The Dread Jensens

Back around the close of the 1970s, my friend next door showed me a newspaper article that seemed to be about my father. It was about a Bahá’í chiropractor—a Dr. Jensen—who was making prophecies about a coming calamity. My father, Dr. John Jensen, is a Bahá’í chiropractor with a Bahá’í fondness for doomsday visions. Fortunately—or unfortunately, as the case may be—the Dr. Jensen featured in the article was out in Montana, a long way from my home in central California. It was some other Bahá’í chiropractor named Jensen.

The old Montana State Prison

The old Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana

This was quite a coincidence, of course. It’s not like there are many Scandinavian Bahá’ís like there are hoards of Scandinavian Mormons.

Actually, my father’s dad was one of those Scandinavian Mormons, but that’s another story.

One thing the Bahá’ís and Mormons do share, though, is a peppering of heretics across the Rocky Mountain states. Must be something about mountains that brings out the heretic in people.

This Dr. Leland Jensen of Missoula, Montana was well known among researchers for his string of failed prophecies. He was also known for being convicted for sexually molesting of a minor. It was while doing time in the big house that Jensen received his calling, as so oft it happens. Upon release, Jensen founded his own Bahá’í sect, and commenced to doing what prophets do.

My father was and is quite different. He is a principled man who would never entertain prophetic delusions or manipulate people as the Montana Jensen did.

But my father did—and does—share Leland Jensen’s apocalyptic view of the immediate future. He is a Bahá’í, after all. It’s in the scripture. A lot of bad things are going to have to happen for the world to be cleansed before the last century ends.

As a child in a Bahá’í household, I learned about a horrible calamity that would soon cleanse the world of its blind materialism and render it receptive to the light of faith in Bahá’u’lláh. We weren’t sure what exactly would happen but we knew it would necessarily be bad—something along the lines of Zechariah 13:

In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.

Two-thirds of the people of the world would perish, and many of the survivors might wish they had perished as well. It was a retributive promise laid over the real danger of the Cold War. It was easy for a child to internalize.

Noted skeptic Michael Shermer has also heard of Leland Jensen. Shermer discussed Jensen at length in his book How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science:

On a brisk April 29 morning in 1980, Dr. Leland Jensen, a chiropractor and leader of a small religious sect called the Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, led his devoted followers into fallout shelters in Missoula, Montana, to await the end of the world. Within the first hour, Jensen believed, a full third of the Earth’s population would be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust of fire and fallout. Over the course of the next twenty years most of the remaining population would be ravaged by conquest, war, famine, and pestilence. (page 192)

What I find interesting about this Leland Jensen episode, beside the curious parallels in my family, is the way that Jensen and his followers handled the failure of Jensen’s prophecies. It reminds me of the rationalizations offered by Bahá’ís in response to the failure of mainstream Bahá’í prophecies of peace and calamity in the 20th Century:

Psychologists who studied Leland Jensen and his Baha’i sect … discovered that when the end of the world came and went, they did not quietly disband and go home. Psychologist Leon Festinger applied his theory of cognitive dissonance to failed prophecy, and argued that the stronger one’s commitment to a failing cause, the greater the rationalizations to reduce the dissonance produced by the disappointment. Thus, paradoxically, after the 1980 debacle in the bomb shelters, not only did Jensen and his followers not abandon the cause, they ratcheted up the intensity of future predictions, making no less than 20 between 1979 and 1995! Jensen and his flock applied one or all of the following rationalizations:

  1. the prophecy was fulfilled—spiritually
  2. the prophecy was fulfilled physically, but not as expected
  3. miscalculation of the date
  4. the date was a loose prediction, not a specific prophecy
  5. God changed his mind in order to be merciful
  6. predictions were just a test of members’ faith.

How We Believe, page 202

I Was A Teenage Antivaxxer

I didn’t get any vaccinations as a kid, so I acquired my immunity the old-fashioned way: I earned it.

