The prose-poetry in this document involves, in various ways, the Person of Baha'u'llah, His life and teachings. I try to bring that Life into my own time and life in this poetry by means of the metaphorical nature of Baha'i history.
For this poet history, sociology, psychology and literature among other disciplines all combine in various ways to provide perspectives on the Founder of this Faith. This poetry has as its themes: events, ideas and experiences from the second epoch of the Heroic Age: 1853-1892.
Pioneering Over Four Epochs: The Heroic Age: The 2nd Epoch: 1853-1892:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs Section VIII: Poetry
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography
, Section VIII: Poetry
original written in English.
Each of the prose poems below was originally in a form resembling a poem, but I have gathered each of them into a form that resembles prose more than poetry. John Keats and Emily Dickinson among others used letters to transmit poetry, to formulate letters as poetry, to exploit the poetic and epistolary so that they inflect, enrich, even become one another. The blending of genres in various ways and for a wide range of purposes resulting in an even wider range of effects has become a popular sport in recent decades. I have come to see some of my own letters in a collection now spanning nearly 50 years as a blend of genres. Indeed poetry and prose have become somewhat indecipherable in my mind's eye.
My poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements, echoes of the literature of the social sciences and humanities and a steady stream of references to and influences from Baha’i writings, history and teachings. This evening I was reading about the English poet George Byron(1788-1824). I was particularly struck by the fact that all of Byron's poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements and echoes of the literature he had absorbed over the years. And so I felt a certain affinity to Byron for this reason.
His poem Don Juan is considered the most autobiographical of Byron’s works. Almost all of Don Juan is real life either Byron’s or the lives of those whom he knew. Byron started writing Don Juan on July 3rd 1818, eight months after the birth of Baha’u’llah. He continued working on the poem in Italy and on his death in 1824 the poem remained unfinished. Don Juan was a, perhaps the, poem that the working class took to heart in the mid-19th century, so Friedrich Engles informed us in 1844. This poem reached the urban and rural poor and, for many, it was all they read besides the Bible. It is very likely that most of these readers did not read any of Byron's other works. As early as 1819 the work was regarded by the bourgeoisie as filthy and impious, although it was not fully published until 1901. He was regarded by Eliot as having contributed nothing and by Goethe as the greatest genius of his century. -Ron Price with thanks to Galit Avitan, “Publication Histories: Byron’s Don Juan,” Ashes, Sparks and Hypertext, 2000.
I came across an online seminar organized by the National Library of Australia entitled ‘Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History’1 and was particularly struck with an article by a Peter Read: Private Papers and a Sense of Place. The article was an analysis of the verse of the nineteenth century English poet John Clare. Read saw Clare’s verse as an interesting example of what he called ‘private papers.’ Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read thought Clare’s poetry was much more akin to a collection of private papers that we might find in a library than to the poetry of a poet. However akin to private papers Clare’s poetry was, Read still thought Clare could have become one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. In discussing why Clare did not become such a poet, Read quotes the cultural historian John Barrell’s views on Clare: “insofar as Clare was successful in expressing his own sense of place, he was writing himself out of the main stream of European literature."
Accomplished poets and novelists are fully aware of the need for their readers to be able to generalise from the emotions which they as writers present about a particular place, event or person. The world view and life experiences of writers needs to find resonance with readers, if their writing is to be successful. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published, fictionalized and/or poetic works of professional writers. -Ron Price with thanks to 1“Internet Site,” National Library of Australia, 2006.
SHAPING INNER LIFE
The act of intuition is...an act of perception whereby the content is formed....turned into form.....a work of art is essentially in the artist’s mind...there is an intuited Gestalt...there is contemplation of the complexities, simplicities, import....meaning is synthetically construed...there is candid envisagement....there is clarification and organization of the intuition.....In the process the reader’s imagination of external reality can, in fact, be shaped...a revelation can occur to the reader’s inner life....because of some fresh formulation of their felt life, life which is at the heart of their own culture. -Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1953, Chapters 20 and 21.
