The Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth


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This book of 650 pages and 230 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding the new Baha'i culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community. This international community found in over 200 countries and territories, as well as some 120 thousand localities has been going through this shift in its culture since the mid-1990s. The Baha'i Faith claims to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. This Faith had its origins in mid-19th century Iran. This new culture, or paradigm, will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Baha'i Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century of the Baha'i era, 2044 to 2144. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Baha'i community.

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The Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth

  1. 1. QUEUE UPLOAD ADMIN LOGOUT . .Home Search author Search title Journals Browse language New Popular Site map . . . >> Essays and poetry by Ron Price About this document (click for more) edit q·edit archived diff my diff Abstract: The building of the structure of this new world Faith, a structure with many functions, was at the core of Bahai programs and policies, goals and game- plans, so to speak, from 1921 to 1996, a period of 75 years, as well as back into the 19th century. Notes: This book of 550 pages(font 14) and 230 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding the new Baha'i culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha‘i community. This international community found in over 200 countries and territories, as well as some 120 thousand localities has been going through this shift in its culture since the mid-1990s. The Baha'i Faith claims to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. This Faith had its origins in mid-19th century Iran. This new culture, or paradigm, will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Baha'i Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century of the Baha'i era, 2044 to 2144. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Baha'i community. .
  2. 2. Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Baha'i community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first six years, 2007 to 2013, of the presence on the internet of this commentary, it has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community. This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Baha'u'llah, had effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for half a century by the end of April 2013. I have also written this book as a form of dedication to, by some accounts, an estimated 15 to 25 thousand Baha'is and Babis who have given their lives for this Cause from the 1840s to the second decade of this third millennium. I have also dedicated this book to the many best teachers and exemplary believers--those ordinary Bahais--who have consecrated themselves, indeed their lives, to the work of this Faith. Finally, I have written this work in memory of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, whose life from 1872 to 1958 has always been for me a model of an engagement in a quite personal culture of
  3. 3. learning and personal growth. This book is, arguably, the longest analysis and commentary on this new Baha'i paradigm that is currently available in the Bahai community, although several other books have appeared since this piece of writing first appeared in cyberspace in 2007. The overarching perspective in this book is a personal one that attempts to answer the question: "where do I fit into this new paradigm?" Readers are left to work out their own response to this question as readers inevitably must, now and in the decades ahead, as this new paradigm develops a life of its own within the framework already established in the first two decades of its operation: 1996 to 2016. The question now is not "if" but "how" each Baha'i will engage themselves, will participate, in this new paradigm as the first century of the Formative Age comes to an end in 2021 and in the years beyond as this third millennium continues to challenge all of humanity. See also bahai- Reflections on a Culture of Learning and Growth: Community and Individual Paradigm Shifts: A Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic and Personal Context by Ron Price PREAMBLE Section 1:
  4. 4. This book of 550 pages(font 14) and 230 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding this new Bahá'í culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha‘i community which it has been going through since the mid-1990s. This newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions, has been developing a new culture in the last two decades, from 1996 to 2016. This new culture or paradigm will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Bahá'í Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century, 2044 to 2144. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Bahá'í community. Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Bahá'í community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first six years, 2007 to 2013, of the presence of this book, this commentary, on the world-wide-web, this work has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community, a community which exists in more than 200 countries and territories, and more than 120,000 localities, across the planet. Section 2: This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Bahá'u'lláh, had fully effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for half a century by the end of April 2013.
  5. 5. I have also written this book as a form of dedication to, by some accounts, an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 Bahá'ís and Babis who have given their lives for this Cause from the 1840s to the second decade of this third millennium. I have also dedicated this book to the many best teachers and exemplary believers--those ordinary Bahais--who have consecrated themselves, indeed their lives, to the progress of this Faith. Finally, I have written this work in memory of; firstly, my maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, whose life from 1872 to 1958 has always been for me a model within my own family of an engagement in a quite personal culture of learning and personal growth; and secondly, the many others who have been my mentors in life, others whose learning or experience, or both, has been an inspiration from my late teens when I began to read seriously in the social sciences and humanities, and when I began to take part in the community life of a religion which had come into my family's life back in 1953 when I was just nine years old. INTRODUCTION Part 1: The Internet This book is, arguably, the longest analysis and commentary on this new Bahá'í paradigm that is currently available in the Bahai community, although several other books have appeared since this piece of writing first appeared in cyberspace in 2007. Some of these books devoted part of their content to this new culture of learning. The overarching perspective in this book is a personal one that attempts to answer the question: "where do I fit into this
  6. 6. new paradigm?" Readers are left to work out their own response to this question as readers inevitably must, now and in the decades ahead, as this new paradigm develops a life of its own within the framework already established in the first two decades of its operation: 1996 to 2016. Each Bahá'í has to work out what form his or her ready embrace of the unfolding guidance of the Plan will take. Each Bahá'í has to work out what form, what attitude, what ways and means, their approach to learning and the cultural attainments of the mind will take in this new paradigm. The question now, as one prominent Bahá'í writer put it, is not "if" but "how" each Bahá'í will engage themselves, will participate, in this new paradigm as the first century of the Bahá'í Formative Age comes to an end in 2021, and its second century unfolds in the years beyond 2021 as this third millennium continues to challenge all of humanity in ways that can now only be dimly envisaged. In drawing on the works of other writers over the last six years, 2007 to 2013, I should emphasize at the outset of this lengthy read that, by 2013, the internet had a myriad print and audio-visual resources on this new paradigm. Indeed, more than a little emphasis should be given in this book and in this new paradigm to the internet. Since the mid-1990s when this paradigm began its life in the Baha‘i international community as a critical means for the growth of a distinctive Baha‘i culture of learning, the internet has transformed communication on the planet, at least for those with access to the world-wide-web. My book is just one of the seemingly infinite number of resources now available for the 5 to 8 million Bahá'ís and the billions of others on the planet who want to know more about this new world Faith, and about its unfolding paradigm. Advanced computational and communications technologies play a highly varied and diverse, set of roles in today's global economic, social, cultural, political, and even ecological orders. The new Bahá'í culture is one of the many cultures that have been transformed due to the internet. Evidence of this exists in technologies used to implement the internationalization, the globalization, of this Bahá'í culture of learning and growth. The world-wide- web lives in many of the cultural manifestations of the Bahá'í culture of learning spread as it is now across 1000s of localities on the planet. The tools that shape this new media and its practices have transnational impacts and profoundly influence the global outreach of the international Bahá'í community. The new media tools in cyberspace provide contexts for local, regional, national and global-scale interaction. The academic study and the
  7. 7. practical everyday use of the world-wide-web is a truly interdisciplinary undertaking that has no fixed academic home and, by extension, no organized intra-disciplinary, self-regulating value system or ethics -- in other words, it has no cohesive philosophical discourse. It is utilized by the Bahá'í community at all levels in a virtually infinite number of ways. The internet is imbedded in the larger societal and cultural, subjective and objective, economic and community structures of lived experience. The systems within which Bahá'ís exist and operate are now deeply connected to the WWW. At the same time, through this embededness, this new digital media acts back on the social so that its specific capabilities can engender new concepts of the social and of the possible. The communication and the communicating subject in cyberspace is endowed with a great deal of autonomy... over the institutions and organizations of communication. The paradigm shift that is the new culture of learning has taken place at the same time as the pardigm shift in communication that has resulted from the internet. This transformation of communication is, in some ways, a transformation from mass communication to mass self-communication. The autonomy of social actors like myself has increased &, therefore, the power relationships in the Bahá'í community as well as the larger society has altered. The nature of this altered power relation implicit in this communication shift due to the internet has possibly four particular sources of power. The new mass self-communication provides for people like me: (i) with networking power which is the power to include or exclude entities from my system of communication; (ii) with network power which is the power to set the terms of the interactions that take place within the system through protocols that I define; (iii) with networked power which is the power of enabled social actors over other social actors within the system; and finally, (iv) with network-making power which is the power to shape a system by installing protocols that adhere to my particular goals and values. The programmer/maker of the work, for example, this book, in setting the terms of the conversation, can be said to shape the limits of engagement in relation to that work. Both myself and my readers, in turn, exert pressure on the system, the Bahá'í community. We can strengthen the system, the Bahá'í community by using it as the forum for communicating what I am writing. But my book may also potentially cause a negative input into the community. In the case of the new media, the internet, it can work with little or no interaction. The digital media we now use are not neutral tools. They enact social, ethical and moral worldviews as this book attempts to do. The work I do as a writer and author is relevant. But what I write must be sensitive to Bahá'í core values and ethics. Writers like myself need to
