The Lamp, volume 5 Number 2

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 5, Number 2, June 2000


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    IN THIS ISSUE:
       New Discounts for Distance-Learning Courses
       Success Continues for Course Series on Writings of Shoghi Effendi
       Final Plans are Set for Spiritual Foundations Program 2000
       Course on Islam Continues Institute's International Flavor
       The Wilmette Institute Has Financial Aid
       What Do the Students Say? A Compilation of Comments about
          the Wilmette Institute from The Annual Student Survey

       Feature Article: "A Short Description of the Title of the Súriy-i-Haykal"
       From the Ridvan 2000 message of the Universal House of Justice
       Schedule of Upcoming Courses
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New Discounts for Distance-Learning Courses

The Wilmette Institute Board has added several discounts to its tuition structure to make its courses more affordable to servants of the Faith, to senior citizens, and to students systematically taking a complete series of courses offered by the Institute.

Effective with the course on The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, senior citizens (defined in the common legal way as sixty-five years or older) will receive a twenty percent discount on Wilmette Institute tuition. The twenty percent discount will also be available to those whose work for the Faith puts them at an economic disadvantage, such as overseas pioneers in Third World countries. Also effective with this course, students taking distance-learning courses that are part of a series of courses (such as the series on the writings of Shoghi Effendi, the series on the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and the series on world religions) will receive a twenty percent discount on tuition if they have taken all the previously offered courses in the series. Thus anyone taking the course on The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh who has previously taken both the course on The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh and the course on The Advent of Divine Justice will receive the discount.

Students should note on their registration that they wish to receive the discount, because the Wilmette Institute registrar cannot check every student to see whether he or she qualifies (though the registrar can verify the student's eligibility). The Institute website will soon be modified to make the option available at the click of a button. Discounts are not cumulative; that is, if you are a senior citizen taking a second course in a series, you will only receive a twenty percent discount, not forty percent. Discounts are not available on textbooks because the Institute sells them to students at cost.


Success Continues for Course Series on Writings of Shoghi Effendi

Sixty students signed up for the course on The Advent of Divine Justice beginning April 15. (Originally scheduled to begin on April 1, the course was postponed by two weeks to give the students of The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh a rest before starting it.) Although the student body is smaller than the 110 students who studied The Dispensation, the listserver has been lively, with as many as fifteen messages a day at its peak. Several students had previously scheduled themselves to give adult classes in their local communities, and they posted their study materials to the list, allowing everyone to benefit from their efforts. A steady stream of questions generated considerable discussion. A lively discussion of the nature of American materialism and its seriousness compared to racism occupied part of a week on the listserver. Students will be completing their projects and posting reports about them for at least a month after the official end of the course on June 15.

The course on The Advent of Divine Justice was the second of three sponsored by the Wilmette Institute on books that the National Spiritual Assembly has asked the American Bahá'í community to study this year. The first course, on The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, generated several dozen learning projects and at least a dozen local deepenings or institute classes on the same work. The third, on The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, begins July 1 and will run through September 30. Students have already begun to sign up for the course. It will cost $150 ($120 for those applying for the twenty percent discount).


Final Plans are Set for Spiritual Foundations Program 2000

This year's Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program is set to begin Saturday, July 29, 2000, at Kendall College in Evanston. The first faculty member to present--Mr. Marc Greenberg--was also the last retained. A Spiritual Foundations student, Mr. Greenberg was so fascinated by the study of world religions after attending the 1996 summer program that he pursued a distance-learning Master's degree in religious studies at Antioch University in Ohio. He will be teaching the section on Judaism. Sections on Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism will be followed by coverage of Islam, the Bábí religion, and the life of Bahá'u'lláh through 1863. The two-week program will close with sections on the Kitáb-i-Íqán and Bahá'í Theology and a workshop on teaching the Faith led by graduates and fourth-year students of the Spiritual Foundations program. The Wilmette Institute Board is pleased to see its students playing a larger role in the program as their skills mature. In its efforts to develop human resources in the Bahá'í community, the Wilmette Institute is also one of the first beneficiaries.