Before ... and After

Before ... and After

I can specifically remember suffering through the measles, mumps, and chickenpox. But I got through it all fine. I can’t complain.

The only vaccination I received before age 30 was for smallpox, strangely enough, because it was required for travel into South Africa. Being members of the Bahá’í Faith, we had been strongly encouraged to travel abroad to spread our gospel, and we’d heard that Africans were receptive to the Word, so we each got vaccinated for God’s sake.

My parents are as staunchly anti-vaccination as they are anti-establishment (against what Bahá’ís call the Old World Order). My father is a retired chiropractor, but it would perhaps be more accurate to categorize him as a naturopath, as he has used a variety of extra-chiropractic modalities over his career, including applied kinesiology (“muscle testing”), magnet therapy, a wide variety of targeted nutritional supplements, and I think he may have dabbled in homeopathy and reflexology.

I recall one specific treatment that we underwent as a family — a balloon-up-the-nose technique that made my dad very sick (he thinks it may have revived his diphtheria). Surprisingly, this nutty nostrum appears to be a legitimate procedure, though in our case it was presented as something everyone needs, so I got a balloon too. The balloon really gets up there, and there is a small risk of brain injury. All I know for sure is I’m never doing it again — very disconcerting to feel one’s head expand from the inside.

As I have devolved into a casual skeptic as an adult, I don’t subscribe to everything I was taught as a child, but it’s taken awhile, and I still nurture a healthy fear of hospitals — let’s be real: physicians are only human. I didn’t do so much as get my teeth looked at until age thirty.

I remain proud of my parents for what they have accomplished. My father isn’t just any naturopath: he has been blind since childhood. My mother has a blood sugar condition that once haunted her with severe (grand mal) seizures. In spite of these afflictions, this match made in heaven has enjoyed sustained success throughout their 50-year partnership. I may not agree with my parents at every turn, but I do admire their resourcefulness and perseverance. Theirs is a remarkable story, which I hope will survive them.

The antivaxxer stance is rather ironic in my father’s case, for reason of the primary cause of his blindness: diphtheria. This preventable disease reduced his eyesight to a featureless blur. He ultimately lost his eyes to glaucoma, brought on by a wrestling injury. In addition to his blindness, he suspects diphtheria to have caused the persistent sleep disorder and head pain that dog him. I recently had the temerity to respectfully suggest to him that he might have been sighted and healthier had he been given the new diphtheria vaccine as an infant. His response was that only improved hygiene has eradicated diphtheria and smallpox (though he also contends that it’s silly to wash one’s hands as a means of flu prevention).

I know: smallpox could not possibly have been eradicated by hygiene. Squalor is worse worldwide today than it has probably ever been. My modest response to my father was that we’re practically swimming in bugs, meaning that we can’t possibly hope to keep clean enough to keep them all off of us. At that point we agreed to disagree, which was a good outcome, I think.

Why Do You Reject Your Lord?

One of the songs I remember best from my Bahá’í youth I may have heard only once or twice, and that, only in part:

World, world, world, world, why do you reject your Lord?
When will you receive your Savior, Bahá’u’lláh?

The couplet echoed in my head until it was as though I’d heard it a hundred times.

I think I remember it being sung in a three-part harmony, with the slow, plodding tempo of a funeral march. I thought it was quite beautiful then, but over the years it began to seem haunted with the dark, lonesome misery of a cult chant. The idolatry in it is almost palpable.

Here’s the complete lyric, according to an obscure Internet source that I don’t see any point in citing:

World, world, world, world, why do you reject your Lord?
When will you receive your Savior, Bahá’u’lláh?
Peace, peace, peace, peace, this is what we’re waiting for.
Love shall conquer all the hatred, Bahá’u’lláh.
Joy, joy, joy, joy, inside of every man,
If only he would discover Bahá’u’lláh.
World, world, world, world, everything has been fulfilled.
For the Prince of Peace has come – Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh.

