I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Gretel Murchie Porter (deceased), her brother Barnaby, and Gretel’s son Samuel Goldsmith for their time, patience, and trouble. Thanks to Sam in particular for granting me permission to copy his grandfather’s manuscript “The Veil of Glory,” in order that I might be able to read it. Thanks, finally, to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center for preserving Guy Murchie’s materials and making them available.
I’m a Guy Murchie fan. I respect his popular works on science and though I am no longer a Bahá’í I consider his magnum opus, “The Seven Mysteries of Life,” the best presentation of the Bahá’í Faith ever made for a modern audience. It follows naturally that when I discovered that Murchie had been working on a history of the Bahá’í Faith in his late years (ca. 1980 to 1988) I wanted to see if some hidden gem had been waiting to be discovered; a gem, if nothing else, for Bahá’í readers. Yes, I think I can suspend my disbelief long enough to dig up a gem that is only of value to someone else, but this is easy when the memory of an author whom I admire is involved. Continue reading
Guy Murchie, Jr. had big shoes to fill, and a big name to live up to. He lived as though he was keenly aware of his father’s figurative shoe size.
While a student at Harvard, Guy was a member of the school’s prestigious rowing team. He graduated from Harvard in 1929, at age 22. He left before commencement ceremonies for a trip featuring Alaska, Hawaii, East Asia, and Russia that lasted about a year. His plan was to pay his way by working as he went, sailing “before the mast” as did Ishmael in Moby-Dick, though he paid his way as a conventional traveler much of the way. He kept a trip journal that would become the book, Men on the Horizon, published in 1932. The book was something of a success, making the New York Times “Best Sellers” list for nonfiction. 
The Stock Market Crash of October 1929 would strike while Murchie was just getting work in the engine room of a liner from Honolulu to Kobe, Japan. Though he discussed economics at length throughout the book and throughout the Soviet Union, he seemed to do so as an open-minded but proud and optimistic American, utterly oblivious to the mounting economic catastrophe at home. But though he may have been a patriot, he delivered a pointed message of international brotherhood.
The American Empire, it might well be said, was born on the day Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders defeated the Spanish in Cuba. Roosevelt was surely the first American Emperor — though a democratic emperor, and his Cuban adventure was the heroic gesture that crowned him. Largely ignoring the Constitution, Teddy expanded the powers of the Presidency so as to rein in monopolies. He made the United States a world power, and the United States and the world have not been the same since.
One of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders was Teddy’s Harvard classmate, Guy Murchie. Roosevelt wrote of Murchie:
The Harvard contingent was practically raised by Guy Murchie, of Maine. He saw all the fighting and did his duty with the utmost gallantry, …
I haven’t done much with this blog lately. Too much is going on in life and the Bahá’ís have been very quiet of late. I need to find something to post about! Oh here: this will do …
It was recently brought to my attention that I had been removed from Wikipedia’s list of Ex-Bahá’ís, which was quite a surprise given that I didn’t know I’d ever been on any such list. It’s hard to enjoy fame when nobody tells you you’re famous.
It happened that when yours truly was stricken from the honor roll, the list was broken up into two much shorter lists … and one really long list:
- Former Bahá’ís: Juan Cole and Abd al-Hosayn Ayati
- Apostates: K. Paul Johnson, Denis MacEoin, and Ehsan Yarshater
- Covenant-breakers: (too many to mention here)
The Bahá’í Calendar, arguably the least lunar calendar there is, has recently been given a lunar calculation of its own. Because the founders of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions were reported to have been born a day apart on the Islamic calendar (though two years apart), the Bahá’í leaders in Israel figured it would be nice to make this happen on their calendar. To do this, they marked the 8th new moon after No-Rúz in Tehran as the one most likely to be close to the time of year when the two prophets were born, and then had one prophet’s birth commemorated on the first day after that new moon and the other prophet’s birth commemorated on the day after that.
