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Dr David Starr Jordan was a distinguished American scientist and university administrator. In 1885, he was named President of Indiana University, becoming the nation’s youngest university president at age 34. In 1891, he became president of Stanford, serving there as president until 1913 and chancellor until his retirement in 1916. Jordan was best known for being a peace activist. He argued that war was detrimental to the human species because it removed the strongest organisms from the gene pool. Jordan was president of the World Peace Foundation from 1910 to 1914 and president of the World Peace Conference in 1915, and opposed U.S. involvement in World War I.
Introducing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford University, David Starr Jordan said,
“It is our privilege to have with us, through the kindness and courtesy of our Persian friends, one of the great religious teachers of the world, one of the natural successors of the old Hebrew prophets. He is said sometimes to be the founder of a new religion. He has upward of three millions of people following along the lines in which he leads. It is not exactly a new religion, however. The religion of brotherhood, of goodwill, of friendship between men and nations is as old as good thinking and good living may be. It may be said in some sense to be the oldest of religions.”
“Abdu’l-Bahá will surely unite the East and the West, for He walks the mystical path with practical feet.”
John Estlin Carpenter was an eminent Unitarian biblical scholar, theologian and Oxford professor. Carpenter presided over a meeting on 31 December 1912 for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Manchester College, Oxford, where Carpenter was Principal.
“From that subtle race (the Persians) issues the most remarkable movement…The new faith declared that there was no finality in revelation, and while recognising the Koran as a product of past revelation, claimed to embody a new manifestaton of the divine Unity. Carried to Chicago in 1893…it succeeded in establishing itself in the United States; and its missionaries are winning new adherents in India. It, too, claims to be a universal teaching; it has already its noble army of martyrs and its holy books; has Persia, in the midst of her miseries, given birth to a religion which will go round the world?”
From Comparative Religion
Alain LeRoy Locke was an American writer, philosopher, educator and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings about the Harlem Renaissance. He is unofficially called the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”. His philosophy served as a strong motivating force in keeping the energy and passion of the Movement at the forefront.
“The gospel for the Twentieth Century rises out of the heart of its greatest problems – and few who are spiritually enlightened doubt the nature of that problem. The redemption of society – social salvation, should have been sought after first. The fundamental problems of current America are materiality and prejudice. And so we must say with the acute actualities of America’s race problem and the acute potentialities of her economic problem, that the land that is nearest to material democracy is furthest away from spiritual democracy…And we must begin heroically with the greatest apparent irreconcilables: the East and the West, the black man and the self-arrogating Anglo-Saxon, for unless these are reconciled, the salvation of society cannot be. If the world had believingly understood the full significance of Him who taught it to pray and hope “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven,” who also said ”In my Father’s house are many mansions,” already we should be further toward this great millennial vision. The word of God is still insistent, and more emphatic as the human redemption delays and becomes more crucial, and we have…Bahá’u’lláh’s “one great trumpet-call to humanity”: “That all nations shall become one in faith, and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and difference of race be annulled…These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and men be as one kindred and family.”
From The Gospel of the Twentieth Century
Herbert Putnam, Litt.D., LL.D. was the eight United States Librarian of Congress, serving from 1899 to 1939. He was the first experienced librarian to hold the post. Early during his administration, Putnam introduced a new system of classifying books that continues to this day.
“The dominant impression that survives in my memory of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is that of an extraordinary nobility: physically, in the head so massive yet so finely poised, and the modeling of the features; but spiritually, in the serenity of expression, and the suggestion of grave and responsible meditation in the deeper lines of the face. But there was also, in his complexion, carriage, and expression, an assurance of the complete health which is a requisite of a sane judgment. And when, as in a lighter mood, his features relaxed into the playful, the assurance was added of a sense of humor without which there is no true sense of proportion. I have never met any one concerned with the philosophies of life whose judgment might seem so reliable in matters of practical conduct.
My regret is that my meetings with him were so few and that I could not benefit by a lengthier contact with a personality combining a dignity so impressive with human traits so engaging.
I wish that he could be multiplied!”
The psychoanalyst and philosopher Charles Baudouin founded the International Institute of Psychagogy and Psychotherapy. Baudouin was a great believer in a world where the national spirit is transcended by the human spirit.