If Only …

My religion of birth, the Bahá’í Faith, is often described to non-Bahá’ís with a list of a dozen principles, though there are fundamental aspects of the Bahá’í Faith that are not revealed in those principles. Here, I would like to propose a similar list of principles that, were they to fully define Bahá’í belief, I would still be a Bahá’í today.

  1. Strict Unitarianism. God is one, thus God cannot be associated with any name, attribute, or individual over any other. No man speaks for God to the exclusion of others; rather, all things speak equally for God. This principle precludes any belief in divine messengers and prohibits any covenants thereto. Any vow of allegiance to any man or institution is naught but idolatry.
  2. Independent Investigation of Truth. In accordance with the Unity of God, no one path can be exalted to the exclusion of any other. This is not an endorsement of apathy; to the contrary, it is a mandate to actively seek truth with one’s own eyes.
  3. Religion is multifarious. In accordance with the Unity of God, there can be no One True Religion. Religions should not be forcibly unified, though interfaith harmony and tolerance are worthy goals.
  4. Mankind is one species, but people are not uniform. People are entitled to have different values and talents.
  5. Though people are not the same, people should be treated equally when their differences are irrelevant, whether in terms of race, gender, height, weight, elderliness, or sexual orientation. Any preference based on any of these criteria with respect to religious office or ceremony is antithetical to this principle.
  6. Harmony of science and religion. The cultural merit of religious myths and practices should not be invalidated by their lack of conformity with science. In turn, knowledge obtained by means of a rigorous scientific process must not be contested by religion. Religion must defer to science in all matters within the domain of science. To anticipate the eventual vindication of religious beliefs by future advances in science is a violation of this principle.
  7. Mitigation of suffering by means of the elimination of extreme poverty, malnutrition, illness, violence, and illiteracy.

Happy Entry by Troops Day!

Today — the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of the New Millennium — must be a very special day. Any world cataclysms on the agenda?

Just curious. I don’t want to give anybody any ideas.

One day — maybe today — the people of the world will tire of the impotence of the established system that runs the world. It is inevitable. The state of world economies and politics will deteriorate, and the world will descend into a great catastrophe; perhaps a war or a worldwide economic collapse, forcing the people of the world to recognize the intrinsic superiority of God’s Administrative Order, and suddenly reject the world establishment and turn to us.

This revolutionary, utopian vision is the outlook that I inherited as a Baha’i child. It sounds remarkably similar to a Marxist outlook, only it adds God to the formula. We called this the day of “entry by troops.” The “troops” are the Bahá’í equivalent of the “workers of the world.”

A year ago, an international financial crisis caused the leadership of the Bahá’í Administrative Order to prepare for the long-anticipated catastrophe and call for great conferences around the world to prepare Baha’i communities for entry by troops. When I was a kid, I would have been surprised to find that it would take the world so long to recognize the superiority of our World Order. We expected something very big to happen by the year 2000, and probably well before that. Since then, The Bahá’í eschatological schedule has slipped, insurance policies extended, and mortgages refinanced, but the general outlook hasn’t changed. Some appear to expect something big to happen in the year 2012.

The Master (left)

The Master, praying for patience as an American follower tries to get his brown nose into the shot.

After all, that would be exactly 100 years since “the Master” came to America, and you know what the Mayans say about 2012.

But why wait till 12/12/12 when we can have the party on 9/9/9?

The Bahá’í “Administrative Order” is perhaps the single most distinguishing aspect of the Bahá’í Faith. It is a very bureaucratic religion, and it emphasizes unity above all, not permitting the slightest bit of factionalism. This aspect of the Administrative Order is described succinctly by the following passage from scripture:

The Administrative Order is the embodiment of the unity of God, unity incompatible with the existence of factions.

— The Master

Actually, I doctored that citation a little. The original passage reads as follows:

The Party [is] the embodiment of unity of will, unity incompatible with the existence of factions.