Thank you, Susanne, for helping me define
just what I am doing, trying to do,
as I write all these poems,
trying to express all this trying,
this doing, this feeling, this thinking,
this imagining, this memory, this intuiting,
this defining, this clarifying, this organizing,
this shaping, this formulating:
to see with my own eyes
hear with my own ears
know of my own knowledge1,
so that others may do the same.
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
...it is the nature of sociability to free concrete interactions...and to erect its airy realm...the deep spring which feeds this realm and its play does not lie in...forms, but exclusively in the vitality of concrete individuals, with all their feelings and attractions, convictions and impulses....Yet it is precisely the serious person who derives from sociability a feeling of liberation and relief. -Geoege Simmel, The Sociology of George Simmel, Kurt Wolff(ed.), Collier-Macmillan, NY, 1964.
This is unquestionably the community,
an instrument of mega-proportions
with a community feeling
that will triumph over everything
and become as natural as breathing,
So: what is crucial
is our subjective orientation
toward the community
in all its manifold aspects.
This is our elan vital;
this is our therapy, our centre,
our norm, our basis of judgement,
our overcoming of antisocial dispositions,
our indestructible destiny.
Here is creative tension:
the individual and community,
much talked about dichotomy
that stifles our capacity for joy;
where we are learning new bases,
new instrumentalities for happiness
after centuries of darkness;
where guilt and innocence play
in a drama whose roots are largely unseen;
where the alone and the lonely are found
in a complex web of social interstices;
where the greatest theatre of all
plays life on the stage
and we play with a required courtesy,
hopefully genuine, a certain reservedness,
but not as stiff and ceremonial as the past.
It seems purely fortuitous: the harmony,
contact and dissonance, the easy replaceability
of everyone we meet, the democracy we play at.
And we must play on the stage as players
with our parts-not indifferent-interesting,
fascinating, important, even serious,
with results: after the action,
the play of several acts with many scenes
and exchangeability. Ourselves, our self,
our personality may just vanish
or become coated with the many colours
Enter thou among My servants,
And enter thou My paradise.*
For here you must lose your self
to find community
and we have much to learn
about loss of self.
It is here we shall find
the community feeling that will triumph
over everything, as naturally as breathing.
1 December 1995
* Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, (US, 1952), p.47.
A CELESTIAL COMPANY
Sunday, all day nothing.
-Samuel Beckett in ABC Radio National, 23 November 1997, 7:00-8:00 am.
He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and consorteth with the people of the immortal realm.
-Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p.12.
Writing at the end of an age,
the beginning of an age, a stage.
So much was, as you1 said,
and we must go on; we will
go on, even if we do not move;
even if we sit and gaze; for we
must see, as Camus said, Sisyphus
as happy; we must go on, indeed,
we do go on in one way or another,
for there are many ways, even if
the plumber comes at 9 and Sunday
looks and feels like nothing. For
the Kingdom of God on earth has
become, in an institutionalization of
charisma, which is quite a distinct form
of the incarnate God Who will remain
forever and ever beyond the learning
of the learned and the comprehension
of the wisest of the wise. And so we wait,
as you said so many times and as we must,
and fill our souls with a celestial company,2
a people of some immortal realm.
23 November 1997
1 Both Beckett and Bahá'u'lláh wrote a great deal about the inability of words to define reality.
2 Memorials of the Faithful, p.122; Seven Valleys, p.12.
A GENERATIVE MATRIX
Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, indeed the works of all the Central figures of this Faith, and the Universal House of Justice, represent a powerful institution of self-reflection slowly becoming embodied in the central cultural practices and ideological milieux of an emerging global civilization, a civilization still in its infancy but barely visible in a model of community that has just stuck its head above the ground. This vast corpus of print will one day come to saturate humanity's social life with imagery and self-representation as the Homeric epic came to saturate Classical Greece.
The miracle of Greece, the Hellenic spirit, found its origins, its source, in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The miracle of this new Order, now just in its embryonic form, its nucleic spread, finds its origins in the Twin-Manifestations of the nineteenth century, the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh. -Ron Price with thanks to Barry Sandywell, The Beginnings of European Theorizing: Reflexivity in the Archaic Age: Logological Investigations Vol.2, Routledge, NY, 1996, p. 50.
