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

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

Part 2:

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

Readers will find here at Baha'i Library Online(BLO) the introductory sections, Parts 1, 2 and 3, of the author's epic 2500 page five volume 7th edition. These three Parts, now sub-divided into 6 separate sections, are an abridged, truncated and necessarily provisional edition for BLO.

This section, this post at BLO, is Part 2.2 and, as the title suggests, the entire work is a study of autobiography as a genre, an analysis of its process and its content, as much as if not more than, a study of the author's life, his society and his religion. The Office of Review of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has given him permission to post this work in its current form on the Internet.

Part 3:

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

Part 4:

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

Part 5:

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

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

Pioneering Over Four Epochs:
An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography: Part 2.2

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs
originally published as "Pioneering Over Four Epochs".
Preamble to Part 2.2:

Part 1:

In 1982 I began that portion of my life-narrative north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and on the West coast of Australia in the remote Pilbara, and in one of the most remote of the planet's cities: Perth. This part of my now lengthy memoir begins, then, on 23/7/'82, before continuing this narrative in Perth beginning in mid-December 1987. I'd like to say a few more things about the concept of persona. These comments are a continuation of earlier comments on the same subject.

After two decades of extensive Internet use, I am more than a little aware that cyberspace is a useful venue for individuals to craft their online personas on their own terms; many have embraced the opportunity to take on a persona that is not even associated with a legally recognised name. The rise of social networking has continued to spur proliferation of online personas; often this occurs in ways that intensify corporate mediation of these personas. Debates about online pseudonymity exemplify these tensions, especially when social media corporations attempt to implement “real name policies” that require users to use one, legally recognised name in their online interactions. These debates, however, have broader stakes: they are negotiations over who has the right to control the individual presentation of self, and thus part of a larger conversation about information control and the future of Internet culture. These issues are not ones that arise for me since I make no attempts at either pseudonimity, anonymity, name changing, or falsification of any kind.

Government organizations can only protect consumer privacy, client confidentiality and political privacy to a limited extent. The acquisition of personal identifiers by criminals and others has become relatively easy. Identity theft is a form of stealing someone's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else. This is done by assuming a person's identity, usually to gain access to resources or obtain credit & other benefits in that person's name. The term identity theft was coined in 1964; less ambiguous terms are identity fraud or impersonation. An unpublished study by Carnegie Mellon University noted that "Most often, the causes of identity theft are not known." Another study concluded that "the probability of becoming a victim to identity theft as a result of a data breach is ... around only 2%". Still, identity theft, fraud & impersonation are common; readers can access relevant details at:

The Australian story is found at: I have been an active internet user for nearly 20 years. My website provides a great deal of personal information, information that I happily give out due to the autobiographical nature of my website. I enjoy a high degree of personal security since: (i) I don't use credit cards online, (ii) I buy nothing online, (iii) I have no online ID cards, and (iv) there is never much money in my bank-account. There are also some 5000 other people in cyberspace with the same name as mine making the question of identity theft, at least in my case, nearly irrelevant. There are many other Ron Prices of fame and wealth and the theft of their identity would be more rewarding than the theft of my identity. Identity thieves would not gain much if they tapped into my financial resources. It simply would not be worth their while.

The extent to which data breaches have resulted in identity theft is not well known. This is largely because of the difficulty of determining the source of the data used to commit identity theft. However, available data and interviews with researchers, law enforcement officials, and industry representatives have indicated that most breaches have not resulted in detected incidents of identity theft, particularly the unauthorized creation of new accounts. In reviewing the 24 largest breaches reported in the media from January 2000 through June 2005, the accountability, integrity and reliability website(GIR) found that on 3 occasions there was evidence of resulting fraud on existing accounts. There was only 1 occasion when there was evidence of unauthorized creation of new accounts. For 18 of the breaches, no clear evidence had been uncovered linking them to identity theft; for the remaining occasions there was not sufficient information to make a determination.

Part 2:

As a writer and author, poet and publisher, I am not concerned about other people stealing or copying my work. I make this point several times on my website. According to the U.S. Copyright Office copyright is a legal right for someone to make copies of, sell, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or other creative work. A copyright is good for the life of the author, and then for a period of 70 years after the author dies. If the work was anonymous then copyright lasts 95 years from the date of publication, or 120 years from the date of creation (whatever comes first). I refer to use of my literary work, my prose and poetry, as "under license" or "with permission." I have placed all my writing in the public domain, & I regard it as public property.

I hereby offer my work under my own version of what is known as "A Creative Commons Copyright Licence." This means that I permit users to make use of my material in various ways. All the content of this website exists, as I say, under my own version of a creative commons copyright. This means that others are free to copy, distribute and remix what they find at this site. I would appreciate, but I do not require, that others cite the source of material they find at this site. These words provide a simple and readable summary of, but not a substitute for, a license.

Readers are free: (i) to share, to copy, & to redistribute the material in any medium or format found at this site. & (ii) to adapt, to remix, to transform, & to build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. Readers are advised, as I say above, to give appropriate credit for what they find here, if they use it for their own purposes. Readers may do so in any reasonable manner, & I do not ask readers to adhere to any other restrictions. In addition, I am not in the business of checking to see if readers have adhered to my advice and suggestions in the above paragraphs. For more on this subject of identity theft go to:

Part 3:

There are many tensions which occur within larger categories: married life, womanhood, self-concern, adulthood, and so forth; for example, how can I be both married and lead a single man's lifestyle? How can I be both masculine and girlish at the same time? Once a person acknowledges that he or she lives in such a tension, they should reassess their ways of organising their behaviours under such rubrics. The masculine-girlish man should examine the behaviours that he classifies under the two conflicting labels and ask: “What does any of this have to do with being a man?” We need to ask ourselves philosophical questions: what does it mean to be a man—for me? How do I fit in this category, “man?” Such negotiation can help people reach some kind of integration whose general purpose is self-acceptance. Some apparently conflicting identities can be reconciled. Some may be gradually let go. New identities may arise, through reflection, and regroup, so to speak, the behaviours that until then were grouped separately and in opposition. Alternatively, one may accept both sides of the contrariety as parts of oneself that can be given their own time and place for expression.

Our spontaneous behaviours, whether or not we acknowledge or endorse them, give rise to quite a few identifiable patterns, which in turn organise our emotional life. People’s spontaneous emotions and gestures follow various patterns which are familiar in ordinary experience. Although we cannot exactly predict the reactions of those we know well, although they may surprise us, we are usually able to make sense of their reaction in light of their past reactions. Our various mannerisms, gestures and emotional reactions lend themselves to groupings in various patterns of reactions.

On the one hand, these patterns do not follow a clear rule (or we would be able to predict each other’s emotions much more easily and reliably). And on the other hand, each identifiable pattern brings to light some common aspect in which the behaviours of a pattern are similar to one another. Other reactions, as Freud noticed, resemble one another symbolically, such as the resentment one may feel toward one’s female boss here and now symbolising the resentment he has (secretly) harboured for many years toward his mother. As Freud claims, this symbolic connection is also a causal connection and the current resentment is partly caused by the old resentment. Some reactions may be the inverse of one another as in cases of mixed feelings, such as the joy for and the envy of the same friend who achieved something that we wanted for ourselves. Ambivalence, as Freud repeatedly discovered in his case studies, pervades many of our emotional reactions.

Our spontaneous emotional life is stitched together through imaginative connections. That is, every reaction of ours is similar to, or symbolic of, the inverse of, or somehow imaginatively relates to, many other reactions from our past. The emotional imaginative network thus gives rise to many traceable patterns. And for each pattern one could, in principle, articulate the respects in which the reactions that follow it connect with one another imaginatively, through similarities and symbols or inversions etc.

When we articulate thematic threads that run through such patterns, we can identify various cares and concerns that emerge from our emotional-imaginative network about people and things, ideas, virtues and styles of social interaction. If we are able to identify patterns of both the reactions we endorse and the reactions we normally ignore, the cares and concerns that emerge from our imaginative-emotional network would include those we ordinarily endorse as well as those that we normally fail to recognise.

The similarities and other imaginative connections among our various spontaneous reactions do not come at first instance with “subtitles” or with a list of the respects in which they hold. Yet, given that these respects can be articulated in language, these similarities make implicit use of familiar labels. And some of these labels are clichés; they are prejudiced and stereotyped models for being a woman or a parent or good etc.

Part 4:

Sometimes, an imaginative emotional network can also give rise to inversions among various patterns such that one group of patterns falls under one social label and another group of patterns under the contrary social label. Such a person may endorse one label and ignore the counter-label. As Freud remarks, “the unconscious is the precise contrary of the conscious”(“Notes” 180). Consciously, we do not like to appear contradictory. But, to paraphrase another Freudian maxim, the unconscious knows no contradiction or negation. Imaginatively speaking, this person occupies two—apparently conflicting—positive prototypes of womanhood or adulthood etc., one through her endorsed private persona and another without acknowledgment.

But there is no reason to suppose that inversion is the only kind of unity available nor that overcoming it is a once and for all effort, as Lear suggests. Our private persona may inhabit more than one such clichéd couple of apparently conflicting stereotypes that may or may not cause emotional turmoil at various stages in life. On the picture I propose, we may dig ourselves out of one cliché about our private persona and then find ourselves in another. Alternatively, the same cliché may return to haunt us. The solutions we may find to our personalised Socratic question in Lear’s clinic—such as “what is a woman?” or, “what is a sacrifice?”—do not comprise the final word, not for society and not for oneself.

There is no graduation from therapy or immunisation to clichéd inversions or to the pathologies they may cause at some stage in our lives. Perhaps what one can acquire is an attentive attitude to one’s spontaneous behaviours, including those that are not compatible with one’s endorsed private persona. The skill involves the capacity to “listen” to one’s emotions and passing thoughts, to notice one’s non-reflective gestures and ways of interacting and let them inform one’s endorsed cares and concerns and valued styles, character traits and virtues. The goal is not to unify one’s private persona and reach some ideal peace where one is exactly what one wants to be. The goal is, rather, to attend to the spontaneous interruptions of one’s endorsed private persona and at times be prepared to doubt or negotiate the way one sees and wants to see oneself.



INTERNATIONAL PIONEERING 5: July 1982 to December 1987

Part 1:

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 71 in less than 2 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.

Part 2:

"Thirty-seven 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 & 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.

Return to the main story:

Part 3:

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-seven now(1974 to 2015) 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 and seventies, 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.

Part 4:

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 write my autobiography. The 50 or so members of these families really require a separate book. I'll 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.

Part 5:

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.

Part 6:

"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 my 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.

Part 7:

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."

Part 8:

Part 8.1:

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.

Part 8.2:

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.

Part 8.3:

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.

Part 9:


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

Part 9.1:

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.

Part 9.2:

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.

Part 9.3:

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.”

Part 9.4:

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?

Part 9.5:

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.

Part 9.6:

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.

Part 9.7:

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.

Part 9.8:

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.

Part 9.9:

During these six years I had two experiences of what has come to be called workplace bullying(WB). WB occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from some one or others in the workplace that causes harm. This form of bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of workplace aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and occasionally can be subordinates. Research has also investigated the impact of the larger organizational context on bullying as well as the group-level processes that impact on the incidence, and maintenance of bullying behaviour. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in organizational culture.

The first known documented use of "workplace bullying" was in 1992 in a book by Andrea Adams called Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome It. By then I had left the two bullying situations and never experienced it again. Nearly half of all American workers (49%) report that they have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker. And so I had lots of company. In 2008, Dr. Judy Fisher-Blando wrote a doctoral research dissertation on Aggressive Behavior: Workplace Bullying and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity. The scientific study determined that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness. Further research showed the types of bullying behaviour, and organizational support.

Researchers Caitlin Buon and Tony Buon have suggested that attempts to profile ‘the bully’ has been damaging. They state that the "bully" profile is that ‘the bully’ is always aware of what they are doing, deliberately sets out to harm their ‘victims’, targets a particular individual or type of person and has some kind of underlying personality flaw, insecurity or disorder. But this is unproven and lacks evidence. The researchers suggest referring to workplace bullying as generic harassment along with other forms of non-specific harassment and this would enable employees to use less emotionally charged language and start a dialogue about their experiences rather than being repelled by the specter of being labelled as a pathological predator or having to define their experiences as the victims of such a person.


Section 1:

Pioneering is a topic frequently mentioned in the primary and secondary texts of Bahá'í literature. Indeed, a significant portion of the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are devoted to: (i) encouraging Bahá'ís to pioneer or (ii) offering guidance to those who have.-Notes on Pioneering, Internet.

When I first wrote this narrative outline, its first edition which I completed in 1993, I ended the account in 1992. By that time I had lived with my wife and son in Perth for five years, and 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 also taught briefly at two universities. 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 of the interaction involved in the teaching profession and its associated duties. But I continued for another seven years, retiring in mid-1999 before going to Tasmania and taking what is called a sea-change and an early retirement at the age of 55. In the years up to the age of sixty in 2004 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 most of 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.

Section 2:

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:


AN INTRODUCTION TO A BRIEF HISTORY:a personal perspective by Ron Price

Part 1:

"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.

Part 2:

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.

Part 3:

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.


Section 3:

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.

Section 4:

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), focusing 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.


A. In writing autobiography there is an opposition that can be constructed between structure and function. Narrative inquiry should be concerned with the process and use of narrative. Although structure should not be thought about as an end in itself, how narratives are formed and told can be critical insights for describing and understanding questions about the meanings of narrating. In other words, structures have functions. In the following, I want to make a couple of brief comments about the relationship between structure & function. Certainly, there is much that can be said on this topic, but I will be brief. First, structure appears to have a link with the length and complexity of narratives. Showing or making present experience is essential to narrating and of substantial value in understanding life experience. Making present includes intricate and detailed narratings, such as life stories or autobiographies, and shorter interventions into everyday conversations. At the level of more basic narrations, many elements of narrative convention are not as prominent or, perhaps, necessary.

Mediation, artfulness, and structure are still evident, but such articulations of experience have more in common with the structure of speech turns in conversations. But, once we consider more complex tellings, with multiple actions and characters across time and space, the artfulness of forming a narrative takes on increased salience. To deal with complexity of the kind that life relentlessly presents us, narrative conventions provide the tools for managing and expressing the thickness and density of our experience. As Brockmeier (2012) has argued, narrative is the form of discourse best suited to capturing the complex activities of human action. “No other sign system could handle and communicate the complexity of these syntheses in such a comprehensive, economic, and effective manner” (p. 443). Narrative structure is helpful in dealing with the messiness of human experience in order to infer the meaning of actions, motivations, cause and effect, connections. Such conventions become more evident and necessary as complexity increases.

B. Second, expressions that are structured using particular conventions, such as those resembling a Labovian personal experience narrative, might possess properties such as repeatability, which in turn have consequences for understanding ourselves. Although stories are responsive to the situation of telling and the audience, substantial portions of narrative structure and content are repeated across tellings (Chafe, 1998; Norrick, 1998; Schiff, Skillingstead, Archibald, Arasim, & Peterson, 2006). In other words, people might not tell exactly the same story twice, but central elements of stories are carried to new contexts and over time. Similarly, borrowed, vicarious narratives, from face-to-face conversations and from the media, are routinely integrated into telling of our personal experiences. Putting words into a structure may help us to remember and use the story in diverse contexts. The longevity of particular stories, and particular aspects of our lives, might be enhanced by our ability to articulate those experiences in a conventionalized and transportable structure.

A third way that structures serve functions is in the ability to create and experience other worlds. Herman (2002, 2009) argues that one of the basic elements of narrative is the capacity to create imagined fictional and non-fictional worlds, or storyworlds. There is something seductive about good storytelling; good stories transport readers/listeners to another place and time. This ability to shift from the here and now and into another storyworld relies upon the listener’s, or reader’s, desire and interpretive skills, but also on linguistic, structural, aspects of the narrative itself. Narratives, literary and oral, often provide indicators for readers to shift their focal point of consciousness to the storyworld (Herman, 2002).



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. Others may not see it this way, others in the immediate circle of my life, especially as I went on a series of medications for my bipolar disorder in my late 60s. Social interaction became more difficult for me after I went on two old-age pensions at the age of 65. I had difficulty maintaining the nice, the positive, side of my personality in social contexts. Such has been the story for the last five years as I update this acocunt at the age of 70.

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, beginning in my last year of high school, of the experience of social relationships in ways that Yeats calls “A heavenly mansion.” I have a strong sense too of a good deal of raging and the experience of the downside of life, as well as 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 I 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

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.”

Section 5:

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.

Section 6:

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.

Section 7:

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 4th volume chapter 6, a chapter that deals with my first nine years in Perth. My last 3 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, my first years of retirement will come in the next chapter, chapter 7. My 1999 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, wherever 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.'

Section 8:

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:


Part 1:

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.

Part 2:

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.

Part 3:

“Action is the meaning in a man”, 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 interdependence 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 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 & 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 & 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.



This chapter begins in April 1996 with three years remaining in my FT teaching career, and it continues until my retirement from both FT and PT teaching. 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.

Section 1:

The dozen years in Perth have become 4 in Tasmania as I write this chapter 7 of my international pioneering experience. I have now been retired from FT teaching for 4 years; by 2001 I did not have 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, the young, and the 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, volumes different from the ones I have now arranged, I won't stop them. For now, though, these 2500 pages(1500 in this 6-part docuemnt) 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 regularly 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 alternatively 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, irascible, gustative, "the allurements and the trivialities of the world and the pitfalls of the self within." A persistent 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 Roger 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 measurable 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.

Section 2:

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 & again I make judgements in both my 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."

Section 3:

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.

Section 4:

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.

7. The 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

Section 5.1:

This autobiography is, in part, an attempt to grasp the significance of my life in the twentieth century & 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.

Although pain and suffering are often used interchangeably, a distinction between them is necessary. Suffering is usually perceived as a psychological experience, while pain is quite often referred to as a physical experience. Eric Cassell, who makes this distinction, believes that patients may tolerate severe pain and not consider it as suffering if they know that the pain is controllable and will end. In contrast, a minor pain may become the source of suffering if that pain stems from a dire and uncontrollable cause such as cancer. In such circumstances the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness may intensify suffering. Suffering can be defined “as the state of severe distress associated with events that threaten the intactness and wholeness (or integrity) of the person. Suffering continues until the threat is gone or the integrity of the person can be restored in some other fashion.” (Cassell, “Relief of Suffering” p. 522). In my 70 years of living I have experienced very little pain: the occasional accident but no loss of limb. On the other hand, I have had a good deal of suffering which I often write about in this now lengthy account.

The Bahá’í view of suffering differs from that of other religions in that suffering is not seen as a means for personal salvation or for the reward of paradise. Nor is it believed that an individual is born sinful and therefore should suffer. The Bahá’í Faith teaches the nobility of the human being and sees in inevitable suffering a challenge for personal growth. The human soul is believed to be unaffected by physical pain and afflictions (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Reality of Man 26). An example of this can be seen in the life of persecuted Bahá’ís of Iran and early believers of other religions of the world. In spite of every conceivable type of torture and inhuman adversity, they remained calm and content, reflecting many noble attributes. Indeed, undergoing suffering may have transformed their lower and material qualities into higher and spiritual attributes.

It is only through suffering that the nobility of character can make itself manifest. The energy we expend in enduring the intolerance of some individuals . . . is not lost. It is transformed into fortitude, steadfastness and magnanimity. . . . Sacrifices in the path of one’s religion produce always immortal results, “Out of the ashes rises the phoenix.” (Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance 604)

Section 5.2:

As I write these last chapters 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 pharmacology and psycho-pharmacology 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 referring 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."

Section 5.3:

One thing that this autobiography lacks is any detailed examination of the wider events of history and society. Readers can easily access endless detailed accounts and there is little need for me to do so. Occasionally, though, I add comments to provide some comparisons and contrasts which, when included, should provide some texture & perspective on my own experience. It is for this reason that I discuss below children who show resilience in later life. I have come to see myself as resilient and this is, perhaps, because I was subjected to only moderate conditions of adversity. A significant proportion of children, some one-third by some accounts, exposed to extreme conditions of adversity are still able to emerge resilient, and I include these comments here in order to better understand what factors contribute to this positive outcome. Humanity may be able to model them. In reality, everyday life often provides moderate and controlled levels of hardship, even to a child. The critical factor is how parents respond to the presentation of such hardship in their child’s life, and whether they have the courage to use these life’s lessons to accustom their child to be self-reliant, while teaching them positive coping skills.

If, however, the environment of the child does not seem to provide enough such challenges, parents must have the courage to create an atmosphere where the child is adequately and routinely challenged so that vital growth & learning processes take place which alone can prepare them to be competent adults. Therefore, although a child exposed to extreme adversity can show remarkable resilience, exposure to moderate levels of hardship seems to be the desired state. Indeed, studies examining the effect of varied degrees of stress on cognitive performance show that the extremes of either low or severe levels of stress result in a decline in cognitive function and performance, & do not provide an optimum environment for learning. However, moderate levels of stress activate the attention centers of the brain such that optimum learning and cognitive performance can take place (Huether; McEwen “Neurobiology”). My childhood and adolescence had such moderate levels. i was spared the extremes of suffering from kind and judicious parents.

One of the most disturbing aspects of children’s lives today, when viewed either globally or nationally, is the epidemic level of violence to which they are subjected. It is estimated that more children than soldiers have been killed or disabled in wars. According to UNICEF’s 1996 State of the World’s Children report, during the past decade approximately 2 million children have died in wars, between 4 & 5 million have been physically disabled, more than 5 million have been forced into refugee camps, & 12 million have been left homeless. The UNICEF report found that in Rwanda, Croatia, Herzegovina, and Bosnia, adolescent girls as “civilians” were raped and forced to give birth to “the enemy’s” child. “In some raids in Rwanda, virtually every adolescent girl who survived an attack by the militia was subsequently raped.” Many of them bore the children of rape, and many of those children were abandoned. In the same report, it is estimated that of the 53 million people who have been forced to leave their homes, communities, & countries, half are children. Although most of them travel with their parents, others are separated, orphaned or lost during such times of unrest and panic. In Rwanda, in the last decade an estimated 114,000 children were separated from their families. From 1980 to 1988, it is reported that approximately 330,000 children in Angola and another 490,000 in Mozambique died as a result of war-related causes including lack of food and medical services. Discussing the condition of those children who survive wars, the UNICEF report states that “Millions of children have been present at events far beyond the worst nightmares of most adults.” In Angola, for example, 66% of children had seen people murdered, 91% had seen dead bodies, & 67% had seen people being tortured, beaten, or hurt. In the industrialized world children also experience difficulties and are faced with adversity. In the United States one in six children lives in poverty, & approximately eleven million are uninsured.

In general, children increasingly face violence at home, in their neighborhood, and at school. The dreadful condition of the world’s children provides a stark contrast with my own experience both as a child back in the 1940s and 1950s. Children are and have been faced with enormous challenges as they struggle to find their place in a world increasingly agitated by terror, violence, prejudice, injustice, and decadence. However, when their training provides them with the capacity to face such challenges, they can find their rightful place as spiritual and social beings who become the “light of the world.” My parents, my education and my Bahá'í experience all played a role in helping to provide me with this necessary capacity to face life's challenges.

The Universal House of Justice writes: “One of the signs of a decadent society, a sign which is very evident in the world today, is a frenetic devotion to pleasure and diversion, an insatiable thirst for amusement, a fanatical devotion to games and sport, a reluctance to treat any matter seriously, and a scornful, derisory attitude towards virtue & solid worth” (Compilation of Compilations 1:53). Children are not immune to the influences of this decadent society but are saturated by its negative messages.Unless they are guided to understand the deeper meanings of the spiritual dimensions of life, are equipped with adequate coping skills to confront society’s harmful effects, and acquire insights to overcome the cancerous effects of materialism, they will remain incapable of transcending society’s hollow influence and unable to become their true selves. This is why spiritual training is given such importance in the Bahá’í writings. It is through such training that children increase their capacity to cope with the menacing influence of society, and bring to fruition all of their latent talents and potentialities.

Section 5.4:

'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.

A. 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


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

C. 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.



Part 1:

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, although in some ways understandable, 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 is no need to overemphasize my common human weaknesses, but I feel I must at least acknowledge them in an autobiography as extensive as this one. 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 allude to several outcomes, several manifestations, of this problem in my life. But given the exposure and analysis that the 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 as at least sixty years, to about 1955.

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.

Part 2:

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 & ‘Abdu'l-Bahá likens it to the “world of darkness..the origin of a 1000 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 stronger will to counter than I often possessed.

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 2500 pages it is impossible not to be explicit to some extent.

As the Universal House of Justice writes discussing auto-eroticism, 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.

Part 3:

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)

"Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation," so wrote the famous author Graham Greene. He also wrote: "A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." In some respects this is true of this account of my BPD.

Part 4:

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 eccentricites 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

Part 5.1:


1. The behaviour patterns of people with BPD are characterized often by: impulsiveness and sensation-seeking, risk-taking and thrill-seeking, novelty seeking and high exploratory drive, excitability and low levels of inhibition as well as the tendency to take more sexual partners and artistic activity. The term schizotypal personality is sometimes used for people with BPD who have a quirky or socially awkward approach to life. These patterns, it is argued by some neuroscientists, have neural correlates and are driven by individual differences in dopamine system sensitivity. The dopamine reward pathways of the brain are different in people with BPD.

2. Dopamine is a chemical that when released into the brain makes a person feel good. It acts as part of an internal reward system. Dopamine rewards are critical for survival since they provide the pleasurable feelings associated with things like eating & reproduction among other experiences in the lifespan. With dopamine as the driving force, biology has designed you and I to engage in fertilization behavior, sexual activity to make more babies, and urges you to move on to new partners to create greater genetic variety among your offspring. The thrill of a new affair is an example of the release of dopamine into the blood-stream. Keeping my control in place has not been easy. My religion, the Bahá'í Faith, has been more than a little helpful in this respect. The intensity of my sexual desires has been a strong one in my life, but I have tried not to let this activity take an undue amount of my time or my concern.

3. The French sociologist Jean Baudrillard wrote that “ours is a culture of premature ejaculation” which has many meanings outside the sexual domain like the lack of thought before speaking, before much of people’s activity in life. I could add more about this subject but, again, this aspect of my behaviour is essentially tangential to the central thrust of this BPD account.(See: Jean Baudrillard, Forget Foucault, 1977.)

4. As I say elsewhere in this statement, it is not my intention to dwell on my sexual life in my account of my BPD since, like my job, my family, my relationships and my religion, I regard them all as tangential to the focus on the BPD itself. I cannot eliminate reference to them on occasion, though, since they are in varying degrees relevant to this narrative. Bahá'í teachings discourage pre-marital and extra-marital sex as well as masturbation and homosexuality. These same teachings go on to say that it is a lifelong test to learn to control one’s animal nature, one’s lower self and not be a slave to what are in many ways natural urges. Many of life’s tests and temptations, impulses and instincts require caution and vigilance, self-control and struggle so as not to let the sexual domain and their various activities claim too great a share of one’s attention. For many, certainly for me, the sexual domain has provided one of life’s major areas of personal struggle. This has been a battle for me nearly as far back as I can remember, indeed, even back to my middle childhood, the years from 6 to 8 years old!

5. When a person has BPD their brain does not reward them with a rush of dopamine easily, so they have to go to more extreme measures just to get that experience of well-being. That desperate desire for stimulation is also why many people with BPD self-destruct, engage in increased sexual activity and shopping among other excesses. Finding a creative pursuit that is truly engaging has been, for me, a great remedy for my addictive and OCD tendencies as well as my apparently above normal desire for stimulation. The pleasures associated with the passions: eating and drinking, sexual and sensory stimulation must all be kept within bounds and over my seven decades they have been, for the most part. Unexpressed creative impulses, so many argue, are the driving force behind some of the negative behaviours associated with BPD. On the other hand expressed creative impulses can be a positive driving force and, in my case, this has been especially true under the medication regime of the eight years: 5/07 to 5/15. It was also true at other highly successful points/stages in my teaching career: 1967 to 2005.

6. My sexual proclivities and their manifestations over these same 60 years of memories are themselves a separate story. With 90% of marriages, where one partner is bi-polar, ending in divorce and a rate of suicide twenty times higher than in a normal population, I feel lucky to have survived and to have lived to tell my story. To be in the same marital relationship that I entered in 1975, forty years ago, is also somewhat of a miracle. Perhaps I will go into the sexual, marital and suicidal/death-wish aspects of my BPD life in more detail at a later date, in a later edition of this document. These aspects of my account might spice-up this account, an account that for some I’m sure is a somewhat tedious story, a boring, a too extended description and analysis.

7. “Every passion borders on the chaotic,” wrote Walter Benjamin, “but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.” And this account is a collection, a chaos, of memories. It is a collection that is grounded in the interplay of material culture and memory studies and the recuperative veneration of the study of the everyday, the quotidian, as well as the study of my life in extremis. I could also recommend a number of books but I leave this to readers. Sarah Freeman provides an excellent minimal bibliography and I will mention one book here: Manic-Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, Second Edition by Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., and Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Oxford University Press, NY, 2007, 1,288 pages.

8. Other common side-effects listed in the description of recent medications(seroquel and effexor) and which I can see occurring due to my being on it now for 36 months include: sluggishness, fatigue, weakness, dry mouth, and less libido. After beginning to take the medication for my prostate(duodart) two years and three months ago in February 2013, my libido was reduced even more. I am pleased with this decrease in libido because I tend to be more relaxed and less turned-on sexually. This pleases both me and my wife. Dr Hyde suggested I begin on seroquel at 100 mgs and adjust it to 75 mgs if I am too sleepy. I am now on 50 mg and there is definitely a somnambulent effect. In February 2014 I began to consider lowering the dose to 25 mg, but I will consult Dr Hyde before doing so. I'll report on any changes and on these side-effects in the days ahead as this new meds package continues. As I write this latest update in May 2015 I feel the need for 50 mgs because I am not confident of controlling myself, that is my anger or my tears, on 25 mgs. I am too likely to get angry and/or tearful on 25 mgs! I also began taking acidopholus in May and it had had an effect on both my feces and tranquillity.

Part 5.2:

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

Part 6:

Part of the difficulty of talking about the body as a source of knowledge, and also as a product of culture and history, is the backdrop of unproblematic representation of the body in popular culture. An autobiography like this should have at least some general things to say about the body, the thing that I have carried around, or that has carred me around for more than 70 years. The linkage of the body to the brain, and by implication the mind, is particularly hard to escape. Through a scientific/medical lens, viewers of medical documentaries like The Human Body have learned to interpret representations of the brain. “Slices” of the brain are instantly recognisable through technologies such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. The metaphor of the brain lighting up due to thought and activity, derived from mediated brain imaging technology, has entered common usage. Such images are understood even by non-scientists as different parts of the brain at work, running the body. Brains, bodies and thinking seem well connected in popular culture.

In the academic realm, the relationship of the brain to the mind is contested, as is the place of the body. In Western culture a dualist mind/body division has contributed to a particular understanding of the body, and of knowledge making, in which objective, propositional knowledge has been privileged. An alternative monist view has variously been used by theorists of the body from Nietsche to Deleuze but also by contemporary neurophysiologists such as Damasio. Using these philosophical positions, the body is either the weaker side of a partnership, or subsumed into a whole which does not acknowledge the specificity of actual bodies, or their potential as sites of knowledge making.

Merleau-Ponty posited the body as both object and subject and that access to knowledge could only be obtained by the lived experience of the body. He suggested that we can only know other objects and perceive space and time through our own bodies. The phenomenological approaches resulting from this stance have, to some extent, recovered the status of bodily knowledge. Psychoanalytical thought has contributed to the extension of what we consider to be the boundaries of the body and blurred the articulation of mind through concepts like body image and body schema (see Weiss) and later neural maps (e.g. Damasio). However, Elizabeth Grosz went further when she issued a challenge in the early 90s “that all the significant facets and complexities of subjects, can be as adequately explained using the subject’s corporeality as a framework as it would be using consciousness or the unconscious”. The body has been shown to be plastic when considered within lived physical and cultural spaces. Regardless of where one positions the body on a continuum from pure nature to a surface overwritten by culture and history, it seems foolish to disregard it as a source of knowledge.

The authors of the papers presented in the M/C Journal of Media and Culture attempt to show that knowledge resides in, can be acquired through, and flows out from, the body. Many of these authors see a connection between how and what can be known and their practice as artists, performers, researchers and writers. This way of knowing – through the thinking body – is connected to a developing family of methodologies called practice-based or practice-led research. It is research that aims to add to knowledge and understanding by carrying out an original investigation “in and through the acts of creating and performing”. While many art practices clearly involve the body, Mercer and Robson point out that practice-led researchers often put the body at the centre of the inquiry and that “corporeal attention and information completes an otherwise insufficient way of theorising and philosophising”. I could and I might say much more about the body, my body but, for ow, this will suffice.

Part 7:

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.

Part 8:

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.

Part 9:

"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.

Part 10:

"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 part of my 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, all by the year 2000.

It was still too early for me to select my final plot, the place where my remains would reside forever-until dust & 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 71, as I write this update, 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 Australia, 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 that Unknown Country, as Shakespeare called the next life. 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 in the afterlife: 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.

Part 11:

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 & is reflected in the prototypical narrative of Bahá'í history. It is a history that arguably begins with the preparation years of Shaykh Ahmad & 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 travailing 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 requirements 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, & 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 & fourth editions of this autobiography have taken form. I will pick up the autobiographical pen from time to time and refine this fourth edition, and later editions, as Mill did, focusing on my work, my writing; or perhaps I will continue writing in the personal and analytical terms I have thus far. 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 become somewhat of a source of fatigue, while, for the writer, it is difficult to continue, and he will have to wait for a battery recharge.

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.

Part 12:

By the time I came to finish this chapter in 2015, medications had transformed my mental and emotional state and feeling. These feelings were, I suspect, very close to what Nietzsche experienced after a period of illness and expressed so lyrically in The Gay Science: "Gratitude pours forth continually, as if the unexpected had just happened—the gratitude of a convalescent—for convalescence was unexpected. The rejoicing of strength that is returning, of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again." That may not be quite the way I experience these recent years of a type of convalescence, a convalescence that gives me several hours a day of writing and editing with pleasure. But after decades of what I have often called 'nose-to-the-grindstone' stuff of life's duties and responsibilities with: employment, raising children, and endless meetings, there is for me in the last decade a type of euphoria experienced on a daily basis.

Over many decades I have possessed a desire for intimate experiences. The possibility of truly connecting with others, in spite of our differences and in spite of ourselves, is what propels many of us to make friends and form relationships of many kinds. That was true for me, although now it is to a much more limited extent as I go through my 70s with a number of medical maladies to limit both my energies and my social enthusiasms. It was this possibility of "psychological intimacy," in the face of the increased individualization attending modernity, that propelled early-twentieth-century writer-sociologist Georg Simmel to take up his pen and reflect pessimistically on our prospects of shared and close experiences with others. A full century later, intimacy continues to be important, but the forms it now takes often bear scant resemblance to the modem conceptualizations of intimacy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of the accounts of modernity within the social sciences see intimacy encompassing close forms of social relations which are family-based, mutual, private, and essentially heterosexual. The emergence of new subjectivities and identities throughout the twentieth century led to a politicization of intimacy and a rejection of many of these nineteenth-century ideals.

Part 12.1:

Within the social sciences, conceptions of intimacy have taken shape against a background of theorizing about modernity. In that background there also existed the development of new forms of association which mark a break with the older, pre-modern public order (Weintraub 1997). In this context, intimacy, defined as "any form of close association in which people acquire familiarity" (Jamieson 1998, 8), is typically contrasted with traditional communal association as well as the more anonymous and calculating relations thought typical of modem urban centers (Flanagan 2002). Other cultural ideas which have typically been associated with intimacy include the importance of the individual, the role of love in perceptions of intimacy, and the idea that intimacy is the means of enjoying a meaningful, self-defining personal life. Intimacy in its modem formulations is presumed lo be a type of sociality-or experience of a relationship-which is tied to a personal life.