“…towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Asia gave birth to a great religious movement – a movement signalized for its spiritual purity, one which has had thousands of martyrs, one which Tolstoy has described. H. Dreyfus, the French historian of this movement, says that it is not “a new religion,” but “religion renewed,” and that it provides “the only possible basis for a mutual understanding between religion and free thought.” Above all, we are impressed by the fact that, in our own time, such a manifestation can occur, and that the new faith should have undergone a development far more extensive than that undergone in the same space of time nearly two thousand years ago, by budding Christianity.
At the present time, the majority of the inhabitants of Persia have, to a varying extent, accepted the Babist faith. In the great towns of Europe, America, and Asia, there are active centers for the propaganda of the liberal ideas and the doctrine of human community, which form the foundations of Baha’ist teaching.
We shall not grasp the full significance of this tendency until we pass from the description of Baha’ism as a theory to that of Baha’ism as a practice, for the core of religion is not metaphysics, but morality. The Baha’ist ethical code is dominated by the law of love taught by Jesus and by all the prophets. In the thousand and one details of practical life, this law is subject to manifold interpretations. That of Bahá’u’lláh is unquestionably one of the most comprehensive of these, one of the most exalted, one of the most satisfactory to the modern mind….
That is why Bahá’u’lláh is a severe critic of the patriotism which plays so large a part in the national life of our day. Love of our native land is legitimate, but this love must not be exclusive. A man should love his country more than he loves his house (this is the dogma held by every patriot); but Bahá’u’lláh adds that he should love the divine world more than he loves his country. From this standpoint, patriotism is seen to be an intermediate stage on the road of renunciation, an incomplete and hybrid religion, something we have to get beyond. Throughout his life Bahá’u’lláh regarded the ideal universal peace as one of the most important of his aims….
Bahá’u’lláh is in this respect enunciating a novel and fruitful idea. There is a better way of dealing with social evils than by trying to cure them after they have come to pass. We should try to prevent them by removing their causes, which act on the individual, and especially on the child. Nothing can be more plastic than the nature of the child. The government’s first duty must be to provide for the careful and efficient education of children, remembering that education is something more than instruction. This will be an enormous step towards the solution of the social problem, and to take such a step will be the first task of the House of Justice. “It is ordained upon every father to rear his son or his daughter by means of the sciences, the arts, and all the commandments; and if any one should neglect to do so, then the members of the council, should the offender be a wealthy man, must levy from him the sum necessary for the education of his child. When the neglectful parent is poor, the cost of the necessary education must be borne by the council, which will provide a refuge for the unfortunate.”
The House of Justice, likewise, must prepare the way for the establishment of universal peace, doing this by organizing courts of arbitration and by influencing the governments. Long before the Esperantists had begun their campaign, and more than twenty years before Nicholas II had summoned the first Hague congress, Bahá’u’lláh was insisting on the need for a universal language and courts of arbitration. He returns to these matters again and again…
While adopting and developing the Christian law of love, Bahá’u’lláh rejected the Christian principle of asceticism. He discountenanced the machinations which were a nightmare of the Middle Ages, and whose evil effects persist even in our own days….
Baha’ism, then, is an ethical system, a system of social morality. But it would be a mistake to regard Baha’ist teaching as a collection of abstract rules imposed from without. Baha’ism is permeated with a sane and noble mysticism; nothing could be more firmly rooted in the inner life, more benignly spiritual; nothing could speak more intimately to the soul, in low tones, and as if from within…
Such is the new voice that sounds to us from Asia such is the new dawn in the East. We should give them our close attention; we should abandon our customary mood of disdainful superiority. Doubtless, Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching is not definitive. The Persian prophet does not offer it to us as such. Nor can we Europeans assimilate all of it; for modern science leads us to make certain claims in matters of thought-claims we cannot relinquish, claims we should not try to forego. But even though Bahá’u’lláh’s precepts (like those of the Gospels) may not fully satisfy all these intellectual demands, they are rarely in conflict with our scientific outlooks. If they are to become our own spiritual food, they must be supplemented, they must be relived by the religious spirits of Europe, must be rethought by minds schooled in the Western mode of thought. But, in its existing form, Baha’ist teaching may serve, amid our present chaos, to open for us a road leading to solace and to comfort; may restore our confidence in the spiritual destiny of man. It reveals to us how the human mind is in travail; it gives us an inkling of the fact that the greatest happenings of the day are not the ones we were inclined to regard as the most momentous, not the ones which are making the loudest noise.”
Excerpts from Contemporary Studies, Part 111, page 131. Allen & Unwin, London 1924.
