Baha'is and Jews: Some Personal Reflections


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Over the last decade, 2005 to 2014, since my retirement from FT, PT and most volunteer work, after an employment-and-student life of half a century, 1954 to 2004, I have often written about the Jews and Judaism with comparisons and contrasts to a people and a religion I have now been associated with for more than 60 years, the Baha'is and the Baha'i Faith. The following 27 pages and 12,000 words provide a series of items containing, as they do, some of these comparisons and contrasts, among other aspects of both the Jewish world and the Baha'i world.

I put the following compilation together after watching Simon Schama's "The Story of the Jews" on SBSONE TV in Tasmania, on 22/3/'14, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. His interest in the identity of the Jew, now and in history, stimulated my own interest in the identity of the Baha'i, now and in history.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 24/3/'14.

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Baha'is and Jews: Some Personal Reflections

  1. 1. Over the last decade, 2005 to 2014, since my retirement from FT, PT and most volunteer work, after an employment-and-student life of half a century, 1954 to 2004, I have often written about the Jews and Judaism with comparisons and contrasts to a people and a religion I have now been associated with for more than 60 years, the Baha'is and the Baha'i Faith. The following 27 pages and 12,000 words provide a series of items containing, as they do, some of these comparisons and contrasts, among other aspects of both the Jewish world and the Baha'i world. I put the following compilation together after watching Simon Schama's The Story of the Jews on SBSONE TV in Tasmania, on 22/3/'14, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. His interest in the identity of the Jew, now and in history, stimulated my own interest in the identity of the Baha'i, now and in history.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 24/3/'14. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - OUR FRESHLY MINTED TEARS Part 1: The longer I have been a Baha’i the more and more I have seen parallels between the Baha’i experience and the Jewish experience, between what it means to be a Baha’i and what it means to be a Jew. While individual experiences, inevitably, vary greatly, certain overall themes are common between the two religions: a history of persecution; a body or writings and myths that separate the believer from non- believers and that give adherents a foundation of meaning and identity in their lives; a spiritual homeland of holy places and holy men and women who act as models and metaphors for living; the importance of written history and a transcendent Being as a source of order for man and society; the importance of Torah, or Law, written law, to bring daily life into conformity with the original teachings; a foundation in charismatic revelation and a transition to an institutional theocratic state; the place of vision and a sense of the future in history and; finally, the crucial interrelationship between the individual and the community. I have found my Baha’i experience has been helpful in understanding general social and moral issues. I felt deeply conscious of being a Baha’i, and active in spelling out what it meant. Part of the effect of this consciousness has been to make me feel out- of-place, and separate; part of the effect, too, has made me feel integrated with, at one with, the social setting wherever I went. Another effect has been to give me many definitions of homeland: house, land, word processor, place of birth, the planet and a range of serendipitous locations where chance and circumstance has brought me to be. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 2014. Part 2: This Baha’i business plays a role at so many different levels, and in such varying intensities. We have our holocaust on a much smaller scale,
  2. 2. and our freshly minted tears, from innocent, bewildered eyes; the world’s forgetfulness will not debase this coin of gold which enters through a portal from which no man returns. We have our prophets who came to this same grainy, parched, landscape and its unquenchable sun, and the crazed hot wind which mutters so very, very apocalyptically. They were placed in this oven where the heat consumes every thing but compassion.1 Our combustible souls, too, vanish in a puff, but not before those prophets, speaking redemptive words of glacial austerity and honey-dew from an unseen world viewing the entirety of complex human history. 1 Roger White, “A Desert Place”, Occasions of Grace, George Ronald, Oxford, p.97. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- UNSUSPECTED BENEFITS It is a stupendous paradox that a god does not only fail to protect his chosen people against its enemies but allows them to fail....yet is worshipped only the more ardently. This is unexampled in history and is only to be explained by the powerful prestige of a prophetic message..-Max Weber, Ancient Judaism, The Free Press, Glencoe, 1952, p. 364.
  3. 3. The following quotation is from Anthony Andrewes, a classical scholar and historian in his book Greek Society:1 "It was the very instability and incoherence of Greek political institutions during the Mycenean and Dark Ages, 1600 to 800 BC, that led to a political evolution which was denied to other cultures." This quotation aroused my interest in Jewish political institutions. "The return of the Jewish people to full participation in history through the reestablished Jewish commonwealth of Israel," writes Daniel J. Elazar in the journal Jewish Political Thought, "made it imperative that Jews everywhere reconsider the political teachings of Judaism......The crises of the past few years have generated renewed interest on the part of committed Jews in the character of Israel as a Jewish state, the various diaspora Jewries as communities in the historical tradition of their antecedents, and in the Jewish people as a corporate entity. As a consequence, the modern Jewish search for roots and meaning has been intensified.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Anthony Andrewes, Greek Society, Penguin, Melbourne, 1987, p. xxiii; and 2 D.J. Elazar, "The Jewish Political Tradition as the Basis for Jewish Civic Education: Pirkei Avot as an Example", Jewish Centre for Public Affairs: Jewish Political Thought. "The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow," writes Shoghi Effendi speaking of the life-long exile of the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, "and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered." -Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, USA, 1957, p.111. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - You came from the plains and the mountains with nearby river civilizations to fertilise your soil. Perhaps you went into Egypt back when horse and chariot were first used in warfare1 and lived for half a millennium there. Then your lands slipped out of Egyptian rule; you left for Canaan and fought as an armed group with the Philistines, Midianites, Moabites, Ammonites, Aramaeans. And you fought among yourselves in your tribal and family groups until the United Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon(ca 1030-930 BC)....It had, and has, been a long journey that's for sure. Things fell apart again and tensions with the nomadic Bedouins continued a political and economic warfare. Extended kinship groups and warriors quibbled & quarrelled for land; land has always been a problem of criticality. Rural herdsmen and the settled, urban