Course on Islam Continues Institute's International Flavor

Twenty-two students signed up for the course "Islam for Deepening and Dialogue" that began on June 1. They represent the international diversity the Institute is increasingly seeing in its courses. One is a pioneer in Dakar, Senegal, seeking to broaden her understanding of Islam; another is a United Nations worker living in Islamabad, Pakistan. A student from Wasilla, Alaska, shows the Institute's continued value to Bahá'ís in that thinly populated region. Two students are married to Muslims, from Iran and Jordan respectively; in the latter case, the Bahá'í went to Jordan to study Arabic. Another course member has been studying Islam and Arabic since before he was fifteen. And one introduced himself to the course late because he had been traveling in Turkey for three weeks. A few--including one born in Colombia--signed up because they had been raised Christians and, as new Bahá'ís, they wanted to know more about Islam. Several have experience traveling or living in Islamic countries. This diversity guarantees a discussion of Islam in which the abstract will be grounded in the reality of Muslim life.


The Wilmette Institute Has Financial Aid

The Wilmette Institute sets aside ten percent of the income of every course for financial aid. Students feeling they need help covering the tuition should write the administrator (Robert Stockman, rstockman@usbnc.org) and state their needs, especially how much financial assistance would make it possible for them to take a particular course. Typically, the Institute gives twenty to forty percent, but a discount as large as fifty percent may be possible in case of special need.


What Do the Students Say?
A Compilation of Comments about the Wilmette Institute from
The Annual Student Survey

The Ridván 2000 survey revealed that Wilmette Institute students, over the previous year, reported giving 96 firesides, 48 deepenings, 18 local or regional training institute classes, and 92 youth or children's programs using Wilmette Institute materials. They also reported that 136 people had become Bahá'ís at least in part because of the impact of the Wilmette Institute on their teaching. Interestingly, while the reported number of new believers is up over the previous year, the number of firesides and deepenings is down.

But statistics convey only part of the results of the annual survey. The following comments were added to the survey by eleven students and represent personal impressions of the impact the Institute has had.

"I felt very alone and completely inadequate to teach [before taking an Institute course]. The studies have greatly increased my understanding of the teachings and given me some much needed self-confidence. The instructors have been wonderful. They have been not only helpful, their criticism is kind and gentle. I greatly appreciate and pay attention to what they say. With the exception of one very good friend, I have still not had the confidence to conduct a fireside but, hopefully, the day may not be far off." [Clara Garner 4/16/00]

"The process is excellent. Much resource material was provided, and questions were answered by very knowledgeable scholars. I think the integrative process of learning, at some point, is just as important as the Ruhi process, which is very focused on a very limited amount of material." [Barbara McAtee 4/17/00]

"Our study of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh has helped me to utilize my mind to open my heart to further understanding of the phrases, words, and concepts that are expressed. We can read the writings and be attracted to the beauty of the words. (Often as a newer Bahá'í, I had heard people say, read the writings -- don't worry if you don't understand them, they will affect you with their power anyway.) But when we gain more of an understanding of the meanings behind the words, the beauty becomes a wondrous bounty, opening a new dimension for us." [Aileen Poehls, 4/17/00]

"The greatest `gain' for me has been the ability to share the faith in deepenings and adult Sunday school classes. I had never had the courage to do that before--even though I was a former teacher by profession. The confidence I have gained has allowed me to share with others in a new way. The second greatest benefit is the ability to learn from so many people across the country--people from whom I would not otherwise have an opportunity to learn. I feel at times like so many of us know a little, but when we put it all together it has woven a great quilt that can blanket the world." [Helen Wilson, 4/17/00]

"Mostly I've gained a better method or approach of studying and reading the sacred texts. The Institute classes help put my study into a context, without which I was used to pretty much studying topically as the interest arose, which didn't lend itself to much systematization. Also, due to the classes, my interest is piqued by the surrounding discussion and I am given, by my fellow students and mentors, a place to start further investigation of the topic at hand." [Barbara Henes, 4/17/00]

"Though this is my last year as a Wilmette Institute [Spiritual Foundations] student, I will do everything I can to promote [it] . . . because it has changed my life and many others over the past four years. . . . You taught me not only what a Bahá'í is, but how a Bahá'í should serve mankind. I hope that I will always be a credit to the Wilmette Institute. . . .You not only taught me how to be a Bahá'í, you showed by example, then gave the knowledge (tools) to serve the Faith." [Alice Ferro 4/25/00]

"Before taking the Wilmette Institute course, I never felt comfortable to talk or even give a comment about the Faith at any deepening or firesides. Since I joined the course in 98-99, I finished the four volumes of Taherzadeh, have given many talks at the local Bahá'í school, have conducted deepening and firesides. Recently, three of our seekers and two other new believers in our community, showed interest in learning about the history of the Faith. We agreed to form a study group and read The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh together. I couldn't have done this without the encouragement of the mentors." [Fariba Hickenson 4/18/00]