Within the discourses of modern social science, the focal point of this personal life, and of the forms of close association this is seen to entail, is the family or, more specifically, "marriage and the gendered family centred on children" (Jamieson 1998, 15). "In the story of the emergence of this modern period,intimacy in personal life was heightened greatly; with the family household at its core" (18). Moreover, as historian Philippe Aries notes: Ultimately the family became the focus of private life. Its significance changed. No longer was it merely an economic unit for the sake of whose reproduction everything had to be sacrificed. No longer was it a restraint on individual freedom, a place in which power was wielded by women. It became something it had never been: a refuge, to which people fled in order to escape the scrutiny of outsiders; an emotional center; a place where, for better or for worse, children were the focus of attention. (Aries and Duby 1989, 8)

In addition to this emphasis on the family and privacy, intimacy was also typically thought to be tied to an ideal of mutuality. As Jamieson observes, "Love and care between spouses was a more important dimension of intimacy than knowing and understanding an inner self' (1998, 18). Perhaps this is one of the many reasons that, in attempting to attract others to the Bahá'í Cause, the average person in my experience was more interested in his family, friends, and leisure activities, than insights into the individual and society that were available in a discussion of the Bahá'í Faith. Similarly, Michael Bittman and Jocelyn Pixley describe the rise of intimacy explicitly in terms of "altered relations between husbands and wives," which, they explain, began to fall midway between sex and companionship: "The novelty of the modem family lies in the fact that the figures of mistress and wife are combined. The modern family brings marriage, romance and sex together for the first time. A wife becomes more than a helpmeet, more than an economic resource. A wife becomes a lover and a companion as well"(1997, 51). That was certainly the case for me in both my marriages and especially my second one which is now forty years old and in which I was the only breadwinner.

Anthony Giddens (1992) argued some quarter of a century ago that throughout the late twentieth century, intimacy had been transformed by a process of democratization. Arguing for the increased importance of emotional communication in defining intimate relationships, he suggested that intimacy had become less bound to institutional forms of marriage. Others have argued a similar case. Arlie Russel Hochschild (2003) has drawn attention to the way the emotional resources of love and care, once anchored firmly in family relations and the domestic household, have become the new institutional markers of more global forms of intimacy. Zigmunt Bauman (2003) emphasizes the loosening grip of social ties on postmodern relationships and the era of shopping-trolley love in our network societies. Even Elisabeth BeckGemsheim (1999, 2002; Beck and Beck-Gemsheim 1995, 1996), who steadfastly defends a conception of love and commitment, has noted a basic shift in the type of intimacy centered on the family as part of a bigger process of detraditionalization and individualization. She argues the case for the emergence of what might be called a "post-familial" family, that is, one which is defined by affinity rather than by kin (Beck-Gemsheim 2003). Families of choice and, even more generally, friendship itself are now frequently cited as evidence of the new institutional context of intimacy in the twenty-first century, with friendship emerging as the intimacy ideal against which even family-based intimacy now has to be measured (Pahl 2000, 14). Much more could be said about these trends in intimacy and I leave it to readers to access the available literature to the extent their interests take them. Part 12.2:

"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, and this was even more of the case by the time I was 70. The creation of narrative art, narrative autobiography, had real suspense for me as I wrote, but it was a quiet pleasure, an inner delight, and not something I shared in my quotidian world with others. Without suspense, there is 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 both what was no surprise in my life, what was the predictable wonder of ordinary life, and also the many surprises. Narrativeness is the term I could give to the entire sequence from beginning to end of these events. 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 71 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.”

Part 13:

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).

Part 13.1:

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.

Part 13.2:

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.

Part 14:

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.

Psychiatrists like Anthony Storr followed the lead of D.W. Winnicott’s paper on “The Capacity to Be Alone” (1958) to recommend reflective solitude, in which aesthetic contemplation is enhanced, over excessive concern with good relationships and sexuality. The book resonated with those wearied by the “permissive society” but unwilling to affirm right-wing dogmatism about return to a repressive sexual morality and traditional roles in the family. In his later years, Storr saw a place for contemplative enrichment, which didn’t exclude other people but recognized their need for similar disengaged experiences.

Had his theory of artistic creativity as the artist’s attempted self-integration by symbolic means been put in terms familiar to academics, he might have been received more warmly. To assert that “the motive power of much creative activity is emotional tension of one kind or another,” that is, tension in the creating personality, runs counter to what is acceptable in the profession where “texts” are sovereign. (Dynamics, p. 191) When Freudian criticism faded in literary criticism, it was replaced by the arcane theories of Freudian interpreter Jacques Lacan, whose doctrine that the “unconscious is structured like a language” suited literary critics far better than psychobiography could. The flight in the Humanities from affect became so determined and pervasive that Storr’s unprofessional protestations were easily evaded. The criticism of David Holbrook in England and Louise De Salvo in the United States illustrates what Storr was after, but it is a rare exception to the recent reign of “theory,” with its depersonalization of art.

Part 15:

My home in these years of late adulthood, age 60 to 70, 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 desirable 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.



Part 1:

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.

Part 2:

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.

Part 3:

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.

Part 4:

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.

Part 5:

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.

Section 1:

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 periphery 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.

Section 2:

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.........


Part 1:

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.

Part 2:

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.


Part 1:

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.

Part 2:

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.

Part 3:

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.

Part 4:

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.

Part 4.1:

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' and the problem of starvation in the world.

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.

The human body is meat; it is also the temple of the soul. Erasing the distance we place between food and our own bodies through depicting the human body as meat emphasizes the corporal and abject condition of our existence. Of particular interest is how we as individuals deal with aspects of obsession and control associated with eating and the body. Consuming has the ability to evoke a wide range of emotions, disorders and phobias. Food can be perceived as attractive, seductive, and irresistible, sparking urges that render us unable to control our own behavior and actions. It can also be perceived as repulsive and nasty, igniting emotions of fear, abhorrence and self-loathing. Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism's cells to provide energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth. Cooking programs on TV have come to occupy a central place in the program outlines.

Historically, people secured food through two methods: hunting and gathering, and agriculture. Today, most of the food energy required by the ever increasing population of the world is supplied by the food industry. Food safety and food security are monitored by agencies like the International Association for Food Protection, World Resources Institute, World Food Programme, Food & Agriculture Organization, and International Food Information Council. They address issues such as sustainability, biological diversity, climate change, nutritional economics, population growth, water supply, & access to food. The right to food is a human right derived from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), recognizing the "right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food," as well as the "fundamental right to be free from hunger." According to the World Health Organization, hunger is the single gravest threat to the world's public health. The WHO also states that malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases. Undernutrition is a contributory factor in the death of 3.1 million children under five every year. Figures on actual starvation are difficult to come by, but according to the Food & Agriculture Organization, the less severe condition of undernourishment currently affects about 842 million people, or about one in eight (12.5%) people in the world population.

The problem I have just highlighted illustrates the need for a global system, an international organizational framework to ensure that everyone is fed. As the decades of my life went on there was increasing concern for this problem. The proportion of malnourished and of starving people in the world has been more or less continually decreasing for at least several centuries. This is due to an increasing supply of food and to overall gains in economic efficiency. In 40 years, the proportion of malnourished people in the developing world has been more than halved. The proportion of starving people has decreased even faster. I leave it to readers with the interest to engage with this subject to the extent they desire.

Part 5:

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.

Part 6:

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.

Section 1:

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.

Section 2:

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.

Section 3:

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.

Section 4:

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.

Anthony Storr offered psychobiographical vignettes to support his argument about creativity as attempted psychological integration. Many capsule biographies are stunningly insightful and stay in the reader’s mind better than the general discussions. Memorable, for example, is Storr’s estimate in The Dynamics of Creation of the novelist Balzac’s bipolar disorder driving his work, or the strange saga of Ian Fleming, who grew up without a father to become the creator of the hyper-masculine James Bond character. Deftly constructed psycho-biographical sketches abound in Storr’s books. In his acclaimed The School of Genius (or, Solitude), there are more-or-less developed glimpses of the historian Edward Gibbon, the explorer Admiral Byrd, the painter Goya, the Baptist preacher John Bunyan, the writers Dostoevsky and Kafka, the children's writer Beatrix Potter, and many others. The effect is enriching yet frustrating, as many of the psychological insights deserve expansion and documentation. But Storr was writing for an educated general readership, not for the specialist, and compromises were necessary. He was feeding the huge appetite for what psychoanalysis had to say when applied to topics of general cultural interest.

To be fair, Churchill’s Black Dog, Kafka’s Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind contains three more extended studies: of Winston Churchill’s creative management of his depression (interestingly, both Churchill and Hitler were skilled painters); Franz Kafka’s struggle, through writing fiction, with his sense of victim-hood; and physicist Isaac Newton’s schizoid detachment and compensatory refuge in the realm of numbers. Admirable for changing the educated layperson's perspective on these political and cultural heroes, Storr’s psycho-biographical essays were probably not developed enough to be given the serious consideration they deserve. The mini-biography method was used again in evaluating the lives and works of prophets (ranging from Ignatius of Loyola to Freud, Jung, Gurdjieff, and Rajneesh) in Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus (1996).


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.


CHAPTER 9:International Pioneering: April 2016 TO April 2021

The Five Year Plan(FYP), 2011 to 2016, represents the last portion of chapter 8; the FYP, 2016 to 2021, represents chapter 9. I will begin writing this chapter in April 2016 three months short of my 72nd birthday and in the first months of the final teaching Plan of the first century of the Formative Age.

CHAPTER 10: International Pioneering 10: 2021 TO 2033

If I live to the year 2021 I will be 77 and in the year 2033 I will be 89. These will be the opening dozen years of the second century of the Formative Age.

CHAPTER 11: International Pioneering 11: 2033 TO 2044

In 2033 I will be 89 and in 2044 I will be 100. All being well and, if I am still living, I will write about this last decade of the first 100 years of my life.

CHAPTER 12: International Pioneering 12: 2044 to 2053

In 2044 I will be 100 and in 2053 I will be 109. In 2053 the first century of the kingdom of God on Earth will come to an end and I will be 109 years old, if I last that long.

CHAPTER 13: Epilogue


Anyone who has actually read thisfar, the first four volumes of my autobiography, deserves a prize for having come this far. This is especially the case in this new Facebook-and-Twitter Age. If it is any comfort you persistent few have got through more than half of the conceptual space where identity and meaning meet around the three themes of my life, my society and my religion. If you have read this far, I’m confident that you have gained some pleasure in the read and I am happy for you. Indeed, the very raison d’etre for this autobiography can be found in the pleasure, the understandings, you have found thusfar.

You will find here in the following part of this work an epilogue and some thoughts on letter writing, history, poetry and essays. I will say no more in this introduction other than to leave you with a prose-poem I wrote at the age of 56, a year after I arrived in Tasmania to begin my retirement and a daily-life devoted to writing.


It is said that an artist’s work is the sum total of his experience. The artist does not create from a tabula rasa, but from a rich menu of specific and unspecific experience, grey and vague and highly and variously coloured. The artist drafts his own destiny as he drafts his music, his art, his sculpture or his poetry, at least in part. And he is never sure, as Stephen Spender puts it, however confident he may be, whether he has misdirected his energy, or whether his poetry is insignificant and irrelevant or great and important.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 8 August 2000.

A mind lively and at ease is a gift of fortune and gives meaning and value to perceived experience,1 to the deep and rich satisfaction of my own writing and to the slow charting of the progress toward our destiny. The unperturbed mind is quickest and can deal with the vanity of vanities, life, which we must both accept and reject, which pierces us with its nonsense and its strange relations. 1 Jane Austen, Emma. Ron Price 8 August 2000


Having completed my autobiography or, at least, completed a fifth edition in a form that is satisfactory to me in the first four volumes and keeping in mind that I will in all likelihood make additions to it in the years ahead, I want to write a sort of addendum or epilogue in the pages which follow. I write in part because I want to contribute to the world and I want audiences to read my work hoping, among other reasons, to find a new or at least an altered perspective on their lives. Therefore, one of my aims is to try and make my own perspective new—stake out a territory that requires my voice, a voice that has similarities to others but is, in the end, uniquely mine. I feel I have done this in the territory of the Baha’i Faith and autobiography and I hope some readers find some of this uniqueness and enjoy it.

Autobiographical writing has been redefining the meaning of narrative in recent decades, as the explosion of memoirs by writers such as Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, Dave Eggers and Kathryn Harrison, among others, suggests. It may be that, inspite of the best intentions, inspite of my own perception of the quality of this work and the pleasure I take in reading it, my work may not engage the readers in the Baha’i community as much as I’d like to see happen. I think engagement entails defining a common enterprise that newcomers and community veterans can pursue as they try to develop their interpersonal relationships. I think I do this quite well, at least I have tried; such is my personal perception of how successful I have been. But as readers continue in their interacting trajectories in their communities and as they continue to shape their identities in relation to one another, they may not find this book that useful. The roads in our life, paved as they are with good intentions, often do not lead anywhere at all.

While engagement with this book may be positive in some ways, a lack of a certain literary and psychological mutuality in the course of the engagement of readers with these pages and these ideas may create relations of marginality, mine and others, that can reach deeply into people’s identities. In the end and at this early stage in the publishing career of this work, I’m really not sure how successful I have been. The enterprise of truly engaging my readers will have to wait for the judegement of time and circumstance. I must admit to my suspicions which may be mainly a function of age and the assumptions that time’s occasionally cynical presence laces with skepticism.

Autobiography, unlike novels, does not keep its readers at a distance. The sufferings and tribulations, the successes and wins of the autobiographer’s life are much more immediately part of the reader’s awareness than they are from a novel by the same person. The relationship between a memoir/autobiography and the reader is less mediated and more like a patient/doctor relationship. The writer is on the couch talking: the reader becomes the doctor, reading with passion and interest, and listening, as good doctors must, and at the same time putting the story through the mill, as any good doctor would, of his own consciousness, memory and experience. I have often wondered while I have been writing this book whether it will get any readers/doctors at all. The worst that can happen to a narrative, it is often said, is that it remains ‘responseless’.

I have taken a course that another skeptic, David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, took at a much younger age than I. Hume writes in his autobiography that at the age of 23 he “laid that plan of life” which he “steadily and successfully pursued.” He goes on to say that he aimed “to maintain unimpaired” his independency and “to regard every object as contemptible,” except the improvements of his talents in literature.” His first literary efforts, he informs us, fell dead from the press. But, as he says, due to his naturally cheerful and sanguine temper, he very soon recovered from the blows of intellectual and social indifference. In spite of receiving no recognition he continued to prosecute “with great ardor” his studies. I, too, would have liked at the age of 23 to pursue a literary life but, as I pointed out in earlier volumes, this did not eventuate for many reasons and I had to wait for more than three decades before I could find that fertility and give that concentration which Hume gave in the early years of his maturity to intellectual and literary activity. I, too, like Hume enjoyed a cheerful and sanguine temperament, at least after the problems of a bi-polar disorder were eliminated from my life. By the age of 60 they had been largely sorted out and I was ready to launch that literary career that Hume did in the flower of his early life.

I like to see imagination as a process of expanding the self by transcending time and space and creating new images of the world and the self. Imagination is something which involves locating one’s sense of engagement in a broad, a universal, system and defining one’s personal trajectory of meaning in terms of something that connects what one is doing far beyond oneself. I’d like to think this autobiography extends the meaning of artifacts, people and actions within the personal spheres of people’s lives, at least the people who read this book. That is what I’d like to achieve but, as I pointed out above, I’m not so sure that I have succeeded in this respect. The sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions, and possibilities for life in modern society has made modern society, as Walter Lippmann pointed out after WW1 in his book The Phantom Public, “not visible to anybody, nor intelligible continuously and as a whole.” Abundance has in some ways blunted not only the meaning of experience but also the pleasure to be found in abundance itself.

Still, in spite of the abundance, the burgeoning multiplicities and singularities, of life and its fragmenting, confusing and blunting affects, there have been clear turning points in my life and they represent ways in which I have freed myself in my self-consciousness from my history, its banal qualities and its conventionality. These turning points have been steps toward what Jerome Bruner, one of the great students of autobiography in the late 20th century, calls “narratorial consciousness.” My autobiography involves a description of these turning points not only in my construction of self but also my interpretation of the nature of my society and its culture.>br>
In spite of these complexities and enigmas, the past, my past, has occurred. It has gone and can only be brought back again by this autobiographer or by historians and social scientists working in very different media: in books, articles, documentaries, inter alia. The actual events, of course, can not be brought back. The past has gone and history is what historians make of it and autobiographers, too, when they go about their work. In Re-thinking History, Keith Jenkins describes history as “a discourse that is about, but categorically different from, the past.” And so it is that my autobiography is categorically different from my past. And so it is that my autobiography is not simply a telling of a series of critical incidents.

I interpret my past experiences by means of a composition process involving my life in the present. It is a life that has adapted to, resisted and sometimes reached beyond the master narratives of the many dominant cultural and social institutions that have affected my life. And these institutions possess many master narratives which are inevitably woven into my personal story and my lived experience with and within these institutions. Motherhood, social class, industrialism, capitalism, socialism, democracy, religion, socialization, social control and authority are but a few of these institutions. Each of them and many others have their own story and to write that story in a comprehensive and systematic way would lead to prolixity and such stories are beyond the compass of this narrative.

I could take each of these master narratives and focus or skew my autobiography as Jean Piaget did his series of autobiographies. In his study of Jean Piaget's self accounts, Vonïche deals with the particularly interesting case of Piaget’s multiple autobiographical identities. Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist, wrote several autobiographies aimed at different audiences, thus presenting himself in different ways and on different scenes. In all of his autobiographies, Piaget is both the same and different. The facts are the same. The anecdotes are similar. But the outcome is entirely different. People use their autobiographies as a form of self-presentation that varies according to the target audience. They organize and re-organize the plots of their lives. According to the target audience, Piaget can be a post-Bergsonian metaphysician, a scientific psychologist, or a disillusioned philosopher turned scientist. And so is this target-oriented approach to autobiography an approach I could use as well and perhaps at a future time I may do so. For now these 2500 pages in four volumes will have to suffice.

I have tried to avoid the telling of such a series of incidents, like vignettes, that concentrate upon episodes and especially those which identify specific life activities and practices. A real danger in this critical incident approach is that, if uncritically used, critical incidents and their respective literary accounts have a great and compelling explanatory power. This explanatory power exerts a conservative force on the overall narrative which cannot be underestimated.” I like to think I have used critical incidents critically, conscious of their explanatory power and their affect on the overall narrative.

I like to think I have done what Goodson advises autobiographers to do; namely,“to move from life stories to life histories, from narratives to genealogies of context, towards a modality that embraces stories of action within theories of context.” “In so doing,” Goodson suggests, “stories can be ‘located’, seen as the social constructions they are, fully impregnated by their location within power structures and social milieux.”

As the distinguished historian E.H. Carr put it: “facts of the past exist independently of the mind of the historian, but historical facts are only those data selected from the past that a historian finds relevant to his or her argument. The historian can never know the past “as it really was,” but only how it might have been, since our information about the past is partial and inevitably mediated.” It seems to me this is true, a fortiori, of the autobiographer. Neither I nor the historian enjoys the scientist’s luxury of being able to conduct and replicate experiments about the past, my past, under controlled conditions. I can test one theory about my life against another theory, as can the historian about some aspect of history. This allows me, as autobiographer, and historians, to develop theories that are more viable. But we can never establish the truthfulness, the validity, of that theory. History and autobiography are both attempts to explain our experience of the present by constructing a viable account of the past, such that if it had taken place then the present we live in would be the case. History is not only an attempt to account for the way things were, but also to account for the way things are. George Landow writes: “at that point in human history when choices become so abundant, autobiography, the justification of one's choices, becomes increasingly important as a literary mode.” There is certainly much of this justification of my choices here.

In general terms what I do in this memoir is described succinctly by Jerome Bruner, who has written extensively on life-writing. “We constantly construct and reconstruct a self,” writes Bruner, “to meet the needs of the situations we encounter, and we do so with the guidance of our memories of the past and our hopes and fears of the future.”

There are some occasions in autobiography when writers abandon any claim or pretense to literal truth and an accurate account of their experience. They strip off the content of their consciousness’s excessive valorization and the specificity of their life and--perhaps again excessively--dismiss their life’s “very littleness.” Whatever facts occupy their conscious awareness they deem but accidental happenings. They discard their autobiographical self as an ultimately trivial and illusory phenomenon and create a novel self. This novel self is constructed out of memory and desire. This attempt, this somewhat novelistic approach to autobiography, continues to punctuate the narrative and becomes a new actuality to the autobiography. This is far from my aim and is not a part of my philosophical approach in any way, but I think it is difficult for autobiographers generally and me in particular to entirely dismiss this autobiogrpahical orientation.

Through a close reading of Wordsworth’s first autobiographical sketches made in his late twenties and dating from October 1798 through April 1799, one can demonstrate how Wordsworth creatively remembered his childhood. The context of this memory was in terms of the development of the powers of his imagination. In this six month period we find Wordsworth's earliest autobiographical attempt to trace the ontogeny of his imagination back to the dream state, to play, and to perceptual and conceptual blending. I did not engage in such a serious tracing of my childhood until my early sixties. But I profited from one of the first attempts at poetic autobiography in Wordsworth’s The Prelude.

In a commentary on this first period of composition Wordsworth wrote that his autobiographical self-as-being arose as a virus within his source monitoring system itself. This investigation by Wordsworth of his early years is a complex one and I don’t want to go into any more detail here. I find the same is true of the origins of my own imaginative function: its unfolding is complex. And the monitoring systems that existed at the time of its earliest unfolding are difficult to trace. I hope that readers find here at least some of that sweet reasonableness.

When I say that my life has been full of joy and sorrow I do not see this as an apparent contradiction but simply as a reality of all our lives. If I analyse my life I can divide it into joyous parts and sorrowful parts. This I have done by discussing these aspects, but I have not precisely quantified these two emotions. My life has been joyous in some respects and sorrowful in others. The whole of life, when analysed in respect to these emotions, could be seen as contradictory and paradoxical. The nature of the reality of our lives is to deal with these endless polarities. Like an oyster we must do what we can to heal the ugly wounds of life by turning them into beautiful pearls. Much has been written about these polarities of life and I do not want to add to the philosophical library here.

Biologists estimate that there are about 5 to 100 million species of organisms living on Earth today. Evidence from morphological, biochemical, and gene sequence data suggests that all organisms on Earth are genetically related, and the genealogical relationships of living things can be represented by a vast evolutionary tree, the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life then represents the phylogeny of organisms, that is, the history of organismal lineages as they change through time. It implies that different species arise from previous forms via descent, and that all organisms, from the smallest microbe to the largest plants and vertebrates, are connected by the passage of genes along the branches of the phylogenic tree that links all of Life. In the broadest of senses, then, my autobiography would be one encompassing all of life. I must, of necessity here, limit my analysis and discussion.

While imagination can lead to a positive mode of belonging, it can also result in disconnectedness and greater ineffectiveness; it can be so removed from any lived form of life and activity, membership and meaning, that it detaches the identities of readers and leaves them in a state of uprootedness. Readers can lose touch with their sense of social efficacy by which their experience of the world can be interpreted as competence. While that is not my desire, my autobiography may in the end be just a slippery slope in the direction of discontent and disorientation. Good intentions, as they say and as I have said before, are often the road to greater problems. As a teacher of literature, of English and the social sciences, I know only too well that many students turn some of the best writers right off their radar. I, too, am not immune from this experience. In the end, of course, one writes and sends one’s efforts out into the universe and takes what comes.

Alignment is a term applied to writing and to autobiography. It entails negotiating perspectives, finding common ground, defining broad visions and aspirations, walking boundaries and reconciling diverging fields of interest. Alignment requires shareable frameworks and paradigms, boundary items and concepts that help to create fixed points around which to coordinate activities, an oeuvre, a life. It can also require the creation and adoption of broader discourses that help give a literary enterprise some life, some vitality and meaning and by which the microcosm of local actions can be interpreted as fitting within a broader framework. However, alignment can be a violation of a people’s sense of self, something that crushes their identity. In some ways, at least for me, alignment is "the pen's obedience to a line already traced in the mind, if not on the page.”

It seems to me that, in some respects, I am completely unable to write anything about much that is quintessential in life, nor will I ever be able. For, as Baha’u’llah writes, “myriads of mystic tongues find utterances in one speech and how many are the mysteries concealed in a single melody but, alas, there is no ear to hear nor heart to understand.” The garment of words can only contains so much. There is much knowledge that can not be put into words like the content of many of the arts and sciences. Mysticism itself finds its origins in this notion. No sensible man will venture to express some of his deepest thoughts in words, especially in a form which is unchangeable. So much that is said and thought here is as potentially changeable as the wind which blows and the clouds which change their patterns in the sky from minute to minute and hour to hour. A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living, as Virginia Woolf once said.

However changeable, new and wonderful configurations, an ever-varying splendour intimately connected with the power of thought and associated with a mysterious core of self or personality, has come into my life over the decades and it’s story is here, however obscurely narrated and however set in a context of change and mystery. The circumstances of life are always changing and truths seem to constantly need restating to maintain their grip, their purchase of truth. Perhaps that is why re-reading is as important as reading. Perhaps that is why, too, that, as Nietzsche said: “every great philosophy so far has been . . . the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir." What Nietzsche says here is but part of the recognition that anything a person says or writes tells us something essential about the speaker or writer. This is a commonplace notion which extends to all areas of discourse. Not only literature but philosophy and science are seen as self-expression, a type of autobiography. Self-portraiture is very difficult to avoid when you write, indeed when you live and breath and have your being. As soon as readers accept that a literary text expresses, or makes exterior, something within its author, then it becomes inevitable that they will use that text as a key to that interior, that biography, that autobiography.

The famous film actor, Sean Connery, once said about writing his memoirs that the process was "time-absorbing and very wearing. It's the sort of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night.” I found the exercise wearing for many years especially after the first edition was completed in 1993. For nearly a decade I could not get a sense of meaning, of perspective, of vitality with respect for my work; it felt like dry dust, but when I finally did find a fresh approach in the years 2003 to 2006 the exercise became time-absorbing, time-consuming, indeed, an obsession—but an enriching one personally.

Connery also admitted that his autobiography proved to be "much, much more difficult" than he anticipated. When I started writing my narrative in 1984/5 I had no iidea what the process would be like. I could not and did not anticipate that I’d still be writing it more than twenty years later. Connery doesn't have any glib explanations about the way his career of fame and wealth developed. My explanations about how my life developed are also far from glib, although after more than 2000 pages, some of my readers may wish they were glib.

After long continued intercourse between my many teachers, as we have been in joint pursuit of our several, our many, subjects—over these decades--suddenly, insensibly, like the light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, there has been born, created, it seems in my soul, some dazzling rays of a strange, heavenly power, which nourishes and is nourished. It seems just about impossible to convey in writing and a fortiori in dialogue with others.

To fully participate in community life in the sense that is at the heart of this autobiography each Baha’i must find ways to engage in the work, the enterprize in their own individual way. They will do some things that others do, that other community members do, but they must be able to imagine their own work as being an important part of a larger enterprise. And they must be comfortable that the larger enterprise and its smaller components, the many conventions of that community, are compatible with the identities they envision for themselves. Being a part of the community, then, is not simply a matter of learning new skills, new attitudes and new values, but also of fielding new calls for identity construction. This understanding of identity suggests that people enact and negotiate identities in the world over time. For identity is dynamic and it is something that is presented and re-presented, constructed and reconstructed in interaction. And like the tension in violin strings which is, in part, the basis of musical harmony, life in community also possesses a tension with which we must play in harmony.

The individual experience of power derives from belonging, but it also derives from exercising control over what we belong to, what we participate in, what we read, indeed, an entire panoply and pageantry of activity. Each individual is heterogeneously made up of various competing discourses, often conflicted and virtually always possessed of contradictory scripts. Our consciousness is anything but unified. In many ways wholeness or integration is not so much a goal as a battle, at least some kind of perpetual balancing act of dealing with unstable forces, forces whicvh we must reconcile or they will tear us apart—as individuals and as societies. Inner conflict is not so much a disorder as it is the first law of human psychic life.

There is now a great wealth of literature available to the Baha’i community both in-house literature and the burgeoning material now available in the marketplace. My book occupies a small place, possesses no particular authority and competes with a print and electronic media industry. In order to survive and do well in most of the print and electronic media a writer must develop the ability to put things simply and effectively, in a manner that everyone can understand. Such a writer has maybe a minute and a half to two minutes if one’s talking TV to explain a complex subject or a series of short verbal expositions if it’s an interview; even a book, if it is to find a large readership in the mass circulation market, must be as simple as possible.

Many academics and intellectuals are steeped in academic jargon that they are unable to simplify their material. I hope this book is not an example of this academic problem, the problem of someone who could not pull off the simplification process. I’m afraid simplicity and brevity are not marks of my literary style. So, perhaps, I will fail here. Time will tell.

I knew of a senior academic who was asked to appear on a local TV station. She showed up with six or seven books and they had little pieces of paper stuck in the books for purposes of quotation. The whole interview was over in less than two minutes; she never read any of her quotations and she was frustrated that she just couldn’t make her points. She didn’t understand that if you’re going to play in the media ballpark, you have to play by their rules, not your own. I like to think that this book, this autobiography, has allowed me to have my six books and their quotations and that the role of this book does not include a two minute TV summary or an interview of ten minutes on an arts program. On the other hand, I could probably write a ten second autobiographical-ad grab, summarize what I’m all about in one or two minutes and be interviewed for any appropriate length of time. Maybe it will never happen before I die.

There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me a surprisingly large work invoking Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes,” as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. Whatever largeness I claim to possess, it is the same largeness we all possess in relation to ourselves. We all must live in our own skins for all our days and the sense of our largeness--or our smallness for that matter--is a result of our bodily manifestation, our physical proximity to self. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Baha’i history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.

So often we commiserate over the lack of history writing or, as Momen puts it, how “lamentably neglectful in gathering materials” for the history of the Baha’i Faith we have been. History writing and the transmission of the narrative of a group has often been a problem. “It wasn't until the 1850's,” writes Russell Shorto in his review of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower that “William Bradford's narrative of the founding of Plymouth in 1620 was finally published.” Only then, after 230 years, did the story of the first years of the history of the USA enter the historical record. While Momen may be right, there are many ways to look at the gathering of historical documents. Just how this autobiography will appear in the grand scheme of things only time, only history, will tell. This autobiography comes from the historical experience within four epochs in the first century of the Formative Age.

While my work makes no attempt, no pretense, to being a history of the period, it does attempt to express the experience of one man. How relevant this will be for future generations I leave to those mysterious dispensations of Providence which I often refer to in this now lengthy book. The details of my experience in this new Faith and the details associated with its origins and development in the various Baha’i communities I lived in or was associated with in a broad sense could be said, if one wanted to be critical, to represent 'intentional history.' This type of history is a form of social memory which establishes the image of the past that the community wishes to transmit and a resulting type of corporate identity. I suppose it is difficult to avoid this problem, this tendency, entirely. No matter how frustrating my experience has been—and there is no question that I have suffered as so many have done because of the Baha’i community---I love this community and my positive bias toward it is unavoidable. I have gone a long way toward my goal of presenting this community as honestly and accurately as I can, or so it seems to me. However much I have shaped my life and times into a discernible and personal storyline, it is with an eye to the future and the uncertainties of the present that preoccupy me and shape much that is written here.

The mechanics of constructing the past, my past, my real historical memories and contemporary, homoeostatic dynamics of the Baha’i community are closely intertwined in the formation and ongoing formation of the metanarrative that is Baha’i history. This is inevitable. For history’s first historian, Herodotus, there were no official versions. What mattered to this Greek historian was the local nature of his information, in all its complexity. Some local, some polis’ idea of its past was a shared possession, rooted in cult and a complex ongoing tradition. For me, on the other hand, there is an official, a written history and it is this history which matters. What also matters, although in quite a different sense, is the local, complex, ongoing, nature of my information, the personal, the complex, the individual, the local, story. Much of my poetry in this autobiography has a similar emphasis to Homer's and the poetry of many another poet in the sense that it is about: "the poetry of the past." I use poetry to help me navigate the labyrinth of personal connections, -isms, and the historical nexuses which often seem too complicated for me to find my way through. I hope readers find here a lucidity that helps them cope with the complexity they find in both their community and their personal life.





Part 1:

Erich Fromm is a theorist who brings other theories together. He also emphasizes how your personality is embedded in class, status, education, vocation, your religious and philosophical background and so forth. Since this autobiography and my personality is embedded to a great extent in these factors that Fromm describes, it seems timely to start this first appendix with a note on Fromm. I read Fromm's books off and on for thirty years. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Maccoby, "The Two Voices of Erich Fromm: The Prophetic and the Analytic," Society, July/August 1994.

The year I began my pioneering experience, 1962, Erich Fromm, American psychoanalyst and prolific writer in the field of existential psychology, stated his 'credo' in his book Beyond the Chains of Illusions. I have written some of his Credo below since it was consistent with my views back in 1962 and still is. I have commented on some of his Credo expressing views that have remained part of my beliefs during this pioneering venture spanning, as it does now, more than forty years.

"The most important factor for the development of the individual is the structure and the values of the society into which he has been born." Given this fact, my role as a Bahá'í has been to spend my life trying to build the kind of society fit for human beings to be born into. For, as Fromm says in his Credo, "society has both a furthering and an inhibiting function. Only in cooperation with others, and in the process of work, does man develop his powers, only in the historical process do humans create themselves. Only when society's aim will have become identical with the aims of humanity will society cease to cripple man and to further evil." In attempting to transform society, Fromm underestimated the need for individuals to adapt to their society. For the Bahá'í to be an effective teacher, propagator, of the New Society he has become associated with, he needs to adapt to the larger society in which he has been born and in which he lives his life. The difficulties I had in the first decade of my pioneering experience came, it seems to me in retrospect, from a slow adapting to my society. Later, in the following decades, my effectiveness was due significantly to my more effective adapting to my society.

This adaptive process is slow and arduous work and, for Bahá'ís, it takes place in the context of action toward goals using a map provided by the Founders of their religion and the legitimate Successors. "I believe that every man represents humanity. We are different as to intelligence, health and talents. Yet we are all one. We are all saints and sinners, adults and children, and no one is anybody's superior or judge. We have all been awakened with the Buddha, we have all been crucified with Christ, and we have all killed and robbed with Genghis Khan, Stalin, and Hitler. Man's task in life is precisely the paradoxical one of realizing his individuality and at the same time transcending it and arriving at the experience of universality. Only the fully developed individual self can drop the ego." Perhaps this is one way of defining the nature of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the reason for his effectiveness and efficiency. -Ron Price, Pioneeering Over Four Epochs, 9 October 2002.

Part 2:

There is much truth here, Erich.
I must thank you for your wonderful
and illuminating books, enriching
my life as they have, approximating
the jewelled wisdom of this lucid Faith
that I set out with in '62 when I moved
to Dundas and began to pray in those
back streets on cold Canadian afternoons,
read from His sweet-scented streams
and taste of the fruits of His tree
in those years when my father's white hair
blew in the wind for the last time,
my mother was driven to the end of her tether
and that charisma became institutionalized
at the apex of this wondrous Order.

Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusions, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1962, pp.174-182.