  8. 8. possess both a disciplinary sense of self-assuredness that what I am writing is good work within the intellectual culture that is the Bahá'í international community. My work must be underpinned by a strong ethical philosophy that is consistent with (i) the broad framework of the Bahá'í teachings and (ii) my covenantal relationship with the Cause. Part 2: This Book as Centrepiece of My Literary Output This book had become for me a sort of centerpiece, not only within all the internet posts on the subject, but also within the context of my own writing in these last two decades. Readers wanting to understand this new Bahá'í culture were not and are not short on analyses and commentary if they want to get a picture of what this new Bahá'í culture was, and is, all about. After six years of having this book in cyberspace this book had become somewhat irrelevant to the mass of readers who preferred short posts, and for whom a book of this size was just too much in our 21st century world of print and image glut. As the first months of 2013 went by, and the 50th anniversary of the election of the Universal House of Justice in April 1963 came and went, I found I was adding more and more to this book on a variety of topics that I had no intention of writing about back in 2007 at the inception of this work. There were always several occasions each year when the Universal House of Justice sent further explanatory messages which (a) extended this new Baha‘i culture in either or both its structure and its functioning, and which (b) provided a continuing exegisis for the benefit of a community which was striving to put in place the many dimensions of this new Baha‘i culture. I was always able, therefore, to add and edit, comment and analyse this new Bahá'í culture at least several times each year. Who knows where and when this book will find its final edition! Part 3:This Book As Useful Resource to the Bahá'í Community This book had become for many a useful resource for readers wanting a macroscopic view of the new Bahá'í paradigm. As 2013 advanced month by month, and the current Five Year Plan, 2011 to 2016, moved through the first months of its third year from 21/4/'13 to 21/6/'13, I continued to edit a document that had grown to well over 500 pages. Editing is an endless task, as most serious writers find. Time would tell, given the highly dynamic nature of this new Bahá'í paradigm, and the extensive growth in the new Bahá'í culture, just how large a book this piece of writing would become in
  9. 9. the remaining years of the current FYP, and the years taking the Bahá'í community in 2021 to the end of the first century of its Formative Age. What appears to be emerging from the digital revolution is the possibility of a new mode of temporality for public communication, one in which public exchange through the written word can occur without deferral, in a continuously immediate present. A world in which we are all, through electronic writing, continuously present to one another, at least to the extent and in whatever ways we desire. There is, I would like to suggest, something unprecedented in this possibility of the escape of writing from fixity. What the digitalization of text seems to have opened up is the possibility for writing to operate in a temporal mode hitherto exclusively possible for speech, as parole rather than langue, (Hesse, 1996: 32), to use expressions from the analysis of language and linguistics. This ‗continuously immediate present‘ of writing allows one's writing projects, and one's conversations around those projects, to develop in a more fruitful, more organic fashion. Such is the case here. There are now many ways that writing in cyberspace can be described. I have just written a few things in the paragraph above and readers should not concern themselves if they don't understand some of the ways, some of the words, I have used. The internet is a new medium of communication, like the TV and the radio, the telephone and the telegraph before it. There is now an extensive literature on the subject of the internet and its ways and means of communicating. Each reader will, of course, have their own experience. The majority of the 5 to 8 million Bahá'ís will never see this book; for less than half the world has access to the internet as of 2013. I write for a coterie, but so do all writers. Some coteries are big ones and some are little. After some 30,000+ hits, I'd say this coterie is in the middle range; it is not likely to go viral, and I will never be either famous or rich. Writers like myself in this document are willing to expose some of the process of editing online as they go about extending their work in cyberspace, in public. This process allows some readers at least to see some of the bumps and false starts along the way. I didn‘t at first sense, as I wrote the first edition of this now lengthy work in cyberspace back in 2007, that I was even embarking on a book-length project; I only knew that I had a small,
  10. 10. persistent series of questions that I wanted to think a little bit about. Having formulated an initial stab at some possible answers, and having been disagreed with, as well as supported and encouraged by those who read my work in its first two years online(2007 to 2009), the feedback from my commentators made me think in more complex ways about the issues I‘d presented. Only then was I able to recognize that there was more to be said, that there was something in the ideas to which I felt compelled to commit myself. Without the simple and highly focused beginnings of this book back in 2007, without those first questions and, by then, by 2007, a decade of thinking about this new Bahá'í culture, as well as the often inadvertent process of drafting more and more commentary in the public space that is the internet, I would not have been led by sensible and insensible degrees to this longer text, a text that is now more than 500 pages. The book has come together bit by bit over the last 73 months. Approaching my writing from the perspective of process, thinking about how ideas move and develop from one form, one post, one piece of writing to the next, and thinking about the ways that those stages are represented, connected, preserved, and ‗counted‘ within new digital modes of publishing, all helped to foster what has become, for me, a highly fertile text. I took full advantage of the web‘s particular temporality, its sense of and use of time. A great deal of stuff that appears, that is published, on the web exists, in some sense, in a perpetual draft state, open to future change. Writers therefore, like myself, recognize both the need this creates for careful preservation of the historical record of the stages in a text‘s life and the equal importance for all authors who utilize this cyberspace mechanism of approaching their work openly, thinking about how their texts might continue to grow even after they‘ve seen the light of day in some 'published' form. The internet is a new world for both writers and readers. As a writer and teacher over many decades, I am fully aware of how much many find the process of analysis like a disease and with a weary sigh they often turn to other topics if the analysis goes on too long. Indeed, there are many potentially tortuous considerations which, as a writer, I simply ignore. One can not keep everyone happy all of the time with what one writes. As I often say in this book: I write for a coterie. Part 4:This Book Has Many Authors
  11. 11. As this text became increasingly available for the sort of ongoing development to which I refer above, I recognized more and more the degree to which I was no longer the sole author working on this book. This work became far more collaborative than any book I have written in the past. New modes of collaboration – over time, across distances – made possible by networked writing structures required me to think about originality quite differently, precisely because of the ways that these new modes intervened in my conventional associations of authorship with individuality, with this work as mine. This was a new world of publishing and it was a new Bahá'í culture as the fin de siecle closed and the first years of the 21st century advanced incrementally. The two facets of conventional authorship, individuality and originality, are intertwined in complex and subtle ways: insisting that a text must consist of one‘s ‗own‘ work is to insist that it make an original contribution to the field. The bottom-line, as they say these days, is that one's work is not simply one's own, not uniquely one's own. Not only does the operation of the digital network exclude the possibility of uniqueness in its very function, the links and interconnections that the network facilitates profoundly affect the shape of any given text. In digital scholarship, the relationships between the authors whose ideas we draw upon, and the texts that we produce is highly dynamic. The work of our predecessors is in some sense contained within whatever increasingly fuzzy boundaries draw the outlines of one's own texts. And so it is that readers may find this work somewhat fuzzy and not to their liking. It will be too long a read, as I say above, for many but, "such is life" as the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly is reported to have said on his way to the gallows in NSW in 1880. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Reflections on a Culture of Learning and Growth: Community and Individual Paradigm Shifts: A Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic and Personal Context by Ron Price
  12. 12. George Town Tasmania Australia ______________________________________ PREAMBLE #2: Section 1: This book of 550 pages and 230 thousand words(font 14) contains reflections and understandings regarding the new Bahai culture, what amounts to a gradual paradigmatic shift, in the Baha‘i community. This community is now found in over 200 nations and territories on the planet. It is the second most widespread religion on earth. This paradigm shift has been taking place since the mid-1990s, with its first intimations going back arguably as far as April 1988 or even the 1970s when the concept of the institute first became part of the Bahá'í community's process of deepening its adherents. This new paradgim will continue in its various permutations and combinations, its wide-ranging developments at least until 2021, if not until the end of the 2nd century of the Bahai Era in 2044. This shift will possibly find an increasing elaboration beyond 2044 into the third century of the Bahá'í Era, 2044 to 2144, as this new world Faith plays an increasing part in the affairs of the world and its peoples. From time to time in this book I make mention of the paradigm shifts in our wide-wide world as it increasingly globalizes, planetizes and becomes one world socially as it already it, to a significant extent, technologically and scientifically. Of course, the wider paradigm shifts that involve the entire planet are all very complex and these wider shifts, are not the focus of this book, although they cannot be entirely divorced by the Bahá'í community and its 5 to 8 million adherents. This book also aims to offer, such is my hope, many pages that help its