"For me the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was initially indecipherable. With the study provided, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas has become the `symbol of the incomparable greatness of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh' as stated by the Universal House of Justice. As Bahá'u'lláh says, `Blessed those who peruse it! Blessed those who apprehend it! Blessed those who meditate upon it! Blessed those who ponder its meaning!' I feel very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be so blessed." [Sandi Marisdoter 4/24/00]

"When I became a Bahá'í, I was attracted to the social and economic principles, and to the social diversity. Most important, the people really seemed to live the concepts, not just speak these as intentions. However, I did not have a clear grasp of the Divine Source of these personal and institutional values. Similar to many others, I had the idea that the Faith was a homogenized version of the major world religions, with a holy man from some obscure eastern place as the inspiration, a Gandhi figure of sorts. Fortunately, in my first year as a Bahá'í, I began the Revelations classes, which taught the Writings, the unfoldment of the dramatic historical story, and introduced me to the awesome presence of Bahá'u'lláh. As I read and learned and grew spiritually, I came to have a different world view, a new understanding of the nature of reality, a deeper appreciation for the role of sacred energies in daily life events, and a mature conceptualization of the relationship of God to man through the Manifestations. I got answers to the questions that plagued me for years: `Why would a loving God allow such suffering and depravity in the world? Why am I here? What meaning can be found in the confusion around me? Why do religions seem stale? Why is this world seeming to get worse instead of better?' Not only did I get those answers, and more; I also got past the confusing and intimidating, unfamiliar Arabic words and Islamic references that previously meant nothing. And I have developed a meaningful, living, compelling relationship with Bahá'u'lláh that continues to inspire me to learn, teach, and serve." [Kathyrn Brown 4/25/00]

"At first, I was overwhelmed by the amount of email and the work that I assumed was expected of me. Then I realized that the amount of email that I found useful and the amount of work that I did was up to me. After that, I relaxed and enjoyed the experience of listening to the feelings, growth, and responses of others. I found that many of the other participants had the same reactions that I had. Others had very different reports from which I learned so much. Also learned so much from the tutors. All in all I truly felt that I grew academically as well as spiritually in our beloved Faith. I appreciate our beloved Shoghi Effendi's writing more than ever! Thanks to you all for your participation and efforts." [Shirley Mather 5/5/00]

"I wish I could take all the Wilmette Institute classes because of the discipline it provides, the variety of opinions experienced and the feeling of oneness with friends I won't be able to meet in person in this life." [Rouha Rose 5/14/00]


A Short Description of the Title of the Súriy-i-Haykal (Súratu'l-Haykal)

by Dr. Iraj Ayman

The word "Haykal" (Temple) in Arabic and Persian comes from a Sumerian root. In the Sumerian language it referred to a temple (a place of worship) or a castle. In Arabic and Persian it has many meanings and connotations in addition to the body or the temple of a human being, such as the face of a human, a statue, a tall building or tree, or a corpulent animal or human being. It is also used as the name of the place of religious sacrifice in temples or synagogues. In Persian it has also been used for a charm or a refuge.

The word has a rich background in the literature and religious texts of all Semitic religions. In the Bábí period, the Báb revealed a number of Súriy-i-Hirziyyih composed of names of God, numbers, and cryptographic symbols written in a pentacle shape. Bábís carried them on their persons for protection purposes. The Báb had written these charm-like protection prayers in pentacle shape for men and in circular shape for women. Therefore, in the Bábí period, men were referred to as Awlu'l-Hayákil (those having or carrying the temples) and women were referred to as Zavatu'l-Davá'ir (those who are the essence of circles). These surihs were referred to as hayákil (pl.haykal). The Báb also revealed a tablet, or book, for Dayyán, by the name of Hayákil, which is a commentary on the science of numerology. Bahá'u'lláh has referred to this book and the mysteries contained in it in some of His tablets.

In the Bahá'í era, Bahá'u'lláh revealed a charm-like prayer, in pentacle form, for protection. It is called Du'áy-i-Haykal (Prayer of Haykal). Bahá'u'lláh in a special tablet has given exact and rather elaborate instructions on how this prayer should be copied, in what color and with what kind of ink, and how it should be carried. The instruction even includes the amount of the contribution that should be donated by the individual who wishes to carry this prayer on his person.