Ron Price
9 October 2002

Part 3:

Bahá’í theology is also at the core of my credo. As a field of study Bahá'í theology necessarily will evolve beyond its present piecemeal treatment of metaphysical themes until systematic theologies are developed. Beyond that point, however, it is likely that truly universal theologies will emerge and will synthesize the religions of East and West, theologies that will be viewed as the epitome of sacred study for the age. For if, as Shoghi Effendi has written, the Kitáb-i-Íqán “has laid down a broad and unassailable foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation” of the followers of the world’s great religions (God Passes By 139), Bahá’í scholars will be required to bend their minds to the development of theologies that are able to reconcile the spiritual teachings of the Orient and the Occident. Finally, the following statement of Raimundo Panikkar, the noted comparative religionist, which could be read almost as a supplication for the intervention of a prophetic figure in our time as a way out of the tragic dilemma in which we find ourselves, will strike at the same time a responsive chord and a note of pathos for members of the Bahá’í Faith: Great perceptive, prophetic figures and thinkers have appeared, yes, but scarcely any of the stature of a Śakyámuni, a Zarathustra, of a Confucius, any of the stature of a representative of the whole course of the age, any in a position to guide, “sublimate,” cause to “precipitate” (in the chemical sense of the word), or at least to assist at the birth of, the “new mankind” still in gestation.... What is needed today is a force that, in the old traditional schema, could be defined as prophetic”—in order to search out, with the authority of the fully lived personal experience, a path to the altogether human assimilation and vanquishing of the new, dehumanizing positions imposed by contemporary civilization.... (Silence 93) A Persian nobleman proclaimed in the last century to be such a one. His person, life, teachings, and community provide us with more than adequate proof of his mission. We have only to wonder why Bahá’u’lláh’s voice has not yet been heard in the sacred academy of the proponents of world theology.

In the meantime my credo is found expressed quintessentially by an old friend J.A. McLean in an article he had published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies Vol. 5, number 1 (1992). The article was entitled "Prolegomena to a Bahá’í Theology." I will summarize below that part of McLean's article that will serve to complete, as far as I am able, by credo. The Universal House of Justice has alluded to the difficulties that theologies had in the old religions in the following passage: "In past dispensations many errors arose because the believers in God’s Revelation were overanxious to encompass the Divine Message within the framework of their limited understanding, to define doctrines where definition was beyond their power, to explain mysteries which only the wisdom and experience of a later age would make comprehensible, to argue that something was true because it appeared desirable and necessary. Such compromises with essential truth, such intellectual pride, we must scrupulously avoid. (Wellspring of Guidance 87–88)

Like an open window, theology must let in not only statements of truth but also the spirit of life. It must liberate & somehow contribute to the wholeness of human life. Further, theology must always be subordinate to revelation, whose purpose it is to elucidate. The great medievalist Etienne Gilson (1884–1978) was conscious of this danger of allowing theology to become a substitute for revelation. Referring to Karl Barth, the systematic theologian of church dogmatics whose purpose it was to purify liberal Protestant theology from all natural theology, Gilson wrote about the all-too-human tendency to ignore the divine Word and to idolize its interpreter: We all know how energetically Barth pursued this aim. God speaks, says K. Barth: man listens & repeats what God has said. Unfortunately, as is inevitable from the moment that a man sets himself up as His interpreter: God speaks, the Barthian listens and repeats what Barth has said.(See: Intelligence in the Service, p. 223)

Bahá’í theology cannot be dogmatic in the normal sense of the word, that is, a final and duly perceived infallible doctrine imposed upon the believers by the institutions of religion. However, the function of dogma, in contradistinction to dogma itself, is preserved in the Bahá’í notion of “authority,” that is, the ipse dixit teachings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. These ipse dixit teachings are perceived objectively by the community of believers as being statements of truth, and as such carry binding authority, harking back to one of the original meanings of dogma, that is, a revealed doctrine.25 Likewise the inspired interpretations of Shoghi Effendi or the enactments or pronouncements of the Universal House of Justice, while they do not have the status of prophetic divine revelation, carry divine authority that is binding upon believers. The church, however, claimed for its dogmas not only divine authority but the status of divine revelation itself, as Harnack’s statement (see n. 25) indicates. Commentary by scholars, moreover, regardless of their status in the Bahá’í Faith, remains nonauthoritative and nonbinding. Commentary has strictly a pedagogical function in the Bahá’í Faith. Dogma is, moreover, arbitrary by nature, and eschews any connection with or appeal to philosophy, while Bahá’í theology is in large part philosophical theology, or “divine philosophy” in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s phrase, and in many cases is philosophy as revelation, since specific philosophical concepts and constructs are taught in Bahá’í sacred scripture. For example, a fundamental philosophic concept that has been incorporated into Bahá’í theology is the Platonic idea of the impossibility of knowing the essence of any thing in itself, Kant’s Ding an sich. The possibility of knowing its attributes, however, is affirmed (Some Answered Questions 220). Readers wanting an extended discussion of this topic need to Google McLean's article



In addition to my standard resume found below, my Baha’i resume is also found here, as is: (a) a list of subjects I taught while lecturing and teaching in post-secondary schools and colleges in Australia, (b) a list of essays and articles I have published and (c) some relevant bio-data. Once used to apply for jobs from the early 1960s to the early years of this third millennium, this evolving document is now an archive that I update occasionally for internet use in these middle years(65-75) of my late adulthood, a period developmental psychologists generally define as one’s stage in the lifespan from the age of 60 to 80. This document is 30 pages in length in a font 14. Readers with little time are advised to skim and/or scan the more than 7000 words contained therein as suits their taste, interests and needs.

This document was sent to the National Baha’i Archives of Australia(NBAA) to assist in providing a context for the collection of my letters(1960 to 2010) which I sent to them in 2010. This document could also be useful in providing a base of facts for anyone writing my obituary after my passing in the years to come.

A. My Ascribed Roles in the Lifespan: grandson, son, nephew, cousin, father, step-father, uncle, grandfather, step-grandfather, husband and male among others.

B. My Achieved Roles in the Lifespan: writer and editor, poet and publisher, essayist and author, journalist and independent scholar, teacher and lecturer, student and tutor as well as many other roles. These other roles are found in section 4 below, roles I held at different times since beginning my employment life in 1961.


1.1 Academic Qualifications

* Bachelor of Arts(Sociology) McMaster University Hamilton Ontario Canada 1966 *B. Ed.(Primary School Training) Windsor Teachers’ College Windsor Ontario Canada 1967

* MA(Qualifying Thesis) University of Queensland St Lucia Queensland Australia 1988
1.2 Professional Qualifications

* Post Graduate Diploma in Education Windsor University Windsor Ontario Canada 1967 * Certificate of Integrated Studies Education Department of Ontario Toronto Ontario Canada 1970

1.3 Further Studies(Qualifications Partly Completed)

* Advanced Diploma in Education University of Adelaide Adelaide South Australia 1973 -comparative education unit * Master of Educational Administration University of New England Armadale NSW 1975 to 1978 -comparative education, organization theory and practice, educational administration, open education and history of education units * Diploma in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations Tasmanian College of Advanced Education Launceston Tasmania 1980 -organizational behaviour-3 units * Graduate Diploma in Multicultural Education Armadale College of Advanced Education Armadale NSW 1983 -language and society unit; presented paper at residential school. * Graduate Diploma in Religious Education South Australian College of Advanced Education Adelaide South Australia 1984 to 1986 -Religious symbols and symbolism, sociology of education, the Bible as literature, moral education, Islam and principles of religious education units. *MA(Qualifying thesis) -The Routinization of Charisma in the Baha’i Faith

1.4 Transcripts and Grades

1.5 Teaching Qualifications and Registrations

* Teaching Certificate(Primary) Windsor Teachers’ College 1967. * Registered with the Primary, Secondary and Technical Teachers Registration Boards of Victoria in 1975. * Granted permanency with DEVET (now Dept of Training and Employment) in Western Australia in June 1992. * Teaching, lecturing and tutoring in universities and colleges of advanced education, as I did from 1974 to 1978, did not require any formal registration. One got one’s job on the basis of qualifications and, of course, an interview.

1.6 Professional Memberships and Eligibility

* Secondary School Teachers Union of Western Australia: 1987 to 1999. Branch secretary for four of those years at Hedland College and the Thornlie Campus of the Southeast Metropolitan College of Tafe now Swan College of Tafe. * Australian Association of Educational Administration: 1975 and 1976 * Australian Institute of Welfare Workers, eligible but did not become a member.


2.1 Articles and Reviews: Journals/Websites

1.*Essays, Interviews and Articles on the Internet at:

1.1 The Bahá'í Academic Resource Library also entitled Bahá'í Library Online has several hundred items posted there, 1995 to 2010; and at 1.2 An estimated 6000 other internet sites containing many millions of my words at: posts, essays, articles, ebooks, books, debates and general responses to the writings of others: 2001-2010. 2. * "A History of the Bahá'í Faith in the Northern Territory: 1947-1997," Northern Lights, 32 Instalments, 2000-2003. 3. * Periodic Articles in "Newsletters," Regional Teaching Committees of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia Inc., 1971-2001. 4. * Periodic Articles/Letters, Bahá'í Canada and The Australian Bahá'í Bulletin now The Australian Baha’i: 1971-2006. 5. * "Memorials of the Faithful," Bahá'í Studies Review, September 2001. 6. * "Review of Two Chapbooks: The Poetry of Tony Lee," Arts Dialogue, June 2001. 7. * "Asia and the Lost Poems: The Poetry of Anthony Lee," Art 'n Soul, a Website for Poets and Poetry, January 2000. 8. * "The Passionate Artist," Australian Bahá'í Studies, Vol.2, 2000. 9. * "Memorials of the Faithful," Australian Bahá'í Studies, Vol.1, No.2, 1999, p.102 and uplifting, 2005-6. 10. * "Poetry of Ron Price: An Overview," ABS Newsletter, No.38, September 1997. 11. * "Thomas a Kempis, Taherzadeh and the Day of Judgement," Forum, Vol.3, No 1, 1994, pp.1-3. 12. * "Forward", An Introduction to Occasions of Grace: Poems and Portrayals, Roger White, George Ronald, Oxford, 1993. 13. * "The Inner Life and the Environment", a paper presented at Murdoch University at the Baha’i Studies Conference in April 1990 and published in The Environment: Our Common Heritage, Monograph No.5, 1994, pp.118-131. 14. * "The History of a Dream: A Tribute to Persistence", Office of Tafe Publication in Western Australia, 1988, pp.5-6. 15. * "Response", Dialogue, Vol.2, No.1, 1986, pp.3-4. 16. * "Homeward Bound", Dialogue, Vol.1, No. 1, 1985, pp.37-38. 17. * "Happiness", Herald of the South, Vol.11, 1985, pp.26-27. 18. * "Perspectives on Multiculturalism", Residential School Papers: May to July 1983, Centre for Multicultural Studies, Armidale CAE, pp.24-28. 19. * "Who Plays the Music in Your Dreams?", Dream International, 1983, Vol.1, No.3, p.31. 20. * "Consultative Decision Making", Northern News, Darwin, December, 1983. 21. "The Bahá'í Faith: A Series of 4 Articles," Student Magazine, Ballarat College of Advanced Education, 1977-78. 22. “The Baha’i Faith: 4 Articles,” Tasmanian CAE Publication, Launceston, 1974. 23. Many others: the list is too long to include here.

2.2. Articles and Reviews: Newspapers

150 articles of about 800 words each have appeared in the following newspapers and magazines in 1983-1986.

Katherine Advertiser.....150,000 words Katherine Times................2,000 words Barkley Regional..................300 words Launceston Examiner...........300 words The Tasmanian.................... 300 words The Northern News .............300 words Cosmos.................................500 words Zirius....................................500 words Ballarat CAE.....................2,500 words(5 articles) Newspapers on Internet...20,000 words

In 2005 I began posting items at online newspapers and now have postings at:

2.3 Online Newspapers and Journals

1. The New York Times 2. Nashuatelegraph 3. International Viewpoint 4. Persian Journal 5. The Australian 6. Career Journal 7. The Canadian Poetry Association 8. World Chronicle 9. Contemporary Literature 10. European History 11. Medieval History 12. Writers in Touch 13. Arkansas Poets Society 14. Dream Journal 15. Many others, too many to list here.

2.4 Online Message Boards, Blogs and Forums:

Approximately 6000 online sites. List available on request at my email address:

2.5 Poetry

Poetry published in the following publications:

1. Artgender 2. The Southern Gazette 3. Herald of the South 4. Katherine Advertiser 5. four W No.6: Selected Works-Charles Sturt University 6. The Southern Gazette 7. Australian Baha’i Bulletin 8. The Liquid Mirror 9. Bahá'í Canada 10. ABS Newsletter 11. Australian Bahá'í Studies Journal 12. World Order: Anthology

2.6 Online Poetry Sites

1. Approximately 400 internet sites have poetry that I have written in one or more of the several sub-sections that occupy each of these sites. An estimated forty poetry magazines on the Internet have published my poetry. 2. A comprehensive list of these poetry sites where I have work published is available on request, if required.

2.7 Manuals

1. Twenty-five in-house training manuals in the management studies program for Headland College and the Open College of Tafe in Katherine in the Northern Territory.(70 page average length of each manual: 1982-1986) 2. Sixty study guides for the Perth Campus of the Central Metropolitan College of Tafe and the Thornlie Campus of the Southeast Metropolitan College of Tafe in a wide range of General Studies and Human Service subjects.(40 pages average length: 1988-1999) Note: these colleges now have different names. 3. Six manuals for classes at The School for Seniors in George Town: 1999-2005. 4. See the list of subjects taught in Appendix B below. This list includes the subjects for which these manuals were produced. Note: Total numbers of manuals produced are approximate only.

2.8 Books, Essays and Letters

2.8.1 Books Complete: Published:

1. The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. This is a collection of essays written from 1988 to 2002: 150,000 words, 300 pages(approx). * Published by Juxta Publications and The Bahá'í Academics Resource Library. Can be downloaded free of charge at either of these sites. Also available as an ebook at and eBookMall. A soft cover copy in several volumes is available at

2. Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography, 6th edition: 2500 pages in 5 volumes at: (1) (2) has been reviewed by the Review Office of the NSA of the Baha’is of the USA with permission to post on the internet; and (3) eBookMall which has this book in eBook form in an 1800 page abridged version for $2.98; (c) many parts of this work are found at innumerable sites on the internet; and (d) a hard copy of an 800 page 3rd edition of this book has been at the Baha’i World Centre Library since 2004. 2.8.2 Books Incomplete: Unpublished:

1. Twelve attempts at a novel in the years 1983 to 2005. The longest single attempt was 30,000 words. All of these attempts are kept on file and are available on request, if desired. 2. Several of my internet postings at the Baha’i Library Online could be made into books. These postings are found at several sub-sections of this site under:

2.1 Essays and internet postings 2.2 Poems and Poetry 2.3 Histories, memoirs, interviews 2.4 Biographies 2.5 Personal Letters 2.6 Articles, papers, unpublished 2.7 Books, Articles and Other Media 2.8.3 Essays Complete: Unpublished:

1. An autobiographical collection of over 200 essays: 1979 to 2011 2. See section 2.8.2 above sub-section 2.1

2.8.4 Essays Complete: Published:

1. Essays 1977-2011: A collection of over 300 essays. Too long to include here. See Appendix B. 2.8.5 Letters Complete: Unpublished:

1. 1961-2011. A collection of 50 volumes(arch-lever files and 2-ring binders) of letters, emails and posts on the internet, an estimated 5000 items. See Baha’i Library Online, listed above in section 2.8.2(2.5) for a lengthy introduction to this collection. 2.6 Booklets

2.6.1 Complete: Unpublished:

1. 67 booklets of poetry: 100-120 poems per booklet, written from 1980 to 2011, over 6700 poems. 2.7 Websites

1. Several million words in several genres: essays, narrative, interviews, book reviews, poetry, letters, emails and a wide range of various types of postings and responses to the writing of others are located at over 6000 websites on the Internet. 2. See the 3rd edition of my website at: This is a site of some 450,000 words and the equivalent of six books at 75,000 words/book; the 4th edition went online in March 2011 and contains/gives readers access to a total of 50 books at 75,000 words/book. 3. An outline of the developmental process that led to this slowly acquired publishing outlet and a list of some 6000 sites is available under separate cover by writing to me at my email address: 2.8 Collections of My Poetry and Essays in Libraries:

2.8.1 Poetry

1. Bahá'í World Centre Library, Bahá'í World Centre, PO Box 31 001, Haifa Israel: 5000 poems. 2. Canadian National Bahá'í Centre Library, 7200 Leslie Street, Thornhill, Ontario, L#T 6L8 Canada, 300 poems. 3. Australian National Bahá'í Centre Library, Sydney, Australia, 300 poems. 4. Regional Bahá'í Council of Tasmania, PO Box 1126, GPO Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Bahá'í State Library of Tasmania, Hobart, 300 poems. 5. Bahá'í Centre of Learning Library, C/-LSA of the Bahá'ís of Melville, PO Box 628, Applecross, Western Australia, 6153, 200 poems. 6. Local Spiritual Assembly Library of the Bahá'ís of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 300 poems. 7. International Pioneer Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 7200 Leslie Street, Thornhill, Ontario, L3T 6L8, Canada, 120 poems. 8. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Brighton, PO Box 553, Brighton, South Australia, 5048, State Bahá'í Centre Library, Brighton, S.A., 120 poems. 9. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canberra, 18 Hichey Court, ACT, 2611, Bahá'í Centre Library, 120 poems. 10. Bahá'í Council of the Northern Territory, PO Box 2055, Humpty Doo, NT, 0836, 100 poems 11. Bahá'í Council of Victoria, Knoxfield, Victoria, 3182, 100 poems. 12. LSAs of Belmont, Launceston, Ballarat, Darwin: hold 'some of my poetry' in their archives, 100 poems. 13.LSA of the Baha’is of Toronto Ontario, 288 Bloor Street West, Toronto Ontario, M5S 1V8, Canada, 100 poems. 14. The Baha’i Community of Iqaluit, Iqaluit, NWT, Canada, 100 poems. 15. The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Hamilton, PO Box 57009, Jackson Station, Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 4W9, 300 poems. 16. The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Ballarat, PO Box 136, Ballarat, Victoria, 3350. 18. Threading Lights........of An Infinite Grace....September 18th 2007 to 15 August 2008. Given to my wife Christine Price on her 60th birthday. 19. Booklets of poetry to other communities and institutions are not planned into the future as they have bene in the last two decades, 1990 to 2010.

2.8.2 Essays:

1. The Afnan Library, c/-George Ronald Publishers, 24 Gardiner Close, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3YA, England has a CD of some 200,000 words. 2. Glowinski’s Library in Poland At:

2.9 Books in Traditional and Cyberspace Libraries:

1. The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White is held in the Afnan Library, a 'deposit library' administered by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom, April 2003. 2. The same book can be found online in the 'Bahá'í Academics Resource Library' and at:; as well as at: Juxta Publications. See 3. I have been given approval to publish this book by the National Literature Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada and Juxta Publications has put it on their site at: 4. Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography can be located at: the BWCL, 2004, at in softcover in 5 volumes(part), eBookMall(part) and many other websites have portions of this work at their sites. I have been given permission to publish these volumes on the internet. If I want to place them in a hard or soft cover they will require further review in the USA by the Review Office.

2.10 Essays in Libraries:

1. The Bahá'í World Centre Library: 50 essays-1994. 2. Various internet ‘libraries’ on a list that is increasing in the first decade of this 3rd millennium. 3. See section 2.8 above. Each of these libraries has one to several of my essays in their collection and they are found in my poetry booklets. 2.11 Radio Programs and Interviews:

2.11.1 Interviews: I have been interviewed on eight occasions in eight cities and towns in Australia between 1974 to 1995 on the subjects of: (i) education, (ii) the Bahá'í Faith and (iii) Iran. Each interview lasted from 15 to 25 minutes. 2.11.2 Programs: Presented 150 half-hour programs on City Park Radio in Launceston for the Launceston Bahá'í Community: 2000-2005. 2.1.3 Simulated Interviews: 90,000 words in 26 interviews were simulated from 1995 to 2011. These interviews discuss my poetry, prose and other topics relevant to my writing. Some of these can be found at Baha’i Library Online in the sub-section entitled interviews.Many interviews can be found at various sites on the internet.


3.1 Apprentice and Youth Programs:

1. Pre-Apprentice, Apprentice, Educational Programs for Unemployed Youth(EPUY), Programs for Unemployed Youth(PUY), Preparation for Employment Programs(PEP) and Youth Training Programs(YTP) generally for 15 to 25 year old students: 2. I was a teacher in a wide range of these programs from 1982 to 1999 at the following educational institutions: 2.1 Open College of Tafe in Katherine 1982-1986 2.2 Hedland College 1986-1987 2.3 Perth Campus/Balga Campus 1988 2.4 Thornlie Campus 1989-1999

3.2 Other Post-Secondary Institutions: Full-Part-Time-Volunteer-Casual(FT/PT)

1. George Town School for Seniors Inc 1999-2005(Volunteer) 2. Charles Sturt University 1995(July to October)(FT) 3. Tasmanian CAE 1974(FT) and 1979(PT)(now university of Tasmania) 4. Ballarat CAE 1976-1978(FT)(now university of Ballarat) 5. Deakin University 1977(external studies lecturer)(PT) 6. Whitehorse Technical College 1975(FT)(now part of Swan College of Tafe) 7. University of Tasmania 1974(external studies lecturer)(PT)

3.3 Courses Taught

In the thirty-one years from 1974 to 2005, I taught full-time for 22 and part-time as a tutor for 7. During the years 1980-1981 I did not teach. In those two years I: (a) had an episode of bipolar disorder and was unable to work and (b) worked in a tin mine in Tasmania. I taught in the post-secondary institutions listed above; I taught some ninety(approx.) different units of study in the humanities and social sciences. The list is too long to sight here; I have included the list in Appendix C below. The list includes the following general categories:

* communication studies * social sciences * welfare studies/human services * education studies * matriculation studies * public relations/media studies * creative and business writing * special education programs for: (a) indigenous people and (b) seniors (See Appendix C below for list of subjects taught)

3.4 Primary and Secondary School Teaching Experience: 3.4.1 Primary:

1. Sir Martin Frobisher School, Frobisher Bay(now Iqaluit), NWT, Canada,1967/8. 2. Cherry Valley Primary School, Cherry Valley, Ontario, 1969/70. 3. Picton Primary School, Picton, Ontario, Canada, 1970/1. 4.Whyalla Primary School, Whyalla, South Australia, 1971/>
3.4.2 Secondary:

1. Queen Elizabeth Public School in Picton Ontario: 1970-71 -I taught grades 7 and 8 in this primary school in Ontario. In Australia this school would have been at the junior secondary level. 2. Eyre High School, Whyalla, South Australia, 1972/3. 3. Para Hills Secondary School, Para Hills, South Australia, 1973/4 4. Oakwood Education Trust, Launceston Campus, 2001.


4.1 Summer/Short Term/Part-Time Jobs: (each 5 months maximum)

* Hamilton Spectator, 1957-1960: sold newspapers in Burlington, Ontario. * Self-employed, gardener, 1960-1962 in Burlington, Ontario. * Kitchen-Assistant, A&W Root Beer Co., Aldershot, Ontario, 1960. * Packer, Shell Oil Company, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1961. * Driver-Assistant, Dundas Slot-Machine Company, Dundas, Ontario, Canada, 1962. * Data Processing/Storeman & Packer, Firestone Tire and Rubber Corporation, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1963 * Cash-Register Clearance, T. Eaton Company of Canada, 1964 * Repairman/Assistant, Bell Telephone Co of Canada Ltd., Hamilton, Ontario, 1964 * Abstractor, Canadian Peace Research Institute, Dundas, Ontario, Canada, 1965 * Electrician's Assistant, Stelco of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1965 * Driver/Salesman, Good Humour Company, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1966 * Clerk, Motor Vehicle License Branch, Dept of Transport, Brantford, Ontario, 1967 * Systems Analyst, Bad Boy Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1968 * Security Work, International Security, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1968 * Youth Worker, Resource Centre Association Inc., Launceston, Tasmania, 1979 * Journalist, ABC Radio, Launceston, Tasmania, 1979 * Editor, External Studies Unit, Tasmanian C.A.E., Launceston, Tasmania, 1979

4.2 Full Time Jobs: (each 2 to 4 years)

* Maintenance Scheduler, Renison Goldfields P/L, Zeehan, Tasmania, 1981-1982 * Adult Educator, Tafe, Katherine, Northern Territory, 1982-1986(some teaching involved) * Public Relations Officer, Hedland College, South Hedland, WA, 1986-1987(some teaching involved)

4.3 Casual-Volunteer Work: (1996-2010)

To include the list of all my volunteer activities from the start of my middle childhood years in 1949 through my adolescence, to the final year of full-time work(1999) and into my present retirement(2011 to my death) would not be relevant here. I have, therefore, only included volunteer work for the last 14 years of my life, age 52 to 66, 1996 to 2011, late middle age and the early years(60 to 66) of late adulthood, the period which some developmental psychologists call the years from 60 to 80.

4.3.1 Several Baha’i community activities in Belmont WA and metropolitan Perth from 1996 to 1999: chairperson, secretary, organized public meetings, gave blood in donation programs, organized advertising and public relations for the Baha’i community of Belmont. 4.3.2 Research Assistant, Recreation Network Inc(disability services) Subiaco, WA, 1997. 4.3.3 Red Cross, Volunteer Fund Raiser/Coordinator Annual Campaign: 1996-7 4.3.4 Presenter of Programs, City Park Radio, Launceston, 2000-2003. 4.3.5 Tutor/President, George Town School for Seniors, Inc., George Town, Tasmania, 1999-2005. 4.3.6 Parks and WildLife Service Northern Region Tasmania, Volunteer, 2007. 4.3.7 Several Baha’i community activities in George Town Tasmania and the wider Tasmanian community: chairman, secretary, publicity officer, organized public meetings, blood donation, advertising and public relations. 4.3.8 sold raffle tickets for charity organizations, sang in a small choir and played the guitar to senior citizens.


* Writing: see section 2 above for details: 1962-2011 * Reading and music : 1944-2011(statement available if desired) * The social sciences and humanities: have more than 300 files/notebooks/resource manuals, circa 20 million words, collected over more than 50 years, 1959-2011.


* gone solo on the guitar: 2008-2011. * Member of a singing group in George Town, 2001-2005. * Public Speaking Assessor, Rostrum, Katherine, NT : 1984/6 * Member of the Lions Club, Zeehan Tasmania : 1981/2 * Member of fitness centres in Melbourne(1975-6), Ballarat(1977-78), Perth(1989-99) and Launceston(1999-2003) * Member of baseball and hockey teams in Burlington: 1953/4-1962 * Member of the Baha’i Faith : 1959-2011(to the year of my death) (see Baha’i Resume below for details) * I have been a member of many groups during the fifty-two year period 1959 to 2011, the age of 15 to 66. I was associated with or worked as a volunteer in: (a) The George Town School for Seniors, (b) City Park Radio in Launceston, (c) several other clubs and associations like: (I) Cubs, (II) formal discussion groups in educational institutions as a student and (III) unnumbered groups as a teacher; and (d) an aged-care facility in the town I now live in, George Town, Tasmania where I have entertained as a solo guitarist from 2008 to 2011.


5.3.1 Most valuable player in the midget baseball league in 1960 in Burlington Ontario. 5.3.2 Most home-runs in the pee-wee league and midget league in 1955 and 1956 in the same town. 5.3.3 Nomination for the best teacher at the Thornlie College of Tafe in 1999 in Perth Western Australia.


6.1 I am no longer required to supply transcripts, references and testimonials in relation to positions since I no longer apply for jobs. I keep a file of such documents which I used from the 1960s to the first decade of the 2000s in an archive for various practical and nostalgia purposes. In that file are many of the references and documents in connection with my working life and my community participation as a citizen, a volunteer and an individual in relation to the many interest groups in the community with which I have been associated. I have not required any of these documents in the last dozen years, 1998 to 2011. 6.2 Samples of my writing are also available, if requested. I have a portfolio of my writing in many forms, genres and layouts as suited to the needs of the groups and individuals making the requests—for the most part now on the internet. Virtually all of these requests, as I say, now come from a wide variety of locations on the world-wide-web, although occasionally I get requests from friends and Baha’i institutions.

6.3 In July 1999 I ceased full-time employment as a lecturer-teacher. In May 2001 I went onto an Australian Disability Pension and I no longer applied for full-time jobs. Seven years ago, in late 2003, I applied for my last part-time job. In May 2005 my work in nearly all volunteer organizations also ceased with the exception of work done within the Baha’i community. Now at the age of 66(in July 2010) I devote myself full-time to writing and editing, poetry and publishing, journalism and independent scholarship, although my wife ensures that I keep my end up on the domestic front and in some social activities.


* a bio-data sheet can be found below in Appendix A below. * a covering or introductory letter may be included to introduce this document, if relevant. * a list of published essays can be found in Appendix B below. * a list of subjects I have taught from 1974 to 2005 can be found in Appendix C below.

Ron Price George Town Tasmania Last Updated: 6 March 2011 No. of words including appendices: 7400



SURNAME Price GIVEN NAMES Ronald Frederick ADDRESS 6 Reece Street George Town Tasmania Australia 7253 AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN Yes(from 1980) CANADIAN CITIZEN Yes CONTACT DETAILS TELEPHONE 613-63824790(dial the international access code and then this number, if you are calling from outside Australia) POSITIONS APPLIED FOR: I applied for some four thousand jobs during the 46 year period: 1961-2007. During two of those years I was ill and/or hospitalized and could not work: 4000 job applications over more than 40 years is an average of two every week for 40 years--from the summer holidays in grade 10 to my 63rd year. HEALTH Manic-depression/bi-polar disorder: treated --separate statement available, if desired, at Baha’i Library Online AGE 66/7(in 2011) REFEREES Have not required any referees in the last 13 years: 1998 to 2011. (FT/PT/Volunteer Work) See lists above in sections 3,4, and 5 of resume. VALUE BASE Member of the Baha’i Faith for more than 50 years, 1959-2011. COMPUTER Extensive use of computer to: (a) write, (b) search and keep (c) keep a large personal archive of documents. DRIVER’S LICENCE Yes(from 1962) PHOTO Over 300 digital photos available on electronic transfer from my computer directory, if desired. PORTFOLIO I have a large portfolio of my writings available under separate cover, if desired.




The following four volumes of essays have been published in newspapers and on the internet which, since the years of my retirement from full and part-time work in 1999 and 2003 respectively, has been a fertile source for the publication of my writing. The following lists are of a general nature. I do not attempt to specify precisely the location of the published essays and articles. This list, though, will give readers here some general indication of the quantity of my publications in these genres.

Volume 1: 1979-1993

A. Letter to Vargha 1 Bulletin 1980 2 Bulletin 1980 3 Bulletin 1980 4 Bulletin 1981 5 Tasmanian Papers 1981(3) 6 Cosmos? 7 Cosmos? 8 1982-Source? 9 Cosmos 1983 10 Katherine Advertiser 1984 11 Bulletin: Review 12 Armidale CAE: Papers 13 Dialogue 14 Herald of the South: Happiness 15 Bulletin: NW Baha’is 16 Bulletin: 1986 17 Poem: Bulletin 18 Tassie Newsletter: 1980 19 Dream International-1981 20 Renison Newsletter-1982 21 Katherine HS-1982 22 Barkley Regional-1985 23 Perth Technical College 24 Armidale CAE:Papers 25 Bulletin 1985 26 Bulletin 27 NW Baha’is 28 Dialogue 29 Dialogue 30 Dialogue 31 Bulletin 32 Perth Tech 33 Literacy Article for ITC 34 Article on White for World Centre-1989 35 ABS-1990 Paper 36 Overheads for same paper-1990 37 The Teaching Profession-Article for ITC

Volume2: 1983-1986

Some 150 articles appeared in 3 newspapers in Katherine in the Northern Territory of Australia. I have not listed them here, but they are available on request from this author at:

Volume 3:1993-2003

1. Poem in Herald of the South 2. Poem in Australian Baha’i Bulletin 3. Article in Forum 4.&5. Article on Dizzy Dance Theatre 6. Poem in Bulletin 7. Bulletin: Fishing 8. International Library of Poetry: 1 poem 9. ABS Poetry Collection 10. Ref in Bulletin re: poetry contribution 11. Memorials of the Faithful 12. Baha’i Canada: teaching 13. Arts Dialogue: article 14. FM Radio article 15. Book Review: Beacon 16. Chapbooks Review: Arts Dialogue 17. Report on Scholarship(1998) 18. RTV Conference 2001 19. Associate Newsletter: Memorials 20. Beacon: Teaching Conference 21. Beacon: advertisement on website 22. Lodestar(L’ton LSA) ad for Radio Program 23. Examiner Advert Re: radio program 24. Poem in Beacon 25. Baha’i Canada: 10 Year Crusade 26. Certificate of Recognition: School for Seniors 27. Happy Hour Newsletter: 28. NGTC: article on teaching 29. Beacon: external affairs 30. John Davidson’s Book: Review 31. Last Installment for Northern Lights 32. Bulletin: MDA 33. The Religion Forum: poem 34. www. 35. Planet Baha’i: poems 36. Article : Frances Gregory 38.Tahirih Danesh 39. Indiana University Press 40. Happy Hour 41. Theoquest 42. Endgame From My Website 43. Classics Network: poem 44. Happy Hour 45. bafa: arts dialogue 46. Planet Baha’i: item 47. Alumbo Column 48. Article for: Civilization Adv Centre 49. National Library of Canada 50. George Town On Show Art Exhibit 51. cvoogt: notice 52. Building Momentum Conference: review for Beacon 53. Uplifting Words: article

Volume 4: 2004-2010

Table Of Contents

Mostly internet postings, the list of the following articles can be found in my directory at: Novel>Humanities>Cont. PubWrit V4. This list is not comprehensive, but contains many of the main and significant posts at internet sites.