  13. 13. readers evaluate who they are, or think they are, in relation to the ideal they perceive before them, the ideal conveyed in Bahá'í texts and the ideal they see as they view their own lives. I feel somewhat presumptuous insofar as this aim is concerned. I am sure most readers who are Bahá'ís are already very much aware and are more than a little able to recognize the distance that lies between their present capacities and those toward which they strive. But our real selves are so often hidden within us, even though we know there are angels who can and do help us. These angles are the confirmations and the celestial powers that come our way in this paradigm and in previous paradigms. The God within is a somewhat complex idea: "Look within thyself and thou wilt find Me standing within thee, Mighty, Powerful and Self-Subsistent." Intercession is the result of generous devotion more than logical analysis. I trust that my desires, my efforts to gain the intercession of faithful souls over several decades, will overcome my unmortified passions. The deepest need in our characters is right desire and there are many prayers that express these right desires. Right desire is very important for a writer who is trying to convey a wide range of complex ideas. The impersonal power of the Cause, in so many subtle ways, comes to be seen by writers and artists, indeed, people in all walks of life, as one's personal power. The mind does not countenance such an idea, but the ego proceeds undetected in its insidious and evil course, underground, as it were. Each of us must come to know themselves; it is on this basis that we come to know others. We each have to do battle with our inner demons and dragons, our lower self; no one else can fight that battle for us. In rejecting the sin and not the sinner, this also includes our own dear selves. And, to conclude some of this aphoristic advice let me say that, so often the cup must become empty before it is filled again. I think this is as true for ourselves as it is for others who first come to this new Faith and study it for the first time, or even for those who study it for years. Everyone fills their lives with all sorts of stuff, and it so often is this "stuff" that keeps the cup full and the person never really enters the garden of the Cause. He or she stands at the gate and looks within, but never enters. This is true for more reasons that we are aware. I hope that I will not be hindered from that which has been ordained for me, hindered by wayward appetites, appetites which cause the profoundest trouble in my character.(Gleanings, p.315) I also hope the same for my readers. And who knows what is ordained for each of us as we travel the
  14. 14. path. May God help my readers, as I pray that He helps me, to disentangle each of us from evil, from great human passions, and to deliver us from evil because so often we are not strong enough to do it on our own. In this new paradigm Bahá'ís have to deal with so many forces in the world of existence- -but they matter not at all, if we only realized it, and realizing this is no easy task. At least it is no easy task for me. What matters is our own dear lives. They are of the greatest importance.(Paris Talks, p.118) Our outward conflicts are but an echo of a more inward war. It is a war that is fought with prayer, prayer which calls eternal forces into alliance. This war is also fought with meditation, and the sign of meditation is silence. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Prayer provides an expression of the craving of a man's heart. Prayers are always answered. Sometimes circumstances change or He changes us. Of course, believing that what happens to us is always for the best, does not mean we will not suffer. And it is so often very difficult to believe that what is happening to us, to say nothing of the billions of others, is "for the best>" The more than a century and a half of Bahá'í history is filled with suffering. As I examine Bahá'í history from time to time in this book, I often examine it in a metaphorical sense. John Hatcher has written about this way of studying and thinking about history and I leave it to readers with the interest to examine some of Hatcher's books. I also leave it to readers to study secular history, especially history in the last century or more. Recent modern history throws much light on this new paradigm. The world we entered in this new paradigm was one in which catastrophe was writ-large. The world a century before, in 1900, had no idea of the magnitude of the catastrophes ahead. The vast majority of humankind lived outside the Western world. There was vast and hopeless misery in many places especially: Russia, China, India and Africa. Again, I leave it to readers to try and grasp the general story of modern history and the light, if any, they can find that throws our world a century later in an historical perspective. I taught history for several decades and I am more than a little aware of the anarchic confusion that exists in the study of history. This is not only true of history; it is true of all the social sciences, young and inexact as they are, and far more complex than the physical and biological sciences. Complexity faces us all in the study of man, society, and the vast field of values, beliefs and attitudes, in a word, religion.
  15. 15. Section 2: The Baha‘i community had already put in place, through the guidance of its leadership over more than a century-and-a-half, through prayer and meditation, through sacrifice and suffering, and through much else, an evolving structural base for community building. During those decades, filled as they were with appauling suffering across the face of the earth and unparalleled scientific and technological change, the Bahá'í Faith spread to every corner of the planet and forged its Bahá'í administration in many thousands of localities. The latest of the Abrahamic religions, which is what this new Faith claims to be, entered the 21st century with a structural-base that was just in embryo, in what you might call the chrysalis phase, a century before, in 1900. The community-building that has been taking-place in the last two decades, 1996 to 2016, has been built on this structure, and on the work of several million adherents in the Bahá'í community. Bahá'í institutions and the millions of individuals who have been part of its tapestry over more than 150 years before the emergence of this new paradigm have a story that I encourage readers to become as familiar with as they possibly can. This new religion has grown up in the light of modern history and there is much to study, in some ways, far too much for any of us to really take in to its fullest. We can but try and, hopefully, we have the interest and the discipline to make the effort and avoid the massive distractions that beset us all in this new digital age of print and image-glut. Community building became a focus for a process that the internationally and democratically elected body of the Bahá'ís, the Universal House of Justice, said began, that had its kick-start, at the outset of this new paradigm in the mid-1990s. Most of my life as a Baha‘i, as far back as the 1950s, and before that in the lifetime of my parents who were also Baha‘is, during that first epoch(1937-1963), and its three stages, of Abdul-Baha‘s Divine Plan, the major goal and emphasis was on building the structure, the institutional base of this "nascent Faith of Baha‘u‘llah.‖ The House of Justice referred to present Bahá'í administration in its Ridvan message of 2011 as ―the harbinger of the New World Order.‖ "The evolving administrative structures offer glimmerings, however faint," the House of Justice pointed out, "of how the institutions of the Faith will incrementally come to assume a fuller range
  16. 16. of their responsibilities to promote human welfate and progress."(Ridvan 2012) Section 3: The building of the structure of this new world Faith, then, a structure with many functions, was at the core of Bahai programs and policies, goals and game-plans, so to speak, from 1921 to 1996, a period of 75 years, if not in at least the quarter-century before that in the ministry of Abdul-Baha and before that in the lives of those two-God-men of the 19th century--the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh. In the last 20 years, 1996 to 2016, the focus has been on "community" in addition to "structure." Of course, teaching this Faith, extending the base, the number of localities, the numerical, the statistical, foundation as far and wide as possible, making a larger group of believers, has always been high on the agenda of Bahá'í communities everywhere since the origins of this newest of the Abrahamic religions in the middle of the 19th century. The latest messages from the House of Justice during this current Five Year Plan, 2011 to 2016, are examples, par excellence, of the elaboration of the details of this community building focus. This book attempts to incorporate commentary on the messages from the House of Justice and national assemblies as they are published, and as they relate to this new Bahá'í culture. The latest message from the Supreme Body came out in the first week of May 2013, and I have added passages into the text of this book from that Ridvan message of 2013. Each message from the House of Justice serves as a continuing exegisis, an exegisis that goes back well before the emergence of this new Bahá'í culture in the mid-1990s. "On each front," the Supreme Body closed its Ridvan message of 2013,"we see the Bahá'í community moving steadily forward, advancing in understanding, eager to acquire insights from experience, ready to take on new tasks when resources make it possible." For readers I leave the pleasure of studying this message as I am confident many will in the weeks ahead as the winter in the southern hemisphere approaches, and summer in the northern hemisphere. I hope, too, that the document entitled Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, prepared by the International Teaching Centre at
  17. 17. the request of the Universal House of Justice for distribution at the Eleventh International Bahá‘í Convention, can also be studied in the weeks ahead. This latest in a series of documents beginning in 1998, a document of some 12,000 words, has been issued to provide a broad overview of the progress being made across the globe in advancing the process of entry by troops. It has now been twenty years since the House of Justice began to prepare the Bahá'í community for "a phenomenon" that can be sustained once it has started. As a Bahá'í who began his experience in the Bahá'í community in 1953, I remember well when the Guardian referred to this process of entry by troops. I mention it here in passing because that preparation process is still on-going in this new Bahá'í culture. The House of Justice noted, in forwarding this document entitled "Insights from the Frontiers of Learning," the vital role that the ITC continues to play in the prosecution of the global Plans of the Faith and its diligent efforts to capture, in documents such as this one, the richness of the experience of the believers and institutions on every continent. The House of Justice also expressed the hope that this material would lend an impetus to the endeavours of the friends who, in diverse circumstances, were tirelessly engaged in building vibrant communities. In some ways this latest document, this "close examination of the pattern of action characteristic of the clusters at the forefront of learning" coming, as it does, at the completion of the first two years of this current FYP(2011-2016, is aimed at helping the international Bahá'í community move from 1200 clusters to 5000 by April 2016. The International Teaching Center, sometimes referred to as "the ITC", is a Bahá‘í institution based in the World Center in Haifa, Israel. Its duties are to stimulate and coordinate the Continental Board of Counsellors and assist the Universal House of Justice in matters relating teaching and protection of the faith. The membership of the International Teaching Center is made up of nine Counsellors appointed by the Universal House of Justice. Membership terms last for 5 years and new appointments are made immediately following the International Convention and election of the Universal House of Justice. There are many messages from the ITC on this new Bahá'í culture as well as from the UHJ and many NSAs. Readers are advised to: (i) do some Googling if they want to get a good grasp of the literature now available on this new Bahá'í paradigm, and (ii) study this latest ITC message since it is the most comprehensive statement of the current state of play in the achievement of
