an average of sixty hours a week for all those years. The jobs paid well compared to being on the dole, as I had been back in 1980 or in the tin mine in 1981 to 1982. I was able to save enough to buy a house when we moved to Perth at the end of 1987.

It was timely that I should own a house again in 1988 in Perth. I had owned my first house from 1973 to 1974 and again just after my fortieth birthday. Some say that maturity begins at forty. I'm not sure. If owning a house is a symbol of maturity, I was on my way. I was forty-four and middle adulthood was finally beginning to level out as we moved into Belmont Western Australia in July of 1988. But this leveling was not without yet a new set of difficulties in a community of hundreds of Bahá'ís.

Like some novelists, like Chekov for example, I wanted to ground my life and its action in a reality that reached across time and space. This would help me counter the transience that seems to be a dominant characteristic of life. Unlike Chekov my intention is to soften the blows of life through a belief in a afterlife and a future for humanity which is positive, indeed, wondrous. I like to think I have channeled my sadness, pity, compassion and empathic indignation through my literary artistry, my autobiogrpahy, in such a manner that my readers experience those same feelings that I have rising up in me. Perhaps this is too much to hope for. Hopefully, my readers will find themselves accepting their disappointments, their wants, their aliveness; understanding, their humanity, their weaknesses and incapacities. At times, it seems to me that the point of human suffering may be not so much to reduce pain as to be able to hold it tenderly. If this work has helped in only a small way toward such ends it will have achieved much.

Grief and sadness turn out to be places none of us know until we reach them. But, having reached them and reached them many times, they exist in the after-ring of our memories; we come to know their surroundings, their contexts and we know too that they will pass, that will will rise up in us and pass like the wind leaving a glimmering star, a shy perplexity and many a grey, dusky lusterless sky. For me, such sadness never ceases to be difficult. It seems to me that writing poetry has been but a natural response to life's travail and a refuge from it.

In the 1980s I began to make plans, somewhat insensibly, somewhat obscurely but also with some specificity to bring the attention of the world and its media to the truths of this new Revelation. By 1982 I had had twenty years of some degree of success, albeit limited. I now strove, as my years north of Capricorn advanced, to be as Mark Twain once strove to be, a sort of captain of letters. I would mine the burgeoning literary ore for notes, for lectures, for research value; I would smelt it into newspaper and magazine articles; I would refine it, if I was capable, into books and publish and distribute them in the world's literary channels. Whereas Twain aimed to take out a large profit for himself from every stage of the process, my aim was to contribute to the profit of this Cause I had been pioneering for for some two decades.

I had shared with the rest of humanity in the furor of the tempest that was sweeping the face of the earth--and had been for at least the previous sixty years--and I had been developing a set of artistic ideals to fortify me in my literary task. An energy, immense but contolled now as I reached the age of forty, I could at last keep within bounds. My nature, with its lyrical, explosive and boisterous elements, was now more restrained, a restraint which I accepted more willingly than before thanks to the insistence of my wife.

Pioneering is a topic frequently mentioned in the primary texts. Indeed, a significant portion of the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are devoted to encouraging Bahá'ís to pioneer or offering guidance to those who have.-Notes on Pioneering, Internet.
When I first wrote this narrative outline, the first edition, I ended the account in 1992. By that time I had lived with my wife and son in Perth for five years. I had lived in Australia for twenty-one. I had taught at four technical and further education campuses, institutions not unlike the community colleges I was used to back in Canada. Perth, Thornlie, Carine and Balga in Western Australia, the open college of Tafe in the Northern Territory and at Box Hill Tafe in Victoria. I had served on the LSA of Belmont for three years. In 1992 I began to write poetry at a rate of some six hundred poems a year and, about that time I began to tire of working as a teacher. I had been in the game since 1967. As I approached fifty, I began to feel as if I had had enough. But I continued for another seven years, retiring in mid-1999 before going to Tasmania. In the years up to the age of sixty in Tasmania teaching one or two hours a week seemed to be about all that interested me--and this was on a casual basis with seniors, students for the most part over sixty. Talking and listening had taken their toll.

Five months after our arrival in Perth in December 1987 in its Ridvan message of April 1988 the House of Justice had spoken of a new paradigm of opportunity and a silver lining brightening the horizon after the dark shadow of previous decades. Indeed, for the next eleven years in Perth, this new opportunity presented itself to me. It presented itself in the changing political climate of the globe, in the teaching opportunities in the Tafe colleges I worked in and in the body of poetry I began to write, literally thousands of poems. There were, for me, new tendencies as mentioned in that same message in April 1988. Four weeks before receiving that Ridvan message I had written a poem for the LSA of Ballarat on its twenty-fifth anniversary. It had been ten years since our family had lived in Ballarat. I reminisced and:

I spoke a few lines and exited right,
the LSA held onto its light.
Now 25 years in the world's darkest night.
The foundation is laid for the world's grandest Fight.

A new paradigm of opportunity did enter the world in the years 1989 to 1992 as the Berlin wall finally came down, the Cold War ended, as did communism in Eastern Europe and a new era in international relations was inaugurated. The bi-polar society I had lived with all my life became much more complex, multi-polar in some ways and a new agenda entered the global scene. It was the victory of capitalist market society over what was then its biggest contender. Gradually, too, my own bi-polar world was becoming less frenetic and moody, but it would be another decade before all the extremities of my symptoms would be eliminated. New opportunities, too, for the Bahá'ís to relate their Cause to the issues of the day arose. The 'cold war' paradigm that had been the backdrop for the bi-polar political world that had characterized my entire life, had ended and a new wind, what the House characterized as "an onrushing wind" in its 1992 Ridvan message, entered human society. Perhaps it was partly this "onrushing wind" that led to the burgeoning output of poetry in that year and succeeding years. Perhaps it was the closing of several doors in my life that turned me away from various grooves down which my life might have spun without ever writing any poetry or prose of note about poetry, my life and my Faith. The "future of immense challenges and dazzling prospects" which in 1990 the House of Justice said faced the Bahá'í World certainly faced me as I was about to experience the first stirrings of another serious tedium vitae, a desire to leave teaching and frustrations in the Bahá'í community. The dazzling prospects, little did I know, that were just on the horizon was a literary explosion that has not yet ended a dozen years later.

Before leaving Belmont in July of 1999, I wrote a brief history of the Bahá'í community there. Since so much of my time and Chris and Dan's were spent as part of this community I include this history below:


THE FIRST 20 YEARS: 1979-1999

a personal perspective by Ron Price

"As my own association with the Belmont Bahá'í community moves into what looks like its last year, I thought I would attempt a second brief history of this community in the interests of posterity. If this history, the history of the first twenty years of the Belmont Bahá'í community was to be written in detail it would, and should, be dedicated to Kevin and Susheela Croft and their two children: Roshan and Carmel, who first came to Belmont in about 1979 or 1980. As far as I know, the Belmont Bahá'í community begins, to all intents and purposes, at this point. As this brief statement goes down on paper the first twenty years of this community nears its completion.

The following names could be added to what I have included below: Simon Farrant, Sara Dawe, Yvonne Denyer, Reyhanis, Beltons, Jane and Brian King, Louise Rouche, Kashanis, Goulds, and several others. By 1982, when the Belmont community moved from Group status to Assembly status, another couple had moved in: Riadh and Rose Ali and their four daughters: Runa, May, Huda and Suha; and shortly thereafter Gary and Cy Olsen and their three children: Matthew, Millie, Samantha. These three couples were the core founders and workers in the community until 1988 when my wife and I and our son Daniel moved in from Stirling where we had lived for six months on arrival from South Hedland. In the early nineties, about 1992, the Crofts and Olsens left Belmont, leaving the Prices and the Alis to provide the core of service.

A future Bahá'í historian, with an enthusiasm I do not possess, will be able to gather in the names of many others, including John and Pat Bewick and the Sharafizad family, who served for shorter lengths of time and made up what was a busy community of over 50 members by 1992. By 1999, however, sending out pioneers and a declining number of new recruits had resulted in only a dozen people meeting on regular occasions for community functions. Such a historian will also be able to document the various activities, highlights, initiatives, occasions that made up the substance of Bahá'í community life and the efforts of its members to teach and consolidate. The archives, both local and national, contain a great mass of material that any painstaking researcher can draw on to weave the tapestry of life that is and was the Belmont Bahá'í community.
Time spent in informal socializing and visiting and what Robert D. Putnam called "civic engagement" had been dropping since the sixties and membership records reflected this declining community involvement. Efforts to attract new members had been difficult for virtually the entire time I had been a Bahá'í, with the exception of perhaps two short periods back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These years in Belmont were no exception. The Crofts, the Olsens and the Alis were all highly sociable human types with enough extrovertism in their bones and enough skills and talents to attract the multitude and over the years there were many who came to their homes but few, by 1999, actually became members. There were many reasons for the decline and disillusioment with public life, reasons well documented in the social science literature, reasons I will not go into here.

I have written a great deal of poetry about these days, days when my family lived in Belmont(1988-1999) and this poetry will one day serve as a resource for some enterprising historian. For now, though, this brief statement and a first draft I wrote several years ago, now in the archives of the Belmont LSA, will serve as a starting point for future initiatives, future accounts that build on these first twenty years. If the names of isolated believers in Belmont in the 1960s and 1970s are located, if they exist, the history may be given a greater longevity. It is, indeed, possible that a Bahá'í lived in this geographical locality as early as the 1950s when construction work began on houses that have come to make up this suburb nearly a century later. The population of the district increased beyond the few farms that had come to be the basis for the population of Belmont in the first half of the twentieth century, perhaps as early as 1915.

In recent years my history writing seems to have dried up, except insofar as poetry is concerned. Since few seem interested in writing the history of these early days, perhaps since they are days of activity in the dark heart of history's process when so much else is being done by the believers during the frenetic pace of our times, this brief 'second statement' will have to suffice. "I give you my tired moments" 'Abdu'l-Bahá put it in the early years of this century when answering questions for the now famous Bahá'í book Some Answered Questions. Writing brief sketches of the history of local communities has been a service I have contributed since 1981 in Tasmania; perhaps one day I will find a new lease on life and continue this history writing. In the meantime my poetry will continue and any historian interested in some personal accounts of these days can find them in my poetry booklets.
Note: the above ‘history' was reviewed by the LSA on 30/3/99 and it was decided that:
(i)       several additions should be made(I have inserted these additions, as above);
(ii) the above should be filed in the LSA files with the other correspondence, but should not be considered ‘a piece of archival history' since it is not (a) comprehensive or (b) accurate enough; and
(iii) if the author would like to do more research it would be appreciated.

No further research work is planned, although occasionally I add a sentence or two to the text as I proceed to revise this autobiographical work. The above was filed with other correspondence and is now in the Belmont Bahá'í community archive. The only other history I wrote after this particular piece was that of the history of the Cause in the Northern Territory.

Of course, any history I would write is not the same as that which another Bahá'í might write. My analysis, too, is inevitably different than another's. This has been the case as far back as the first historians in the Greek and Hebraic traditions. In more modern times, say the 1830s and 1840s at the very start of this Bahá'í Era, various observers of America brought their own baggage and prejudices, their own expectations and understandings to bear on the nature of American society at the time.

Not everyone will see these epochs the way I do and I'm sure that one day when the works of other Bahá'í writers are set down beside my own their impressons will be a reflection of their characters and personal situations, their variously tempered and contextualized pictures of the times, pictures that resulted from their differing experiences and genetic makeups. The persona of the writer and the purpose of his travelling define so much of the resulting impression.
These fledgling communities which I describe en passant during these forty years are somewhat like the fledgling Ameircan communities described by Alexis de toqueville in is Democracy in America. When the many and various sources are put together at some future time a detailed and colourful portrait will emerge. And this work will have played its part, however small. I am confident I have avoided the error that one George Combe described when he wrote that some writers expressed an opinion of a country on the basis of one experience or incident. The sociologist Harriet Martineau felt it was an impossibility to paint a portrait of a nation, of a national character. If she is right it is even more the case in my attempt to paint the life and times, the history, of four epochs and the Bahá'í community or even a part of it, within those epochs.

The fourth epoch was nearly at the end of its second year, after its launch in January 1986, when we arrived in Perth and it would continue until the second year of our sojourn in Tasmania. The House of Justice had written its Peace Message in 1986 and Bahá'ís had taken it around the world in their efforts to promulgate its contents. I had been living in Katherine Northern Territory at the time, although by the end of March 1986 I was living in South Hedland. A Six Year Plan had also begun in 1986 and 338 pioneers had gone out and settled in 119 countries in that Plan's first year. In the previous Seven Year Plan(1979-1986) some 3694 pioneers responded to the call for service. The fiftieth anniversary of the launching of the first Seven Year Plan in America in 1937 was observed while the teaching initiative had refocussed for Chris and I onto the Aboriginal people of northwest Australia. The Army of Life was unobtrusively widening and deepening. And I was heading for the age of 50, the middle of middle age. Life had presented its perplexing and tormenting questions, themselves the salt of the spiritual life. After more than thirty years of pioneering some of these questions had been sorted and others, some new and some old, had not. Human passion still confronted me with its demonic potencies and the spiritual life presented its challenge, its ordeal, its struggle and its drama. It was not my intention to survey the wide stream of history, or even the wide stream of the history of my Faith; rather it was my intention to examine some of its mingling currents and deluges and regurgitations, the struggles of some of its major and minor actors within a conceptual framework, a social dynamic that implied that what I was examining was more than a brief history of the follies and misfortunes of a small sector of humankind. I liked to think that these epochs offered to me and my fellow coreligionists a rare combination of circumstances which with character and intellect could produce tremendous achievements, but they were achievements which were often very difficult to assess. Too close to them did we stand.

After thirty years, too, in so many towns and places on God's earth, a series of ordeals had stimulated my intellect by challenging it and the art of communicating ideas to other minds had become an indispensable accomplishment as well as an arduous stage in a process of literary composition. I wanted to take to literary work the way some men take to drink. For this literary work came out of life's travail as far back as the start of my pioneering venture. I had written and spoken so much to so many, trying to find the most appropriate way to place ideas in the minds of others, that by 1992 I seemed to have exhausted my energies. Perhaps what I experienced as the 1990s opened was something similar to the process that happened in the literary life of Henry James. James stored impressions to the point where he was like a saturated sponge that had to be squeezed out by the act of writing. The stored impressions were released in some peaceful setting. Such are the bases for James' novels—and my own literary products.

Gradually, over the remaining years of the millennium, I became charged with a new and creative intellectual mission as I turned more to writing and less to the social domain. I was increasingly convinced during the last years of my teaching career and the first year or two of my retirement, that a change in the direction and the context of my personal mission in life from classrooms and meeting rooms to private study and writing was the place, the space, for my life to go. Each year of my retirement confirms this view.

After forty years as a student and a teacher(1959-1999), focussing on passing exams, writing essays for teachers and other academics, working with children, adolescents and adults, entering a field of communication studies or human relations at a critical stage of its early development and teaching more subjects than you could shake a stick at--easily in excess of a hundred--it was time to move on in life as middle age was beginning to wind down(age 55 to 60) and late adulthood opening on the horizon.

Before I leave these few comments about my life as a student and teacher I would like to make a few remarks about the revolution that began in the 1980s and 1990s, in my last years of full-time teaching, in the ways in which knowledge was not only transmitted, but generated, packaged, absorbed and interrogated. Libraries began to commit an increasing proportion of their funds to electronic data-bases. Students, teachers, people in the wider community became tied by an invisible umbilical cord to their personal computers. In the 1990s people's computers became not just word processors but gateways to a world-wide web of information and communication. To film and video were added DVDs, PCs, increasing individualized instruction and flexible delivery and, as the new millennium went through its first decade, the TV screens got bigger and the WWW contained more and more printed matter. I could say much more about the technological changes and the changes in attitudes, values and beliefs about education but, for now, this will suffice. Given the literature available on this subject there is no need for me to add to the woodpile.

Metropolitan Perth with its burgeoning Bahá'í community, a community which went from perhaps 800 in late 1987 to some 1800 by the middle of the Five Year Plan(2001-2006), had presented me, for the first time, with a great many Bahá'ís who were much more talented in so many domains of life than I was. It was good for my ego to come off its pedestal of prominence and just be one-of-many, one of the community after years of being the top-dog, if not the only dog. In retrospect this was a useful experience because it enabled me to adjust to my years of retirement with a more balanced view, a more realisitc set of expectations, insofar as my future role in tis Cause was concerned.

The psychologist Erik Erikson proposes in his psychosocial theory of human development, in what for him is a predetermined unfolding of personality, that after the age of fifty an individual must achieve what he calls "ego integrity." This involves integrating the earlier stages of life in a context of integrity. If the individual is maladapted in this exercise, he experiences despair in this last stage of life. I liked to think that the right set of circumstances, judiciously dealt by fortune and those mysterious dispensations of Providence, could now produce a more useful, a different contribution to the Faith I had been part of for nearly half a century. As I say above, my years in Perth Western Australia were useful in this regard. Again, only time would tell.

As I entered the last stage of human development, within Erikson's psycho-social model or perspective in 1994, I had begun what he regarded as an essential 'integrative process.' My bi-polar tendency and my human experience, did not allow me to eliminate despair, a periodic feature of my life late in the evening until early morning when I was not asleep and in this the early evening of my life with its quotidian realities in my work, my family life and my Bahá'í community activity. It was important that I deal with this despair and, by the mid-point of the Five Year Plan, by 2003, I had, for the most part, effectively integrated its wearisome features.

It seems appropriate to include here some diary entries, since, for the most part, no diary entry has been included thusfar in this autobiographical account. Virginia Woolf says the problem the diarist has is being oneself, being aware of oneself. There is little doubt that a successful dairy requires a certain liveliness of literary energies, a certain interest in the human condition in order to write about it effectively, interestingly in anticipation that one day someone may actually read it, for it matters not if, like most diaries, no one ever reads the contents. Here are two poems I inserted into my diary on September 30th 2000. It will serve as an introduction to the diary entries I include here.
This afternoon I came across, quite serendipitously, a poem by W.B. Yeats called The Choice. I had seen and read it before, but this time it made an impression on me. I think the experience I had of the subject/issue Yeats is concerned with in the poem was somewhat different than Yeats'. In choosing "the work" over "the life" Yeats felt he had refused "A heavenly mansion" and his life, consequently, had become a "raging in the dark." Perhaps when I get older I may find Yeat's experience to be mine too but, thusfar, I feel my life and my work have been more organically connected. I have some sense of wholeness; or, like Wordsworth, I am with age become more and more cheerful, loquacious, amiable, humane and reasonable.

When I take an overview of the period, 1962 to 2002, I can see tendencies developing in these directions. Perhaps this is due to the fact that my sense of writing as a serious vocation did not really start until at least 1983 or perhaps, more accurately, 1992. I have a strong sense, as I look back over those forty years, of the experience of social relationships, or what Yeats calls "A heavenly mansion." I have a strong sense too of a good deal of raging and a developing cheerful tendency. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 30 September 2000.

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.

When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.

See Yeats' Collected Poems, MacMillan, 1950.

But the second stanza tells the story of my emotions, my thoughts, often late at night, between say 11 pm and 1 am when I am very tired from my day's labour.
Ron Price
30 September 2000
Thirty-nine years ago this weekend, 31 August to 2 September 1962, I arrived home at 47 Tweedsmuir Avenue in Dundas Ontario Canada. I did not know then and did not know or define it for some years, perhaps as many as twenty, that I had just begun my pioneering life. The Bahá'í Faith had just begun to form a patchy mental map, become a part of my working narrative imagination. Slowly, unobtrusively, over many years, over the long journey that is my life, interpretation unfolded and the ordinary, somewhat banal, experience of coming home from a Bahá'í summer camp in northern Ontario to a new town where my parents had moved, was refashioned, refigured, configured by its passage through the grid of prose and poetic narrative. The remaining traces I have with me now, after these thirty-nine years, like colours of light or perhaps like an object of interest in an old desk where I keep my favourite odds-and-ends. "Significance" Virginia Wolfe once wrote, "emerges later in life after a somewhat haphazard beginning."1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Virginia Wolfe in Women's Autobiography: Essays in Criticism, editor, Estelle Jelinek, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1980, p.103.

Pioneering is something
you feel in your bones,
in the anarchous detail
of the quotidian,
in a private, secret, silent,
fluid, fragmented, repetitive,
incomplete, cumulative,
elastic, drifting, formless place
where life seethes and streams
and is forever on the boil,
is lukewarm or simply downright cold.
You catch living moments
and by accumulation a
personality emerges.1
1 This living moment is caught and, in catching it, by accumulation and by accretion, a personality emerges in all its ambivalences, contradictions and paradoxes and finally in its most living form. -Anais Nin, "The Personal Life Deeply Lived," The American Autobiography, editor, Albert E. Stone, 1981, p.157.
Ron Price
31 August 2000
some diary entries:
2 December 1995`
The gold band at the horizon spread out like roughed-up tin foil and sent out long strands of dark cloud. The evening was young on this first day of summer. I left comfortable for this was one of my golden years in the middle of middle age. My brain was half busy with a scattered agenda: the poem I had written in the late afternoon while my wife attended to domestic tasks and duties resulting from her religious commitment; a series of ‘what shall I do about this's?', one of those items that are always on the agenda; the analysis part of life which tends to occupy both the interstices as well as large slabs of the light and on this occasion focused on why I should bother cultivating the young thirty-five year old single man whom I was visiting this evening.

Matthew Gorman had been in the hospital for a month; I'd known him for four or five years. He was a manic-depressive and mildly schizophrenic personality who was recuperating from his latest attack, or episode as it is often called. He was waiting outside the hospital when I arrived and for the next three hours and fifty minutes we discussed our worlds and the world. We moved around to two cafes, a pub, a park, his bedroom, the porch outside his room and the space outside my car door. I won't try to even summarize the many topics which engaged us with some intensity for those two hundred and thirty minutes. There is a certain therapy when manic-depressives get together and I prefer my togetherness to occur in this organic fashion through the natural growth of a relationship, a relationship that arose out of our meeting at a Bahá'í fireside. Matthew is a Catholic and after four years he seems to be an even stronger Catholic than he was when we first met.

Matthew's mind is busy and his imagination and memory combine to produce a thorough excavation of the inner landscape. I rarely seek out the companionship of someone, having had an elegant sufficiency of human contact through my work and my own community responsibilities. How often I will seek out Matthew remains to be seen. The exercise certainly does Matthew good; to bring joy, happiness, some pleasure to someone--to relieve a sorrowladen heart--is one of the best things a person can do in life. Life should be like a flame warming all it comes in contact with. Matthew has one other friend who visits him and a girl he spends a lot of time with. I can not think of anyone I would bring as much pleasure to as Matthew. I can think of many who would like to see me and whom I could bring various positive things. But if I use the criteria of gladdening and warming hearts as the basis for human contact, developing friendship, what to do when one wants to reach out, Matthew unquestionably falls into place. There is no question, no decision-making, nothing to agonize over, no toing-and-froing or circulating of complex dubieties. Life becomes more simple when one sorts out the motivational basis for action and aligns one's emotions with that motivational basis: the values uppermost in one's mind. The alignment of human choice, human decision with the spiritual values involved with that choice. It all sounds simple enough, but I find it has taken me over thirty years to begin to cyrstallize the process, for it is a process.

I had started out this evening's writing with the intention of writing about what I thought others I know might be doing tonight and to make this piece a personal reflection to the varied hues that make up this human community. But I find I have run out of petrol and I must go to sleep.
2 December 1995
That was quite a day! A two hour discussion with my wife that flowed from what she saw as a minor flaw in my current approach to the Cause. Chris, who knows me better than anyone in some ways (and one could argue is blinded to some of my qualities, although I do not know), feels that my non-attendance at certain Bahá'í functions, my expressed frustrations about LSA meetings and my desire not to want to be with certain Bahá'ís represents a fundamental change of attitude to the Cause and one I should watch because it could be the beginning of one might term in the vernacular, backsliding. I don't seem to react well to criticism; at least I often do not demonstrate an easy acceptance of my weaknesses. And so was precipitated a lengthy discussion, the kind of discussion we often have had over the years. They often take place during the ‘time of the month', Chris' periods. It is at these times that she lets loose about some aspects of my incapacity. Often her comments are accurate and justified. Today I saw them as at least partly true but, at this stage of the game, I have no intention of altering my social profile in the Bahá'í community. I take some comfort in the experience of the famous poet John Keats whose "poems were so savagely attacked by the critics of his day that Shelley tells us his death was hastened in consequence." My own need for popularity, feeling useful and wanted is very strong. I have never handled criticism well.

I am happier than I have been in years, significantly due to writing poetry and it has taken me some time to work out (I) my attitude to certain people, (ii) my role and function in the Bahá'í community, (iii) the balance between my personal, professional and my Bahá'í life. Chris admitted that her reaction to me may be partly based on jealousy. This was the first time she has said this. I did not anticipate this one. This was new stuff to me. I explained how I felt about my poetry, about the Cause and after some two hours Chris went shopping and I read and wrote poetry until lunch time. We both slept for a half hour to an hour and then went to see Drew and Chellaney Gates' art exhibit. We went with the McColls and then spent the evening with them, had dinner and came home about ten pm. Chris is now watching a little TV and will soon be in bed. Such, in general terms, is the outline of the day, this Saturday.

The weather was delightful for the second day of summer. A pleasant coolness: a perfect spring day without the heat of summer which will soon be upon us. There was a sadness for me in the day. My wife was upset with me, with the way I was, am and probably will be. I will try to do something about it, little by little day by day, as ‘Abdu'l-Bahá has put it, but there is a sad coating on life along with other coatings. All the time can not be perfect spring weather. I leave this passage thinking: what on earth could I add that would deepen the expression, reflect and broaden my understanding of my experience. I can think of endless details to add, but I am so tired I have no fuel to provide the energy to say anymore. Even if I had, what can I suck out of the day that will shed any light on any life?
4 December 1995
This is the sort of day one would wish did not happen, unless one was able to practice the aphorism "be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity." It is so easy for this beautifully simple sentence to slip off the lip, but so infinitely difficult to put it into practice. I do not think in all my life I will even come close. Difficulties make my heart ache as it did today for the argument I had with my wife for two hours this morning, for the second day in a row. We have now had three or four arguments in a week for the first time in months, if not years. We analysed the process more rationally this evening for another two hours and took in a movie and dinner for $40, a rare experience for us. My heart and mind revolt at the thought of even attempting any more cursory analysis. This my thirty-fourth year of pioneering, month number four, and I'm still fighting battles as old as mankind and as old as my life. Am I destined to end my life sad and unhappy in terms of most of what this earthly life has to offer so that I may gain a special affinity for the spiritual world. I can only take so much even after all that this pioneering life has taught me.
I need some of the spirit and approach of the great ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Her way of getting through life was to have sort of steel bulkheads like a ship, and if she couldn't cope with something: a relationship, a problem, whatever, if she didn't solve it by dusk, it went into a box, the box went into the cupboard, the cupboard was locked and the key was thrown away. "I'm determined to be happy," she once said; "if an unhappy thought comes into my head, I suppress it. I put it at the back of my head."

I feel unable to handle much more, even though I have been given a hardening and tempering experience. I seek the solitude of my study and avoid much of the public space after the necessities of job and a few basic Bahá'í duties. I feel so tired of it all: meetings, endless meetings, nearly forty years of them! Thank my dear God for the poetry and His dear Messenger's Writings. They give me a centre of meaning and job amidst a sea of aridity. Oh, if I could just be relieved of it all!
I am not a machine simply displaying the past. I am also attempting to define the meaning of this past, this aspect of my life as it was then expressed, now. There is no true or objective meaning, no pristine or univocal feature to the past. But there is also no total relativism where any interpretation will do. Just as life is unfinished, so is the meaning of the past. One attempts to grasp the meaning in terms of personal identity and selfhood. The story of our lives that we relate to ourselves in an episodic, sometimes semiconscious way is a virtual uninterrupted monologue.

The action of our lives is revealed best to ourselves. We are the storyteller and we need the full story to get full perspective's on the past. Hence, the real and significant meaning of these lunch time periods of solitariness will not be unfolded until my life is finished and, perhaps, beyond my life in, arguably, helping others who read this autobiography accept their tendencies to be by themselves in a society of many more billions than now. The interpretation I give my life can become a canonical version in a published autobiography, but it can come to mean something quite different to readers if they overcome the canonical pull of an initial orthodox view. There is my story and there are the many stories of others. This is my action(a narrative component) and my history is required to define and interpret my action.

"Our own existence can not be separated from the account we give of ourselves. It is in telling our own stories that we give ourselves an identity," Paul Richer states in arguing that we generate ourselves and give them unity through the narrative we create. We create ourselves, not merely give them expression, through literary reporting. I am I only instar as I express myself, or as Tagger put it: "the poem not the poet." Roger White would have liked this line of thought. "The reality of man is his thought." We live, dream, make love, do everything in the context of narrative. And then we tell the story not live it. We give shape, form and order to what is often confused and formless primordial experience. This process makes explicit our preparative, prefigured and at best only partly examined life and its fixed sequence of events.

And so, as I reflect back on those periods of aloneness in the midst of a sea of humanity, I see them as essential. Just as I see my present aloneness in another sea of humanity critical to my sense of self, identity and comfort. More than that, it was and is as essential as breathing for me. It seems to be above ethics; it is an expression of my inherent nature which, at the age of 51, I have come to understand and define more fully than ever before. It may change through some cataclysm, but I would think it unlikely after the evolution of thirty years. Indeed my first memories going back to the age of four, forty-seven years ago, have a strong element of the solitary in them. In film, in many Westerns, such as Shane, in which an enigmatic lone gunfighter appears as savior, or in vigilante films, such as Dirty Harry or Death Wish; and in the three-part series of the adventures of Mad Max, portrayed by Mel Gibson, Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1982), and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)) this aloneness, this symbolic loner is given special place. Such films had a special appeal to me.

I find it ironic that "1962 stands as the Western's most significant year," equivalent says Richard Gale, to 1893, the year Frederick Jackson Turner declared the frontier closed in his famous essay on the frontier in American history. Vietnam, Gale writes, killed the Western and Viet Nam became the most resonant historical moment replacing the Western. But in the years up to 1962, the years of my childhood and adolescence, the western was a staple affair on both the radio and TV.       When my pioneering life began in 1962, then, there must have been some of those cowboy ethics in my makeup with 100s of hours of Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, Hopalong Cassidy, etcera under my belt.

As the resonance of historical moments was changing in the secular world, the resonance of the history of a new and emerging world religion was coming to occupy the stage of my life. By the late 1950s, my parents got rid of the TV. They wanted a different resonance in my life. Little did they know that my life would get humming along to the tune of the Bahá'í Faith, the first stages of rock and roll and a healthy mix of sport and studies. They might have predicted the latter but I don't think they could have predicted the former.
One aspect of my Bahá'í experience that emerged, as I recall now with the perspective and interpretation of experience to define what it meant, was my tendency to want to be by myself. To balance the pull of the group, just to be alone, not to have to talk, to experience the solitude that I had become used to in my private life as an only child and perhaps for reasons I am still not conscious of, I used to go off by myself at lunch times during seminars, conferences and activities which brought together what were large numbers of Bahá'ís even then: 1962-1966. This isolation was not possible during the coffee breaks or after the seminar when one depended on others for a ride, etc. and I recall enjoying endless conversations, socialising and stimulating interaction which I enjoyed to my heart's content. In fact, it was difficult to pull me away from these interchanges.