— The Monster (Joseph Stalin)

The Bahá’í Adminsitrative Order even has multi-year plans, you know, like the plans Stalin adored so much!

Anyway, it’s all about unity. And bureaucracy. Put them together and you have “the Party,” or as Bahá’ís say, “the Cause.” As I recently pointed out, the Bahá’í Faith is so bureaucratic, what they call “feasts” are actually committee meetings.

It being crucial that Bahá’ís know exactly what words to use when approached by the “troops”, a massive re-education program — code-named RUHI — has been initiated, and has been proceeding for 13 years now, in anticipation of that great day, expected sometime in the next dozen years. It is known to be a very simple program, tuned to focus on basic talking points of administrative doctrine.

I have lots more to say on this, but I need to post before civilization implodes. Now, where’d I put those boots?

God vs. Good

As a child in a Bahá’í family, I was taught that there have been a number of great Messengers of God such as Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. One of the most ancient, and certainly the most unfamiliar, was the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. We Bahá’í youth were told that Zoroaster was as divine as Jesus himself, but in spite of the fact that the Bahá’í Faith is an Iranian religion and Zoroaster has been known throughout the millennia as “the Persian Prophet”, the Bahá’í Faith has very little to say about Zoroaster. I was curious about this ancient, most mysterious of prophets. I remember digging through libraries for information on him, but my resources were limited, so that treasure hunt didn’t last long.

Within a few years I had abandoned theism after realizing the basic immorality of it. Theism is worship of a God or gods that are capable of acting in response to worship or failure to worship. When I figured out that this is essentially arrogant, self-serving power worship, I cast it aside. The only theism that I could abide was that of Ahab:

I now know that thy right worship is defiance

—”Moby Dick,” Herman Melville

Saviors or Space Invaders?

Saviors or Space Invaders?

About 15 years later, that curiosity regarding Zoroaster was revived by a new book about Zoroaster by Paul Kriwaczek. Up to that point, I had understood that Nietzsche’s manifesto, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” was not actually about Zarathustra, but upon reading Nietzsche, I realized that it’s not quite that simple. Nietzsche had selected Zarathustra for a couple of reasons, his primary reason being Zarathustra’s singular place in human history as the prophet of morality. I liked what I read about this ancient, prehistoric icon. Make no mistake, this was not a prophet “born in the full light of history”, but his story was a good one, and isn’t that what matters? The factuality of a story need not have any bearing on the virtue, or usefulness, of that story.

Here was a prophet who essentially rebelled against the gods, but unlike Moses and Muhammad, he did not reject the gods on the behalf of a “One True God”, rather, he rejected the gods for the sake of goodness. He rebelled against the worship of power, and replaced it with worship of the good.

Zoroastrianism is fundamentally about right and wrong; good and bad; good and evil. Where gods had previously been revered as celestial powers, they now had to pass the Zoroastrian test of being “worthy of worship”. It was no longer good enough to be a god. A god had to have the best interests of the world in mind, or that god would be opposed.

The drama of Zoroaster is close to my heart. Over the years I’ve grown sick of the myriad excuses theists make for evil. It is just as though they were Satan’s attorneys, defending their Dark Lord in court, or creating verses for “Sympathy for the Devil” too cynical for Mick Jagger to imagine.

I found it quite refreshing to find a religion that is willing to call a spade a spade.

Zarathushtra stigmatizes evil as evil. The existence of so much evil in the world lies heavy on the heart of man. Evil is a challenge, and Zarathushtra accepts it. He does not palliate evil. It is not, he teaches, the passive negation of good. It is the active enemy of good. It is not complementary to good, nor is it good in the making. It is not evil only in name. Evil is just evil, nothing more nor less. It is the fundamental fact of life, and haunts us like our shadows which we cannot evade. Illusion does not cause evil; it exists in the realm of reality. It is the most disagreeable fact in Ahura Mazda’s universe, and the prophet of Iran looks it in the face. It is futile to speak of things as better than they actually are. Bad things of life do not lose their badness by giving them good names.