  18. 18. the goals of this new Bahá'í paradigm. Section 4: Some 17 months ago, on 12/12/'11, a particular, a special, message from the House of Justice was six pages in length and it foreshadowed many developments in the community in the decades to come. I discuss this message in detail toward the end of this now lengthy book at BLO. The Ridvan message of 21/4/'12, one year ago, among many other Ridvan messages, I will comment on briefly in this book from time to time as I have already done to some extent. The next Ridvan message from the House of Justice is due in April 2014 and, at that point, the current Five Year Plan will be 60% over. The letters from the UHJ to the Iranian Bahá'í community, while not about the new paradigm explicitly, have certainly contributed their part to the international Bahá'í culture, and that culture's most newsworthy, controversial and terrifying maelstrom of turmoil and trouble: the Iranian Bahá'í community. Those letters to the Iranian community offer a whole segment of commentary on Bahá'í experience in recent decades, and in this new paradigm. While all these messages and all this community-building takes place, in the form of home visits and study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes, junior youth and youth activities, inter alia, the process of becoming a Bahá'í goes on and on for each of us. We each have to be patient with ourselves to say nothing about being patient with others. This is done little by little and day by day. Often one dies daily, as St Paul told the Christians at Corinth; the ego is subdued over a lifetime. Sometimes it is not subdued. In this new paradigm as in life itself, there are winners and losers. You and I do not win all the battles. And as Shoghi Effendi once said: "the only real battles in life are within the individual." INTRODUCTION #2:<
  19. 19. Part A: The process I have described above in a few sentences and paragraphs, and below in many more sentences and paragraphs, is far more complex than the simple sketch I am outlining, a sketch that goes back to the first intimations of this Order in the 1840s. ―The unveiled brilliance of the gilded dome that crowns the exalted Shrine of the Bab,‖ which the House of Justice referred to in its April 2011 message, is a tribute, a memorial, to the memory of the Man who was martyred in 1850. It was a martyrdom that acts as a central part, a critical moment, in the blood-bath in which this new System was born. This System's structures and functions, its communities and its millions of believers find their historical origins in the life of the Bab and His Successor Who initially sketched this System: He Whom God would make manifest, Baha‘u‘llah. That sketch is found in His voluminous writings as well as those of His Successor, Abdul-Baha. Still, this international Bahá'í community is only glimpsing, only manifesting, the first streaks of the promised dawn that is the promise and vision within the new Order to which this System has given birth. The full force of its implications are only slowly developing within the embryo that is the present paradigm. Like the processes in geology and archaeology, in palaeontology and the other physical and biological sciences, the wheels of God grind slowly. Often the process is far too slow for the people of our age and time who far prefer immediate gratification and instant rewards for effort. Part B: Section 1: What I have written in the above, of course, is my own way of putting things, my own thoughts, as the rest of this now lengthy book continues to
  20. 20. explore these thoughts, thoughts put on paper beginning in 2007 and continuing in the six years since then. These were years of receiving messages from the elected and appointed branches on this new world Faith, messages which, as I say above, have provided a continuing exegisis on this new Bahá'í culture. I have also drawn on the thoughts of others extensively. Some who read this book will say I have drawn on these many sources too extensively. But I make no apologies for the ample quotations from the words of others, individuals and institutions. This book has grown over the last six years largely through the writings of others, institutions and individuals, and this needs to be emphasized at the outset. The plane of words and appearances is not the only one on which one truly and productively meets the Blessed Beauty. The realities of the Cause are found on the plane of rational thought, personality and raw emotion. But they are also found on a divine level, in the sphere of the soul where one sees the world as a mirage, an ash heap, vain and empty, bearing the mere semblance of reality. Here one sees oneself as a gaged-bird with the potential to soar in the greatest happiness, joy and freedom to the nest of the bosom of God. This book has grown as a result of many things of which the collective memory of the international Bahá'í community and my own individual memory are the core. The nature and function of individual and collective memory is, from my point of view, something that is constructed, and I want to say a few things about that memory below. Section 1.1: Memory Remembering often emerges or begins, certainly for me, in an attitude and/or an emotion, a feeling. The recall is then a construction made largely on the basis of this attitude or feeling. Its general effect is that of an explanation, a description, even a justification of the attitude. I am both skeptical and convinced of the constructive nature of my individual remembering. I also concede that social organization, in this case Bahá'í administration, gives a persistent framework into which all detailed recall must fit, and it very powerfully influences both the matter and the manner of my recall. In other words, only individuals have the capacity to remember, but preliminary, and, indeed, prior, to the process of individual recall there exists a mental pre- disposition that has been at least partly shaped by the social or communal
  21. 21. environment. To speak of the memory of a group is to reify and transcendentalize. I encourage readers to check-out the meaning of these two words I have just used because they contain a world of meaning that I don't want to stop here to explain and discuss. In the Bahá'í Faith this shaping of memory, this exegisis, is done by the Supreme Body, an elected institution that is, to use Max Weber's term, the institutionalization of the charismatic Force that gave birth to this new Abrahamic religion in mid-19th century. To speak of memory in a group is to acknowledge both the singularity of individual recollection and its relation to a surrounding society or community—the global Bahá'í community, and the global society in which that community is embedded. It is my hope that, in its small way, this book may help to awaken an "attitude" of recall, to help bring to the surface a memory, to help create a "framework" of remembrance that will enable my fellow Bahá'ís to build and retain a certain consciousness, a consciousness that is intimately connected with memory; indeed, without memory that consciousness is hardly functional. As Bahá'ís we need to be aware of the unique and often fragile communities and environments in which we work, and the difficulties in trying to resist the homogenizing & degrading effects of much that is found in modern society. Forgetfulness is driven by many things of which a belief in progress is but one. A pervasive social and economic dynamic in which oblivion and novelty feed off each other, flourish in the same shopping mall as "planned obsolescence," "rampant subjectivism," "blind materialism, and superficial humanism." Memory is crucial to the reclamation of men and women‘s full humanity—their sense of a continuity, even a comradeship, between present, past, and future generations. As the philosopher Edmund Burke expressed the idea famously in 1790 in his Reflections on the Revolution in France: "society is a contract, a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." Without this contract the human race and its sustaining environments are doomed to become the victims of pernicious and widely ranging cultural and personal values. The Bahá'í community is not immune to these pernicious forces. This problem has arisen partly because we have become, almost
  22. 22. overnight, a complex global society, a society that is especially prone to "social amnesia," to the "refusal or inability to think back." Thinking back to the past has been for the most part something that has taken place in a local and or national context. The new global context of over 200 nations is more than we can handle and our ability to think critically about this planetary civilization is limited. We find it difficult to use language accurately, to understand and exercise our democratic rights and responsibilities in this world framework. We are in many ways citizens of a new world, but we are also embedded in an old world. We are a world rich in history and values as well as hopes and resources. The West is a vast and privileged portion of the globe in which memory and understanding may yet so nourish right thinking and right action that they become rhizomes. Without the memories of the past cultural and intellectual continuity is not possible; there can be no fully comprehended present either for a collectivity or for an individual. With no remembered past to define and direct the present, there can be no planned or idealized future. To misunderstand, to not know the past, is to have no sense of the future. If a person's roots are shallow, their trunk and branches, stems and offshoots do not grow fully. As the famous Roman orator, Cicero, put it as the Roman republic was gradually being transformed into an empire: "to be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child." A key element for the realization of our individual destiny as Bahá'ís is memory; it is also a means by which relatively powerless and poverty-ridden clusters of cultural and personal identity are able to resist the coercions of larger powers. These larger powers often possess economic or ideological systems that can convince them that their own history can be treated either selectively or as "bunk," to use Henry Ford's words. In view of the possibly enormous stakes involved, a concerned look at the state of memory in the Bahá'í community, at what is remembered and forgotten in Bahá'í history and its culture, could prove both valuable, indeed, intriguing and telling. The same man, Henry Ford, who proclaimed history "bunk," also invented the assembly line and the monochrome car. His hostility to history and a dehumanizing drive towards uniformity are by no means unrelated aspects of our consumer culture, a system which has every economic reason for
  23. 23. coercing people to live a present-participle existence, an existence of drinking, eating, sailing, and having fun, in a perpetual present that, even as it happens, is obsolete by design. Some people may be immune to such coercion but, if so, it will not be by grace of today‘s educational system which, under the pressure of the liberal ethos that governs this consumer culture. This consumer culture has allowed itself, at nearly every level, to be predicated on a belief in process. This belief in process is at the root of the notion that the act of thinking and writing about issues and problems is as important as, or more important than, what is thought or written about. The idea of memorizing something, for example—a great poem, an historically important speech, a piece of purple prose from a novel (the Bible, of course, cannot be mentioned, even for its style)—seems to modern educators and students to be as pointless as studying Latin or some other "dead language." It has become, for too many people, sufficient to know a few sentences and slogans and, not surprisingly since, after school, the greatest influence on most children are the media. Most of the sentences and slogans that people find in their minds are from advertisements: "Harvey‘s makes a hamburger a beautiful thing," "Just for the taste of it—Diet Coke," "Come to where the flavor is." The issue of educational content and process, theory and practice is far too complex, though, to deal with here. The generality of the world's peoples are eager to leave behind them the memories of the suffering that the decades of the 20th century brought with them. As a recent document published at the Bahá'í world centre in the year 2000 began: "No matter how frail the foundations of confidence in the future may seem, no matter how great the dangers looming on the horizon, humanity appears desperate to believe that, through some fortuitous conjunction of circumstances, it will nevertheless be possible to bend the conditions of human life into conformity with prevailing human desires." The opening page of that review of Bahá'í experience in the 20th century went on to say that: "such hopes are not merely illusory, but they miss entirely the nature and meaning of the great turning point through which the world has pssed in these crucial years." Only as humanity comes to understand, during these years of this new paradigm, the implications of what has occurred in the last century and a half will it be able to meet the challenges that lie ahead. The value of the contribution we as Bahá'ís can make to the process demands that we grasp the significance of the historic transformation wrought by the 20th century and especially these early years of the new Bahá'í paradigm.