We codified our sense of identity,
idealized vocabularies of conduct
in the generative matrix of a Prophet's
art, a unique enterprise, effectively
inaugurating a global act that would
translate a spiritual kingdom into a
physical form, begin a new type of
communicative institution, at the
beginning and end of civilization,
a brilliant supernovum of a collapsing
galaxy, history's supreme monument
of Revelation writing, of jewel-like
emanations and effusions from an
indefatigable pen, God's artistry.
13 December 1997
ACTION NOW IN BEING
Grant, then,.....that Thy servant may consort with Thy chosen ones, The saints and Thy Messengers in heavenly places that the pen can not tell nor the tongue recount.-Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p.44.
The pen cannot tell nor the tongue
recount those piercing eyes which
read my soul for this was the language
here: light and no need for words,
a presence, a power, an authority,
a devotion, a beauty, a wonder, a
silence so profound, a lifting beyond
sense and circumstance, past doubt
and why and how: all was astonishment,
the fragrance of jasmine, frangipani;
jacaranda everywhere flooding in
with foregiveness and evanescent
grace: released from wanting and
having my action was now in being.
14 December 1997
AN IMMORTAL GATE
There was a power and fire in Brahms' compositions by the 1850s. Perhaps this fire was kindled from the same source that kindled Mirza Aqa Jan when he describes the affect of Bahá'u'lláh walking towards him on the roof of a house in summer in Karbila.(God Passes By,p.116): "...with every step He took and every word He uttered thousands of oceans of light surged before my face, and thousands of worlds of incomparable splendor were unveiled to my eyes..."
A wondrous sound he heard
during Your days, like some
music of the spheres, thousands
of suns blazing their light, like a
mountain ring, a horn, like his girls
who sang. He suffered long and in
his generosity he found Your gifts
and Your sound revolutionizing his
world.2 He found some immortal gate
to paradise where he hoped to go and
dwell with his sweet Clara forever,
far from this darksome, narrow world,
immersed in that land of lights free of
earthly bonds, floating, fulfilled, at last.
30 November 1997
1 Johannes Brahms(1833-1897), great German composer.
2The process whereby the potency of the twin-revelations of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh had, by the 1850s, begun to exercise its transforming affect on the planet was mysterious; although "(t)he process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifest to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized....by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its development and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.
-Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.111.
A WITHERED BLOOM
Thou art but one step away from the glorious heights above and from the celestial tree of love. Take thou one pace and with the next advance into the immortal realm and enter the pavilion of eternity.-Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
A dove flew into my mauve heaven1 and
disappeared behind a flurry of flowers,
lost in loveliness, caressing the twigs and
branches with their soft, warm beauty. A
carpet of tears spread itself below, a sign
of summer's end, when all this beauty would
become dry grey and brown and this garden
delight, beauteous and lovely, would end in
sweet death: this brief and wondrous candle,
lighting my green and glamorous stage with
its grace and charm will no longer brighten my
eyes; this matchless jewel of heaven, home of
delightful song, will be seen no more. This bloom,
withered and gone, is no everlasting beauty; far from
that pavilion of eternity and that celestial tree of love.
22 November 1997
1 this poem was written as a meditation on my Jacaranda tree, a tree in Western Australia which, in November, blooms with wonderful mauve luxuriance.
When the world within us is destroyed, when it is dead and loveless, when our loved ones are in fragments, and we ourselves in hopeless despair, it is then that we must recreate our world anew, reassemble the pieces, infuse life into dead fragments, recreate life. -Hanna Segal in Guilt and Depression, Leon Grinberg, Karnac Books, 1992, NY, p. 233.
We must recreate our world as
He did back then, established
that anchorage,1 that fixed and
accessible centre, then on the virge
of extinction; the tide must be turned
from its dead and despairing state,
from its fragmentation, to a flood
point of inestimable benefits. And
so I must weap to have that which
I fear to loose2 , form amidst discord,
beauty amidst ugliness at the heart
of my experience, encountering it
all as I help to form the structure of
society, as I give myself to solitude.