—M.N. Dhalla, History of Zoroastrianism

As Nietzsche pointed out, here at last was a truth-telling prophet; a prophet prepared to speak truth to power even though that power is a celestial power. This reason, above all, was the reason why Nietzsche chose Zarathustra as the man who would have the courage to pronounce the death of God.

Zoroastrianism, on the whole, is certainly a religion full of dogmatism and superstition, but we need not see Zarathustra a dogmatist, particularly with regard to delineating good and evil. As Nietzsche’s Zarathustra points out, it is futile to attempt to identify any one thing as thoroughly good or evil, but it is not the point of Zoroaster to classify things as good or evil; rather, it is the point of Zoroaster to recognize and oppose evil wherever it appears. Plutarch, an outspoken moral dualist, saw everything in the world as a mix of good and evil, and cited Zoroastrian tradition in making his case:

Twenty-four other gods he [the Good God] created and placed in an egg. But those created by Areimanius [the Evil God], who were equal in number to the others, pierced through the egg and made their way inside; hence evils are now combined with good.

—Plutarch, “Isis & Osiris,” XLVII (from the Moralia)

Is this what the “real” Zoroaster actually preached? No question could be less pertinent. A good idea is a good idea regardless of its origin, and a bad idea doesn’t become good just because it comes from a superhuman being. Gods are like space invaders and conquistadors: we’re all in awe of their technology, but how do we know we can trust them?

It seems much wiser to cease all this forfeiture of reason and conscience to heavenly masters, and join one of my fellow Zoroastrians-in-spirit in swearing our allegiance to this simple creed:

To do good is my religion.

—Thomas Paine, “The Age of Reason”

… or as Zoroaster is said to have summed things up:

Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.

Our Daily Bread: A Demon-Haunted World Order

There’s an ancient tradition in Iran of regarding some things as “ritually” unclean. Any exposure to such things can cause spiritual illness, and requires that the exposed be ritually purified. If this sounds exotic, just think of baptism or crucifixion—two Christian examples of ritual purification. Among the carriers of such contagious impurity is the infidel—the unbeliever. The tradition goes back into Zoroastrian times, and has persisted as a doctrine of Shi’a Islam and the Bahá’í Faith:

Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.

—Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words

Though the Bahá’í Faith doesn’t provide a ritual for cleansing Bahá’ís after exposure to unbelievers, it definitely teaches that exposure to “the ungodly” sickens the soul. The contagion appears to be quite common, though its severity appears to depend on the degree of ungodliness of the “carrier,” being at its worst when acquired from exposure to people that Bahá’ís call “Covenant-breakers.”

Covenant-breakers are the demons of the Bahá’í Faith. I don’t think there’s anything quite like them in any other religion, though they are somewhat reminiscent of the old Zoroastrian demons of death. They are outwardly ordinary people, though it has been claimed that a very unpleasant odor precedes them wherever they go.

In the following passage, Bahá’u’lláh appears to employ the words of his predecessor in warning his followers against becoming infected by these “manifestations of Satan”:

“Protect yourselves with utmost vigilance, lest you be entrapped in the snare of deception and fraud.” This is the advice of the Pen of Destiny. “Therefore, to avoid these people will be the nearest path by which to attain the divine good pleasure; because their breath is infectious, like unto poison. Endeavor to your utmost to protect yourselves, because Satan appears in different robes and appeals to everyone according to each person’s own way, until he becomes like unto him — then he will leave him alone.”
“…If you detect in any man the least perceptible breath of violation, shun him and keep away from him.” Then He says: “Verily, they are manifestations of Satan.”