  24. 24. Section 1.2 Bahá'í Culture This history, this Bahá'í culture, is something that must be chosen if we want to be part of it. It is a history and culture filled with simplicity and complexity, with peace and violence, with vast diasporas over decades, leaving home and making new homes. The present Bahá'í culture, like a landscape, is part of a fascinating and mysterious narrative going back at least two centuries, if not several millennia. It is a narrative of catastrophe and slow accumulation, of new generations arising and building on the old, of the sublime flow of ideas generated by turbulence and tragedy, by heroic individualism, great, intense, drama, and by irreconcilable forces, and an immense, a staggeringly massive literature, by a great turning-point in the world's religious history and fanaticism. "Our greatness rests," writes Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "in faithful orbits that circle around the great souls now living or dead."(Four on an Island, p.119) Often, she continues, "our preoccupations with our own patterns result in personal tragedy." The prison we need to be most conscious of is that of self which we carry around with us wherever we go. This is often a darksome well and a blind pit which our idle fancies dig over and over again burring us in the process. Section 2: This Book If there is any inventiveness here in my work, it is in putting the writings of others into some warp and weft, some pattern of significance to me, a pattern I hope is also significant to readers. I hope to outline some of the dynamics of light and darkness, idealism and disillusionment that are characteristic of the revolution at the heart of this paradigm. Light and darkness are words with vast metaphorical implications. The coming of the light into the world does not attract everyone. The hawk, the owl and the bat all flee in consternation. Many find the Cause very unattractive; as much as we would like everyone to come in, we often find our entire lives have been spent with most of those whom we knew remaining outside the Cause. We should take heart, though, for--as Moojan Momen points out in relation to the life of Bahá'u'lláh: most of those who met the Blessed Beauty did not become Bahá'ís. One's expectations, as one travels the road, the spiritual path, need to
  25. 25. be realistic. A lack of realism often courts disappointment and even bitterness in the long run. Of course, again, this is not always so. It is difficult to make any statement that covers the experience of everyone on the planet. People, personalities, are highly idiosyncratic. Section 2.1: This Religion A religion as revolutionary in its origins and development over the last two centuries, a religion that has grown-up in the light of modern history, has a different set of issues to deal with than any of the old religions, religions which are all as busy as beavers trying to become, to remain, to be relevant in our age of change. This paradigm does not eliminate the issues which the Bahá'í Faith has faced for decades, indeed, for at least a century and a half. This paradigm takes to a whole new stage some of the intractable issues that this Faith has had to deal with for more than 150 years, and attempts to deal with them in new ways. The growth of this newest of the Abrahamic religions has been both an amazing, an unparalleled, process, and one filled with difficulties, tests and problems of all sorts and sizes which anyone who takes that history seriously and reads extensively is only too aware. Part C: There is now, on the internet, an extensive body of work devoted to the concepts: culture of learning, culture of growth, paradigms, structure, function, and many other related ideas. You can Google "cultural learning", "culture of learning", "culture of growth", "organizational culture", inter alia, and the literature on these concepts is burgeoning. Cultural transmission, so goes one site, is the way a group of people within a society or culture tend to learn and pass on new information. Learning styles are greatly influenced by how a culture socializes its children and young people. Cross-cultural research in the past fifty years has primarily focused on differences between Eastern and Western cultures (Chang, et al., 2010). Some scholars believe that cultural learning differences may be responses to the physical
  26. 26. environment in the areas in which a culture was initially founded (Chang, et al., 2010). These environmental differences include climate, migration patterns, war, agricultural suitability, and endemic pathogens. Cultural evolution, upon which cultural learning is built, is believed to be a product of only the past 10,000 years and to hold little connection to genetics (Chang, et. al., 2010). The above paragraph is but one of dozens which readers, who would like to widen their understanding of some of the concepts utilized in the new Bahá'í paradigm, can study. Not all readers here will be interested in many of the secular and academic useages of terms used in this culture of learning in the international Bahá'í community, but, for those who would, you may find some helpful parallel perspectives in the generla field of knowledge. I leave this with you, with each reader who has their own interests and activities, time-frames and circumstances, desires and goals---their highly individual life-narrative. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE END OF THE CURRENT FIVE YEAR PLAN(FYP) in 2016: By the end of this current Plan, 2011 to 2016, Abdul-Baha‘s Divine Plan will arguably be one century old and the religion in which this Plan is being put into action will have some two centuries of historical experience. Much of our knowledge in life is acquired by experience.(Ridvan 2012) The Author of the letters providing the details of the Plan for the extension of this Faith around the world, penned His first words in March and April 1916 nearly three years after returning from His epoch-making journeys to the West. Those journeys were described by Shoghi Effendi as ―a service of such heroic proportions no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Baha‘i century (GPB,p.279) They were both celebrated and commemorated during the first two years, 2011 and 2012, of this FYP. The messages and literature which have flowed in celebration of these 100th anniversaries has been extensive and has added significantly to the tissue and
  27. 27. texture of this new paradigm. This Plan and this history, going back as it does into the 19th century; Bahá'u'lláh's life and writings and that of His Son Abdul-Baha, the appointed and legitimate Successor, is at the core of this new paradigm. This new Bahá'í culture is inseparable from this Plan and this history. It was in September 1911, when Abdul-Baha arrived in London, the city He chose, the metropolis of the British Empire, as the scene of His first appearance before the public, that His western tour could be said to have begun.(Balyuzi, Abdul-Baha, p.141) In the last century, 1911 to 2012, the light of this Cause has penetrated, suffused and enveloped many a region of this planet and this process will go on inexorably in the next hundred years: 2012 to 2112. In some ways, Abdu‘l-Baha‘s journey to the West simply initiated, or perhaps more accurately, extended and began to systematize a process of teaching in the West begun in 1894, if not as far back as the 1840s when the first reports of this new religion began appearing in Western newspapers in Europe and North America. During this centennial period of that historic whistle-stopping journey, the Bahá'í community turned again and again to Abdul-Baha's words and His emphasis on the new social forms that will emerge in this Bahá'í Era.(Ridvan, 2012) GLOBAL DIFFUSION: A LONG WAY TO GO This Cause has not suffused the entire planet after the passing of nearly 170 years of the Baha‘i Era(BE): ―that goal is far from being fulfilled.‖(UHJ, April, 2011) In the course of the evolution of this new paradigm the international Bahá'í community may see that goal fulfilled. Perhaps during one of the next major shifts in the Baha‘i administration‘s way of going about things, so to speak, that goal will be completed. Time will tell when and how. I have no doubt that this goal will be fulfilled. My belief, like so many of the beliefs of the adherents of this new world Faith, is characterized
  28. 28. by a sense of its inevitability. It is only a question of time in the ongoing evolution of this new world Faith, this newest of the Abrahamic religions when its promise and purpose will be fulfilled. In many ways the work of ―the penetration of that light into all the remaining territories of the globe‖(UHJ, April 2011) has just begun in this first century, 1911 to 2011, the first century since the travels to the West of the Bahá'í Faith's exemplar, Abdul-Baha. As Paul Lample, one of the current nine members of the House of Justice, notes in his useful discussion of this new paradigm: ―Of the more than 16,000 clusters at the start of the second Five Year Plan of this new paradigm in 2006, some 10,000 remained unopened to the Faith and less than 2% of those that had been opened were capable of taking on the challenge of growth.‖ (Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, Palabra, 2009, p.104.) The implications of this statement of Lample's, of course, around the thousands of Bahai communities in dozens of countries is obvious: this Faith founded by Bahá'u'lláh in the 19th century, has grown very slowly in many, many places and this slow growth may continue for some time in many places. It is important, it seems to me, not to infuse this new paradigm with a problem Bahai communities have had for decades: unrealistic expectations of the growth in the numbers of believers. The assumption that numbers will increase by hard work and effort is true, but only partly and only in some places. In some places this assumption is warranted. The experience I have had in the 60 years I have been associated with this new Faith, and the experience I am aware of from my reading and study of the vast literature of this Cause, leads me to have high expectations for this Faith's growth. But these expectations have become, over the decades, more realistic ones due to this Faith's slow growth in many parts of the globe. My last 60 years of experience(1953-2013) are the basis for my judgement. My experience often, but not always, makes me feel "sure-footed in the application of the knowledge I have gained through this experience."(Ridvan 2012) The Bahai Faith has grown from some 100 thousand at the outset of the first organized and systematic Plan in 1937, when my parents were about to first meet and marry in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton Ontario, to some 200 thousand in 1953. That year, 1953, was a historic juncture in the history of