1 November 1997
1 Shoghi Effendi says that Bahá'u'lláh established this 'anchorage' in the Babi community on his return to Baghdad. It was a community 'on the virge of extinction'.
2 Shakespeare, Sonnet 64.
In this play, Hamlet, there is a complete fusion of poetry and life. Hamlet is you and I, our burden, our struggle, our pondering, our purpose, our resolution and our lack of it, our intellectual activity and our failure to act, our perplexity in the face of the mysteries of existence, our consuming passions and self-love, our fatigue with life, our existential ennui and aloneness, our incomprehension, our autobiography and our philosophic doubt, our potential ruin. -Ron Price with thanks to Claude Williamson,Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1950.
I know not oh my God
what the fire is which Thou
didst kindle in my land;1
earth seems so often to cloud
its splendour and cold waters
quench its flame. Through Thy
strengthening grace Thou didst
enable me to approach this fire
and in my eagerness to be warmed
by its heat. I have yielded my life--
surrounded by endless perplexity,
consuming passions, an existential
aloneness, incomprehension, philosophic
doubt and, always, the potential for
ruination and the lowest abyss.
1This poem is a meditation on the prayer that opens with a variation of these two lines. See Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985(1954), p. 52, Bahá'u'lláh.
21 November 1997
Depth, well seen, rises to fill the surface; it appears in sedendary quietness in a room where individual man is perfected in knowledge and in wisdom; it comes to the poet as harmonizer, as creator of a new synthesis and meaning, as builder of bridges, as the maker of psychic balance and peace, divine wholeness and order. It comes to poets as they study the world, for this world functions as the language through which the poet(and others) access the unseen world: we understand one world in terms of the other.
-Ron Price with thanks to Michael Edwards, Poetry and Possibility: A Study of the Power and Mystery of Words; Marie Manca, Harmony and the Poet: The Creative Ordering of Reality; and John Hatcher, The Ocean of His Words: A Reader's Guide to the Art of Bahá'u'lláh.
Music is so abstract that it is a wave
that is not tangible and unseen, unproved
entities named quarks in an ultrahigh
energy world resonate like musical notes;
a quadrillionth of an inch and an octillionth
of a second can not be measured. But we
can say each of us has had a million ancestors
in the last 500 years and everyone is at least
your fiftieth cousin , with microbes your trillionth
cousins: the volatile stuff of the world is ever in
bubbling ferment, flowing through the biosphere
and the star-dust of the universe your quintillionth
cousins in an absolutely incredible interrelationship
of all things in all things for seemingly ever and ever.
13 December 1997
This poetry describes a lifeworld, a domain of the everyday, an immediate social existence, a practical activity, with all its habituality, its crises, its vernacular and idiomatic character, its autobiographical peculiarities, its decisive events and indecisive strategies. It describes beliefs and what happens to them when invoked, activated, put to work and realized in daily life. It describes how people, especially me, experience time, space and everyday reality. You could call my poetry a type of phenomenological autobiography. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Jackson(editor), Things As They Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1996, pp.7-8.
It all goes by so many names,
names known only to a few
who live amidst certain kinds
of books. Sartre called this
everydayness our 'situation',
Wittgenstein our 'environment
of a way of acting', Habermas
our 'field of intersubjective
communication'. Others, many
others: our local moral worlds,
worlds experienced, primary
experience, our immediacy.
This poetry is an instrumentality,
a way of knowing the gritty,
the obscure drama of this everydayness,
a way of saying that this great lived
complexity cannot be possessed,
controlled, captured or pinned down
only awakened to transitory brightness1
by some inconstant wind, some invisible
influence, some root and blossom
of thought, my thought, thought that tries
to live on its own and tell of its happiest
moments, its tragedy, its vast tracks
of quotidian simplicities and its journey from
the abode of dust to the heavenly homeland.2
1 Shelley, A Defence of Poetry.
2 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.4.
2 November 1997
REPAIRING THE SPIDER-WEB
We must be others if we are to be ourselves. For the imaginations which people have of one another are the solid facts of society. To observe and interpret these imaginations must be one of our chief aims. The definition of our inner life and private character must, in the end, be partly a product of how we see and interact with others.