  4. 4. population had sharp clashes, as did stock-breeders and peasants in those long lasting historical antagonisms. Gradually......agriculture replaced peasantry, herdsmen and artisans. Town life took the place of country and with the towns the urban landlords and Kings replaced those old chieftans. It was not without a long struggle; it always seems to have been a struggle. Under Solomon(971-932) this ancient Jewish state began to take its part on the world political stage as a kind of oriental despotism like Egypt with a central administration and an all- powerful king: so it seems to me. For the next four hundred years(922-538) Israel took part in a series of long political and military catastrophes ending in the Babylonian captivity and a diaspora: you got used to them. During those long years oracles of a classical prophecy told of the terror of the Assyrians, the time honoured ‘law’ of the confederate tribes, and the voice of doom, righteousness and that distant utopian vision. They made the moral precepts of everyday life a duty and the direction of society intimately connected with a way of life in a spirit of constant expectation and the powerful prestige of a prophetic, a historical message. And so it was that prophets, psalmists, sages and priests inculcated the Torah for generations, mostly without success until the Judean theocratic state in the 5th century BC gave a definite direction to Jewish history through that Torah. A common, universal way of life emerged in this Hebrew Commonwealth as Greece
  5. 5. emerged into its golden age after its long and formative age, for formative ages are long & tortuous: history seems to confirm. 1 1800 BC Ron Price 26/7/'96 to 23/3/'14. -------------------------------------------------------- -- The Pharisaic Phenomenon and the Dynamics of Denial Susan Stiles Maneck, Associate Professor of History at Jackson State University Since my experience was so very much like Susan Maneck's when I was growing up in a Christian home, I have drawn on her following essay. "My understanding of the Gospel story went something like this," Maneck begins, "God had expressed Himself through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, a simple man, whose sympathies lay with the common folk. He was opposed by the stuffy, legalistic Pharisees who sought to destroy Him for not abiding by their minutiae of rules. The battle between Jesus and the Pharisees was the battle between spirit and law, between common folk and the elite, between simple truth and hypocrisy. These were the demarcation lines that separated good from evil in my young mind, and having been raised in one of the more liberal wings of the church, it was easy for me to imagine that the demarcation line ran between conservative and liberal as well. I remember my pastor at the time proudly asserting that while Judaism had some seven hundred and some odd laws, Jesus had reduced them to essentials such as, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." When I discovered the Baha'i Faith in my early teens and declared at the age of fifteen, like Maneck, I developed a new appreciation for religious law, which was quite different from the attitudes with which I had been raised, but it wasn't until I started university in 1963 that I came to realize what the Pharisees actually stood for and that, far from representing the exact opposite of Christianity, the Pharisees' teachings were closest to Jesus. This was opposed to the Sadducees who were the most literal-minded and conservative faction among the Jews. Maneck continues: "The Pharisaic school, with its synthesis of the best of Jewish thought with perhaps a sprinkling of Zoroastrian concepts, represented the finest fruit of the two most profound religious traditions of Jesus' age. How is it then that Jesus is said to have addressed them in such harsh words as these?" These are the words from Matt. 23:13-35: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widow's houses, and make for a pretense long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes an Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. . . . Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . . Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify: some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth . . . " It has usually been the case that those who oppose a new message from God will invariably be the ones who, to outward seeming ought to be closest to it. Hence the Pharisaic school rejects Jesus; the Jews of Medina, the only people with much knowledge of prophet-hood, oppose Muhammad; the Shi'ite Muslims prove the most intolerant of Baha'is. Conflict and opposition seem to be the bread and butter of religious history. What Maneck does in her essay is to examine very carefully what the dynamics of that denial of that denial to which I refer above. It is her hope that, in the process, we can understand what is it that causes those, whom one might expect to be the first to embrace a new message from God, to be instead its most vigorous opponents. She attempts to draw out a number of interrelated aspects of this denial: "the tendency human beings have to want to control, systematize and contain revelation in manageable categories usually by taking a part for the whole in religion, the role played by the imagination in rejection, the tendency to
  6. 6. confuse rigidity with firmness, the specific type of learning which tends to be encouraged within a religious context, the role played by pride and arrogance, the particular temptation of power and leadership, and finally the manner in which religion so often becomes a mask for the genuinely evil and hypocritical." "There is a story about a child who was busily occupied drawing a picture," continues Maneck. "Her mother asked her what she was doing "I'm drawing God," she answered. The mother said, "But honey, no one knows what God looks like." Unperturbed the child answered, "They will when I'm finished." This child obviously had a big imagination. Many places in the Writings, do not seem to look too kindly on the imagination. Imaginings tend to be paired with adjectives like "vain," "corrupt," and "idle." As an adolescent who daydreamed a lot these references used to bother Maneck a great deal. This, of course, was not what Baha'u'llah was talking about. Rather, He was speaking about those who allow their own wishes in regards to what ought to be stand in the way of recognizing what God reveals of His Will. Baha'u'llah asserts that people, "deprive themselves of the inner reality and by clinging to vain imaginings they are kept back from the Dayspring of heavenly signs. God grant you may be graciously aided under all conditions to shatter the idols of superstition and to tear the away the veils of the imaginations of men." It is when our images stand between us and reality when we have a problem." For readers with an interest in this essay of Susan Maneck's go to this link: . This link has 19 of Maneck's essays and the one above is number 10. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - GENOCIDE AND ME Ben Kiernan tells us that “genocide” is a very new word, invented in 1944 by a Polish Jew named Raphael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, and given legal definition by the United Nations in 1948 through The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. That convention defines the crime of genocide as “an attempt at extermination through acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethnical, or religious group.” My life beginning, as it did, in that same year 1944 has seen many an example of genocide which I won’t list here or cite in any detail, but there is one group with whom I have been personally associated and this simple prose-poem deals with that group.–Ron Price with thanks to Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur by Ben Kiernan, Yale University Press, 2008. I will say, though, that the religion I have now been associated with for nearly 60 years has also been associated with the word genocide in the land of its birth and it has been this fierce opposition and hatred that has been the chief instrument for the spread of its organizational form to every corner of the planet. I have seen this in my lifetime since the beginning of the second century of the Baha’i Era while I have lived and had my being-& the story is far from over! Ron Price 20/11/'11 to 23/3/'14. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