  29. 29. this Cause for a number of reasons, not the least of which personally, was that my mother joined the Bahá'í Faith that year. I was into sport, in love with at least three different girls, busy keeping on top of my school-work, and growing through my last years of childhood at the time. The Bahá'í Faith was far out on the periphery of my young life. The Bahá'í temple in Chigao was dedicated that year; the Ten Year Crusade was launched and the Shrine of the Bab was completed. It was a big year for the emerging international Bahá'í community, an historic juncture in the gradual evolution of a religion which claims to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions. This Faith now has some 5 to 8 million depending on what set of statistics one draws on. The subject of numbers, of statistics, has complex dimensions and the subject is one that seems to raise controversy from time to time due to the long-standing emphasis on numbers, an emphasis both inside the Faith and out. In most places I have lived in my day-to-day life and in many, many places I have not lived, growth has been 'discouragingly meagre' and, from my point of view, this has often, but not always, been due to those unrealistic expectations, among other reasons. This slow growth is also due to many other factors which this book alludes to from time to time. The whole question of the growth of this Cause is a complex one with complex answers. Peter Smith's book(2004), Bahá'ís in the West, gives an excellent overview of the growth of the Cause from decade to decade, up to 1990. I cannot do better than refer readers here to this book if they are interested in the statistical side of this new Faith up to the emergence of this new paradigm in the 1990s. In the last decade of internet activity, 2003 to 2013, there have become available a host of sites with statistics for: local, cluster, regional, state, national and international levels of the Bahá'í community. This book does not make any attempt, though, beyond some very general observations, to provide a vast and detailed statement regarding the numbers of men and women, children and youth, in country after country and cluster after cluster who are part of this immense global tapestry of believers. COMPARISONS AND CONTRASTS WITH OTHER PARADIGMS
  30. 30. I could make extended comparisons and contrasts between the current culture of learning and growth, the new Baha‘i paradigm, and the several previous paradigm shifts in the Bahai community going well back into the 19th century. I could also anticipate future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms. In spite of the enthralling, the stupendous, vision that Bahá'u'lláh gifted to the world, as the House of Justice put it in its Ridvan 2012 message more than one year ago,regarding the future of humankind this temptation is also avoided. My own particular proclivities in sci-fi writing also tempt me in the direction of hypothesizing on the developments of this Faith in the decades and centuries, indeed, millennia and epochs, eras and cycles. But I shall resist that temptation. The scope of what was originally an essay in the middle of 2007, and is now a book of more than 500 pages(depending on what font-size is used), does not allow for any detailed comparisons and contrasts with previous paradigms beyond some very general observations. The elaboration of what will clearly seem to many like the utopian visions of this world religion is also something I do not deal with. Such comparisons and such visionary statements can be found in many published Bahai works, at posts on the internet for those readers who are interested, and in the talks of various Bahai speakers--some published and some not. The Bahai vision is so enthralling that it inspires the optimist and leaves the skeptic and cynic laughing and somewhat bemused---and I mean this quite seriously, for I have often read the posts of writers who find the Baha‘i vision too utopian for words. As I say, though, I only make some general and limited comments later in this book for those readers who enjoy or who persist in their reading through these 100s of pages. The new paradigm, I should emphasize here, is best conceptualized as a mixture, a dynamic mixture, of past paradigms and present, making-up this new Bahá'í culture. This new Bahá'í culture has not sprung-up ex nihilo. This new Baha‘i culture is also not some monolithic scheme superimposed
  31. 31. everywhere and anywhere in the same way. There is what you might call a case-specific contextualization. This new paradigm is a vast meta-text in which the smaller contexts, the local communities and our individual lives, have been cast. This has been the case throughout Baha‘i history, throughout previous paradigms. As we approach this new meta-context, though, we must be on our guard that we avoid what has always seemed to me to be our curious tendency towards oversimplification and absolutism when it comes to spiritual matters. Our knowledge in many aspects of the individual and society is notoriously imprecise, a fortiori, in relation to spiritual matters. Uncertainty, with its implications of trust, is our spiritual condition and it is quintessential to our spiritual development. So much of the Bahá'í journey is dynamic and continuously changing, a moving and fluctuating system, a flexible road-map to all possibilities. There is "an extraordinary reservoir of spiritual potential" available to the individual to draw on(Ridvan 2012) to help him or her act and, in the process overcome the "layered veil of false premises," the apparent "insurmountable obstacles," and "the prevailing theories of the age" which "seem impervious to alteration."(Ridvan 2012)As the House of Justice went on to say in this same context in April 2013, writing about the complexity of this dynamic process:"it does not lend itself to ready simplification." UNITY IN DIVERSITY Unity in diversity has always been the watchword inspite of the best efforts of individuals to impose some simplistic and sterile uniformity. Each cluster, each assembly, each community, each Bahá'í, develops in their own way given the special circumstances of each individual and each community. The Baha‘i community and the individuals within it in this new paradigm, and in the old, have been one and all expected to master worldly evils as they have gone about creating the Kingdom of God on Earth. As they have done this, of course, they have needed to reject the sins people commit, but not the sinners. We all need to do battle with our inner demons and not worry too much about the demons of others. The context for all of this is what you might call contraries which we so often try in vain to reconcile and balance:
  32. 32. principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand and fellowship, candor and courage on the other. To act in accordance with this new Faith‘s teachings has always been an imperative and it has always been a challenge. This has often been against popular opinion, but it has not been against secular authority. This has often been difficult and it has required a robust optimism. This is true, a fortiori, in this new Bahá'í culture. A goodly portion of humility is also a prerequisite in the Bahá'í life since no Bahá'í knows what his or her own end shall be and, without humility, so many activities simply do not come to fruition. This is not a religion which guarantees individual salvation through either belief or good works. The Bahá'í community and its adherents are more interested in saving the planet. The ultimate judgements about souls is left to God. There are many people in the world doing good work for humanity, but it is the Bahá'ís who have the blueprint for the erection of the dam that will in time stop the flood which, at present, threatens to engulf humankind. At least that is one way the Bahá'í game plan has been stated all my Bahá'í life since the 1950s and the century in Bahá'í history before I became a Bahá'í. This new paradigm is, in some ways, just another chapter in the ongoing growth and development of this latest of the Abrahamic religions. This nascent Faith of Baha‘u‘llah, this harbinger of the New World Order, requires of the faithful to labor on His behalf to create that humane Kingdom in His behalf. Such labor requires method and system and a movement away from egocentric individual interests toward far broader tasks. This mission requires a religious obligation; this mission ties individuals into a community. The purpose is far higher than utilitarian calculations and the pursuit of material gain. A family of trust and helpfulness exists in this community and it serves as a natural training ground for group participation skills. This training ground has an increased specificity in this new Bahá'í culture. Habits and theories of blame have no place in this paradigm but, given the nature of human beings, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the lack of personal development in many souls if not most, many obstacles limit the growth of this new culture in ways similar to the limiting
  33. 33. factors in previous paradigms. THE PROBLEMS OF BLAME AND COMPLEXITY AND THE ARDUOUS TASKS AHEAD Blame is a negative reaction to the limitations we struggle with daily, and like doubt, which undermines the very basis of that daily struggle, it is a mental habit that often produces adults more aware of human weakness than human strength. There is, too, a gradual and inevitable absorption in the manifold perplexities and problems afflicting humanity as Bahá'ís everywhere try to put into place the complex structure and increasingly elaborate community at the heart of this paradigm. We are buffeted by circumstances and distracted by crises both in the wider secular and religious world, and in our own relatively small international community. The arduousness of the task we face in this new paradigm, is one we sometimes dimly recognize as we aim high and hope for the best. The problem of non- partisanship, the Bahá'í approach to political non-involvement, has always provided Bahá'ís with its set of tests and difficulties in a world where often one's very soul and lifestyle is measured by active stands vis-a-vis some politicized issue like conservation and mining, abortion and homosexuality, inter alia. The tasks we face are not easy. They are often very difficult and the acceptance of this difficulty at the centre of our psyche is important. There is a pain at the heart of life and it cannot be denied, although it often is in our adoption of various kinds of popular psychology like the power of positive thinking and "she'll be right, mate." All things really worthwhile are, it seems to be just about by definition, very difficult. Much of the education most of us have is like a knife without a handle and it is, at worse, dangerous and, at best, often useless. We labour under so many misconceptions and false assumptions: literalism, the heavy burden of ludicrous expectations of others and of our own dear selves, as well as the notion, the falseness, of a spiritual
  34. 34. life not rooted in our animal existence. The totality of the human condition embraces both the sublime and the daemonic. They have always been part of the existential realities and they will be seen, ad nauseam, in this new Bahá'í culture, immersed as it is in the life and the times of this 21st century. Readers here must acknowledge the magnitude of the ruin that the human race has brought upon itself during the last century to century and a half. The loss of life alone has been beyond counting. The disintegration of basic institutions of social order, the violation-indeed, the abandonment of standards of decency, the betrayal of the life of the mind through surrender to ideologies as squalid as they have been empty, the intervention and deployment of monstrous weapons of mass annihilation, the bankrupting of entire nations and the reduction of masses of human beings to hopeless poverty, the rechless destruction of the environment of the planet--such are only some of the more obvious in a catalogue of horrors unknown to even the darkest of past ages. A tempest is indeed, sweeping the face of the earth. As I say above, a failure to accept that pain is always a necessary tiller of the heart's soil, and the soil of human civilization, leads the believer into a range of problems that arise when the tests come. This has always been true in this and in other paradigms right back to the 1840s, as Shoghi Effendi describes in his Epilogue to the Dawnbreakers(See p. 652) I MAKE NO PROMISES I trust that readers who stay with this text will have some reward. Of course, as in any writing, writers cannot promise and---if they do---it is either at their peril or it is because of their previous literary successes. This I cannot claim due to my many unsuccessful efforts to write books and I don't like to venture into perilous territory, literary and otherwise, if I can help it. I have developed a more cautionary approach to life as I have come to head into its evening hours. In the first six years, 2007 to 2013, of the presence of this book, this commentary on the new Bahai culture, on the internet, this work