A. Diary: Introduction: Volume 4.A.1(Vol.4) and 4.A.2 (Vol.5)

B. Published Items Listed Below:

1. TPM-The Philosophers Magazine 2. Uplifting Words 3. talk religion bahai( 4. 5. Alumbo*(sent to Tas Council 21/4/06=TC) 5.1 Google: 6. talk religion bahai 7. Baha’is and Friends 8. Philosophy Forums(TC) 9. Canadian Poetry Association 10. Paper Journal 11. Philip Adams-Letters 12. Theo quest 13. Humbul Humanities Hub 14. The Critical Poet(TC) 15. Hamilton Writers 16. Planet Baha’i(TC) 17. 18. Facets of Religion(TC) World Religion Day 19. United Communities of the Spirit(TC--some) 20. Creativity Cafe 21. 22.1 22.2 Baptist Watch 23. About site.Holistic Healing 24. Ainslie House Association Newsletter 25. Pyramids of Peace 26. The Metaphysical Community Site(TC) 27. Awareness and Meditation Site(TC) 28. Pathways of Light 29. Religious Debate 30. Dreams: 40 Year Overview 31. Mysticism Belongs to Everyman(TC) 32. Email to Leslie at Yahoo Site 33. Baha’i Resume at: Heart of the Baha’i Faith 34. Feedback From 3 Sites 35. Psychotherapy and Spirituality: Yahoo Group 36. APS Voices 37. Statement #5 38. Life Solutions: Yahoo Group 39. Foreign Films: A Good Example of How Not to Write 40. Debates on Jesus: Yahoo Group 41. The Write Review(TC) 42. Writers Waters II 43. My Journey Through Sociology(TC) Clinical Sociology Forum 44. About: Expert Intro 45. Migration Heritage Centre(NSW) 46. Feedback From Bi-Polar Survivor 47. The Mystery Tradition 48. About Bi-Polar Forum-Response 48.1 Bulletin: Memorials of the Faithful 48.2 Bulletin: Computer Internet Teaching 48.3 Bulletin: Pioneer to Tassie(can’t find article) 49. Bi-Polar Letter to: various people 50. Faith and Fellowship-Exile

51. Midlands Contest 52. Unheard Words 53. Muse Whispers: Vol.1 54. Tasmanian Summer School Program: Using the Internet 55. MidEast Truth.Website(TC) 56. Intro to Job Hunting File 57. Kookamonga Square 58. Internet Infidels 59. Softnews 60. 61. Article on John Davidson’s Book 62. Conjunctions: Robert Creeley 63-5. Prayers For Healing: several sites 66. TripAdvisor(TC) 67. Canadian Poetry: content outline 68. IMDb Film Review: Frances 69. Spark Notes: Poem and Reply(TC) 70. ProSports Daily Forum(TC) 71. Christian-Baha’i Dialogue-1st 10 pages(TC) 72. Ruth Gledhill Blog(TC) 73. Booklet/Report to Tasmanian Council-21/4/06 74. Kansas City Star 75. Baha’i Canada-3/7/06 76. Australia Baha’i-Internet 77. 78. Depression Forum 79. Leonard Cohen 80. My Faith Site 81. Aust Baha’i-LSA 82. Mega Search. Autobiography 83. Wikipedia.many 84. John Gielgud Forum 85. Annual Letter: 2006(1st draft) 86. Film Sites 87.Jackal:MovieLens 88. Letter to ABC Radio/TV Religion 89. Blog.HEYDAYCOM 90. Iran:Baha’is-5/11/06 91. Bulletin-11/06 92. Notebooks-Outline 93. Blog for America 94. Another Blog(Yahoo) 95. Poem for Seti 96. Elizabeth Jolley 97. No of Books(RNIB) 98. IndyMusic 99.Chicagoland Site 100. PoetryMagazine 101. Free Online/eBooks 102. Online Books Page



The list below outlines the ‘subjects’ taught between 1974 and 2005: 29 years. I did not teach in the years: 1980-1981. The subjects I taught in primary and secondary schools from 1967 to 1973 are not included here. A. Hedland College: Acting Lecturer in Management Studies: 1986-1987 Katherine Open College of Tafe: 1982-1986

Interpersonal Skills A Interpersonal Skills B Performance Appraisal Negotiating Skills A Negotiating Skills B Conflict Resolution A Conflict Resolution B Introduction to Management Club Management Time Management Counselling Interview Techniques Public Speaking Interview Techniques Consultation Skills Letter Writing and Report Writing A Letter Writing and Report Writing B Supervision Skills Aboriginal Administrator Training Officer Skills Creative Writing(Adult Education) Sociology(Adult Education)

B. Thornlie Campus of the SEMC and Perth Campus of CMC:(1988-1999)

Communication Core(Certificate 3) Communication 1(Diploma) Business Communication 1A(Diploma) Business Communication 1B(Diploma) Ancient Greek History TEE Ancient Roman History TEE Modern History TEE Politics TEE English Literature TEE English TEE Traditional Culture and Modern Society(Anthropology) Framework of Australian Society(Economics) History of Ideas Australian Government and Legal Systems Philosophy 1 A Philosophy 1B General Psychology Commercial and Civic Principles Interpersonal Study and Work Skills 001 Interpersonal Study and Work Skills 002 Society and Culture(Sociology) Life Skills 1B(guitar) Recreation 2(Certificate 2) Social Science Introduction Welfare Practice 1A Welfare Practice 1B Welfare Practice 2A Welfare Practice 2B

C. Thornlie Campus: 1994-1999

In these three programs: Human Services Certificate 3 Welfare Studies Certificate 4 Human Services Diploma(5) I taught the following subjects: Welfare Communication (4) Introduction to Human Services(3) Dealing With Conflict(3) Family and Community(3) Workteam Communication(3) Service Provision and Practice(3) Study Skills(3) Recognition of Prior Learning(3) Human Development 001(3) Human Development 002(3) Field Placement(3), (4) and (5) Field Tutorial(3) and (5) Managing People: Training and Development(5) Managing Group Problem Solving and Decision Making(5) Sociology for Human Service Workers(5) D. Engineering, Applied Science and Social Science Students at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education 1976-1978: Social Science(Applied Science: Engineering)(BSc) Social Science(Applied Science: Geology)(BSc) Social Science(Social Science)(BA) Australian Media(Social Science)(BA) Sociological Theory(Teacher Trainees: Secondary) E. Whitehorse Technical College: 1975-1976 Behavioural Studies(Library Technician Trainees)(Cert.3) F. Tasmanian CAE: 1974: Language in Use(Linguistics) Introductory Psychology Human Relations Sociology of Art Individualized Learning Sociology G. Thornlie Campus of the SEMC: General Studies: 1989-1998:

Writing Plain English Writing Workplace Documents Presenting Information Presenting Reports Workplace Communication Quality Team Management Job Seeking Skills Communication and Industrial Relations Managing Effective Working Relationships Managing and Developing Teams Field Experience in Community Services Work Experience in Job Train Programs

H. The George Town School of Seniors Inc: 1999-2005

Autobiography Creative Writing Philosophy Social Sciences Media Studies




The outline below is a brief sketch only. No attempt is made to list all the activities in the fifty-eight years(1953-2011) of my association with and membership/service in the Baha’i community. I have tended to generalize rather than specify the particular tasks and their respective occasions. Some specificity is required, though, and I think I have provided a good balance between specificity and generality.

I would think, in the vast majority of cases, the information below is correct and accurate, although some guesstimation has been required. This statement has been used occasionally when applying for positions somewhere in what has become a vast network of service situations/institutions around the globe both within and outside the Bahá'í community. In the last eight years, 2003 to 2011 I have not applied for positions using this document. But I use it occasionally on the internet. A. 10 Homefront Pioneering Localities: Listed as Follows:

Bahá'í Youth in Burlington :1957-1962 A.1 Youth Pioneering(age 18-23 inclusive) : 1962-1966 A.1.1 -Homefront Pioneering 1-Dundas : 1962(August) to 1963(May) 2-St. Thomas : 1963(May-June) 3-Hamilton : 1963(June-December) -Dundas : 1964-1966(May) (note: towns I moved to twice are counted in this list as only one locality 4-Hamilton : 1966(June)-1966(September) 5-Windsor : 1966(September)-1967(May) 6-Brantford : 1967(May)-1967(August) A.1.2 LOCAL ASSEMBLY SERVICE: (Youth: Homefront Pioneering) -LSA of the Baha’is of Windsor : 1966/7: vice-chairman 7-LSA of the Baha’is of Toronto : 1969(January to June) -----------------------AUSTRALIA BELOW THIS LINE---------------- A.1.3 LOCAL ASSEMBLY SERVICE: (Youth: International Pioneering) LSA of the Baha’is of Whyalla : 1972: secretary LSA of the Baha’is of Gawler : 1973: chairman B.ADULT PIONEERING:(AGE 30 AND OVER: International Pioneering) LSA of the Baha’is of Ballarat : 1976-78 : chairman/secretary LSA of the Baha’is of Launceston: 1979 : publicity officer LSA of the Baha’is of Stirling : 1988 : secretary LSA of the Baha’is of Belmont : 1989-1999: chairman/secretary for 7 of these years

C. REGISTERED and UNREGISTERED GROUP SERVICE: C.1.1 Homefront Pioneering 8-Frobisher Bay/Iqaluit) NWT : 1967(August) to1968(June) -Whitby :1968(June to December) 9-King City Ontario : 1969(June-August) 10-Picton Ontario : 1969(August) to 1971(July) -----------------------AUSTRALIA BELOW THIS LINE------------ C.1.2 International Pioneering Whyalla South Aust : 1971(I arrived in Whyalla on or about 15 July 1971. Whyalla was a Bahá'í Group in 1971; LSA in 1972) Launceston Tasmania : 1974 Kew Victoria : 1975 Smithton Tasmania : 1979 Zeehan Tasmania : 1980-82 Katherine NT : 1982-86 South Hedland WA : 1986-87 George Town Tas : 1999-2011(plan to live in this town until my passing) D. PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED WORK: See my resume above for details in these two categories of my writing. E. COMMITTEE WORK: E.1 LSA and Group Committees: The list of committees during the 19 years of service on LSAs and another 29 years in Registered and Unregistered Groups is partly too long to recount and partly beyond the scope of my memory after all these years. I do not recall serving on any committees in the five year period 1959 to 1964. Since May of 2005 I have been the publicity officer and secretary of the George Town Baha’i Group(Reg). E.2 Regional and National Teaching Committees:(RTCs and NTCs) 1. RTC of Northern Tasmania : 1974 2. RTC of the Northern Territory : 1984-86 3. National Community Development Committee: 1976-77 F. Assistant to the Auxiliary Board : 1986 In the Northern Territory in 1986 for a few months before moving interstate. G. Pioneer Service: (Continued) 1. Homefront : Canada : 1962-1971 2. International : Australia: 1971-2011

H. Teaching Work:

It is very difficult to quantify one’s teaching work and the accomplishments of some fifty years of teaching both as a pioneer(1962-2011), as a new Baha’i in my home town for three years(1959-1962) before pioneering and the several years of early contact through my mother and father with this new Faith(1953-1959). But, given the importance of this part of Baha’i life, the following activities could be listed as areas of contribution relevant to the teaching work.

It should also be emphasized, as a preamble to this list of activities that, since the early 1990s, there has been an important shift in the field of Baha’i public information and the focus of Baha’i activity. The former preoccupation with “conversion” and the inevitable sense of “us and them” that intruded for so many years; what had become a somewhat parochial view of focusing the Baha’i message in religious categories was slowly replaced with a more inclusivistic approach or philosophy and my own teaching work has reflected this shift.

1 Working on LSAs, Groups and Committees 1.2 Writing: (see my resume above) 1.2.1 essays and poetry for magazines, journals, newspapers and websites in and out of the Baha’i community 1.2.2 essays and poetry given to individuals, groups and LSAs in the Baha’i community note: -some of this is kept at the Baha’i World Centre Library(BWCL) -the rest I have on file in hard copy or in my computer directory at home 1.2.3 Giving talks/presentations/interviews 1.2.4 Working as a teacher in educational institutions 1.2.5 Moving to many towns and states where few or no Baha’is have lived 1.2.6 Moving to another country at crucial point in a Plan as a pioneer 1.2.7 Entering into various forms of activity and interest groups in local communities -festivals and other public events, social programs and musical events -media programs and local organizations in a list too long to mention 1.2.8 Promoting the Baha’i Faith through various forms of advertising such as: - putting up posters, an estimated....10,000. -doing letterbox drops, an estimated 7,000 -placing ads in newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and magazines, an estimated 1000, and -being interviewed on radio, eight radio appearances (one on cassette tape; one on mini-disc and sent to the BWCL). 1.2.9 Going on unnumbered travel teaching trips from home communities/localities to extension goals, to towns which were not goals and overseas as a pioneer; and 1.2.10 Giving poetry readings in both Baha’i and other interest group settings

I. Consolidation Work:

It is also difficult to define one’s contributions to the consolidation work over this same time period of 58 years. Again, some attempt is made below, given the importance of consolidation during these years of the ninth and the tenth stage of Baha’i history: 1953-2011. There has been a major shift in the nature of consolidation in Baha’i communities as there has been in the teaching domain. I would like to list the following as part of my contribution to the consolidation work in its several forms: 1. Work on the Baha’i institutions listed above taking many forms—too extensive to list here; 2. Writing, as listed above and requiring no more description; 3. Writing booklets of poetry which I think have, and will have, a consolidation potential in the years ahead since they provide a rich base of comment on the several decades of Baha’i experience in these epochs; and 4. Several of the activities listed above under ‘teaching’ which also had a consolidation function. J. Other Forms of Work/Activity in the Baha’i Community: In a lifetime, over more than five decades, of service in this emerging world religion one does a great deal. This section has been opened to include items not covered in the above and will be elaborated upon in the years ahead as my life continues into late adulthood(60 to 80) and old age(80++).

K. Concluding Statement:

K.1 The above sketch, or Baha’i resume as I call it, has been written to provide an outline of my activity in the Baha’i community since 1953 when my mother joined this new world Faith and when I was still a child. My formal service to this Cause began in 1959 when I joined the Bahá'í Faith at the age of 15. The 200 thousand Baha’is in 1953 are now six million and the Baha’i community has gone through several transformations in this time.

K.2 This sketch above of my activity in this Faith is concerned more especially with the years since 1962 when my pioneering life began and since 1966 when my service in Bahá'í Administration started in Windsor Ontario. This statement needs to be read in conjunction with: (a) my professional resume above--which I used for many years when applying for general employment positions; (b) my nearly 7000 poems--which is part of a larger autobiographical work entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs containing: journals, poetry, letters, book reviews, photographs, tapes, notes and narrative written and collected over 50 years: from 1960 to 2011—an estimated five million words.

K.3 Some 5000 of my poems were sent as a gift to the BWCL in celebration of the wondrous efflorescence that is the Baha’i Project on Mount Carmel. An 800 page autobiography by the same title was also sent to the BWCL in 2004. This statement, like my professional resume, was once used when applying for positions in the embryonic global Baha’i Administrative Order. Now it is used, for the most part, on the internet when relevant at various websites in connection with a host of subjects. I trust the above statement is useful to readers who chance upon it.

K.4 Several thousand of my letters were placed in the National Baha’i Archives of Australia as a gift in 2010.

Ron Price
Updated on: 6 March 2011
7400 Words
That’s all folks!




When you write is it for a particular audience or just yourself? Initially, the thrust of the poem, any poem, seems to be for self, from self, about self. But as the poem develops the audience widens to include my contemporaries, those dead and those yet-to-be-born. Sometimes the focus of the poem is futuristic, utopian; sometimes I go back in time to an individual or a group. This is part of the wonder of poetry, the ability to write about, include, virtually anything in existence or in the imagination. Michael Palmer says the informing principle of poetry is that the poem intends as it comes into being; it moves toward a particular meaning. That is unquestionably the way I experience the writing of a poem. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 October 1998.

There are always people writing.
I call them my students;
one day they will be gone.
I have grown tired
of the endless talk, talk, talk
and their piles of writing
which has virtually no interest to me
anymore: is so excessively banal,
repetitious, try fifty million pages
over thirty years to dumb the brain.

My wife gives me her critical view now
and I think this is enough, enough to view
this cleaner and tighter form.
Read what I want now--no obligation.
Of course, I like people to read my poetry
but, in this world of confused alarms,
this is not the most important thing to me:
a world where anyone can write a poem
on anything they want and only a few
want to write anything at all.1

1 The irony, the paradox, is that there is now more being written by more people than ever before in history.
Ron Price
31 October 1999


We must write for our own time, as the great writers did. But this does not imply that we must shut ourselves up in our words. To write for our time does not mean to reflect it passively. It means that we must will to maintain it or change it; therefore, go beyond it toward the future; and it is this effort to change the world which establishes us most deeply in it, for our world can never be reduced to a dead mass of tools and customs. What the poet writes should not always correspond to anything outside the mind of the poet. His words should bring together apparently unrelated phenomena in a unique world that is the writer’s own, freed, as far as possible, from the rusty hegemony of angst. What results is a written expression which is both form and content. They are one and the same. The general context is an “independent search for knowledge” and a continual renewal of “one’s conception or one’s vision of the world.1 -William V. Spanos, “A Discussion of Eugene Ionesco,” A Casebook on Existentialism, Thomas Crowell Co., NY, 1966, pp.151-157.

Yes, Eugene........
I write for my time
and a future time.
This is no dead mass of letters,
but things from inside my head,
from all over the place,
a unique concatenation
of form and content,
as I renew my vision of the world
and help lay that foundation,
for that apotheosis which I saw
several weeks ago on a warm day
up on a hill in a city in Israel.

The inner essence thereof
I knew was for my time.
I knew this, partly,
from something He wrote,
something eternal, yes, Eugene:
and I was only eighteen, then.
And, now, I'm getting old
and closer, it seems, to the eternal.
Ron Price
24 July 2000

Much of the writing in western civilization since I became a Baha’i in 1959 and went pioneering in 1962, is what one could call post-Canadian, post-Australian or post-American, post everything except the world itself. Much of the technology in America since 1959 has been NASA inspired. The wiring in my head has been inspired by a new religious technology--the Baha’i teachings. A global culture, which had been emerging slowly, perhaps as far back as the period 1475-1500,1 with a global technology which brought the various centres of culture around the world so much closer than they had ever been. The literary sensibility is no longer dependent on a national environment, although writers continue to be influenced, consciously or not, by their predecessors and the cultural climate in which they are socialized. To give a poet’s sensitivity and expression a form suited to his personal proclivities he could study the classical and contemporary literary monuments,2 indeed the entire intellectual tradition of the planet. After twenty-five years in the pioneering field(1962-1987) I did just that, at least as far as I was able.

The history of Western European literature and its autobiographical component until approximately the end of the eighteenth century and into the 19th could be described as a succession of phenomena which were generally linked to classical models. In other words, writers consciously or subconsciously, in a relative or absolute way, respected and followed the content and forms of a classical canon, a canon rooted in Greece and Rome or in Christianity, at least in European/Western civilization. In the last two centuries other models have emerged and this work draws on many aspects of these newer historical models from the last two centuries.

I have drawn on literary monuments that had impressed me during those pioneering years: Toynbee, Gibbon, John Hatcher, Roger White, Robert Nisbet, among so many others. But I think what gave my poetry, my writing, its vitality was the struggle of my mind over decades to come to terms with the cynicism and skepticism of modern society vis-a-vis religion and provide intellectually relevant responses to the questions of the seekers among my contemporaries.-Ron Price with thanks to: 1 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 8, p.115; and 2Northrop Frye, The Stubborn Structure: Essays on Criticism and Society, Methuen and Co. Ltd., London, 1970, p.311.

A striking fact about that society
I grew up in back then
and for most of its history
was the domination of narrative form,
a narrative poetic and its impersonal,
bald, dry, statement to portray action.1

A deep moral silence also filled the land,
amidst massive indifference, solitude
and a social ideal that still inhabits our soul.

And now, as the imaginative centre
of Canadian life moved to the metropolis,
and faster in Australia
and for the international Baha’i pioneer
a feeling of nomadic movement
over great distances filled his consciousness,
standards for a world culture of the arts
were insensibly established.

They arose out of an almost continuous probing
into the distance and the fixing of one’s eyes
on an ever-changing skyline.

1 my own narrative poetic is, unlike this Canadian tradition of the impersonal in poetic narrative, highly personal.

Ron Price
22 July 2000
I like to think, as I begin this narrative with its poetic inclusions, that prophets, poets and scholars are chosen vessels “who have been called by their Creator to take human action of an ethereal kind.” But it is my considered view that, however much I feel I am being called, my spiritual armament resembles an archer’s who is aiming at a target which is too far distant to be visible and too close to get a just, a fitting, perspective. As the years go on, and especially now after forty years on a journey as a pioneer to the seekers among my contemporaries, I have come to feel the truth of the words of that Roman poet Horace who wrote at the time of the appearance of another manifestation of God: “Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.” And if this piece of literature, autobiographical literature, is ground-breaking in any way; if it has any particular kind of originality and is in any way equal to the challenge of the new internationalism and the new institutions that this Faith I am associated with, only those mysterious dispensations of time as it hurries by on its winged chariot will reveal.

I have also come to feel, as Toynbee expressed it so well writing when he was on the eve of the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth, little did he know, in 1952, that “It is Man’s task to execute, within the time that God alots to him on Earth, a human mission to do God’s will by working for the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth.” The Baha’i Faith provided, through its Founder, His Successors and now its administrative institutions a strong sense of divine appointment, of a specific, a guided, direction, in establishing that very Kingdom. Working now with some psychic chronometer, with intellect and spiritual creativity defining the working tempo of my days, I work, as the poet Andrew Marvell expressed it perhaps somewhat archaically, while “at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” At the same time, I was slowly learning over several decades one of writing’s secrets, namely, what to put in and what to leave out. I was learning, too, other things about writing prose and poetry, as I have expressed them in the following prose-poems. One thing seemed to come easily and that was prose-poetry which, as Mary O’Neil notes, goes back to the Renaissance.


“In the fact that the subject is a process lies the possibility of transformation,” writes Catherine Belsey.1 And there is transformation, several over a lifetime, perhaps innumerable ones, before the final bodily separation, before the cage is burst asunder and soars into “the firmament of holiness.”2 The cage is often drawn back to the earth again and again, the transformation never complete, and then the cage is gone and the soul, that acme of mature contemplation, continues the journey. While on earth hounds, claws, ravens and envy stalk the "thrush of the eternal garden" that is your life.3 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Catherine Belsey in Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autobiography, Jeanne Perreault, University of Minnesota Press, London,1995, p.1; 2Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words; and 3 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p.41.

While thoughts press on
and feelings overflow
and quick words ‘round me
fall like flakes of snow,
the years go on,
each year adding one
and I grow old,
hardly known and quietly:
drifts of snow the wind has blown
against a wall or house
one day will melt
while new spring sun brings
green grass, flowers bloom
the final transformation of June,1
repeated so often, so regularly,
so predictably, that somehow
the transformation becomes
a part of the air we breath
and we only notice,
for such short times,
the brilliance and the wonder
amidst the dogs of the claws of earth.

1 The perspective here is that of the northern hemisphere.

Ron Price
7 September 2000

There is a definite relief in simply writing a poem, in completing it, in having one's imagination aroused to give life and significance to the world. In some ways that is enough. In other ways, the poet wants others, as many others as possible, to speak to other minds, to see and share his expressed feeling and, hopefully, have them enthuse over what he has written. I would have liked a wider audience. I may one day get such an audience. But I think it unlikely. Even the likelihood of obtaining an audience beyond the grave is, I think, small. I have said a great deal about poetry, about my poetry, in the more than five thousand poems I have sent to the Baha’i World Centre Library. Like a spider, I spin my poems out of my own vitals, out of some inner necessity, so as to catch life. Like a spider, too, I don’t mass-produce the same poem, at least not yet. I write another poem and another as circumstances and some combination of inner desire and necessity require.

There is seriousness present; there is lightness. What it means for me, I can not expect it will mean to others. Thus, I have a sense of my poetry’s worth, but I am not obsessed by its importance or my own. Life drove me, as it drove T.S. Eliot, into a wasteland of suffering when I was young, in the first ten years I was a Bahá'í(1959-1969) and, along with other precipitating influences, it formed, or better, transformed me slowly, insensibly and eventually, perhaps inevitably, into a person who felt compelled to write poems. -Ron Price with thanks to T.S. Matthews, Great Tom: Notes Towards the Definition of T.S. Eliot, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1974, pp.95-96.

I think I felt old at fifty.
Dieing, like being born,
I was tired with
is a long process.
what you might call
Who can say when it really
a bone-weariness.
when it really begins?

-ibid., p.169.
But, as Eliot advised,
I still felt like an explorer.
I venture out to encounter
life’s last adversary:

the slow decline of old age,
a senescence which explores
the old man, me,
as my friends go through
alarming and not-so-alarming
changes and chances.1

My poetic opus,
my celebratory note,
has been struck to its full.2
And all that’s left one day
will be one final exploration,
one final note
on the keyboard of life.

1 T.S. Matthews, op.cit., p. 170.
2 Over 5000 poems sent to the BWCL

Ron Price
30 December 2000

Part 1:

The necessary and passive receptivity of so much of life becomes, as it must, an active curiosity if one is to know anything about one’s life, one’s times, one’s religion, indeed, if one is to know virtually anything at all. The mind’s mill must be set and kept in motion by a perpetual flow of curiosity and this curiosity must be “harnessed to the service of something more purposeful and creative” than pure curiosity itself. There is always opportunity for rest, for ease, for contemplation, unless one completely stuffs one's life with activity. But that is not my story now in these early years of the evening of my life, these golden years, free from so many of the responsibilities that kept my nose down and my emotions engaged: job, family, sex and love and people in community, for so long.

Toynbee says our search, our quest, is “for a vision of God at work in history.” Slowly, unobtrusively, by an endless and sometimes exhausting seriousness, the teachings of the Baha’i Faith filled in this vision. By the beginning of my pioneer venture on or about August 20th 1962, at the age of eighteen, this vision had taken root in the soil of my life. In the last forty years the painting, the sculpture, the poem that this vision has taken its form in, has added light and shadow, colours, tones, texture and literally millions of words. They could probably be reduced to several bottles of ink. As I listened and watched a thousand musicians, heard more comedians than I could count, attended talks, seminars, deepenings and meetings of many kinds, got my hair cut by old men and young, by beautiful women across two continents, watched more who-dun-its and documentaries than the mind can hold, that vision drifted through my mind, again and again and again, caught the accents of voices too many to remember and touched my heart like trapped starlight, like fleeting green tints from passing lights that struggled in the eyes of someone I loved, like the colour of rain. And the vision kept passing and returning.

This is no settler narrative, the kind that filled many an autobiography in British and other nations' colonies around the world and in nations as they expanded west and east, north and south in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I do refer to my work as a pioneering narrative, though, one of many which I am confident will be produced in these epochs and in the many epochs that will succeed them in the decades and, perhaps, centuries ahead. Like many of the settler narratives, this narrative should be seen as a volatile subject not as something fixed in black and white. The apparent marginalia that I place, insert into the framework of my story, should not be seen as a distraction but as part of the main game. I manoeuvre myself into many corners. The prescriptions and formulations of a pioneer narrative which authorize my text, so to speak, are many and ill-defined, making manoeuvring inevitable. This is no archetypal pioneering history for, thusfar, I have yet to read a thorough and systematic or anecdotal and serendipitous account of a pioneer. If any exist, they have yet to be published. But whatever is published by Bahá'í pioneers in the years to come, I am confident that the one common denominator, uniting all those who try to tell their story, will be their devotion to the possibilities and the inevitabilities, the certainties and the complexities, associated with the Faith they have taken to the corners of the earth and the thousands and thousands of places in between on the great tapestry of this planet. Their writing will be seen in many ways but, however it is seen, it will be a bi-product and a detailed, circumstantial, portrayal of their pioneering experience.

Part 2:

In the fifty years since I first came in contact with this new Faith, the years 1953/4 to 2003/4, it has spread around the world and multiplied its numbers thirty times. When I served on a Bahá'í assembly in 1965 there were, perhaps, 600 assemblies in the world and perhaps half a million Bahá'ís. In the 1950s and 1960s there was the first large-scale mass conversions, but the numbers of Bahá'ís remained small in North America, Europe and Australasia to the frustration of the Bahá'í communiries there. This picture changed in the late 1960s and 1970s just before I moved to Australia(1971) and while I was living on Baffin Island(1967). Peter Smith(Bahá'ís in the West: A Survey, 2004) suggests that in 1968 of the 1.2 million Bahá'ís worldwide there were only 40,000 in the West: a negligible figure. I mention these figures because at the back of my life the growth of the Faith I had come to be identified with in my youth had grown significantly---but slowly in the places where I lived.

I feel a little like the historian Polybius(206 BC to 128 BC) must have felt when he observed the unification of the Hellenic world within his own lifetime, between 219 BC and 168 BC, when “almost the whole world fell under the undisputed ascendancy of Rome.” I had observed the Westernization of the entire planet and the sense of that planet's global reality. I knew I was at the beginning of what would be a long process. The transformation of the entire world within the dominion of a single system was, without doubt, part of the long-term Plan of the Baha’i community. It would be an exercise that would take place without arms, swords and uniforms, at least not as far down the road as I could see. It would be an exercise that would take place for the most part quite unobtrusively with increasing speed. It may have begun as far back as the years of the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution and the American revolution in the years 1760 to 1780, approximately or even as far back as Columbus in 1492.

Alvin Tofler called it the second and third wave. From my perspective it has been one long wave since the 1750s, since Shaykh Ahmad was born or, to choose a personage of greater popularity and renown in the West, since J.S. Bach died in 1750. But history is a game anyone can play. The possibilities and the paradigms are just about infinite. For Tofler, though, this immense wave has swept over humanity in a context of such complexity and over so many decades and now nearly three centuries, that the average person came, in my time, to have little to no idea what the overall process was, no idea of the meaning of the events, except in some microcosmic sense. Indeed, this was hardly surprising. In some ways the decades and, indeed, the next several centuries were coming at humankind like the sound of a distant train: the vast majority just could not hear its faint, its light echo in the distance. The noise of civilization and the jumble of an endless subjectivity produced a cacophony that completely muffled the sound of distant trains.

Part 3:

So few heard the distant whistle or the quiet drum-beat of civilization's inherent pattern. It was the drum-beat of a new revelation, little did the multitudes of humankind know, at least as the years of new millennium began. One could scarcely be surprised, though, for there were so many drums beating, so many orchestras, so much sound on the air-waves. And so it is, it seems to me anyway, that autobiographical statements, books, like this one which encodes the concerns and perspectives of one Baha’i, encodes them with subjectivity and a sense of self-emancipation, constitutes an indispensable part of the Baha’i project. Autobiography has the potential of being a major literary form for groups like the Baha’i Faith which in international terms has a relatively small following. It has the potential for being a medium for confronting problems of self and of identity and, in the process, of fulfilling important social needs. Autobiography, this book among others, can be of use to Baha’is to help them understand what is often a marginalized position they hold in society and help them appreciate that, however few their numbers, the battle, the life, the experience, of one of their members can throw light on the others.

The waves crashing into and over humanity was an exercise, a phenomenon, that was taking place under my very eyes in the two dozen towns and cities in which I had lived. No one had any idea that this was the Plan; even I and the Baha’is who lived and had their being in the context of that Plan had a great deal of trouble keeping their eyes on this particular aspect of the Plan, so awesome and so obscure was it at the mundane level of their own lives. Seeing the unification of the planet, the planetization of the globe, the increasing oneness of the world of humanity, take place with more and more evidences in my lifetime: this is at the heart of my story. Ironically, it took place in the context of intense conflict and millions, hundreds of millions, of deaths. The context did not change, either, in the generation before me, the generation of my parents, in which two wars decimated the value and belief system of a whole civilization; or the generation of my grandparents before that, say, back to the 1870s. A great wind of change seemed to be blowing and blowing, generation after generation. Perhaps, as Robert Nisbet pointed out, that wind had been blowing at least since the fifth century BC; or, perhaps, since the Tree of Divine Revelation was planted in the soil of the Divine Will with the prophetic figure of Adam. This historical question is far too complex to pursue here in this short space, but the contemplation of the question and the possible answer can not be divorced from this narrative and my own life which is at its centre.

Indeed, my pioneering venture, it seems to me in retrospect, has been part and parcel of the very reconstruction of a civilization that, arguably, began to occur in the lifetimes of the twin-manifestations of our time and their precursors. That reconstruction, one could argue and I do so here, has taken place to a significant extent in the context of a Plan, a Plan that was put into action just seven years before I was born.

Part 4:

As the culture critic Lionel Trilling once wrote, speaking of the form, the existence, of a culture: "the form of its existence is struggle." That is certainly the case with the Bahá'í culture. Some artists, Trilling went on, contain in their personal life the very essence of this struggle and its contradictions and paradoxes. My life, my autobiography, contains this essence. Inconsistencies and contradictions are part of the very warp and weft of life both in my personal life and in what the Bahá'í Faith is and was in this half century under review. I do like to think that this autobiography does eviscerate that is draws out what is vital or essential in my life, elicits the pith, the essence of my days, my journey. Life, at least as I have experienced it, involves maintaining myself between contradictions that so often can't be solved by analysis. They can only be presented with due regard for their virtually insoluble complexity and I do so in this work.

What I write here is one of virtually millions of tangents to a set of concentric circles that are at the core of this new and emerging society. To scale the moral and aesthetic heights of what constitutes this new society I use the ladders of social observation and analysis. And so this autobiography should not be seen like a novel. Readers should not expect an interesting story with tension, plot, dialogue and a what's next atmosphere. Those that want to read a story of escape or adventure, of mystery or science fiction, of romance or one of innumerable forms of entertainment, are advised to watch TV, go to the movies or read one of a multitude of books in any book store or now on the Internet. There is both mystery and romance here, as there is in the history of the Bahá'í community of which this autobiography is a part, part of that greatest of mysteries going back to Abraham, but I'm not sure I convey it with the language it requires. The theme certainly requires more analysis than can be given in an autobiography like this which has already blown-out to over 850 pages.

I am in some ways like Ralph Waldo Emerson who hardly ever read novels and hardly ever liked those that came his way. In the last twenty-two years, 1983 to 2005, I even tried unsuccessfully some ten times to write a novel. Perhaps the future will find a place for the novel in my life. The story here is of a different ilk and for many I'm sure not their cup of tea. But then, I'm not writing this to give people what they want, create a reading public and in the process, perhaps, acquire some fame and glory along the way. If these elusive acquisitions come my way, fine. I've got nothing against these attributes of conventional success. But I think it highly unlikely that I will have the experience that led Lord Byron to say: “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.” I am also conscious of the words of Francis Bacon: “Fame is like a river that beareth up things light and swollen and drowns things weighty and solid.” As light as I’d like my work to be, it tends to the weighty and the solid.

Part 5:

I often draw on a myth which narrates a complex interaction between individual and community and a promise of a world at peace, in unity and imbued with an ongoing progress that is both inspiring and a source of long-range hope. The essential quality of the Bahá'í experience in the first century and a half of its history came to reside in its expansion and consolidation and the opportunities that such expansion and consolidation offered to individuals and communities as the medium in which they could and did inscribe their destiny. This struggle, for it was nothing if not a struggle, became central to the myth. It was a myth, though, that would never be transmuted into an avowedly hopeless quest, although from time to time a sense of crisis seemed to threaten "to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered." It was a myth, too, that I use as my starting point in many basic ways, for my own story.

I am contributing in my own small way to the fathering and mothering of a tradition of becoming, a tradition which finds in my own experience the seeds and the sinews, the warp and woof, of what I am confident will one day be a compelling and instructive literature. And the myth at the centre of this account is what John Hatcher once called the metaphorical nature of both physical reality and Bahá'í history.

To become a reader of this work one enters a force-field of anxieties and delights where cultural ideologies intersect and dissect one another, in contradiction, in consonance and in adjacency. As Firuz Kazemzadeh, Baha’i historian at Harvard and long-time member of the American NSA, once said we are one per cent Bahá'í and ninety-nine per cent the culture we live in. In this work the 99 per cent and the 1 per cent blend and flow in a myriad eddies and tides. Then there are the readers and they will bring to this work their passions and unreliabilities, their talents and interests, their desires to escape from the pull of my argument or swim in its persuasiveness, their pleasure in the use of my language or their preference for slim books or fictional narrative. There are a tangle of problems which are fundamental to thinking about and writing autobiography. As this book proceeds there are shifting sands, moving constructions of agency, subjectivity and truth as I change with time, place and intent, untethered by everything except the memory and the imagination that is my life and how I put it into words. There are, too, highly volatile components and serious blind-spots to my life story that make the story capable of being played out in different and quite unpredictable ways to the ones I have chosen.

It is also difficult to invoke various verbal and conceptual totalities embodied in such words as: marriage, childhood, Bahá'í Administration, Bahá'í theology, Bahá'í history or even pioneering, oneness and 'the Writings'. These are all terms which proliferate in my account and make understandings sometimes more difficult, clumsy and non-specific due to their very complexity, a complexity that is difficult to negotiate and describe. Sometimes such terminology hides the ambiguities and the inconsistencies, the complexities and wealth of detail that exist in much of life's experiences and they raise in their stead certain obscurities, flatnesses and grey-coveralls. As Anton Zidjervelt once wrote in his stimulating book, The Abstract Society, which I read when I was teaching at a College of Advanced Education in the late 1970s, so much of our world and virtually all of the conceptual material is abstract making the majority of people whose minds work best with practical realities lost in a sea of quite excessive complexity. Still, these abstract terms come in the end to be second nature, part of the air they breath, even if not ever fully understood: democracy, Christianity, Islam, community, politics, inter alia.

Part 6:

There are several reasons why an autobiography like this is useful. One: it is itself a form of social action and an important one; two: it is a useful source of evidence for the future, evidence for grounding intellectual claims about social structures, relations and processes. Three: texts of this nature are sensitive barometers of social processes, movement and indicators of social change. And, four: texts of this nature are integral parts of a text-context, theory-practice nexus. I have drawn here on a paper by Urpo Kovala, a teacher at the university of Jyvaskyla in Finland. I think, though, that autobiographies, much like conversation and people's oral accounts of their lives, can feature difficult and sometimes ambiguous engagements with an accepted, orthodox or mainstream Bahá'í story and its history of persecution and idealism in various modes and mixes. Since there is, as yet, a distinctive but small literature of autobiography in the autobiographical tradition in the Bahá'í community, a tradition that creates, invents or imagines some international self for an international community; since there is no pioneering self that floats free of social, national, psychological, sociological, ethnic, and sexual differences; since that self is only constituted by and through difference and in history, I am forced to script that self in its relation to others, through adjacencies and through intimacies, through associations and disassociations. This makes for complexity and it has produced this ongoing narrative. Those who want a simple story of what I did and when and how--the normal parameters of an autobiography--will probably by now have stopped reading this work. I try to portray the vast invisible inscapes of my life, my society and my religion, but whether they make interesting reading, I can not tell.