-Ron Price with thanks to George Herbert Mead, Charles Horton Cooley and Shoghi Effendi Rabbani in Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason: Logological Investigations Volume 1, Routledge, NY, 1996, p. 267; and Guidance for Today and Tomorrow, George Ronald, Oxford.
So much of who we are is socially constructed;
through detours into the referential perspectives,
the attitudes, of others we come back to ourselves.
It is as if we are enveloped in others, in their
encompassing signs and voices and we are literally
made from words, from speech, which interweaves
itself into our being and we rise, differentiate and
evolve. We respond to our own responses, making
our experience and the self emerges in this process.
Complex networks of social interaction produce
highly complex individual self-understandings with
enhanced chances of creative existence. We are socially
constructed realities and need, therefore, large helpings
of solitude to synthesize that special blend which is us.
And who are the "others"? Everything that exists?
An anchoring, a rooting, a throwing into a nexus of
affective relations and institutional environments-
where we seek a meaningful account of our life-
in-the-world, our place, our time, our history. We
thus become inscribed in a field of social relations,
orthestrating the immense interpenetration that is
human existence, situatedness, repairing the spider-web
of our lives with vulnerable fingers, picking mysteriously
the fruit of holiness on a tree of wondrous glory,1
learning how to take one pace into the pavilion of
eternity and inhaling sweet savours from effulgent horizons.
7 December 1997
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
THE NEW NARCISSUS
Ovid's Narcissus is embedded in the western imagination.1 The name is synonymous with psychic retreat into the labyrinth of willed isolation. Narcissus symbolizes the core of human identity, the self, of what mankind feels itself to be. Narcissus now has a global identity; its potential is being unleashed at a shattering speed. The obsession of Narcissus can defy the alienating thrust of modern complex society. All great love wishes to create the object of its love. This love is partly narcissistic. In the end, though, the poet must see himself in terms of nothingness and powerlessness. This is essential to maintain an intellectual and artistic humility. This nothingness is the "goal of them that have reached and attained Thy court.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Lawrence Thornton, Unbodied Hope: Narcissism and the Modern Novel, Bucknell UP, Lewisburg, 1984; and 2 Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, Wilmette, 1969, p. 89.
Self-love is kneaded into
the very clay of man: cognitive,
affective,aesthetic, ethical and
political. We need to know our
selves, our ways of perceiving,
valuing, our ways of being—
so that our own loftiness and
baseness can be understood
and interpreted in a fluid,
complex, indecipherable world,
unplanned and fragmented
with identity no longer anchored:
ideas as verbal instruments of a
collectivity which makes sense.
23 November 1997
THIRSTY BOOTS THIN AND WORN
Poetry devoted humbly and self-forgetfully to the clear statement and record of the facts of the universe is always helpful and beneficent to mankind. Herein lies the delight: in the interpretation, in the exhibition, not just in what the poet does or produces. The central aim is to connect one's small fire to the fires of life, to the mass of flame reaching from earth to heaven. This is the sign of the robust, united, burning, radiant soul. -Ron Price with thanks to John Ruskin and Ralph Waldo Emerson in Emerson: The Mind on Fire, A Biography, Robert Richardson, University of California Press, London, 1995, p.566 and p.572.
My own flame seems to be flickering,
just the last burn before extinction,
especially before dawn, after the long
night; we've gone many a year since
the times of world peril began in earnest
in the ninth stage of history when this
light was cast into my life and I was young.
These stretched out years in the age of
transition, in the dark heart, slowly
entering through that cold war, that
stoney, tortuous, seemingly endless
road we've been travelling, surprisingly,
in this century of light, guided by the
trustee of this global undertaking.1
They have been dazzling achievements
and my thirsty boots are thin and worn.
28 November 1997
1 An expression used in the preface to the booklet Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í International Community, 1992.