  35. 35. has contributed its part---as some posts on the internet do---to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many inter-related processes, complex structures and community functions involved in the ongoing changes in the international Bahai community in these last two decades. This book at BLO has received more than 15,000 hits at this site alone to say nothing of the several 1000 hits it has had at other sites. My current guestimation is some 30,000 hits as of 1/5/'13. This is but one measure of the extent to which this book has been clicked-on, and if read at least to some extent. But words, I must emphasize, are one of the least parts of faith; faith I have often thought is a gift to be lived and, even after several decades, I feel as if I am a beginner---however much I write in this analysis of the new Bahá'í culture. I cannot give others faith nor understanding. That is their job. You can lead a horse to water, goes the old saying, but you cannot make it drink. My task, and the task of those who are Bahá'ís and who read this work, is to offer their gifts with a purse heart and a correct motive and to detach themselves from the responses of those to whom they offer the chalice, the light, the fire, of the Cause. No one is really adequate to the Message that we bear and which we offer to others as a gift. There are many writers in cyberspace who are leading all sorts of horses to all sorts of drinks. Cyberspace has become, in many ways, a parallel universe besides the real space we all live in. In real space the small handful of Covenant-Breakers and people who identify with and refer to Bahá'í sects, are given not only publicity but a profile all out of proportion to their real existence, their existence in real space. People coming across these so-called sects in cyberspace get the distinct impression that the Bahá'í Faith is a house divided into at least half a dozen sects. In cyberspace the Bahá'í Faith becomes, for many, just another cult. The terms cult and sect have specific definitions and meanings to academics who study the sociology of religion, the history of religion, of religion within the rubric of some other academic field. The Bahá'í Faith is neither a cult, nor is it divided into sects, but the casual and uninformed reader is led to quite another opinion as he or she surfs the net wanting to learn about the Bahá'í Faith and its sects that they have heard about in some casual conversation. The Bahá'í Faith has always had people bent on its destruction. This was true in the first years of the Babi Faith from 1844 to 1848, and this opposition and hatred existed both outside the Cause and, often, within the Cause itself. Bahá'í history is a fascinatingly complex story that the internet has given a visibility to for those who want to
  36. 36. study and real about it. Of course, only about one-third of humanity has access to the internet, and most of the Bahá'í community, most of its 5 to 8 million members live in communities with no internet facility. TEMPERAMENT AND TEMPERAMENTS: PERSONALITY CONSTRUCTS AND PARADIGMS The word ‗temperament‘ comes to us from medieval physiology. A temperament was seen as a balance of multiple humors, a composite of multiple psychical forces, a concept for the general trend of the soul. Temperament was seen, and it is, a vague sensibility, a kind of broad appraisal of a person‘s attitude. It is a category that spans one‘s nature and education across the lifespan from childhood to old-age. People's temperaments guide our attention, but they are also reflections of their past experiences. Temperament changes, such was the medieval view, according to the balance of humors in the body; it changes with age, and it is reflective of one‘s upbringing and general cultural inheritance. A temperament is also part of the culture of an individual, but it extends beyond the individual into deep and often unconscious attitudes, habits, prejudices and capacities. Temperament is both indirectly and directly expressed; it is uncovered through the analysis of actions. One‘s temperament shows through as a vague or quite specific and general propensity, the sum total of many disparate and unrelated acts. It is a broad composite, built and undone, and rebuilt over the course of a lifetime. It is a psychic and emotional, as well as rational and irrational process embedded in complex social processes, and individual inclinations. It lies behind and under and is also within what I am writing in this book about the new Bahá'í culture. It is also at the heart of what one does in this new Bahá'í culture as it did in the old paradigms. It is a reality we all have to deal with in the drama that is our life-narrative and community life. In writing this book it is my hope that I have uncovered and exemplified a certain philosophical-historical spirit which is grounded in the living
  37. 37. specificity of my 60 years of association with this new world Faith. It is a philosophical spirit echoed among a number of my contemporaries and historical predecessors in the Bahá'í community. It is a philosophy of the street and of the neighbourhood, of the local and of the specific, of the problem-centred and of the community-oriented. It is also playful and affirmative. It is a type of spirit that contains a genealogical criticism and evaluation, as well as a social critique. It construes the historical sense as attitude, perspective, and a way of life rather than as system, as book, or as an ascetic and transcendental attitude. It means affirming temperament, locality, and problems. I hope readers who stay with this now lengthy work, do not find it to be a glib and pervasive criticism, written from a type of expert contrivance. Although this book contains many criticisms, it is far from glib and far from contrivance. I see this book as one that has gorwn-out of experienced conviction over many decades. Still, I do not expect this gook to receive a popular reception; it is far too long to ever be popular and the reading public is now drowning in images and print, a glut of stuff that overwhelms Everyman. There is much else in cyberspace for readers to get their teeth into and give them pleasure. My modus operandi seeks out origins and explanations, but only to a limited extent; it attempts to make interventions into particular habits and attitudes that I have lived with and observed for decades. The practices of reading and interpreting, of arguing and analyzing, are each and all woven into the very field of the new Bahá'í paradigm itself, as a part of its game-plan, its aims and objectives. My writing has been shaped by a century of tempestuous violence on the planet as well as the historical and intellectual tradition of which I am a part---now a global cultural tradition. I write in order to help heal whatever wounds I find in my life and the life of my society. I also write to express my appreciation for differences between people, differences which are part of living together in community. Ironically, I write as much to create and to clarify problems for readers who come to this book, as to dissolve and solve them. That is one of many ways I define my writing exercise here. Some problems are intractable both in my own life and in the life of my society; others are simple to solve, and still others have already been solved
  38. 38. GRIEF AND LOSS "Dealing with grief and loss," as Susan Gammage writes, "is never easy in this paradigm or at any time. One can not always forgive and forget, and even as one does, it is often a process that is very slow in working itself out. Often, it is best not to force oneself to do things for the Cause; not to fret and worry about what you can't do; one's health, among other factors, often prevents us from engaging in certain aspects of community life. In cases like this it is often best to engage in avenues of service which do not interfere with one's health, or even withdraw into solitude where the forces within can adjust the balance and you are able to be set on your feet again. We should not interpret this as a dereliction of duty. Advice from well-meaning Bahá'ís often acts as a weight; to be told one should transcend one's psychological problems and not judge is often not good advice at all.(Letter to an individual believer, 23/10/'94) It is useful to keep in mind that service to this Cause takes an infinite shading of forms and styles. The conventional gestures of service are often safe and secure. Being hurled into forms of service with too much turbulence, too much distress, is often the cause of withdrawal and inactivity. The so called and often used term "the inactive-believer" is often the result of this turbulence. We love the truth, but often dread what it might do to us, and so it is often necessary to keep a safe distance from the blazing summons that Bahá'u'lláh has issued on thousands of pages of what is now the sacred Text. TWO TEXTS: TWO SOURCES For this writer, and for each Bahá'í, there are two texts: (i) the Book and its legitimate interpreters and (ii) the forever unfinished, decentralized text of history—forever supplemented, new chapters being written in all sorts of places by all sorts of people not especially, not necessarily, in touch with one another. There is some work of ‗correspondence,‘ and some of ‗production.‘ I write, or so I like to think, as a type of Emersonian-self, exhorting others through my temperament or because of my particular temperament and
  39. 39. motivation, towards a fundamental faith in the possibility of personality beseeching others with Emerson to, "affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times." I also exhort others by means of this book "to hurl in the face of custom, trade and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history," that there is a great responsible thinker and actor, an indwelling God "within me mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." This indwelling God is working wherever I work. I belong, as a true man, to no other time or place, and I act at the center of things. Where he is, there is nature.‛(Emerson, Self Reliance, p. 270). My temperamental prison, made as it is of glass, is also a prism that reflects and refracts thought so that it might be broken and colorful. I draw here on Emerson and leave it to readers with the interest to read more of Emerson. I encourage this reading of Emerson because of what I feel to be the broad relevasnce of his writing to this new paradigm. POWER AND AUTHORITY IN THIS NEW PARADIGM Power, as I conceive it, is not seen as a property, but as a strategy. Its effects of domination are attributed not to ‗appropriation‘, but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings.‛ Power in this sense is not only something exercised by the powerful, but is a network of activities carried out by everyone in society each in different ways. In short, power is something exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‗privilege‘, acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the overall effect of strategic positions. It is an effect that is manifested and sometimes extended by the position of those who are dominated. The operation of power, or rather its manifestation, is found in particular acts. As such, power does not ‛obey the law of all or nothing‛ but is rather manifested in localized episodes that have effects on the entire network in which it is caught up. At the same time, power cannot be separated for purposes of understanding its operation since power produces knowledge. There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations. From the perspective of the theory of power, individuals themselves are products of