Hamilton and Toronto were important centres of Bahá'í activity and I remember, from a distance of over a quarter of a century now, what seem like endless weekend functions at the YMCA and large buildings whose names have slipped into the anonymous colours of time. Here I got to meet important Bahá'í luminaries, friends I had come to know and make new associations. This was an important stage of my pioneering experience for it laid part of the foundation for more extensive pioneer-travel teaching. Most of those whom I got to know in this period I have never seen again, except occasionally during the last phase of my homefront pioneering from 1966 to 1971. International pioneering resulted in a marked break of continuity in the social dimension of my Bahá'í experience. But this pattern of social interaction and desire for my own company, like two sides of a coin, began to emerge in these earliest years of my Bahá'í life.
And so ends the inclusion of several diary entries from the six volumes I have collected during these pioneering ventures.....
From time to time, in an attempt to redress the fact that I kept no diary at all until the late 1980s, until my own late forties, I wrote some descriptive pieces on a portion of my life before this time. I began what I came eventually to call my retrospective diary. Here is a piece on my early childhood, years up to my entry into school.
By 1950 Canada had, perhaps, several hundred Bahá'ís, had just formed its NSA and was in the 52nd year of its short Bahá'í history. But I do not mention any of this in this retrospective piece. By 1950 neither I nor any of my family had even heard of the Bahá'í Faith.
What I write here should probably come more logically at the start of this autobiographical narrative, but it is timely to include this piece here because much of the diary that I will have, if I ever complete it, will be a retrospective one.
As diary scholars Stephen E. Kagle and Lorenza Gramegna note, the "ordering and interpretation of events" that takes place in a diary or a letter can give the writer a sense of control over their surroundings and fate: "By manipulating reality in a diary a writer can sometimes lessen the sensation of risk or make their restricted situation seem more satisfying."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------THE STAGE IS SET: 1944-1950

Memory is the main player on this stage, hypothesizing, imagination. When I describe the stage, say, the first three houses I lived in before I was six and the nearby properties and landscape, I must describe what I have not seen for forty years. Morden Avenue, Bellvenia Avenue and Seneca Street I walked on, on their sidewalks, in nearby fields and in sets of rooms. I can scarcely remember the rooms in the houses on Morden Avenue and Bellvenia Avenue. A little of the lounge room, something of a bedroom on Bellvenia Avenue and that is all. On Morden Avenue I recall, but so vaguely as to be more of a dream than an actual substance recalled, the poplar trees and the field across the main road at the end of the street, the field that led to the beach where my parents took me to swim on hot summer days.

All of these houses were within a kilometre of Lake Ontario. The lake dominated the landscape but quietly, subtlely. You could not see the lake from any of these houses where I lived. You had to get yourself down to the lake's edge or at least near to this great body of water that was carved out during the last ice age. I only remember seeing the lake from Seneca Street but I saw it and swam in it before I was two. I saw little snatches of it as my parents and I drove along the lake on Lakeshore Road or Beach Boulevard in those first eighteen years of my life. You can see its small sliver from outer space, on a view of planet earth, at least the part looking down over the Americas. I've been looking at it nostalgically for the last thirty years since I moved so far away that the only way I can look at it is on a map or in a photograph. Of course, since Yuri Gagarin orbited the globe in 1957, we have been able to see our home in microcosm from a distance.

Bellvenia Avenue is not on any map that I own now. Maybe they changed the name. In 1947 when I moved there with my mother and father we lived in a house next to the corner block on the Oakville side, the east side, of the street. We lived across from the Jackamecks who owned a small farm on the other side of the street. The Jackamecks had two young kids about my age, Wendy and Tommy. Occasionally they used to put manure in our mailbox and swear at us on our telephone. Behind their house was a forest where 'the boogie-man' lurked. There was, too, an orchard that I walked through on my way to school. I remember picking apples off the orchard of apple trees on the way to or from school. I must have been five and in kindergarten. They've since closed the school I attended: Strathcona-1948/9.

The house on Bellvenia Road had a backyard with fruit trees. I remember picking the apples that fell off the trees. In fact the last thing I did before we moved to Seneca Street was pick these apples up and put them in a box of some kind. The houses were dotted along the street with fields of grass, wild flowers and weeds separating them. Bellvenia Avenue pointed north from Lakeshore Road and went insensibly to the Queen Elizabeth Highway, but I don't remember ever going that far up the road. For a child, a boy of from three to five, the QEW as it was called was simply beyond his known world. It could have been the route to the northwest passage or China for all that. Lakeshore Road was also beyond the point of no return, the great wilderness that I never sought out, at least that part of the Road about two bends in the highway to the east and another two bends on the highway to the west. These respective bends, some indefineable spot on Bellvenia Avenue and the home of Eileen and Kenny Bartle on the other side of the intersection of Bellvenia Avenue and Lakeshore Road marked the limits of my known world in 1947/8.

By the time I started grade one in September 1950 I had been living in Seneca Street for perhaps two months. I can't really remember exactly, now, after the insensible operation for more than fifty years. But I do remember that I was in kindergarten when I lived on Bellvenia Avenue and in grade one on Seneca Street and so the transition must have taken place some time toward the end of kindergarten, in May or June of 1950, just before I turned six in July. On Seneca Street my world was larger and grew larger with the years from 1950 to 1962 when my mother, father and I moved to a nearby town of Dundas. Just what the parameters of my landscape, my psychological and spiritual domain, in 1950 on Seneca Street it simply impossible to tell with any accuracy. But I think it is safe to say that the Guelph Line on the east, Brant Street on the west, Lakeshore Road and Lake Ontario on the south and the QEW on the north occupied the outer limits of my known world. I did not fill this entire region out with my travels, not in those first months before I turned six anyway.

As I've said earlier in this narrative, people often talk about the land, about place, when they try to describe themselves, to define their nationness, their nationality. And I feel compelled to say something about place in this work, although it would appear I do not say much about place in the total picture that I paint. There is a sense of space which began in these early years and continued throughout my twenty-seven years in Canada and the next twenty-seven years in Australia. It is a sense that is partly inner and partly outer. Even when I lived in large apartment buildings, as I did in Hamilton in 1964 and in Windsor in 1966/7 or smaller ones like those in Picton in 1970/1, King City in 1968/9 or in large urban jungles like Toronto, Melbourne or Perth, this sense of space was important to me. Perhaps, as David Malouf put it, I could more comfortably love people if they were, for the most part, kept at a distance. Canadians and Australians, it seems, need their space. Is it because they are such big empty countries? I lived inevitably in a microcosm, though, even in big cities. The situation comedies on television, and there have been dozens of them now going back to the 1950s, have so frequently taken place in cities as have generations of movies and audiences are presented with microcosms in which to be entertained. Although only a small part of my life has been lived in cities and I have watched little of the situation comedies of the last fifty years, it is difficult not to feel the impact of the city on one's mental set in the last half century.

The Seneca Street house, first number 81 and then 426 after it was changed for some reason in later years, is the house I think of when I think of 'home.' Perhaps I will describe it in detail later. But this chapter, this opening scenaro, is concerned with the years up to my sixth birthday in July of 1950. They were years when I came to live in the northwest corner of Lake Ontario. Until the age of twenty-seven I lived somewhere along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, except for one year on the northern shore of Lake Erie in Windsor and a southern inlet on Baffin Island called Frobisher Bay.

Edward Said, the noted orientalist and social critic, wrote that geography is "a socially constructed and maintained sense of place." Space in human affairs plays an extraordinary role; it possesses an immense power and resonance in our lives. I have only conveyed some of that resonance here. And what has resonance for me may have little to none to the reader. Even after time's curious motion for half a century, this space provides the choreography, the mise-en-scene, the setting, for the first years of my life. I'm sure I could provide much more detail with some persistence, some effort at recollection. I could also do what David Malouf does in his book 12 Edmondstone Street. I could discuss the possible connections between this landscape that I first occupied in my life on the northern shore of Lake Ontario and my notions of space and dimension. Perhaps, as he says, these notions that I now possess, over fifty years later, came from this early experience. Perhaps, too, the particular relationships between houses, fields, streets, rooms, backyards, et cetera, the local topography, a spirit which resided in the ordinary objects, are places of intangible but dense affinities, inseparable from what we are and what we become.

I could go on in this vein examining in detail these objects and landscapes which haunt me or occupy my brain when I call, through effort or some curious happenstance, these early days back to my mind. Perhaps in naming them and giving them description I can gain a certain power over them, a certain understanding. But I do not feel the need. I admire the work of David Malouf but my spirit, my mind, does not feel the need or the desire to go back over this terrain with the sweet nostalgia, the gift of words, the wisdom and simple taste of beauty that he gives to his descriptions, his journey into his own past. Yes, they are part of my identity but, by my mid-to-late teens, I was moving on to other landscapes. I could describe in detail another twenty towns and their topography and they all, in different ways, play a part in that sense of identity I have referred to, but I think the landscape that has played the most important part in my life is one I have spent only nine days inhabiting. I shall leave this subject for aother time.

Terry Gifford suggests that "the historical form of the pastoral is dead." It has been dead, he says, for a century. The rural-urban divide has, he argues, little meaning for most people. At best the term 'pastoral' is highly contested. I like William Epsom's defintion: the process of putting the complex into the simple. I like, too, the pastoral impulse of withdrawal and return that Toynbee describes in his A Study of History. For so much of life follows this impulse. It follows, too, and explores Wordsworth's discovery that "the mind is our tool exquisitely fitted to understand our interactive life in nature." There are inner cycles and veerings of moods in my life on a: hourly, daily, monthly, yearly and decade by decade cycle. Sometimes predictable, sometimes beyond my understanding. No simple meaning is offered; rather an expanding riddle of a multiplicity of resonating images and meanings. In some ways I feel a little like that "post-pastoral poet who has dissolved the distinctions between the outer and the inner nature" to produce my own delights and meanings. "God has lent us the earth," wrote John Ruskin. It is a great metaphorical vehicle for our understanding of everything in it, including the nature of ourselves and the nature of God. If the pastoral did go away some time late in the nineteenth century, as Gifford suggests, perhaps it returned some time in the third epoch, at the start of the last stage of history, in the term environment or complex-pastoral. For it has been at the background of my life these last several decades, perhaps since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring right at the start of my pioneering life. It has been present in what Gifford calls, in the last paragraph of his book, "the cycle of postmodern mobility...the necessary impulse towards retreat, renewal and return."

Before turning to what was happening in the Bahá'í community in the 1940s I would like to make a few remarks on diary keeping gleaned from studies of the diary of Virginia Woolf. They throw some light on my own work and what I am aiming to accomplish. The whole mass of her autobiographical writings as a deliberately fragmented ongoing project that she worked on until her suicide at the age of 58. I was just beginning to find a direction in my own autobiographical work at that age. Her work is a rich archive of self-exploration and self-disclosure and often of bafflement that Woolf collected and preserved even though she had no intention of publishing it all, either during her lifetime or in the future. I had the same attitude to publishing when I began this work but as it progressed it seemed to warrant some form of publication. Woolf's unpublished, in some cases at the time unpublishable, writings are often as interesting as the work whose appearance she supervised—her novels. And a great many of her unpublished writings, especially her diary, some of her notebooks and her various formal experiments in memoir writing, are integral parts of the unintegrateable autobiography she was always writing. It was an autobiography that her social and familial training inhibited her from shaping into a final form. The integration of all the genres of my writing into one coherent autobiographical whole is certainly a challenge. Sometimes I feel I am making headway and sometimes I feel the task is too great.

Her unpublished papers are the raw stuff of a posthumous career which was beyond her powers of construction. Certainly the vast quantity of my own papers are equally beyond my own powers of any posthumous synthesis and for this reason I have written several general guidelines for anyone interested in making the attempt. Woolf would have had mixed feelings, at best, about preserving her papers. I have no mixed feelings, if they can be of any benefit to the Baha'I community in the years ahead. Woolf lived throughout her life with the contradiction between her desire for the fullest disclosure of both her own and women's lives in general and her personal revulsion from publicity. She was always an intensely private person who made a point of guarding her anonymity. But it is also essential to understand how eager she was during her lifetime to collect and store all her papers, all her material, all her writing, Whatever her intentions were toward her private papers at the end of her life, she clearly had an eagerness at earlier stages in her life to keep them all for some indefineable, some unknown posterity. My main concern is whether all my papers, writings, essays, poetry, autobiography, etcetera have any relevance to posterity. I simply cannot answer that question.

The literary quality of her fragmented and far from complete final draft of her memoir entitled Sketch of the Past is striking. This memoir has the depth and experience of her whole writing life behind it. It is a major, a striking, advance over her earlier attempts at memoir, at autobiography. Yet to see Woolf's final endeavor to write her life story as a triumphant solution to the problems she faced in recounting that story is to play down the experimental quality of her work and its deliberate sketchiness. Woolf's memoir project involved a variety of bedrock problems that surfaced again and again in all her autobiographical writings. I find the problems I have faced in the more than 21 years of writing this narrative have not so much surfaced again and again; rather they have completely changed their spots: 1984, 1994, 2004-each of those points in time presented entirely different autobiographical conundrums. Even now with 1000 plus pages, I face not some triumphant solution but a new set of problems.

The shape-changing persistence of these problems, Woolf's or mine, suggests that we are both tackling issues intrinsic to the memoir as a genre. They were brought to prominence by our determination to master the autobiographical genre through many tries at articulation. Both Woolf and I want our autobiogphies to serve our determination to revise the record-keeping tradition of the family to which we each belong.

I would now like to turn to what was happening in the Bahá'í community at this time, in these early years, these first six years of the second Bahá'í century. For this was what was to become my home, by degrees, from 1953 onwards. My spiritual home interests me more than the physical place that occupied my body in the earlies years of my life. In 1944 the Bahá'í world had, arguably, one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand believers around the world. The Bahá'í community of the USA was in its fiftieth year. Canada's history of Bahá'í experience went back to 1898. There were 1300 localities in North America where Bahá'ís resided. The first epoch of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Plan would be over in 1946 as would the first quarter century since the end of the Heroic Age; the first plan, a Seven Year Plan, ended in April 1944. I was born three months later.

Neither I, nor anyone in my family, had the least awareness that this Divine Plan of 'Abdu'l-Bahá had only been in operation for seven years when I was born in mid-1944. In August 1944, the Guardian was anticipating "the cessation of hostilities" in WW2 which would open before the Bahá'í community "fields of service of tremendous fertility." The climax of the "raging storm" had passed, a climax synchronizing with the termination of the first Bahá'í century. Society itself was "disillusioned," "disrupted," a "wreckage." As my second birthday approached in July 1946, while we still lived on Morden Avenue, my mother, father, grandfather and I, the two year "respite" from teachings Plans ended. The aim in 1946, as the Bahá'í community commemorated the 25th anniversary of the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was to have 175 LSAs by April 1948. "The shadow of war's tragic aftermath" wrote Shoghi Effendi in January 1947, about the time my family moved to Burlington, was "deepening."

A thirty-four page letter from the Guardian in June 1947, during my first summer in RR#1 Burlington, just before I turned three, entitled The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour presented an accurate picture of the present state of the Bahá'í community, in both North America and in the world. While I played in the autumn leaves, built snow forts in the winter of 1947/8 and 1948/9, worried about 'the boogie-man,' got my first wack with my mother's hair-brush by my father, played a little red pipe organ, waited in vain with my folks for the Pantings to come to dinner one Sunday evening and watched my dad work in the garden evening after evening, the Guardian was encouraging the Bahá'ís to take their Faith around the globe. These were 'modest beginnings,' as the Guardian described the first ten years of the Plans: 1937-1947. "The initial clash between the forces of darkness and the army of light," was "being registered by the denizens of the Abha Kingdom." While I went from the ages of three to five in my second house, the second residence, of my life, on Bellvenia Avenue, "the first sittings" of a "spiritual revolution" were being experienced due to "the hands of the little as yet unnoticed band of pioneers."       Within fifteen years I, too, would join that band. The road ahead, wrote the Guardian, was "long, thorny and tortuous." And so it was.

The "lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes," had yet to eventuate. The "testing period" ahead for society may well become the entire period of my life. Looking back from a distance of nearly fifty years it certainly appears to have been the case.

On December 11th 1987 Chris, Dan and I left South Hedland and drove to Perth. We had been in South Hedland since March 13th 1986. My job there was as an Acting Lecturer in Management Studies and as a Public Relations Officer in the Further Education Unit. I enjoyed all aspects of life in Hedland with the exception of the supervisor I had and then only in the last year. Chris' health was poor as well and this caused increased tension in our life. When the Seven year Plan ended in April 1986 we had been in Hedland for one month. We gave out the peace message in both Katherine and Hedland. Indeed, much teaching work was done in both towns.

One particularly interesting experience was the formation of the LSA in Bidyadanga. I had gone with Trevor McLean and Firaydun Mithaq in 1987 to this small Aboriginal community a few miles south of Broom. We walked around the little community knocking on doors asking people to assemble and so they did. I provided the small meal of fruit and helped the Aboriginals vote since they could not read or write. There was much successful teaching in the years we were in the north and when we left to live in Perth I was conscious that the teaching opportunities, although extensive since I was still working as a teacher in a Tafe college, was severely diminished in terms of any outward results. And so they stayed until July of 1999 when we left for Tasmania. During these eleven years in Perth much teaching was done but, as far as I can recall, noone joined the Cause as a result of my teaching work.
Difficulties arose, as they always do in some form from time to time, in both Katherine and Hedland. The main problem this time was the presence of supervisors whom I had difficulty working with. In Perth this problem did not arise. Other frustrations arose but not supervisors.

In 1992 the Holy Year, an auspicious juncture in the history of the Cause, seemed to assume the character of an onrushing wind. As the House of Justice pointed out some "rampant force" seemed to be unleashed in the world. In personal terms it was 1992, "a high watermark in Bahá'í history," that saw a powerful increase in my poetic output to some 700 poems per year. The Berlin Wall had fallen and that new paradigm the House had referred to in 1988 was indeed in evidence around the world.

In 1992 I began to feel the time had come for me to leave teaching but, as I pointed out before, it took seven more years before I was practically, financially, able to do so. A "thankful gladness" had indeed entered my life as the House described the process in April 1991. But it was not without its attendant difficulties. I had become exhausted with Bahá'í administrative activity and found much of community life dry and uninspiring. After thirty years in the field I had got tired of the language, over and over again the same message, the same needs, the same wants. The experience might be compared to a continuous exposure to wind instruments in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Wind instuments have a drier tone and are less endowed with facile expression. Lightness, humour and the lighter pleasures of life all seemed to dry up. It was about this time that poetry came into my life like some silent spring.

A new element in the choreography of my life entered in the early years of the 1990s. The result was a choreography much like that described by Stravinsky in his analysis of his The Rite of Spring(1913). "Choreography, as I conceive it," he said, "must realize its own form, one independent of the musical form though measured to the musical unit." Poetry, the crucial new element in the form of my life, was both independent of the music that was playing in my life, but it also derived its measure from that music. "The choreography's construction," Stravinsky went on, "should be based on whatever correspondences the choreographer may invent, but it must not seek merely to duplicate the line and beat of the music." And so it was with my poetry. It did not just duplicate my life; it was based on all sorts of inventions, creations, juxtapositions, comparisons and contrasts that found their origins in my life.

So it was that while one world of my Bahá'í experience dried up another one was born, rich and fertile with meaning. Like Thoreau who wrote that he had "lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters" that all he wanted to do now was "live them and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for" him, all I wanted to do was get off the treadmill of endless talking, listening and meetings and soak up hours, days and years of solitude. Within a decade, by the last half of 1999, my day-to-day regimen of writing and reading was producing a literary product that was a sign of things to come. It had become a consuming passion. If "discipline is, indeed, the key-note of the lives of all...successful men of intellectual action" I seemed to be on the road. Was it too late to make my pitch? I was nearly sixty as I finally settled into "a triumph of intellectual purpose over intellectual dissipation." By the time I was 61, the several activities I had taken part in during the first six years of my retirement(1999-2005) had been brought to an end. My weekly radio program, my monthly choir work, my weekly seniors teaching, my Bahá'í committee and editorial work, my correspondence and book reading, an activity which for a dozen years(1990-2002) had exceeded 20 books a month and finally, and insensibly over the last twenty years(1985-2005), a slow decrease in social visiting especially outside the Bahá'í community--all of these social or solitary activities had virtually ceased by my 61st birthday in July 2005. Except for a little personal letter and email writing, my total focus had come to be on writing on and off the internet in its labyrinthine forms and on a limited amount of family and community activity of two or three occasions per month of two or three hours each.

My appetite for knowledge and the exercise of a creative ability, which had been channelled into my profession and into working with people in groups, had never really been given a full lease on life in the areas of learning and writing. I had entered the first year of my late adulthood before I had been able to free myself from the social domain with its myriad roles, norms, statuses, subtle and not-so-subtle stratifications, its labyrinth of sub-cultures, idiosyncrasies and personalities which tried one's patience. After half a century of its enriching presence(1955-2005ca) at the centre of my life, I had grown tired of it's less than enriching features.

Anthony Storr's (1988) work on solitude considers the current emphasis upon intimate interpersonal relationships as our society's hallmark of health and happiness to be a recent phenomenon. Besides the need and desire for intimate relationships which people have and an accompanying sense of belonging to a community, Storr suggests that many people have a need to be alone. By my early sixties this desire was without parallel in my life but it was related to the urge to write, an urge which required that I be alone.

In my moments and hours of exhaustion I felt, by the turn of the century, that this new area of creative endeavour would devour me. But such is the nature of a consuming passion, at least for some. Five years later, with the help of fluvoxamine, some initial successes in my writing in those first years after retirement(2001-2005), a diminuation of social activity as mentioned above and the establishment of a fixed routine of daily work as a retired man quite independent of the job world, the daily exhaustion I felt by mid-night or later into the night after an eight to ten hour day or writing and reading, was something I came to expect as natural. The dark night of the soul had become, after more than forty years of walking down its streets, in some ways like an old friend. It had lost its fire, its teeth, its fear--for the most part. The dark night was, at worst, grey not black.

And I had been able to organize my life in some ways not unlike that creative spirit Stanley Kubrick who tailored virtually his entire existence to the making of films(1949-1999). I, though, was making only one film: my life in a multitude of different literary genres. I was able to draw on an immense reservoire of idees recues for: revealing insights, fertilizing phrases, unexpected converging or parallel lines of thought. I could do this in the context of isolation and a concomitant contact with a rich assortment of professionals and specialists in whatever field interested me.

I was freed from the kind of consuming passion illustrated by Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman. Miller was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer. In this play Willy Loman was Miller's lead character. Loman was a salesman who found himself regarded as useless in his occupation because of his age and so he killed himself. The idea of greatness and success is a dominant theme in the play. Willy longs to achieve great things and to be remembered after his death. Willy's emphasis on being well-liked stems from a belief that it will bring him to perfect success--not a harmful dream in itself, except that he clings to this idea as if it is a life-preserver, refusing to give it up. I make reference to this great play of the 20th century because the success Willy sought through being liked, was one I also sought and found. Even now when I don't have one hundred students in front of me every week I still want to be liked by the few I do interact with. And when I'm not liked my spirit flags; I tend to avoid the person who has some antipathy for me. It happens rarely in these years of post-employment: perhaps one person every two years. This I found was hardly something to concern me, more like a fly to tick off one's leg, if not ignore it altogether.

Teaching, telling others about the Bahá'í Faith, was always a priority, one of life's priorities, and it led over more than five decades to some interesting situations, approaches, events, activities in life. There is an interesting relationship between thinking about teaching, teaching this Faith and autobiography. One of the aims of this work is to understand our teaching techniques better and improve on their effectiveness. For the most part, though, I do not take the problem of teaching head on; rather I deal with it indirectly, en passant, in the context of this overall narrative.

I'll include several teaching initiatives, stories as they are often called, in this 5th volume chapter 5, a chapter that deals with my years in Perth, my last years as a professional teacher before retiring, my last years as a father raising children and as a husband bringing home the bacon and, to some extent, with my first years of retirement--by which time I was ready to engage in the kind of Meditations that Marcus Aurelius engaged in: therapeutic and intended "to revive and bring home to himself in suitably striking and memorable form" the moral truths that I had accepted in the past. And this engagement would be done, for the most part, in solitude.

Teaching the Cause is, to Bahá'ís, the dominating passion of their lives. Given the general disinterest throughout western society, or at least that part I have lived in in Canada and Australia and in even talking about the subject, the Bahá'í is put in a challenging position. Here are some of the activities I engaged in over many years to compensate for the pervasive and endemic disinclination people everywhere had of talking about and investigating religion--except perhaps in a critical, put-down style. I describe the following activities as strategies because, in addition to being things I have done they are also approaches to the teaching process. The poster, the sauna bath, the indirection and impression management--together they encompass much that was successful for me in the activity Bahá'ís call: 'teaching-the-faith.' I will elaborate.

I have put up, since the beginning of my Bahá'í activist days in the 1960s, thousands of posters. It became a source of pride to me to see how many I could put up in a package of hours. To try and capture the spirit of this technique I will relate my experience on the west coast of Tasmania where in 1981 and 1982 I put up several hundred posters. The west coast of Tasmania is a place where it rains two days out of three and, although there is a beauty in that cool wet clime, in that pristine wilderness, there is also a kind of dark grey-wash much of the time all down the west coast of this beautiful Tasmanian island. I used to drive down the west coast putting up posters in shops and pubs, whereever it was possible to put one up. A Bahá'í friend in Hobart told me back in the early 1980s sometime that she had a friend who visited the west coast and the only evidence of any religion she saw were my posters and, of course, several old churches. The posters were put up ostensibly to advertise a Bahá'í event in my home but, knowing that no one would turn up on 99 occasions out of 100, they became essentially a form of free advertising in windows. When you went back to put up another poster frequently enough you got to be known as 'the friendly Canadian' or, if the person was really quite critical(and that was rare), he simply refused to put up the poster. I had many interesting experiences with 'postering' as I called it, but that is sufficient to illustrate one of my personal and, as far as I know, quite individual techniques. I put up the first poster some time in 1964 and forty years later the strategy is still a useful one.

The sauna bath was, I think, the most pleasureable of the many approaches I had over the years. I've enjoyed saunas since my first experience back in the early 1960s. Now, forty years later, I'm still enjoying them and still applying my technique as frequently as occasion will allow. I see it quintessentially as getting people with their pants down, so to speak. Sometimes I combine this technique with 'indirection', when it seems appropriate. Let me explain.

There are generally two types who come into saunas: one is a voluble and talkative character and another is more silent and is generally disinclined to chat at all. They are both, though, very responsive to this particular technique or combination of techniques. I have always found engaging people in chatter has been fairly easy, at least since my early experiences of mild bi-polar disorder in the early 1960s. There is something about the intimacy of the sauna and its relaxed state that opens people up. The chatterbox becomes even more open and the quiet type can be very pleasantly engaged. After several minutes of conversation there comes a moment when it is obvious that one can mention the unmentionable. One builds up to it in a host of ways. When the moment comes you either, as I say, "go direct" or "go indirect." I prefer the first method where one simply talks about the Cause. But sometimes it is obvious that this would not be wise and so I assume a role. I assume the role of "someone who knows about the Bahá'í Faith and is impressed with it but will be critical of it, if necessary." I'm sure some Bahá'ís would see this as dishonest; they might call it dissimulation. If this is immoral, I stand corrected but I doubt if I would ever stop. I find the technique effective. I am aware that the end does not necessarily justify the means, but occasionally in life it seems to be appropriate. This is not a ‘stick-em-up' method which religionists often use to spread their ideational wares. It's more of a blend in the sweat together in some sensual oneness where talking is intended to ‘break-the-ice.'

But such are two of the particular approaches this individual Bahá'í has resorted to over these four epochs to spread the ideas he has come to believe as passionately as the multitude disbelieves them or is disinterested in them. Indirection and impression management I have both used over and over again. Indirection involves getting to be known; talking about a hundred other subjects and then, slowly, gradually, introducing some gentle aspect of the Cause like soft rain from heaven. Impresson management takes many forms. One such form is a booth or exhibit at a Show. I think the first agricultural or community show I helped organize was in 1972 in Whyalla. In the last thirty years I have manned a Bahá'í display in four towns and, increasingly, we have been the only 'religious presence' at the show. In some ways it is a little like 'the poster.' One creates an impression of a significant presence when, in reality, there are often(if not always) very few baha'is in the locality. Of course, one can not impress everyone positively. One does one's best and you win some and lose some, as the book or is it a movie, says.

A constant endeavour to relate the Teachings to current issues, which in 1988 the House of Justice yet again encouraged Bahá'ís everywhere to achieve, had been a part of my aims and goals for perhaps twenty-five years. Indeed this endeavour would be with me as long as I was alive and kicking. In these forty years of pioneering(1962-2002) there were topics which Bahá'ís, which I, pursued, because they were timely and people in society took an interest in them. One such topic was 'global governance' which became, in the 1990s, a topic that got bandied about more than ever before, even in what had long been a remote backwater like Australia. In fact, it was harder to describe Australia by the 1990s as a backwater. The world had indeed become a neighbourhood in my lifetime. And so I will close this chapter with a brief exposition of the topic of global governance:


The contribution of artists and writers to global governance will be both like and unlike the contribution artists and writers have made to the forms of governance which have been part of the human community since homo sapiens sapiens emerged about 32,000 BP. Indeed, during most of our existence as a species, as hunters and gatherers, the creative individual functioned to document the moment of fear. This is evident in the cave art which we can still see in the telescope of our imagination. The people who made these paintings looked to the future of cultural evolution; they anticipated the future. In other ways they were simply saying: this is my mark. This is man.1

Cave art has become quite popular in recent years, about as popular as global governance. Still the interest of a coterie, but gaining in popularity as the human community seems to be moving inexorably toward a global society, global governance it would seem has been on various agendas since Hugo Grotius, several hundred years ago, and since Woodrow Wilson, several decades ago. I would like to take you with me through my own cave art, through my own documented moment of fear, in the telescope of my own imagination. For I, too, want to say, with my artist-forebears in the hunting and gathering communities of the pre-neolithic ages, this is my mark. This is man. Our moment of fear is our basis for global governance, our raison d'etre for security.

Art and writing are interpretative processes. They seek out, as Richard Sennett put it, "the solidity of a thing."2 There is, in the artistic and creative process, a certain sentiment of authority. This authority exists in the eye of the beholder or in the society that determines who has what authority. The inner discipline behind this authority is the means of organizing and orchestrating one's inner resources so that they cohere. The artist needs detachment from the condition of his own unnoticeability, except for the few who become media stars. Elman Service suggests that "political evolution" is just another name for "waging peace in ever wider contexts."3 The artist and writer who want to play a part in the eventual acheivement of global governance, in this brontissaurismus of a society must wage peace, for this is part of the process of establishing global governance. It is in the "marketplace of ideas" which is the "west's chief mechanism for governing opinion"4 and that the artist and writer exercise their influence and sell their wares. Ralph Ketcham argues in his Individualism and Public Life5 that Wendell Wilkie's One World published in 1942 was the most influential and significant statement on global governance in the USA as a prognosis for the second half of the twentieth century. Writers and artists are involved, each in their own way, with curing a massive psychic disorder by heightening interest and public preoccupation with human betterment.
The central difficulty that undergirds so much of therapeutic language in both humanistic psychology and the social sciences, a language that rests on a variety of individual values from self-esteem to personal liberty and wish fulfilment, is an insubstantial conception of values. Though attractively open-minded, pluralistic and self-releasing, these sciences and this language are, in the end, vacuous, asocial and impoverishing rather than morally fulfilling and politically energizing. For nearly all of us now, who are writers and artists, are facilitators and coordinators in some way or other; we influence but do not order. Psychological persuasion has replaced coercion, at least in most of the places you and I live, move and have our being. It's about, as Jacob Burkhardt wrote in the nineteenth century, an individual's "struggle to win the praise of others through contact with them."

My efforts at persuasion during these epochs for the most part took the form of a gradual inculcation rather than of straightforward argument. In this domain, this style of interaction, the artist and writer can make a useful contribution. And occasionally they must withdraw so others can't get at them. At least that is how I have found it.