The beginning of Wordsworth's The Prelude is the beginning of a world as this opening line here begins a world. This world I create as my own world is getting thinner, indeed as I am feeling less and less desire for this world, for this metaphorical vehicle altogether, although I am conscious that whatever certainties I have about this next life and my destiny are relative ones.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 3 December 1997
There are more than blessings in this breeze,1
more than I could possibly see, myriads of
mystic tongues for me, visitants I can not
know or be. Half-conscious am I of deeper
life in this garden green, on lacey leaf and
branching tree, as I gather the fruits of a long
communion and soar on the wings of longing
to some Center where white buildings grow
and I recreate my world a hair's breadth from
my tired eyes and soil-thin heart where love
renews itself and I create in my mind through
some everlasting melodies breathing that
tranquillity on me and that joy, more manifest
than the manifest and more hidden than the hidden.2
3 December 1997
1 initial idea for this opening line from Wordsworth's opening line to The Prelude and analysed in Poetry and Possibility: A Study in the Power and Mystery of Words, MacMillan Press, London, 1988, p. 74.
2 the development here of this initial line cmes through Bahá'u'lláh's introduction to The Seven Valleys and His prayer "Create in Me a Pure Heart."
A NEW AESTHETIC WORLD
Ordinary people are here with their weaknesses and strengths. He is one of these ordinary people and in documenting himself, he feels he documents others. There is a flame here, an aflameness with the mystery of life and a recognition of struggle. A quiet understatement seems to say that in writing about the struggle he transcends it. He also helps to define and shape his necessary community, necessary to him and to us. This community is part of his celebration of life and part of his obsession, his religion. Like all obsessions it has great personal meaning to him and he wants to document it. Like history, he does not want it to pass over him or us; he wants to write about it. -Ron Price with thanks to The Tragic Vision of Joyce Carol Oates, Mary K. Grant, Duke UP, Durham, NC, 1978.
In the quest for a new communal consciousness
one encounters saintliness and sin,
boredom and chouder,
people on the threshold of the mystic
or on the frontiers of nihilism.
One sees a fabulous reality
that creates history and meaning;
and vacuous lives that fly
to sensation’s frenzy and the hit tune.
It seems we have been experiencing something
ferocious and tragic since He1 left us,
like the walls of Jericho tumbling down,
some hellfire and crucible
with its attendent agony and grief,
to take us beyond
this chaos of frenetic passivity,
smug cows at the trough,
to a new aesthetic world,
the absolute dream and the present.
1 The passing of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892
30 November 1996
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha left the West in 1912 and the world in 1921.
AT LAST CONVERGING
Literature dwindles to a mere chronicle of circumstances, or passionless fantasies and passionless meditation, unless it is constantly flooded with the passion and beliefs of the past and, of all the fountains of passion and beliefs of the past, Bahá'í history has again and again brought the vivifying spirit of excess into a Bahá'í consciousness in the arts. The history of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, the seemingly endless martyrs, the life story of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and the accounts of many of the great teachers now over several epochs, are slowly creating a new literature and changing the very roots of people's emotions by their influence on people’s spirit and their sense of oneness. -Ron Price with thanks to W.B. Yeats for an idea, source unknown.
Most of life takes all that I am,
its many roles and stages;
the candle of my days burns low
while I strut and fret between the pages.
There is within this tempered sword
which I use to cut these lines
something brittle called fatigue
I feel it often times.
The past collapses into moments;
I create a world of leaves
they hang upon my boughs
with green and shiney weaves.
These verses are no crown or banquet;
they are not part of dance or play.
They aren't meant for entertainment,
not part of song, renoun, or suit so gay.
I feel as if something is emerging,
although these lines come from my mind. .
A civilization is at last converging
with this adventure that I slowly unwind.
23 March 1996
In The Sun Also Rises(1926) Christianity is no longer part of the inner lives of people. A small core of the North American population had found by 1926 a new basis for community in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, but it was not until the 1960s that the numbers in this core became anything more than miniscule. In 1960 there were still under 1000 Bahá'ís in Canada. When I began my pioneer life in 1962 the Bahá'í community began to increase significantly in many places in the world. Many people found a new dynamic, a new basis for community, in the Bahá'í teachings, but the work was slow and arduous. -Ron Price, an attempt to place the origin and growth of this new Order in perspective.