I think it unlikely that there will ever be one compact, professional and efficient Price Industry, as such an Industry might come to be called some decades hence. It may loom into existence, if it ever does, with many points of origin, numerous individual starting points, evolving so unobtrusively, so obscurely, so slowly as to be unnoticed by the vast majority of readers bent on absorbing the burgeoning lines of thought that will be increasingly available to the public. If there is an escalating, a future, absorption in autobiographical and biographical studies in the Bahá'í community, due partly to a slowly engendered and multiform enthusiasm of readers, due to the privileging of print over performance and the apparent stability or consistency of the literary script over its theatrical realisation or completion and due also to an emerging world religion moving completely out of an obscurity it has been in for a century and a half and more, then this work may yet find a significant reading public.

“I can call it back,” writes Mark Twain in his autobiography, “and make it as real as it ever was and as blessed.” But what is real the philosopher Merle Ponte argues are “the interlocked perspectives” which we must “take apart step-by-step” and relive them in their temporal setting. And just as "the crossing, the process of departures and distancing from Europe are germinal in nineteenth century emigrant autobiographies," as Gillian Whitlock notes, so are these same features germinal in the stories of international pioneers. The crossing, like the journey of the pioneer, initiates a new consciousness of the self through emigration;" or, as Samuel Beckett wrote in 1931: "We are not merely more weary because of yesterday, we are also no longer even what we were before the calamity of yesterday." There is, too, some of what novelist Joseph Conrad calls the detritus of life. There is a detritus that surrounds the "minute wreckage that washes out of my life into its "continental receptacles" on both of the great landscapes where I have lived: Canada and Australia. The flotsam of a difficult first marriage, now partly forgotten but an important, a formative part, of my life and the recontained shipwreck of its bourgeois domesticity in a second marriage, may well be minute in my memory now nearly thirty years later, but that upheaval, like all upheavals, leaves its mark in quite complex and difficult to describe ways, as do other traumatic events and personal tests. The marks of life, major and minor, are difficult to paint with words on the emotional equipment of one's psyche.

Part 7:

I will say no more about this 'sea-change' which has been written about in great detail by many writers. The words of Roger White, though, are timely ones here:


A word is inundation, when it comes from the sea.-Emily Dickinson

The shore is safer than the sea,
It does not seethe nor call
Nor buffet and betray who’d quest
Nor heinously appal.

Astute’s the pilgrim on the land
Who never heeds the sea
And resolutely walks away-
It is not so with me.

I gaze upon the bitter wrecks
Mercilessly broken
And gauge my craft and weigh my words
The scheming waves have spoken.

Part 8:

The confrontation of sharply diverse cultures caught the imagination of the historian Herodotus(485-425 BC) and the modern philosopher civil-servant Turgot(1727-1781). It was this diversity and this confrontation that helped to provide the motivational matrix for the writing of their histories. They both saw in this diversity “a key to the understanding of history.” The confrontation of sharply different cultures has been a phenomenon that goes back probably hundreds of thousands of years if one draws on the science of paleo-anthropology . More recently, at least since Columbus and the beginnings of modern history, if one defines ‘modern’ as that period going back to the end of the Middle Ages, that clash of cultures has been increasing in extent and intensity. And this clash affects modern writing. Walter Benjamin once said that the most modern of texts would be made entirely of other texts. While this is not true of this text, it is difficult to ignore the partial truth of Benjamin's remarks as they apply to this autobiography. For as I write these words there are more than sixteen hundred references that I draw on to elaborate my story.

The confrontation of elements within this immense social & psychological diversity seemed to be coming to another head, to a climacteric, in the half century that has been both the years of my life and the first five decades of this Kingdom of God on earth. Two of the greatest, the most bloodthirsty, wars in history had been fought in the thirty-one years, 1914 to 1945, ending just as I had come into the world. It was a period which coincided with the adulthood of my parents and grandparents. And in the eight years preceding the inception of that Kingdom, 1945 to 1953, the atomic bomb had lent a special element to the range and momentum of the catastrophic aspects of the twentieth century. In a strange and nearly unbelievable way, it was all part of what the Bahá'ís came to call the process of the Lesser Peace.

Toynbee points to the Peloponnesian War(431 to 404 BC) as the beginning of the decline of Hellenic and Roman civilization. Perhaps 1914 marks the beginning of the end of the civilization into which I was born, Western civilization and the beginning, three years later, of the Lesser Peace and the new civilization that would emerge from the destructive fires of this age. Certainly the organizational aspects of the Cause, teaching plans, the embryo of Baha’i Administration could be said to go back to these years in the last half of the second decade of the twentieth century. While the old world began its decline, a new one was taking form. In 1919, at the heart of these embryonic years, when this new world was taking form and the Lesser Peace could be said to have just begun, my father was 24, my mother 15 and that other major influence on my early life, my mother’s father, was 47. This question of decline is a complex one with a host of views surrounding it. One recent author has argued that the 1960s marked the beginning of “real” secularization, the “permanent decline” of religion in the form of the churches and “pervasive Christian culture." Certainly the dialogue about religion has been a very complex one since the 1960s, since I began this pioneering venture, that it is not surprising that "teaching the Faith" has become the complex phenomenon that it has, at least in Australia and Canada, the fields where I have worked. The literature on secularism, though, suggests that the shift from a religiously based to a secular society has been taking place for over 400 years.

Part 9:

The analysis of what went on in the 1960s is now burgeoning. There was what you might call an orthodox perspective that continued until the late 1980s before it was challenged by a revisionist school. This school had an entirely different method of studying the 1960s and came to entirely different conclusions about its significance. A third approach tried to adjudicate between these two historiographic positions. It is not my intention here to dwell on the various systems of meaning and interpretation. The various interpretations of historians and scholars, the several paradigms of meaning, are part and parcel of all the decades that this pioneering story is concerned with and a work like this can not deal with these interpretations in any detail. Although my autobiography is in some ways essentially a work of history it can not expect to deal with the many permutations and combinations of the professional schools of history that deal with the same period of time.

I’ll include two poems here to convey some perspective on these three souls. What I write here is a far cry, a distant cousin, apparently, to the wide vistas of history and social analysis I have been writing about above. Readers will have to bear with me as I dance and dart from the macrocosm to the microcosm. Apologies to those readers who find my 'darting-and-farting', as they say in the vernacular here in Australia, frustrating. I think those who are comfortable with my style thusfar should have little difficulty wading through the six hundred and fifty pages to come. For those who find my style, my approach, too weighty, too cumbersome and difficult to take in, I can only say that, hopefully, there will be a reward for effort. Perhaps, too, this text would be improved by following the advice of American poet laureate Louis Gluck who wrote in 1994 that: "Writing is not decanting of personality." At the start of a volume of essays called Proofs and Theories she wrote: "The truth, on the page, need not have been lived. It is, instead, all that can be envisioned." In my case, for the most part, these words are lived. Gluck's words which follow, written in 2001, could very well describe many of my desires at the outset of this autobiography, especially the solitude I need to work:

Immunity to time, to change. Sensation
Of perfect safety, the sense of being

protected from what we loved
And our intense need was absorbed by the night
And returned as sustenance.


A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman.
-Wallace Stevens

She was born just after they arrived
from the old country1on a cold winter day
while hope still filled the air of our spirit,
before two wars sucked us a little dry
to put it absolutely mildly.
We really had no idea how sucked
we had been and still don't, not really.
We were left to face a continuing tempest
even in these fin de siecle years.

She came into that northern land
by a lake, below an escarpment,2
and stayed for seventy-four years.
She had one child
in twenty-three years of marriage,
played the piano, was very beautiful
and chanced upon a new Faith
as the ninth stage of history
and the Kingdom of God on earth
were just breaking in
and a new beginning for humankind
was on the way: little did we know.

Ron Price
6 December 1996

1 my mother was born in 1904 after her parents arrived from England in 1900.
2 my mother lived in and around Hamilton Ontario all her life.


One of Canada's major writers in the last half of the 20th century, Mordecai Richler, left Canada in 1950 at the age of 20 for the UK. Among the reasons he left was his opinion that he could not publish his writings in Canada. Canadian literature was still in its infancy, then, as a literary genre. It was about this time that my mother started to write. Except for only occasionally published pieces, most of my mother's work was unpublished. After some twenty years of gathering quotations from varied sources(1930-1950) and more than thirty years of extensive reading, mostly in literature, philosophy and religion, she began writing poetry. She was about forty-six.

The view of Canadians then, and now, was that they were "nice but solemn." At least that was how Richler expressed it in an interview fifty years later on Books and Writing, ABC Radio National(1:00-2:00 pm,18 July 2001) By the last decade of the twentieth century Canada had found a rich vein of literature in the form of several major writers on the international stage. By that time my mother had passed away. But during those years when Canada was moving from its infancy in literature to the more mature work that was beginning to be found in bookshops around the world in the years 1950-1980, my mother produced this body of poetry. It was not the work of a major poet or even, perhaps, a minor one. But it was the poetry of someone who loved words and who tried to put life's meaning into words. It was the poetry of someone I loved very much and to whom I owe much more than I can measure for my own interest in writing poetry as well as a whole attitude to life.

In the same way that autobiography provided an event of super-saliency in the life of my grandfather, the writing of poetry served as a similarly salient event in the life of my mother. Both autobiography and poetry have been strong influences on my own experience. It is difficult to know just how this process works but I would accord these events a central status. They help to counter the looseness of method in autobiography and they help me deal with the puzzling multiplicity of interpretations that attempt to explain a life. Some interpretations seem better, more pronounced, even if not definitive. One strives for a degree of interpretability, continuity and cogent coherence, for self-defining memories and prototypical scenes. Perhaps, too, as Schultz argues, it is a manifestation of “the principle of parsimony in action.” It draws webs of meaning together in one concise package, providing a handy touch point to remind myself who I am.

Canada's history was arguably not as bloody and angst-ridden as that of the United States, England or even Australia. Canada's novelists and poets simply 'mapped the territory' as Richler put it. In 1950, until her death in 1978, my mother, Lillian Price, was mapping her territory through poetry and, I should add, through art and music.

Building on the work of her father, Alfred J. Cornfield, whose autobiography was written when she was only sixteen or seventeen but was not published until 1980, less than two years after my Mother's passing and twenty-two years after Alfred Cornfield had passed away, Lillian was, indeed, 'mapping her territory,' as her father had mapped his more than thirty years before. Whereas he did his mapping in the form of autobiography and a life of extensive reading, Lillian used poetry for her main artistic medium.

In 1980, by the time I began to write poetry, at least poetry I kept copies of for the future, my mother had been gone for two years. Interestingly, my grandfather's work had only been published perhaps three months before I started writing poetry. By the time I began to write poetry and autobiography my grandfather had been gone for nearly a quarter of a century. I write these words to give perspective and context to my mother's work, work that I keep in my study here in George Town Tasmania. I keep it in a file and in a small booklet I have entitled Poetry: Mother. Around it, on the walls, are three of her pastel drawings which, with two photographs of her, are part of her memory, its aliveness, its freshness, even twenty-five years after her passing. After I left home, first in 1964 and then, when my father died in May 1965, my mother began to take up art. I do not know the exact date of the pieces in the collection here, but my guess is that they come from the years 1965 to 1978. To her musical talents and her poetic inclinations were now added the artistic in her latter years, after the age of sixty.

Then, as the 1970s, neared their end, my mother passed away. The many battles between heart and head, which were the pleasure and pain of her life and which were at the root of much of her artistic work, were at last over.

Ron Price
18 July 2001

And so, in a rambling sort of fashion I introduce my life and something of my family in the twentieth century. I'm always by degrees and alternating: amazed, slightly surprised, impressed, perplexed, bemused, alienated and fascinated by the cross-section of skills, abilities, successes, failures, indeed, the life-stories of the many members who constitute my family of origin and family by two marriages. The group is now a burgeoning one of some fifty people, approximately. I can't even keep track of their names. The experiences of most of them will never see the light of day in this autobiography. For most of my life I have not tried to keep a detailed track of their comings and goings, too occupied have I been with my own and several, although not all, of the most intimate of my familial relationships. For the few members of my family of birth or of marriage who have entered this narrative, except for an even smaller handful, they occupy a relatively small space.

Now that I am retired I take a distant and dispassionate view of the trail of people who are part of my consanguineal and affinal sets of relationships. Australian cartoonist Bruce Petty, when asked to describe "the domestic trail" of his life, said it was "utterly incoherent" and "a huge mystery." I laughed when I read those words. I liked Petty's honesty here. I think these phrases apply, in part, to my domestic life. But I would also use other phrases to characterize the overall picture. For I found all three of these foundation stones very anchoring to my spirit and body over the last six decades. I would not want to dismiss them as facilely as Petty does, although in my lesser moments I have to agree with him and his characteristically delightful humour. Perhaps, though, I'll let these relationships unfold in more detail in the seven hundred pages ahead.

This chapter provides a start to what has become a long story and an equally long analysis. I hope readers will find the chapters which follow both entertaining and instructive. If at times they seem a little boring and mechanical, as so many autobiographies are, I hope that readers will also find that they are usefully informative from time to time and intellectually simulating on occasion. I may not lift ticks from the clock and freeze them as Proust once did and as Vermeer once did in his paintings, but I try to save some of this swiftly passing life and invest it with a verbal value that time never permitted me to give it when it was happening. The discipline of psychoautobiography confines itself to salient episodes, special fragments, illuminating gestalts, persistent modes of behaviour, formal symmetries and constellating metaphors in a life. I cover more ground than just the salient features. I solve enigmas but leave many unsolved and so can not apply psychoautobiography to what has become a seven hundred page narrative. But there is an informed use of the psychological in this narrative and I hope it makes for a more well-rounded, a more satisfying life history. There is also an informed use of the writings and ideas of some of the "greats" of the western intellectual tradition. The wealth of this tradition provides a burgeoning base of quotable material. Here is one, again from Shakespeare, one of the many precepts and axioms which seem to drop casually from his pen, which I found to be a crucial way of putting my own experience, my own feelings, especially about those I loved:

In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleased to dote.

Bahá'u'lláh's says much the same thing in different ways, especially when He refers to the sin-covering eye. Much in relationships depends on this one quality.

The information I have sought and the experience I have had has been used and lived over these many decades in the service of a commitment I grew into, insensibly, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This information and this experience I now frame as I did while I travelled along the path within the context of goals I have had, goals which have determined what I needed to do on the journey. This information and this activity has been part of a life of committed action, what Kierkegaard called life in the ethical sphere. Now, in these early years of retirement, the information I am obtaining in abundance is supporting an engaged intellectual activity, furthering the coordination of my action in the Bahá'í’ world and the life I live in relation to that world. My everyday commitments have always had a context within an overall framework of what ultimately makes sense to me. And that is still the case providing, as this framework does, the terms of reference in which I obtain the information I do. There is a passion and energy in my work and now a harmony; this is no mere dabbling. Kierkegaard says that “will is the real core of man. It is tireless, spontaneous, automatic and reveals itself in many ways.” Seven or eight hours a day in the service of ideas and print is all my will can muster. There is spontaneity and the automatic in this exercise of writing and reading. For the remaining seven or eight hours a day during which I am awake I must turn my will to other things to refresh my spirit and survive in the world of the practical, the world of people and places. Like Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau more than a century before me, I travel widely within the confines of my small town with and in my mind. I confront life in and with my own spirit which is the most trying battleground life gives us. Only time will tell the extent of my mastery.

An insidious bi-polar illness, a long list of sicknesses beginning in early childhood, sadness and melancholy, fatigue resulting from fifty to seventy hours a week talking and listening, reading and writing, marking and planning as a teacher; guilt from crimes, follies and sins of a major and minor nature, baseness, impatience, lack of self-control, lust, indulgences of several kinds, the litany could go on and on; periodic failure in employment, in marriage, in relationships of various kinds, incapacities on a host of fronts--and still with this sense of burden, perhaps because of it, there arose this call to write. Perhaps this writing was simply--or not-so-simply--part of my "heart melting within me" as it says in the Long Obligatory Prayer. Of course, the heart did not melt all the time; the burden was not felt like some great weight over my head every minute of my existence.

Some of my sins I did not want the answer to "so keenly as to burn the bridges across which the sin continually" came. My entreaty to God to save me from my sin was mixed with a sense of repentance that was, often, "a very searching and disturbing affair." The effort to come to grips with many of my sins has often seemed too demanding. I have prayed long and hard over several decades but, it seems, that I so often simply(or not so simply) lack the constitutional fortitude. I can find the right "inward craving," but the promptings of my passions, their contagion, seems so much stronger than the control I need to deal with them. And so the battle rages.

I remember back in the mid-1990s, as I was beginning to plan my exit from the world of endless talk, people and listening as a teacher and Bahá'í in community; I remember that tastes, touches, sights and smells began to take on a new meaning. I seemed to recapture the past and live in the present with a greater intensity than I had been able to do in previous years. As the new millennium opened and I was at last free from meetings and people coming to me and at me at a mile a minute, the present and especially the past began to come at me noticeably free of those disappointments and anxieties that had for so many years accompanied my life. There was the sense of blossom, of freshness, of new colour, of bright intensity and there was also the sense of calm and a solemn consciousness.

This consciousness seemed productive of a quiet joy that had not been there before, perhaps this was partly due to fluvoximine and lithium's soothing presence in my brain and body chemistry, especially at the synaptic connections. They were certainly essential but, as I listened to Chopin's Ballade No.1 in G Minor, Opus 23 and gazed occasionally out of the window of my study at the lemon tree and the flowers my wife had recently planted in our front garden here in northern Tasmania, I felt a quiet joy. It was a joy which resembled that equable temperament that Wordsworth is said to have had and which allowed me to experience the emotions and events of earlier days, only this time they were recollected in tranquillity, in that "bliss of solitude."

Canadian poets have been found to express a melancholy, a feeling of resignation to misery, isolation and the feeling that man is encompassed by forces beyond his ability to control which strike out repeatedly and blindly to destroy him. Australian poets have a slightly different take on the melancholy in life. There is a great upwhelling of humour which plays with any high seriousness. Heroic action is seen to be futile in both Canada and Australia. Literary subject matter often becomes so removed from life that one finds only the residue of personal values, personal relationships and private worlds – worlds of gloom and despair at that in Canada. In Australia there is more of the celebration of the commonplace. I don’t want to go into an extended analysis of the literary in both cultures but, when one adds the dimension of a Baha’i overlay, a hybrid personality is created, a hybrid such as myself.

I do not so much want to recover the past; this work is not so much an autobiography of remembrance, although there is inevitably some of that. It is an autobiography of analysis and reflection. I want to write, also, about what I have not experienced and about what gives this life of mine meaning and worth. I am not living in this work the way some writers have done who failed to live in their life. I am certainly appraising my life, my times, my religion and the myriad relationships involved in such an appraisal, for appraisal has been for me somewhat of an obsession as these four epochs evolved and as the content of the appraisal shifted. For some writers, the great ones, it is style that endures. Lies, subterfuge and dissimulation become part and parcel of the text. This was true of Proust. For me, my aim is the essential truth of my life and times, however difficult it may be to find and describe it. Style is something of which I am hardly conscious.

I am conscious, though, of the epistemological upheaval taking place in the historical profession and in the field of autobiography. This upheaval has several major forms. One of these forms is based on the view that there are only possible narrative representations of the past and none can claim to know the past as it actually was. Of course, some historians maintain that conventional historical practice can be continued. Others say that the writing of history must be radically reconceived. The historian and literary analyst, Raymond Williams, says that the word “narrative” “is one of the most difficult words in the English language.”

My work may be out of step with the modern consciousness; my sexual revelations may be tame; my social preoccupations of interest to only a few; my politics irrelevant to the vast majority; but I like to think there is a rich and analytical base that is quiet and possessed of what many I’m sure will find to be a dull but hopefully pleasing silence, a silence which will, in time, attract some readers from among the loud impatient honks and belches that occupy so much of the public space these days. For there is, amidst the noise and tumult, a serious and sophisticated reading audience that has developed in the last several decades and now includes millions. This work may find a home among some of these millions. But whether it does or whether it doesn't for a citizen who acts or a writer who spends periods of time cloistered from society, the dilemma is the same. It is the dilemma of the witness. As witness, one asks: "Who am I to say?" Or: "Who am I, if I don’t say." The more deeply you examine your own life, the more deeply you enter your times, and from there, history.

Were we endowed with a longer measure of existence and lived perhaps two or three centuries, we might cast down a smile of pity and contempt on the crimes and follies of human ambition. But given the narrow span in which we live, that we are given, we seem eager to grasp at the precarious and short-lived enjoyments with which we are blessed. It is thus that the experience of history exalts and enlarges or depresses and confuses, the horizon of our intellectual view. In this autobiographical composition that has taken me some months or years, in this perusal that has occupied me for some several dozen days of total time, perhaps hundreds of hours, two centuries have rolled through these pages, with more attention paid to recent decades and less as the years go back. These are the two centuries since Shaykh Ahmad began his years as the Bab's precursor in Iran, circa 1804-6.

The duration of a life or an epoch, my life, is contracted to a fleeting moment. At the same time, this physical world, which gradually burst with wonder as the years rolled by, rapidly grew smaller as a result of radio, TV, the computer and a cornucopia of technological inventions. The grave, I sensed by my thirties, was ever beside life's achievement, however unconscious I was of its presence or should I say its absence most of the time. The success of life's ambition was instantly, or virtually so, followed by the loss of the prize. Our immortal reason survived as it reflected on the complex series of calamities and victories which passed before my eyes in history's larger and multi-coloured garment. The entire panoply and pageantry of it all faintly dwelt in my remembrance as I went about my daily duties. So is this true in varying degrees of all of us. And it is this remembrance that I write about in this autobiography, these fleeting years in which the Bahá'í Faith and the world have been transformed; in which the processes of integration and disintegration were gathering momentum, accelerating unobtrusively and yet, ironically, quite conspicuously; in which the world's landscape daily grew more desolate, threatening and unpredictable and yet more comfortable physically due to a range of consumer durables that were not enjoyed by the world's peoples at any time in history and were still not enjoyed by half the population, perhaps three billion or more.

Liberal relativism and capitalism represent a single, a dominating and comprehensive world-view, as they have in "Western civilization" during all these epochs and especially since the fall of communism in the late 1980s. Against this background, during these several epochs of my life, great conceptual, political and social changes have taken place in the midst of terrible suffering. The Faith itself has undergone a succession of triumphs which are documented elsewhere. It would appear an even greater toll of grief and travail, unimaginably appalling, is in the offing in the remaining years of this epoch and the epoch to come which will take us to 2144, in all probability. But there is too, somewhere down the track, a vision of great glory and beauty for man and society--from a Bahá'í perspective.

I think that I have some advantages over the film-maker who tries to reduce a life to 24 frames per second. Something happens on the way to the screen that does not happen on the way to the page. Despite the evocations of the past through powerful images, colourful characters and moving words, film so often does not fulfil the basic demands for truth and verifiability used by writers of history. Film compresses the past into a closed world by telling a single, linear story with essentially a single interpretation at least such is the general pattern in the first century of film history. I try to avoid this trap. I do not deny historical, autobiographical alternatives. I do not do away with complexities of motivation and causation. I do not banish subtlety. I explore it in all its paradoxes and nuances. But in a world where most people get most of their information about history from visual media, I am conscious that history and one of its sub-disciplines, autobiography, have become somewhat esoteric pursuits, that a large part of the population not only does not know much history but does not care that they don’t know. It would seem that it is becoming difficult for many writers about the past to tell stories that engage people. At the same time there is a plethora of books that tell wonderful stories. Film tells stories so very well. We are certainly not short on stories.

To render the fullness of the complex, multi-dimensional world in which we live we need to juxtapose images and sounds; we need quick cuts to new sequences, dissolves, fades, speed-ups, slow motion, the whole panoply and pageantry of film to even approximate daily life and daily experience. Only film can recover all the past’s liveliness. So goes one view. On the other hand, some critics of film say that film images carry a poor information load. They say that history is not primarily about descriptive narrative. It is about debate over what happened, why it happened and what significance it had. It’s about personal knowledge. What I try to do in this book is get six each way. In the absence of film’s captivating charm I try to do what film can’t do or certainly won’t be doing with my life while I am alive. This book contains much that is the stuff of film, a surface realism, the truth of direct observation, but I try to reach out to people through the inner life, through character, through psychology and what is private and not visible or catchable on camera. In the process I am confident I will catch or contact some and with others no contact will be made. tis is inevitable.

I do with my life what history tries to do with people’s lives. I write and in the process feel less peculiar and less isolated, less alienated, less lonely. The wrap-around feeling one gets at the movies, the swamping of the senses, the feeling of being there, I get in the writing of this autobiography. I also get elements of reflection, evaluation, argument, weighing of evidence, dealing with inaccuracies and simplifications. Whether the reader can get both is another question. The intellectual density of the written word can be conveyed in film and the senses can be stimulated as much by print as by the cinema. One can try to do both but to really pull it off is no mean feat.

My work possesses, for me, an escape from the world and its complex of incidents, demands, compulsions and solicitations of every kind and a degree of urgency. These external and never-ending minutiae of life, these incidents, “overtake the mind," as Paul Valery once wrote, "without offering it any inner illumination." Now and in this work the world blows through me like the wind, as it has blown through my life and my times. Writing this account is a world of wait and watch, ponder and ponder. Its chief reward is a stimulating affect on my mind. Sometimes there is exhaustion. But there is and has been a daily renewal which was something I did not get in my last years of teaching.

By the time I was nearly 55 and ready to retire from teaching I had begun to taste a "pervasive spiritual strangulation," a disappointment, a fatigue of the heart, a tedium vitae, an "existential exhaustion." This was my experience in the 1990s beginning in my late forties and early fifties. It was part of Shakespeare's experience as conveyed in his sonnets. What every human being does in their inmost thoughts and responses, the play of feeling on things seen and felt, this is what we find in his sonnets. This is what I try to portray, too, in this narrative. It was not all gloom and doom, though. There was, as well, as John Updike observed, a new fun in life, "an over-50 flavour." This will become evident to readers as they progress through this book. Perhaps all I had was what Jed Diamond called, in his two books on the subject, the male menopause, which he regarded as the major male change of life in his whole life. There clearly was an angst, but there also was an inner peace, a dichotomy, a contradiction in terms, perhaps consistent with my bi-polar disorder. In 1998 I began a series of testosterone injections, not for my libido but for a fatigue which was making me go to sleep every afternoon. By late 1999, and my early retirement these injections were discontinued. The fatigue and angst gradually dissipated as the new millennium opened.

What I write here is closer to history than most dramatic film or documentary television. Things have to be invented to make stories, the content of dramatic film, a smooth documentary hour, coherent, intense and one that can be fitted into a two hour time-slot. The most difficult thing for many to accept about film is that this most literal of media is not at all literal. What we see on the screen is less a description than an invention of the past. But what is here in this autobiography deals with ‘just the facts, mam.’ It deals with them in a certain fashion to deal with coherence and incoherence, intensity and boredom, time’s regularities and irregularities. It deals with history in a way that is new in the history of literature. For literature until the last century or so has dealt with the upper classes, the well-to-do, and only since the coming of these two modern Revelations have ordinary, everyday, men and women, even begun to tell their stories or have them told by others.

The awful mysteries and the true nature of the institutions of this Faith I have come to believe in and give a context to in this narrative as well as the devotional side of my life's experience I have both concealed from the eyes of the multitudes of humankind. Indeed, it seemed necessary to exercise the utmost caution, even to affect a certain secrecy, in these early epochs of this Formative Age when the tenets of this Faith are, as yet, "improperly defined and imperfectly understood." It was a secrecy, a caution, that for me derived from the implications of the claim of Bahá'u'lláh, a claim which over time would involve both opposition and struggle, authority and victory. I often felt a little like a secret-agent man possessed of knowledge no one around me had. Sadly, it appeared that those around me, for the most part, did not want that knowledge. So it was that I possessed only some of the equation, the analogy, the picture of the secret-agent man. I often felt the romance and the excitement of the role, however subdued it was by reality.

I am more than a little conscious that I am, like Benjamin Jowett of Balliol College, "swallowed up in a corporate body" which will outlast me. I possess, then, a kind of derivative immortality. My own life is only an element in that body's more permanent life. My work, like that of all my fellow Bahá'ís, will be carried on by my successors, the generations yet to come. Our story and the story of our successors will be found in many places. This is only one small part of that story. For humanity will again become united around a transcending moral issue and this narrative is a speck in the long road that is that story. At the moment the transcending pathfinders among us can not be spotted; society does not appear ready to risk the acquisition a new path, a new, a common metanarrative. But these pathfinders will not be going away; they will be waiting to help a confused society find its way back to a clarity of purpose. Of course that society and the individuals which compose it, must want what the Baha’is have to offer. I often feel the way a criminal I once watched on his release from years in confinement. He said at the time that he felt like he was being treated as if he had been lagging in suspended animation all those years he had been in prison. His old inmate friends, he said, had similar experiences. They had all been treated as though they had just returned from a brief trip to the toilet or out of town for a few hours. Even though they had been in the nick for a decade, they were greeted casually and their friends had then gone about their business as if nothing had happened in the interim.

I feel as if I am in possession of a wondrous jewel but it remains undiscovered, unknown and, for the most part, unwanted. This autobiography is part of the longstanding effort of the Baha’i community to take this jewel and, by some mysterious process, breathe a new life in this "spiritual springtime" and "array those trees which are the lives of men with the fresh leaves, the blossoms and fruits of consecrated joy." At least the words I put on paper are not in suspended animation, however much I am and have been during these epochs.

In my dress, my food, my homes, my furnishings, my gardens, my transport, my employments and enjoyments, I was clearly one of those favourites of fortune among the global billions who united every refinement of convenience and of comfort, if not elegance and splendour. So many of these emoluments soothed my pride or gratified my sensuality, insensibly acquired, largely unappreciative of their comforts due to familiarity and their continuous presence like the very air I breathed. One could not give the name of luxury to these refinements of mine. Nor could I be severely arraigned by the moralists of the age for possessing these basics. But I often thought that it would be more conducive to the virtue, as well as the happiness of mankind, if all possessed the necessities and none of the superfluities of life. And one day, it was my view, that would be the case.

Many autobiographies purport to deal with one thing while, in reality, dealing with something else. Hillary Clinton's recent autobiography was intended to be about the many controversies and scandals in Bill Clinton's campaigns and presidency, presumably to get these issues behind her before she contemplated running for the White House herself. Yet her book skates over the problems the Clinton administration faced in its rocky debut and in the impeachment crisis and skims over details of matters like Whitewater and "travelgate." It expends a startling amount of space on Mrs. Clinton's trips abroad, on her personal appearance and on what is simply trivia. This is where her frankness is found; for example, her frank dislike of golf.

I hope this book of mine avoids this unfortunate trap of the populist autobiographer. I hope I achieve what I set out to do. There is certainly little frankness in this work about the trivia in life. Perhaps it would be better if there had been. Hilary Hammell, in her review of Hilary Clinton's book in the Yale Review of Books, concludes that Mrs. Clinton may just have convinced 600,000 people to vote for her in 2008. It may have been that she did not waste her words on trivia. And it may be that this work of mine should have taken a leaf out of Mrs. Clinton’s work and included much more of this everyday bone and chouder.

Michiko Kakutani, writing in the New York Times about a book by one Scott Berg, says that Katherine Hepburn was decidedly unaccustomed to the art of introspection. Revelations in Scott Berg's biography of Hepburn, published two weeks after her death, are few and scattered. "Hepburn, I learned," Mr. Berg writes, "always lived in the moment; and once an event had been completed, she was on to the next. There was no looking back." This work, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, is strongly, decidedly introspective. It is just about entirely a book that looks back, but with one eye firmly fixed on the future. My role as witness to, as a contemporary of, the developments in the Bahá'í community in the half-century 1953-2003 is a major feature of this narrative. It is a witness that has an eye on the future, that feels like it has the very future in its bones.


I would not want anyone to be under any illusions regarding the pioneering experience, at least the experience that was mine and many others in the last half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I would not want to see future men and women looking anxiously back in history’s landscape, in its towns, villages and cities, farms and rural aspects, and large and small organizations for non-existent excitements and the thrill of adventure due to some mythic pioneering identity, some imaginary creation, some literary and artistic representation of pioneering that had a particular potency in the collective imagination but was false. Some internal and external view of pioneering created by pioneers and travel teachers whose poetry and fiction, whose prose and story creates an idealised and Romantic myth, I want to counter and clarify. I would want the pull of pioneering, the quest for the heart of its potential experience to be a realization that, although one detaches oneself completely from one's normal social environment, much of life can and often does remain the same. -Ron Price with thanks to C. Aitchison, N. MacLeod and S. Shaw, Leisure and Tourism Landscapes: Social and Cultural Geographies, Routledge, London, 2000, p.89.

It's been an adventure, mate;
you could even make it
into one of those movies
for the evening escape.

This story is unscripted,
flawed and plausible,
only the predictable wonder
of an ordinary life,
none of the tedium of
the choiceless invulnerability
of the movie-evening-hero,
none of the glitter and gloss.

You can't edit your life
to emerge in celluloid safety
with that toothpaste-ad-smile finish,
sliding smoothly from scene to scene
with that sense of story-writ-large
across the two hour coloured show.

This one you have to make
which, like nature, is slow
and seemingly uneventful,
the hero quietly enduring.
The big story is on the inside;
the technicolour manipulation
is largely unbeknownst to all,
silent, rich, self-created
or not there at all.

Ron Price
2 November 2000

The next poem focuses more sharply on that Arctic adventure twenty-eight years after it ended. The word 'transformation' has much meaning for me when I view life over many decades. A different person emerges, perhaps several times in life but, in the short term, in the day-to-day grind, I would use the term epiphany to describe some intense experience but not transformation. We each describe our life in different ways for we are, as that 18th century autobiographer Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, "sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime."


Genuine self-revelation is a rare gift, almost a creative gift. How alien, how remote, seem most people's memoirs, autobiographies and confessions from the real current of their actual days. Some autobiographies use self-revelation as a form of social protest, a form of victim narrative. Sylvia Plath's poem The Bell Jar(1950's) is one of the earliest examples. More recent victim narratives are about self-promotion, sensationalism and self-disclosure: here oppressors and victims all tend to blurr. Perhaps many who read my work will find it alien and remote, just not enough juices, not enough heat, not enough to turn you on, a little too analytical thank you very much. While my memoirs are focussed, my experience tells me, they are also in a context with too much analysis for many people’s liking. For this and many other reasons their popularity will elude me.

If my memoirs were more like those who wrote of their travels on the Oregon, the Santa Fe or the Cherokee Trail, among many others; the adventures of many of the explorers in Australia or in any one of the many parts of western civilization in the 18th and 19th centuries; indeed, the lives, actions and adventure stories of which there are thousands extant, I'm sure success would have been mine--or at least mine more easily. Perhaps, too, I should have followed American humorist Will Rogers' advice. He said, partly in jest and partly seriously, "When you put down the good things you ought to have done and leave out the bad things you did do, that's memoirs." Perhaps I’ve left out too many bad things. Perhaps, as well, my memoirs could have been liberally laced with photos, sketches, emoticons, a wide range of visual enrichments that have become available to writers in recent decades. For this more audio-visual age I'm sure these embellishments would have been an asset to the acceptance and success of this work.