Sennett's analysis of authority is intriguing in its combination of psychology and history. Each crisis in authority, he says, involves disbelieving what one previously believed thus creating a new pattern of belief. Western society has been trying to create new authority figures for two centuries, at least since the French Revolution. Writers and artists have expended much ink and paint in their efforts to define, explain, support, describe, understand, articulate: the new and the future and structures that will help us survive. They have, in the process redefined history. One has only to look at the history of sociological theory and the various schools of history to see the host of analyses that try to tell us what history was, is, or should be. The writer and the artist will go on doing this as they have been, perhaps, since the middle of the eighth century BC in the west.

There are several things that are different today. One thing is that we are building "not on foundations but on networks because the material universe is a dynamic and interrelated system of parts."6 Perhaps the most critical decision for a writer or artist is what network does he or she want to be part of. For since the nineteenth century the artist-writer for perhaps the first time in history is, by and large, on his own "without substantial patronage from either religion or the nobility."7 In the eddies of the currents of ideas and technologies the artist-writer swims in is a vast and swift homogenizing process. There are, too, a plethora of delights of diversity. The world culture of the arts, which has just stuck its head above the ground, will take centuries to mature. The sharing of traditional culture with a new global culture is everywhere apparent, from Artur Rubenstein and Ravi Shankar to the latest medical advance or archaeological find. The only limitation is one's interest or, in the case of the underclass or much of the third world, poverty and non-access.

Prevailing social processes translate stylistic, artistic and intellectual tendencies and preferences in the creative act. These processes are like an intermediary and they can be found in the cosmology which the artist-intellectual assimilates from his culture. This cosmology provides both philosophic views and an understanding of society. Until the nineteenth century the artist and writer saw their purpose as serving the whole, as affirming, celebrating and communicating the, then, cosmology. This cosmology unified the respective society, although conflict was often not absent. It also integrated the artist within that society and gave them a raison d'etre. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the writer's self-image, his idiosyncratic and individualist perspective became the basis for style, for message, for intent, for content. Every artist was on his own.

Now, of course, technology has expanded the artist's and writer's social environment and the artist and writer must define his or her own philosophical framework upon which to relate to this global society. They also must also define their own working relationship with society as they attempt various syntheses of materials into coherent and intelligible wholes. In this autobiography I am constantly trying to devour and amalgamate disparate experience into new wholes. I am continually working with undertstood and partially understood materials.

One of the legacies of the Enlightenment has been the belief in the universal community of humankind, the end and object of the highest moral endeavour. Such a vision has shaped the emancipatory aspirations of Marxism and liberalism. And now, in the last half of the twentieth century, actual satellite images from outer space reinforce this Enlightenment philosophy. So we have an era now of post-international politics, gobalization and the planetization of humankind.8 This global interconnectedness is transforming the world and completely altering the cosmology of the artist-intellectual into a one world philosophy. To put this process into the terms of one of the many new sociological theories of the last 30 years: we define ourselves by our relation to the objective world: reality is socially constructed.9 Hence, and obviously, there are a multitude of realities rather than some single reality. Artists and writers will bring to you, the consumer, the many. This communication depends upon the capacity, the training and the receptivity of the participant. Works of art react with everyone in different ways. Here, I would argue, the artist must assume some responsibility for the reaction of the public, the participant, in this fragmented society and its often marginalized individuals.

However forbidding the exercise of creating a global system of governance may seem, it is actually a continuous process and "an essential part of the living of life with which every man and woman is engaged.....It occurs throughout our waking hours as we eat, work, play, converse with others, and feel our way through life."10 The writer and the artist respond to the new, global, cosmology partly by osmosis; global consciousness has become part of the consciousness of everyone, partly in the way Luckman and Berger define the process in their stimulating book The Social Construction of Reality published in 1966, just after Neil Armstrong first went around the planet on 20 February 1962, when I was 18. Artists and writers also turn to a range of religious cosmologies and their derivative values. In addition, they turn to a complex of philosophies, isms and wasms with their mixtures of arrogance, pride and anguish. They become people on the fringe, onlookers in the wings because of the absense of a unifying cosmology, because they are not integrated into society.

And so the bundle of artists-intellectuals-writers on the planet, and there are millions now, are a very mixed bag—as indeed we all are. As a group, they try, by their skills to evoke in the beholder's mind an image, not of fact, but of experience as it is lived. Art is thus an abstraction drawn out of experience. Meaning arises out of the relationship between the stimu- lus, the observer and something toward which the the stimulus points. In these antedeluvian days(although I think the flood is already upon us) a chaos of meanings is partly the result of the above. But there are synthesizing, unifying, forces afoot. The hermeneutical paradigm in sociology, as interpreted by Hans-Georg Gadamer, suggests the real possibility of achieving universal principles of human understanding through the use of a hermeneutical sociology.

"Action is the meaning in a man",11 said Rumi. Emotion is a continuous concomitant of mental activity, that very meaning. In this great pea soup of ideas, emotion and diversity I would like to suggest an interdepen- dence of diverse points of view, rather than some totality of a single vision. Seeming contradictions in criticism and creativity , various random points in this great process of establishing global governance, lie along a linking line, but it is a linking line that does not allow one to speak of commitment, of exaltation, of enthusiasm, or triumph. In our secular society, the one you and I work in everyday, expressions of enthusiasm for anything from Amway, to religion, from a political party to,well, you name it, cause too many ripples in the communal air.

But great art and great writing, is the expression of the soul's glimpse of certitude in the double-lensed burning glass of his aesthetic structure. To put this another way: certitude depends on the stability of the transcendental norm, a norm that has been slipping further and further from human society in the last several centuries. This greatness and its accompanying certitude leaves no word untouched by wonder, no line untouched by light. Crimson astonishment leaps through his veins. It tells of the soul's flight and not the mind's ease. I would like to suggest, in closing, that one of the successful underpinnings of the global governance which has been a growing part of modernity's hour is in the perceptions of the writer, the poet and the intellectual. The poet is particularly endowed to sing of what he sees. But there is no formulae or methodology for this singing. Although our generation is a twilight one of noncommitment and defensiveness which inhibit, the writer-poet's life unfolds. His virtuosity and interpretive and creative talents unfold within a Bahá'í perspective of "powerlessness before God."12 It is this perspective that contributes to the de-centering of the ego which so often dominates the process. It is also a perspective that encompasses all of phenomenal reality, the past, the present and the future. It blazes with its own inner life and, like an angle of fire and snow, it has a precarious existence. Its very vulnerability tempers both vision and voice.

The artist-writer seeks to resolve the tensions in the global environment, the extremities between reunion and separation, with their imaginative powers, their flexibility and elasticity, powers born from these very tensions. I think it is important that these creative individuals use a language that is moderate, tempered and courteous, not the language of dissent, discord and disdain. He should use a language that speaks "with the tongue that whispers in the bones and arteries of his audience."13 They must temper their own voice and train their own vision with compassion and kindness; for the global governance we seek will be nothing if not humane and wise. "The active" and "the contemplative" no longer represent a dichotomy. They are part of the poetry that becomes our lives and helps us to make paths through things, through obstacles, through the polarities in the spheres of our days, through collaborative and fluid exchanges, through points of connection in potential clashes.

Thus, in the whirlwind of this distracted hour, the artist and the writer, can become points of thought and perception beyond the fragmentation, the scattering, the tossing and the turning. For the artist and writer, who is also a Bahá'í, he or she can work within an Administrative Order, free of arid secularization, free of the incessant promotion of individualism and the inordinate skepticism regarding authority; and confident that the growing climate of concern for global goverance is all part of the inevitability of a world at peace by an act of consultative will.14

The work for the artist-writer is often, as Roger White, a poet who passed away a few years ago now, experienced as "a good terror", partly like assaulting a humbling summit, passed a miasmal ooze "from which we so painfully inch our consequential, necessary way."15 To put this another way, often the artist-writer has a new set of difficulties to challenge him within the Bahá'í Order: the process is not easy, simple and without its exigencies. The chief casualty, ideologically speaking for intellectuals in the west in the last several decades has been hope. Idealism has become a bad joke in this world of pragmatic calculation. For the Bahá'í, for this Bahá'í, the challenge is as deep and profound in its complexity as it is for the pragmatist, but hope springs eternal.
1 Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man: Part 1: Lower Than the Angels, Angus and Robertson, 1973, p.19.
2 Richard Sennett, Authority, A.A. Knopf Inc., NY, 1980.
3 Elman Service, Primitive Social Organization, 1971(1962).
4 Benjamin Ginsberg, The Captive Public, Basic Books Inc., NY, 1986, p.230.
5 Ralph Ketcham, Individualism and Public Life, Basil Blackwell, Inc., NY, 1987.
6 Fritzoff Capra, "Criteria of Systems Thinking", Futures, Vol.17, No. 5, October 1985, pp.475-478.
7 Ludwig Tuman, "A World Culture of the Arts", World Order, Summer 1975,, p.14.
8 Stuart Hall, editor, Modernity and Its Futures, Polity Press, Open University, 1992, pp. 62-63.
9 Thomas Luckman and Peter Berger, The Social Construction of Reality, 1966.
10 John Wild, "Freedom and Responsibility", Readings in Existential Phenomenology, ed. Nathaniel Lawrence and Daniel O‘Connor, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1967, p.265.
11 Rumi in Discourses of Rumi, A.J. Arberry, 1961, p.86.
12Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "Artist, Seeker and Seer,", Bahá'í Studies, Vol.10, 1982, p.9.
13 ibid., p.14.
14 Universal House of Justice, Peace Message, 1986, p.1.
15 Roger White, "Nine Ascending", The Language of There, New Leaf Publishing, Richmond BC, 1992, p.34.
Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote: "If any golden harbour be for men/In seas of Death and sunless gulfs of Doubt." Locating a safe harbour has been a problem for men and women during the past two hundred years. Many, too, have been confident that they knew where the port was and how to get there. There has been an American optimism and there has been a puzzling, sometimes terrifying landscape. The psychological landscape also presents deeply puzzling issues that pervade our often puzzling experience as human beings.

Some saw purpose and meaning; some saw none, only temporal devastation and a loss of faith. This is one of the stories of purpose and meaning and faith's continuity.
Many autobiographies of old were called conversion or holiness autobiographies. The writers described their lives through several stages beginning with conversion, continuing through consecration, sanctification, a call to preach and opposition to preaching, among other stages. The function of autobiography was essentially to instruct. There is some of this orientation, this didacticism, this series of stages, in my autobiography, however much I might deemphasize or even disguise such an approach. Indeed, my autobiography has similarities with many of the types of autobiography found in the historical record. -Ron Price with thanks to Susie C. Stanley, "Tell Me The Old, Old Story," An Analysis of Autobiographies by Holiness Women.
And so the eleven years in Perth have become four in Tasmania. I have now been retired from teaching for four years and for two of these years I have not had to apply for jobs since I have been able to secure a disability pension due to my history of manic-depression and my age which, given the high rate of unemployment in Tasmania, makes obtaining a job difficult even for the healthy and able. Since completing that first edition of this autobiography in May of 1993, I have written over a dozen updates covering the period 1993 to 2003. I will include two or three of these updates here to give readers a flavour of the events of this last decade. If someone, someday, wants to put it all together in several volumes I won't stop them but, for now, these seven hundred pages will serve as a companion piece beside my grandfather's four hundred page autobiography that sits up on the bookshelf above where I write in my study here in Tasmania.

There is a flavour of the didactic here; there is dogma and there is much more of a simple sharing of experience with a desire to impregnate thought with imagination, to further a good cause, to soften passion. There is in my life, at least since the late 1990s, a love of privacy, a love that is shown in the garden that my wife tends with such pleasure and system, in the lay of this small property which lies below the street level and allows us to sit in the front garden for morning and afternoon tea without disturbance by passers-by, in my study where a world of print nourishes my mind, indeed in this entire domestic enclosure by the side of the Tamar River in a small town in northern Tasmania. Nearby is bush and a beach where I can walk for the most part in total solitude. I take to heart Plato's famous dictum that "all learning is in the learner, not in the teacher."

There is here in the twistings and turnings, the prolixities and repetitions of someone heading into late adulthood no pretense at knowing more than I really do, but there is a hunger to know more. This is one of my motivating forces, perhaps the primary one. I would acknowledge that over these four epochs I have come to know a great deal, especially through the vehicle of print, as millions, nay billions, have also come to expand their knowledge. But I know, too, of immense fields of learning and knowledge that I will never know at all. It is not part of my purpose in life to help solve the world's economic and social problems. My purposes are many but solving the quixotic tourament of troubles on the template of existence is not one of them. In the 1980s the Aids Virus and in the 1990s Mad Cow Disease, to name but two of the crises that beset humanity during the last two decades of the twentieth century, were added to the human agenda, especially in the West.

My Muse has often been melancholy, but it has been in reality a pensive mood, a man thinking, with many complexities and perplexities unsolved. It is impossible, of course, to avoid melancholy which came into my life reguarly as a result of my bi-polar illness and simple fatigue from work and life's responsibilities. I am introspective, not because I am solitary and insular as many an English mind has been over several centuries on that large island in the North Sea. I have not had to dig vertically through the soil as a farmer might, but I have had to dig vertically through layers of experience, ideas, books, Bahá'í history, the geological layers of an accumulated past and a future rushing into the present faster than my generations could digest. I toy, I play, with a new myth, with the metaphorical nature of Bahá'í history and its myriad applications to my life, my Bahá'í community and society. I play with these applications in relation to what is obvious in my own life for, as Prince Metternich that apostle of the importance of obedience of legitimate authority once said, "the obvious is always least understood."

Edward Gibbon says, in his chapter on the rise of Christianity, that "the human character, however it may be exalted or depressed by a temporary enthusiasm, will return by degrees to its proper and natural level, and will resume those passions that seem the most adapted to its present condition." In my case the passion for "learning and the cultural attainments of the mind" already in evidence in the first months of my pioneering venture in the autumn of 1962; and the sensual passions, always easily aroused and requiring a controlling factor, were both adapted to the new conditions of my retirement. The former alteratively enriched and exhausted me, filling my days with reading and writing; while the latter provided the pleasure of daily stimulus, gratification and the evidence of their seemingly unending tug at my several appetitive instincts: concupiscent, gustative, "the allurements and the trivialities of the world and the pitfalls of the self within." A peristent and strenuous warfare was required against these instincts and natural inclinations and, as Shoghi Effendi went on to say, "heroic self-sacrifice in subordinating" my own likings "to the imperative requirements of the Cause of God." Sadly, by the age of sixty, I was getting tired of this "old-born war." I clearly "loved the enemy but sought the Friend," as White put it so succinctly in that same poem. Gratification was, for me and as I approached sixty, an important aspect of reality. Heroic self-sacrifice seemed to be something I could only achieve in such small time-intervals as to be scarcely measureable by scientific instrumentation. I believed in the truth of my sense experience and my rational faculty, was aware of their inadequacy and weakness and often pursued an activity or line of thought even when that sense experience and that faculty was being unwisely or improperly used from time to time. I had faults and experienced temptations which required a vigilance and control which I was often unable to exercise. I seemed to need a lifetime to overcome them, if indeed I did.

My life has not been haunted by tales of violence, of lonely houses, by primitive deeds breaking through the slow crust of custom, by poverty, alcoholism, indeed, the panoply of tragedy that has haunted many millions in the past and in the present. I have had my tragedy but, on balance, I have come off lightly or so it seems to me as I gaze at sixty years of living. My Muse is often joyful; if it were not I could not keep writing. I see, I hear, I acknowledge that millions, nay billions have suffered more than I have or, it seems, will. This is but one aspect of the personal significance of that Hidden Word: "Thou without the least effort didst attain thy goal."

A good portion of the animus of my lifetime I directed toward organized Christianity and its fundamentalist contemporaries, the pilgrims who were vandals and souvenir hunters who broke the spirit of religious law while keeping the letter of it. Against these biblical commentators and the preachers who damaged their religion through obtuseness, ignorance and literal-mindedness I often lost my cool in the years 1959 to 1999. By my retirement I had acquired approaches which kept my passions cool and my animus moderated when dealing with such people or perhaps I just came to deal with them less than once I had. Equally difficult to deal with during that same period were those with energies and enthusiasms directed not to religion but to a host of other causes, ideas, positions and prejudices. "The feeling that I am right and you are wrong," once wrote ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, "is the cause of many a problem in society and relationships." This ongoing test dealing with what you might call difficult people was still occupying my attention as I headed into late adulthood.

If I do not give an effusive praise to the religion that has given my life purpose, it is because, at least in part, it has rarely been attacked. Still, I see this work in toto as part of a poetics, a poetry, of praise. Poetry of praise is, all the way back to Plato, "the master model of poetry per se." And praise functions as a powerful and governing theme in this autobiographical narrative, even if I must ask how I am to praise what passes beyond praise? There is here a poetics of visionary presentation associated with a poetry of praise, associated with an ideology with the future in its bones. And, finally, there is a lengthy psychology of poetic introspection and subjectivity, personal narrative and the persona of the speaking poet--one not unlike that found in Shakespeare's sonnets. I hope what I am saying is clear here. I do not want to be accused of the same obscurity that Shakespeare has been in his sonnets for the last 400 years or the contemporary poet John Ashbery who seems to cultivate it. After reciting one of my favorite prayers which begins: "All praise oh my God be unto Thee Who art the source of all glory and majesty...." for more than forty years, I would not want my words of praise to be in any way misconstrued.

Shakespeare wrote 154 love sonnets, among other things, to preserve through verse his worshipful attitude to his beloved and what he saw as the ravishing beauty of this youth he addresses. There are many other themes in these sonnets: lust, anger, jealousy, the waning of love: they loop and twist into each other. I write this narrative account to preserve many of my own loves and I do it in a manner in which so many of the themes loop and twist into each other. Shakespeare's sonnets are "autobiographical in deep ways and in many specific ways." I trust, though, that my own work here will possess a clarity which Shakespeare's work, in all its brilliance, lacked. Some of the criticisms that the great poet's sonnets were accused of, I'm sure could be made of this work: literary exhibitionism, self-justification, radical inconsistency, vacillation of attitude tautology, repetition of ideas, sound, imagery and pattern, carelessness, rapid shifts, obscurity.

If I have given too much attention to this religion, entangled my life in its thought far too much, making this work largely unpopular, virtually unread by the present generation, such are the inevitable consequences of the way I have lived and my praise for a Movement that has yet to gain any significant popularity in the West. The words of George Bernard Shaw are also pertinent here: "I can no more write what people want than I can play the fiddle to a happy company of folk dancers." Again and again I make judgements in both by writing and my life. Hopefully, the intelligence with which I have been endowed and which the forces of circumstance have fostered, have married my judgement in ways that have been of benefit to myself and the communities I have been a part of. . For, as Immanuel Kant, that philosopher and author of many a wise saying, once wrote: "Intelligence divorced from judgment produces nothing but foolishness."

The 1990s saw a Three Year Plan(1993-1996), a Four Year Plan(1996-2000) and the completion of the Six Year Plan(1986-1992) which began in the late eighties. A more systematic and comprehensive autobiography would cover each of these plans in detail and, perhaps, a fourth edition will see this eventuate one day. The phrase entry-by-troops came to be on everyone's lips during this period. The month I retired from teaching, in April 1999, the House of Justice wrote: "this very century contains a light that will be shed on centuries to come." They went on to say that the world's masses were ill-equipped to interpret the social commotion at play throughout the planet. They urged the Bahá'ís to make their "mark now at this crucial turning point." This autobiography, to some extent at least, is the story, the description, of my mark. It is a small trace on the landscape of existence. In April of 1999, when the House wrote these words, the second edition of this autobiography was beginning to take form. The final form of that second edition received its seal of good-housekeeping in January 2003 and became the critical base for this edition, the third.

A One Year Plan followed(2000-2001) and then a Five Year Plan(2001-2006). My wife and I were living in Tasmania, in George Town when the One Year Plan opened and we were still here as the Five Year Plan passed into the second third of its journey on December 21st, 2002. Greater attention to the spiritual heart of the Teachings characterized these new Plans. This was, of course, timely, for me since I had become a retired person and, by 2001, I had come to receive that disability pension I referred to above and did not have to spend the greater portion of my life earning a living. In April 2000 we crossed "a bridge to which we shall never return" as the House described our arrival in the new millennium. In other ways, I was in greater need of spiritual help than ever for I seemed to be more conscious of both my sins of commission and omission than ever before. As the years went on, it seemed in a strange way, that whatever heights I had arrogated myself to in my youth and young adulthood, I had clearly fallen off them, off my self-styled pedestal.

There were many sources of this fallenness. The road to erotic satisfaction had been rough, devious and, for the most part, filled with unrealistic and poorly understood dynamics. The years of success in teaching, in which I received more adulation than I could ever have imagined, was immensely fulfilling but somehow it ultimately did not fatten nor appease the hunger. After a quarter century of the pleasures and satisfactions of the teaching profession, I felt I had to move on and out. Being a Bahá'í, a big-wig as Ruhiyyih Khanum calls them, only more like a small big-wig also did not satisfy my spiritual ambitions. In the end having the respect and admiration of many other people lost its glamour and gloss. A feeling of 'been there, done that' inhabited my being and left me, at 55, wanting a quiet life with few external demands, little traveling and the simple satisfactions of an inner tranquillity. This is a common feature of human experience, not of course for everybody, but for many and certainly for me. It can be read about in many autobiographies and in the language of everyday experience.

I felt, too, a little like Alimurad Davudi(1922-1979), a probable victim of state execution in Iran at the start of the revolution. He had been a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran at the time and the secretary of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Iran. He had often said that he much preferred an academic life to an administrative one. For he had had reclusive tendencies since he was a boy and prefered the quiet and reflective life of study to one which demanded much travel and his days on the peopled stage of life. But, nonetheless, he had served the Bahá'í community tirelessly and accepted neither a salary nor reimbursement for his expenses. His service was effectively a full-time job. The major difference between Davudi and me was that he was clearly martyr-material and I was not. I seemed to be able to give only so much and no further. Perhaps I simply wanted to give in a different way to the excessively social way I had done for years. Who knows? But Davudi's life and the review I came across just as I retired offered some timely reflection.

In the process of writing this autobiography I have done what Oscar Wilde said that criticism should do. I have grasped and preserved my life, cultivated and exalted it. A life, in some ways, is a dead letter, until it is drawn into a dialectic, a dynamic relationship with interpretation, with meaning, with understanding, with frameworks of examination. At stake, of necessity, is an encounter between the self and its ideology. For the world about us would be desolate except for the world within us. This account, this narrative, involves the interchange between these two worlds, "migratory passings to and fro, quickenings, liberations and discoveries." The passings and quickenings now are, for the most part, experienced as a result of writing and reading, largely intellectual pursuits; whereas for most of my life they had more to do with people and the energies and aspirations of youth and early and mid-adulthood. At stake in the works of many writers is a defintion of what it means to be an American, an Australian, a Christian, et cetera. I don't feel the stakes are that high in my work. The world will survive quite happily without my literary perambulations, but I'm not so sure I would survive as happily.

The events associated with the opening of the terraces and the completion of the Mt. Carmel Project are too extensive to go into detail here and they are documented elsewhere voluminously, but I would like to include a summary I wrote of the book The Century of Light which brings the Bahá'í history and the general interpretation of the events of the 20th century into perspective. It is a summary I used as a handout for a group discussion here in northern Tasmania at one of the 'regional meetings' here as they were then called.

A new book has just come into Bahá'í bookshops. Prepared under the supervision of The Universal House of Justice, it is written to help the Bahá'í community understand the changes that have taken place in the twentieth century and the process of the emergence of the Cause from obscurity during these years.
The House of Justice commends Century of Light and its one hundred and sixty pages, "to the thoughtful study of the friends" that "the perspectives it opens up will prove both spiritually enriching and of practical help."1 This is a book for both the novitiate and the veteran believer. It provides an overview of Bahá'í history in the twentieth century and a linkage with the happenings in the world's history of this same period.
3. Beginning with the first decade of the twentieth century, the book finishes with the developments on Mt. Carmel. A brief look at the 162 references in the 'Notes' shows a broad intersection of Bahá'í references and a wider reading and supplementary comment. Century of Light is not just a familiar survey of things we already know; rather it is an integrated picture that conveys an overview of the century just completed, an understanding of just where we have travelled and, by implication, where we are going.
Coming to understand the "nature and meaning of the great turning point" of this last century and "the implications of what occurred,"2 will help us, writes The Universal House of Justice, "to meet the challenges that lie ahead."3 Our task is to "grasp the significance of the historical transformation"4 that has occurred in the last hundred years.

One aspect of the historical transformation that occurred in the twentieth century, and one that is underlined in the very first paragraph on the first page, is that this transformation is "the most turbulent in the history of the human race."5 Humanity "appears desperate to believe that, through some fortuitous conjunction of circumstances" it can "bend the conditions of human life into conformity" with human desires."6
There follows twelve chapters, five with more than ten pages, only one with more than twenty. It is not my intention, though, to summarize each chapter; to outline all the highlights in this beautifully written book; everyone can read the book for themselves. I would like to highlight, to focus, on what the function and purpose this book has at this moment in time for the Bahá'í community. What is the Universal House of Justice trying to tell us in this their first publication at the outset of another measure of time, the fifth epoch of the Formative Age?
First, it seems to me, it is part of the "series of soul-stirring events"7 that celebrated the completion of the Terraces on Mount Carmel. It is part of the "auspicious beginning" of the occupation by the ITC "of its permanent seat on the Mountain of the Lord."8 It is part of "the revolutionary vision, the creative drive and systematic effort"9 that is coming to characterize more and more the work of all the senior institutions of the Cause. It is a humble attempt to"comprehend the magnitude of what has been so amazingly accomplished"10 in this century. It is part of the "new impetus to the advancement of the Cause."11 It is part of "a change of time," "a new state of mind," a "coherence of understanding," a "divinely driven enterprise."12 Such is my brief effort to place this book into a context of recent events on Mt. Carmel and a large number of messages received this year, in 2001.
Second, "the magnitude of the ruin that the human race has brought upon itself," "a catalogue of horrors unknown" in the past, the House places in the context of "God's fury"13 and that famous introduction to The Promised Day is Come: the tempest. The failings and the accomplishments of the century are reviewed; the replacement of inherited orthodoxies by the blight of aggressive secularism is noted; religious prejudices that keep the smouldering fires of animosity alive are underlined; the unification of the world's peoples in this century is stated as a fact; and the role of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and especially His The Secret of Divine Civilisation, His development of the Persian Bahá'í community, His success in constructing the mausoleum of the Bab; His trip West; His prediction that a war would break out; His proclamation that He was the Covenant are all reviewed in what I found to be a fresh light.
Third, the conditions for the unity that the Bahá'ís are establishing is outlined; and an appreciation of the place of the Guardianship as a focal place "throughout the coming centuries" was emphasized. First, the period between the wars and, second, the teaching Plans: 1937-1944, 1946-1953 and 1953-1963 are examined as twin-foci and include a range of the Guardian's accomplishments in a series of thumb-nail sketches.
Fourth, the 37 year period in which the Universal House of Justice guided the Bahá'í world is examined, especially "the victory that the Cause won in 1963."14 The years 1963-1983 were "one of the most enriching periods"15 we have experienced. Other highlights are succinctly summarised before the last three chapters conclude the book.
Fifth, the work of the Bahá'ís in helping to establish the beginnings of an international order and the persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran are each given lengthy treatment: pp. 113-136. The theme of unity, in the context of the Arc Project among other contexts, is returned to again as the book concludes. The book concludes on an optimistic note emphasizing that we should "take deep satisfaction from the advances of society"16 and "see in them the very Purpose of God."17
But humanity yearns desperately for its Soul. Without its Soul it will find neither peace, nor justice, nor unity. Our job as Bahá'ís is to bring humanity its Soul by opening people's "minds and hearts to the one Power that can fulfil their ultimate longing."18
1-6 These reference can all be found in the 'Foreword' and the 'Preface.' of this book.
7The Universal House of Justice, Letter 16 January 2001. 8The Universal House of Justice, Letter 14 January 2001. 9 ibid.,p.2. 10 idem. 11 idem. 12 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2001.
13 Century of Light,p.1; 14 ibid., p.92; 15 ibid.,p.99; 16 ibid.,p.144; 17 idem, 18 idem.
Ron Price 6 August 2001
This autobiography is, in part, an attempt to grasp the significance of my life in the twentieth century and the historical transformation that occurred in that time. The most turbulent century in the history of the human race was a period in which I spent just under sixty years of my life. Only thirteen years of my life were spent while the Guardian was still with us, but his role in these decades and in the coming centuries is incalculable. The first 37 years during which the Universal House of Justice guided the Bahá'í community and "one of the most enriching periods," the years 1963 to 1983, in Bahá'í history were both part and parcel of my own experience. I was there. I was there from one end of the earth to the other. This twenty year period saw my greatest personal suffering and it saw the heights of my achievements. It is my hope that the copiousness and candor of this self-portrait provides an instructive detail for future readers.

During these years I lived at home and hearth in coniferous forest regions, in tundra, in savannah woodland and shrubs savannah, in temperate evergreen-dry and temperate woodland, in temperate rainforest and temperate evergreen-wet and in mallee dominant. The climates varied from: polar to temperate rainy, from sub-tropical cool summers to sub-tropical dry summers, from tropical savannah to hot desert; and the agricultural regions varied as well: from non-agricultural to specialized horticulture, from breeding beef cattle to wool, from fruit and vines to timber and grazing, from no significant use to dairy cattle, to wool and fat lambs. It is not my intention to write about the 40 to 50 degree temperatures both above and below zero which I experienced from time to time, nor the 234 days of rain the year I lived in Zeehan and its affect on my lifestyle. For the most part geography and its several major manifestations in urban and rural life have not been examined in any detail in this study.

As I write this last chapter of my story, an account of my life during these times, I take deep satisfaction from the advances in human society in these times. One of these advances has been in the area of chemotherapy and psychopharmacology and the treatment of manic-depression. I hate to think what would have been the story of my life had I been born in any previous generation. I shall never know. However dark the hour and it would appear to be the darkest in the history of humanity, especially beginning in the late 1960s, there is a great light, a great tradition, of human achievement before us and in the light of that achievement we can and must see the Purpose of God. But it is my hope and I like to think that I have proportioned my belief to the evidence, as the philosopher David Hume once advised intending believers. But, whereas Hume, with Kant, felt the intellectual basis for a belief in a Transcendental Cause was tenuous, my own conclusion is different, although it is not the purpose of this work to engage in theological reasonings and disputations.

This autobiography does try, perhaps more than anything else, to find and to express my soul. I am not talking here about any gross sentimentality which is expressed in trite commonplaces, in tirades of different kinds and in a diarrhoea of tears, but rather I am referrring to the intangible, nuanced, compositions of emotions and sensation, thought and imagination. I am talking about atmosphere, tonality and inarticulate tints. I am also talking about meaning for, as Alfred Schutz wrote, "it is the meaning of our experiences, and not the ontological structure of the objects, which constitutes reality." It is we who must speak to life, to endow it with meaning. And "owing to the fact that all experience is a process, no point of view can ever be the last one."

'Updates' to First Edition of my Autobiography: 1993-2003
And now to those updates of my autobiography, updates written during the period 1993 to 2003. Not all of them are included here, just four to provide some taste, some texture, of the last decade of the four decades thusfar, pioneering over four epochs.
27 OCTOBER 1999 TO 2 APRIL 2000
One year ago today I taught my last class as a permanently employed teacher; and after six months in this my fourth Tasmanian town since 1974; after nearly twenty-nine years in an international pioneer position and nearly thirty-eight years of pioneer service, since the inception of that service on or about 1 September 1962, it is time to make the ninth ‘up-date statement' of my autobiographical narrative. It was a narrative completed in May 1993 with a second epilogue written in September 1994, nearly six years ago now. This makes an up-date statement every eight months, on average. The reason, of course, for these up-dates is that I have no desire to write a third draft of the initial narrative which I began in the mid-1980s.