  7. 7. YOM HASHOAH Poetry After Auschwitz The Knesset made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday in 1959. The Knesset, the legislative branch of the government in Israel, enacts that country’s laws. In 1961 the Knesset passed a law that closed all public entertainment on Yom Hashoah. At ten in the morning, a siren is sounded, everyone stops what they are doing, pulls over in their cars, and stands in remembrance. Yom Hashoah is known in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day or Holocaust Day. It is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany. It is a national memorial day and public holiday. In the same year that Holocaust Day was inaugurated, 1959, I joined the Baha’i Faith. I knew nothing of Yom Hashoah back then at the age of 15. Immersed as I was in affluent post-war North American culture, in sport, in school and in entertainment in its many forms, I was hardly aware of the Holocaust or of the events of WW2. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 July 2010. I was comfortable in the smalltown smugness of my childhood born, as I was…into salvation’s complacent trinity of Catholic, Protestant & Jew. My world was small, safe & familiar. Indians were the bad guys who always got licked in the movies amidst candy wrappers and the popcorn-smell of matinees at the Roxy theatre in a life that feels now as if it belongs to some- one else in a dream with those little streets and the little houses of a youth. I did not strive against acne or Auschwitz, although I did have my fears, for all was not smooth sailing by any means in those small rooms where I grew-up and had my being before a cold winter set in about the age of 18, a winter I had never felt before. I did come across Yom Hashoah fifty years later when, in 2009, I was in Haifa visiting my son at the Baha’i World Centre. I still heard that song which I had first listened to in ’59; it had arisen from the Siyah-Chal & echoed through the palaces of Europe--now flooding the earth with its felicity--this new song—this Godsong. And now, dear Lord, I falter, yet sing, for there is poetry after the Holocaust, after Auschwitz: and I make it!!1
  8. 8. 1 Roger White, “New Song,” Another Song Another Season, George Ronald, Oxford, 1979, pp.116-118. Ron Price 31/7/'10 to 23/3/'14. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was comfortable in the small town smugness of your childhood. You were born securely into salvation's complacent trinity: A Catholic, and a Protestant or Jew. ------------------------------- So begins a delightful poem by Roger White. He seems to describe the tone and texture of my childhood and adolescence. He continues: The world was small and safe and familiar. And very white. No red or black offended our prim steepled vaults of self-congratulation. Indians were the bad guys who got licked in the movies, dying copiously amid candy wrappers and the popcorn smell of Saturday matinees. ......... Yes, it was comfortable then. ......... When you heard that God had died, you wondered Whether it was from sheer boredom-- ........... The tempest came in your twelfth or fifteenth year, a clean cold wind and you were left like a stripped young tree in autumn with a cynical winter setting in and nothing large enough to house your impulse to believe. The need lay as quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed Snow-locked in a bleak and lonely landscape. ------------------------------------------------------- So White describes my personal condition from about the age of ten or twelve to fifteen, the years 1954 to 1959. "The need" was there to believe. It "lay as quiet" as a seed and grew, germinated. The tempest blew into my life at eighteen, a little later than it did in White's poem, in his life. But, in the years 1959 to 1962, fifteen to eighteen, I caught a glimpse of the Bab “in the clearing smoke of the rifles in the barrack-square of Tabriz." I heard His "new song./Up from the Siyah-Chal it rose." .....enough, yes, I have heard lots of stuff in my life amidst all sorts of other stuff and somewhere between the noise and the silence other stuff entered. ------------------------------------------------------------------- THE MUSIC OF THE LOVE GENERATION Late at night, after midnight and before I go to bed, I often watch the TV. It helps me turn my brain off, get into a somnambulant state. For me, TV watching has always been the best form of meditation late at night after my mind has been active for many hours, usually about 12 during the day. Many practitioners of the diverse art of meditation emphasize that one of the main aims of this discipline is the achievement
  9. 9. of a no effort attitude, of a remaining in the here and now, an avoiding of cognitive analysis, a stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, a relaxing of muscular tension. I achieve this watching TV, but only sometimes. In recent years, with the aid of anti- psychotic and anti-depressant medications, the light in my brain is switched completely off by midnight. From time to time there are ads by Time-Life Inc. for a set of CDs. Last night I watched the ad “Flower Power: Music of the Love Generation.” Those who watched the ad could buy 8 CDs, 164 hits, digitally remastered for $150 all up. As much as I had enjoyed the music of that generation of flower-power hits--and during those years had bought many of the records from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s---raising children on the salary of a teacher from about 1976/7 on had made buying records too expensive. I had no intention of buying this package of music. On a disability pension in the early evening of my late adulthood, I was in no position to make this purchase. The short segments of a few seconds of songs from many artists-musicians, singers- songwriters from the 1960s and 1970s were stimulating, I must say. I was 15 in 1960 and 36 in 1980--the generation of the first of the baby-boomers, children born in and after 1945--the first of the rock-‘n-roll enthusiasts. Music was an integral part of my life in those years, although listening to music slipped back a few notches as I came to focus on: (a) career, family and community life and its responsibilities, (b) health and the quixotic tournament of issues in the wider society as well as (c) TV and radio programs and my life in the last years of early adulthood and middle age from the late-1970s until my retirement from FT, PT and casual/volunteer work in the years 1999 to 2005. Now in my early sixties I am rediscovering music in its many forms.- Ron Price with thanks to Time-Life Inc on WIN TV at 1 a.m., 15 July 2008. Where did it all go all those sounds beginning in the ‘50s on that little blue radio in that little bedroom in that little house in that little town in that little world that exploded all that small town smugness all its complacent trinity of Catholic, Protestant and Jew and their genuine One True Faiths. That world was so safe and so familiar. Indians got creamed at the movies on Saturdays, yes, dying copiously amidst popcorn and candy wrappers. Canadians like me were always good guys who did not start wars, were thrifty and had virtuous sunlit wheat-fields. Ours was a good town; the Chamber of Commerce told us in the newspaper. I played baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter and then a real
  10. 10. winter hit my life in my teens, the cold was surrounded by music everywhere, but the music did not warm the winter cold as it stripped my young tree with its blasts from the north and the west. The music was not large enough to house my impulse to believe—a need which lay quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed. Ron Price 21/7/' 08 to 23/3/'14. ----------------------------------------------------------- Eight months before he died in April 1993, Roger White sent me by snail-mail a copy of Rollo May's The Courage to Create with the words "all that Rollo May says about 'the experience' of creativity has been true of my encounters." I plan, then, to weave throughout this section on poetry many of May's ideas. White gave me this book of May's, published in 1975, in appreciation for my friendship and for the collection of essays I wrote on his poetry and to which he gave his approval in a letter before he died. I extended these original essays ten years later, and they are now in a book: The Emergence of a Baha'i Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White, Juxta Publications, Hong Kong, 2003. Five years before he died Roger White write an essay entitled: Deft Adjustment, The: English-language poetry in present-day Israel, The essay appeared in dialogue magazine, 2:2-3 (1988). The essay is a discussion of Israeli and Jewish poems. White also reviews the books Voices within the Ark, Modern Hebrew Poetry, Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Seven Gates: Poetry from Jerusalem, and Voices Israel. To read this essay go to item 5 at this link: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ETIOLOGY OF A POEM The point to which the will is directly applied is always an idea. There are at all times some ideas which I shy away from or try to, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, the moment I get a glimpse of their forbidding profile upon the threshold of my thought. Volition is primarily a relation between my Self and my own states of mind. The holding of an idea before the mind, the filling of the mind with an idea is due to volition and attention, the affirming and adoption of a thought, keeping the attention strained on an object or idea until at last it grows so as to maintain itself before the mind with ease, is the first fundamental with respect to volition. My poems begin here. The whole drama is a mental one. The idea must be kept from flickering and going out. I must hear the still small voice unflinchingly and keep hearing it. I must be unwaveringly firm to withstand the pressing thoughts that take me from the task. It is to be preferred, indeed, it is essential, that firmness and effort of attention fill my mind as exclusively as possible. The result is consent to the task: the writing of a poem, the avoidance of some risk, et cetera. The result is also the extraordinarily intimate and important character which the phenomenon of effort assumes in my eyes;