I have tried to connect my work as far as possible to the real current of my times, my days and my religion. Such efforts are sometimes called vintage memoirs. Such memoirs celebrate a period of time with music, the arts, books, furniture, architecture and a wide selection of cultural adornments like: clothing, foods, technology, inter alia. These vintage memoirs place the person in the context of material culture and for those more interested in the culture and less in the person, this is an excellent technique. My efforts in this direction are meagre.

I don't go anywhere near, say, the in/famous Howard Stern, the radio 'shock-jock' who introduced a new radar of naughtiness into media society. Most of his public revelations are, for me, private things. I'm not into exploiting myself to make a buck, to introduce self-tabloidization, pseudo-victimization or anti-victimization. There is no resemblance whatsoever between my memoirs and, say, those of bystanders, war heroes, prostitutes, criminals and celebrities. There are literally thousands of memoirs becoming available now from ordinary people inhabiting history's troubled waters to the ordinary among my contemporaries. I'm just one of a million, the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human.

Autobiographical truth is not a fixed but an evolving content in an intricate process of self-discovery and self-creation.1 The self at the centre of all autobiographical narrative is in some basic, subtle and quite mysterious ways a fictive structure. But whether fictive or non-fictive, there has been at the centre of this narrative an explicit avowal, an acceptance, of the embodiment of moral authority in the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith and Their elected successors, the trustees of a global undertaking, the Universal House of Justice. There was, too, a facticity at the centre of this work. This is not a work of self-creation as readers come across so frequently in the entertainment business.2 -Ron Price with thanks to: 1Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention, Author Unknown, Princeton UP, 1985, p.3; and Joe Lockard, "Britney Spears, Victorian Chastity and Brand-name Virginity," Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, October 2001.

I have often written poems about his past. This one, written some twenty-eight years after the event that it is concerned with, attempts to summarize my year among the Eskimo and some of its meaning in retrospect. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 27 April 1996.

Like some shot out of the night,
a blast from the past,
from a frozen land
where big pioneering began,
where I was worn to a frazzle,
burnt to a crisp and at forty below!
Taken away on a jet and put in a net,
like a bird in a cage,
frightened on every page,
my brain burning with rage;
slowly it soothed
and the cold Artic air
became a thing of the past,
some moment in time,
like a memory sublime
with adventure writ high
and many a long sigh,
long before I was to die.

Some passing few months,
over in the blink of an eye,
there, for a time, I nearly died.

Ron Price
27 April 1996

This poem, one of the few rhymng poems that I have written, for I don't seem to enjoy rhyming poetry. It always feels contrived. But it does say something about that experience I had at the age of 23 on Baffin Island. However intimate my autobiography, I see my life as part of a universal history, a history that Lord Acton, one of the great modern Western historians described in a letter he wrote to the contributors to The Cambridge Modern History, dated March 12th 1898. His vision of universal history contains some of the perspective within which I write about my own mundane and ordinary life. Acton wrote: "By universal history I understand that which is distinct from the combined history of all countries….a continuous development…not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul. It moves in a succession to which the nations are subsidiary.” In the twentieth century a succession of universal histories followed: Spengler's in 1918, H.G. Wells' in 1919; Toynbee, who began his monumental work, in 1921; and Eric Hobsbawn’s four volume work completed in 1996, among others.

In a strange and certain way pioneering, and especially international pioneering which was three years into the future from this experience among the Eskimo, lifts one into this universal history. Perhaps that is why I have found reading Toynbee so stimulating over more than four decades of pioneering. There is another historical paradigm that I have found useful for interpreting my times, my life, my religion, all that I have seen in history and anticipated in the future. It is what could be called “the decline and fall” paradigm. Saint Jerome, while writing his 'Commentary on Ezekiel', in 410 AD said that he was “so confounded by the havoc wrought in the West and above all by the sack of Rome" that long did he remain silent, "knowing it was a time to weep.” So, too, is our time a time to weep. With Rumi, the Persian poet, we are justified in saying: "do not mock the wine, it is bitter only because it is my life." The generations of the twentieth century have seen, heard or read about billions dieing. Is this a taste of things to come? Whatever wine of pleasure and comfort we in the West have enjoyed in these decades, and there have been many pleasures and comforts, there is a tincture of bitterness, of sadness, of sorrow, of melancholy, in the cup from the immense and tragic sufferings which have afflicted the human condition in our time, the generations born in the twentieth century.

Toynbee sees the period of what historians call the ‘fall of the Roman Empire in the West’ as “vultures feeding on the carrion or the maggots crawling in the carcass” of that society. Roman society, argues Toynbee, especially in the days of the Empire(that is after 31 BC), was moribund. So, too, I would argue is our own society. The society we live in in terms of its traditional political and religious institutions is moribund. There are vultures feeding on the carcass of all its traditional institutions all over the planet. In such a climate autobiographers like myself must be on guard that, as William Maxwell says, "in talking about the past" it is possible that we may "lie with every breath we draw." The story, the history, is complex and one can easily get one's interpretations of the reality of our circumstances wrong. Our views are, so often, not so much lies as Maxwell saw it, but simply or not-so-simply errors.

We also need to develop, as Dr. Johnson did centuries ago, an acute sensitivity to artificiality in our writing and to the very nature of our analysis. In a resonant phrase by language theorist and social philosopher Roland Barthes, ours is a ‘Civilization of the Image.’ To get behind the image, away from the pervasive penetration of the image, requires the penetration of imagination, creativity, understanding and insight. I hope I provide some of these items in the recipe, the mixture, here.

Doomsdaying, present to a greater or lesser extent in all ages, has become a chief mode or form of social activity in modern culture. The ancient Romans are often compared to the Americans in what Patrick Brantlinger calls a “negative classicism.” We have developed, many argue, some of the negative features of classical civilization. The serious literature of most Western countries, at least since 1914 writes W. Warren Wager, has been “drenched with apocalyptic imagery.” It is not my purpose here to outline the optimistic and utopian or the pessimistic and dystopian scenarios that have filled the print and electronic media in my time, though Brantlinger does one of the best jobs of doing so. The analyses of our social, economic, political and psychological cultures now available are burgeoning and often enlightening. Indeed, I could devote a special chapter to what I see as relevant commentary and from time to time I will refer to some theory, some theorist, some commentary, some analysis. But I do not want to burden readers or myself with analysis. Readers will probably find I have provided more than enough analysis in my own individual way.

But, like Leon Edel, the chief biographer of American writer Henry James, I feel as if "my life has been the quintessence of what I have written......The way I am and the way I write are a unity." So, analysis is, for me, just part of the story, part of me, my thought, who I am. For the self is not a thing, but the meaning embodied in a man, in a life.

Just as our Western world emerged out of the chaos of the break-up of the Roman Empire and “the deep sleep" of the interregnum(circa AD 375-675)” which followed, so is a global civilization emerging out of the break-up of the traditional societies all around the world including our own western society. We, too, have a deep sleep in our own time in the midst of the break-up of the old world. The roots of faith, without which no society can long endure, have been severed. Perhaps they were severed in that blood bath of WW1; perhaps the severing was completed in WW2 just as I was born, but certainly in the half century that it has been my privilege to serve in this embryonic chrysalis church, the institutional matrix, the embryo, of a new world Order, the chord of Faith has been cut. In many ways, this chord has been recreated, rebuilt, reshaped around a thousand alternative faiths, sects, cults, isms and wasms creating a sense of confusion and noise that is part of the new set of problems of these epochs.

The policy of the many governing bodies, as far as they concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious part of the citizenry. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in this emerging global society, like the Roman world two thousand years before, were all considered by most of the people, at least the people who inhabited the landscapes where I lived during these epochs, with equal indifference or on some basis or principle of exclusivity or preference. Most philosophers, intellectuals and academics saw the multitude of religions as equally false. There were many, though, among the great masses of humanity, who saw these religions, or at least one, as true, useful, pernicious, absurd or simply the leftovers of a previous age. The blight of an aggressive secularism often replaced inherited orthodoxies and a unsatisfying religious heritage. Such was part of the climate that was the backdrop for these epochs.

But, however one analyses the process of social disintegration, the death of an old Order and the birth of a new one that is characterizing this age, for me the great historian and sociologist, Reinhardt Bendix puts my life and this pioneering experience in its primary and, what you might call, its existential setting. He quotes Jacob Burkhardt's emphasis on "man suffering, striving, doing, as he is and was and ever shall be" at the centre of the process. In autobiography this centre is inevitable whether one acknowledges a transcendental Centre or no centre at all.

Section 1:

In 1988, just as I was settling into Perth Western Australia and working as a lecturer in general studies at a technical and further education college in the CBD of Perth, the famous director of film and theatre who some said defined American experience for the generation after WW2, Elia Kazan, published his autobiography. I knew nothing of this since I was occupied with 60 to 80 hours a week with: (i) my teaching duties, my work in the Bahá'í community and my responsibilities as a father, husband and friend. My writing life, at least, a more serious emphasis on several of the literary arts, had only just begun. Five years before I had a series of newspaper articles published, weekly articles of 800 words each spread over two years, 1983 to early 1985. I had also begun a journal and a series of articles on the Bahá'í Faith. I found all of this or, at least, most of this activity, very encouraging.

Elia Kazan(1909-2003) was a Greek-American director, producer, writer and actor, described by The New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history." Kazan was, he often admitted, a study in contradictions. He wrote in that 1988 autobiography, ''Elia Kazan: A Life' that he thought that he was like a black snake. "I've shed several skins in my time, lived several lives and known violent and cruel changes. Generally I've understood what happened only after it happened." I found these works germane to my own experience partly due to the extremes of my mood associated with bipolar disorder.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., writing about Mr. Kazan's autobiography in a New York Times Book Review, described this famous director as "brilliant, passionate, generous, restless, discontented, angry, vengeful and a fount of creativity, resentment and controversy." Mr. Kazan was all that, and more. It is difficult to assess oneself even when writing an autobiography, but I would have trouble seeing my own life in terms of resentment or vengefulness. All the other words applied to Kazan have been associated with my life in one way or another at different times and in different places. Of course, I did not travel in the world of fame and celebrities, money and notoriety as Kazan did. My life was much more of the ordinarily ordinary and humanly human in the world of quotidian reality. Mr. Kazan attributed much of his life to his Anatolian origins, particularly what he called in his autobiography "his desire to ingratiate and his capacity to dissemble with his Anatolian smile." It was this that he so disliked in his father. This smile, he said was "the smile that covers resentment." I, too, learned by my 30s some of the skills at pleasing people, but my smiles did not hide or cover resentment or revenge. Kazan writes of his obsessive attraction to other men's women, and his desire to take them away. He was throughout his life a self-acknowledged compulsive seducer of women. I can certainly understand such a man, but I always held my desires in check. My religion played a big part there. There was also nothing in particular that I disliked about my father, except his temper which frightened me to death as a child and in my early teens, but which I came to understand later in my adult life when I, too, had to deal with my own temper.

Section 2:

In narrating a life, one's own life, one establishes the subjective facts of one's life experience. I try to communicate the feel and texture of my life. I try to tell it how it is or was. When I tell, I make experience and interpretations of life present in a social scene of action, using the terms of my Canadian-and-Australian linguistic, historical and cultural communities. 'Presence' in my use of words is the act of giving sense to my life, of giving my life shape, of giving it corporeality. Narrating puts knowledge into play in the real world. Experiences, feelings, inchoate thoughts take form. They gain substance. They become something other than internal wanderings; they become active as they are entered into the here and now of the social world. There is a certain sense in which telling objectifies my subjective experience and projects it into the world of social life. The words live on past their internal value, beyond the closed-off space of the un-told.

My narrations are considered not only by myself but also by others. They can be taken as an object and analyzed. They are en-textualized in speech or action and can be commented upon, returned to in conversation and taken to other contexts. Certainly, an important aspect of narrating is telling experience in order to make known what I have lived through. Memoirs and autobiographies are often primarily interested in making life experiences known. This is especially true in cases of hardship and injustice; for example, the publication of journals and stories from the trenches in World War I is voluminous. But even more exceptional are the stories of concentration and death camp survivors after World War II, who provided written and oral testimony of their experiences. In the language of Holocaust studies, witnesses make present their memories through their testimony. "Making present" is a claim to truth, of holding on to the reality of the past. This is one of the nuances of the idea. In making present, speakers are making claims about the reality of their experiences or knowledge. Part of the object of making present is to clear a space, to make an argument for, the narrator’s understanding of reality. My traumas are nothing like as tragic and extended, as serious and public as the chaos narratives of war veterans or Holocaust victims.

Section 2.1:

Of course, cynical and dishonest accounts are always possible. The relationship between telling and experience is complex. Narrating makes present but this presence is always in the context of an absence. There is always a gap between what we know and experience and what we tell. The gap consists of the inability of words to truly capture and represent events and perhaps sentiments and our inability to speak or write as fast as we think and feel. But also, narrating is restrained by the relevance of our thoughts to the current conversation, their tellability in this context (Ochs & Capps, 2001). Power dynamics constrain or limit the ability to speak (Johnstone, 1996). Unconscious desires, conflicts, or traumas may edit internal processes. People lie or willingly conceal. When we give voice to an idea, the expression is not a direct representation of experience itself. Despite the disjuncture between experience & telling, narrating is closely tied to lived experience and our reflections on life. Narrating is, arguably, the closest that we can get to experience and our understanding of experience. There is no denying the fact that narrations are constructions but they are constructions which articulate aspects of our lived experience and they become active forces in the field of social life. Narrative works in presence. And it must. What can be said about absence, except it is not there? Most of the time, there is not a lot more to add. Still, we need to recognize and attend to the limits of narrating and what it can reveal about human experience.

The fusion of narratings in time and space is the subject I want to turn to briefly in what follows. Narrating is always making present at some specific time and place. In a very real sense, experience is made present here and now, in the context of a particular conversation, real or imagined, that is taking place at a certain time. Considering the idea of making present in relation to time and space adds additional nuances to this function. It will be helpful if I describe this concept of making present in time and space separately. But in a sense, they always go together to form a complete context. Bakhtin (1981) coined the term chronotope to describe the fusion between time and space evidenced in literary narratives. But the idea is equally applicable to other varieties of telling.

Section 3:

Young’s (2004) analysis of oral narratives makes this point explicit. Beginning from Goffman’s analysis of frames, Young argues that there are two frames that surround stories about the past. The widest frame, Young calls the realm of conversation. Indeed,storytelling is part of everyday language in use. It is found within dialogues, which have echoes of other previous conversations and projections to future scenarios. The conversation that we are in right now is part of a long chain of conversations and only meaningful because it stands in reference to them. Smaller than the realm of the conversation is the story realm, which Young defines as “tellings, writings and performances—that is, of recountings of or alludings to events understood to transpire in another realm” (p. 77). The story realm is the here and now in which tellers use language in order to conjure another world. The taleworld is this other realm. It is the world of characters and actions that we take to have transpired in another space and time.

Although my definition of narrative is somewhat different than Young’s, her analysis evokes the embeddedness (Georgakopoulou, 2007) of where telling happens. Taleworlds are made present in a specific time/space horizon. They are made present here/now or there/then—in a definite chronotope. We can begin to imagine and concretely describe the when and where of narrating, when and where narrators make a world present. In terms of temporality, making present means literally bringing experience and evaluation into the present, in present time. In terms of spatiality, making present means building shared tellings and understandings of self, other, & world. The relationship between narrative and time is a central concern in narrative study. Some researchers argue that narrative is the vehicle for bringing together the present, past, and future into a coherent whole (McAdams, 1996). Freeman (2010) argues that one of the proper functions of narrative is reflecting on and making sense of the past. For Freeman, understanding is always from the perspective of the present, looking backward, what he calls hindsight. Reflection provides the space for creating new and meaningful understandings of the past. Hindsight is a kind of “recuperative disclosure” (p. 44). He writes that hindsight and poetry can be “agent[s] of insight and rescue, recollection and recovery, serving to counteract the forces of oblivion” (p. 44).

There is now an extensive literature that analyses autobiography and life-narratives. "The Function of Narrative:Toward a Narrative Psychology of Meaning" by Brian Schiff of the American University of Paris is an author I have drawn on in the above. I could quote even more voluminously than I have in the above, but I think what I have said here, as well as in Part 1.1 of this lengthy work is satisfactory. This article comes from the journal "Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations and Interventions." The bibliography is also useful for readers who are seriious students of the genre.


Part 1:

I think that pioneering and especially international pioneering has a transformative affect much like that of the American in its frontier journey West. A permanent spiritual impress was set upon the national character of the American nation as it grew and travelled West. A social pull of prodigious force was exerted on this new state. A distinctive medium, a spiritual vein, a vast monument was slowly, insensibly introduced over two centuries into a newly-made American character. It seems to me this is also happening in the Baha’i community just as insensibly, over several centuries but on a global landscape, a global enterprize.

Like the Apostles of old charged with the tremendous task of teaching the whole of humankind a new religion of The Book, the international pioneer is conscious of the world-wide range of the mission of the Baha’i community. Over time he also becomes aware of the enhancement of his faculties through the inpouring of the spirit of God. Of course, he is promised this in the Baha’i writings as the Christian was promised that he would “receive power”(Acts 1:8) from the Holy Ghost. It is difficult to comment on the experience of others; it is difficult to comment on one’s own “enhancement of faculties.” In this memoir I do so by degree, often indirectly, often poetically, often insinuating the topic into my narrative as the enhancement insinuated itself in mysterious but quite definitive ways into my life over several decades of this pioneering experience.

The question about what constitutes genuine understanding or a valid interpretation of an ongoing life story is a crucial one. Obviously, not all interpretations are valid. Valid interpretation relies on good guesses, partly because all our actions are what one could call plurivocal. They are open to several readings, views, opinions on their meaning or purpose. Guesses only enable the process of interpretation to begin; it is a necessary step in judging what is important in life, in one’s own life, in gaining any understanding. Certitude in so much of the interpretations of our actions, if not all of them, cannot be demonstrated. The best we can get most of the time are strong probabilities. And as I have pointed out before in the words of John Hatcher: “We can not possibly evaluate what befalls us or anyone else in terms of whether it ultimately results in justice or injustice or whether it is harmful or beneficial.” The fruition of our life and its actions is destined for another plane of existence. Is it difficult to evaluate this pruning process.

There is, then, an ongoing recomposition, involving imagination and critical reflection, in the writing of autobiography. The story is never ended until we die and the meaning changes all the time. There are, though, what you might call valid understandings which possess an internal coherence; they do not violate the whole of the story; they seem to be authentic, genuine. In the end, though, as Paul Ricoeur notes, “it is still possible to make an appeal.” The appeal process, Ricoeur argues, belongs in the realm of the poetic, the metaphorical. “Truth,” he says, “no longer means verification but manifestation.” Here language is a vehicle of revelation, intuition. Ricoeur emphasizes the importance of this “poetic understanding” to project a new world, to break through, to open. It involves opening or exposing “oneself to receive a larger self.” Readers will, then, find many a poem that I use to try and “break through” “open,” to intuit and manifest some larger, deeper, perspective, to obtain “a radical personal engagement with the truth claims” of my life, my religion and my views of my world. Ricoeur adds that in autobiographical writing: "The task of hermeneutics is to charter the unexplored resources of the to-be-said on the basis of the already said. Imagination never resides in the unsaid.” To put this idea in a slightly different way: every image of the past that is not recognized and expressed in the present as one of the present's own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably from our grasp. This autobiography is in some ways my simple attempt to tie down what tends to be somewhat slippery, somewhat evanescent. I must admit that I write somewhat in the same vein of Kurt Vonnegut's smiling, shrug-shouldered, but not unserious admission that all writers write "in the secret utopian hope of changing the world." And, if this I can not do, I'm happy just to get my story told.

Part 2:

In the pages ahead, then, readers will find imagination and critical reflection working together. We all take up things differently. We play with the materials of our world differently. Imagination brings home unreliable and often shady friends such as dreams, questions, flashes of insight; critical reflection’s friends are eminently respectable, though often difficult for imagination to bear. Sometimes they work together well and it is impossible to tell what is going to come of their intimate collaboration. But the work of the imagination is in the context of reportage and form. If falsehood is detected, says Richard Coe, autobiography fails. And this is a serious statement for who can be absolutely honest every minute or every day and every minute when one writes! Noone: not in everyday life nor in the writing of autobiography. But, if I am successful here, through poetry, interviews and anecdotes, I will so personalize this narrative as to actively engage readers. As the actor Kevin Klein said in relation to ideas and words he has “stolen,” I graft the words and ideas of others if they resonate with my own experience and, as far as possible, I acknowledge the source. The result, I trust, is a person who is complex, contradictory and flawed, with subtle and gross features and qualities that are liked and not liked. The result, too, is a constant enlarging of my "stock of fresh and true ideas," ideas which nourish my creative activity.

In some ways the question of honesty in life is more accurately, more pertinently, a question of what is appropriate and timely for the occasion. What is disclosed is, hopefully, suited to people’s ears. In some ways, too, this whole question of honesty is encompassed by the words of Harold Rosenberg, the famous art critic, who wrote in 1959--the year I joined the Bahá'í Faith--that American art is a tradition of non-tradition. It is a tradition of solitary and isolated effort. For many international pioneers, and certainly for this one, I find much of my work, both as a Bahá'í and as a person, is indeed a solitary and isolated effort. This makes it easy for me to see myself in idiosyncratic terms with a unique tone. There is, as far as I know, no autobiography on anywhere near the scale of this effort by an ordinary Bahá'í who is part of the basic warp and weft of the community. And so I have nothing with which to compare or contrast my work. Given my extensive social involvement until my mid-to-late 50s, I'm sure there are many, at least those in say this part of Australia who have difficulty understanding my need for solitude. “In human intercourse the tragedy begins", says Thoreau, "not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood." I don't feel a strong sense of that tragedy in a world with so many tragedies. That my silence, my lack of interaction is not understood, does not bear heavily on my mind.

There are, of course, great religious autobiographies I could have drawn on like those of: George Fox, the "Confessions" of St. Augustine, Saint Teresa's "Life," Bunyan's "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," the "Life of Madam Guyon, Written by Herself," and Joh Wesley's "Journal." They all lay bare the inward states and processes of the seeking or the triumphant soul. I do as well, but I would not claim for this autobiography the same status or ranking as these great works. William James, one of the founding fathers of psychology, states that religion must be studied in those individuals in whom it is manifested to an extra-normal degree. I'm not so sure. It is certainly one way to study religion. I'm not so sure I would want my life to be an exemplum for others to emulate. Studying the lives of those individuals who have a particular genius for religion, for whom religion has constituted well nigh the whole of life, like the founders of the great religions and many of the exemplary figures in these great religious traditions would, I think, be useful. But such a life is not found here. George Fox, St. Augustine and Saint Teresa, perhaps, are the eminently worthy characters of this sort. Not Ron Price.

"The world-events which moved rapidly across the stage during the crowded years of his activity," writes Rufus M. Jones in the preface to George Fox: An Autobiography, "receive but scant description from his pen. They are never told for themselves. They come in as by-products of a narrative, whose main purpose is the story of personal inward experience." And so is this true, for the most part, of my own work, although I give more social analysis than Fox does in his work. Fox provides a minute study of the hamlets of his microworld and the sects and cults of the Christian relgion that existed at the time. Readers will look in vain for such a study in this autobiography. Fox, according to Rufus, saw everything he wrote of equal importance. I find it difficult to assess the relative significances of the many sections of this work and leave it to readers to find the mantle of meaning that is relevant to them and their world.

Part 3:

One problem in assessing and analysing the events of contemporary society has been in evidence since, arguably, November 12th 1960 when Kennedy defeated Nixon owing largely to the TV debates. Many writers have been talking about the triumph of the image over the content since the massive spread of TV in the 1950s. Daniel Boorstein's The Image(1961) introduced the concept of pseudo-events and before him Kenneth Boulding in a book by the same name(1956) wrote about pictures becoming a substitute for reality. Louis Menand thinks the reason for this developing feature of western life is the pleasure people take in "artificially enhanced reality." People have difficulty facing "ordinary life, in which the excellent and the extraordinary are rare and most things are difficult, imperfect, disappointing or boring." Needing life to be sweetened, we have the media industry which has grown up and presented us all with many realities, distractions, allurements and trivialities, knowledge and insight. But, as St. Augustine warns, we must guard against enjoying the distractions of the voyage lest we become stranded in mid-ocean and never really find the far shore.

At the same time we need to be aware that in our words, too, there is, as Erica Jong points out, “fiction in autobiography and autobiography in fiction.” Gustave Flaubert wrote of his character Madame Bovary: “Madame Bovery c’est moi.” Philip Roth’s book My Life as a Man is part novel, part autobiography, mirroring, describing as it does, the chaos of life. I could site other examples. Like Louis Armstrong's aim in jazz in the 1920s, I try to tell a story, to convey an intimate experience of life. Perhaps if I introduced more fiction into my narrative it would grab the reader more effectively. But, to a significant extent, I am imprisoned in the facticity of my life. “History,” wrote Brent Robbins “is the resolute taking up of one’s heritage as a destiny.” This heritage, though, is both facticity and destiny. At the same time, in the academic writing of history or autobiography, the tendency to produce an untiring positivity, a series of assertions as to what actually happened, must be countered if the result is not to be some lock-step, dry tinder-box of events that never get lighted with the fire of life, of imagination, of soul, of inner life. Like the novelist, say William Faulkner who wrote about the South in the USA, the autobiographer possesses an inheritance too. It is impossible to divorce that writer from his inheritance. For me that inheritance is a composite with the Baha’i Faith, its community and idea system, as critical components.

My own autobiography tends less toward the novel and more toward interpretive history, sociology, psychology and philosophy. This book is also somewhat like the description that the French poet Paul Valery gave of his books. He said that they were merely a selection from his "inner monologue.” These inner monologues are intended to enhance, to enrich, the inner life of readers. I try to establish a beachhead in the brain of my readers by my reactions, my comments, my words that try to etch into the sensory and the ineffable in life. In the process I supply, furnish, outline a structure for the amorphousness of life itself. The task is impossible to achieve. I make a start. This amorphousness is strongly coloured by the past which is never really dead. It is not even past. "Its reverberations inside the human mind," as the American novelist William Faulkner wrote, "are continuous." The realization, the understanding, of human experience seems to be possible only after we have lived it.

Part 4:

“I can only write about myself,” wrote Enid Bagnold at the start of her autobiography, “But oneself is so unknown. Myself has no outline.” This is arguably the cri de coeur of the modern author. The autobiographical unravelling is a created thing: part artifice, part work of art, part slippery and unpredictable discourse. The essential glue in the process of constructing autobiography is memory which is “a complex cultural and historical phenomenon constantly subject to revision, amplification and forgetting.” There are other glues, though, that are involved in the writing of an historical account like an autobiography. One such glue is the explanatory power of culture itself. Meaning construction is at the very nexus of culture, of social structure and social action. It is this meaning construction that must be the explicit target of investigation when writing autobiography, for it is not so much the events of life but their meaning that is the crucial variable. When one is involved, as I am in the cultural dimension of historical explanation, the culture of my time, my religion and the very landscape of where I have moved and had my being, are all part of my autobiography. The special appeal of autobiography that has only arisen in the years of my adult life, is the fascination with the self and the self’s profound and endless mysteries, as well as an anxiety about the dimness and vulnerability of that entity, about its shadowy existence or non-existence in the text and in life or, alternatively, about its dominance, its pervasiveness and its ego-centricity.

There is a strenuous and ceaseless exertion of the intellect here which has gone on for years, decades, epochs. It is largely a pleasurable exercise and it occupies the interstices of life for the most part quite pleasantly, although that is not always the case. This exercise of the intellect is partly a compensation for the blindness of the heart, its passionate and seemingly insatiable lifeforce where man often explodes in the service of his passions. As John Ruskin once wrote, the great writer or poet must combine "two faculties, acuteness of feeling and command of it." I have certainly had my destructive, irrevocable explosions and, like a chronicler, I go back into the past to put it together again. "Desire,", 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote back in 1875, "is a flame that has reduced to ashes uncounted lifetime harvests of the learned." Accumulated knowledge can not quench this flame. Only the holy spirit or, as Jack McLean puts it, waging a mental jihad can control and guide this desire. And waging jihad, mental or otherwise, has never been one of my gifts. The government of the passions seems to be a life-long task which one only partly achieves.

This book has become part of an ongoing project in life, a project that Edward Said described in his first book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography(1966). It was not a career, Said wrote, that a writer should aim for but rather a project that a writer pours himself into. A series of such works in turn define who the writer is. And such is this particular work: part of a project, part of a definition of self. However strenuous and ceaseless the exercise of the intellect, it is not a mental jihad but, rather, a milder exercise of the faculties. There is, though, a type of portraiture which we usually find in literary autobiographies and biographies. These portraitures usually focus on their subjects exclusively, reducing to shadows friends, relatives, and influential contemporaries, and barely sketching in the social milieu which they inhabited. The portrait here in this autobiogrpahy is certainly guilty, to some extent, of this shadow effect but it does sketch the social milieux more fully. The landscape of my work is broad; it is filled with figures, many of them usefully if not minutely articulated and set in motion. I have written what amounts to a general social history of my times from a western perspective in the last half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first, and in its midst, one can trace the frequently detailed and sometimes obscure narrative of my life, its dark places made sufficiently visible, part of a broad canvas, a many-toned-and-textured picture. I have made a strenuous effort to integrate my life, my society and my religion.

Part 5:

I often speculate, argue from probability and by analogy, and relentlessly mine passages from poems I have written, notebooks I have gathered, letters I once wrote and memories that sit vaguely or precisely in my brain for what they can yield that is relevant to the text. Robert Gittings wrote, in his The Older Hardy published in 1978, that "the creative vitality of Hardy's life was due in large measure to his lifelong self-discipline in reading and note taking." In my own case, as I write these words, I have little doubt that in the last fifty years I have averaged some four hours per day devoted to reading, writing and notetaking and whatever creative vitality I possess derives in significant measure from this long and, on the whole, pleasurable if disciplined activity.

One can argue about my conclusions and disagree about the nature of my evidence, for they are all just one man's view. But I think this work is arguably one of the important studies in autobiography from a Bahá'í perspective and, if taken seriously, will have a role in shaping the course of autobiographical and biographical studies in the years to come.

I flesh out my portrait by investigating my family, perhaps too briefly; my sexuality again perhaps too briefly; my finances hardly at all and my religious proclivities and involvements more thoroughly than some may like. I try not to paint, as William Wordsworth did, a poet of calm tranquillity amidst the storms of his times, a self-conscious creation of a man whose early life was anything but tranquil. I try not to paint an account of myself, again as Wordsworth did in that first and great autobiographical poem The Prelude, which must be handled with care because it leaves far too much out. Johnson remarks that Wordsworth's portrait is "like one of those Renaissance paintings with the artist himself represented down in a lower corner, gesturing toward his subject. Except that, in this case, the subject turns out to be the poet himself." To break through all this self-fashioning, Johnston adopts a simple rule of thumb for the biographer: "when there's a choice of possibilities, investigate the riskier one." Such a procedure is bound to create controversy. This rule of thumb should not be necessary here although, as many writers have found, man is an infinitely mysterious quotient with endless depths to pursue.

Wordsworth, Johnston maintains, possessed "remarkably low powers of invention." He almost never made anything up. Consequently, there exists in his poetry a rich reciprocal relationship between historical and biographical data, on the one hand, and the details of his verse, on the other. This, of course, is not news to Wordsworth scholars. But Johnston's use of facts and source material to illumine the verse, and then his use of the verse to provide further facts about Wordsworth's life, is astonishingly new, and more often than not, convincing. Johnston uses factual data to explain peculiarities in the poem and shows how, in later revisions, Wordsworth progressively disguised factual details, usually by substituting vague generalizations for what was originally quite specific, and he points out clear differences between the poem and its literary source. These differences, according to Johnston, provide further clues about Wordsworth's life: where Wordsworth departed from a literary source, he drew directly from his own experience. And Johnston then presents further evidence to corroborate this hypothesis. History, biography, and literary art are inextricably bound together and must be so for anything like coherent meaning to emerge. Johnston repeats this procedure time after time, with passage after passage of Wordsworth's poetry. Evidence from a wide variety of sources is laid out for us clearly, with the dispassionate detachment of a legal brief, a number of possible interpretations are set forth, and while always offering his own preference, Johnston gives his reader space to disagree and dispute, and take up the argument in another forum. Even where his specific conclusions are not wholly convincing, he has defined the procedures by which future Romantic criticism must be carried out.

Part 6:

I quote from this article by Bruce Graver at length because it places my own work and whatever future it may have in a relevant context. There are a number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies, as one would expect in the first printing of a 2500 page memoiristic set of volumes with scholarly pretensions. One would think, for instance, that an autobiographer who quotes so liberally from so many sources, as I do, would have these sources more firmly in hand, but I often have to leave a source incomplete with a page number not even cited. Some of the so-called facts that I draw on are clearly or possibly errors of fact. This is often due to my not having access to the published source or my having found it too difficult to obtain such access.

My references are sometimes several pages off due to my utilizing of internet sources rather than the books themselves. These are errors, of course, that can be easily corrected and, as this autobiography will hopefully go into further editions, one hopes that such errors will be corrected, if not by me then by future editors should they and some publisher arise. Generally, though, I take as great an interest in the autobiographical process of writing and am as interested in writerly procedure, as I am in autobiographical outcome. The cautionary note written by Clive James is helpful in this context. “One of the basic things a young writer about any branch of history needs to learn,” James writes in one of his columns, “is that if a quote sounds good, the person quoted is saying something that somebody else said first.”

Autobiographer and poet, poem and autobiography, are so deeply implicated in each other, and it will be essential, for many years to come, to read the one beside the other. My portrait, I often feel, is of the something that is not there. To reveal that something requires a fuller text: letters, poems, essays, interviews, notebooks. And if Freud is right, that biographical truth can not be had, this autobiographical statement in all its genres, is an absolutely critical, fundamental, foundation for any architecture that is to be built. Should anyone ever want to do so.

I have been a competent teacher, a kind and, I think, judicious, father and a compassionate if not especially practical husband. I have come to master the ability to speak to a group, to keep a good set of minutes and wash dishes with a regularity I have rarely seen exceeded in other company. I came to see myself, by the age of sixty, as a talented poet, a disinterested gardener, a poor cook and a capable note-gatherer and writer. I certainly lacked any mechanical ability or interest, at least none has surfaced in the course of my life thusfar. In the mundane necessities of life I also seemed to show little interest: shopping, the car, the garden, cooking, the finer points of cleaning, clothes, inter alia. To this core of domestic disinterest I could add many academic disciplines that have never caught my fancy, for there are so many and they can not all be investigated with vigour and depth. Generally the biological and physical sciences, engineering and mathematics and foreign languages have always had an existence lower on the totem-pole of my interest--to chose some subjects from a broad field that would and does fill libraries in the world. But here in this narrative I reveal several worlds to readers and I trust, in the process, that it will help move people into being more compassionate. Virginia Woolf once said that "writing improves society and makes the writer a better person." I hope that is the case.

Part 7:

As my wife put it, perhaps eloquently, I lived, at least after my retirement, largely in a world inside my head, although I came out from time to time to interact when necessity or pleasure dictated, when the world's getting and spending required my presence and when people, in some shape and form, nibbled at what was left of a lifetime of affability and sociability. What I tried to do in my writing and in this autobiography was, as the literary critic Alfred Kazin put it, "tell over and over the story" of my life and its fatal deeds until I found "the obstinate human touch that summed up every story." Kazin goes on to say that he sees himself, and writers in general, becoming as old as thought itself as they examine their younger selves rushing through the past. Some, like Faulkner, try to put it all in one sentence; others need great and long stories. Some like Walt Disney and Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling do it simply, without ambiguity and with a wide audience appeal. Others, like myself, write long stories for a coterie.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the first 'moderns' to write his autobiography, wrote in the eighteenth century and, in the process, constructed a particular model for what a self should be and do. He constructed a self that served as an idealized identity: static, unchanging and only altered by the varied interpretations of his readers. This process was repeated over and over again in autobiographical writing, perhaps until just the other day, during these four epochs. Now, on the Internet, Franklin’s work is interlinked with literally thousands of other texts and his work has ceased to be a discrete document. It has become a fluid text, more fluid than it ever could have been when it occupied a small space on a library shelf, as it did for perhaps two centuries. Of course, Franklin is still there in the library, but he is also on the Internet. There he changes with each reader and each time that reader accesses his documents. There is now so much more cross-fertilization, interdisciplinary commentary. The author, the autobiographer, is far less able to manipulate the reader; for readers have at their disposal more than ever before the tools for critical analysis. They can construct the author in new and different ways, explore through quite subtle and sometimes revolutionary processes, if they have the interest, the motivation. At the same time, of course, one can argue that the reader is more easily manipulated than ever. That is partly why a gender theorist like Judith Butler has come to see identity as free-floating, as the dramatic effect of our social performance or, for that matter, our performance while alone. This performance, this identity, Butler sees as shifting and changing with the contexts of our lives.