What can I say in attempting to summarize the quantifiable aspects of the last six months? There are many things, but I will start with something that crossed my mind as I walked this evening for my forty-minute physical-spiritual constitutional. When my pioneering venture began at the end of summer in 1962, I was living in Dundas Ontario Canada. Starting sometime in September or October, as a student at Dundas District High School, at the age of eighteen, I used to go for walks at noon during the lunch period. It was there that I used to say Bahá'í prayers, ones I had memorised at the time, for I had been a Bahá'í for three years by then and under the influence of its teachings since about 1953, a nine year span of time. And here I am, nearly forty years later, going for walks on a daily basis and praying some of the same prayers, alone and by myself in "these vast and spacious regions" as ‘Abdu'l-Bahá put it in one of His prayers. Some aspects of the Bahá'í life, of my Bahá'í life, don't change; although within the pattern of prayers there have been many changes which I could expatiate on in some detail. But I will leave that for another time, perhaps another poem.

Something else that struck my mind a few days ago which merits writing down here. It is a feeling, a thought, I had, as I got into the car in town today. It was the thought that I was a Bahá'í with something to offer my new community. I felt confident, positive, happy and possessed of a jewel. Of course, I am only too aware of my sins of omission and commission and that whatever I have is a gift from God; and whatever I am unable to manifest is due to my own weakness and feebleness, my incapacity and my subjection to my lower nature. It is a curious, a mysterious, business this question of self-esteem. My son and I talked about this question briefly on the telephone this evening. All of one's confidence, sense of power, capacity and talent is a gift from God, as I said above. The sense of one's powerlessness is essential because it is this emptiness, this nothingness that gets filled up with these "gifts." This is the balancing factor; this is what allows strength and ego to live with humility and selflessness: opposites dwelling together in one home—the home of one's head and one's heart.

I still miss my son a great deal after nearly nine months of moving away from him and the city we lived in as a family for a dozen years. But the pangs of parturition are not as intense; I do not pine after him with the same heart ache I did for many of those months. My wife's health has not been good in the last several weeks or even several months. Had her health not been so bad I probably would have taken a job offer in Sarawak. This position remains open. If there is a need for pioneers there in the next few months and if Chris' health improves I might be off to Sarawak. I mustr confess to a fatigue I have acquired from many moves and living in many houses. I have become surfeited with sights. I can also feel the comfort index going up here in George Town or, to put the idea more simply, I'm getting quite comfortable. As I said above, I have been away from the classroom for one year now. I have enjoyed the relaxation, the absence of pressure, the freedom to write and read, the daily walks, the improvement in my health, the cooler climate, the smaller Bahá'í community but, the absence of my son and my wife's bad health have been the downside of an otherwise practical and psychologically beneficial move.

Part of my intention in moving here and giving up the work-a-day-world, was to continue what has become essentially a travel-teaching mode. I have regained my strength and vigour; I have stopped taking testosterone shots(October 1999) and I feel ready for some short-term contract in a Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í setting somewhere. We shall see, what those mysterious dispensations of Providence provide.

The writing department has been rich and rewarding in the last twelve months since leaving the classroom. Some two-hundred thousand words of poetry, many essays but little work on the two novels. It would appear that all I may achieve in the short term with these novels are more unsuccessful attempts. For now, I shall leave them until some time in the future. Poetry seems to be the dominant literary form for my writing and it has been so for nearly eight years. And anyone wanting a more detailed account of this period should consult my poetry. I find there is a sense of attentiveness that is virtually constant and it is this attentiveness to the shifting nuances of my physical and emotional worlds that is at the heart of both my poetry and my relationships with literally hundreds of individuals, individuals who all occupy various positions on the friendship continuum. Of course this attentiveness is not comprehensive,not a totality. Just ask my wife and she will let you know the vast fields and gardens where my inattentiveness grows.

On the teaching front at the local level, always an important feature of life, even if a great deal gets done by email as it seems to be more frequently in the last few years, I have my second group of students at the George Town Seniors Schools Inc. I offered a dozen different classes. After three in term 4 of 1999, I have six in term 1 of 2000 and a rich discussion of ideas every week. After six months I have been able to make a teaching intervention in the volunteer sector of life after years of being a professional teacher. I am ready to begin a radio program on 16 April, five days before the end of the Four Year Plan. It is a half hour program aired at 8 pm on Sundays on community radio in Launceston. This could have great potential.

One can go on in detail, as Mark Twain put it, to the extent of a mountain of material. Generally, I am of more use to the Cause and of more satisfaction to myself here in this underpopulated part of the Bahá'í landscape than in Perth, but I have had to pay a price in the loss of my son and a new kind of tension in my relationship with my wife, partly due to her ill-health, partly due to my being at home more of the time than ever before and partly due to my domestic incapacities in cooking, cleaning and gardening. And finally, as the French philosopher Descartes noted several centuries ago: "it is wiser not to trust entirely to anyone by whom we have once been deceived. I had married a woman whom I felt sorry for and when I told her this after we married, it took her years to regain the trust(if she ever did) for she had, indeed, felt deceived. I also lost her trust on a multitude of little domestic things. From my point of view, I always found my wife an exacting person; perhaps this quality, though, was a compensation for my lack of practical talents and interests in the domestic side of life. She would tell the story here quite differently than I and I, too, would tell the story differently from month to month and year to year. This subject, this theme, is one of those topics I could pursue in great detail to the fatigued spirit of any reader—and my own.

Thomas Henry Huxley had always advocated that the age of sixty was the time for "official death," and had looked forward to a peaceful "Indian summer." With this object in mind and troubled by increasing ill-health, he began in 1885 to give up his work. But to live even in comparative inactivity was difficult for him after a lifetime of intense engagement. I mention Huxley's remarks, from his autobiography, because I think in this age of increased longevity "offical death" has moved at least to eighty. For me, sixty represents the beginning of quite a different kind of 'work.' It is a kind of 'work' that I have only just started in the last year, having given up full employment. My experience of this new work in the last twelve months, since leaving the classroom, augers well for the two decades remaining before my own 'official death.' Such is one view of the years immediately ahead.

I think for now, though, that I shall confine this ninth up-date to the above remarks.
Ron Price
2 April 2000
This is the tenth update since the completion of my original narrative autobiography in May 1993. This makes an update every nine months, a pattern I plan to continue indefinitely, sometimes less than the nine month average, sometimes more. Such an exercise affords the opportunity to sketch some overall pattern, some framework of meaning, to a slice of time, to what sometimes seem the random assaults of daily life.

I'd like to start by making some general comments on the nature of the autobiographical process and some general statements that relate to what I am trying to do here. Then I will outline some of the more practical and concrete events that have been part of my life in the last six months.

These are the days of the coexistence of dozens of metanarratives; in fact, in some ways, we all make our own particular metanarrative in the context of some shared metanarrative, unless we abandon the idea of metanarrative altogether. My individual narrative, my story, is lived within the framework of the Bahá'í metanarrative through which I construct, interpret and appropriate daily experience and feel most empowered. The story of my life, my approach to my own circumstances and the people who are part of my life, including that wider society in which I live, takes place within a context of meaning, a web of interlocution, a historical rootedness, a religion and a tradition, what one could call ‘a communitarian sensibility' that defines my sense of who I am, my fundamental characteristics as a human being. Indeed, my sense of identity, to use a liberal, rather than a communitarian, term used for the first time by Erikson in 1962 when my pioneering life began is inextricably tied to the Bahá'í metanarrative.

I was first involved with the Bahá'í Faith in late childhood(9-12) and adolescence(13-19) when Erikson says we try to synthesize our experiences in order to formulate a stable sense of personal identity. I found and created a sustaining niche within this communitarian sensibility, this social identity which helped to provide a useful self-definition, a social classification to segment and order my social environment, within the wider framework of society. I also had a range or roles then, as I do now, and these roles define, determine, much of what it is that I do, at least to some extent. My ‘self' was gradually developing from the amalgam of all the people in my life and their values and beliefs, their attitudes and behaviour, within what the interactionist theorist might call the situationally defined self. The traditional roles of men and women have become more or less a thing of the past during these pioneering years. Men have found themselves more confused than ever as they approach the 40 to 60 year period of middle age and the years beyond. Gail Sheehy, a recent writer on male roles, said that stereotypes of men in their 30s, 40s and 50s are just not accurate anymore. I discuss this issue from time to time in this autobiography. It has certainly become an issue in the last several decades. I could, and perhaps should, give it much greater air-time than I do.

The writings of others began to have a role in determining my sense of self-definition. This was true by the time I was ready to launch into my pioneering life. The process had just begun by my 18th birthday. The canvas on which I sketched my self-portrait, my understanding of self and society, expanded as I began to read ravenously by 1974, after a dozen years of searching for a directedness(1962-1974). By the age of 30 I had given great quantities of time to reading and writing. Teaching, Bahá'í activity and family life also consumed their inevitable amounts of time. By the beginning of the Five Year Plan in 1974 I was on a course of obsessively pursued intellectual activity. After twenty-five years sharing this obsession with those inevitable demands mentioned above, I was finally able to focus as much time as was humanly possible to these academic, literary and intellectual tastes. I have now enjoyed a year of what I see as the foundation year(September 1999 to September 2000) for whatever serious thinking and writing I will do in the remaining years of my life.

In the last year I have reorganised my files into sections in my study as follows:
1. Greece and Rome(12)
2. History(3)
3. Psychology(3)
4. Anthropology(2)
5. Media Studies(3)
6. Philosophy(3)
7. Sociology(8)
8. Literature/Poetry(16)
9. Personal Writing/Journal(5)
10. Letters(21)
6. Autobiography/Biography(4)
7. The Writing Process(2)
8. Personal Poetry(51)
9. Archival Writing Projects(4)
10. Bahá'í Files(12)
11. Subject/Topic Files(27)
12. Miscellaneous(3)
I have also got rid of as much material as possible from my days of teaching. Some hundred or more files which I had when I finished teaching in April 1999, have been reduced to about twenty-five. The importance of this is not so much the reduction of material as the organization for the last stages of my life where whatever contribution I make on the literary side of things will come from the present organization of resources and the directedness I have increasingly built up by stages in my pioneering life: (i) 1962-1974, (ii) 1974-1999 and (iii) 1999 to some final year of serious work.

After years of thinking about going on pilgrimage and, on at least two occasions making plans to do so as far back as 1974/5, Chris and Dan and I had our nine day pilgrimage. I have written a whole booklet of poetry, entitled Pilgrimage, and so I will not go into any detail here. My guess is that, since arriving in George Town, I have written some 200,000 words. Alas and alack, I am still neither famous or rich. Dan is home again and it is good to have him here, for how long time will tell. Chris is a little better after some difficult patches of some difficult to diagnose symptoms including dizziness, nausea and aches and pains. We had some rocky times together in the first twelve months in Tasmania, but the road of our relationship seems to have weathered the storm, I hope for the last time. I do not seem to cope with arguments any better now than I ever did. They seem to have a seriously corrosive effect on my identity which is not surprising if one draws on the interactionist perspective in analysing identity, the sense of self.

I have now been praying for the assistance of holy souls with much more regularity and determination, especially since I started making lists of souls: (i) friends and relatives who have passed away, (ii) Hands of the Cause, (iii) Disciples of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, (iv) souls who passed away from 1921 to 1944, 1944-1963 and 1963-1968. Most days I "pray for the departed" calling out their names, or at least half of their names. There is an unquestionable peace in my life, a peace I have never had before. Perhaps it is due to the relative absence of people, of professional and Bahá'í responsibilities; perhaps it is due to the prayers. I do not know.

I write and have written to many people during these past months. My letter file of sixteen volumes should be a useful instrument some day to a future historian when these days are being analysed and the progress of the Cause described in detail. The most recent file of letters Volume 6: 1999 to 2003 contains some interesting material for such a future student.

I could go into detail about my regular radio program, my work as the President of the George Town Seniors Inc., some of my specific writing tasks, my activity with my wife's family, my reading, my job application process, Chris's health, my own health, our local teaching and Bahá'í activity in northern Tasmania, my contact with Canada and going home while on pilgrimage: but I have lost the desire to write more on these topics. And desire is the sine qua non of writing.
So I leave things, this latest update, with you, dear reader, until the next update, probably sometime in the year 2001.
Ron Price 22 September 2000
23 SEPTEMBER 2000 TO 5 JUNE 2001
Several weeks ago now I made a list of topics that I wanted to discuss in this my eleventh periodic summary statement for my autobiography. Perhaps I will discuss each of them in turn, but my inclination at the moment is simply to list the 20 topics and to make some general comments at the end of the list. We shall see. These topics are:
1. chairing the PNG evening in Launceston,
2. reviewing the subjects in the last paragraph of the previous update,
3. discussing the articles in The Northern Light(RTC of the NT) and The Beacon,
4. writing for Arts Dialogue, Bahá'í Studies Review and ABS(Australia),
5. Chris' health,
6. our 3 children,
7. activities in relation to the dole and the DSPension,
8. teaching school for five Wednesdays,
9. reading,
10. poetry,
11. radio program,
12. summer school,
13. unit convention,
14. Dagmar Kaisar,
15. emails as communications,
16. fishing, boating and outside activity,
17. visiting Bahá'ís in the west of the Tamar,
18. Teaching activities-poems to man on computer course(Web),
Derek Overton, phil students, GT School for Seniors,
19. GT Bahá'í Group,
20. music, radio and TV programs and
21. other.

My enthusiasms for writing these 'periodic updates' has vanished. So I will simply make this list here and, hopefully, at a future point I will amplify what is contained herein. If this does not occur, it may be that these updates will end at this point eight years after ending the autobiographical narrative on 15 May 1993. My desire to travel and teach, to take a job in some other town or country is slowly vanishing as writing seems to be consuming my interests and time. There may not be many external adventures in this pioneering life to recount here in the years ahead. So, if I don't become adept at delving into the inner life, this autobiography may have to end very soon.
Ron Price
5 June 2001

UPDATE NUMBER 12 and 12.1

It has been more than five months since my last update and, with a little more than five months left before the completion of forty years of pioneering, I thought I'd write a few words, at least make a beginning to my twelveth update. Perhaps, like the last update which I did in three parts, this one and some future updates will be in a similar pattern of stages or parts.

Since my last update I wrote a letter to Philip Adams on Laurens van der Post and have included it in appendix 4.1 item 11. I won't go into detail here since the issue of honesty in autobiography had already been discussed if not satisfactorily. This issue hangs in there, an issue I have alluded to many times already in what is becoming a massive work, Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Reading the historian Peter Gay's study of nineteenth century Victorian society has been helpful. It helped me create in this work a climate of honesty vis-a-vis my own sexual experience. Gay points out, for example, an aversion many women develop to intercourse because their husbands have "used up their forces before their wives have reached the moment of highest voluptuous pleasure." However true this may be, the problem, the issue, for me was far more complex.

There have been psychological, sociological, anatomical and physiological aspects to the personal problems I have experienced in sexual relationships and they have all played a part in the difficulties I have had in the marital bed and my physical relationships with women over nearly fifty years(age 15-65). Living in a culture which places such an unrealistic emphasis on sex with much stimulation in the visual field has also contributed to whatever problems and pressures that have been my lot.

Reliance on an excessive welter of detail: visual, tactile and olfactory in sex scenes in literature since the 1960s and increasing use of sexual detail in the electronic media media are all part of an overemphasis on sex that has affected my own experience in ways that would take too long to discuss here. It is strange, though, that my generation, the sixties generation, like the 20th century itself, which began by breaking down the barriers to writing and talking about sex with such joyful urgency, also moved towards much finer distinctions and understandings of sexual relationships. One finds a constantly reiterated disillusion as well as a sensitivity to the subtleties involved in interpersonal relationships never before appreciated. At least that was the way I have to to view these decades. I was a lecturer, a tutor, in interpersonal skills and human relations, read umpteen self-help books, indeed, was an autodidact in this field.
Some writers now believe that good sex is beyond fiction's power to describe. the famous English novelist Amis has said: "Good sex is impossible to write about......It may be that good sex is something fiction just can't do, like dreams. Most of the sex in my novels is absolutely disastrous. Sex can be funny, but not sexy." While there may be exceptions to this general rule, exceptions like some of the sex in Mills and Boon, et al and in my own life, Amis' pessimism certainly reflects in broad measure my own experience.

As the bans on sexual explicitness and sexual prudishness were lifted; as the imagination in literature and in social life became freer in the 1960s than it had ever been, I was experiencing my first sexual encounters. In the decades of my adult life, though, writers were keen to describe how sex could not live up to the expectations that had often been formed through literature. My own sexual experience from the start of my pioneering life in 1962 right into the twenty-first century reflected this literary enthusiasm for calling a sexual spade a spade. Although my expectations lowered or became more realistic the taming of my instinctual urges still had some way to go. Ashamed of my inability to control lust, I made several pages of entries into my diary. But I was not torn apart my these lustful urges thanks to the balanced attitude of my religion to them and these urges did not figure prominently in my journalistic writing.
The belief in the unparalleled authenticity of sexual love had for two centuries been a distinctive belief of our society; it is part of my society's aggrandisement of the individual against society and part of modern western culture's disdain for social structures whenever they come into conflict with individual desire. Yet it is striking how novelists today have moved away from this reliance on sexual intimacy as a source of emotional revelation, and how the search for intimacy is often no longer the prime motor that it once was for the novel. This goes much, much further than simply the disappointment that sex did not live up to our expectations; rather, it is a pervasive feeling that sex is not worth making a great fuss about at all. Although sex can be as explicit as you like, it is no longer centrally important to many novelists. It certainly became no longer centrally important in my marriage by the time I began writing poetry seriously in 1992 and working on later editions of this memoir. The fuss I had made for so many years beginning in the years before my first marriage in 1967 took three to four decades to work itself out of my system.

Looking back more than a decade after the attenuation of this fuss and bother over sex, I feel this lessening of fascination with sexual love as a kind of progress. Of course, as William James points out, "the exuberant excess" of our subjective propensities, our wants and desires, should teach us that, however superfluous they may be, these propensities should be trusted. They occasion an uneasiness which is, arguably, the best guide to our life. "Prune down a person's extravagances and you undo him," James concludes.

Exhuberant excess, strong subjective propensities, extravagances of various kinds continued to be part of my life as I tried to release myself from the various imprisonments, sexual and other, that were part of my life. The following writers and their quotations, as well as one of my poems, explore this issue of sexuality, of sex, my sexual experience, in more detail, not the sort of detail I'm sure many with certain voyeuristic inclinations would like to see and read here, but sufficient for my literary purposes.

The following poem grew out of a commentary on a book by James Joyce. I could have been much more explicit about my experience if I wanted to in this poem but, unlike Nikolai Gubsky who had "no inhibitions about undressing himself in public," and unlike the American poet Robert Frost who said that a poet needed "to have a snout for punishment," I prefer my human utterance to be moderate and characterized by an etiquette of expression and words "as mild as milk," at least to some extent.

Of course, I do not always achieve this goal of moderation in either life or in my writing. Moderate words are not the words we come across so often in the print and electronic media, instruments which thrive, it seems to me, on exaggeration, a kind of honesty which leaves no stone unturned, a volume turned up too high and the evaluation of men and women by camera angels, showmanship and a bright world behind glass. My words are not in the idiom of an aggressive secularism and they do not reveal very much about the activity where, as Roger White puts it in an early poem: "…we touched," and where "I protrude/And she's cunningly indented." There is some revelation here in this autobiography, some exposure of commissions and omissions, some revelation which will be too much for some and not enough for others. For the most part I deal with many human issues like sex, anger and the emotions generally at a more abstract level. But not entirely.
Autoeroticism, sexual frustration and artistic failure are all part of James Joyce's portrait of Stephen Daedalus in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The lies of President Clinton in 1998 and 1999 on the eve of my retirement from full-time work became part of popular political culture as I was working on this memoir: Clinton's preposterous denial of his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, his casuistic evasions of the truth were perjurious. Some have argued that his right to privacy was a legitimate defense against his interrogators. When our society's most illustrious law professors can sign an advertisement effectively excusing the President from perjury and obstruction of justice, we are in a parlous ethical state, so argued Richard Posner. These words of Posner's were published in a remarkably even-tempered and reasonable book the day I arrived in George Town to begin my retirement from full-time work. I hope my own remarks here are also even-tempered and reasonable.

In my lower moments, and I have had many over the days, months and years of my life; and even in my not-so-low moments, I identify strongly with the portrait painted by Joyce in his book and I find it difficult to judge another man, even or especially a President, for his moral weaknesses, although it is obvious that society must possess mechanisms for judgement. I came to strongly identify with Joyce's portrait as I entered my fifties.

I have never taken recourse to prostitutes to deal with my sexual frustrations, nor has adultery coloured my marital path, but I would present a far from complete portrait of myself if I disregarded how sexual tension has affected my life from childhood, through adolescence and into the several phases of adulthood.
My carnal urges, my erotic fancies and fantasies, my sexual desires have challenged my emotions, caused strains and stresses and led my everyday life down difficult tracks which I have often regretted. So is this the case of billions of others and this reality is somewhat comforting. One likes to have company in the possession of and articulation about one's weaknesses.
I can make no claim, though, to fame, to notoriety or significance of any kind in this personal, this human, domain. These natural propensities are part and parcel of the myriad expressions for the good, the bad and the ugly in my life. Their overemphasis has made them common as has the commonness of human weakness. In addition, the openness, the candour, the whirlpool of contending passions, the confessional aspects in relationships, the lack of self-control, that overemphasis on sex and carnal desires in our society serves as the backdrop to my comments here.

This process, this entanglement in a labyrinthine pattern of sexual desire, has a long history in my own life and, as I say, in the life of my fellows in society. It is not my purpose here to analyse the aetiology of this problem in society or in myself. There is a wealth of books on the subject and readers have no need for more analysis here. I discuss my problem and society's briefly and personally and then move on. The literature on the subject, as I say, is burgeoning and it is doubtful if I can contribute any new insights into the origins, the significance or the consequences of the issues associated with my problems or those of society in this intimate area of relationships during these epochs.

I will alude to several outcomes, several manifestations, of this problem in my life. But given the exposure and analysis that subject of sex, sexuality and sexual experience is given in the print and electronic media, the subject is, as Ruhiyyih Khanum once said in her now famous book Perscription For Living, far too overemphasized, overrated and overvalued in western society. But this does not prevent and has not prevented the subject from causing people—and me—much frustration. I have often been psychologically distressed by my sexual, erotic, carnal, opposite sex---desires going as far back at least sixty years, to about 1949.

I do not wish to deny the existence of these desires; one would be a strange creature not to have any desires at all in this domain. I do not wish to cover them up, explain them away nor analyse them in great detail. Nor do I want to imply that I have been a repressed, asexual student, teacher and now author living only for the world of the mind.

I have struggled with my id, my urges, my basic instincts. It has been a lifelong battle. The basic instincts, as the writer Stephen King describes them in his fiction, are difficult to move beyond, to purge from the human psyche. They are part of what King calls a ‘Gothic Double.' This lower nature has many manifestations and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá likens it to the "world of darkness....the origin of a thousand depravities." It is part of our dual or tripartite nature, our id, ego and super ego to use Freud's terms, this conflict between mortification and gratification, between the Apollonian and Dionysian and a hundred other words that attempt to give perspective to the sexual domain of our experience.

Until quite recently in our modern age, until these four epochs, it was virtually impossible to discuss sexual issues in an open and non-judgmental way. Now, happily, a more open climate of opinion prevails. There is now a very considerable body of evidence to suggest that human sexual behaviour is, to a great extent, socially constructed. How much of our behaviour, sexual and otherwise, is socially constructed is a complex issue I do not want to go into in any detail here. Suffice it to say, there is little doubt that attitudes to and discussion about sexual behaviour are partly socially constructed and what I write here is undoubtedly a result of norms of discussion in western society as they emerged in the 1960s and evolved in the last half century.

Man is not one but two says Dr. Jeykll, three says Sigmund Freud and other numerical quantities say other psychological theorists. This thorough and primitive division, this duality, torments man, stimulates him and keeps his psyche busy, some psyches more than others, some men and women more than others. To subdue this lower nature sometimes requires a spiritual jihad and waging jihads has never been one of my talents. To give it an appropriate form of expression—sex that is--may not require a jihad, but it does require good luck, good interpersonal skills and several fortuitous contexts that are often elusive.
These sexual tensions go back in my memory to puberty and even childhood. They are still part of and coincide with my more recent poetic obsession of the last, say, twenty years.

The combination of writing and sexual activity is, to some extent, a way of integrating with the structure of life, a way of working out life's problems.       More simply put, the sexual urge and its control is for me, as it is for millions, an ongoing test which, in various forms, has kept my sensory emporium busy periodically for decades. There is and has been a yielding to temptation and there is and has been a mixture of pleasure, joy and sickness that this struggling soul has experienced in this domain of life. Such a yielding leaves many things in life in its wake. One could write a separate book on this theme. Shakespeare puts the theme, the experience, in the following pithy tones:

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action......full of blame
A bliss..and proved, a very woe
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

To put the matter of sexual expression a little differently and a little more directly, as Bertand Russell writes, my lower nature has often yearned after "the simple happiness" that comes from sexual activity, sexual release. Whether this was due to constitutional, to genetic, factors and/or environmental ones hardly matters, the grip of the yearning required a strong will to counter than I often posessed.

If the reader senses a vagueness, a certain complexity, in Shakespeare's words, it is because the issue is both vague and complex on the one hand and simple and clear on the other. I do not intend or wish it so, but to examine the issues surrounding sex and sexuality to any depth would lead to prolixity. Professor G. Wilson Knight says this vagueness is part of the very appeal of Shakespeare's poetry when he deals with the sensual, the erotic, the sexual. Writers and analysts have been trying to figure Shakespeare's meaning out for centuries—at least four.

I hope the same appeal is found here in this autobiography. I may have been vague from time to time, but I have also been explicit. In an autobiography of nearly 2500 pages it is impossible not to be explicit to some extent.

As the Universal House of Justice writes discussing autoeroticism, a problem in the sexual domain I battled with beginning in my fifties: "it is only one of the many temptations and faults that a human being should strive to overcome." And one should not "overemphasise its importance." And so, in the last fifteen years, I have come to see it as but one of many of life's tests to overcome, not something to invest undue concern about. And so it was--only one of life's many tests and temptations that visited me by my early fifties to challenge, yet again, my life's expression of the sex impulse and my ability to exercise self-control with its potentially salutary effect on the development of my character and personality. Russell referred to some of his expressions of sexual activity as the "irritations of unsatisfied instinct." I have often referred to it as "an annoying itch." Anger, I should add parenthetically, is like an earthquake with varying degrees on the richter-scale and jealousy an emotion like unto a poison. These two emotions, ‘‘Abdu'l-Bahá says, should be avoided as one would a lion.

There were appropriate times to yield to this itch. And there were times when I was never proud of yielding to this particular temptation, this annoyance. It was an experience that did not even enter my life until my late forties. But I don't feel the same way that D.H. Lawrence felt. He called autoeroticism a "dirty little secret" and he was typical of his generation early in the twentieth century and between the wars. Attitudes now are much more liberal and less loaded with hype and moral indignation; some would say modern attitudes are healthy and non-judgemental.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz called sexual self-stimulation "the primary sexual activity of mankind." Szasz once observed that in the 19th century it was considered a disease. By the late 20th century it was seen as a cure, at least by some. Some initial research is indicating that there is a positive correlation between masturbation and a reduction in prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in American men exceeded only by skin cancer. Between 30,000 and 40,000 American men are expected to die from prostate cancer in 2006. One gets better at rationalizing as one gets older. But the issue is not all one of rationalization.

"Hypersexual" can be defined as a state in which a person is "unusually or excessively interested in or concerned with sexual activity." I don't think I exhibited a state of hypersexuality as a child or adolescent, for I am of the opinion that I did not exhibit what one could describe as the onset of bi-polarity until my 18th or 19th years. One of the symptoms that bi-polar children may manifest is a fascination with and a precocious interest in things of a sexual nature. Reigning in sexual impulses that may overtake them and cause them to overreach the boundaries of what is appropriate in a social context is often difficult in bi-polar children. It was certainly difficult for me and only on the rarest occasions was I unable to reign them in.       It is an accepted fact that hypersexuality is a symptom of hypomania or mania in an adult who has bipolar disorder. From the age of 18 until the present time I have no difficulty identifying with this element of my behaviour and, for the most part, I reigned my desires in but not without great difficulty.

The "m" word was first used in 1621 in an anti-Catholic pamphlet and one can read a history of men's and women's struggles and pleasures with its manifestations all the way back to Samuel Pepys' famous account of his masturbatory urges. But like many temptations and human inclinations which seem to be and often are an affront to human dignity, one sometimes resists them and sometimes yields. It seems to be part of the polarity that we live with, part of both the pleasure and pain that is our life.

Life's monster in its myriad forms of expression and associated in Bahá'í literature with our lower nature, never dies; the unnamed creature from the wastes and associated in secular literature with the vampire, the werewolf, the ghout, the lower nature, it seems is always with us. But it is not some external reality; it is ourselves and the battle is our life, a battle that takes different forms with different people. It is not my intention to discuss the problem of the erotic and the myriad fleeting episodes of erotic attraction in my life in much more detail. The above capsule of comment—with perhaps a few final and more general remarks on the subject below—will suffice.

"Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images," writes American poet Adrienne Rich, "whatever is omitted in biography, censored in collections of letters…whatever is buried in memory by the collapse of meaning…this will become not merely unspoken, but unspeakable. Although I find there are multitude of situations in life where not everything can be spoken, where a certain etiquette, modesty, timeliness and suitability of words to the ears of the hearer must be observed, the subject I have raised here is, for me, appropriate. I recognize that this may not be the case for some readers. Such is one of the perils of writing and writing for oneself as well as a diverse public.

Autobiography has for me, as it may be obvious to the reader by now, more of a therapeutic role than a confessional one. But, as the Russian writer Anton Chekhov once observed in one of his many discussions on the subject of writing: "Once a writer undertakes the task of writing, no matter how horrified he may be with what he comes across, he must do battle with his squeamishness and sully his imagination with the grime of life. He is just like any ordinary reporter." I try as far as possible for my writing to contain "the influence of spring" but, sadly and inevitably, one finds that some of one's words, like some of one's actions and thoughts along the road of life, result in a certain blight and they cause the blossoms and flowers to wither. Some of the withering is in one's own heart and some in the hearts of others. Such is our experience on this plane of appearance. For some, as I have said elsewhere in this work, my confessionalism will be far too limited; for others I will have said far too much—and for still others there will be an indifference to what I write that is profound or, as one writer once put it in relation to the reaction he anticipated to his written offerings to the world, "the reaction to my work will be like the sound of a feather dropping into the Grand Canyon."