Bahá’í World Faith, p. 431

Bahá’u’lláh was also reported by his son Abbas to have warned Bahá’ís throughout his writings about these wicked Covenant-breakers, likening their breath to snake venom:

Bahá’u’lláh, in all the Tablets and Epistles, forbade the true and firm friends from associating and meeting the violators of the Covenant of His Holiness, the Báb, saying that no one should go near them because their breath is like the poison of the snake that kills instantly.

`Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 430

This is no incidental, secondary doctrine. It is, rather, “one of the greatest and most fundamental principles” of the Bahá’í Faith:

… one of the greatest and most fundamental principles of the Cause of God is to shun and avoid entirely the Covenant-breakers, for they will utterly destroy the Cause of God, exterminate His Law and render of no account all efforts exerted in the past.

`Abdu’l-Bahá, Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, paragraph 38

One fascinating aspect of Covenant breaking is that it is presumed to be passed from parents to children:

children of Covenant-breakers, who have grown up with and still associate with their parents, are probably thoroughly infused with the Covenant-breaking spirit, and the friends must not associate with them until the Hands of the Cause have ascertained that these children have understood the sin of their parents and dissociated themselves from them.

a letter of the Universal House of Justice dated 5 February 1969 to an individual believer

It should be explained that descendants of Covenant-breakers who have not positively repudiated their forebears and sought readmittance to the Cause should be viewed with caution as they may well have received the poison of Covenant-breaking from their parents and would then have to be shunned by the friends.

a memorandum of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land dated 2 December 1971

For more juicy citations, see Non-association with Covenant-breakers, Directives from the Guardian, and What does the term “Covenant-breaking” mean?

Shunning of Covenant-breakers is typically done on an individual level, but Bahá’í institutions have also been seen exhibiting this practice. In a recent dispute between the United States National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) and the Second International Bahá’í Council, the WIPO panel that oversaw the dispute voiced some disapproval over the unwillingness of the conplainant (the NSA) to communicate with the other party:

Complainant did not send a copy of its request directly to Respondent, apparently believing Respondent had a “religious objection” to communicating with it. While the Panel appreciates Complainant’s sensitivity, it did not interpret the statement that Respondent had, consistent with Respondent’s religious beliefs, ignored Complainant’s cease and desist letter, to be an objection to receiving communications. Moreover, the Panel reminds Complainant of Rule 2(h): “Any communication by . . . a Party shall be copied to the other Party, the Panel and the Provider, as the case may be” (emphasis added).

Our Daily Bread: Holy Irrational

Yes, that’s right. In this context, “wholly” and “holy” are interchangeable.

Think that the Bahá’í Faith teaches harmony between science and religion? Think again!

Your sciences shall not profit you in this day, nor your arts, nor your treasures, nor your glory. Cast them all behind your backs, and set your faces towards the Most Sublime Word…

Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pg. 97-98

Perhaps Bahá’u’lláh’s actual meaning is not as it appears. Need an authoritative interpretation? Here. Have three:

You see our whole approach to each matter is based on the belief that God sends us divinely inspired Educators; what they tell us is fundamentally true, what science tells us today is true; tomorrow may be entirely changed to better explain a new set of facts.

Shoghi Effendi, Arohanui – Letters to New Zealand, pg. 85

Is not faith but another word for implicit obedience, whole-hearted allegiance, uncompromising adherence to that which we believe is the revealed and express will of God, however perplexing it might first appear, however at variance with the shadowy views, the impotent doctrines, the crude theories, the idle imaginings, the fashionable conceptions of a transient and troublous age?

Shoghi Effendi, The New World Order, Bahá’í Administration, pg. 62

The danger Bahá’í scholars must avoid is the distortion of religious truth, almost forcibly at times, to make it conform to understandings and perceptions current in the scientific world. True Bahá’í scholars should guard against this.