  11. 11. the result is the searching of my heart and mind, the dumb reigning in and turning of the will and a tightening of the heartstrings. -Ron Price with thanks to William James, The Principles of Psychology, University of Chicago,1952, p.826. Here is where my poem begins, a level of commitment, a level of principle, some inner state, some attitude, will, some dynamic, aspiration, unshakeable consciousness, a filling of the mind, something intimate that pulls the heartstrings and turns my will, flickering, flickering and then it goes out. The will has done its job.........for now. Ron Price 28/1/'02 to 23/3/'14. --------------------------------- CEREBRATION Yesterday, 13 January 2006, I listened to an interview with Norman Mailer. The interview was done at the Edinburgh Writers’ Festival in 2005. Mailer made a number of comments that were relevant to my life as a writer. I summarize those comments here before completing this prose-poem. Mailer said he thought truth was like a space station. It was a place from which to launch out into the world of greater truth. One is always approaching truth, but never arriving said Mailer. It was essentially a journey. Mailer went on to say he was a Jew, but in blood only, not a practicing Jew, not a believing Jew. I, on the other hand, am a believing Baha’i in mind and heart, but not in blood. Although my parents were Baha’is, the first generation in my family to identify with this new movement/religion, I do not see my belief as a question of blood, genetics, race, et cetera, socialization perhaps, indeed, unquestionably. Mailer was asked if he considered himself wise. He said yes. Any wisdom I have acquired I see in terms of this belief system, Baha’i, that is the primary source of my wisdom, my meaning, my very survival as a human being.-Ron Price with thanks to “Interview With Norman Mailer,” ABC Radio, 11:05-12:00, January 13th 2006. My first memory was making mud pieces in about 1947/8 when your life1 was transformed with The Naked and Dead. It was your therapy, your self-indulgence, your self-absorption, preoccupation. This was the beginning, you said, of the punishing monotony of writing. You kept bringing yourself back in book after book, getting yourself in shape day after day--not in a fitness
  12. 12. studio but at your desk--3 or 4 hours of putting words down--6 or 7 hours reading and pondering, working out the cerebration, the capacity to take chances, occupying thematic places, territories, for the most part familiar, implementing old thoughts in new contexts--and then the brain is tired and contemplates nothing happily. I did not have your early success, but I still perceived it all through the mirror of my soul; I punished myself differently than you did, Norman, discarding roles, and calcifying selves, inventing new personas with self-dramatizating talent in the theatre of life, for it is indeed a performance enacted before an audience with a plot and a script composed of details from history. With the power of the director, with some fidelity to the script, I have set this actor in motion resolutely and unreservedly, to play my part, however small, in the greatest drama in the world’s spiritual history, widening my vision and deepening my comprehension. 1 Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel. It was based on his experiences with the 112th Cavalry Regiment during the Philippines Campaign in World War II. It was later adapted into a film of the same name in 1958. Ron Price 14/1/'06 to 26/3/'14. --------------------------------------------- The Conversion of Religious Minorities to the Bahá'í Faith in Iran Some Preliminary Observations Susan Stiles Maneck Abstract In the period between 1877-1921 significant numbers of non-Muslims converted to the Bahá'í Faith in Iran. This was an essential development for the emergence of the Bahá'í Faith as an independent religion possessing a distinct identity apart from
  13. 13. Islam. These conversions were largely confined to the Zoroastrian and Jewish communities and did not involve Iran's largest religious minority, the Christians. This study attempts to address some of the factors that were involved in this conversion process. These will include the manner in which Bahá'ís made the transition from Islamic particularism to a universalism that would attract non-Muslims, as well as the manner in which actual conversions took place and the factors surrounding them. Major emphasis will be placed upon examining what factors may have inclined certain minorities rather than others to convert. The Jewish conversion movement began in Hamadan around 1877, and by 1884, according to the historian of Persian Jewry Habib Levy, involved some one hundred and fifty of the eight-hundred Jewish households there (Levy, Tarikh-i-Yahud-i-Iran 657). From there, the Bahá'í Faith spread to the Jewish communities of other Iranian cities, including Kashan (where half of the Bahá'í community was of Jewish origin), Tehran, Isfahan, Bukhara, and Gulpaygan (where seventy-five percent of the Jewish community was said to have converted) (Curzon, Persia 500). According to Dastur Dhalla, the eminent Zoroastrian theologian, roughly 4000 Zoroastrians converted to the Bahá'í Faith in Iran, with an additional 1000 in India (cited in Dhalla, Dastur Dhalla 703). This conversion movement involved a significant portion of the educated merchant elite of the Zoroastrians in Yazd (Stiles, "Early Zoroastrian"), all of the Zoroastrians of Qazvin (Dhalla, Dastur Dhalla 726), and a significant number in Kashan and Tehran as well. The accuracy of all these figures, being based largely on the impressions of outside observers, is open to question. Neither the Bahá'ís nor the minorities from which the conversions were occurring kept membership records at this time. Go to this link for the rest of this essay: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ HEROIC: COLD FIRE An outstanding singer, long forgotten now, one Max Lorenz(1901-1975), was Hitler’s favorite tenor. He was married to a Jewess and he was also a homosexual. Last night I watched the last half of a biopic of his life.1 I had finished my day of writing, reading and my evening walk, my attending to several domestic tasks and of chatting with my wife. I had taken my meds and was utilizing TV to send me to sleep within the hour. I never knew Lorenz; he retired in 1962 when I was just 18 and starting out in life, travelling and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community. I have never been an opera fan although, occasionally, my spirit has been lifted by a chance listening to a tenor voice such as the likes of: Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo. Other classical singers like Enrico Caruso and pop singers like Elton John and Stevie Wonder have also lifted my spirits with their tenor voices. In the Mandarin pop scene, JJ Lin Junjie and Jay Chou would probably be considered tenor voices as well. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 ABC1 TV, “Wagner’s Mastersinger: The Life and Times of Max Lorenz,” 11:20 p.m.-12:15 a.m., 27/28/6/’10. What a sad ending your life had, Max, after all that adulation, fame and glory through those entre deux guerres years!