I recreate my past; I strive for healing, a unified self and self-definition through a dialogue with myself and my past. Autobiography serves as a springboard to dive into the rest of my life. As I engage in this concentrated effort from the springboard I feel as if there are clearly some subjects best kept in the private domain, at least for the most part. My diary contains much more intimate detail but, by the time it is published, if it ever is, I shall be long gone. I am inclined to think a future age will not be as obsessed as our age has been with what we do with our genitals, our hind-quarters, our several sexual protuberances and our subtle and not-so-subtle indentations. But we in our age, our time, will just have to wait for the shift. It is a shift that we may not live to see, at least my generation. Over a lifetime there are so many unusual, strange and unique events that occur to other parts of the anatomy giving the genitals a bit of a run for their money. Like Imre Salusinszky I can't see any virtue in angling these sort of details into this story as a means of either entertainment or a way of illuminating the decades of my life.(Imre Salusinszky, "Shooting Star," Weekend Australian, January 24/5, 2004, p.8)

I am not interested in commenting on my faeces as Montaigne was in his Essays or expatiating, as so many autobiographers and biographers do, on the various and several activities of my penis or someone's vagina over the last half century after I discovered in 1965 at the age of 21 that these organs were a source of an immensely stimulating pleasure in addition to their normal anatomical functioning. Unlike Montaigne I do some concealing but, like Dylan Thomas, I reveal some of this secret domain. I can't compete, though, with Thomas' twenty year orgy of drunkenness and lechery and his particular eccentricities like the occasion when he got his penis stuck in a two-ounce honey pot.

The sexual eccentricies of many an artist and entertainer have held their fascinations for readers. Oscar Wilde, for example, the famous Irish writer, is known to have crept out of his house from time to time in the middle of the night and to prowl the foulest dens in London in pursuit of sexual satiety. One of his goals was to free himself from the persistent demands of conscience. On his return he would sit in front of his picture, sometimes loathing both the picture and himself, but filled at other times with that pride of individualism which is half the fascination of sin. Part of Wilde's philosophy in such matters he put like this: "the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." I have found that yielding to temptation does just the opposite, but there is some truth in Wilde's remarks on this complex subject. Conscience exercises a useful brake on the persistent demands of passion. It is a useful and essential adjunct in the hands of will-power, a tool which often fails in matters sexual and psychological. We all have our most submissive, yielding moments in acts of commission. These moments become part of certain permanent and fatal moods, part of certain stereotypes of temperament. I could, like Oscar Wilde, read my fall into this relationship as a tragedy in which I am pulled down by temptation, by fascination with the erotic. In so doing, he recognizes that to cast himself as a tragic protagonist he must acknowledge some transgression on his part.

Michael Leiris writes that "autobiography is an open wound and that self-exposure is the sole courageous act." Self-exposure is also, it seems to me, a spice and needs to be added in just the right amounts. Dana Gioia writes that our passions possess us; we do not choose them. They are not passive; they revel in their dark energy and joyful power. They can be dangerous and unpredictable. "Eternal passion! Eternal pain!" wrote Matthew Arnold. It is difficult to discuss passion in one's life without a good deal of self-exposure. This autobiography certainly contains some mea culpa(Latin: admissions of fault).

But what I own-up to is not a confession of fleshy weakness, a lengthy dissertation on acts of personal failing or inadequacy in my life or a list of my sins of omission and commission. It is a simple admission to human error, to mistakes and faulty judgements from the myriads upon myriads that I have made but, for the most part, this book, now about two-thirds over, is not so much about where I got it wrong or where I got it right, where I fell down and picked myself up or where I stood tall, the usual stuff of autobiography in the last several centuries. Rather this book is about my thoughts, my apprehensions and misapprehensions, my understandings and misunderstandings. It contains many imperfections; imperfection is easier to tolerate if served up in small doses so I know many will not be able to tolerate the contents here given their prolixity, their imperfections, their overly analytical nature. I can only add: as in life, the same with books, "to each his own."

Thomas de Quincey wrote, in the first paragraph of his Confessions of an English Opium Eater, "nothing is more revolting to English feelings, than the spectacle of a human being obtruding on our notice his moral ulcers or scars." How the English have changed in the last two centuries! The tearing away of the "decent drapery" which we draw over our lives has for many a long year been pulled from our psychological windows. By varying degrees in the last century, and especially beginning in the 1960s, the confessional mode, the exposure of our moral ulcers, is so common that I have little hesitation mentioning at least a few of mine and, as I have said, in 2500 pages it is difficult not to mention a few, thus drawing the curtain to the side a little and letting the world gaze into my inner sanctum with its sins of omission and commission.

As 'Abdu'l-Bahá said so many times: the reality of man is his thought. And these thoughts are so much a part of who I became as I went through a process of becoming and thoughts that are still taking place as I forge my soul in the firey furnace of existence, with its purifying flame, its heat and its life-giving warmth. I still to this day confront these thoughts, again and again, directly, obliquely, as they well up and as I try to organize them in my day to day life, as we all do in our daily life.

I have often wondered how much of my motivation for writing is sexual, a sublimation of my sexual inadequacies and insecurities in writing. Have my sexual meanderings, since as far back as my teenage years, been what David Hayman calls "a false release from self?" Given the sexual obsession in our culture these concerns for the sexual, it seems to me, are hardly surprising. Is my poetry, then, like Daedalus's, too individualistic not speaking to anyone but myself.?" Such is a brief revelation and comment on some of my inner conflict in relation to my writing and my sexuality.

The Universal House of Justice provides wise and understanding words on the "m" word in their letter to an individual believer dated March 8th 1981 in Lights of Guidance(1983, p.270): "Concentrate, rather, on the virtues," they say, "the services you should strive to render." Don't beat yourself up over your sexual frustrations and inclinations. This sounds so eminently sane.

My relationship with my second wife gains its excitement, its pleasure in intellectual and spiritual matters, in the enjoyments of shared activity and companionship. Sex is just not a significant part of our relationship and hasn't been for years and we both stopped beating our head over this reality years ago as well. When I listened to Australians Bill Garner and Sue Gore, historian and writer respectively, partners in writing drama, say that they found their intellectual relationship better than sex, I felt they took the words out of my mouth. I am sure the world has millions of people for whom sex slips into third and fourth place behind other features of their marriage. We still have our battles but sex is not one of them.

Thomas Mann also writes some cautionary notes regarding my passionate surges in his book Death in Venice: "For you know that we poets cannot walk the way of beauty without Eros as our companion and guide. We may be heroic after our fashion, disciplined warriors of our craft, yet……we exult in passion. Love is still our desire, our craving and our shame. And from this you will perceive that we poets can be neither wise nor worthy citizens.-Thomas Mann in: "Thomas Mann Quotes,"

You1 advised I concentrate
on developing my virtues,
on serving the community,
on God and His attributes
and on living a full Bahá'í life
in all its aspects,
not to let this problem
claim to great a share
of my attention,
not to overemphasise
its importance.

Such wisdom:
takes the heat off,
makes me feel human,
overcomes a thousand years
of ignorance in one shot, simple
letter to an individual believer.

1 The Universal House of Justice

Ron Price
25 March 2002

The unstable, duplicitous, unreliable and slippery nature of personal experience; the notion that our inner life is in some ways not our own, that it is at least partly theoretical, constructed and fallacious; that it depends in important ways on what we ingest from our environment; that the demands of our sexual morality are utterly at variance with the massive propaganda and stimulus of eroticism; that the experience of anti-community and withdrawal in our time is deafening; that the good life, the dream, the symbolic order of our mass society is characterized by atomization, affluence and private consumption; that between catastrophe and the consumer stands the television and the radio, like periscopes behind which billions of viewers try to see and understand---all of this can not be separated from any autobiography in the west worth its salt.

Films with horror and sexual imagery are the two main genres specifically devoted to the arousal of bodily sensation and I should not forget advertising. They exist solely to horrify and stimulate and their ability to do so is, if not the sole measure of their success, at least the major ingredient. They "prove themselves upon our pulses," as slasher director Dario Argento puts it. "I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or a man being murdered," he goes on. Such films have been part of the visual staple of my generation. Some artists attempt to deflect and exclude the male viewer; they try to negate the offer of erotic stimulus traditionally associated with the female nude. Degas is one such artist. But in my time, the last half century, popular culture has been turned into a vast inventory of sensory stimulus, a huge disneyland to assuage and disguise our fears and express and satisfy our desires, to simulate and stimulate our senses: TV and radio, hi-fis, videos, VCRs, DVDs, the internet, video games, etcetera.

There is a dialectic that auto-ethnographers and autobiographers have to deal with all the time. It is rooted in the dichotomy between popular culture and culture in general, on the one hand, and one's personal experience on the other. This dialectic is at the core of the very purpose as well as the challenge of this work. It is a challenge of language that tries to capture both levels, the personal and the cultural. Auto-ethnographers/biographers who set themselves the task of integrating, relating to, cultures are boundary walkers. They crisscross between the boundaries of being home and away, of being insider and outsider, of being personal and cultural selves. There is nothing more difficult than this back and forth between ways of living, speaking, thinking and feeling. There is nothing more risky than switching between various identities and practices of estrangement. We expose ourselves, we make ourselves vulnerable and we are constantly in danger of remaining on one side of the border of (a) getting personal for the sake of getting personal and (b) sticking to aloof criteria in the name of being objective. It's a pervasive experience that seems to go on just about all the time.

Our emotions and our intellects become covered by a veneer of civilization, a veneer that is the product to a significant extent of media. Much of this media world, much of the relations of sex, power and personality are quite impenetrable, inscrutable to ordinary men and women of which I am one. But this media world plays a part in influencing my needs and wants so much more than I am aware or than I am even prepared to admit. Although I do not dwell on this and related themes, it would be remiss of me not to at least refer to the complex domain of the print and electronic media which has always been in the background of my life.

In writing this autobiography I would like to say, as J.D. Bereford does in his, "that my single pleasure is in continual retelling of the story of my own intellectual and spiritual life"(ibid.,p.68). This has not quite been the case for me, J.D., not quite. Obviously I find other pleasures in life. Beresford's creative energy goes into interpretations of what is going on and that is the case with me as far as I am able. I do not find that singleness of pleasure that Bereford seems to get from autobiography. This autobiography has occupied a good deal of my time since the mid-1980s, but it is only one part of a multifaceted life. It is clearly not ‘my single pleasure.' This autobiography touches down on many other aspects of life that have occupied me in these years. I think that for me, and Doris Lessing, autobiography is partly wish-fulfillment and dreaming, partly an ordering of the tentative, unfinished raw material of the real in a literary creation.

If I return to some personal pathology from time to time it is, as James Hillman states, due to the fact that affliction, disorder, peculiarity and hurt are fundamental symptoms, starting points, nodes, turning places for journeys into everyday life and the labyrinth of the soul. If I go on at too great a length for some readers it is, as Hayden White puts it, due to an "excess of meaning." The feminine has been a crucial part of my life beginning with my mother and her sister who cared for me for a few months when I was five or six. Even in solitude, now, I like to see my wife busying herself in the garden, with her paints or pots, her books or any number of domestic tasks. It feels almost spiritual.

There are a host of variants of this metaphorical journey we are all on and which dot the landscape of the western intellectual tradition. The journeys have many destinations: the sea, the ocean, a river, home, a Promised Land, death. What happens on these journeys is also various. Homer is offered immortality at journey's end but prefers to be with his loved one Penelope. Ezekial is transported to Jerusalem and sees visions of its desolation and future glory. Muhammed has a vision of a journey to Jerusalem from Mecca at night. All of the journeys are musts. They meander, take on a maze-like form or some spiral staircase like Dante in his journey to hell. Bahá'u'lláh's journey in exile and imprisonment is, perhaps, the modern, the paradigmatic epic metaphor for our age.

Modern writers like Yeats use the winding path, the chameleon, for the central image of the journey; others like Conrad express it as an association with the nineteenth century mystery of central Africa: a journey to the heart of darkness. In more religious terms Jesus saw Himself as "the way." Moses actually saw the Promised Land from the mountain top. Zen Buddhism, in contrast, sees the journey inward since there is nowhere to go. Some of these remarks are useful in setting some background to the analysis I make of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner.

For some writers, some autobiographers, their creative effort goes into discussing others since others are part of their corporate identity. Still other poets, like W.H. Auden, believe that "No poet should ever write an autobiography." Some write exhaustively about their gardens, their hobbies, their friends, their jobs, their health. I don't write exhaustively about any of these things. Readers may find I have sold them short, as it were. Perhaps in a future edition I will write on these things in more detail. there are many topics of my life that I do not describe at all, at least not yet. I touch down on the lives and personalities of others, my job, my health, a plethora of other things, only to a limited extent in this work. Many may find the day-to-day self, the ordinary person who washes the dishes, vaccuums the carpet and brushes his teeth is absent here. And they would be right. It took me half a lifetime to learn to brush my teeth properly and, then, only after I lost half of them due to decay. I wash dishes with some vigour and regularity and vaccuum once over lightly although not thoroughly. These sort of details in my life, which could be elaborated upon with some finess, I leave out. The best I could make of them would be a funny story but I can not think of any edifying information that I could add about these quotidian activities.

The whole business of writing out what I did, when I did it, where I did it, with whom and why often seemed to be quite beyond me as I took up this autobiographical pen. So often I simply had to leave the update process until some motivating force captured my attention. The desire to write up-dates and particularly as I approached the third edition of this work, simply disappeared and I felt strongly that I would have to discontinue the autobiographical process. It was at this point that I felt like making the following comment and it had a role in stimulating the continuance of this exercise. I wrote the following in my diary: "I would, though, like to make one last comment about my relationship with my wife which, in the last three years has weathered perhaps more arguments than we have had in the first 25 years of our time together. I had come to know what took the both of us into battle, what turns of phrase, tones of voice, issues and situations. The effort to resolve often ended in an inflamation of feelings, in the evocation of other previous quarrels from dim and turbulent dawns. Resentments would stir up resentments, reopen old scars, turn them into fresh wounds and nurture rancor. Perhaps, I often hoped and thought to myself, when we rounded the corner of old age, we would laugh at the bitter-sweetness(more sweet than bitter I hoped) of so much that had made us want to abandon our relationship and its responsibilities and begin a new life without each other. Perhaps in some old and more placcid state, we would simply avoid talking about old wounds fearful that they might begin to bleed again. Time would tell."

And so I continued in an extended comment on the above: I have come to depend on her in so many areas for advice: in my work, for companionship at home, for someone to share solitude with. When I am separated from her for a day or so, and that is about all these days, I become conscious of the words of Huxley in relation to his wife, namely, that "Nobody, children or anyone else, can be to me what you are. Ulysses preferred his old woman to immortality." When I am away from you I am led "to see that he was as wise in that as in other things." Again Huxley writes, "Against all trouble (and I have had my share) I weigh a wife-comrade 'trew and fest' in all emergencies." The closeness I have achieved with my wife has little to do with sex and much to do with common values, a spiritual bond, shared experience and the mysterious dispensations of Providence and time.

I would like to mention here, something I mentioned much earlier in this narrative and that is the similarity between my experience of the mother and the Jewish matriarch in Jewish culture where the mother is the emotional centre of the family. The children have a closeness to the mother that they never achieve with the father. That was certainly true in my relationship with my mother and my children's relationship with their mother(my wife). To put this another way, the closeness with the father has a different sense, a different context and substance not so much emotional, as intellectual with values like respect and appreciation coming to the fore.

In bringing this third edition, then, to a close before putting it on the Internet where it will serve as a working base for the next edition, I have gone back over a collection of more than a hundred unpublished 1000 word essays written while working on the first and second editions of this work. What I am attempting to do here in the next few sentences is integrate some of that body of 100,000 words into the body of this initial third edition.

What I would like to do here is close with some comments on prayer which has been a highly significant part of my life and if I had this essay on prayer in my computer where all essays are now stored, I would attach it to this text. My essay deals with the Hellaby's influential book, with the Long Obligatory Prayer, with intercessory prayer, with memorizing and with meditation, with 'dieing daily' as St. Paul once said, with a tedium vitae which set in to my life as a frequent occurance by the age of thirty-six and with the experience of receiving inspirations seemingly ex nihilo that which I "had no previous knowledge of." By the time my pioneering life was into its second decade my mind had been set aflame and the fire was kindled and rekindle each year, each month, each day and usually rekindled from the cold embers of an emotional life that included the icicles of thanatos. It is not my desire here to overstate the case, but I think much of my experience here had more to do with my bi-polar disorder than with the affects of prayer. Although I suppose I will never know for sure.

Perhaps, I should add here, a comment of F. Scott Fitzgerald which throws light on this quite intense aspect of my personal experience over many years. Writing about the artistically creative life and the conditions that resulted for the writer, he wrote that he thought they were "so arduous that I can only compare them to the duties of a soldier in wartime." When I think of my initial exposure to 'the war metaphor' in the Tablets of the Divine Plan in 1965 and of a certain temperamental predisposition to intensity already evident in my teens, if not in my childhood, there is a mixture, a milieux, a mind-set, that made the last four epochs of my life a heady cocktail of forces.

The above updates, then, give a sense of the texture of the last decade and of these first four years in George Town. But none of these updates would be complete if I did not try and summarize my last decade of service on the LSA of Belmont. In 1996 I wrote the following essay which captures some of the spirit of my LSA activity during those years:

I see what follows as a light-hearted, but hopefully not unhelpful look, at an LSA meeting. I write from the perspective of a secretary, the role I am currently performing here in Belmont. I thought to myself that fifteen years of attending LSA meetings, usually as one of the executive officers, was a sufficient basis for me to serve as a mentor to some student who was interested and willing to learn. My other twenty-three years of active involvement in registered groups, unregistered groups, as a pioneer and travel teacher gives me nearly four decades on which to base any insights offered here.

"If I am really efficient and by the fourth decade of my pioneering experience I was efficient, an LSA meeting begins for me within twenty-four hours of the previous LSA meeting. This is because I am currently a secretary and within twenty-four hours after a meeting I like to get the minutes, the letters and as much of the agenda of the next meeting prepared as is possible. Then, as the days go on to the next meeting, I can simply add items to the agenda as they come in: usually from correspondence, sometimes from Bahá'í friends and occasionally over the telephone. I always take a certain pride in getting the minutes and the agenda done right after the meeting. I think my record is an hour to an hour-and-a-half between the end of the meeting and all paperwork done, the completion of the secretarial follow-up. This also includes minutes delivery.

"There is a sense of urgency which gives me a certain adrenaline rush as I drive through the quiet suburban streets late at night popping minutes into mail boxes. The inquisitive reader should be warned, though, that this zeal and enthusiasm has a price in secretarial burnout. For part of the rationale for getting all the "paperwork" done so quickly is that: it has a tedious aspect, a routine that over many years brings most secretaries to the edge of an enormous weariness; and I can barely read my own notes and tend to forget what I should write in the minutes if I don't get them done quickly.

"The eager novitiate may like to consider the LSA adopting the policy of having an assistant secretary to pick up the mail, table correspondence and write outgoing letters. I'm sure LSA's all over the world and their secretaries work out all sorts of innovative and useful collaborations and initiate a range of policies to help them cope with the increasing work load that LSAs are taking on and which I felt even in these earliest years of this last, this tenth, stage of history.

"But whatever clever innovations are engaged in, in the last analysis a secretary really needs to be someone who is able to write well and, in these relatively early days of the Cause, in the first century of its administrative operation along the lines set up by Shoghi Effendi in the 1920s and 1930s, such a person of literary merit is often lacking. Getting an assistant to pick up on as much of what is often a tedious flow of paper is part of the salvation of the new, the keen and the capable secretary. As these embryonic institutions develop the role of secretary will continue to be the pivotal one for the local Bahá'í community. If handling the paper and its associated tasks can be done efficiently by some assistant or assistants, the secretary's energies can be saved for the challenging task of getting through the meetings themselves. This is the subject to which I would now like to turn.

"Sometimes I feel as if I should bring a wheelbarrow to Feasts and LSA meetings. For I carry: an LSA Handbook which is now the thickness of a small but solid brick after being slim and one-quarter inch in thickness from 1965 to 1980 in the first years when I remember carrying paper to meetings; a secretarial two-ring binder, several smaller files; and to Feasts I carry: a guitar, music books and the fund boxes(for the treasurer). Incumbent secretaries should try to travel as lightly as possible. Transporting great quantities of paper for most people has a wear-and-tear function which contributes often to their early demise. I've known grown men and big and not-so-big women develop acute paranoia around the thought of carrying out the secretarial function. Many people, men and women, simply get beaten by the paper-flow.

"The paper tradition has a fine history going back to the Central Figures of the Faith and secretaries participate in this rich and impressive tradition. Both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá were greatly relieved when they did not have to handle the world of paper. And Shoghi Effendi was bowed down by paper, among other things of course, and was, I have no doubt, greatly relieved when death came soon at the age of sixty.

"Secretaries can also be beaten by the personalities who inhabit the lounge rooms of LSA meetings around the globe. I think the first thing I would recommend to any person, especially a secretary, who has been elected to serve is to have a sin-covering eye. One really must overlook the faults and failings of one's fellow members of humankind or one can get trammelled to death by one's own reactions in addition to whatever behaviour one has to deal with in others. The less one expects the better and then disappointment will not linger on one's lips with a guilt-tripping edge that one develops in one's voice. A casual detachment sprinkled with humour is a wonderful recipe for success, for keeping cool when the potential for heat and anxiety is great is of the utmost importance. Indeed, it is the very note of one's survival. Here, too, I have seen strong men and even stronger women brought to tears, to the pitch of anger, to the sounds of an embittered sarcasm and to a boredom only a hair's breadth from sleep. Warn to a frazzle the eager secretary, no matter how efficient his or her paper flow, quickly loses his fires, his enthusiasm, his desire to serve. A quiet voice, a kindly but honest tongue and a brilliant inventiveness help a great deal in your survival. Or the candidate may simply burn out and be heard from no more.

I often think that a sense of humour is part of the key to a persistence in much of the Bahá'í work and, indeed, much of the human enterprize everywhere. Mark Twain once defined the oral method of American humour and the basis of American art as the ability "to string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities." The major difference in Australia is that in that great continent they know there is no purpose; they know the string is one of absurdities. And that it their pleasure.

"There have been years when I served on LSAs when I had the only telephone and everyone else on the LSA was a brand new Bahá'í. I served as secretary for two such years. I also served for three years when we had entry-by-troops. It was during that period of mass entry in the West from 1970 to 1972, the only period as far as I know, when entry-by-troops was a commonplace in the western world. There was more paper to play with and more people came to meetings, but the LSA itself went through the same routines. What did change at LSA meetings from year to year was the composition of the membership and this was often enough to test the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon. For, however valuable general principles are, and there are mnay in the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, it is often difficult to connect general principles with such thoroughly concrete things as little children, difficult adolescents, complex and incorrigible adults.

"There is now a developing literature to assist secretarys and LSA members. This essay will join dozens of others I have written and one day, God willing, it may be published. After 450 to 500 LSA meetings under my belt I offer the above as a Guide, a summary statement of experience from the third and fourth epochs. The Bahá'í world had, as far as I know, a little over one thousand LSAs when I became a Bahá'í in 1959 and well under one thousand when my mother first started going to meetings and serving on LSAs in the mid-1950s. I like to think of what I have written here as a voice from the past, from the last half of the twentieth century, to LSA members in the twenty-first century and perhaps beyond. Here is, it seems to me, a summary sketch, a bird's eye look, at how someone survived one of the most challenging and difficult parts of his Bahá'í experience. Perhaps one day I will expand on this page-and-a-half, but for now this brief look at someone's experience, at my experience, may help to provide a thread of continuity for future participants in the Administrative Order, that precursor to the World Order whose first stirrings we are just now seeing break over the horizon.
Ron Price
6 January 1996

This pioneering story is now in its forty-first year and my Bahá'í experience goes back just on fifty years. This is a good spot to bring this sequence, this narrative, to an end. I will include several appendices as comments on this autobiography in particular and autobiography in general and include, too, in these appendices some other relevant material to embellish this account. I hope the reader who has lasted this far finds the up-and-coming appendices the icing on the cake.

I think, in some ways, that the problem nineteenth century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne had with living an overly secluded life, with being shy and not having any contact with cultivated and brilliant people, with his need to keep men of letters at a distance, with his not being liked and, therefore, with his never really being a part of a community, perhaps in part because of society's polite and oppressive moralistic tone, throws some light on my own experience through both comparisons and contrasts. By the time I began to write seriously I had had enough of society both the good and the bad. I was not shy and my life had been far from secluded. I had been part of a community of people of letters as a teacher for thirty years and the Bahá'í community I mixed in had its bookish and serious, academic and literary minded souls. Generally I liked people and was liked by them. But I wanted to moderate my involvement and so began my dalliance with autobiography, with poetry and with retirement.

It was still too early for me to select my final plot, the place where my remains would reside forever-until dust and ash itself disappear. People used to have their place all set, at least once they got to the age of fifty. Many still do. My own peripatetic existence has kept me in so many places that it has been difficult to contemplate the final spot for my body to rest, as it is said. Living in Tasmania after thirty years of living in Australia and soon to turn sixty, I have come to feel that this island state is my home. It may be that I will keep moving on from time to time and take up a temporary residence in Japan or South America or some part of this immensely varied planet. But, at the moment, this seems unlikely.

Of course, it may be that my remains will come to lie in any one of a number of places on the globe. Since I belong to a religion where one can not be buried more than one hour distance from where one has died, one has to be buried in the city or town where the last breath of air has gone from one's lips or some place nearby. It is somewhat premature to predict just where I will finish up. But no matter where that may be I shall enjoy a coffin that is "fine and durable" and of "crystal, stone or wood". With a ring on my finger that shall be inscribed with the words "I came forth from God, and return unto Him detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate" I shall go into the ground, into a hole, as the Bab says, "for those who speak no more." One day a gold ring with these words shall be all that remains in a small box that shall come to house this earthly body. This will be true no matter where on the planet I am housed. I shall also have my body enfolded in one or as many as five sheets of silk or cotton. This shall be my body's final neigbourhood.

Over a lifetime we get such varied places as neighbourhoods. I always have lived in houses on streets, except for six months in an apartment building across from a brewery in Windsor Ontario, four months on the eleventh floor in west Hamilton, three months in an apartment building with my mother in Hamilton Ontario and ten months in a block of three units in Frobisher Bay. I don't want to go over the two dozen neighbourhoods I have lived in from Baffin Island to Tasmania for it would result in prolixity. The reader would get a geographical tour of cities in southern Ontario, remote towns and cities like: Frobisher Bay, Whyalla in South Australia, South Hedland and Katherine in the north of Asutralia, Zeehan and Smithton in Tasmania, big smokes like Melbourne and Perth and lesser smokes like Ballarat and Launceston. A whole lifetime would get laid out on the page.

Pioneering has taken me to a world of neighbourhoods. I have felt an intimacy in so many places that I now feel an attraction to an Unknown Country. I can just about savour it. Its texture seems to be a little out of reach, just beyond my grasp. It has its own vocabulary: gentleness, peace, quiet. There are words that are not found there: hatred, envy, lust, impatience. It feels about a league away, a nice place to retire, with a modest lodging, a comfortable chair by a hearth. I don't know the address; the key is not in my possession. I sense it as I pass by windows with warm glows. I hear it in the wind, softly murmuring in the dark clouds and air overhead. It is just beyond the life that is running ahead of me so fast. Just beyond my sweetest whoa, my trying to fix it all in place. Just at the back of the garden, these little gardens, row upon row, in town after town, little places where souls dwell for years after years.

I have cultivated in my mind's eye whole worlds of neighbourhoods, perfect places I would like to dwell, diverse terrains: rich libraries, mountain tracts, places I can go and don't have to worry about the costs(for this fact alone has kept me out of most neighbourhoods that have lovely things to buy); places I can eat, dine with the most stimulating and courteous company, or dine alone after an invigorating walk in that mountain air. Sometimes I dine in the late evening after a long and busy day. Sometimes its a small snack in the late afternoon with someone I like talking to. I have met so many, thousands in life, whose company I have enjoyed. It is not difficult to enjoy the company of another human being. My neighbourhood is peopled and placed with a warm, colourful but easy mixture. I don't think about the crime, the growth of new and old movements, passing exams or marking assignments. But I do think; for thinking has become a habit of great pleasure.

In this neighbourhood of the mind I've been tending the gardens little by little over the decades, perhaps as early as 1962 when I moved to Dundas and finished high school and university, I will find new loves to look upon. Some will have your face but not your smile, some your music but no dance. Peopling one's neighbourhood with what one loves is crucial especially during those times which inevitably come and which are stringent, severe and exacting. The constructions that heaven provides can be cold and lonely. Heaven seems to hunt about for those who seek its peace and sweetness below and, as Roger White once put it,

Then it snatches them away
Occasioning angels, so.

Referring to us as "the velvet mouse", White says we inevitably "tremble" as we try "to gauge the eagle's claw." For heaven is the hunter and we are the hunted and the neighbourhoods we dwell in have such varied sets of pleasures and challenges.

If some readers find this work not to their taste, not something they would like to put in their garden or their library; if they express their critical judgement, I shall strive, as William Wordsworth advised, not to be anxious about their opinions. In the meantime, while I wait for reactions, I shall continue to refine the eschatological closure that Frank Kermode says is inherent in any story and is reflected in the prototypical narrative of Bahá'í history. It is a history that arguably begins with the preparation years of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, continues in the declaration of the Bab, the conversion of Mulla Husayn and ends, after a tortuous and incredible journey in the death, first of Bahá'u'lláh, then of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and, finally of Shoghi Effendi, but only after many travels, immense revelation, much suffering, anxiety and difficulty, much writing and, in all of this, the steady advancement of a world redemptive Cause.

This prototypical narrative with its endless metaphorical significances is like a template, a window, a mirror, through which I can view my own life and find there meaning systems that give to my existence, my journey, a quintessential significance. And it would appear now a chapter of literary activity fills my life as a titanic new force slowly emerges, a political force associated with a new Order which will one day be in the ascendant in our world. It is expanding in a series of waves which in the course of time will submerge the greater part of the Habitable Earth. It is welling up in a huge eruption of molten lava from the mouth of a single crater. It is rising with immense impetus from the vast reservoirs of what is now a global social experience. But the process is slow, like some inward response to external vicissitudes. It is welling up like a mighty tree of thought, with its towering stem, symmetrically branching boughs and a delicate tracery of twigs. A seedling germinating in the womb of a travailling age, it is requiring so many of us, unfitted by temperament and unprepared by experience, as Hamlet was, to make the response that the Cause demands. But God, it would seem, is patient.

And so, as the disintegration of our civilization continues apace, in an alternation of lapses and rallies and relapses, as each generation of first Babis and then Bahá'ís, never really reaches 'the challenging reqirements of the present hour' and as the institutions of a new world Order grow from strength to strength "a sense of unity which is one of the psychological products of the process of social disintegration" begins to fill the social space.

"During the Times of Troubles through which disintegrating civilizations make their rough passage, the vision of unity grows ever clearer and the yearning for it ever more poignant as the reality of it continues to elude the storm-tossed wayfarers; and, when, at the lowest ebb of hope, the long-pursued goal at last unexpectedly attained, and this in a monumental form, the psychological effect is overwhelming." During these several epochs that growing sense of unity at the global level was more and more manifest as the storm-tossed wayfarers lived more and more through low ebbs and the political prospects seemed quite obscure. The date and the manner of a future political unification, however inevitable, were impossible to divine. In the short term, though, our own lives, our autobiographies, were more manageable. We could and, of course, we do sift through our years, reconceive and perspectivise ourselves. In the tempest of these distracted times our lives take many twists and turns but, as Boris Pasternak noted in his poem Hamlet, "To live a life-is not an easy task."

Perhaps, like the nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill who completed his story, the rest of his life story, by commenting on his personal writings, his textual corpus, I too will do the same. He had in the early stages of his work, his autobiography, commented on his inner life. He took shelter, though, as his life ended, in the public--and published--man. Mill led his readers away from his life to the already printed record of his life work. I could do this as well. For in these early years of my retirement from the world of employment, of job, of payment for skill, in the years 1999 to 2003, this writing has become my task, my duty, my burden, my pleasure. The "life of one that laboureth and is contented, shall be made sweet." This is, indeed, the case with me for the most part, except that "the life process" I know from both my experience and the words of the Guardian involves an alternation of crises and victories. And so sweetness, like calamity and loss, is temporary and I know, as Rilke expressed it in a way that I have appreciated since I first read his Letters to a Young Poet, I must always hold to the difficult and the work will never cease to be difficult.       I would like to go on for many years to come at this task, six to eight hours a day, not overrating victory unduely nor drawing "too hasty conclusions from what happens" to me. I thought the sociologist Norbert Elias expressed well in an interview in 1984 the concept of putting his work at the centre of his life. That has certainly become the case for me: the work at life's centre.