“Baha’ism is a faith, which not merely recognises the respective merits of the world religions, but goes a step further and teaches that all religions are One, all the religious seers, saints and prophets are the religious seers, saints and prophets of One religion only, that all mankind is One, and that we must think and feel and act in terms of brotherhood. “We must realise,” as a Bahá’í very beautifully puts it, “that, as the aeroplane, radio and other instruments have crossed the frontiers drawn upon the map, so our sympathy and spirit of oneness should rise above the influences that have separated race from race, class from class, nation from nation and creed from creed. One destiny now controls all human affairs. The fact of world-unity stands out above all other interests and considerations.
Though the traditionally orthodox Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc., may not agree to call themselves Bahá’ís or even to subscribe to its main tenet, viz., that all religions are One, I think that the really enlightened among them can have no conscientious objection and will indeed wholeheartedly subscribe to it.
Another important aspect of the Bahá’í Faith is its absolutely non-political nature. In The Golden Age of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi categorically rules out any participation by adherents of the Faith, either individually or collectively, in any form of activity which might be interpreted as an interference in the political affairs of any particular government. So that, no government need apprehend any sort of danger or trouble from Baha’ism.”
“The Bahá’í call for peace comes at a crucial moment in the history of humanity. Peace in the contemporary world is no longer an option but a necessity. All leaders and peoples of the world must come to realize this fact,and achieve the maturity which the Bahá’í Faith foresees for the coming of age of humanity.”
“The Bahá’ís of Iran are resolutely firm in their religion. Their firmness does not have its roots in ignorance… They are wonderfully ready to help and happy to sacrifice. Faithfully they fulfill their office and professional duties. Long ago they already solved the problem of the Eastern woman; their children are carefully educated. They are sometimes reproached for their lack of patriotism. Certainly, as specifically Iranian as the Shi’ih Faith, the Bahá’í Faith can never become; but the Bahá’í Religion like Christianity does not preclude the love of one’s fatherland…
Are the Europeans not sufficiently patriotic! According to my experiences, the Bahá’ís in that respect, are very unjustly criticized by their Muhammadan brothers. During the centuries the Shi’ih Religion has developed a deep national tradition; with this the universal Bahá’í Faith will have a hard battle. Nevertheless, the lack of so great numbers is richly recompensed by the fervour and the inner spirit of the Iranian Bahá’í Community. The Bahá’í world community will educate characters which will appear well worthy of emulation by people of other Faiths, yes, even by the world of those now enemies of the Bahá’í Cause.
The experience acquired in the West, for me was fully verified also in the Iranian Orient. The Bahá’í Faith is undoubtedly an immense cultural value. Could all those men whose high morality I admired and still admire have reached the same heights only in another way, without it? No, never! Is it based only on the novelty of the Teachings, and in the freshness of its closest followers?”
Vincenc Lesny, was a Professor of Indology and Iranian studies at Charles University of Prague. He was one of the first members of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. He was an admirer and translator of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.
“The conditions are so changed now, since the technique of the present time has destroyed the barriers between nations, that the world needs a uniting force, a kind of super-religion. I think Baha’ism could develop to such a kind of religion. I am quite convinced of it, so far as I know the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh….
There are modern saviours and Bahá’u’lláh is a Saviour of the twentieth century. Everything must be done on a democratic basis, there must be international brotherhood. We must learn to have confidence in ourselves and then in others. One way to learn this is through inner spiritual education, and a way to attain such an education may be through Baha’ism.
I am still of the opinion that I had four years ago that the Bahá’í Movement can form the best basis for international goodwill, and that Bahá’u’lláh Himself is the Creator of an eternal bond between the East and the West…
The Bahá’í Teaching is a living religion, a living philosophy.”
Robert Hayden was a pioneering African-American poet. He won the Grand Prize for Poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts and 1975 Fellow of the academy of American Poets. He served two terms as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, was a member of the American academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and professor of English at the University of Michigan.
Bahá’u’lláh in the Garden of Ridwan
Agonies confirm His hour,
and swords like compass-needles turn
toward His heart,
The midnight air is forested
with presences that shelter Him
and sheltering praise
The auroral darkness which is God
and sing the word made flesh again
Eternal exile whose return
He watches in a borrowed garden,
prays. And sleepers toss upon
their armored beds,
Half-roused by golden knocking at
the doors of consciousness. Energies
like angels dance
Glorias of recognition.
Within the rock the undiscovered suns
release their light.
From A Ballad of Remembrance