  14. 14. I had no idea of your life or death, Max, spaning as it did the first three-quarters of the 20th century.Your last dozen years had nothing to take the place of those rich years on the stage of opera across Europe and Middle and South America. They say you satisfied that German need for heroic voices with your cold fire sound at a time when the heroic was being played for all it was worth in your German homeland. Ron Price 28/6/’10 to 20/5/’13 ------------------------------------------------- THE STORYTELLER Some of the story in 1936 and from 1913 to 2013 Part 1: This prose-poem is a personal analysis of some of the ideas of Walter Benjamin(1892- 1940). Benjamin was a German literary critic, philosopher, social critic, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist. In his writing he combined elements of romanticism, historical materialism and Jewish mysticism. Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory and Western Marxism. He was associated with the Frankfurt School, a school of interdisciplinary social theory I came to teach in the last decade of my teaching career in the 1990s. The ideas I am most concerned with here are found in his essay, The Storyteller, published in 1936.1 He was concerned, among other things in that essay, with the incommunicability of experiences in the modern world. The storyteller, said Benjamin in that essay, had served the role as the guardian of tradition, part of a chain of tradition which passed a happening, an event, on from generation to generation. “Through the storyteller,” writes Miguel Santos-Neves, “memory leaves the past to be morphed into and in the present.”1 That is no longer the case or, it is more accurate to say, that there are dozens, even hundreds, of traditions, which are being preserved for modern man in a cacophony of languages, voices, myths and traditions. In some ways, the storyteller has only begun his journey through the lives of the billions of people who have and who now inhabit the planet. In the 20th century, the theme of incommunicability, though, is often found in such places in the literary and philosophical world as: the theatre of the absurd, nihilism, deconstruction and post-modernism, as well as some varieties of existentialism, inter alia. Benjamin’s essay attributes the fall of the storyteller in the last century, the years after WWI, to the problem of sharing experiences. While I find the writings of Benjamin provocative, and often reflect my own experience and views, I often find that what he says is, when viewed from another perspective, an inaccurate perception of the society I now live in. If what he says is accurate, it is often only a partial truth, a partially accurate reflection and analysis of the world I live in, analyse and observe. This is especially true of the storyteller and storytelling. Part 2:
  15. 15. His essay, The Storyteller, is an example of what for me is one of Benjamin’s partial truths. Benjamin states that after WWI people became unable to reflect accurately upon their experiences, in part because of the dramatic influx, and rapid distribution of information. He asserted that the rise of information, the information overload, was incompatible with storytelling, and contributed to the diminished efficacy of the storyteller. Before World War I, people received information locally. Rumours and information were spread verbally, from person to person, not read or watched. People’s knowledge of the outside world in 1913, compared with 2013, was scarce and nowhere near as graphic. Benjamin asserted that World War I crystallized a change in the perception of many things.2 He believed that societal norms were transformed, not suddenly but progressively, slowly, over time, as knowledge seeped into people’s lives, as technology expanded and events like WW I took place. After World War I, people struggled to communicate their experiences. World War I was one of the most traumatizing events in human history. It had significant cultural, political, and social ramifications. Traumatizing events have continued, seemingly unabated into the 21st century, and communication has remained a problem. Part 3: In The Storyteller Benjamin focuses mostly on the social consequences of the Great War. According to Benjamin, when the soldiers returned from World War I, they were simply unable to communicate their experiences. They returned to a world transformed by the war. This transformation, of course, has been happening, a fortiori, as the decades of the 20th and 21st centuries have succeeded one another. For millions, modern technology, the mass media and mechanical warfare have changed everything. This was not true for large segments of our global society whose lives remained relatively unchanged until the last decades of the 20th century since most of modern technology did not reach many of the hunting and gathering communities and much of the third world, and when it did reach them it was oh so slowly. Benjamin communicates his conception of the changes as follows: “A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar stood under the open sky, after WWI, in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of forces of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human life.” Many soldiers had grown up knowing a slow-paced, effectively unchanging lifestyle. But after the war, this kind of lifestyle was ripped from their grasp. The world was immediately affected by the great quantities of information and this led to a metamorphosis of the greater society. Life became fast-paced and information-driven. While some were reaping the so-called benefits of the new age, many were left behind and this dichotomy between rich and poor, advanced and underdeveloped, peoples is still with us. Part 4: Benjamin correlates the dramatic increase in the dissemination of information with the quick decline of the storyteller. According to Benjamin, the beauty of the storyteller was his ability to communicate a story and allow the audience to integrate that story into their own experience. Critic Peter Brooks expands on this idea, stating that the storyteller gave the narrative “a chaste compactness that commended it to people’s memory.”3 The story sank into the listener, and the experience made the storyteller and the reader one. In turn, according to Brooks, a type of wisdom was imparted to the listener. Through narrative and discourse, people were able to reflect upon
  16. 16. experiences and share them with others. Ultimately, it was the integration of experience by the use of open narrative, of storytelling, that led to wisdom.2 –Ron Price with thanks to 1 Miguel Santos-Neves, Reflections on Walter Benjamin’s The Storyteller in Texas Theory Wiki, 2 Leo Hall, The Modernism Lab, Yale University; and 3 Peter Brooks, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994, p. 81. Well, Walter, 80 years after your essay, I think the picture is so very different from the one you saw far1 back in the 1930s….People are now drowning in stories, & sharing them with millions-billions.....integrating more wisdom than ever in history… The world has been transformed just about out of all recognition except for those clouds in the sky and the ground beneath our feet over those 100 years.2 Back in 19361 the Plan was activated and systematically, for that world, that field of forces and their destructive torrents, all the explosions, on the tiny, fragile human lives… You got that right Walter-yes sir-ee-bob!!! The world of the story-teller has just begun; he has returned to us with a vengeance in so many more ways than one: read that thesis of Areti Dragas, his PhD thesis at Durham Uni.3 1 In 1936, Benjamin’s essay was published and the Baha’is of North America were asked to implement Abdu’l-Baha’s teaching Plan for the extension of His Father’s faith throughout the world. See Shoghi Effendi, 30/5/’36, in Messages to America: 1932-1946, Baha’i Pub. Committee, Wilmette, 1947, p.7. The translation series Selected Writing contributes to an effort, intensified in recent years, of presenting unfamiliar facets of Benjamin's work in the English language. This third volume of the series presents selected writings from the years 1935-38.-- Howard Eiland, Michael W. Jennings, eds.: Walter Benjamin: Selected Writing: Vol.3 1935-1938, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2002. 2 1913 to 2013