The Súriy-i-Haykal is one of the tablets revealed in 'Akká in 1869. Its original text in Arabic is eighty-eight printed pages and contains the texts of a number of tablets addressed to the kings and rulers. It should not be mistaken with the Lawh-i-Haykal, which contains a selection of extracts from the tablets addressed to the kings and rulers of the world and is written in pentacle form at the instruction of Bahá'u'lláh. Someone asked Bahá'u'lláh about the addressee of the Súriy-i-Haykal. In response He stated that both the addresser and the addressee is His own Self. This point is also evident from certain statements in the Súriy-i-Haykal. Another indication is in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, para. 86: "O King of Berlin! Give ear unto the Voice calling from this manifest Temple." Yet another indication that Haykal refers to Bahá'u'lláh is in the Hidden Words (Arabic): "The temple of being is My Throne."

It should be also added that, from the very early days, Bahá'ís in the East, particularly in Persia, have been using the term "Haykal-i-Mubárak" (the Blessed Temple) when they refer to the primary figures of the Faith (the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi).

"Haykal" in the Writings has been used to allude to other things as well. At the beginning of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, it refers to the Cause of God: "All praise to Him Who, by the Shield of His Covenant, hath guarded the Temple of His Cause." Bahá'u'lláh in the Tablet of Nasír refers to Mírzá Yahyá as the Haykal-i-Nár (the Temple of Fire). Also in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, para. 14, "sitting cross-legged" is expressed in the original Arabic as "sitting in the form of Haykal-i-Tawhíd" (Tabernacle of Unity).

                Iraj Ayman


From the Ridvan 2000 message of the Universal House of Justice

The qualitative difference resulted mainly from a more critical quantitative difference. The culture of the Bahá'í community experienced a change. This change is noticeable in the expanded capability, the methodical pattern of functioning and the consequent depth of confidence of the three constituent participants in the Plan--the individual, the institutions and the local community. That is so because the friends concerned themselves more consistently with deepening their knowledge of the divine Teachings and learned much--and this more systematically than ever before--about how to apply them to promulgating the Cause, to managing their individual and collective activities, and to working with their neighbors. In a word, they entered into a learning mode from which purposeful action was pursued. The chief propellant of this change was the system of training institutes established throughout the world with great rapidity--an accomplishment which, in the field of expansion and consolidation, qualifies as the single greatest legacy of the Four Year Plan.




Schedule of Upcoming Courses:
July-Sept. 2000: The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
Sept. 2000-Feb. 2001: The Kitáb-i-Íqán and Related Texts
Nov. 2000-Jan. 2001: Bahá'í Theology
Dec. 2000-Feb. 2001: The Qur'án
Jan. 2001-March 2001: The Secret of Divine Civilization OR Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (depending on the National Spiritual Assembly's guidance)
Feb.-March 2001: Judaism for Deepening and Dialogue
March-May 2001: The Bábí Faith, 1844-63
Apr.-July 2001: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Related Texts

All distance-learning courses include e-mail listservers for students and faculty, regular conference calls, systematic lesson plans, and a wide variety of learning projects to apply your learning in your local community. All courses are available at the "introductory" level for those unsure they can commit to taking a university-level course, the "intermediate" level for those wishing to go into more depth, and the "advanced" (graduate) level for those wishing to do extensive research or writing. More information on all of them can be found on the web at http://www.wilmetteinstitute.org.




THE LAMP is the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute, established in January 1995 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States to offer academic, professional, and service-oriented courses related to the Bahá'í Faith. In addition to offering university-level courses on Bahá'í topics, the Wilmette Institute fosters Bahá'í scholarship; develops new, innovative curricular materials; creates high-quality courses on teaching the Faith; and refines Bahá'í concepts of pedagogy. It aims to produce teachers and administrators of the Bahá'í Faith of great capacity, capable of sharing and demonstrating Bahá'í truths in their lives and speech.

For more information about the Bahá'í Faith, the Wilmette Institute, or its courses, contact:
    Wilmette Institute
    536 Sheridan Road
    Wilmette, IL 60091 USA

    Phone: 1-877-WILMETTE
    Fax: 1-877-WILMETTE, dial 0
    info@wilmetteinstitute.org
    http://www.wilmetteinstitute.org

THE LAMP is produced quarterly by the Wilmette Institute. All material is copyrighted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and is subject to the applicable copyright laws. Articles from the newsletter may be copied or reproduced, provided that the following credit is given: "Reprinted from THE LAMP, the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute," followed by the issue's date. Recipients of the electronic version are encouraged to forward it to friends. If you do not receive the electronic version and would like to, you may do so either by

   *  sending a blank e-mail to subscribe-winews@lists.usbnc.org or
   *  visiting http://lists.usbnc.org/lyris/lyris.pl?enter=winews and clicking on "join winews."

Copyright 2000 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States.
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