  40. 40. the system of power relations. The individual man is already himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself. What I have just written is a complex subject and I leave it to readers with an interest in the subject of power to do some reading because it is an important subject in this new culture of learning. What I have written in the above paragraph is, to reiterate, somewhat complex, given the often simplistic view that people have of the concept in everyday life. In organizations, in the international organization that is the Bahá'í Faith, authority is the scope of the legitimate power of the elected institutions of this new world Faith, or legitimate power possessed by individuals when acting on behalf of these elected institutions. Authority and power are two different concepts. This authority is conferred through officially recognized channels within the Bahá'í Faith, and represents a portion of the power of these elected institutions. For example, a Bahá'í institution might have the authority to deprive an individual of his voting and administrative rights. That institution could also provide an authorized person to determine if a member of the community should have such rights removed. In contrast, a group of Bahá'ís might have the power to do all of the above things, but still lack the authority because the actions would not be legitimate. Authority in the Bahá'í community can also be seen in situations in which authority is an institutional function. An elected Bahá'í body, for example, might hire employees as a standard function of its existence. However, most of that body's members are not authorized to hire employees. This authority is passed down through Bahá'í administration to specific individuals sometimes with limited institutional involvement. Authority and power are complex entities; they are abstractions about which much has been written and this book does not go into these two terms as much as it should. Perhaps, as this book evolves in future years I will deal with these two terms in more detail. They are important to understand because they lie at the basis of so much that takes place in Bahá'í groups and in this new paradigm. I encourage readers, again, to make a personal study of these two concepts and their relation to the individual and the community. In the process they will be
  41. 41. better prepared for understanding the nature of this new paradigm. THE LANGUAGE OF PARADIGMS The language of paradigms has been used across many academic disciplines and fields of discourse to describe current and shifting understandings of knowledges, beliefs, assumptions, and practices. Thomas Kuhn (1962) made the term ―paradigm‖ recognizable with his publication of Structure of Scientific Revolutions in the very year before the emergence of another Bahá'í paradigm in 1963---the year of the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. That was the same year--1962--my own travelling and pioneering for the Canadian Bahá'í community began. For Kuhn, a paradigm was a collection of shared beliefs, a set of agreements about how the world may be understood. According to Kuhn, the differences between Newton's mechanical universe and Einstein's relativistic universe represented a shift in paradigms. Each of these two approaches to physical science represented a worldview, or a paradigm, that guideed how scientists saw the world. Hans Kung (1988), the great Catholic theologian, is among those who has applied Kuhn‘s understanding of paradigms to religion. He identified several paradigms that have shaped religious history. Among recent Christian worldviews are the modern, Enlightenment paradigm and the emerging Ecumenical paradigm. In comparing these two paradigms, Frederick Schleiermacher‘s (1996; 2001) contributions that shaped much of modern liberal theology have been challenged by the pluralism of more recent ecumenical and interfaith theological understandings (Cobb, 1982; Hick, 1982). The new does not replace the old, yet it does provide an alternative foundation of thought for understanding contemporary religious practices. This is also true of the new Bahá'í paradigm: it does not replace the old, but it does provide an alternative foundation, an altered, an additional, structural, institutional, organizational scheme or framework, a new language so to
  42. 42. speak. This framework, this structural embellishment, has assisted and is assisting the Bahá'í community to deal with a multitude of functions: its emergence from obscurity and the public image it has slowly acquired in the last several decades; the new horizons and developments in the wider society; the unfolding educational processes from childhood to old age, the several stages in the lifespan, within the Bahá'í community; the extension of the Cause to every corner of the planet and the deepening of those people who are attracted to this global, this very wide-spread, religion---and much more, a more that this book discusses in its 500++ pages. A paradigm as a worldview containing deep-seated assumptions that are so much a part of a person that it is often difficult to step back and see what the assumptions are. Such assumptions and views of the world are central to a person‘s belief system and to the ways that a person lives and acts in relation to others. In some ways, as this new paradigm has evolved in its first two decades(1996-2016), Bahá'ís need to be able to practice multi- paradigmatically, to discern the assumptions most often used within the Cause as an organization and then use their critical thinking and their personal skills to move across different facets of the paradigm to accomplish goals congruent with the values, beliefs and attitudes necessary to implement the aims and goals of this new Bahá'í culture. This multi-paradigmatic perspective is useful when deciding what course of action to take when faced with the many options now open in both individual and community life in this 21st century. A new complexity has emerged both in the wider world and in the Bahá'í community. In the Bahá'í community this is particularly the result of developments in this new Bahá'í culture of learning and growth, developments that have been slowly introduced, incrementally developed, and analysed each year in an ongoing exegisis that is top down, an exegisis that flows from the legitimate and authoritative Interpreter of The Book. This book, on the other hand, is an interpretation of this exegisis, and includes a discussion of the philosophical assumptions and the practical implications of this new paradigm. Paradigms emerge from many sources and they are seen in practical frameworks based on these assumptions. The practicval framework here is the multi- paradigmatic perspective to which I refer is, for me at least and I hope for others. It is a heuristic tool for approaching so much that is found in this new
  43. 43. Bahá'í culture. The Universal House of Justice has been at the apex of Bahá'í administration for 50 years, and the paradigmatic shift that has taken place since I was first a Bahá'í in the 1950s, and especially since the mid-1990s, has been extensive. A PARADIGM IN A MULTI-PARADIGMATIC FRAMEWORK There are several practical and theoretical elements to think about when considering this paradigm, a paradigm which for me possesses, as I pointed out above, a multi-paradigmatic framework. Religion and spirituality have a range of meanings and they provide a category for understanding the context of broad and diverse spiritual and sacerdotal practices engaged in by individuals and communities. With Bahá'ís located in some 120,000 localities there is an immense diversity of practice taking place within this paradigm. The epistemology, the nature of the knowledge, that each Bahá'í has acquired and will acquire, is as varied as there are Bahá'ís. How does one know what is true or real? Traditional sources of knowledge in the Bahá'í community include: intuition, perception, testimony, experience, and rational thought. Within Bahá'í history there are four common sources: reason, revelation, tradition, and experience. There are, of course, variations on these sources and the weight they carry, with some sources dominating others. For example, the socially hegemonic force of authority is found in Bahá'í religious tradition, in what Bahá'ís call "the Writings" or The Book. This is balanced by what you might call individual thought and emotion as an experiential source of knowledge. This latter source lacks authority but it is crucial in determining what each Bahá'í does in practice, what he or she does in the context of this paradigm. It is here, in the practice and activities of each of the several million Bahá'ís, that what I call the multi-paradigmatic framework is born. Here, we begin to see one important factor: the distinction between hard knowledge, which is capable of being transmitted in a tangible form, the tradition of sacred writings, and soft knowledge, which is more innate, more experiential, and
  44. 44. more personal. A rational, orderly approach to the new Bahá'í culture and a feeling that there is ―one best way‖ or a commonly accepted ―right way‖ to accomplish tasks characterize what you might call a functionalist approach to the new Bahá'í paradigm. Most assumptions and theories that have guided Bahá'í practice in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are also central to a functionalist approach to this new paradigm. A second approach, an interpretive approach, to this new paradigm has as its focus consensus and equilibrium. But this interpretive approach is subjectivist in nature so that the social reality of the new paradigm for each individual is based on human experiences and these experiences exist primarily as a human, an individual, a social construct. Interpretations of what is real in life and what each individual engages in within the new Bahá'í culture reflect individual understandings and inter-subjectively shared meanings. The individual Bahá'í seeks to understand written texts and his or her lived experiences as well as those of the Bahá'í community. The populations served by the Bahá'í community, what are sometimes called targeted or receptive populations, those small pockets of the population where the limited resources of the Bahá'í community can be brought to bear, brought to a focus in the teaching and service work of individuals and the community, are an important part of the community building process in this new Bahá'í paradigm. Each Bahá'í approaches these pockets of the population in their own way guided by the institutions of the Cause, institutions which have been around for decades and new institutional forms which have arisen only in the last twenty years and which constitute the evolving institutional nature of the new paradigm. As the House of Justice pointed out in its most recent Ridvan message released just this week: "it does not follows that every person must be occupied with the same aspect of the Plan." In addition, the Supreme Body goes on to say, that each cycle of the expansion phases of the programs of growth does not need to be directed toward the same end. Diversity, as always, is the watchword. As part of this multi-paradigmatic perspective to which I refer above, Bahá'ís must watch that no trace of paternalism, superiority or prejudice comes into their interaction with others or estrangement and disaffection will result among those whom they want to teach/reach. This is not an easy call; much of the work in the Cause is not an easy call. It never has been. Rather than