And so the memories I live with and by, my spiritual self, which is at bottom simply the effort of my memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, into effort, into vision, into patience, into a host of qualities, into a survival pattern for the future, I cast down in this story, this narrative, which I write down for readers, piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph. The ownership, the boundaries of this text, have become fragile in the expanding circle of information that has become instantly or at least easily accessible in cyberspace and in life's burgeoning reality of this new age. I can and I do, place my story firmly in the context of my culture. This is not the story of an isolated individual but rather a person within an intricate societal network where self-teaching occupies centre stage. Like Saul Bellow I'm sure I influence myself far more than I am influenced by others, although collectively and over the decades there is an immense, an immeasurable influence from others, writers and non-writers, friends and associations.

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Perhaps these influences are due to the fact that thinking is "the most accessible form of virtue." There is an urgency to my thoughts and my recent writings, including this autobiography, and I have found several narrative and analytical, poetic and prose forms for their expression. I will conclude this chapter now with some prose-poems to illustrate some of what I am saying here:


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It is not my intention to get my readers to see things the way I see them. I like to think that this life story is open to interpretation in ways other than those which I intend or don't intend. As philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, points out in discussing autobiography “a Work does not only mirror its time, but it can open up a world which it bears within itself.” It opens up possibilities, he goes on, for others to recompose their lives and their own life stories.” Readers should also be aware in their reading of autobiography what Irving Alexander calls "identifiers of salience.” These are psychologically important features of autobiography that can help readers understand autobiographical texts more fully. These salient features include: primacy, uniqueness, frequency, negation, omission, errors, incompleteness and isolation. I deal with all of these factors of salience, but not in a systematic, ordered, way; rather, readers will find these features dealt with in a spontaneous fashion each in its own way in the chapters which follow.

"Wars and the administration of public affairs," wrote Gibbon, "are the principal subjects of history." During these epochs this view has been challenged by historians with other views of history and this autobiography sees history quite differently as well. In whatever way that the autobiographer views history, though, this old and established discipline is one of autobiography’s major contributing fields of study; several other social sciences occupy subsidiary fields. Tedium and anxiety, suffering and tribulations of various kinds can be found on the east of these fields rising like the sun to bring new challenges to both myself and humankind and an obituary waits patiently on the west.

I would like to comment briefly on 'primacy' and 'uniqueness' before continuing on my way in this narrative. My life, this autobiographical statement, takes place in a world that is "shatteringly and bewilderingly new," that is part of the "break-up" of civilization in a divide greater than any, arguably, since the neolithic revolution. Like the neolithic revolution which was spread over several thousand years, so too is the one we are experiencing. It is not confined to these four epochs but is, rather, one whose time frame is difficult to define with any precision.

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Some put the break-up of the old civilization in the early twentieth or late nineteenth centuries; others in the middle of the nineteenth century. We are, it seems to me, unquestionably in a new and radically different world and this autobiography is part of this modernist, postmodernist, unprecedented, catastrophic and unpredictable world, a world which eludes precise characterization. Surrounded as I am with imperfect fragments of my life, sometimes concise, often obscure, sometimes contradictory and often clear elements of fact in space and time, I am reduced to a vast exercise of collecting, comparing, and conjecturing. Such is the nature of autobiography, the nature of much of life in our time. And it must be asked: is this particular autobiography symptomatic of the general, the typical, story of the pioneer, international or otherwise? Or is each story so idiosyncratic and particular, so unique and individual, that one person's story is not of much value in conveying the general narrative for a community moving unobtrusively onto the global stage? There is for each Bahá'í writer of autobiography a dialectic between the banal, the vacuous, the ordinary and what holds intense significance, what are vital and delightful moments of being as Virginia Woolf calls them. Another dialectic of equal importance is that between the culturally common, the shared values and beliefs, the unific and the whole and the culturally idiosyncratic, heterogeneous, divergent and partial. Readers of this work will, inevitably, get some of both sides of both dialectics.

I have tried in my day-to-day experience to implement a way of life that has a very wide embrace. Containing the diversity of human types that this way of life incorporates, it also contains a philosophical system, far from systematized yet. This philosophy is not a dead piece of furniture. It is something that, as Johann Gottleib Fichte said, “we accept or reject as we wish; it is a thing animated by the soul of the person who holds it.” Any of the difficulties I have experienced in implementing this philosophy in my relations with others are a reflection, as William James once put it, “of a certain clash of human temperaments.” Temperament is often the source and cause of an individual’s biases more than any of his more strictly objective premises. Temperament “loads the evidence" for us "one way or the other.” It is this temperament that individuals come to trust in themselves and they are often suspicious of the temperaments of others. The psychological sources of this temperamental orientation are important and complex. They are also beyond the scope of this narrative to deal with in any depth, although some of my own are explored from time to time, if not systematically at least in an ad hoc, serendipitous fashion.

Some writers refer to this temperament as ‘inner biography’ or ‘psychic constitution.’ I don’t want to dwell on this theme of relationships too extensively here for the issues are subtle and require much analysis and attention to grasp and, even then, they are often elusive. A poem or two is appropriate, though, to expand on this complex subject. I deal with the sometimes elusive, sometimes quite specific and obvious factors involved in understanding self and its failings in my poetry. Poetry started out as a simple handshake with my life twenty-five years ago and has become something of an arm-wrestle. Simplicity may derive from knowing little and thinking less, from a certain philosophical view as was the case of Thoreau, or from a sharp focus on one thing. Emerson once wrote, “great geniuses have the shortest biographies.” After a century and a half since Emerson wrote these words and many massive biographies and autobiographies, he may have revised his words.

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When one talks about philosophies of life one can't help imbibing something of the overall cultural philosophy of the country one lives in. Australian playright, David Williamson, commenting on the contrast between the Australian and the American philosophical ethos said the following about the American story structure: "I think that they(Americans) do very much have that story structure firmly in their heads, that the hero must start out, must go through a series of challenges, each of which he or she overcomes, and becomes a better and stronger person at every turning point, and finally ends up the film a true hero." Going on to comment on how Australian writers told their stories he said: "Now I think Australia and Australian writers tend to believe that this is a falsified picture of life, that life proceeds more often according to the neuroses theory where people keep making the same mistakes over and over again which is more conducive to a comedic approach than a heroic, dramatic approach." After a lifetime in both countries I think my approach is a bit of both.


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And so, to go back to my story and its sinuous line, water was crossed, perhaps for the last time in my life in August 1999. As the fifth epoch went through its third month in April 2001 when I wrote this poem, I had been in Tasmania for nearly four years. I had no plans to cross any more water and find some new stimulus by breaking more new ground as Toynbee had referred to in his Study of History as a key to creating astonishing contrasts in our life. But, as the gerontologists were informing us at the start of this new millennium, many of my generation could last well into their second century. So, who knows what would transpire in my life in the years of late adulthood and old age. Perhaps a future edition of this autobiography will be able to provide some brilliant inventiveness and help tidy-up and synthesize some of the loose ends that have resulted from jumping off at so many and so various places in my life story, from such a wide variety of social analysis and from what I'm sure for some readers will see as the unfortunate results of this writer's divergent brain.

Famous anthropologist Clifford Geertz sees human beings as animals suspended in webs of significance they themselves have spun. Those webs are essentially the cultures human beings live in and they are composed of strands, strands that are their personal histories. These histories, these stories, these autobiographies, help us understand and explore these cultural webs and their many and myriad connections that ultimately make up their communities. Personal stories themselves, when shared with audiences, are often signatures of cultures in capsule form. They contain archetypes and standards for acceptable cultural behaviour. The great anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once maintained that through the stories of a culture, the stories we ourselves tell, the entire culture is accessed and interpreted in a meaningful way. The storyteller gives her or his listeners such interpretation in subtle and entertaining ways, and in ways far more important than the mere ethnography or ethnology of a social group.

The discourse, the impulse, of autobiography and that of ethnography can be combined and is in the sub-discipline of autoethnography. Autoethnography is an alternative to a tendentiously-characterized and conventional autobiography, on the one hand, and to a exoticizing, native-silencing brand of anthropology, on the other. Autoethnography is simply a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context. As an autobiographical revision of ethnography it may aim at giving a personal accounting of the location, the life, of the self by making the ethnographer the subject-object of observation. It involves the ethnographic presentation of oneself as the subject which is usually considered the ‘object’ in the ethnographer’s interview. The standard model of the personal memoir or autobiography supports a liberal-individualist ideology and tends to isolate the author-subject from community, although not entirely so for this would preobably be impossible. Works by women and members of historically oppressed groups often resist the hegemony of this individualist approach and tend to give more weight to the social formation or inscription of the self and to the ways in which the author-subject negotiates the terms of their insertion into the identity-categories their culture imposes on them.

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Where the representation of cultures is concerned, critics are enthusiastic about autoethnography’s intricate interplay between the introspective personal engagement found in autobiography and the self-effacement expected of ethnography’s cultural descriptions. The impulse for self-documentation and the reproduction of images of the self pervade our everyday practice. The common business of social existence is the occasion for endlessly resourceful and enlightened dramatizations of self. We are each in our own way articulate exegetes of the politics of selfhood. Readers will find here one such interplay by one such exeget.

One of the tacit aims of the personal history performer is to disseminate such information and interpretation through channels that are more spiritual and more subconscious than the anthropologist's cold ethnographic narrative. When people engage in the telling of their personal histories, a spirit of communitas pervades the entire attending group, regardless of the various backgrounds each individual member of the group possesses. Communitas is a feeling of equality, a profundity of shared, vital and spiritual involvement that a group experiences in the process of ritual or quasi-ritual activities. It is this spirit that is part of the goal of the autobiographer, the teller of the story.

It is my hope that readers encounter here feelings of communitas. This writing, this activity has the goal of reasserting shared paradigms and celebrating the known and common social structures that exist around us in the Baha’i community. Communitas is an important step in bringing people together, and in a world in which diversity and variety are not only becoming more prevalent, but are also becoming increasingly sought after, it is vital in creating individuals who value others and other cultures. It is my view that the paradigms of Baha’i culture are shared through the telling of our personal histories. My personal and individual interpretations of life and the moral and ethical codes that accompany these interpretations are also shared in this story. Society and the individual are brought together in a synergy of experience for both the teller and the audience, for me and readers. This is part of the magic of personal history performances. The telling of personal histories has an advantage over many other arts in creating a culturally sharing atmosphere since it is so ephemeral and so personal an art. But it is in this atmosphere created between my words and my readers, that answers to so many of life's questions will be found, if any indeed are to be found, not so much in the overall text.

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Through storytelling, other cultures and differing personalities can actually be accessed and shared in real and entertaining ways, with narrative that sparks interest in and personal involvement with characters from diverse and varying backgrounds. The art of autobiography demands interpretation and the recasting of the naked experiences of life; interpretive theory and a sense of design bring loose and meaningless facts into some order, some framework. And there is always the ineffable, as I reiterate from time to time in this narrative.

By telling my story, as I do here, others can participate in the process of reaffirming qualities of the human, the personal, in a society that sorely needs it as it becomes further technological and impersonal. In fact, if such story telling, such autobiographical statement, ceased to exist, meaningful and artistic communication would also cease to exist and the very foundations of vital sharing would collapse and society with it. Tellers of personal histories are givers. They give their stories to others, hoping that in some way, other individuals' lives will be improved. They are intended to be service-oriented, unselfish exercises that seek to make others happy. I gladly make this story available to others. When the imagination is stirred and feelings and attitudes are explored and reaffirmed, the most fulfilling type of entertainment occurs. The personal history performer brings images and visions of people and places to life for her or his listeners. Such engagement does not numb the mind, although one can never write iron-clad guarantees. Movies or television often stimulate and often numb the faculties. Storytelling demands that the audience share with the teller in creating the pictures, scenes, actions and emotions of the story. This is not always attainable. The mind may be stimulated and exercised; the listener and teller may leave the experience invigorated and energized or bored to death.

The ways I have responded to public figures both inside and out of the Bahá'í community, the feelings these many people have evoked, the interpretations of life they invite or inflict, the meanings they embody in the few or many interactions that take place, these are not shadows cast upon a wall but the very stuff of my experience. It may all be like a vapour in the desert; it may be in reality a dream and not the water of life at all; indeed, it may be mere illusion, as Bahá'u'lláh says, but it is the metaphorical vehicle within which I am intended to grow and acquire virtues for mysterious purposes beyond the grave. And so, to decry the human inadequacies and the faults and failings of my fellow beings or the lack of response of my contemporaries, however natural this voice of complaint may be, simply betrays an unwillingness to reckon with, to understand, the realities of this postmodern world.

I would like to say some things about community, both the Bahá'í community and the various collections of individuals I have had association with over the last half a century. I will begin with three poems, some ideas from Georg Simmel one of the finest analysts, I have found, of sociability and some of my own experience as a way of introducing some general comments about the social dimension of this autobiography:


After three eons, from 4.6 billion years ago to 540 million years ago(mya) on the geological timescale, a scale initially constructed in the 19th century, the Earth entered the phanerozoic eon(540 mya to today). The first period or sub-division of our modern eon was the cambrian period from 540 mya to 505 mya. This cambrian period is divided by archeologists and paleontologists into four epochs. These epochs are geochronological units or chronostratigraphic unites. Periods are grouped into eras and the cambrian period is the first period of the paleozoic era in our modern phanerozoic eon. Epochs are divided into ages.-Ron Price with thanks to “Cambrian-Wikipedia,” Internet Site, 27 August 2006.

The first rocks in which are found distinctly fossilizable, soft bodied, marine, multi-cellular organisms, trilobites, some fifty phyla with different body plans—Cambrian.
This radiation of animal phyla without evident precursors, the Cambrian explosion, with four extinctions in this period due to inability to tolerate shifts in climate, this quadripartite structure of epochs has some interesting parallels to epochs in our time, an explosion without evident precursors, without parallel in the history of the planet—in my time—yes, my time.

The eras and ages, stages and phases, plans and programs with their wondrous leaps and thrusts, their dynamic advances, their auspicious junctures, their incalculable, their accumulated potential, their onrushing, quickening winds, a climacteric of rampant, mysterious, constructive forces, first stirrings of planetization, new beginnings, fresh initiatives and a solemn consciousness evoked— wellspring of an exquisite celebratory joy.

Ron Price
28 August 2006


I've always thought of Shaykh Ahmad as a pioneer of sorts with pioneers dotting the landscape of the lives of the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In 1894 a Bahá'í from Egypt arrived in the USA and began to actively teach in the Chicago area. One could argue that he was the first Bahá'í pioneer in the West. According to the Canadian sociologist Will C. van den Hoonaard the term 'pioneer' was not used until 1924, and not used widely until 1936 by the Bahá'í community. We find the Guardian using the term in Messages to the Antipodes in 1931, 1943 and again in 1951. The Bahá'í pioneer is certainly central to the Bahá'í historical experience.

The pioneer is certainly central to the experience of the Bahá'í community of northern Tasmania. Indeed, it is built on the backs of the pioneers with only a few local people in northern Tasmania joining the Cause in the last sixty years. Now it is a community of some 70-80 souls. There are two main clusters, one centred in Launceston, the other centred in Devonport. Northern Tasmania includes the east coast from St. Helens down to Swansea and the West coast from Smithton down to Queenstown, both coasts in need of pioneers with only one Bahá'í locality at present.

There are now a host of sites on the Internet: Tasmania Online, the University of Tasmania, the two major newspapers, The Advocate(Burnie) and The Examiner(Launceston) are also available online with special jobguide sections to help you find employment. The major towns all have websites now: Burnie, Devonport, Launceston, Scottsdale, St. Helens, Swansea, Zeehan and Queenstown, among others. Surf the net at these sites and you'll find plenty more to help you paint a picture of where you'd like to pioneer in northern Tasmania and the information you need to go there.

If you have trouble with computers and prefer the old fashioned way of contacting people--by letter--you can contact the Bahá'í Council for Tasmania or any of the LSAs and Bahá'í Groups in northern Tasmania. They will all be more than willing to send you the information you need. And, if you don't like writing, you can phone one of the numbers below.

In round figures: Launceston has about 20 Bahá'ís, Devonport 15, George Town 6 and Dorset(Scottsdale) 3 with other Bahá'í Groups and isolated localities in: Burnie, Central Coast, LaTrobe, Sheffield, Meander Valley, West Tamar, Wilmot, Northern Midlands and Central Highlands. There are some cold places with snow in northern Tasmania in the mountains. In towns like Launceston, Devonport and Georgetown there has not been snow in the last half century. If you don't like summer heat northern Tassie is the place for you with temperatures rarely going above 30. It's one of the most beautiful places on earth only beginning to be discovered by the international tourist market. Be an 'international' pioneer, come to Tasmania.


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The following article entitled "Will, Knowledge, and Love as Explained in Bahá’u’lláh’s Four Valleys" is by Julio Savi and was published in 1994 in the Journal of Bahá'í Studies. I utilize it below as a backdrop to my pioneering life, as a way of assessing my spiritual development. In the years ahead I will also draw on other commentaries on the spiritual path. The author explores some of the seemingly abstruse concepts exposited by Bahá’u’lláh in “The Four Valleys.” The first three Valleys are described as three aspects of the spiritual path to be trod by any human being, so that he/she may acquire knowledge of God, as realization of the self, through the use of his/her capacities of willing, knowing, & loving respectively. The fourth Valley is interpreted as describing the lofty & unattainable condition of the Manifestations of God, and as such, as offering a hint of the glory of the goal of perfection towards which human beings should strive, albeit assured that such a perfection will never be theirs.

Bahá’u’lláh introduces his main theme: “Those who progress in mystic wayfaring (samavát-i-sulúk) are of four kinds (chihar táyifih)” (Valleys 49). He presents them as wanderers who traverse four different Valleys, described as spiritual stations (maqám, rutbih). In each of these Valleys he describes “grades” (martibat) and “qualities” (alámat), as though implying that in each Valley the mystic wayfarer will continuously and gradually move towards his/her intended goal. The travelers are called by different names in each of the Valleys: “travelers” (sálikán) in the First and in the Second, “loving seekers” (‘áshiqán, literally: lovers) in the Third, and “mystic knowers” (‘árifán) in the Fourth.4 They differ from each other because they have chosen different spiritual goals. Bahá’ u’lláh describes each of these goals through a divine attribute: “the goal of the Intended One” (ka‘biy-i-maqsúd), “the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One” (hujrihy-i-mahmúd), “the precincts of the Attracting One” (bayt-i-majdhúb), and “the beauty (the beauteous countenance) of the Beloved” (tal‘at-i-mahbúb), in each of the four Valleys respectively.

In reality these goals are but one and the same: God, as manifested in four of God’s infinite attributes. But for the wayfarers, their aiming at different attributes of God implies different attitudes. In fact each of these stations “appertaineth” to a different spiritual reality: “the self” (nafs) or more exactly “the Self of God” (nafsu’lláh), “the primal reason” (‘aql-i-kullí rabbánií) and “the beauty of love” (tal‘at-i-‘ishq) in the first three Valleys, “the apex of consciousness (‘arsh-i-faw’ád) and the secret of divine guidance” (sirr-i-rashad) in the fourth. Apart from the fourth Valley, which seems precluded to any human being, the others seem not to be mutually exclusive.

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Is there any hierarchical meaning in the order in which these three Valleys are described? From the study of the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, knowledge seems to be preeminent to will and love.5 And yet in this epistle, knowledge is dealt with after will. One of the reasons why the discussion of knowledge has been postponed until after that of will may be that these three Valleys describe the condition of souls who already had the experiences described in “The Seven Valleys.” Therefore those souls have already used their power of knowing in order to perform their highest act of will, i.e., turning themselves towards the True Beloved. Only then were they enabled to proceed towards a more complete development of their capacities of knowing, loving, and willing.

Whereas the goal of the mystic path is usually considered as the annihilation of the self (Arabic: faná’, Persian: mahv), in the first Valley Bahá’u’lláh says that “the self (nafs) is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned” (Valleys 50). The first spiritual quality that comes to mind while reading these words is “assertiveness,” as clearly defined by Linda Kavelin Popov: “Being assertive means to be positive and confident.... being aware that you are a worthy person created by God. You have your very own special gifts. Only you have your unique combination of qualities” (Virtues Guide 61).

In fact Bahá’u’lláh states that this station belongs not to any “self” whatsoever, but to “The Self of God (nafsu’lláh) standing within Him with laws”7 (Valleys 50). Here the conditions are described under which the self, as concupiscible soul (an-nafsu’l-ammára), may be changed into a well-pleasing self, i.e., a “soul at rest” (an-nafsu’lmutma‘inna) (Qur’án 12:53; 89:27). This soul at rest, freed for the most part from the tug of lust, the concupiscible appetitite, did not really come into my life until the beginning of my 70s. I see this development partly as a gift after years of desiring the colling-off of my lustful appetites. the gift was partly the result of a medication for my prostate. These are the conditions under which the self as “individuality,” that is, as a potential nucleus of divine individual qualities within a person, may grow into an actual heavenly entity, a spiritually mature human being. First of all the self should be loved. The seeker should be conscious that she/he is not merely a clever animal but is a being endowed with a spiritual potentiality of greatness and nobility.

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“All that which ye potentially possess can... be manifested only as a result of your own volition” (Gleanings 149). Therefore this stage could possibly be viewed as the stage of human will. I wanted the removal of my lust, but it was a battle which I seemed to lose through my 50s and 60s as well as earlier in life as far back as puberty.

Romanticism has tinged the idea of love with a hue of outer beauty that is often untrue. Therefore sometimes people are in love with love itself and yet wholly ignorant of its often challenging reality. Love is difficult; it is hard to love, hard to be loved. Perhaps this is why I have found marital life over nearly fifty years a test.The stony path of love will be accepted in its sometimes outwardly repelling aspects. But at the end of this path an inner joy is waiting, arising from the abandonment of “the lowly clay” with all its hindering weight and from the longed for reunion with the “mighty sea” (Valleys 57). There is in this act a resemblance to death itself. To accept or to give love means to renounce a part of oneself. That is why love is crazy and blind. How will a living being accept an experience reminiscent of death? And yet the awareness of death and life is such as to change according to the level of inner experience one has reached. Is not death sometimes the beginning of life?


"Coherence and Logic Behind A Long Story: A Philosophy of Anecdote and Autobiography," Unpublished Essay, 6 February 2003.

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For most of my years as a pioneer(1962-2015), 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.

Philosophy gives logic and coherence to what we do, helps provide purpose and rationale, value and significance to our actions, our life. That's the way Henry Lawson put it in his article "Psychohistory Today and Tomorrow." That's a succinct way to see the value of philosophy in providing a foundation of autobiography. Philosophy helps to provide standards of explanation, how we know something and what counts as belonging to our world. Philosophy is the world view, the cosmology, the intellectual raison d'etre for what I do, what I write. It gives a patina for the scholary and the not-so-scholary sense of self. It gives underlying concepts and assumptions to the reality of the exercise of autobiography. How and why I do what I do in this exercise of writing my story could be called my philosophy.

But autobiography is somewhat of a hybrid discipline: part history, part psychology, part sociology, part anthropology, part literature, part a lot of things and I use methodology and content from a number of different fields, fields that each have their ways of going about the process of understanding life. Inevitably the person writing the autobiography is at the centre of the narrative. I am the active agent creating my own life, my own history, under the influence of a myriad factors, too many to even outline here. Perhaps part of what I develop is my own "legitimate strangeness," as Michel Foucault put it or a natural friendiness as I might describe myself in more honorific terms. Part of what I contribute is a small part of an ever-advancing civilization for civilization requires, as Kenneth Clark notes, "confidence in the society in which one lives, belief in its philosophy, belief in its laws and confidence in one's own mental powers." The society and the philosophy in which I repose this confidence is a Bahá'í society. Civilization, he goes on to say, never ceases to develop and change; it is never static, nor is it based on a stationary perfection. Certainly my own life is as much a testimony to this as is the Bahá'í society I have been a part of since the 1950s.

The whole cultural tradition that I have been a part of as a Bahá'í, in the Bahá'í community, tells me that I am universalist in outlook and proudly particularist, with a strong local base, as well. There is a tension here of expectations, the kind of tension one finds on a set of violin or guitar strings. There is a tension between this small cultural milieux, this tiny population base, and the great mass of humanity, of community, of urban or rural life. One is not hemmed in by enemy guns, by religious or ethnic prejudice as many groups of people are but, rather, by a wall of non-recognition and indifference. The connections with this wider world are often tenuous, non-existent, vague and non-descript, although there is an ever-present desire for dialogue and connection. Consequently, the Bahá'í experiences flashes of connection, of claustrophobia, of cultural relevance and entrapment. Bahá'ís enjoy many antidotes to the negative: a cross-cultural messianism, a religious pluralism and relativism in which they are continually looking for commonalities between themselves and others, a strong sense of historical continuity and a view of the future in which they see humankind and their religion locked into an ebb and flow of destiny and larger significances, among other antidotes.

Part 2:

My intention in this essay is not so much to outline a sophisticated and complex or indeed a simple philosophy underpinning this autobiography. Rather what I want to do is to include a series of poems which in their collective way will say a great deal about my life and its philosophy, the philosophy behind this autobiography and about the society, the world, in which I lived, moved and had my being over the four epochs which provide the name of this book. Although history is the dominant structuring metaphor or interpretive frame in this autobiography, although I am involved with an intense engagement with history and construct my sense of self vis-a-vis this structuring framework, it seems to me there is so much more and I have attempted to find this so much more and in some ways so much less through a prose-poetry mix which allows me a modus operandi, a modus vivendi, a way of articulating an internal dialogue with myself, my religion and my society.

For it should be said that what I write is not history, it is a marginal story, an inner experience, however embedded in history and narrative it is. I'm not so sure I can really say that ‘this is how it was,' although I can try and I can play with history: the world's, my religion's and my own life's. What do the documents say? What do the events say? What were the events? There is certainly a massive authority in my appeal to events. But still there is not closure, there is temporariness and impermanence, at best a momentary completeness, a completeness that lies in my own lap. Like the historian I manipulate history; I present variations on many themes. The boundaries of autobiography have swelled in the last several decades. Scholarly neglect has been replaced by a burgeoning and critical literature, an “unbounded sprawl,” and much disagreement on content. A separate book could be written about the new and scholarly interest and in particular the split between the historically oriented verses the fictionally oriented writers. Anyone who has read much of this narrative will know by now that this work is written with the former emphasis. There is an emphasis, too, in my own life and in society on the full use of human faculties. This turn to what you might call self-realization has become more important in many ways and for many people than making money, perhaps to a significant extent in the years since the beginning of the fourth epoch in 1986. This was a characteristic too, writes the art critic Kenneth Clark, of Renaissance men. There was, Clark went on, that "air of contained vitality and confidence that one often sees in the founding fathers of a civilization."I did not see this everywhere I went and I did not see it during all these years in all those communities whose texture I experienced in the several epochs I am writing about.

But I certainly saw it from time to time in the years before the election of the House of Justice in that ninth stage of history(1953-1963) and in those years of the tenth stage of history which have occupied my adult life in the many Bahá'í communities I was a part of. For these were the years of the beginning of the process of community building, a point underlined by the House of Justice in May of 1996. Sometimes the confidence and vitality was so intense I was partly overwhelmed, even a little frightened; sometimes I was surprised by its power and strength. Thankfully, not everyone possessed this energy and confidence. Often it was softened by humour or humility or a simple gentleness that was always attractive. Often, too, it simply did not exist in the personalities I lived and dwelt among, belaboured as they often were by their personal battles and the minutiae of their lives. Often, too, the unconquerable need to write, to compose, to paint, to do many things, inspired various Bahá'ís. In my case, like the artist Van Gogh, I seemed to possess an "unconquerable need" to create. I have no idea where it is leading beyond the sun and clouds on a very broad and misty horizon. But in the meantime this writing helps me create a sense of unity which inspires much of my efforts. It also provides for readers, I hope anyway, with "suggestive openings for interest in unobtrusive patterns of juxtaposition, recurrence and contrast, out of which fresh and unpredictable understandings may emerge," as was the hope of a recent editor of a collection of the letters of Henry James.

Part 3:

Here is a poem that gave me great pleasure to write, probably because I had enjoyed the essays of J.B. Priestley which I had purchased many years ago in a second hand bookshop. I had also enjoyed some five pages of notes I had made, back in the 1970s sometime, which I had read and reread over the last quarter century. But I think what gave me the greatest pleasure in writing this poem was the persepctive I gained on understanding myself by the comparisons and contrasts of Priestly's life with my own. This poem, then, provides some sense of perspective on myself.


In describing his public image J. B. Priestley saw himself as “a mannerless, blundering idiot.” But he also saw himself as: amiable, indulgent, affectionate, shy and rather timid. Had Price been as splenetic and “bloody rude,” he never would have survived in a clasroom teaching the wide range of men and women that he did for over a quarter of a century. Priestley tended to dump icy water on what could have been “comfortable personal relationships.” Perhaps, if Price had been more of a cold fish with a harsh edge, he would have protected himself from the endless conversations that filled his life for so many years and which, in the end, wore him down. Priestley was touchy, a victim of his own acerbic eruptions, had a capacity for brooding withdrawals and an ability to slay pompous parasites. He also saw himself as a kind, easy-going chap. Privately, as a family man, he endured long-drawn-out tragedy and illness with what he called a ‘life-enhancing pessimism.' Behind the various personae which sustained him, behind this rubble of eventually discarded selves, was a loving and compassionate man.

Price, too, had his many selves, his many personae which sustained him through the labyrinthine walks of life he had taken; he had his tragedy, his illness and a ‘life-enhancing humour.' His brooding withdrawals, his illnesses, had virtually disappeared, at least in these early years of the evening of his life. He, too, was easy going; some battles remained. Some he would lose and some he would win in the road left to travel. -Ron Price with thanks to Vincent Brome, J.B. Priestly, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1988, pp.5-6.

Behind the loving and compassionate personae,
for he1 had many endearing, loving, selves,
at the drop of a hat, on the wave length,
Mr. Chameleon, he often called himself.

Behind those “selves”, for surely they were real,
was a quiet man, a quiet boy, at home with his family,
staying by himself, being in solitude's silence,
writing, reading, struggling with his inner demons,
the tragic element which strikes us all,
but content, at rest, well-pleased with his Lord,
often joyful, working at his craft,
away from friend and stranger alike,
sheltered by the All-Merciful,
confident, dignified and
blushing to lift up his face
to his great Redeemer.

Ron Price
18 May 1999

1 The ‘he' here is, in fact, ‘myself' as I sit in the quiet of my chamber after retiring from the teaching profession after thirty years of teaching.

Priestley said that the writer and, in my case the autobiographer, "projects on to his page a personality not identical with his own, though founded on it." It is a figure made up of elements selected from his life and then rearranged and displayed for his and their aesthetic purpose. The result is an intensely vivid impression of a living individual. I like to think I achieve this but, of course, in the end, each reader makes of the book his own; in effect he recreates the book in his or her own eyes. For the vast majority of people this book has no existence at all for they will never read it or even see it on a screne or between covers.

Passing the time pleasantly, Priestley thought, was one of life's major achievements. To this I must concur. Indeed there is a great deal in the Bahá'í Writings on this theme, although Bahá'u'lláh does not put His comments under the heading "how to pass the time pleasantly." In the end we must all apply the Writings to our lives in our individual ways. I have had no intention in writing this book to provide some 'how to' recipe for readers. "Ultimate all the battle in life is within the individual," wrote some individual on behalf of Shoghi Effendi back in 1943.

Part 4:

I remember first coming across this line in a little brown book. At the time my life was filled with battles and I was losing. I was disobeying Bahá'í law and as close to leaving the Cause as I've ever got in the last forty-three years. The Watergate crisis was reaching its zenith; the Viet Nam war was finally coming to an end after what had seemed all my life. Paul Ehrlich and the authors of Limits to Growth had just finished warnng us all of the extremities we faced if we did not pull up our socks and began to treat the environment more sanely. We were being told many things, too many to take them all in. And it was in this context that these words fell upon my ears and my mind like a solid gold nugget of truth.

Here are two poems that tell something of my religious and philosophical views of life.


Emily Dickinson speaks, in her poem number 395, of a “fine Prosperity/ Whose Sources are interior”. She says that “Misfortune hath no implement/Could mar it-if it found.” It is the equivalent, it seems to me, of those who join the Cause, who tend its garden, for life. I would argue, though, that its “sources” can be “marred”; one can never be sure that life's misfortunes will not “mar” belief. There is, though, in this autobiograpy and in the poetry of Dickinson what Shawn Alfrey calls, in his analysis of Dickinson's work, an ontological intensity.1 The "fine prosperity" "whose sources are interior" is clearly at the root of this autobiographical work.       -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999; and 1Shawn Alfrey, "The Sublime of Intense Sociability," The Emily Dickinson Journal, Vol.10, 2001, pp.117-119.

There is one kind of feeling
that sometimes is brought down.
It's sources are interior
like diamonds in the ground.

I came across it early.
It doubled later on.
It looks like going the distance.
In one long endless song.

Life's misfortunes may mar it.
One can never be too sure.
For belief is in some ways a gift.
Depending, in part, on how pure.

Ron Price
26 July 1999

I do not draw lightly on the poetry of Emily Dickinson for, like American poet Robert Haas, I have found Dickinson's poetry among the finest poems ever written. They tell much about me, about life, about the reality of what is true and good and beautiful--and profoundly meaningful.

Part 5:


One day death will make

the final adjustment,

after years and years of changes

along the way.

Dynasties and systems,

defined and redefined,

lives sown and resown

with different colours.

Death, at last, will yield

one colour, unheralded,

mixed with joy

and this old body

will make its final move

into that hole for those

who speak no more.*

Ron Price
16 & 27 July 1999
*expression used by the Bab in Selections from the Writings of the Bab.

The following tells something of my general approach to poetry and what I am trying to write in this autobiography.


Some poets are difficult to narratize. Their biography is elusive; their poetry a formal mask of a personality not a living face vibrant with expression. Such poets make no authorial statements, no poetic analysis or comment, no expressions of principle, no efforts to give their poetry coherence, beyond their poetry which must speak for itself. In the main they subscribe to the “poetry not the man” school. No interviews explain or expand on their work. They contribute nothing beyond their poems to the accumulation of what might be called their ‘industry', their canonical infrastructure, again, except through their poetry, their literature. Their literary correspondence is either non-existent or only about the mundane and superficial, the everyday. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get a clear image of such a poet; no unary central subject emerges, unless their writing can be seen as the direct personal embodiment of the poet. Often such a poet seems to lack body. Such poetry is simply seen, often, as a separate entity, disembodied from the poet. Biographical and personal speculation on the part of writers, examining such poetry, becomes impossible, if not unwise.

Unfortunately, great art of any kind: intelligible, sane, perceptive, of use to humanity, requires some sensibility, unified or otherwise, to be demonstrated by the artist. To create, to recreate their life, is a beautiful and difficult task. In the end it remains, for all of us, partly mystery, with or without biographical detail. Without the biographical detail one only has the writing, the poetry. That is all some writers want. -Ron Price with thanks to Timothy Morris, Becoming Canonical in American Poetry, University of Illinois Press, Chicago,1995.