Just as you* were bringing that Order
into its first form the world, the world
which got His Tablets, was getting turned
upside down by cars that took people away
and away, planes that took them up and away
and radios that took their old world away
as did urbanization which made it difficult
to know who your neighbour was in cities
of thousands and anomie spread to every root
and branch and they rushed into a new age
mostly without poetry, music or beauty, although
there was more sound and words written
than ever before and the cars and planes got faster
and the lost generation of the Twenties
was lost again in the Sixties
as they brought that Order further into view
and the spiritual malaise got deeper
and that was really what you had to fight
in the third war which never came
as the old community died
and this new one was slowly born.
But it was no garden party either.
You had to give it all, at least sometimes,
to keep the spark of belief from dieing out,
being asphyxiated, in a tempest
of incredible complexity, speed and unpredictability.
9 March 1996
* Shoghi Effendi
+ 'Abdu'l-Bahá's document, foundation, for the spread of His father's teachings(1916-17)
** Universal House of Justice
A decision of the Supreme Religious Court of Egypt, announced on 10 January 1926 in a letter of Shoghi Effendi, may be regarded as an initial step taken by the very opponents in the path of the universal acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith as one of the independent recognised religious systems of the world. Clearly, the Baha’i Faith is not a part of Islam any more than Christianity is a part of Judiasm, although they all could be said to be Abrahamic religions. -Ron Price drawing on Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, Wilmette, 1968(1928), pp.100-101.
In 1926 Uum Kulthum began to sing with professional instrumentalists to back her up. Up until this time, from 1919 to 1926, she had male family members on the stage behind her when she sang. Initially, she sang disguised as a boy. -Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, 17 October 1997; and ABC Radio, 15 October 1998, 11:05-12:00 noon.
Unobtrusive events in Muslim lands,
freeing from the bonds of tradition,
these new stars of the east.
At variance with the accepted doctrines
of Islam; the implications of these events
were unknown, then.
Pure, clear voices, as if from on high,
singing during these embryonic days
of a new Order.1
You have both become models now
for an old world in disarray and your
voices will sing out:
your clarion calls, like sweet, sensitive
birds, traces of gold in centuries to come.
16 October 1998
1 Uum Kulthum sang from 1926 to 1975
2 Bahá'u'lláh's voice and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's sang out through the translations of Shoghi Effendi within the nucleus of a future world Order known as Bahá'í administration.
A PARADISE BEDECKED WITH ROSES
The world I have grown up in and matured as an adult, in these first several epochs of the Formative Age, at least since my first contact with the Cause in 1953, has been one in which the perspicuous verses of Bahá'u'lláh majestically appply: Paradise is decked with mystic roses, and hell hath been made to blaze with the fire of the impious. This world has indeed become both a paradise and hell and the pioneer is caught, with everyone else, in a rapid cross-fire of the forces of integration and destruction, of seeming heaven and hell.
-Ron Price with appreciation to Bahá'u'lláh's words above from Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 133.
I try to bring alive an age,
the first century of the Formative,
with new feelings, thoughts, a
composition on a time, an epoch,
the start of an era, as I adjust,
define, the texture of this new
Kingdom,1 its source and origins,
to describe the continuities over
these years and their awesome
complexity and wonder.
As I head for retirement2 and
unravel the special sense of these
hours that bedeck paradise with
roses,3 I can taste that invisible
world, as my psyche withdraws
and I slip to the edge, the perifery,
to an abyss of nothingness where
crystal waters flow and my soul is
cultivated in a poetic melange, in
caverns where voices lead and melodies
from His immense and beneficent tranquillity.
22 November 1998
1 Kingdom of God on Earth began in 1953 when the first contact of my family with the Cause began.
2 I hope to retire at the age of 55 to some part of Tasmania. I am now 54.
3 Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Wilmette, 1962(1941), p.131. Paradise is realized in this world within this sacred Cause. See Robert Mclaughlin, These Perspicuous Verses, George Ronald, Oxford, 1982, p. 80.