  17. 17. 3 Areti Dragas, The Return of the Storyteller in Contemporary Literature, Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: , 2007. Ron Price 13 & 14/1/’13. ------------------------------------------------- AUTOBIOGRAPHY Philip Roth and Me Philip Milton Roth(1933-) is an American novelist who first gained fame with his 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus. The book was an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life and it earned him a National Book Award. I was only 15 at the time, in grade 10 in a small town in southern Ontario, had just joined the Baha’i Faith, and only read what I had to as part of my school curricula. I memorized everything on the several syllabi because that was the way, back then, to get the highest possible marks at high school. I was an ace in my studies as well as in baseball, even a home-run king back in the pee-wee baseball league in the little town of my childhood and adolescence. In 1969 Roth became a major celebrity with the publication of the controversial Portnoy's Complaint, the humorous and sexually explicit psychoanalytical monologue of "a lust-ridden, mother-addicted young Jewish bachelor," filled with "intimate, shameful detail, and coarse, abusive language." By 1969 I had had my own experiences of lust as well as psychiatry due to my bipolar disorder. But I was no longer a bachelor, having got married in 1967. In that same year I moved to Baffin Island to teach Inuit children. Since those late 1950s Roth has become one of the most honoured authors of his generation. His books have twice been awarded the National Book Award, twice the National Book Critics Circle award, and three times the PEN/Faulkner Award. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel, American Pastoral, which featured his best-known character, Nathan Zuckerman, the subject of many other of Roth's novels. His 2001 novel The Human Stain, another story of Nathan Zuckerman, was awarded the United Kingdom's W.H. Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. Roth’s fiction is set frequently in Newark New Jersey. It is known for an intensely autobiographical character, for a philosophical and formal blurring of the distinction between reality and fiction, for a "supple, ingenious style," and for its provocative explorations of Jewish and American identity.1
  18. 18. Since those late fifties and those late sixties, I have become a successful, but quite ordinarily ordinary, teacher and lecturer of my generation. I have received no honours for my writing although, in the last three decades, I have written and published several million words in cyberspace. My writing is also intensely and extensively autobiographical, but the main character in my writing is me and I do not blur the line between reality and fiction. I would like to think my writing is, like Roth’s, supple and ingenious in style and provocative in its explorations of life, mine and society’s. I would like to think that, but I must of course leave such judgements to readers. It is very difficult to assess one's own work. That is the job of readers.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Charles Simic, “The Nicest Boy in the World,” The New York Review of Books, 9 October 2008. I’m intensely autobiographic, too, Philip; but I go about it in a very different way that you. And fame is not part of my story… life- narrative…..We go after reality in our own unique ways, and I went after it in writing much later in life than you. I was just getting into my profession in my twenties, and you were on your way to fame and glory. Ron Price 12/11/'11 to 25/3/'14. ---------------------------------------------------------- Iran's Outcast Religion Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians have rights under the constitution. Not Bahais. By FIRUZ KAZEMZADEH In some 40 years as a university professor, I have been privileged to teach students who went on to serve their people as senators, ambassadors, prominent scholars and even U.S. president. None of this would have been possible had I lived in my family's homeland of Iran. As a member of the Bahai faith, I would have been barred from teaching freely—and I might even have been imprisoned, as seven Bahai educators now are. While many Iranian citizens are targets of repression by the current regime, the t reatment of Bahais, the country's largest non-Muslim religious community, is a special case. Unlike Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, who have certain limited rights under the Islamic Constitution, Bahais were declared unprotected infidels immediately following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Bahais have faced persecution in Iran since their religion was founded more than a century and a half ago, but it was never as systematic as in the last 30 years. Since the Islamic Revolution, more than 200 Bahai leaders have been put to death. The regime has outlawed Bahai institutions, confiscated their properties, desecrated their
  19. 19. cemeteries, demolished their holy places. Bahais are subject to constant state- sanctioned pressure to recant their faith. For the rest of this article in the Wall Street Journal 11 October 2011 go to: 134 Mr. Kazemzadeh is professor emeritus of history at Yale and a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 34.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion --------------------------------------------- A PRIMORDIAL PERSPECTIVE ON PIONEERING Part 1: The call of Abraham and of his subsequent pilgrimage has become part of the primordial journey of the Jewish people.. "It is part, too, of that theophany, that appearance of God to man, that has been sedimented in narrative" writes George McLean and has become part of that biblical "primordium around which a people" has been shaped.1 This primordium, Peachey says, needs interpretation and application in the changing circumstances of time and place, our time and place. And that is what I am doing here in this bief comment. Having embraced a new theophany and become a part of a new Faith community which claims descent from this original Abrahamic experience, I am in possession of a new tradition, now in its second century, which possesses a richness of detail that was scarcely perceptible in that first primordium, but which has been enacted again in the life of Baha'u'llah. This new narrative, not unlike Abraham's, is of immense value to the international pioneer in the Baha'i community, a pioneer who has now spent half a century engaged in community building. Most of us are involved in community-building in some form or another around: family, tribe, a town orcity, a nation state. In the last century or so a new community has emerged: the global community and the Bahá'í Faith has been involved in building this global community, a global community within the larger global community. Contemporary religious practitioners usually have little direct engagement--historical, archeological, sociological--with that seminal Abrahamic-primordium of community about 2000 BC. Tradition and its institutional configurations overshadow this ancient narrative and, to a lesser extent, are animated by it. But, for me, in the Baha'i community, Abraham's story has found eschatological and apocalyptic significance in what you might call a contemporary rerun. In this globalizing, individualizing, pluralising world, a prophet, a manifestation of God, has been forced, not called, out of his country, taking his kindred with him on the journey. I find in my life and in pioneering over four epochs, that the narrative of Baha'u'llah's exile, his journey- narrative, is one I can shape as I become more familiar with it and as it shapes me. Part 2:
  20. 20. "Learning the existing story, its language and its logic," says Peachey, "enables individuals to experience on their own in the terms of that story or to use it as a foundation for new and expanded experience."2 Learning the story is like learning a language. Learning and becoming a part of a religious tradition is also like learning a language. Learning this language is essential if one is to function within that religion's parameters. The story of Abraham is the beginning, the first chapter, of the Israelite narrative; the story of Baha'u'llah is the end, the last chapter, of this same narrative extended into our time, our age. This idea of learning the language of community has similarities to anyone’s efforts to build community: a football club, a family, the people in a work-place even a loose and informal group of friends. “You pays your money and you make your choice,” as they say—and you spend your days building community in some shape or form—and then you die and you leave behind you whatever community with whom you have been engaged . From the father, the first patriarch, the birth, of the Hebrew people about 4000 years ago, if not before, right up to our time, our modern age, in the person of Baha'u'llah, this pattern of leaving one's country and going to another land is, in some ways, the basic myth, model, metaphor, for the international pioneer. The Baha'i pioneer goes and makes his home "to develop the society God calls"3 Baha'u'llah's followers to build. "I will make of you a great nation,"4 God says to His people in The Bible. The international pioneer is also in the same position, only he is at the beginning of a global, a planetary, system, a world Order, that he is helping to establish. This is the core of that pioneer's service to humanity. God will train both the pioneer and the Baha'is, it would appear, following the metaphor right back to Abraham, in a series of sacred-historical events different from, but similar in other ways to, the great literary- metaphorical history that is The Bible. Abraham's leap of faith is ours, too, as we walk into history. Baha'u'llah's exile over forty years(1852-1892) took place only once, as did Abraham's journey, but each inaugurated the history of a divine-human relationship which will go on unfolding for centuries, millennia to come—such is the belief of those who call themselves Baha’is. Just as Abraham had little comprehension of the nature of his call or of his destiny at the beginning, so, too, are we in a similar position, although we do have some glimmering, indeed, much more than a glimmering, of the future given to us in the Baha'i writings. At the very start of the building of this World Order of Baha'u'llah, of community building, it is difficult to fathom the process, the reality, the meaning. The narrative takes unexpected turns; uncertainty enters in from time to time. Faith is at our core, in the centre of our narrative, as it was for Abraham. Part 3: But history, for the Jewish people, and for the Baha'is, is seen as an extended course of instruction filled with lessons and tests by which God seeks to educate us for our redemptive work. In this narrative is found the meaning and purpose of our lives. To help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Just as Abraham went from his country, kindred and father's house so does the international pioneer, launched on a mission to other people, to all people, wherever he goes. The journey has gone on in our own