My goal is to compress
into these poems

something of the

manifold complexities

of my time, age and life;

and I do it in a certain way

because I am a certain sort

of person with a certain sort

of life1 and I see autobiography

in terms of culture, meanings,

narrative and arbitrary

arrangements of reality,

endurance and the filter

and glaze of language:

with a nostalgia for unity.2

Ron Price

28 December 1999

1 A.A. Milne, It's Too late Now, 1939.

2 That nostalgia for unity...the essential impulse for the human being.

      -Albert Camus in Albert Camus: Philosopher and Litterateur, Joseph McBride, NY, 1992, p.6.

Part 6:

The process of self-portraiture is, for the most part, a rare phenomenon in the Bahá'í community. The self-portaits and biographical portraits of Bahá'ís are so very unlike many of those of the Renaissance men who left their self-portaits and the Dutch masters who explored the inner life and personalities of various Renaissance men, sensitive to atmosphere and possessing an honest realism in their art. With uninhibited statements, without false modesty, expressing a certain pride and alertness, having a wilfulness and the confidence and intelligence of a race-horse, telling of how they conquered weakness and possessed a will power that overcame the forces of the environment, these portraits are a contrast with those I came across during these four epochs. The few self-portaits and portraits of Bahais that have emerged in the first two centuries of Bahá'í history were due to photography and biography for the most part more than other arts. This subject deserves a study of its own and it is not my purpose to survey this field in my autobiography. I would only conclude that my own work, it seems to me, provides a strong contrast with Renaissance self-portaits. I like to think that pride, wilfulness and the emphasis on will power does not hold pride of place in my own narrative. I leave it to readers, of course, to make their own judgements. But the contrasting images produced in self-portaits provide helpful perspectives on those produced in my own time by myself and others. According to film theorist Gilles Deleuze we are not in front or above images; we are, rather, surrounded by images. We live in images and images live in us. Images can affect us and make us think. This immanent conception of the image seems to be very important in respect to the photographs being discussed here.

Just as narratives are "permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities and by singularities," so are photographs. Narratives and photographs obtain the status of an event. No longer is the narrative and the photograph only a geometrical analyzable space. It is also, and maybe even more, an ungraspable event in time that involves all senses. They both constitute, in some ways, a table of information, an opaque surface on which are inscribed 'data'. They are each and both the object of a perpetual reorganization, in which a new image can arise from any point whatever of the preceding image. The organization of space and time loses its simple privileged uni-directionality in favour of an omni-directional space and time.

The advent of Abstractionism in the early 1900's led to an even further shift away from the realistic face than of Gustave Courbet's fantasy self-portraits of earlier decades. Artists like Picasso and later Chagall unlocked their imaginations and let shapes, colours and patterns represent their inner selves with little to no emphasis on capturing a literal likeness of themselves. In the twentieth century, too, autobiography became concerned with different interpretations of the human personality, the inner man, the self. These interpretations were not portrayed in paint, pencil and ink but in print, words and sentences. "Interpretation is a process," writes Ricoeur, "by which disclosure gives to a person a new capacity for knowing himself." This autobiography has certainly provided that new capacity. It seems to provide that capacity by recognizing the past on the one hand and transforming the present on the other. But what applies to the study of Hellenistic Greece and indeed interpretations of history generally, applies to the study and writing of autobiography. We are “looking at the same things we looked at fifty years ago,” writes historian Peter Green, but now “we are coming up with completely different conclusions.”

By the late nineteen eighties social scientists of many different stripes have adopted narrative (storytelling) methods and narrative concepts to study human lives in social and cultural context. At least three new narrative theories of personality were being proposed by the time I came to write this fourth edition: Tomkins' script theory, McAdams' life-story model of personality, and Hermans' conception of the dialogical self. The many similarities among these theories point to basic principles and common themes for a contemporary narrative psychology, while the differences among them reveal important controversies concerning unity versus multiplicity of selfhood and the nature of human subjectivity. This burgeoning narrative deals with these principles, themes, and controversies through the example of narrative studies that I pursue as I deal with the meaning of commitment, redemption, indeed, a host of themes in the life story of this late midlife Canadian pioneer.

Then, too, there are a multitude of personality theories which I draw on in this marathon exercise. Alan Elms' 1976 book Personality in Politics, page v provides a useful definition of personality as “including any individual psychological variations that influence behavior." Personality theories tend to grow out of the experience of those creating them and obviously the ones I draw on grow out of my experience. I've got a couple of dozen theories in my files of psychology notes and I have really only begun to explore their implications for my life, indeed, any life.

Part 7:

If one takes the self-portraits of Picasso from 1900 through to the 1960s one gets a series of remarkably different views by Picasso of himself. Picasso's self-portraits from 1900 and 1901 are very much in the same vain as Rembrandts' and van Goghs'. Picasso stares out from the canvas at the viewer, allowing his expression to reveal himself. In 1907 he took a Cubist approach and with areas of colour and exaggerated features made himself into a wide-eyed character. By 1938, he abstracted his figure to such a degree that both eyes rested on one side of his face allowing the essence of his likeness as he then saw it to replace the realism of his features. Picasso utilized the narrative self-portrait even further in a series of prints in the 1960's. In No.319 of the series Picasso portrays himself as a wizened voyeur wearing a jester's hat, who peers morosely at the enthusiastic love-making of a handsome young artist and his model. The staging of this design with Picasso's apparent anguish due to old age yields a revealing portrayal of himself. This design is a far cry from the careful display of characters in Courbet's Interior of My Studio.

Another notable narrative self-portrait from the same era was Marc Chagall's I and the Village created in 1911. In this self-portrait Chagall created a memoir of his childhood in Russia. The painting is a deeply symbolic fairy-tale of characters and colour. In the center are a man and woman, perhaps Chagall and his wife, abstracted figurines walking on a hillside. The character does not really resemble Chagall, in fact, he did not even need to consult the mirror for inspiration. The story he wanted to tell was deep inside him. So, too, is this true of my autobiographical story. Hence, my use of poetry.

Here are eight poems about aspects of the teaching process,a process that was so much a part of my life over these four decades. A great change came over human civilization in the decades that this autobiography is concerned with. It is my view, and in many ways this view is echoed in the Bahá'í view of history, that the spread of the Bahá'í teachings, especially in the sixty-six years after 1937, was significantly responsible for these changes, not in any overt sense, but as a result of the simple spread of a message, a teaching, that was fundamental to the progress of humanity, a teaching that had its roots in two manifestations of God in the nineteenth century. If the civilization Bahá'ís were building "was not to wither or petrify," wrote Kenneth Clark in commenting on the many that had been thrown up for history to examine since, say, the agricultural revolution ten thousand years ago, "it had to draw life from deeper roots than those which had nourished the intellectual and artistic talents of the Renaissance." From a Bahá'í perspective, certainly from the perspective that had been at the root of my own life, the roots of Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, without which no society could long endure in this new millennium, were growing deeper and deeper. In the decades of these four epochs, these epochs of my life, roots, virtually invisible to the mass society I was a part of, were growing slowly all over the planet.

"All the steps upward in civilization," Kenneth Clark went on to say, "have been made in periods of internationalism." And internationalism, beginning arguably in the 1840s and advancing especially in the 1960s, in my own pioneering life, was increasingly a part of the history of my times, of this autobiography.

Here are those poems on this teaching process. The first poem takes you, the reader, back to the start of the formal teaching process in plans, the first Seven Year Plan in 1937, the decade when Bahá'í administration had finally grown to a point when an international teaching crusade could begin its long haul.

Part 8:


Guernica may just be the most important single painting in the twentieth century. It was painted by Picasso in a period from the end of April 1937 to June, the first two months of the first North American teaching campaign: 1937-1944. Guernica, a town in Spain, was bombed in April 1937, the very month that first Seven Year Plan. After more than forty years trying to take this message to my contemporaries I find this apocalyptic painting curiously relevant in its symbolism. The painting graphically portrays the world I have been trying to teach all these years. -Ron Price with thanks to Encarta(R) Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation, 27 June 1997; and ABC, TV, "Picasso-Magic, Sex and Death: Sex," 11:05-11:55 pm, 9 February 2003.

Complex symbolism here,

no definitive interpretation,

a world falling apart

back then and now, and now:

a dying horse, a dying age,

system, time; a fallen warrior,

traditional systems of political

and religious orthodoxy falling

from their heights of power;

a mother and dead child,

our century's science and technology

whose child is anarchy;

a woman trapped in a burning building,

civilization in a firey tempest;

a woman rushing into the scene,

a new revelation just begun

spreading its healing message.

A figure leaning from a window

and holding out a lamp,

truth and understanding held out

that all those who look might see.

And so, one view of Picasso's work,

as a Teaching Plan makes its appearance

after a hiatus of twenty years,

after a new administration

had been created to canalize the forces

unleashed by those immortal Tablets.1

Guernica, a picture of a world in chaos

as the lamp of unity hangs out its shingle

in the obscurest corner,

the only sign of power and life

as the old is destroyed.2

1Tablets of the Divine Plan, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, 1916-17.

2 There are many interpretations of this painting. This last line comes from Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology, Viking Press, 1968, p.211.

Ron Price

27 June 1997-9 February 2003

Perhaps this painting was more a sign of things to come than Picasso was aware. World War 2 was on the horizon but, as Virilio and Lotringer write in their recently published book Pure War, "All of us are already civilian soldiers, without knowing it...War happens everywhere, but we no longer have the means of recognizing." There is an increasing literature describing this state of continuous warfare in which society is now embroiled. The subject is relevant to this autobiography but too extensive to go into here.

Part 9:


On July 23 1999 I was 55. That day my wife and I passed through Whyalla where, twenty-seven years before, entry by troops took place transforming that community and the people in it. It was, though, a transformation that is difficult to describe in terms of its affect on the participants. Perhaps this is something better left to an essay.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

By the second half of the Formative Age

six souls had come to live

and then to form this LSA*

as part of a much elongated process,

or so it has seemed to many of us,

of entry by troops.

When I returned 27 years later

I was not able to tell just who was left,

except perhaps dear Kathy.**

As I walked around the town

I had not seen since half my life ago,

a sadness came from I know not where.

Perhaps it was the sense of life

“bearing the mere semblance of reality.”***

Then a wisdom sank in deep,

perhaps from God:

bring life up to a boil,

but keep your temper cool

amidst the toil.

For this life is but mirage,

from birth to death one long birage.

All the work that once went on in this place

would seem, on balance, not to have left a trace.

Is there any point to all of this?

I'd say “By God!

This is something I'd not want to miss!

It can not be measured, yet, by numbers.”

Ron Price

23 July 1999

* these six were joined by three others in 1972.

** Kathy Karavas who had been there before the entry by troops.

*** Bahá'u'lláh


The lives of learned men have at many times in history been perforce nomadic. From Greek philosophers escaping from the Persians to Germans in modern times, the intellectual has often been a person-on-the-move or on-the-run. Many Bahá'í pioneers, striving to exemplify that first attribute of perfection, that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá describes in His book ‘Secret of Divine Civilization,' namely, “learning and the cultural attainments of the mind,” have also been possessed of this nomadic quality. I write this poem from Hong Kong on what may just be the only day in my life spent on the continent of Asia, nearly thirty-eight years from the beginning of what seems a long nomadic road. I endeavour, in the course of this poetic narrative, to fuse the minute and seemingly random particulars of quotidian reality within the context of a vision which faithfully represents the transparent and not-so-transparent totality of phenomenal existence. -Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy,1945, p.402.

Beginning with all that homework

and all those Bahá'í books

just ten miles from where I grew up,

a peripatetic existence began

which continued until today:

you could call it travel teaching,

what with all those towns and houses

and thousands of books

and deep and meaningful conversation

trying to spread a seed

in a discouragingly meagre soil,

still a refugee from the Persians

and still the books pouring in

and a striving for the cultural

attainments of the mind

within the context of the micro

and the macro--for my entire life.

Ron Price
17 June 2000

There is so much 'out there' in life to deal with. Here is one of my approaches as described in the following two poems. It is an approach that attempts to collect and organize the random details of reality within a comprehensive vision, a vision which provides both conceptual stability and narrative coherence to this autobiography.


Part of this creative advance into novelty, this utilization of ideas, philosophies and concepts from the past and bringing them to bear on the present in order to structure the future, a process that is at the base of my poetry, has involved the incorporation of some of the work of the philosopher Henri Bergson into my own poetic opus and direction. Bergson emphasizes the positive power of time, the fluid continuum of intensity, the flow of reason across the brain and world as a source of creative invention, as a matrix for an affirmation of the rich, multi-levelled experience that characterizes our existence as human beings. There is a continuum of creative genetic energy in life. It is like a current passing from germ to germ through the medium of a developed organism. I see my poetry as a monitor of my continuous progress indefinitely pursued and my inevitable regress, for life is either progress or regress. There is no standing still, although it often appears that way. -Ron Price with thanks to M. Hansen, “Becoming as Creative Involution? Contextualizing Deleuze and Guallari's Biphilosophy” Internet Article, 3 January 2001.

This is a dance of the most disperate,

spontaneity paired with receptivity,

autonomy for myself and openness

toward the world: an elan vital1

separateness and communication,

segregation from the whole

and integration with it,

a complex functional system

providing my inner autonomy,

a great variety of inner states,

an active sensitivity exposed,

heterogeneity and individuality,

the more isolated, the more related,

continually in the process of constructing itself.

1 a concept from Henri Bergson

Ron Price

3 January 2001

Part 10:


“The poet, to lay legitimate claim to the title of poet,” writes Paul Kane in his book Australian Poetry, discussing the history of poetry in Australia, “was constrained to create not only poems, but himself or herself as poet as well-what we have been calling the process of autogenesis...the process of establishing oneself as a poet was inseparable from establishing poetry in Australia.” There were some parallels, I found, to my own work in the late twentieth century. I did not find it the “double burden” of originating both oneself and a tradition, that Kane describes. But I did find the dual process of writing poetry and articulating the process within the context of my society, my religion and my own life fell into place quite naturally. Indeed, I often felt I was caught up in understanding and elaborating the process to a far greater extent than I was in writing poetry. At other times I felt as if all that I wrote was part of one meta-process, meta-narrative. I was striving to establish an identity for myself and my religion in cultural, historical, spiritual terms. I felt the process “to be at once trivial and apocalyptic, vain yet of the greatest consciousness-altering potential,” as Blanchot once described it. -Ron Price with thanks to Paul Kane, Australian Poetry, Cambridge UP, NY, 1996, pp.35-41.

He1 had a prodigious poetic output,

felt neglected and embittered,

thwarted by the world's indifference,

lonely and in despair,

saw society as the enemy,

constructed an account of his

poetic beginnings,

of his posthumous aims,

in a melancholy mood and view

and it told of what was, what is:

but the song he dreamed about

remained unwritten.

His spirit fancied it could hear

the song it could not sing.2

But their's is not my story:

I have written of my dream

and sung the song I heard.

I've seen the river in the hills.

In the night the rain fills

and the troubled torrent spills.

1 Charles Harpur, the first major poet of Australia, writing in the early years of the Babi and Bahá'í Faiths.

2 Henry Kendall wrote this in the last poem of his final volume of poetry.

Ron Price

12 January 2001

Much of our sense of who we are comes by comparisons and contrasts with others whom we are not. Here is one example.


A poet gets a sense of who he is by coming across another poet whom he is not, with whom he shares some things in common and some things not-so-common. John Forbes, an Australian poet who died in the 1990s, remained single all his life and felt his calling to be a poet at the age of only fourteen. He identified with Maoist ideology and even dressed like a working-class Chinese. He would often rewrite a poem ten times. He saw himself as a laid back larrikin. He never found love, requited or unrequited. He felt he did not fit in to the public scene, into the establishment, or even the middle class rung of society with its married people raising their families. He did not think much about everyday things. Forbes was an eccentric. But, like my own style and approach to poetry, he tried to write for the future, tried to mix high and low culture, did an immense amount of reading and was also trying to be a poet for his time. When given the opportunity he could talk the backside off a barn door and showed great enthusiasm for an idea, a piece of prose or a poem. Like many a larrikin Australian his conversation was humorous with a sharp edge, what some might call harsh. My aim, among other aims, on the other hand, was to be humorous but gentle.-Ron Price, "Poetica," ABC Radio National, 2:05-2:45 pm, 7 July 2001.

You, too, packed in the print

'til it was coming out of your ears

and tucked it in to an eccentricity,

a laid-back larrikinism,

a sense of aloneness

and a sense of a calling.

You felt you had something to say;

you were a real talker, thinker,

an intellectual, Aussie-style,

if there is one,

a comic with a sharp bite.

My sense of a calling came later,

with my own particular brand

of laid-backness, eccentricity,

far from the everyday,

preferred the gentle edge,

the cultural attainment of the mind,

softening, an etiquette of expression,

always with a moderate freedom,

an engendering of perspectives,

encouraging, where I could,

that profound change

in the quality, the standard,

of the public word

which would, must, come.

Ron Price
7 July 2001

There is a complex interlocking between self and other, self and society, self, religion and society. I have found the poetry of the Canadian poet Al Purdy very close to the ambience of my own. As the decades of the twentieth century advanced, the pastoral dream came to seem as irrelevant, as obsolete, as the pioneer-axeman or the sheep farmer to the experience of the average urban Canadian or Australian, respectively. Yet many Canadian and Australian poets right up to the present have resisted the growth of a primarily urban, commercial, and technological society or what some have come to call the modern liberal, technological, materialistic and capitalist culture. In one way or another, they have tried to hold onto that pastoral vision and to cultivate a more personal and domestic relationship to local space. Some poets and writers, haunted by a vision of peace and a desire for solutions to the world's enormities, with their hands and their heads under the skirts of the world, passionately seeking answers, can be read in this context. Often they are overcome by pessimism, skepticism and cynicism. Mark Twain was such a cynical and disappointed man. In his latter years he suggested that attempts at moral self-improvement were futile. It appears that his disappointment in humanity and society lead nowhere philosophically but to despair. I certainly have had my share of these isms, too. It seems difficult to live in these dark hours and impossible to live with manic-depression without these isms playing some part. If one is to avoid total despair one needs some basis of hope, of dream, of optimism, some anodyne.

The following poem illustrates my way of trying to understand the complexity of it all over 40 years ago. It conveys, too, some of that basis for optimism and hope which I and the sixties generation enjoyed.

Part 11:


Poetry, song and autobiography have been interlinked for millennia. In my pioneering life, beginning in 1962, the music and words of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, the culture of the sixties and my own autobiography come together in an interesting cross-fertilization. Bob Mason's unpublished PhD Thesis on 'The Dialogue Between the Beatles and Bob Dylan'1 illumined, for me, this triangle of relationships. To take but one of many possible examples, the very month I decided to pioneer among the Eskimo, October 1965, The Beatles' hit "Nowhere Man" was released, as Mason informs us. Most of the Beatles' songs were about their coming to terms with autobiographical issues, about changing society, about drugs and after 1965, about a dialogue between these megastars. Paul McArtney said, in a song he wrote in the 1990s, that the members of his group, The Beatles, always came back to the songs they had been singing because these songs told them, and everyone else who was interested, where they were at. This is quintessentially true of my own poetry.-Ron Price with thanks to 1"Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 16 January 2002.

I was finally knowing

where I was going to

and feeling as if I could

finally see some light

at the end of the tunnel,

thinking for myself:

none of this bourgeoisie

normality for me,

going where noone

had gone before----1

at least from my corner,

doing what noone expected,

nothing to do with drugs,

helping to change the world

in a way none else could see,2

on my own, breaking the umbilical chord,

no more of the family Christmas and Easter

and endless birthday scenes for me,

no more of the 'daddy,' 'mommy'

and all the old friends for me:

this was my own response to existence.

This was a starting new

and working out my way of being

my take on the world and its load.

I was not a 'Nowhere Man.'

I was 'doing what I wanted to do,'

thinking what I wanted to think,3

or so I thought.

1 Going to live among the Eskimo, away from family and friends, had an absurdity to it in 1965 in the conservative climate I grew up in in southern Ontario.

2 Outside the small circle of Bahá'ís I knew then. 3See the George Harrison song: Do What You Want To Do. Ron Price....16 Jan. 2002

I write little in this autobiography about the music of my generation and my relation to it, inspite of the masses of written material, of videos, sound tracks of films, LPs, CDs, a cornucopia of sounds and sights generated since the 1950s. I did have an intense interest in the world of rock, folk and classical music from about 1957 to 1977 but, with the arrival of my son, a dwindling bank balance, with three kids to raise, with a burgeoning of groups, of sounds, of styles and tastes, it seemed that by my early thirties many other things in life came to occupy the stage that music once had once played more prominently. I could write a separate essay on this musical experience and its development, but I am disinclined because, in retrospect, music seems to have occupied a more periferal role in my life when viewed in its totality.

When one goes about writing the story of one's life all of history becomes available when one tries to get a handle on one's experience. In writing about yourself, the autobiographer comes to write about so much more. Here is an example.


Mozart's description of what happens to him as he composes has some similarities to the process of writing poetry as I experience it. "Once I have my theme another melody comes,"1 Mozart begins. And so it is, for me, with writing poetry. I get the germ of an idea, some starting point, a strong note or theme. Then, another idea comes along linking itself to the first one in a similar way to the linkage of that melody Mozart mentions to his theme. By now there is emerging "the needs of the composition as a whole" both for me and for Mozart. For both of us, too, the whole work is produced by "melodic fragments," by "expanding it," by "conceiving it more and more clearly." Mozart finishes his work in his head. The composition comes to him in its entirety in his head. I finish my work on paper and I have no idea of the ending until the end. The poem below is an example, drawing heavily on the contents of a book.2 -Ron Price with thanks to the 1ABC Radio National, The Science Show, 10.1.98; and 2Chloe Chard, Pleasure and Guilt: Travel Writing and Imaginative Geography 1600-1830, Manchester UP, NY, 1999.

Even the most uninteresting,

trivial and repetitive,

when seen at a distance

with a lively fancy

and a determination,

with purpose and system

to make the most of life,

can find a mysterious charm,

an entertaining commentary

in the hands of a good writer.

But this is not the work

of a tourist and its trivial,

pointless diversion,

innocent gratification,

pleasureable indolence,

gratifying excitements,

gastronomic indulgences,1

relief from responsibility,

and identity: escape.

I have never been a tourist.2

Always there was the work,

the object worthy of life,

of commentary:
always the profusion

of the incomparable,

so much intensification,

excess, the delights,

the dangers, the restlessness,

a reaching out beyond

the mundane, the observable.

The danger of hyperboles,

accepting, as I know I must,

jarring encounters,

the destabilizing,

troubling elements

than can't be kept at bay,

when calm benevolence

can't be maintained

and the necessary distraction.

1 Except, perhaps, on my two 'honeymoons' for several days in August 1967 and December 1975; and travelling to and settling in to some new places of residence and employment.

2 Tourism in the modern sense began, according to Chard about 1880, although other historians of this modern phenomenon take it back to 1845. See: Paolo Prato & Gianluca Trivero, trans Iain Chambers, "The Spectacle of Travel," Australian Journal of Culture and Society, Vol.3 No.2, 1985.

Ron Price

27 June 2002

Part 12:

And so, with these poems an underlying philosophy becomes more evident. This narrative and this poetry has provided what Doris Lessing called a discourse by which I have constructed my "versions of reality." The other major discourse Lessing describes is fiction. That foundation of civilization I spoke of earlier, and which Kenneth Clark said required "intellectual energy, freedom of mind, a sense of beauty and a craving for immortality," became increasingly manifest in the Bahá'í community as well as my own life, by stages, beginning as far back as the 1950s when that Kingdom of God on earth made its start in 1953. By 1983, thirty years later my personal craving for immortality, for the afterlife, had reached such a proportion that I felt embarrassed to even talk about it. By 1983 I had come to memorize the names of all the departed Hands of the Cause, names I recited daily. I prayed for them and anticipated that they would pray for me in a process known as intercession which takes place here and in the hereafter. By 2003 I carried a list of some 200 names with me from time to time when I went for walks in the bush. These were the names of pioneers during the several epochs of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Plan, friends who had passed away and others who, for various reasons, seemed appropriate to include on my prayer list.

Virginia Woolf, the English writer entre des guerres learned to be attentive to the movements of her own mind to cope with the bi-polar tendencies in her life. Through self-reflection she found a language for the ebb and flow of thought, fantasy, feeling, and memory, for the shifts of light and dark. In her writing she preserved, recreated, and altered her perceptions, attitudes and significances of the dead, altering in the process her internal relationship with their invisible presences. "I will go backwards and forwards," so she remarked in her diary, a comment on both her imaginative and writerly practice. I found this description in Katherine Dalsimer's book Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer somewhat similar to my own.

I began to experience, for the most part insensibly over the first twenty years(1980-2000) a certain relief, not from dejection as Tennyson and Coleridge found, but from depression and exhaustion, what I have called a tedium vitae. Like Tennyson and Coleridge I found my relief in people outside of myself, in the person of dead friends who never truly died but continued on in my memory and spirit. Tennyson would read letters from a dead friend and I would say prayers of intercession to a range of people from Hands of the Cause to, as I say, dozens of souls whose names I would recite, mantra-like. Coleridge was dejected because he had lost his health, youthful joy, and creativity. I did not feel the loss of these things, in fact, my creativity was perhaps greater than ever. But I felt tired of the social domain, tired of much of life. It was not really depression, for I had known depression only too well. It was a fatigue of the spirit, a distaste for life in varying degrees, a peaceful, restful withdrawal into quietness. It was not unlike the experience of Henry Adams and his sense of isolation and a certain disillusionment. My mind and heart combined, as Adams did during the years of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Faith, force with elevation and this combination gave my life, paradoxically, a new sense of both romance and tragedy. But all was not force and all was not elevation. More on this later.

My sense of beauty seemed to be enhanced as the Arc progressed. It was enhanced in my personal appreciation of beauty around me, by having a wife who possessed a far greater sense than I the beauty of her surroundings and in the wonder of the Arc on Mt. Carmel which was itself the apotheosis of beauty to many in the Bahá'í community around the world.

Some autobiographical writers like Alfred Corn are clearly uncomfortable with personal disclosure, but still they write autobiography. Corn writes: "Even now I dread these unmasked statements, their therapeutic slant and trust in fact, failure to scan or use productive rhyme or metaphor. Yet can't deny the will to set out in search of what it is that shaped one witness's imagining of time." Corn needs some degree of secrecy and so do I, although I sense he needs more than I do. His uneasiness is his charm; I don't think that is true of me and my work. I'm not sure where the charm is in my book. Charm is a certain delight, light-handedly executed, sometimes with humour, sometimes with a degree of astonishment and freshness. It is a quality I felt I possessed as a teacher on occasion, but I will have to wait for the reaction of readers to assess whether it is present in my writing.

The discomfort with self-disclosure, though, is a pervasive and important part of the autobiographers repertoire. It plays on the edges of everything he writes and contributes to whatever depth he achieves. So is this true of self-disclosure in everyday life. It represents a tension we live with and which enriches our life by its very presence. Some, of course, tell all and others tell little to none. I think my work represents a happy middle ground and I give it the unifying stamp of my life and my religion and everything else is distilled through this alembic.

Part 13:

The capacity of narrative to inflame, inform, or excite depends on its ability to take readers and listeners away from the peak of the distribution in a normal curve where the majority, the average, the normal, the typical, are found to see some extraordinary novel and different circumstance. That is exactly why we call these narratives ‘novel.' They take us away from the core, the centre, the typical, the ordinary. If readers are trying to understand the way in which social reality works then the important thing to remember is that the prosaic and the boring is often far more important in the way in which the world organizes itself than is the exotic and profane. What literature and the narrative of the novel do is to place readers way out there on the fringes of reality. But this is not so with autobiography, at least not with this autobiography. I do not so much place readers out on the fringes of reality rather, it seems to me, I attempt to bring them closer to the centre. I harmonize, civilize and humanize the deepest of human impulses in an ordinary life, my life, through an extended appeal to my religion, a religion which regulates and helps to draw out all that is in me, that is my potential, a potential I try to actualize in the process of living.

Narratives which emerge in the public sphere do not surface by accident. They are often packaged and presented by policy entrepreneurs, who use them to further their legislative agenda. Advocacy groups expend considerable effort in finding good narratives. What they are looking for is the perfect victim, someone who is genuine, articulate and sympathetic. If the "spin" sometimes overtakes the facts, most advocacy groups can doubtless convince themselves that they have committed no great sin since they know they are on the side of the angels.       This autobiography is not about packaging a story for policy entrepreneurs, not about the spin of an advoacy group, not about a legislative agenda, nor the spin of an advocacy group, although I suppose to be honest, fair, up-front, as they say these days, I have been spinning with the Bahá'í community for half a century and so there is inevitably an element of spin, of guilt by association you might call it. Much of the spin of contemporary entrepreneurs, though, is ephemeral; often it is frivolous, vulgar. My spin, if you will, derives its ethos, its core values, from an ideal, an eternal philosophical melody. My work may not be awe-inspiring; it may not be influential; it may not be dazzling, but I think it shows a skillful use of words. With that skill I build my world. Like Bernini in the age of the baroque, I give to my work, I carry through its chapters over a long period of time, a unity of design, of impression, that is uncommon during these epochs, uncommon at least in autobiography.

I am not using a careful mix of statistics, hard-luck stories, and staged life-events to play an important behind-the-scenes role in shaping public perceptions of this religion which has been emerging in recent decades on the international front. Is it sufficient that those who live by the anecdotal sword will die by that sword? In my case: yes. My autobiography is based on anecdote and, if that is insufficient, I must die by my insufficiency. That may be an inadequate response to the underlying problem with casual reliance on narrative. There are hazards in such a narrative approach. Narrative can capture the subtleties and nuances of human existence. It does so better than most other forms of discourse. However there are no guarantees that it will not be used for less-elevated purposes, particularly if it enters the policy or decision-making domain. Narrativists discount these problems, as they almost invariably do when they are busy praising the "right" kind of narrative, at their peril.

Narrative only presents the idiosyncratic perspective of one individual. Narrative is not necessarily reliable. But even reliable narrative cannot provide answers to the critical questions of typicality and frequency. An effective narrative can transform a legal landscape. Narratives raise serious questions about the substantial potential for abuse inherent in the form of discourse they deal with in their account of a life. Narrative turns out to be exceedingly effective at transmitting untruthful, incomplete, and unrepresentative anecdotes, particularly those that trigger a "flash of recognition" because they confirm preexisting suspicions or stereotypes, or are themselves simply stereotypes. The hazards of narrative can not be discounted. So be warned. This autobiography is not a final word, a guide to the perplexed or a great transmitter of truth. It is, though, I like to think, a document that can help to advance the human spirit. It was written down in a small room in Tasmania at the end of the Tamar River in the opening years of the new millennium.

Mark Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli the insight that there are three kinds of lies: "lies, damned lies, and statistics." Unfortunately, as I try to make clear, both anecdotes and statistics can lie but do so in different ways. Significant adverse consequences can follow when laws are based on falsehoods, half-truths, and truths that are not generalizable whether the source of such information is anecdotal or statistical. I feel safe in many ways, that whatever I write here is not likely to have any influence on the law-making processes of Bahá'í institutions.

I have also seen another version of three types of lies: “lies, damned lies and auto/biography.” Jon Kudelka drew a cartoon to illustrate the insubstantial nature of biography, the failure of biographers to snare their subjects, the superfluity of life-writing in general. I like to think, though, that I have caught something of my life inspite of the snares and pitfalls of the process and perhaps even partly in the majesterial way that the two great American writers, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, did more than a century ago. Some critics have likened Twain's sprawling Autobiography to Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Hamlin Hill suggested that both writers had as their aim, "to put a man, himself, in the nineteenth century, in America, on record." One need have neither a coherent worldview nor even a particular end in mind to write an autobiography. All that the form demands, writers like Twain and Whitman had in abundance: curiosity, a reactive intelligence, and stamina. That my work possesses both a worldview and an end in mind may, for some readers, detract from the overall affect.

Part 14:

Both Twain and Whitman wrote a fresh, vivacious, journalistic speech that has kept its freshness even today. They shared a huge optimism about America, at least at first, but both also had a very clear sense of the "dark side" of the American enterprise. Price liked to think his writing was both fresh and vivacious and he certainly hoped it would keep that way, as sealed vegetables keep fresh in the fridge until their use, but here for a hundred or more years. Price also had much of that huge optimism. It was an optimism based on the Bahá'í enterprise, the Bahá'í philosophy. But Price was also conscious of the dark side of the great enterprise associated with the history and future of his Faith. It was a side which involved crises and the periodic blasting of all the hopes of its votaries. But whatever the mix of bright optimism and dark realism, certainly one of the aims in Price's autobiographical work Pioneering Over Four Epochs was “to put a man, himself, into the period of four epochs of the Formative Age, 1944-2021, a North American pioneer, and put his experience on record.” It was experience that was sufficiently compelling for him to want to record it. Hopefully readers would want to read it.

I have no illusions about the weaknesses, the trouble, with guidance by anecdote and there is certainly plenty of anecdote here. It is not just that some of the guidance is false or misleading. But even if true and accurate, anecdotes contribute such a little portion to the overall analysis, to developing a meaningful picture of the situation about which we are concerned. Reforms and policy shifts often require tens of thousands of anecdotes.” Narrativists gloss over the difficulties associated with complexity and diversity and often assume, I think quite falsely, that a collection of aphorisms, humorous stories, what I have often called the wee-wisdoms and funnies industry, will make for victory in the end or, in contrast, underpin some basic pessimism or sense of the absurdity of life and history. The strategy these purveyors of simplicities employ is likely to be ineffective and costly when taken seriously as a philoosphy of life. Because narrative does not aspire, for the most part, to neutrality or typicality, its use in the public sphere is fraught with peril.

"Good" narrative appeals directly to our passions and prejudices and the better it is at doing so the more likely it is to be credited as truthful and representative, whether it is or not. When statistics disagree, there are ways of sorting out matters and experts to provide assistance in doing so. When narratives disagree, there is no appeal, except to innate persuasiveness and the degree to which the narrative coincides with our passions and prejudice. Narratives demonstrate that predictable consequence exists in a tremendous gap between "narrative appeal" and the empirical reality of life.

Barring the unlikely development of a generalized sense of "statistical compassion," anecdotal evidence will continue to play a major role in the formulation of public policy and individual opinion. It certainly plays an important part in the understandings of Bahá'ís in their personal and community life. As such, we need to develop strategies for dealing with the infirmities of both statistics and narrative. Although it is beyond the scope of this autobiography to suggest an optimal response, some tentative guidelines may be helpful. For anecdotes, the short version is "be exceedingly skeptical," "consider the source," and "don't generalize without additional and nonanecdotal evidence." For empirical scholarship, "be skeptical," "consult the experts," and "consider the source" are probably sufficient safeguards. These simple rules should help minimize the tendency toward distorted decisionmaking which would otherwise result. Of course, the full effect of these checks and balances will only be felt if the academic community developes a more skeptical stance toward anecdotal advocacy, instead of engaging in it themselves, and calling it "narrative."

The Bahá'ís enjoy a framework for anecdotes that gives them a basis for evaluation and judgement. It is a framework which will allow them, one day, to take the world by storm. For they have been building slowly, building a critical mass and a great movement in the arts, which Kenneth Clark states never lasts for more than about fifteen years, is on the horizon after a slow build-up of, arguably, more than two centuries. This autobiography is only one small piece in an immense artistic puzzle which will keep humanity and the Bahá'í community busy putting it all together in the years, the decades ahead. As the Bahá'í world begins to alter the historical direction, the revolution of the last several centuries, in which Divine Authority has been replaced by experience, experiment and observation; as it continues to combine in a balanced perspective both science and religion the long and, as the Bahá'ís see it, inevitable result will be a force of enormous power.


PS Readers can now go to Part 3.1 if they want to read more or write to me for the rest of Part 2. My email address is: I will send you the rest of Part 2 electronically.

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