The commemorations will no longer occur on the actual dates of birth on the solar cycle (October 20 and November 12) or even the Islamic calendar, but rather, they will take place on different dates from year to year, as is done with Easter and Good Friday.
Calendars are an important tool for scheduling our activities. A farmer might use a solar calendar to plan a harvest. A Bedouin might use a lunar calendar to plan a journey across the desert. Many calendars are a hybrid between solar and lunar so that they can be used in accord with seasonal and lunar cycles. The Gregorian calendar, for instance, is precisely calculated to remain synchronized with the seasons. It is not so precise with respect to lunar cycles, each of its months being about a day too long to keep pace with the phases of the moon. Still, a Gregorian month can be used to loosely approximate a lunar month.
We are all familiar with the “Jesus is coming” meme, and many of us are aware that Jesus isn’t the only savior on the way. Some religions are given to hopes of saviors in the future. It’s no surprise that many people hope to be saved, like a slumbering beauty longs for her Prince Charming, though that salvation may mean the destruction of the world. This desire has been expressed among Christians and Muslims for as long as Christians and Muslims have walked the earth. Continue reading
“the more fallible the mammal, the truer the example.”
I wasn’t brought up Christian, but I was brought up to believe in a holy trinity of sorts. I was taught that a certain few men were perfect images of God; that these men, though not God in essence, were perfect reflections of God in the “material world,” and thus they were effectively God so far as mankind is concerned. As images of God in the material realm (i.e., idols), they could be regarded as God incarnate. Hence Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of my parents’ religion wrote, “I am God.”
Remember the old Y2K scare? We generally look back at that anxious time as an anticlimax, understanding that nothing much happened at the turn of the millennium. I remember how the Bahá’ís expected world peace to flower by the end of the 20th Century. Since then, many Bahá’ís have sought out alternative interpretations of their failed peace prophecy.
I say “failed,” but I know something that most Bahá’ís don’t. Truth be told, at the close of the year 2001, on the very last day that fell within the Y2K window, a young prophet discovered his calling. Evidence of this portentous moment can be found with the help of the tool known to nostalgic Web surfers as the WayBack Machine:
This page doesn’t provide any actual information on the youthful prophet, but information would soon be forthcoming:
The hour is approaching when the most great convulsion will have appeared. I swear by Him Who is the Truth! It shall cause separation to afflict everyone, even those who circle around Me….
—Baha’ullah (Mar 29, 2002)
Who are these “Unitarian Bahá’í” we’ve been hearing about?
If a theological unitarianism is meant, why use the term “Unitarian Bahá’í” at all? Have you ever met an avowed trinitarian Bahá’í?
If we are to take the term seriously, we ought to seek to understand its meaning in context. The term has come to be associated with the Behaists, an early 20th Century Bahá’í splinter group whose distinguishing doctrine was a rejection of the divinity, i.e. infallibility, of `Abdu’l-Bahá’, the leader of the Bahá’í religion at the time. The point, then, of using the term “unitarian” in this context, is to indicate a rejection of the divinity (infallibility) of any man. This makes sense, for the deification of any man is tantamount to polytheism.
The problem I’ve always had with the Behaists calling themselves Unitarians is that they never had a problem deifying Bahá’u’lláh himself.
Frankly, I happen to believe that most Bahá’ís are trinitarians, because their theology of Manifestation owes much to Christian theology. This is also true of those who call themselves “Unitarian Bahá’ís.”
The home page for the Unitarian Baha’i discussion group states:
The Unitarian Bahai faith is a movement of Bahaism that teaches that none of the successors of the prophet Baha’u’llah are infallible …
A true unitarian would not deify any man. A unitarian Bahá’í would be a Bahá’í who lives as a Bahá’í without any belief in the infallibility of Bahá’u’lláh.
I personally believe that a Bahá’í can be a unitarian. It’s not as if I don’t know of any true unitarians among the Bahá’ís, but I hesitate to single them out for fear of what might be done to them.