Universal House of Justice, From a letter dated 7 June 1983 to an individual believer

Oh, wait. Pardon me. The Universal House of Justice is not given the authority to interpret the holy scriptures. I suppose if they express an opinion, that must mean that no authoritative interpretation is needed because the scriptures are clear on the subject. After all, they would surely never dare overstep the authority granted them by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will & Testament. … or is this—legislation?

Think there’s a broad grey area in which believers can excercise their own judgment? Careful now!

In short, the meaning of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth” is that if the Manifestation says something, or gives a command, or performs an action, and believers do not understand its wisdom, they still ought not to oppose it by a single thought, seeking to know why He spoke so, or why He did such a thing. The other souls who are under the shadow of the supreme Manifestations are submissive to the commandments of the Law of God, and are not to deviate as much as a hairsbreadth from it; they must conform their acts and words to the Law of God. If they do deviate from it, they will be held responsible and reproved in the presence of God.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’, Some Answered Questions, pg. 173

Don’t you dare entertain a doubt, and don’t you dare hesitate!

Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority. Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be regarded as a transgressor.

Bahá’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, pg. 77

Take heed lest ye hesitate in recognizing this resplendent Beauty when once He hath appeared in the plenitude of His sovereign might and majesty. He, verily, is the True One, and all else besides Him is as naught before a single one of His servants, and paleth into nothingness when brought face to face with the revelation of His splendours. Hasten, then, to attain the living waters of His grace, and be not of the negligent. As to him who hesitateth, though it be for less than a moment, God shall verily bring his works to naught and return him to the seat of wrath; wretched indeed is the abode of them that tarry!

Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, pg. 54

Thanks to Mavaddat Javid for his comprehensive Bahá’í dogmatism compilation.

Our Daily Bread: Blind thine eyes

Today’s sweet slice of salvation directs us to block all sensory input, wash our brains, empty our wallets, and close our minds so that we may fully and properly adore Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised Idol of All Ages:

Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.

—Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words

Our Daily Bread: It's All About Growth

growth [ grōth ]

noun (plural growths)
medicine tumor: a mass of cells with no physiological function, e.g. a tumor that forms in or on an organ

Encarta® World English Dictionary

Pathology An abnormal mass of tissue, such as a tumor, growing in or on a living organism.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

The words “growth” and “expansion” occur six times in a recent announcement of the Bahá’í Universal House of Justice, not because growth and expansion are occurring so much as they are anticipated.

When the Universal House of Justice got word of the global economic crisis that broke back in September, they anticipated a weakening in the world’s immunity to religion, and acted promptly, alluding to the Bahá’í prophecy that the “Old World Order” is doomed to collapse:

Behold how even in the short span of time since we raised this warning in our Ridvan message, financial structures once thought to be impregnable have tottered and world leaders have shown their inability to devise more than temporary solutions, a failing to which they increasingly confess.

Message to the Bahá’ís of the World, October 20, 2008

It is the weakening of the morale of a society, after all, that religions like the Bahá’í Faith feed upon:

the continued strengthening of the [Bahá’í] community should be matched by a further decline in the old world order

So they’ve got right to work. They’ve primed “scores of clusters” for “systematic expansion”:

Scores of clusters around the globe are being primed for systematic expansion, and we expect to see a wave of intensive programmes of growth launched in the months leading up to Ridvan next year.

They don’t just strike everywhere with their clusters, but rather, target specific weak points:

identify receptive segments of society and share with responsive souls the message of the Faith

Large-scale crises are always a promising time for those who would stand to benefit from crisis. The question for Bahá’ís, I think, is how might this crisis be different? What will make the crisis at hand the crisis of victory? Looking at America, I see people turning to their traditional saviors. Looking abroad, I don’t see much that is different for the Bahá’ís this time around, and it’s because of this: the Bahá’í Faith doesn’t appear to have changed, except that it’s not quite as new as it was before. What the Bahá’í “Administrative Order” appears to be banking on is their recent effort to “systematize” and “develop human resources.” Perhaps Bahá’ís are better organized and prepared to convert new seekers than they were before.