Just as I began to get my writings published in the first two years of the new millennium, 2001 to 2003, to a greater extent beyond the essay, the poem, the short piece, the third and fourth editions of this autobiography have taken form. I will pick up the autobiographical pen from time to time and refine this fourth edition, as Mill did focusing on my work, my writing; or perhaps I will continue writing in the personal and analytical terms I have thusfar. Time will tell. But for now, this work will mark my mind and life at sixty as Fors Clavigera marked the mind and life of John Ruskin at sixty. Perhaps, too, like Mirza-Abul-Fadl, I will occupy my last years pursuing my true passion: "producing unnumbered books and commentaries, maintaining correspondence with the Bahá'ís....keeping to a rigorous program of research and composition" until my death.

But, for now, this autobiograpical subject, however various in extent and importance, significance and insignificance, has been examined from many angles; I hope with success and interest, with capacity and subtlety, with profit and patience, by the reader. If readers have got this far the subject has grown familiar and probably a source of fatigue, while, for the writer, it is difficult to continue.

One day, perhaps, before this fourth edition evolves insensibly into a fifth edition, the eternity promised in the writings of my Faith will end this earthly task, this work, and I will go on to that Land of Lights. Perhaps. There, away from "this darksome, narrow world," I will find my infinite rewards and, no doubt, that portion of regret and remorse that justly is my due. My life, lived at the dark heart of an age, was also lived during a spiritual springtime. The tempest that swept the face of the earth during my days had a cleansing power; and the night sky, however black, was full of stars.

5C5"Some Ways to Look at Pioneering Over Four Epochs,"
Unpublished Essays, 7 February 2003.
To see for ourselves the meaning of a story, we need, first of all, to look carefully at what happens in the story and while we are doing this we need to see if what is happening is relevant in any way to us. This relevance, of course, is increased significantly, if we see the empirical data of our own lives in the same broad theoretical framework as the author of the story sees his. For me, this autobiography, this book, is the expression of my intimacy with a country, with a world, with myself. It is also the inalienable notion I create of myself, of my time, of my past and my vision of the future. -Ron Price with thanks to Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, Vintage, NY, 1957, p.27.

I make the assertion that narrative is the basis of community. It is not the only basis, but it is an important one. The story of our lives, our communities, depends on this narrative paradigm. Communities are co-constituted through communicative transactions in which participants co-author a story that has coherence and fidelity. The sociologist Jurgen Habermas takes the view that genuine communication is an ideal transaction, an uncoerced, educative and mutual exchange. The philosopher John Dewey says that communication is a process of sharing experience ‘til it becomes a common possession. It modifies the disposition of both parties who partake in it. –Ron Price with thanks to Barbara Schnelder and Daryl Caswell, "Using Narrative to Build Community and Create Knowledge in the Interdisciplinary Classroom," History of Intellectual Culture, Vol.3, No.1, 2003.
Some analysts of narrative say that there are several major factors contributing to narrativeness: presentness, contingency, eventness, messiness, unpredictability, the need for alertness, possibilities in excess of actualities. What all of these provide, together, is one more factor, an add-on, an important sign of narrativeness: suspense. There are events in life that lack eventness. The reason there is no eventness in much of our lives is that there is no possibility of being surprised in the events. They are just about totally predictable or the level of surprise is so low as to constitute something predictable.

"Surprisingness" can be present only when things are not just "given" but also "created." They can be created only when something is added to what came before. This is certainly the case when I write; the level of surprise is high and it is this surprise that is a major constituent of the pleasure. In the dead world of the determinist, the perfectly ordered world of the structuralist and the world where habit, routine, fate and predestination rule the daily life, everything is given. It's ready-made. We need this part of our life. By the age of 60 I had grown particularly fond of the predictable. The creation of narrative art, narrative autobiography, has real suspense, at least hopefully. No suspense, no narrative. Beyond a very general facticity, I had no idea how I was going to write this life-story of mine and I still have no idea what is going to come next.

Eventness pertains to specific events and there is much in this autobiography that recounts what was no surprise in my life, what was the predictable wonder of ordinary life. Narrativeness is the term I could give to the entire sequence from beginning to end. Narrativeness is eternally present in the world and so a truly realist work must never have a point at which narrativeness ceases: there can be no denouement, no closure. And that is the case with this work. I write the account to my present age of 61 but, of course, the story does not, will not, end there. I strove so that each part of the work would have an independent interest which would consist, not so much in the development of events, but in development itself. Development itself: this is Tolstoy's term for narrativeness. It was only when he was more than halfway through his work that he realized that the sheer processuality of life was its central theme. It's life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself at all, but the process."
The self-consciously psychological poetry that I write, whether in the form of explicit prose-poetry or in the form of narrative could be said to be but another word for what today is now called cognitive neuroscience. As I pursue this neuroscience, I write about my life and I search for evidence of external forces that have diminished the expression of my potential, my capacities. I also search for, try to define, recover and describe the sources of my own wealth: spiritual, psychological and monetary. My modus operandi is not some overconfident manifesto, but a far less spectacular negotiation of the tensions, the imbalances and the rough and the smooth places along my path. I lay out what one writer has called "contrapuntal perspectives" on identity rather than one theme, one thrust.

This search of the past, this learning and understanding of my life could be seen in terms of many different models. Mary Belenky and her colleagues identified five developmental stages, or perspectives on knowledge, regarding what it is to come to know oneself and one's life. I'd like to describe Belenky's model briefly here. It is but one of many I could draw on, but one will serve my purposes here.

Belenky found that many begin in silence, without awareness that they possess knowledge or the confidence to articulate any perspective on that knowledge. This is how she described the first stage, the starting point in our search to understand our lives. This understanding of our life is, for the most part, inarticulate, confused and bewildering and, at worst, a jumble of events without any particular meaning. In the second stage, often coextensive with and part of the first, but also often separate and distinct from that first stage, people are seen as viewing their knowledge as something 'out there,' as something that is to be received from others. Here the individual is the recipient and the tabula rasa on which life imprints its messages. Thirdly, as we progress in our understanding of our existence, we begin to recognize our own intuited truths as something of value, and thus, begin to recognize and put forward our own subjective views. It seems to me that language, while crucial all the way along, becomes more obvious here and certainly in stage four. I'd like to say a few things about language here to underscore an important aspect of this autobiography.

The language process is essential for the development of self. The self is something which has a development. Whatever 'self' there is at birth arises in the process of social experience and activity. It develops in the given individual as a result of his relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process. Language offers more than a tool for the researcher as a way to some underlying inner life. It is claimed that through language speakers come to construct and deploy their ever-changing subjectivities. It is important to remember at this point that the child sees himself in relation to the way others see the world. Remember also that it is through language that the world is given its form. The process of becoming a competent member of society is realized to a large extent through language, by acquiring knowledge of its functions, social distribution, and interpretation in and across socially defined situations. Language is somewhat like water. Language and water both have memories. They try to take us back to where we were. Writers try to take us back: Remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, what light was there and just what the route was back to our original, our ancestral, place. It is a type of emotional memory -- what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared to the eye. A rush of imagination makes of this remembering a 'flooding.'" It is in memory, the recollection of things adventitious or episodic, intentional or focused, that many, if not most, of my deepest and securest pleasures consist as I write this memoir. Perhaps this is why I write this memoir.

In Belenky's stage four, comes acknowledgment of procedural structures and strictures, and the need to strive for a balance between an 'outer' and 'inner' knowing. Finally, in the fifth stage, people can combine all of these perspectives into a more integrated view of knowledge. They come to see knowledge as something which is constructed through interaction between the knower and the known. We are all at different staging points from others in the development of ourselves as constructed knowers. Even so, through autobiographical writing, we can make, as Grumet (1988) suggests, the link between our experience in life and our life as learners.

By connecting our personal knowledge to theoretical perspectives gained in life, we can more fully integrate our own lived experience into our knowledge base. We can relate our life to the five developmental stages mentioned above and, in the process, come to understand better what it is to know. Without going through all the stages and unless one is engaged in a specific analytical exercise one is unlikely to go through these stages one by one, I identify stages one and two with the period of my life up to about eighteen, up to the year my pioneering life began, 1962. While there is no precision with this conception, this model, there is some degree of logic to its process. It fits in, too, with Erikson's eight stage process and specifically, for me, his stage four: identity and role confusion, the major conflict-tension of adolesence. The years before I was eighteen seem to be associated with inarticulateness, a desire to work out my identity and a slowly maturing process in these teen age years. The years before I was a Bahá'í at fifteen, or before I first came in contact with this Faith at the age of nine, could be applied to stages one and two with an even finer degree of application.

Every literary work implies a way of living, a form of life, and must be evaluated not only critically but also clinically writes twentieth century philosopher Gilles Deleuse(1925-1995). As Proust said, great writers invent a new language within language, but in such a way that language in its entirety is pushed to its limit or its own "outside." Minor writers like myself, while not inventing a new language, deal with language in their own unique and individual ways. This uniqueness is made up of affects and precepts that are not linguistic, but which language alone makes possible. Deleuze in his last book, Essays Critical and Clinical, was concerned with life's delirium and it's process. It is a process that lies behind the way a writer uses language. There is, says Deleuse, a loss that occurs in writing and a silence that follows the writing especially when this delirium becomes a clinical, a psycho-pathological state, says Deleuse. Perhaps this is why, until after my bi-polar disorder was treated with lithium in 1980, my writing had never really been successful. In the sixties and seventies I did suffer from a certain psycho-pathology. There was a silence that followed my forays into writing until 1983. Whatever I did write got lost on the handouts I gave to students for 15 years(1968-1983).

There is also something rude and rugged, spontaneous and unpredictable in everyday conversation, in the quotidian affairs of life, in the words one uses and hears there that contains very little of the finish of art. Yet that world, a world that now includes the electronic media, reveals such an intense deep fervour and devotion as stirs even the most disinterested listener in a way that art, poetry and prose in any of its forms does not. Earlier in my life I was fortuituously protected from arts isolating function, a function which has come to separate me from other men. But wanting only a minimum of interaction now in my sixties as I write this, I am happy to follow art's solitary path.

None of us can help some of the things life has done to us. Once they're done and gone into the past and before you realize it you have become something, something you did not anticipate. These things that have come and gone also make you do things which you never thought you'd do. With time so much of what you have become comes between you and what you'd like to be. And some of what your true self could have been is lost forever.

Models of human development are many and they can be helpful in different ways, in helping us understand our own lives, our autobiographies. Applying the various stages that developmental psychologists have defined to our own lives can be a useful exercise in gaining insight and in giving a framework to the often bewildering chaos of events that come our way over the three to four score years that have become our average lot in developed societies. Piaget, for example, examines our lives in terms of progressive stages of cognitive development; Freud in terms of stages of psychsexual development; Spence examines the lifeline in terms of narrativisation and a process he calls narrative smoothing. And there are other ‘narrative therapies' such as self-authoring where the goal is to get individuals to take control of their stories, their identities. Constructionism, which I mentioned in Part 1 of this work, sees selfhood and identity as "the product of public discourse rather than internal psychic processes." Constructionists see our stories as shaping who we are.

Personal construct theory, to use a psychological theory of human cognition that I rather like in applying various theories to my life, attempts to give order to the facts of my experience. This is the main task in my life in order to understand my life, so goes this theory. We are driven by the need to cope with coming events in our world. We each adopt mechanisms in order to realize our objectives. These mechanisms create grooves which function as templates or personal constructs. I have developed several constructs as I view my life, my past, and as I anticipate events in the years to come. This autobiography is, in some ways, one immense personal construct or framework to understand my life.

What I am dealing with here is something similar to what was the life-focus of Ethyl Smythe, the close and egotistical friend of Virginia Woolf. Smythe said she possessed an inordinate preoccupation with herself, her aims and ambitions. She said she always thought of herself and what she was trying to achieve in life and nothing else. Her main duty was to herself was always herself. I do this too but the focus is outward as well: how can I contribute to the advancement of my society and civilization through my several roles in life and as a member of the baha'i Faith which has an especialrole to play in the unification of the planet.

There are subtleties to our story—or what you might like to call the paradoxes of our own story and of history—even though they are too complex for me to even attempt to formulate them. But I have felt them. I have been "reading" the landscape of my life both its inner and outer valences for over half a century. This reading procedes, as Roland Barthes put it, "from the light of a landscape, from the languor of a day oppressed by the wind" in my case a wind from the many places I have lived. It procedes to the type of discourse, social and provincial that I have created here. For "to read" a country, a state, a region, a town, a city, is first of all to perceive it in terms of my body and of my memory or in terms of my body's memory. I believe it is to this vestibule of knowledge, this subtle reading, and an ongoing analysis that only ends with death that this writer is assigned. He is more conscious than competent, conscious of the very "interstices of competence," even if he has not attained to that competence himself. There is a type of childhood that stays with me, a childhood that is the royal road to knowing the country of my life.

The normal mind, wrote William James during psychology's earliest and formative years, operates in a field of consciousness in which one's awareness shifts among different hot spots of ideas, memories and feelings. This shifting, this juggling, goes on all of one's days in manifestly different ways in each of us.       The philosopher, Henri Bergson, saw the normal mind in quite a different way to James. To Bergson, experience of the world and of oneself was seen as a flowing continuum of inseparable moments. These moments could not be divided into a sequence of individual parts, however articulate and deep those moments were. Reality, to Bergson, was experienced as duree, duration, and it could be grasped best by intuition not by the rational intellect. Cezanne's paintings and cubist art illustrate Bergson's understanding of experience, at least partly, as do some of the modern video clips and films. And there are elements of that childhood which have stayed with me: a self-indulgent, me first attitude, a being ruled by my passions—not all the time of course—but enough to say that they are part of that royal road to knowing the country of my life. Sometimes the road is far from royal.

This is, perhaps, a good place to mention the contribution of the structuralists and post-structuralists to an understanding of the autobographical self. Structuralism focuses on processes and forces, patterns, systems and structures which perform functions in some organic whole and produce our sense of reality. The text, this autobiography, is a function within the organic whole of my life and the religious centre which I inhabit, which precedes me and which will continue long after I am gone. These structures, especially the Bahá'í structure--sometimes referred to as the Covenant--and the language that flows from them frame my sense of reality and are at the centre of my life, my discourse, my autobiography. The "I", as Foucault puts it, derives its identity from its involvement in these systems of signification, in the urge to structure everything and hence, as far as possible, eliminate ambiguity. But, given the variability from group to group Foucault and others would argue that participants need to see their identities as flexible, that power relationships change from group to group and individual to individual. Post-structuralism affirms the multiplicity of the world, of the self, its paradoxes, its richness and its vibrancy, the non-linear and overlapping, intersecting nature of history and of one's life. To interpret one's life is to gravitate to narrative and there are, inevitably, endless interpretations. There is nothing wrong, post-structuralists argue, with assumptions, but they are tentative, temporary, non-final; they need to be dismantled and reformed from time to time. The thinking of post-structuralists celebrates the playful, the excessive and the absurd and exists in a tension between the surface glitter and gloss of life and a deeper level, at least for me, of joy and despair, of boredom and meaning and a host of idiosyncractic vocabularies and their associated impressive and not-so-impressive intellectual brilliances. I did not have the problem with boredom and pleasure that Lawrence Durell had. He announced, confessed, in a TV interview in 1988 that : "I have enjoyed nothing in life. I've been bored ever since I crawled out of my mother's womb." Boredom is a syndrome I noticed frequently as a teacher but I do not remember experiencing it after about the summer of 1957 or was in 1956 or even earlier.

Many historians and thinkers see life as "a mess on which writers impose order, shape, pattern, meaning and intelligibility." In a very real sense history, autobiography, humankind's story or one's own, cannot be correctly written. There is some truth in this view no matter how much pattern and meaning one lays onto one's life. Still, one trys. I find cultural historians are helpful in the trying process, in laying meaning patterns on the present. It is the view of cultural historians that "history is the critical engagement of the present, by making the production of collective memories available for scrutiny and revision." And autobiography is one of the critical processes in making collective memories available. The autobiographer is as engaged as the historian in the construction of knowledge. This has to be the central object of concern for the cultural historian and the autobiographer.

One of the major problems the autobiographer faces is the perception of human experience as an ordinarily ordinary thing. The extraordinary richness goes unnoticed. The astonishingly complex agglomeration of highly sophisticated truths and half-truths about oneself, one's religion and one's society, what some might call common sense, with its faculties of seeing, thinking, hearing and acting, etc., these are things that the autobiographer tries to break through, tries to underscore, underpin, understand, approach in a new, a fresh way, pull out by its roots, as Wittgenstein once put it.

And there is so much more from the world of the social sciences to illumine my autobiography. I could mention many theorists, many approaches, many systems of thought. A separate autobiography could be devoted to the various systems and theories of thought from the social sciences that are relevant to the articulation of autobiography that I have drawn on and influenced me in different ways. This work blends historical facts, political and religious attitudes, biographical and autobiographical events, psychological and aesthetic preoccupations and much more. It organizes and focuses information from a variety of sources from the humanities and social sciences.

Martin Heidegger's concept of dasein, to choose another example, is also useful in an attempt to understand autobiography. Heidegger said there were three modes of possible existence: factuality, existentiality and fallenness. We all live and take part in mode one and understand that mode to varying extents. People who find a sense of purpose in life, find authenticity and are therefore successful in their drive toward existentiality. Those who do not find their purpose, these are the fallen, or so he calls them. They never understand why they are here or they make up their own framework of understanding completely, or so it would seem, divorced from any traditional religious system of meaning. Often, too, some in this category do not seem to care about ultimate questions. They learn to live with an ultimately existential meaninglessness. The world, for them, is essentially incomprehensible and indifferent, although they often take pleasure and meaning in the day to day, the physical realities of life itself.

The reality of life is not some essence, Heidegger wrote, but existence which can only be partly understood. Ultimate justifications for our choices, an ultimate meaning in life, can never be found. The various philosophies of life are legion and this autobiographical package tends to synthesize as many approaches as is possible, useful, helpful to my understanding. Even existential approaches like Heidegger's offer ideas that are helpful in this journey. Foucault, indebted to Heidegger as he was, saw technology as the modern substitute for the sacred at least since the historical rupture at the end of the late eighteenth century, a rupture coextensive with Shaykh Ahmad's leaving his homeland and the beginning of his efforts as a precursor of the Babi revelation in 1793.

In an article in a new journal called Janus Head Bernard Jager writes about life's journey. He says that, cut off from the sphere of dwelling, life becomes aimless wandering. It deteriorates into mere distraction or even chaos or fugue. Perhaps this was part of the human experience forty thousand years ago in band societies, hunting and gathering communities. In some ways we in our world have, in our time, become faced with "forced migration" which, as Douglas Martin suggests is "the paradigm for the whole human race." The process is unstoppable, Martin continues, and will radically alter humanity's sense of place and identity. My migration was, on the other hand, "unforced." I made a conscious decision to move, to migrate. This was not always the case. There were occasions among my many moves where relocation was forced by circumstances. But in all cases, as Jager emphasizes, "the sphere of dwelling" and "origin" was important to my sense of space and identity.

Let me say a little more about migration. There is a planned eighteen-book series on global diasporas and an International Library of Studies of Migration, consisting of six volumes. International migration and diasporas constitute distinctive fields of inquiry now and there is considerable overlap between them. The study of international migration is broader in scope and partially subsumes diaspora studies. Diasporas arise from international migration. Constant interaction between diasporic communities in several sovereign jurisdictions and often with the same homeland is a defining feature. Bahá'í studies of international pioneers in these diasporic communities have hardly begun. The study of diasporas and international migration in a Bahá'í context have really only begun to become relevant in these four epochs. This theme will become much more significant for the Bahá'í community in future generations.

But whether one's movement is forced or unforced, the journey requires a place of origin as the very background against which the figures of our world can emerge. My place of origin geographically was, of course, in southern Ontario, Canada. In terms of ethnicity, social class, sub-culture, institutional influences, et cetera, 'origin' becomes more complex to define. Jager writes that to be without origin is to be homeless and--blind. On the other hand, the sphere of dwelling, or origin, cannot maintain its vitality without the renewal made possible by the path, the journey. A community without outlook, without vision, he goes on, atrophies. It becomes decadent and incestuous. Psychological incest results primarily from the refusal to move on the path. It is a refusal to accept the future, to accept change and a suicidal attempt to live entirely in the past. The sphere of dwelling, if it is not to be a moribund location, is interpenetrated by journeying. The pioneer, and certainly this one, a person who has lived now in two dozen towns and three dozen or more houses, has had a life interpenetrated with journeying. By the fifth epoch, in the opening years of the new millennium, journeying became more a psychological one than a physical one. My charity, my generosity, was cultivated increasingly in an atmosphere of guarded solitude, a world of established boundaries and clear distances from the various forms of social interaction. By mid-2005 the hospitality I had freely given for so many years, I had begun to limit. After half a century(1955-2005) of a seeking out of social life, of relationships and their associated activities, I had begun to pull in the reigns quite sternly and established a much more solitary set of terms, a much less gregarious style of life. As a sacred refuge from the world of commerce and society, the walls of my home were not to be indiscriminately permeable to society; they were to be a protective barrier. In this I was helped by the disinclination of people in these parts to visit each other and by my own overwhelming desire to write. The idiosyncratic selectivity of my social activity and hospitality was virtually ignored or regarded with indifference by my contemporaries. The concern of some writers, like the poet Stephanie Mallarmé, that excessive intellectual activity to the exclusion of everything else was extremely harmful was not a concern of mine. A modest amount of domestic and social activity still existed in my life; perhaps half my day on average involved no intellectual interests.

My home in these early years of late adulthood was an environment which allowed, and indeed fostered, a retreat to the interior chambers of the mind. If my incarceration in my home was self-induced, it was also a prison of delight, a domestic interior that housed my literary production. There was some intrusion of ordinary daylight and heat in the morning in my study where most of my work was done, but by afternoon the morning's bright sunlight had gone. It could not chase away the shadows of dreams or the workings of the imagination. A conveniently placed fan blew away the hot air which tended to fill my study from December to April and an oil heater kept me warm in winter. The requirements for interior repose, for a desireable psychological space, were aided by my wife's desire and need for order and organization in the house. Some might interpret my withdrawal as a neurotic response to a range of supposed personal traumas and difficulties. Perhaps there was some truth in this view for my life had had its traumas and difficulties. A little like Emily Dickinson who made of her home the principle association of her life especially as her years progressed, I made my house in George Town Tasmania my base of interiority, of reflection, of seclusion, of a writer's life. As I wrote this edited version of the 5th edition of this work in my 62nd year I had enjoyed more than six years of a relatively and an increasingly reclusive life.

The most sympathetic of my friends and readers tend to assume, if they give any serious thought at all to my style of life, my routines and habits, that my writing is obsessional and perhaps even phobic. They acknowledge, of course, that my need for privacy is chiefly pragmatic, an enabling condition of artistic production. One of the pleasures I have in living in this remote backwater of the world, with all its natural beauties, is that most people don't care what I do with my time, don't give a stuff, as they say in the vernacular here at the end of the antipodes.

After I discovered, as autobiographer, some way to convey the true story of what happened and accurately represented it in a narrative, I did not abandon the narrational manner of speaking and addressing the reader directly, speaking in my own voice, and representing my considered opinion as a student of human affairs. Perhaps I voiced my opinions a little too extensively to suit some readers. As the years went on and my autobiography lengthened, I found that I dilated my story. The nature of the period, the places, the agents, the agencies and the processes (social, political, cultural, etc. )that I had studied was described and analysed in detail, perhaps too much detail. But, however much the whole thing was dilated it was not falsified.


Bahá'ís are moulded on several scales at once and their writing, entwined in a tradition going back two centuries now, reflects these scales. One scale or index is as wide as the world, as the universe itself, infinite in its range, profound in its implications. Another scale is intimate, like a series of scenes in a movie. Perhaps this intimacy has its origins in family life, in a life of meetings in lounge-rooms with a million cups of tea, in private reading, in the solitude of prayer. So it is that some of the books are vast, just about beyond the capacity or the interest of the average westerner. This vastness is not so much the length, although many of the books are indeed long, but the amplitude lies in something that inheres or exhales from the pages and is a compendium of complexity, depth of thought, intricacy and flexibility, of reason and virtue pursuing a steady and uniform course, whether the pages are few or many.

Not all the books written by Bahá'ís in the first two hundred years of their history sparkle with originality and depth. I think some of the worst books I have read have been by Bahá'ís. But generally there is a cosmopolitanism, a global perspective, in the Bahá'í writer that once was striking and is now more common as the world internationalizes more and more. Increasingly the Bahá'í writer is reproducing faithfully a global ethos and its characteristics, not merely by observation but by sympathetic intuition.

The combination of a great age of literary civilization with its recent intellectual spread has produced a new maturity of character, with a wonderful freshness of consciousness. It is as though a strong, sensible man of forty should suddenly develop a genius in some discipline. This is evident not only in the books of many Bahá'ís but in the books of many writers in the secular world of which he is a part. So, while this new literary capacity and character is marked by an extreme sensitiveness to mental impressions, it is without the rawness and immaturity of most writers of the past. It is worthwhile to remember that since 1850 at least a dozen great realistic novels have been written in Russian, but not a single completely great realistic novel has ever been written in the Western Hemisphere. The process of articulating a literary greatness has really just begun.

I try to do in my autobiography what the successful Russian novelist tried to do in his novel. The great Russian novelist possessed an extreme sensitiveness to impression. It is this that led the Russian literary genius into Realism. It is this that produced the greatest Realists that the history of the novel has seen. The Russian mind has been like a sensitive plate; it has reproduced faithfully. It has no more partiality, no more prejudice than a camera film; it reflected everything that reached its surface. A Russian novelist, with a pen in his hand, was the most truthful being on earth. That has been my aim as well. I leave it to readers to assess my success.

By the age of 61 I had a strong desire for things not to intrude on and violate my consciousness. I did not need the darkness that Edward Allen Poe required to be at peace. But I did require quietness, an absense of conversation and interruption and in the evenings and at night a bright light at my desk. I like to think of autobiography like a house. A house is a kind of autobiography: a text, a story, a system of signs, a way of organizing relations into comprehensible patterns. The house I live in and the houses I've lived in can often furnish a language through which I can express my values for this new age, this New World, as opposed to the Old. Houses, buildings in general, can serve as a device for introducing the comparisons that constitute a persistent international theme. I have yet to use this device to any extent. I do not use houses and buildings with anything like the same ability of the American writer Henry James. Each of James' houses reflected the moral attitudes, political orthodoxies, structures of social intercourse, and notions of privacy and public life that most define the differences among cultures. Mine, as yet, don't do much reflecting. The house of my autobiography has not one window but a million. This house is an extension or shell of the self that "grows up" around me, its inhabitant, and this house participates in my attributes. In the same way that the novel is an extension of character—an unfolding of the logic of character--this autobiography is an extension of my character. The elder Dumas enunciated a great principle when he said that "to make a drama a man needed one passion and four walls." With many passions and many sets of four walls this autobiography is the scene of many dramas. Alfred Kazin once claimed of writers, "One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper." And so, here, we have many dramas and one home.

However much one makes one's home here on earth, I am inclined to agree with John Ruskin when he wrote that: "of all the pulpits from which human voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so far as from the grave." For ultimately this earth is not man's home but his tomb.

I would briefly like to introduce two Roman historians: Polybius' who focuses on institutions in his effort to explain how so much of the inhabited world came under Roman rule in a period of 53 years, 220 to 168 BC.; and Livy for whom it is the workings of character that determine success and failure of any enterprise. Livy judges Rome as having been 'richer in good citizens and noble deeds' than anywhere else. Bahá'í history is unquestionably rich in good citizens and noble deeds but, so too, are many other communities. The achievement of one universal cause and one common faith on this planet is going to be achieved in a much more complex and subtle way that the achievement of the Romans. And this autobiography is written, it seems to me anyway, right at the start of the community building process that the Bahá'ís are involved in, right at the start of the vision that is at the heart of the Bahá'í enterprize.

In Greek mythology the god Janus is a theorist in the original Greek sense of theoria which, as Jager shows, includes the idea of a journey. The Theognis, written in the sixth century BC, depicts the theoretician as the official representative of the polis who visits the Delphian oracle. Here, the theorist is described "as a recipient of the divine message and as a faithful transmitter of that message back to the people." The poet, then, can be seen as a theoretician in the truest, most original, sense of the word. The poet is the dwelling-venturer who discovers the divine not by rising above materiality, but rather by a deepening of experience.

The poet-critic Allen Tate, in his discussion of the role of imagination, says that poets try to show traces of the divine in their concrete description of the mundane. The poet, who imagines symbolically, cultivates the dwelling-place of the human and in the process discovers the gods in the round dance of the fourfold aspects of existence: Earth, Sky, Gods and Mortals. With the imaginative description of these aspects, poets both witness and participate in the dance. Poets find themselves within a deeper, richer, more human place, a place that implies an endless seeking, draws connections, creates metaphors and engages readers to think. The experience of the pioneer could be said to participate in this dance and the poet in this place of endless seeking.

I could spend much time on more of the philosophical bases of autobiography, but I am disinclined to do so since philosophy provides such an immense labyrinth of ideas that will take me away from my purpose here. At this stage in the evoluton of this autobiography I am simply trying to bring together a series of commentaries, much of the material I have already read and absorbed on the subject during the writing of the second edition. Inevitably, I will draw on new material on philosophy that I become aware of during the writing of this fifth edition. It would appear that I am engaged in one long autobiograpical project, one which began in the mid-1980s. Like Wordsworth's project which began in late 1798 and early 1799 and continued all his life to his death in 1850, mine may continue until my final years as well. So, readers who come back to this site in the years and decades ahead will find much more to chew over in the field of autobiography, if God grants me a long life and I tkae care of the natural physical endowment I possess: by body.

One philosopher's ideas which I would like to comment on in this connection is Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot writes about the birth of philosophy in poetry from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC; he writes about "the continuity and endurance of a divine order for the community of poet and listeners." This continuity and endurance is confirmed by the retelling of events, events that memory brings, draws, out of an abyssal "forgetting into which they have slipped." The modern poem is no longer essential as an aid to memory as it once was in the oral culture at the dawn of western civilization. It is much more a part of the inner thrust, the inner need of the poet, the poet's memory which opens him and, hopefully, his readers to the original experience.

Bahá'ís all over the world draw on the same resources of their history for the subject matter of their narratives and poems and in the formulation of the moral and intellectual frameworks of their writings. These resources, of course, mean different things to each writer and poet as they each concentrate on different aspects and interpretations of their history and quite separate ideas on what exactly is significant in that experience. Each writer's sensibility and individual experience acts as an overlay on this historical data and the fine qualities of their personal particulars lead them along many cunning passages and contrived corridors into a varied preoccupation and involvement with the past. But, however contrived the corridors, I hope readers never get the feeling that I describe some place that I have not actually gone. However much my work is utopian, I am only too painfully aware how far we are from the goal.

Other Bahá'í writers draw less on history and more on many of the other aspects of their Faith: philosophy, morals and ethics, spiritual development, social and economic development, the list is long. Each Bahá'í comes to love different aspects of the dream that is this Faith. What holds this dream together for me is the principle of the oneness of humankind and how it takes form in this Faith and becomes the basis for the practical reality that it is. And the life that exists and is informed by this principle is, on the one hand, like a revolving crystal, multifaceted, various and constantly changing and, on the other hand, is a fixed quality, filled with distinctions and patterns that are limited by our experience, our stock of words and our mental and psychological capacities. In some ways this autobiography is the autobiography of an idea as much as it is a life.