  21. 21. time in the life of Baha'u'llah. That great journey of the Abrahamic peoples is the paradigmatic, the metaphorical, vehicle, that the pioneer takes on board as he becomes a part of a wondrous tradition that weaves its way through the holy Scriptures of four of the world's religions. For the pioneer's story is the story he will find there in that holy writ. Therein will he find his life's meaning and purpose. --------------------------FOOTNOTES--------------------------------------------- 1 Paul Peachey, "The Call of Abraham," in Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change, Series 1, Vol.7., George McLean, editor. 2 idem 3 ibid.,p.75. 4 Numbers 23:9. Ron Price 8 April 2010 For ---------------------------------- The following comes from an online journal of opinion, The Nation, 14 May, 2007,"Cafe Society," William Deresiewicz. It is a review of Cliver James book Cultural Amnesia. Part 1: The sociology comes first. Before he launches his symphony of voices with Anna Akhmatova, James gives us an "overture" on the cafe culture of prewar Vienna. It is the place where his imagination seems most at home, precisely because it was a time when the life of the mind was lived collectively and interconnectedly, by an astonishing array of wits and polymaths and artists and journalists (like Friedell and Polgar and Peter Altenberg and Stefan Zweig, who fittingly bookends the alphabetical procession). The cafes were their clubhouse, their debating society, their stage, sometimes even their mailing address. They were there, for the most part, because they were Jews, and as Jews they were excluded from the universities. The situation was humiliating for many, but the result, James says, was that "whole generations of Jewish literati were denied the opportunity of wasting their energies compiling abstruse doctoral theses." By a lucky chance, I started reading Cultural Amnesia on my way down to the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, the professional organization of literary academics. Nothing in a long time has focused my discontent with academic life more pointedly than James's assertion that "Vienna was the best evidence that the most accommodating and fruitful ground for the life of the mind can be something more broad than a university campus." In James's cosmology, the university is the infernal (and infertile) counterpart to the paradise of the cafe. Humanism means interconnection, and the cafe gives that interconnection social form. Academia necessitates specialization and incessantly discourages intellectual breadth (now more than ever, no matter how much lip service is paid to "interdisciplinarity"). The academic conference, where small groups of identically specialized professionals meet to debate narrow questions of interpretation and doctrine, is the cafe's demonic double.
  22. 22. Part 2: But James's evocation of Viennese cafe society is elegiac, and not just because that society was destroyed by Hitler. James, too, has been a denizen of cafes, but he has haunted them alone. Friedell and Polgar and Altenberg were sitting on the table, not around it. Though James's life has been richly social, as he hints from time to time, still, "most of [my] listening was done by reading." For a host of reasons--the expansion of universities, of suburbs and of telecommunications, to name three--the kind of face-to-face intellectual-artistic life that Vienna exemplified, and that flourished in other twentieth-century cities, simply no longer exists. James's answer to this bereavement is the book itself. Here is the cafe he has created in his mind, a convocation of voices that respond to one another across the barriers of language, outlook, expressive form and, most of all, time. If, for James, the cafe is humanism's ideal social context, its necessary political one is liberal democracy. The civilized life that humanism seeks to embrace in its totality is by its nature "provokingly multifarious" and "bewilderingly complex." Its preconditions, James believes, are pluralism, tolerance and freedom, the values that liberal democracy enshrines. All else, he implies, is totalitarianism, whether of the right or the left. For James, totalitarianism's essential intellectual structure is ideology (which, when it travels in the academy, goes by the name of "theory"): the belief that you possess an idea that explains everything. With such a key in hand, you can stop learning, stop doubting yourself, stop listening to other people--all the activities that humanism most requires. If your ideology is salvationist (and which of them isn't?), you will even feel justified in shutting those other people up--if necessary, by killing them. Part 3: The twentieth century's two great totalitarian ideologies were Nazism and Communism, and James devotes a large number of his essays to figures involved with one or the other--as perpetrators, apologists, resisters or victims. If James's cultural imagination is rooted in Vienna, his political imagination is rooted in the decades when Hitler and Stalin forced European intellectuals into the direst of moral choices. The cumulative message of these entries is that history has a way of waking up and finding you out. And so the reason to read history, James quotes Zweig as saying, is "to see how other men had acted" when tested by events, and to measure oneself beside them. Faced with Hitler or Stalin, some, like the saintly Sophie Scholl, executed at the age of 21 for refusing to renounce her nonviolent resistance to the Nazi regime, martyred themselves in the cause of righteousness; some, like Nadezhda Mandelstam, survived to bear witness; some, like Ernst Robert Curtius, the great romance philologist, withdrew from public life; and some, like Jean Cocteau, openly collaborated. And then there was Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre is the book's antihero, who "looms in the a genius with the evil eye." For James, Sartre's response to both Nazism and Stalinism was just about the worst an intellectual can do. After largely acquiescing in the occupation, Sartre retroactively co-opted the Resistance by placing himself at the head of the "post-Liberation witch-hunt" that "called down vengeance on people whose behavior had not really been all that much more reprehensible than
  23. 23. his own." After the war, he became a paragon of the ideologically committed leftist intellectual, James's bête noire, and it is a major project of Cultural Amnesia to impugn the credibility, intellectual as well as moral, of him and everyone like him. James's own political heroes are liberal intellectuals like Sartre's great nemesis, Raymond Aron, who exposed Communism and defended the sanity, strength and value of liberal society. Part 4: But Sartre's sins were stylistic as well as political, and they bring us to James's humanist aesthetics and its connection to his humanist politics. For James, Sartre's abstruse, impacted philosophical style was designed to conceal more than just the vacuity of his thought: "If Sartre wanted to avoid examining his own behavior--and clearly he did--he would need to develop a manner of writing philosophy in which he could sound as if he was talking about everything while saying nothing." And it's not just Sartre; it's also Heidegger, Lacan, Derrida and the rest of the Obscurantist International. Clarity is the enemy of self-deception, and of the larger deception known as ideology. Style is not an ornament of thought but its very substance, and thinking is an ethical act. Humanism, which seeks a complex integration of disparate experience, requires the most difficult kind of style: a simple one. "Great writing," James tells us, "is not just writing," because to become great it must respond to, and thus forces us into an awareness of, the whole of reality. The crabbed, pedantic cant typically favored by academics responds to only a tiny crumb of reality; the abstract bombast of ideologues responds to no reality whatsoever. ---------------------------------- One of the central purposes of video,TV and Broadway productions of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ was to encourage viewers to relate the film to their own lives. This I have done in the following prose-poem: TAKING OUR WORLD BY STORM On August 1st 1944, nine days after I was born, Anne Frank made her last entry in what has become one of the famous books of our time: The Diary of Anne Frank. The book is now said to be the largest selling non-fiction book after The Bible. Anne died just before her 16th birthday in March 1945 in a German concentration camp. But Anne lives on in her diary, arguably the major, the popular, voice of the Jews from the Holocaust of WW2. The first edition of her diary came out in 1952; the first Broadway production in 1955 and the first movie in March 1959. This Dutch Jewish teenager also lived on in several television productions. One of these I saw last night. -Ron Price with thanks to “History Thru The Lens: The Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes From the Past,” Southern Cross TV, 12:30-2:30 a.m., 20 January 2006. You were just becoming known to a wider public, to any public, at the same time as this new Faith was becoming known to me and to a wider world right back at the start of what He and we have called
