published in Lights of Irfan, Book 1, pages 143-163 Wilmette, IL: Irfan Colloquia, 2000
For the past three generations, many of the Western adherents of the Bahá’í Faith have first encountered the teachings of this religion in introductory pamphlets that listed twelve Bahá’í principles. This study examines the actual sources of the Bahá’í principles included on those lists — the Tablets and talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which had been translated into English and published in "Star of the West,” The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Paris Talks, 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London. In fourteen sources, 'Abdu'l-Bahá enumerated Bahá’í principles as He explained them, and in no case were there twelve principles in any list; the numbers vary from three to thirteen. In twelve other sources, 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not enumerate principles, but discussed the teachings in a particular order, and the order of these presentations has been compared with the numbered lists. All together, thirty-eight Bahá’í teachings were discussed in these Tablets and talks. Each one of these teachings will be described along with its ranking in relation to the other teachings, in number/order of presentation, and in frequency of reference. This is by no means a comprehensive or conclusive study of the subject, but it is shared here to suggest a revision of the now-traditional reduction of the Bahá’í teachings to lists of twelve, and also as an assistance to those who would wish to be fully informed of the principles that 'Abdu'l-Bahá regarded as best suited to attract the minds and hearts of the people of the West and, through them, humanity at large.