Had I not examined this idea and many of the ideas that come with it I think my feelings about this narrative would be much like those of Ayn Rand about hers. Telling the story of her life, she wrote, "would bore me to death." Indeed, after finishing the first draft of this story back in 1993, I felt much of that same feeling of tedium vitae. Had I not been able to place an idea, ideas, at the centre of this account, it would have languished in my study, incomplete and I would have felt deeply unsatisfied.

It is difficult, though, to know what late adulthood and old age will bring in the years ahead. The process of dieing, as T.S. Eliot once noted, is somewhat like being born. It is a slow process, a slow decline into old age, into senescence, a fading away as one of my friends put it or a raging against the dieing of the night, in the words of Dylan Thomas. The world begins to break up around us, he goes on. We find ourselves often, he notes, surrounded by strangers and it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate. Physical features undergoe alarming change and often the aged feel like dismal aliens to each other. Such is some of the dismal picture presented by Eliot but, as anyone who knows anything about aged care studies today, this is not all there is. For many millions late adulthood and old age offer a much more fulfilling and happy picture than the one Eliot describes. Hardy, for example, sees a quietude in life's personal cravings which age brings.

One of the classic contrasts in the description of old age comes from the pens of Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning. Without going into the fine detail of their analysis, an analysis that hardly needs describing here, I am only too conscious of the many experiences of old age, honorific and pejorative, optimistic and pessimistic. Poor health, a loss of meaning, death of a spouse, the cessation of employment: there are many reasons that millions find late adulthood and old age; and an equal number of reasons old age can be enjoyed. Browning anticipated great things to come in his old age. That is certainly true of myself although, I must say that after more than 60 years on this mortal coil, I am resigned to just about anything with more acquiescence than radiance. With Browning there were rose-coloured lens behind his view of old age. My lens is, or at least aims to be like, "pure and limpid water:" pure and clear and calm. Sadly, I am only too aware of the impurities in that water, the poison that is mixed with the honey of life. I will leave readers to explore these varied impressions and attitudes to old age. I may return to this theme in my own old age.

As I near sixty and as I have left behind me the raising of children, the world of formal employment, the world of casual, part-time and volunteer work and, indeed, virtually all things that I don't want to do, I now spend much more time doing what I want and what I am able to do, what intrigues me and gives me pleasure. I feel what I now do contributes to the world the best that I have to offer--my writing. More critical others may see me as simply self-obsessed. A person who engages in artistic pursuits or indeed any pursuit with a passion is often seen this way by others. There are always many views of oneself out there in the world, some of them true, some of them partially true and some far off base.

For years I've wanted to write and now I've finally got that chance. I don't have to attend endless meetings, ones in my profession as a teacher and ones for the causes I involved myself in as a volunteer. I've cut back on a great deal of the social activity of life which once kept my leisure hours busy. Betty Friedan talks about this process in her book The Fountain of Age published the year I finished the first edition of this autobiography, 1993. She had some timely comments in that book for my life as it entered late adulthood or what some call old age at sixty.

After compartmentalizing, segregating, time and space into a home/work or a home/school divide for fifty years(1949-1999), after dissolving the spacial, the geographical distinction, the great divide and difference, that promised liberty came into my life after retirement in 1999. It allowed me to pursue work and leisure as one piece and was a cause of celebration. My lifestyle was in some ways like those in the old feudal system where home was the main productive unit in a close interweaving of home, work and community. Back then, more than 500 years ago, people were free--in a certain sense--to determine how and when they carried out their activities. The spacial distinction between home and work had now gone for me. Home was where I worked and work was in my home.

If there was any symbolic, any constructed, boundary, any meangingful home/work distinction, any of the experience of difference that is essential to meaning and the unfolding nature of time, any framework in spacial terms for my activity, any reference points, it was the divide between my study where, for the most part, I read and wrote and the rest of my home, a home which was the fifth I had bought and the ninth if I included those bought by my parents. It was also the forty-third house I had lived in since my birth. The interconnections between study and home, study and property, study and suburb and community, study and world, would require a separate chapter unto itself. Some of these connections were constructed by by interests; some were arbitrary and incomplete. But whatever they were I have no interest in describing them here and I'm sure readers will not miss out.

Temporal factors took on some importance to me and so is this the case for many of those who have come to work at home. I was still conscious of time as I had been for the previous fifty years when home and work divided my life into two compartments. Now I wrote and read for eight hours a day in excess of fifty hours a week. I drew up a ‘time useage sheet' that looked like this:
April 1999 to April 2005
Six Years of Retirement
A Study in Time Management


The statistical information below attempts to outline the time I spend on a daily, monthly and yearly basis at the tasks I have set myself to accomplish, in the form of goals or as a result of serendipitous activity, during the first six years of retirement. The data below is a guesstimation only for I did not keep daily statistics. Since I must attend to various domestic tasks, community activities, family, Bahá'í and 'other' matters it would appear that seven hours per day is about the most realistic average time allocation spent at reading/studying/writing.

1. Super-efficient : 10-12 hours                   5%

2. Very Efficient       : 8-10 hours                   20%

3. Efficient                   : 6-8 hours                         60%

4. Good                         : 4-6 hours                               5%

5. Poor                         : 2-4 hours                               5%

6. Very Poor             : 0-2 hours                               5%
Number of days at the above six levels in a thirty day(month) period:
1.       2 days @ 11 hours= 22 hours
2.       6 days @ 9 hours= 54 hours
3.       18 days @ 7 hours=126 hours
4.       2 days @ 5 hours= 10 hours
5.       1 days @ 3 hours=       3 hours
6.       1 days @ 1 hour=       1 hours
Total: 216 hours/month; or 216/30= 7 hours per day.=49 hours/week
This is about 1/3 of the 664 hours available in each month)
(720 less 56 for sleep=664).

1. Reading and writing, as above: 32%
2. Sleeping                                                 : 33%
3. Bahá'í Activities:                                     5%
4. Domestic Activities:                         10%
5. Non-Bahá'í Activities:                         10%
6. Family:                                                             10%
                                    Total: 100%


From August 1999 to August 2006, exactly six years, I wrote:
1. Three books on: (i) Roger White's Poetry: 400 pages, (ii) Autobiography: 1000 pages and (iii) My Website:1100 pages.Total: 2500 Pages.

2.       20 booklets and of poetry, some 800 poems.

2.       When not working on a book or writing in some other genre I: (a) read, (b) make notes, (c) reorganize my files & systems, (d) post internet items and develop these WWW resources and (e) engage in one of ‘B: items 3 to 6' above.

Our experience of the world gets filed away in the bank vaults of our minds and is often taken out of the bank as the years go on to help us cope with our world and help us feel more comfortable with it or to sting us with guilt, make our world grey with sadness, indeed, colour our world in a multitude of ways. Some neuropsychologists and neuroscientists, who study memory among other topics, argue that what we need as a survival package for better, wiser, more useful memory retrieval and a stimulating mental life is very active mental-brain life. We need to push our brains to their limit. A sound mind in a sound body is an old maxim which is often used as part of an emphasis on the sound body. But the message these scientists have from their fields which were born just the other day is concerned with how to have a sound mind. And it would seem that I am well on the road to keeping and preserving such a mind. I've just got the organic components in place in the last several years. Now, one might add, I'm ready to fly.

Social cognitive neuroscience, a discipline which aims to understand the psychology and neuroscience of person-to-person interaction, focuses on what are called mirror neurons, a set of cells in the frontal lobe of the brain. This is part of what is called ‘theory of mind' and is aimed at increasing our capacity and our efficiency in relating to others. After 60 years of life, decades of relating to others and many years devoted to the study of interpersonal interaction, I am happy to give some of my time to this study and some time to its application in everyday life but, for the most part, I have other things I both want to study and want to do with my time in these early years of late adulthood.


The above provides an overview of the new arrangements, the new time allocations in my life in the years 1999 to 2005 since retiring from the teaching profession and what had been in the decades before living a life within the great work/home, school/home divide with its extensive involvement in Bahá'í community activities, formal employment, raising children and studying in formal education programs, inter alia. All statistics/data above are guesstimations only and how long this new picture will last is difficult to estimate.

One recent writing activity is worth describing in some detail and this description follows. By April 2005 the process of searching out sites, mostly forums for posting and publishing various items of my writing, responding to issues raised on the sites and engaging with specific individuals at these sites, had developed far more than I had anticipated four years before in April 2001, at the start of this site and internet searching process. My own internet site or webpage went into its second edition in May 2001 by which time I had become conscious of some of the potential to place my writing on internet sites.

In the embryonic years of my internet life, 1990 to 2000, and the life of my website when it began in 1997, I had no idea of the potential for placing the name of the Cause or my writings on this world wide web. In those years the internet was essentially a source of information. Now, as the 5th year of searching out sites for posting or publishing items begins, it has become difficult to keep a detailed and accurate record of my postings or, indeed, to even service or log-in to all the sites at a greater rate than once/month, if that. This activity, of acquiring and servicing sites, came to occupy my time intensively in 2004. Early in 2004, after completing my third book, the fourth edition of my autobiography Pioneering Over Four Epochs, I began seeking a writing outlet and the internet satisfied this search. I keep going back to it when I am unable to work on my book or books, when I get tired of reading and when I want "little writing and posting jobs" that I know will contribute in its own way to the teaching work.

2. Developmental Background:

The first edition of this particular list of sites, sites especially devoted to publishing and posting(1), in 2001/2 was a very short list consisting of only a small handful of locations. A second edition in 2003 became a third edition in April 2004. That original list of a few sites in 2001 had burgeoned to over 800 sites by January 1st 2005.       The contents of what became nine files(5 arch-lever and 4 two-ring binders) and 800 sites is now divided into eight parts, a division that evolved naturally and was not based on any inherent system. As the sites were contacted and their forum outlines copied, filed and used for recording postings, the collection of resource/site information, et cetera was brought together into these several volumes. This list, as I say, became too lengthy a list to really service properly. It required the work of other Bahá'ís and so I placed a notice/article in the Australian Bahá'í Bulletin which appeared on October 12th 2004 across Australia and presented a workshop at the Tasmanian Summer School in February 2005 on "The Art of Using the Internet." There was little response to my notice in The Bulletin and no evidence of any increased presence of Bahá'ís other than myself at any of the sites nearly three months after the advertisement, although this is difficult to assess properly.

I have given this entire package of nine volumes(or 8 parts) the label Volume 12: Publishing because the total exercise is one of publication in some form or another on the Internet. I have made several copies of the list of 800+sites for those attending this workshop.

Volumes 1 to 11: Publishing, Australian Poetry, Canadian Poetry, Cinema/Media Studies and several other collections like The Bahá'í Faith and the Arts also contain another burgeoning list of some 600 sites, sites which I acquired and serviced during the first three developmental years 2001 to 20042 but which, at least for the most part and at least since Ridvan 2004, I have come to service or contact relatively infrequently. This latter category of 600 sites, while being devoted to posting and publishing as well, as the titles on that list indicate, was significantly devoted to obtaining information. At this stage of development, these other 600 sites are an archival base that I service only very rarely, except for (a) Canadian Poetry, (b) American poetry, (c) diary/journal sites and (d) cinema/media sites which I try to service as best I can.
3. Future Development
In the months and years that lie ahead I'm sure this base of seven parts/8 volumes will be extended into further parts and volumes, as will the other 600 ‘archival' sites. For this activity is clearly a publishing and teaching device in its own right. Perhaps, too, I will develop a system for servicing the sites with more frequency and thoroughness, especially if others become involved in this activity which I am confident they will in the years ahead. For me to service all these sites at this stage would require of me to do nothing else in life but service internet sites with Bahá'í and Bahá'í-related material. And there is necessarily a life other than the internet. It could be argued that I spread myself too thin and should aim for depth and not breadth and that may be true.

Since the completion of my autobiography by Ridvan 2004, I have had no specific idea/plan for another book, although intimations of one have occurred from time to time. I do not seem to have the energy/inspiration to take on a book. I spend some time occasionally, as I said above, working on the fifth edition of my autobiography and developing ideas for other books. But, in the main, I now work in this milieux of some 1400 sites3 when the spirit moves me. These sites provide enough to keep a marathon runner-writer busy into perpetuity, well into several more Olympic games or, in terms of the Bahá'í calendar, at least to the end of the first century of the Formative Age in 2021 when I will be in my late 70s.4
1 The term ‘publishing' refers to systematic posting of essays and, indeed, a variety of other material on the internet, material like: emails/letters, parts/chapters of books, et cetera.
2 In the seven year period before the first edition of my own website, from 1990 to 1997, and the three years after the creation of my website, from 1997 to 2000, I began to search out and contact other websites. This was the first decade of my use of the email facility as well. These were embryonic years on the internet and I have no record of any results, any sites listed from this decade. Of course I was still employed professionally as a teacher in Tafe, actively engaged in community work of different kinds and not seriously involved in personal writing except, of course, my poetry.

From 1999 to 2001, the first two years of my retirement, I began the initial set up for my systems of study here in George Town for future writing and work on the internet. In these first two years I really only began to see, insensibly for the most part, the potential for publication and teaching on the internet. But as the 2nd edition of my website went on-line in May 2001, I began to see the internet potential for ‘seed planting.' In May 2001 I also went onto an Australian Disability Pension. Three months later in September the infamous 9/11 incident occurred in New York. Some have suggested that 9/11 was similar to the outbreak of World War I in that it "signaled the end of a peaceful and, in retrospect, somewhat unsuspecting era." The attack on the World Trade Center was itself unprecedented because of "the symbolic force of the targets struck." Whatever the case, the middle months of 2001 marked a major shift in my centre of activities and those of humankind.

3 A team of at least five, six or even more people, especially people with skills at writing and depending on the time they could devote to this exercise, could be kept happily employed servicing these sites with a minimum of regularity and a periodicity of once a fortnight, one a month or whatever frequency, depth and breadth they were able to accomplish. No coordination would be required for such an exercise. It would be too onerous and complex a task to engage in and one I would not be interested in doing anyway, coordinating that is. There are many more sites which could be added to this list and will as time goes on.

4 I hope this preamble provides a useful base of information to anyone expressing interest in the activity of internet posting. I have written this introduction partly for my own use simply to outline just how this activity has developed in recent years and partly for interested others.
Most of the internet site information I now possess was gathered after I stopped work at Ridvan 2004 on the 4th edition of my autobiography, Pioneering Over Four Epochs. In late May 2004 I initiated the 5th edition of that book and a copy was placed in the Bahá'í World Centre Library. Work on that 5th edition continued periodically in 2005 and I worked on this task as well as the task of posting on internet sites. What is found here in these six parts/7 volumes was initiated for the most part in 2004/5. The internet site titles/ headings from over 1000 sites I made available on request in a published article in the Australian Bahá'í Bulletin.

I have a second list of some 1000 sites, put together from 2001 to 2004, but it is significantly a list of Bahá'í sites for information and publication.1 Each person who makes the effort to register and post at internet sites will obviously do so on the basis of his or her own interests and capacities. My list, inevitably, will not be another person's list.

I like to think that, as the evening hours of my life close in toward night that the "invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts" which Bellow spoke of in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976 and "which binds together all humanity-the dead to the living and the living to the unborn" will increasingly find its apotheosis in the Faith that has been at the centre of my life(1963-2003) and, if I include the first decade of my association with it(1953-1963) when it was on the perifery of my life, for half a century. For most of the twentieth century these noble-sounding words about solidarity which came from Joseph Conrad were measured against the millions of dead and, when uttered in our time, it was with a grain of skeptical salt.

In the Bahá'í community and in my own life, this salt has certainly not lost its savour even if on occasion some of us seem "called by sorrow and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness." Sometimes, though, there is an "inevitable isolation and disillusionment" that "a really strong mind" experiences, like that of Shoghi Effendi. Perhaps it is, as Henry Adams once observed, something that happens to a mind "that combines force with elevation." Perhaps it is, as he concluded, built into "the romance and tragedy of statesmanship." Certainly for me, Shoghi Effendi combined both romance and tragedy; so, too did my own dear life. And the ideas which have captured centre-stage in this narrative will go on to fill the stage and to fill the stage long after I am gone for the future of humanity is deeply linked with these ideas. They have occupied me for only several epochs.
About a year ago I read an article by George McLean called "The Call of Abraham." Shortly after reading the article I wrote the following essay about my pioneering venture and autobiography. McLean's article seemed to provide an entry point into the big picture of my life. What I am trying to do, among other things, in this article is to combine notions of the past with the exigencies of the present and produce, in the process, a design for living. Not that the Bahá'í Faith needs any more designs, but we each have to work out our own design, our pattern within the great one, the great Plan, within which we live and work. History, for me then, is a continuum out of which I emerge and to which I belong. A series of intricate and unbreakable strings which bind me to that history and to all others, especially those people whom I influence and who influence me. Writing this autobiography is somewhat like playing those strings in as coherent and harmonious a fashion as possible and creating, while I write, a series of symphonies. It is like creating, too, one great variegated portrait, not so much by invention as many novelists do, but by analysis and synthesis, by giving substance and congruence to perception and experience, a substance and congruence my life would not otherwise possess. I try to see my life, my religion and my society steadily and whole; I try to fulfill the demand made on me by the historical context within which I find myself. It is a demand made largely by some inner tension, some inner need. I do this by examining the landscapes running through my life, my times and my religion and giving them a unity and a sense of relevant connection though various strategies of imaginative reference and revision. There are still, after all this analysis and synthesis, ends left hanging loose and stories only partly told. There is in this large exercise a sense of vocation that William Faulkner called a "quest for failure" because, no matter how much I find the right sentence which crystallizes an experience there is, in the end, a futility to this self-imposed task. Through the agency of one's prose and poetry one's own particular sense of life can be externalized. But there is so much in life that "can not satisfy nor appease the hunger," as Bahá'u'lláh once wrote. Futility is something that this voyage often reveals, but it is a futility worth facing. that essay.........
The call of Abraham and of his subsequent pilgrimage has become part of the primordial journey of the Jewish people. "It is part, too, of that theophany, that appearance of God to man, that has been sedimented in narrative" writes George McLean and has become part of that biblical "primordium around which a people" has been shaped.       This primordium, Peachey says, needs interpretation and application in the changing circumstances of time and place, our time and place. And that is what I am doing here.

Having embraced a new theophany and become a part of a new Faith community which claims descent from this original Abrahamic experience, I am in possession of a new tradition, now only a century and a half old, which possesses a richness of detail that was scarcely perceptible in that original primordium, but which has been enacted again in the life of Bahá'u'lláh. This new narrative, not unlike Abraham's, is of immense value to the international pioneer in the Bahá'í community.

Contemporary religious practitioners usually have little direct engagement with that seminal Abrahamic-primordium of about 2000 BC. Tradition and its institutional configurations overshadow this ancient narrative. They are rarely animated by it. But, for me, in the Bahá'í community, Abraham's story has found eschatological and apocalyptic significance in what you might call a contemporary rerun. In this globalizing, individualizing, pluralising world, a prophet, a manifestation of God, has been forced, not called, out of his country, taking his kindred with him on the journey. I find in my life and in 'pioneering over four epochs,' that the narrative of Bahá'u'lláh's exile, his journey-narrative, is one I can shape as I become more familiar with it and as it shapes me. The notion of exile has been widely appropriated in autobiography to express a distinctively modern sense of alienation and metaphysical homelessness. While there has been an element of exile, in my own journey, the language has been much more that of ‘homefront pioneering,'‘international pioneering,' making my home elsewhere or, as Bahiyyih Nakhjavani writes creating "a home where home did not exist before." Inevitably, too, there are a multitude of dimensions to this experience that this account deals with in its multiform ways. And the writing process itself transforms, helps heal feelings of disruption, helps create a spirit of recuperation, reconnection, even intellectual transcendence. Indeed, it helps me to face and integrate the psychic rupture occasioned by so much of the various forms of violent uprooting that have taken place in my life.
and knits together the joys and sorrows of the whole experience, making me a quite conscious witness to history.

"Learning the existing story, its language and its logic," says Peachey, "enables individuals to experience on their own in the terms of that story or to use it as a foundation for new and expanded experience."       Learning the story is like learning a language. Learning and becoming a part of a religious tradition is also like learning a language. Learning this language is essential if one is to function within that religion's parameters. The story of Abraham is the beginning, the first chapter, of the Israelite narrative; the story of Bahá'u'lláh is the end, the last chapter, of this same narrative extended into our time, our age.

From the father, the first patriarch, the birth, of the Hebrew people about 4000 years ago right up to today in the person of Bahá'u'lláh, this pattern of leaving one's country and going to another land is, in some ways, the basic myth, model, metaphor, for the international pioneer. The Bahá'í pioneer goes and makes his home "to develop the society God calls" Bahá'u'lláh's followers to build. "I will make of you a great nation," God says to His people in The Bible. The pioneer is also in the same position, only he is at the beginning of a global, a planetary, system, a world Order, that he is helping to establish. This is the core of the pioneer's service to humanity. God will train both the pioneer and the Bahá'ís, it would appear, following the metaphor right back to Abraham, in a series of sacred-historical events different from, but similar in other ways to, the great literary-metaphorical history that is the Bible. Abraham's leap of faith is ours, too, as we walk into history.

Bahá'u'lláh's exile over forty years took place only once, as did Abraham's journey, but each inaugurated the history of a divine-human relationship which will go on unfolding for centuries, millennia to come. Just as Abraham had little comprehension of the nature of his call or of his destiny at the beginning, so,too, are we in a similar position, although we do have some glimmering of the future given to us in the Bahá'í writings. At the very start of the building of this World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, it is difficult to fathom the process, the reality, the meaning. The narrative of our lives takes unexpected turns; uncertainty and doubt, anxiety and suffering enter our lives seemingly outside our control. Faith is at our core as it was for Abraham. Still, we like to think that everything in the world has something great and noble to strive towards and that once we find out what it is that nature specially intended us to do, we can get on with it with that sense of purpose and destiny which produces an elan vital of special force. I feel that about writing this work, but I keep in the back-pocket of my brain, perhaps in a section of the parietal lobe, enough doubt to keep me humble, to keep the ego and its veils out of the way—or so I theorize.

But history, for the Jewish people, and for the Bahá'ís, is seen as an extended course of instruction filled with lessons and tests by which God seeks to educate us for our redemptive work. In this narrative is found the meaning and purpose of our lives. To help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Just as Abraham went from his country, kindred and father's house so does the international pioneer, launched on a mission to other people, to all people, wherever he goes. The journey has gone on in our own time in the life of Bahá'u'lláh. That great journey of the Abrahamic peoples is the paradigmatic, the metaphorical, vehicle, that the pioneer takes on board as he becomes a part of a wondrous tradition that weaves its way through the holy scriptures of four of the world's religions. For the pioneer's story is the story he will find there in that holy writ. Therein will he find his life's meaning and purpose.

Back in 1974, while teaching at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, I came across the writings of a specialist in the history of childhood, Lloyd deMause. I always found deMause provocative. I include here a short essay I wrote on deMause and his ideas because of the relevance of deMause's ideas to the life of the pioneer and to this autobiography.


In trying to understand my life and especially my pioneering life over these four epochs a book like Lloyd deMause's The Emotional Life of Nations, particularly his chapter four, is a helpful one. It places the importance of understanding emotions, individual motivation, interpersonal relationships within the family and child-rearing practices at the very centre of any attempt to understand self and society. Indeed, deMause's philosophy of history places these factors right at the centre of any genuine understanding we might achieve of history. Not economics as Marx would have it, not religion or bureaucracy as Weber would have emphasized, not sex as was Freud's focus, but an intimate and personal domain within the family is where we must go if we want to understand history and ourselves. While not wanting to abandon the family, as Plato does to a significant extent; while appreciating its central role in society, I am aware that the narrow privacy, the tawdry secrets, its conflicts and its discontents but, most importantly, its tendency to become people's world in toto, seem to keep so many from ever developing a wider loyalty beyond the micro-world into which people are born.

Cultural determinism, deMause argues, can account for only some of our behaviour and our life. "The environment," "the culture," being the pervasive, all-embracing, entities that they are, I can keep pretty busy analysing this complex explanatory matrix and how my life is a bi-product of it. But this matrix does not cover the whole story. Indeed, inner meanings and motivations, relationships and parenting, must be seen as a crucial, if not 'the' crucial, focus of causation in your life and mine, particularly insofar as autobiography is concerned. This is the certain and central core of any attempt to secure a real and illuminating autobiography, as far as the DeMause thesis is concerned. It is not my intention here to go into detail on these aspects of my early life. Hopefully, I will do so at a future time. I will examine, too, in more detail my relationship with my father, my mother, my grandfather, my extended family, specific friends and the Bahá'í community which gradually became an important part of my psycho-social life from the age of nine onwards. In the process it may be that my autobiography and those of others, other minor figures like myself, will tell future historians more about our times than the lives of major historical figures. These common and familiar aspects of my experience can serve as a helpful entry-point for any study of the fine structure of Bahá'í experience, as a source of primary materials for any attempt to integrate the intellectual and the institutional narrative, the personal and the community aspects of this emerging world religion. But no matter how extraordinary or how ordinary individuals like me turn out to be, they all have mothers and fathers, extended families, interests and activities and they appear to enter into history in much the same way, pulsing with the most ordinary needs, drives, and passions. How useful, then, a detailed description of these aspects of my life may be to those now living or in the generations ahead is, it seems to me, questionable at best. There has been an explosion in histories of the family in the last decades and I'm not sure I want to add one more study to the pile.

The field of developmental psychology suggests strongly that there is more to an explanation of human behaviour than simply self-interest or idealism. There are many powerful human feelings other than greed and devotion to a Cause that shape our lives and we must explore these feelings if we are to explain our lives to any significant extent. I feel that my autobiography has only partially dealt with these factors, thusfar.       Perhaps society is the flawed product of both an evolving and flawed psyche and the evolving and flawed units of social organization in which we are all enmeshed. Certainly an examination of my early days will, must, deal with these flaws.

I have just reread my notes on motivation and attitudes from a psychology course I taught in Perth in the early 1990s. I could very well examine, say, each of the dozen major theories of motivation summarized there and see how they apply to my own life. It seems to me, following deMause, that it would be useful to understand the psychological origins of my behaviour and specifically the content and psychodynamics of my negative memories. It is difficult to unwind the attitudes, beliefs, values, motivations, negative memories and see my life in a developmental perspective, one that is psychosexual and/or psychosocial. The exercise is, to say the least, complex. I have examined this theme to some extent elsewhere, both on my website and in this autobiographical account focusing as I have on Erik Erikson and his model of human development.

DeMause argues that the sense of 'self and other' is one of the most creative achievements of humankind over the last several thousand or hundreds of thousands of years. It has taken humankind millennia to accomplish this sense of self, this sense of identity. From a Bahá'í perspective this internal, this ego, this 'self-sense' must also include a sense of the physical environment, the human environment and the environment of unknowns dealt with by religion and philosophy among a range of humanities and social sciences. This sense of self is acquired through the actualizing of potentials, an actualizing that occurs through the acquisition of competencies in several areas: psycho-motor, perceptual, cognitive, affective and volitional.

I should go on to say that, underpinning this sense of self, is a philosophy that Jordan and Streets call "a philosophy of organism." Creativity guided by purpose and expressed by two fundamental capacities "to know and to love" is the basis of this philosophy. This is part of the rationalization of the vision that is at the core of the Bahá'í teachings. The integration of knowledge and belief and the transformation of experience into attitude is also taking place here within the framework of this philosophy. These are all part of the underpinnings of my philosophy, a philosophy which tries to give "logic and coherence to what"1 I see and do and helps provide the rationale and standards of explanation for what I see that counts in my world. It is my world view, my Weltanschauung.
One of the obligations of the storyteller, the bard, the poet, is to tell his own story, tell who he is and tell it intelligibly. He has to share his own story, his interests, his perspectives, his needs, his loyalties, his beliefs, his loves, his frustrations. For all he has is his story. Some writers tell their story through novels or short stories; some through poetry. In addition to this narrative, I write what is openly autobiographical poetry. This is how I tell my story. I would not bother to write if all I was doing was providing sophisticated entertainment, but what I am doing is many-fold: clarifying a commitment, capturing an inward, private world for public consumption, probing the mystery of artistic creation, explaining me to myself, expressing human life at a deeper, more intense, clearer-sighted way than I ever could in my daily life, recounting a lifelong spiritual pilgrimage, inducing change, explaining the turning points in my life and in life and trying to arrive at a just characterization. People can find out much more deeply in my works what, for the most part, they could never find out from me in real life.

The titles of each of my booklets of poetry, over fifty now, are drawn from recent experience in the Bahá'í community often in connection with the Mt. Carmel Project. What is happening on Mt. Carmel, I often feel, is very much something that is happening to me. For community, shared community, is largely and most intimately experienced alone, no matter how much of the experience is shared in group interaction. In this poetry the reader will see how I people my solitude, how I am alone in a crowd and how I achieve that degree of virtue proportional to what I am worthy—always an unknown quantity--but one can try to take account, guesstimate where one is at. The writing of autobiography is one way of doing that guessing, taking that account. I must be resigned, indeed we all must be, to the possible and fearful disclosure that indeed in time, even in my last breaths, I might take the wrong spiritual turn thus making a life, my life, replete as it has been in many ways with victories, swallowed by defeat.

The art of writing autobiography is partly the art of knowing what to leave out and it is the excitement of finding a form for the material. The form, the perspective, the style, that is this third edition evolved so slowly I had just about given up hope. It was a lesson for me in the great truth that in "one's art of craft one can't afford to be impatient."

Studies of introspection and self-perception "fail to appreciate the complexity of establishing the accuracy of a self-judgment." It is undoubtedly a complex business. One advantage that narrative has is that one's identity is carved out of a mass of interacting entities and out of a social construction of reality. My identity has so many sources, a bewildering variety. And what this autobiography does, among other things, is to show the man, the evolution of the man within the poet that I am, that I have become.

Reading about Flavius Josephus recently, for example, I could not help but contrast this man's life, impressed as he was with the excellence of Roman culture in the first century after Christ, with my own life in the first century after Bahá'u'lláh impressed as I am with the culture of the Bahá'í religion. Or examining the autobiography of Australian poet Judith Wright I cannot help but feel an identity with her as she describes herself as "a shimmering multitude." She says her "early memories could have been written in a dozen different ways" and now "that multitude has expanded in all directions." Wright says she does "not know what 'fact' is" any more. Perhaps more important than which of the many ways one can write one's autobiography is the importance of being "thoroughly penetrated by what James called the wonder of consciousness in everything" as one goes about one's task.

Our private life, Wright goes on, "leaves less trace than the silver trail of a slug which dries and blows away" although, as I have pointed out in relation to some diarists and autobiographers, there is a strong penchant to immerse themselves and their readers in the trivia of everyday life on the assumption that it will either be of interest to someone or it will illuminate the everyday life of the times. One's public life is, in the end, a multiplicity. Even if one constructs an autobiography, one knows that ultimately one selects from the great mass a succession of personas and in reflection constructs a procession of 'I's; even if one dwells on the external events of one's life, the measureable quantities, the exercise is fragile, subtle and enigmatic.

History consists of the stories we tell each other, stories that attempt to explain who we are and where we have been. For me, many of these stories can be found in Bahá'í history which has a metaphorical base. The metaphorical meanings suggest paths that I might tread toward the uncertain and the certain that is the future. These Bahá'í stories tell of my most sacred beliefs and suggest patterns of moral and social behaviour that I should follow. And it seems to me I must be on my guard not to focus primarily on the things which vanish or I and what I write will vanish too. For this reason there is little in this autobiography about what I have bought, eaten, shopped for, what brand names have been a part of my life. The symbolic world which we all inhabit is for the most part a depthless realm of masks, of images and brand names whose cache and status inevitably change, revealing no stable core at best or no substance at all.