  24. 24. the Kingdom of God on Earth.1 Your diary went on Broadway in the midst of that crisis in ’55. Of course, there are always troubles in Iran; like the Jews it seems, people of endless struggle. Not that it meant much to me back then when I was 15. Your diary became a movie--in 1959, released two days before that Naw Ruz. I was playing baseball and hockey then trying to make it with girls and school and just having entered the outer fringes of a Movement that was becoming the greatest drama in religious history and it certainly provided the greatest drama in my life just beginning in that spring and summer of ’59 so very unobtrusively. The world understood more of its enormity, its tragedy, its unbelievable horror through your eloquent voice from the past & death’s corridors for those who never speak any more. And I came closer and closer to a Force that took my life by storm, as I say, so unobtrusively, so quietly, so seductively, inch by inch, increment by increment. 1 God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi, p. 351. Ron Price 21/1/06 revised for Hadie MacLeod: 17/3/07 ----------------------------------------- MANUFACTURING On 1 June 1962, as I finished my high school exams in Canada and about 12 weeks before my Baha’i pioneering life began near the end of August, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi boss responsible for transporting 100s of thousands of Jews to death camps, was executed. Research Professor of history and specialist in Jewish history, David Cesarani, argues that Eichmann had a corporate mentality and that he made a conscious career decision to do what he did within the immense bureaucratic wheel of the German totalitarian state. He was not an embodiment of evil, not a brutal, depraved, an ideologically-driven psychopath. These popular views are a myth, Cesarani argues. He learned to be an anti-semite; he learned to hate and chose to be part of the genocide process. He was
  25. 25. part of a “paperwork-based collapse of morality.” He was in many ways a detached, passionless administrator, as Max Weber describes such men so well; he was an ordinary, common, far from atypical man, a graduate in mechanical engineering. He could have been, so argues Cesarani, you or I.-Ron Price with thanks to David Cesarani, Eichmann: His Life and Times, Vintage, 2004. You can get a man’s life so wrong, even if you study him for years; and you can get your own life quite wrong even though you live it decade in and decade out, for man, it is said, is God’s mystery. You certainly found as the decades rolled insensibly and sensibly by some bad, false wretched fame, notoriety, a failed celebrity, mortifying failure, a career move in the wrong direction, a socio-historical, ideological apparatus and a psycho-social profile that manufactured you as they manufacture us with enough autonomy thrown-in so that we can call ourselves free even if we are everywhere in chains in the Most Great Prison that is our life, in which we can not walk away but in which there is always a degree of voluntarism, there are always half-truths and we must manage our lives within a new structure of freedom for our age. Ron Price December 23rd 2005 ---------------------------------------- ULTIMATE PERSPECTIVE For someone like myself who has an archive of over 3000 letters, the archaeological research in what has come to be called the Cave of Letters, has a special interest. The first research was done in this cave near the Dead Sea in Israel in 1960/1 and the letters which were found came from 132 AD(ca). No research was done again until 1999. My own cache or cave of letters was amassed during this time(1960-2005) and can be found, not in a region of karst topography, but in a small room in a small town at the end of the Pacific rim, the last stop on the way to Antarctica. Like those ancient cave documents from the period of time of the Second Revolt of the Jews against the Romans just one century after the crucifixion of Christ which chronicle what life was like two millennia ago, my letters document the life of an international pioneer at another important time in history, the first four epochs at the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth(1953-2021).
  26. 26. These letters in the Cave of Letters from nearly 1900 years ago are part of a priceless collection of artefacts. State-of-the art archaeological technology has enabled historians to add a substantial amount of new information to the existing bases of knowledge from the second century AD. It is difficult to see how my letters can provide anything like the same function given the multitude of sources of information about our contemporary way of life or, more particularly, the way of life of the international Baha’i in the first century of the evolution of Baha’i administrative institutions.-Ron Price with thanks to “Lost Worlds: Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land,” SBS TV, 7:30-8:30 pm, September 4th 2005 and “2000 Excavation of The Cave of Letters,” Internet Site, 2001. I wonder if azimuths, inclinations, station sketches, computer programs, cross-sectional maps, survey data, archaeological and geophysical analyses, digital pulseEKKOTM 100 and 1000 GPR systems and their resulting profiles using antennae frequencies of 100 and 450 MHz and a backpack transport system……. ..….and radar stratigraphic analysis to investigate both lateral and vertical geometry of reflection patterns; archaeological probes using endoscope, metal detector and other excavation techniques. Two dimensional electrical resistivity and tomography analysis---- …all of this just might reveal something that the present generation of analysts would not be inclined to even examine. For the meaning of history is not so much in the living but in retrospect as new fields emerge, new meaning systems have their day, and this earthly life finds its ultimate perspective. Ron Price September 5th 2005 --------------------------------------------- MORE THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT There is no "Christian civilization" or "Christian culture" in the way that there is an "Islamic culture," which you can recognize from Pakistan to Tunisia to Morocco. As the Christian Church took shape historically in new and various social forms over the centuries so, too, is the world order of Baha’u’llah taking shape in a variety of social forms. Cultural diversity was built into the Christian faith with that first great decision by the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15, which declared that the new gentile Christians didn’t have to enter Jewish religious culture. A similar decision of an Egyptian Court in 1926 acknowledged the independence of the Baha’i Faith from
  27. 27. Islam. Just as people no longer knew what a Christian lifestyle looked like after it was established as a non-Jewish religion; just as the converts had to work out, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a new way of being Christian, so too have Baha’is in these four epochs had to work out, with a great deal of guidance from the Central Figures of their Faith, from Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, what constituted a Baha’i way of life.--Ron Price with thanks to Andrew Walls, “The Expansion of Christianity: An Interview with Andrew Walls,” The Christian Century, August 2-9, 2000, pp. 792- 799. We’ve got so much to define and shape our life and ways, a calendar, feasts and fasts, forms to order our complex days, tools to instruct, massive, eloquent exegisis translated into deeds, action, heroic and otherwise, ceremonial, informational messages, more praise, exhortation, censure, advice than you can shake a stick at-- and we’re only in the second century. And all of this serving the need of the moment: the future and the present in our individual, collective life--and all of this forges, directs and guides our community, brings system to a sea of fragments in a continuous crucible of transformation free from the drastic consequences of misinterpretation. Ron Price January 2, 2005.