Although this everyday trivia may not reveal a substance, a core, of life, some of it does reveal a curious, at times interesting and humorous, aspect of one's life worthy of comment, worthy of inclusion, in a book like this. More importantly it may not be worthy, but somehow it seems appropriate. Once upon a time, I might have shrunk from the act of self-revelation and self-exposure here. But some fundamental creative impulse moves me to include this anecdote. I was reminded of this smallest of impulses, this most trivial of details, with little or no literary value, of supreme banality, very private, secret, intimate, but quite universal, by my wife when she was reading an account of a similar experience described by Gabriel Marquez. Marquez describes the situation better than I could and so I will simply quote her here:

"Ferminia Daza could never resign herself to Dr. Urbino's wetting the rim of the toilet bowl each time he used it. Dr. Urbino tried to convince her, with arguments readily understandalbe to anyone who wished to understand them, that the mishap was not repeated every day through carelessness on his part, as she insisted, but because of organic reasons:.....with the ravages of age his stream was not only decreasing, it was also becoming oblique and scattered....impossible to control despite his many efforts to direct it.....On the eve of old age this physical difficulty inspired Dr. Urbino with the ultimate solution: he urinated sitting down.....which kept the bowl clean and him in a state of grace."

On the eve of old age or, more accurately, late adulthood, I am in the process of applying the ultimate solution.

I see this autobiography as the story of a life that suggests, exemplifies, a psychological reality that opposes and withstands as much of the plague of popular fantasies that bombard consciousness as I have been able in these epochs. My identity is not associated with an image, an image that is ultimately empty, of another's demand in an image-conscious society. I accept that image has become a central aspect of life today; indeed to some extent I revel in it. I play the game, but realize it's a game. I know that much of what I desire I have been taught to desire through my only partly avoidable immersion in society's realities.

I have been hooked, as we all have been to varying extents, by the "aesthetics of consumerism." "Coolness," "glamorousness," a host of images I am aware of, but I know my reality and the reality of others is not this. Still I must admit that all this surface piffle, surface reality, has influenced me in much of my life. Of course, I am not the only one to realize this; so, too, do millions of others who sit and take in what some have called 'secondary reality.' In the first eleven decades that these electronic media products have bathed society and now billions of its citizens in a cornucopia of products and pleasures. In the last six decades I too have found that they are not been without their value.

Given the quantity of time in my life in which I have absorbed products from film, TV, radio, musak, advertising, hi-fi sound-music systems, video, CDs, VCRs and DVDs, I would guesstimate a minimum of one-eighth of all the hours of my life and, perhaps, as much as a quarter, they really deserve a separate study of their own. Film, video, radio and TV seem to have succeeded the written word as preferred narrative vehicle of our time and yet I spend so much of my own time with the written word.

The movies I have seen are entertaining but not real. They are surreal, hyperreal, colourful, stimulating, but not life as I live it. Consequently, I am plunged into and forged by a sea of signifiers which, while stimulating my sensory emporium, ultimately signify something approaching nothing. I am conscious of body image but I get little sense of identity, little that I am aware of anyway, from my body. My psyche, to the extent that it is filled with electronic media products, is a void because that environment of media seems, as I gaze back on its consumption, like an abyss, and the inner world, if one can call it that, which it creates in this narration is thin and, although entertaining, depleted of significance and depth. I do not measure my life in terms of movies consumed, documentaries viewed, clothes and food purchased, although they are all part of my life. They bring pleasure and learning, but they do not represent landmarks, turning points, significations. In a strange, somewhat sad, way, they represent points, episodes in time which occupy time, and which rest my spirit and body, provide a recoup, a retank, so that I can get on with living.

I've never had an obsession with food, but it certainly has been a central way for me to socialize with others, to comfort friends and family and strangers, as I'm sure is the case for millions of others. I don't want to get into the hundreds of possible stories about food: my favorites, its role in my marriages and in the Bahá'í community, its preparation, inter alia. As much as I enjoy food it is not my desire to occupy this narrative with the subject of food. I would, though, like to make a very general comment on that great institution 'the family meal.' The family meal could be given an essay all to itself. But I will say one or two things about it in my life. Eating together in my family died by insensible degrees in the years before I went north of Capricorn in 1982. I have memories of the family meal for some 30 years: 1952-1982. After that time TV provided the matrix, the milieux, for eating.
A survey in the UK showed that in families with teenagers one family in twenty in Britain eat together only on Christmas Day, and over a third of those questioned said that they preferred to watch television while eating rather than sitting around a table with their family. Talking to other family members over dinner was not considered relaxing. It is not my desire to expatiate on all the habits, customs and routines associated with food or, indeed, those other matters I have just raised.

In the half century that this autobiography is concerned with, this electronic media has enriched my life but I still hold quite ambivalent feelings about its value. My own particular proclivities are in many ways not representative of the general cultural interests of the group in which marketing men would place me. The middle-aged middle classes, a slot I've been in for the last two decades(1984-2004), seem to be adding to sex and the consumption of sexuality in all its forms the variations of a food culture. As my generation used to avidly discuss its sexual interests and exploits, part of the liberation of the sixties, so we now avidly discuss the meals we've cooked and the restaurants we've eaten in. Among educated Boomers, a group I have come to include myself in although I was born in 1944, cookery books and knowledge of cuisine has attained the status of art object or sex manual or both. People are more comfortable talking about food so it has a high sociability index. For this autobiography, though, I have little to say about food and not that much to say about sex—in the 2500 pages found here.

Television's entrance into the fabric of everyday life was accompanied with great ambivalence in postwar America, from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. The medium was not simply promoted as a new technological and cultural blessing to the public at large; instead, it provoked deeply contradictory expressions of hopes and fears, excitement and anxiety. I lived with t,his ambivalence all my years and it was not until the early years of my retirement, fifty years after my parents bought the first TV in our house, that I overcame a significant part of that amivalence. I learned to live comfortably with TV by the age of sixty. I had learned, too, by the age of sixty that "the last years, so valuable for reviewing life and making amends, for cosmological speculation and the confabulation of memories into stories, for sensory enjoyment of the world's images, and for connections with apparitions and ancestors," could use infirmities to present a panoply of opportunities for refining character. Diminished physical faculties coupled with the active intelligence of the soul seemed to allow me to recognize and fully become a unique self. As short-term memory faded a long-term memory review came into play and it was this force that was behind this autobiography.

The soap opera is an example of one genre of program which I saw for the first time about the age of six while visiting a friend. This genre is still alive and well today. It is based on a multiple, decentred, narrative. Everywhere it breaks the illusion of unity and totality provided to the viewer by realism, by basic tendencies in everyday life. By constantly presenting viewers with the many-sidedness of any question, by never reaching a permanent conclusion, by breaking identification with a single controlling character and providing multiple points of view, often contradictory and ever shifting identifications, the soap opera undermines the spectator's capacity to form unambiguous judgements. The daytime serial like Days of Our Lives, that is, may be in the vanguard not just of TV but of all popular narrative art because it is the very reverse of the classic realist text. Their multiple viewpoints resist ideological and narrative closure. They are, Jacobs argues, a major development in stage melodrama and serial fiction and they reflect for millions of people lives which also resist closure, which are not based on any metanarrative, which accentuate the erotic, the sensuous and are, in the end, very unrealistic.

This tradition of the serial narrative-cum-soap-opera could be said to have begun in the decade before the Bab's declaration with Dickens' Pickwick Papers. It brings into the life of millions around the world and myself on occasion our fragmented world which, however unrealistic, is yet a metaphor in some ways for The Days of Our Lives. Soap operas began in their modern dress on radio at the outset of the teaching plans in the 1930s. By the middle of the first Seven Year Plan in 1940 there were 64 soaps broadcast in the USA and they were extended onto TV in the 1950s. They have grown to audiences of hundreds of millions and become the foremost genre in television during this pioneering venture. Like this Cause which began 160 years ago now, the serial narrative has spread to every corner of the world. The market it has captured far exceeds the one that has been a part of my life these many years.

Our knowledge of the past events in our lives is always incomplete, to some degree inaccurate, beclouded by ambivalent evidence and our own biases. This is also true of the great events of history and in our Faith, even a Faith like Bahá'í that grows up in the light of modern history. There are times when history and our lives make no sense. We feel we have learned nothing and our life is a weary rehearsal of mistakes. At times like this a multitude of doubts assail us.       The role of the electronic media often seems mainly to help us occupy time as we try to deal with the tests that belabour and beleaguer our lives. Of course, there is more, much more to the whole question of the electronic media in my life and society's. Before closing this topic, before leaving this question until another time, I would like to make a passing reference to a film and a book whose respective contents are relevant to the themes here.

Nathaniel West's critique of mass culture in his novel The Day of the Locust(1939) and a recent popular movie The Truman Show(1998) both exaggerate the problems of mass culture, and they both implicitly assume that some viable, utopian alternative exists. Sadly, the only alternative to consumerism that most critics envisage is an oppressive government that drastically limits personal freedom, telling people what they should desire. While it should be obvious that desire can be and is partly regulated, the impossibility of regulating all of human desire should be accepted as such. The claim of The Truman Show that a free market enables a repressive regime of corporate media power to accomplish such regulation is based on an assumption about and an unjustified distortion of media power. The products of consumer society are not always beautiful and elegant, but they help in the process of differentiating individuals and enabling the human community to continue.

Any political/economic system one could argue can be justified only as the lesser of two evils. Giving up utopian dreams is not so much a sign of maturity but, rather, a settling for some degree of chaos and contradiction in a pluralistic, a secular and scientific age. The anthropological problem posed by consumer society is, how can a society exist without an absolute sacred, an authority rooted in the sacred? In historical terms, modern society is an anomaly. But the sacred has not disappeared; it has rather been integrated into the fabric of our culture, integrated so profoundly that we hardly recognize it as such. We don't have any overarching, generally accepted, public sacred, but we do have a whole host of private sacreds. Each individual creates his or her own sense of the sacred, in part through consumer products. The great advantage of this system is that it differentiates people without the need for rigid hierarchies, thus maximizing personal freedom. But the definition of limits is a problem and existential questions confront all men in all societies. All societies have been groping for a new vocabulary, for some sense of the totality of life uniting: the ethical, metaphysical, the meditative and the mystical. Of course, from my perspective, the Bahá'í Faith provides such a noetic, integrating mechanism. Time will tell whose mechanism is the most fertile for this emerging global society.

The Durants write that "Most history is guessing and the rest is prejudice." Writing autobiography is partly guessing and partly prejudice and there is a strong element of facticity born of several elements which history in general lacks; namely, closeness to the source, being yourself at the centre of the text; relative ease of retrievability of information however fallible and probabilistic the process. Both historians and writers of autobiography tend to oversimplify and select only a manageable minority of facts from a multitudinous complexity which can never really be embraced and comprehended. There is an elusiveness in the search and frustrations inherent in never really knowing so many things with certainty, but the attempt to decipher the past, one's life, has the potential to inform the human endeavour.

As I was growing up the American playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams were asking basic questions like: how shall we live and how shall we get through the night? Millions tried to answer those questions in their own way. By the late fifties I was looking for my own answers and by the early sixties the first evidences of manic-depression were forcing me to my psychological and spiritual knees. Although I never saw any of the plays of these playrights in my adolescent years, the basic questions that informed, that underpinned, their plays seemed to be part of the very air I breathed in these formative years.

The physical landscape where the events of our story, our narrative, our life, occurs is unavoidably a focus for our activities, our meanings. There is also a spiritual, a historical, a psychological landscape which is equally, if not more, a focus for much that has significance in our lives. Much has been written about these two types of landscape; indeed, a separate book could be devoted to their associated themes and the vast literature now available which explores them.

This physical and psychological landscape has an influence on us which is really quite immeasurable. The developmental psychologist and specialist in the history of childhood, Lloyd deMause, argues that at the centre of any understanding of history and of our own lives we must see our primary relationships with parents, siblings and close friends. DeMause goes so far as to construct a philosophy of history based on our experiences in childhood.

Here are two poems that express some of the ways my son might see me now that he has grown into early adulthood at 25, is still at home and in the second year of his working life as an engineer. They were written when he was in his late teens and very early twenties, but the sentiments are still relevant.


My first memories are of my father typing. In fact, throughout my childhood and adolescence about all he did around the house was write and read. We played a little sport together, once a day if we could make it. He washed the dishes alot, entertained the occasional visitor and watched a little TV. But mostly he read and wrote. -Ron Price with thanks to my son, Daniel Price, "A Son's View of His Father," Pioneering Over Four Epochs, Saturday, 29 March 1996, 9:30 pm.

It's difficult to see yourself as others see you.
Now, take my son, for example:
I think I'd have a pretty good idea
of how he sees his old man,
after all I've watched him grow
to a youth of eighteen
and we have a lot of laughs, you know.

Occasionally, we have something
you could call a conversation,
certainly more than those grunting
relationships I've heard of from time to time.
He's a smart lad, smarter than me,
gentler, kinder, wiser, more controlled.
He's got that sadness I had, back then,
when young, but not as much;
he's more balanced.

He wonders where I get all my flatulence.
I wonder too. There's a mutual respect there,
a quiet grace, a love I gave my father
as best I could, as best he could.
I think the quantity of love
rains more plenteously now
upon me and he than once it did
when I was the son.

Ron Price
29 March 1996


In about two weeks time my wife and I are moving from Perth to Tasmania. Last night my only son, Daniel, moved out of the family home to go into his own flat, since he would be staying in Perth. It was a sad night for each of us. My wife and I shed many tears after he left around 9 pm. About midnight, just before I was going to retire for the night, I thought of my own father who died some thirty-four years before. This poem was the result of the poignancy of that memory and the juxtaposition of the hypothetical loss of my own son. I write the poem as if I am speaking to my father, just after he died about one in the morning in May 1965. There is also, inevitably, some sense of the poem being written on the night of my own son's departure. Somehow, as I wrote the poem, time and son and father, over three generations blended into one complex and mysterious whole. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 21 June 1999, 1:00 am.

Good-bye Dad!
I wish you happy sailing
through the mists of time.
The pain is over now,
all the knocks and crosses
that flesh is air to.
I trust He will forgive your sins,
pardon your shortcomings.

May you enter the garden of happiness,
be cleansed with the most pure water.
One day, when my sailing is done,
I trust we will join hands
and I will kiss your cheeks and eyes,
if you will love me then
as you loved me then, when I was young
and you were so old and so soon, perhaps,
to enter His paradise and retreats of nearness.

Ron Price
21 June 1999

1 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, pp. 45-6.

Six years later, in 2005, Daniel moved out for a second time as I had done forty years before in 1965 when my father died. In times of epochal change and transformation which these epochs are, sons must not simply repeat the traditional pattern and become part of the father's tribe. The sons must strike out anew, rebuild the world and refashion its social and political relationships. The most creative sons of all must "father" themselves, not simply engage in the conventional return to father patterns which only succeed in propping up the ailing patriarchy. The son's is a lonely path, a courageous path, and it requires above all that men make a commitment to the creative spirit of the present and the dream of the future, not just to the spirit of the past. Getting married, having a woman in my life certainly helped me cope with loneliness and the pain of life. I'm not sure what my son's story will be. It is too early to tell.

One of the chief qualities of my son, Daniel, is his sense of humour. Humour is endemic to, pervasive in, Australia. It is a rich and important part of the culture. While not wanting to go into a history of humour in America and Australia, I would like to mention three humorists who were important in western society, Lenny Bruce back in the sixties before I left North America and as the third decade of this pioneering story turned the corner in the early nineties: Robyn Williams and Billy Connelly. There have been others since the fifties and the sixties, indeed there seemed to be a great spauning of comedy through both the print and electronic media.

"Laughter," wrote the historian Thomas Carlyle, "is a token of virtue. No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether bad." Perhaps, if I have one disappointment in this book, it is that it is not funnier. For many people religion holds no attraction whatsoever in any form and, with Thomas Mann, I am inclined to the view that comedy is, at least on this earth, part of the soul's salvation." To the average, the typical(if there is such a thing) secular enthusiast, this book offers little in the way of salvation by laughter. "Humour is one of the elements," wrote the famous Bahá'í George Townshend, "that make up a balanced and complete mentality." In this sense this book lacks that balance. The incongruities of life provided a wealth of opportunities to laugh at myself, at others and at life. Living in Australia encouraged, highlighted, humour through jokes, wordplay and games. Laugher came more easily after the age of forty, after a dozen years in Australia.

If I could convey that sense of self, of history and of the religious community that my life has been enmeshed in as, say, William Wordsworth conveyed his life in his four volumes of The Prelude it would be quite unsatisfactory to the modern temperament, the modern sensibility. Even though The Prelude promises much for the future people get a sense of tedium from what it says of the past. It is rare now to meet anyone who has even read this very long autobiographical poem.

This, too, may be the fate of this work. But the road from "me" to "me" is through "the other" and that is the road I have taken here even if few travel on it with me and even if few laugh. Perhaps it would have been more useful if, like F. Scott Fitzgerald who dramatized the years between the wars, I could have dramatized these epochs in a memorable novel, a stimulating television series or some in-depth radio documentaries. Instead I tell a story at the dark heart of an age, an age of transition, the story as it was experienced by one man. I have written, too, to give some idea of how in my individual case life became converted into art and how art was born of life and of experience.

Research in audience studies shows that readers of fiction or viewers of films are voraciously interested in the "real" story of fictionalized persons and events. Fictional forms often succeed in representing life: underlining its fullness, complicatedness, inexplicability, fragmentation, and its subtextual richness. Often it is difficult to represent these aspects of life by a linear narrative of historical "facts." Thus, an interpretation of the interrelation between the historical subtext and its fictional rendition may be more useful for readers and viewers than a more analytical narrative like the one I have written. Since it is unlikely that anyone will be making a film of my life while I am alive, I will leave this promising interrelationship to history's future.

Writing in the mid-1990s, Smith and Watson address the prevalence of personal narratives in everyday life. They are communicated, they outline, via diverse means: on the body, on the air, in music, in print and electronic media, at meetings. While emphasizing that occasions for confessional storytelling are multiple, Smith and Watson argue that narrators create historically specific personal histories by assembling fragments of the identities and narrative forms that the culture makes available. Smith and Watson concentrate on how consumers from all strata of American culture are eager both to construct their own narratives and to learn about the life stories that other people tell. Smith and Watson argue that postmodern America is culturally obsessed with getting a life, with sharing it and advertising it to others, with consuming the lives of others. The lives we consume, they say, are translated into our own lives, into story, into some personal narrative. One of the characteristics of much of postmodern literature, and this is certainly true of this autobiographical piece I am writing here, is the complex relationship between the author and his/her main character. Readers, therefore, who want to translate this work into their own lives may find the process somewhat complex.

Smith and Watson also discuss the contrast between ‘official' autobiographies and ‘personal' versions that subvert or contradict the authorized versions. This enables consumers, say Smith and Watson, "to align the privatized consciousness" of autobiographers, conveyed in those narratives with the identities of those same autobiographers created and experienced in the public sphere. These disparate personal histories with their contradictions and misalignments are part of the storyteller's attempt to "get a life," part of autobiographical narrators positioning themselves as the agents of the stories they tell. Post-modernism in its various forms developed in the last century tends to ask: "What is the point of trying to decipher the book of life when there are no longer any authorised version? Who needs to set out on life's journey if the very idea of progress has already been shown up as a fraud? How much easier to select an off the identity-peg from your local cultural supermarket, than undergo the laborious task of learning a new role or writing a new script." I think we are all caught up in this movement of post-modernism. The Bahá'í does have some identity-pegs to give him or her a broad framework and the notion of progress is certainly central to any authorized version of life.
The canonical form of the post-modernist life story is the TV chat show or even radio interview. The subjects' achievements are briefly summarised and a few flattering questions are asked. Then the personality takes centre stage to hold forth about their latest projects and the meaning of life in a lot of well-chosen sometimes clichéd phrases, sometimes entertaining words, sometimes quite amazing lives. This is do-it-yourself-hagiography inflated for a mass audience, with the interviewer as a willing accomplice. Even the This is Your Life programme with its genuflections towards the book of life and a bildungsroman follows essentially the same lines.
What the post-modernisers are in fact proposing is not so much life as a movie, but as a TV soap opera. In the soap opera we have a number of highly condensed narratives which develop simultaneously and are only externally and contingently related by the dramatic unities of place and time. The model points us towards a life world composed of a shifting mosaic of fragmentary selves linked by ever changing and transient configurations of meaning. However tragic the situations or outcomes the conflicts which engender them are only temporality resolved because there is never any ending. There is no basis, no code, from which the disparate elements of a life history could be integrated, evaluated or measured, except some broad plurlaisitic and humanistic secularism. We are presented with an image of life as a series of loose ends, but only to tantalise us and tie us in knots around the expectation of a final denouement which never comes. The message at the end of every episode is simply to be continued next week. The show, like life, must go on.
There is an element of personal control that often appeals to speakers who have stories to share, but would be impossible to convey, would be considered culturally unspeakable, for a host of reasons. In the telling of unrecited and unrecitable narratives such as histories of child abuse, spouse battering, interracial marriage, homosexuality, alcoholism, mental illness, and disability, inter alia, the narrators, as witnesses, reframe what is regarded as unspeakable or simply too difficult to speak about and open up new ways to speak about their personal battles. Autobiographical narrators, whatever their stories, often connect with others in new ways as well, especially when their stories resonate with the stories of people in a comparable and compatible group or what might be called a "community of secret knowers." In these ways, Smith and Watson contend, narratives provide a way to intervene in postmodern life, and the narrators "can facilitate changes in the mapping of knowledge and ignorance, of what is speakable or unspeakable, of what is disclosed or masked, alienating or communally bonding." Perhaps we need to look as closely as we can at the sheer variety of ways lives are told and lived.
The most important accomplishments, the saddest or most tragic experiences, the happiest periods in my life, the how I survived stories, the most revealing sequences, the most funny anecdotes, all of these litter the pages of autobiographies, some like trophies, some like confessionals, some to entertain. I'm not sure I could list any of my experiences in the top ten. I think what surprises me most about it all is that I am here to tell the story. What surprises me, too, because I forget its reality is that we do not have direct access to the thoughts of other people. We have to infer the working of other minds from surface phenomena such as speech, body language, behavior, and action. R. D. Laing put the point vividly: "your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man's invisibility to man." Autobiography takes down the wall of invisibility, at least partly.

In another sense, the workings of our minds are perfectly visible to others in our actions. The workings of fictional minds in novels are perfectly visible to readers from characters' actions. The direct thought conveyed in speech is only a part of a character's mind, a part that is the highly verbalized and self-conscious flow of consciousness. States of mind, states of inner speech, are those areas of characters' minds that are not as visible. There are also areas of the mind that are not inner speech and are not visible. Such areas cover episodes of current consciousness such as "the felt depressed" or "I am depressed." Other examples include such mental phenomena as: mood, desires, emotions, sensations, visual images, attention, and memory. I hope that this list, to which other inner states could be added, gives an indication of the vast areas of the mind that are not suitable for analysis under the speech category approach. As Proust's narrator remarks, "our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people." People are viewed as coming into contact with, and creating, their surroundings, as well as themselves, through the actions in which they engage. The tendency to present consciousness as isolated and passive is only one dimension of a very complex picture. In saying all of the above, I hope I have presented an equally complex picture of the nature of autobiographical discourse and how difficult it is, even in more than 1000 pages and all the best intentions in the world, to write my Pioneering Over Four Epochs: an autobiographical study and a study in autobiography.

Autobiographical home videos that ordinary people produce are generically analogous to videos produced about and by the various celebrities in society. Such videos promote new forms of intersubjectivity between artists and their audiences, between autobiographers and their readers. Smith and Watson also distinguish between the "backyard ethnography" which focuses on "the everyday practices of autobiographical narrating in America" and autobiographical texts that are aligned with the 'high culture' of published, 'artful' autobiography." Such distinctions do appear tenuous, though, in a postmodern culture that encourages people to draw on a common multimedia repertoire for identities and narrative forms. Consumer video modes also connect the formerly elite practice of video art with more pedestrian uses of the home video user and his autobiogrpahical exercise. Variously positioned autobiographical discourses prompt interventions in everyday life that bring like-minded people together either actually or virtually. Autobiographies are found in both high art and in popular culture. They are not limited to either side of this dichotomous cultural divide and its social hierarchies.

Autobiographical texts can, as I've said above, promote new forms of social interaction in everyday life. Literary approaches to personal narratives and popular culture approaches; low-end confessional videos by independent artists and more sophisticated analytical treatments, are all part of the varied mix that is found in today's world. The tension that the confessor experiences between a focus on subjectivity and an attempt to construct an identity that is communal rather than individualistic is a common one and it helps to provide a welcomed opportunity for introspection and often a brilliant piece of analytical and subjective writing. Autobiographical videos have been making their appearance in the last two decades more and more. While video will not be part of this third or fourth editions, I may be more adventurous in a fifth or future edition. Somehow, I think it unlikely.

I would like to close this essay with a focus on the concept of writing as a form of play, as a form of praiseful thanksgiving, as a way that mercurial energy finds a place, where the imagination can leap, where the heavenly wit of Hermes finds a home. Poetic language, wrote the hermeneutical philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, is "language at its most playful." Play, of course, takes many forms for me in my poetry and my life and in this autobiography. Here are two manifestations of this tendency so crucial to language and life.


Roger White's poem "Also," reminded me of the beginning of my relationship with my second wife, Chris, in Launceston in April 1974. We love, as White said, "as best we can, though all our words describing love....lean pitiably on the crutches of our need." -Roger White, "Also,", Occasions of Grace: More Poems and Portrayals, George Ronald, Oxford, 1992, p.121.

One playful romp among your curves
and crevices, your darkness and your light,
pushed all the ponderous abstractions aside
and took away my need to wrestle futilely
with the inexpressible which offered little comfort
when the night was cold and wet
and I was alone in a strange town
in a house on a hill
where you could smell the traffic
from the bedroom. We were wrenched,
torn, flung as unremembered leaves
driven in doleful patterns the wind weaves.

Your need--and mine—domesticated that silence;
this our first taste of love passed unnoticed into time.
Future lovers will not weep to read this rhyme.
Yet must I write these lines for my heart's ease
to recall that perfect hour, joy's lavish yield
and even, yes, the pain on every curve and crevice
that I gained beyond the inexpressible.

Ron Price
29 March 1997

Before passing on to the next poem I'd like to comment briefly about the word 'torn' in the above poem. Many writers are torn psychologically between two or more poles. This tearing is, indeed, a factor at the root of their creativity. This theme I could expand on in some detail here in relation to these writers and myself, but I will leave the detail and simply make the general observation that there were a number of polarities that this international pioneer had to deal with and which gave raise in complex ways to the inner-conflict he experienced and to his creative and literary output. I have felt compelled to come to terms with these conflicts in my psyche in order to achieve personal wholeness and a unified artistic vision. I have felt compelled to record this personal record perhaps, in part, as a prop, a pillar, to help me endure and prevail in what may be the long track ahead.


It is my ambition to be as an individual abolished and voided from history, leaving it markless, no refuse except the printed books. -William Faulkner quoted in Literature and the Question of Philosophy, editor, A.J. Cascardi, Johns Hopkins UP, London, 1987, p. 289.

Robert Hayden has a group of poems that seem clearly personal, almost confessional in tone, but with virtually no poem I am aware of is the poet's primary goal to present himself as an individual. -John Hatcher, From the Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p. 256.

It is my ambition to provide
a distinct memoir of an ordinary person
who is not better, nor especially distinguished
by virtue of some station in life,
but who can give history a life
that a grand tome of commentary
and research cannot, a memento
from a reasonable man
who enjoyed some clarity of light
and shade in this blurred age,
who found truth's playful slant
diversity in inescapable adversity,
who knew we each must move alone
through trackless snow, icy waste,
with the wind obliterating our intention
and our goal in total whiteness, blinding,
even to our death.

Ron Price
26 January 1997

However serious these two poems are, they play with language. Games, like natural languages, are informal, overlapping, variegated, plural and diverse. Man is, as Johann Huizinga wrote, homo ludens, one who plays. This autobiography has given me an opportunity to play. Perhaps my playing here is more like the play of light or the play of waves. There is predictability and unpredictability; there is sudden movement from one extreme to another; there is the diversionary and the serious; it captivates and fascinates and draws me into itself and I lose myself in the process. It engages my resourcefulness. It blends airy-nothing, the capacity to surprise, repetition, rules and obedience in a delightful mix. My writing, my play, takes place in that garden which Robert Bly describes in his book Iron John. It is a place of cultivation rathern than excitement, a place of boundaries where poems and images arise effortlessly, a heaven-haven. After decades of being the warrior, to chose Bly's metaphor again, it is time for the garden and the gardener, the flowers, the beauty, the charm of the rose. The warrior in me, as I approached fifty and insensibly over the next decade, continued to function, but quite differently. This warrior enabled me to decide to become a poet, a writer and to agree "to endure the suffering the choice entails." However harmonious the process is--and it is--there is something fierce about it.

Writing this autobiography is also a form of praiseful thanksgiving. In this context creativity and love no longer seem manifestations of ego or acts of self-expression. Through creativity, among other gifts, we find our central Godlikeness, but in a humble way that recognizes our nothiongness, not an Oedipal or a Promethean way that have conceptual roots in sexuality, death and some inner force or fire. Praising and thanking God, saying Yes to the God's gift of life, we cannot help recreating the world, and in doing so we are doing God's work and imitating God's own gift of creativity. The empty receptivity of gratefulness is itself a form of overflowing fullness. As Hildegard of Bingen says, and Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire shows, this fleshy creativity amazes angels, ‘for the angel without the work of the flesh is simply praise; but the humans with their corporeal works are a glorification: therefore the angels praise humans' work.'

I imagine that when Bach wrote music as an offering to the glory of God, he was carried toward glory by his sense of gratitude for the gratitude that gave him his compositional gift of accepting the gift of God that produced the work. This ecstatic spiralling logic of the ‘and' is the nature of divine music. It is also the nature of love and love-making, for who gives and takes in love-making? Who is active and who is passive? Whose body, breath and voice is whose? It is certainly something I feel as I write without the ecstatic tones of Bach. Artistic activity makes the artist aware that he is not the author of his works. This age-old experience of inspiration takes on both an exceptional weight and a lightness and delight that is occupied by both enthusiasm and possession. They are both concealed and evident at the heart of all activity and beneath the primordial activity of consciousness and language. There is, too, a type of delirium more profound than thought which supports thought. Language, which claims to be act and origin, is an inveterate passivity, the endless reiteration of an old old story, without beginning or end.

And finally, there is redemption and contamination which, to balance the profound seriousness of their implications, are usefully seen in the context of play: predictability and unpredicatability, lightness and dark, surprise and airy-nothing. These themes are central to any commitment story and they are certainly central to this. The good, forgiveness, triumphs over the bad or, to put it more accurately in this story, the good and the bad are intertwined in a complex process with no guarantees.



"Coherence and Logic Behind A Long Story: A Philosophy of Anecdote and Autobiography," Unpublished Essay, 6 February 2003.

For most of my years as a pioneer(1962-2003), the self and its related processes like self-esteem have been a central concern of social and behavioural scientists. Strange to say there is little agreement on just what constitutes the self. It would appear to be the most puzzling puzzle but, however puzzling, it is assumed to be real, the object of our attention and is both stable and fluid.-Ron Price with thanks to "Self and Identity in Everyday Life," International Society for Self and Identity, Author Unknown.

Go to "BARL-An Essay" in my computer directory for the rest of chapter 3
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