The Lamp, volume 5 Number 4

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 5, Number 4, December 2000

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          2001: More Distance-Learning Courses than Ever
          Feature Article on The Letters of the Living
          National Teaching Committee Survey Shows Wilmette Institute Courses Effective
          Report about the Irfan Colloquia

Support for the Wilmette Institute Continues to Grow

The Wilmette Institute has been pleased to see a steady expansion of support for its courses throughout the autumn. The first indication was the Kitáb-i-Íqán course, which attracted 26 students in September. When the course was offered in the past, it drew 6 and 16 students respectively. Support for the Bahá'í Theology course, begun November 1, was even stronger. There had been some concern that such a seemingly obscure topic would not achieve the ten-student minimum that the Wilmette Institute has set to guarantee a course has enough students to be viable. Instead, 45 registered, making Bahá'í Theology one of the larger courses the Institute has offered. This may reflect a widespread interest in courses on basic teachings of the Faith. Two of the 45 students are not Bahá'ís.

The Qur'án course, which began on December 1, has continued the trend. As The Lamp was prepared for publication it had received almost 60 registrations, quadruple the registration for the course on Islam held just six months earlier. The three courses reflect the fact that the average enrollment in Wilmette Institute courses in 2000 has been 30 to 35 students, whereas in 1999 it averaged closer to 15 students.

The Institute's greater numbers also reflect a greater diversity in students. In the last few months students have registered from Canada, Faroe Islands, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, many of which represent new countries from which the Institute has never obtained students before. In-depth discussions with the Bahá'í Academy in India and Yerrinbool Bahá'í Institute in Australia are paving the way for students in those two countries to participate in the Wilmette Institute's distance-learning courses. The year 2001 may mark the dawn of a truly international experience when taking Wilmette Institute courses.

2001: More Distance-Learning Courses than Ever

In 2001 the Institute will offer a total of 13 courses (up from 8 in 2000). The Institute will begin its first course in Bahá'í history and its first courses on `Abdu'l-Bahá. The following lists of courses are arranged topically, for ease of review:

Courses on Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation:
The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (Jan. 15-April 15, 2001)
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (May 15-Aug. 15, 2001)
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Related Texts (Sept. 1-Dec. 31, 2001)
Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation: A Comprehensive Introduction (Nov. 1, 2001-Feb. 28, 2002)

Courses on `Abdu'l-Bahá, His Writings, and Utterances:
The Secret of Divine Civilization (July 1-Sept. 30, 2001)
`Abdu'l-Bahá: The Exemplar (Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2001)

Courses on Shoghi Effendi and his Writings:
The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh (April 1-June 30, 2001)

Courses on Bahá'í History and Teachings:
Rediscovering the Dawnbreakers: The Báb and the Bábí Community (March 1-May 31, 2001)
The Bahá'í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction (June 1-August 30, 2001)
The Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Development of the Individual (Nov. 15, 2001-Feb. 15, 2002)

Courses on Other Religions:
Judaism for Deepening and Dialogue (Feb. 1-Apr. 30, 2001)
Christianity for Deepening and Dialogue (June 15-Sept. 15, 2001)
The Bible (Dec. 1, 2001-Feb. 28, 2002)

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 help you 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

2001 Spiritual Foundations Program Shaping Up to Be Uniquely Exciting

Inquiries for the 2001 Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program have already started to come in, auguring well for an expanded student body next year. Following the pattern of previous years, home study will begin May 1; will be followed by an intense two-week period of classes at Kendall College, Wilmette, July 28-August 11; and will conclude with six more weeks of home study that ends September 30, 2001.

Two outstanding teachers have already agreed to serve as faculty for the primary subject to be covered, the physical, mental, and spiritual development of the individual: Dr. Michael Penn, a psychologist and Auxiliary Board member residing in Pennsylvania, and Dr. Saba Ayman-Nolley, a psychologist and chair of the Psychology Department at Northeastern Illinois University.

Other faculty will cover Bahá'í marriage and family life; the life of Bahá'u'lláh, 1863-92; Bahá'u'lláh's primary writings relating to individual development, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Hidden Words, the Seven Valleys, and the Four Valleys; the life, mission, writings, and talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá; and the development of the Bahá'í community, 1863-1921, particularly its rise in the United States and its decision to build a Bahá'í House of Worship.

Skills to be covered in the summer of 2001 include both researching and writing. Mr. Marc Greenberg, a former Spiritual Foundations student, will return to coordinate the workshop on teaching the Faith. Many of the subjects of the 2001 Spiritual Foundations program will also be presented as distance-learning courses in 2001-2002, allowing Spiritual Foundations students to pursue some of the topics in greater depth as well as offering the subjects to a wider audience unable to come to Wilmette for two weeks of intensive classes.

National Teaching Committee Survey Measures Effectiveness of Wilmette Institute Courses

In September 2000 the National Teaching Committee sent a survey to 1,500 randomly selected believers about the impact of various training programs. The believers were asked to assess the Wilmette Institute, the national Teacher Training program, Ruhi courses, local spiritual assembly development modules, fund development courses, a series of core curriculum training programs, and a few miscellaneous programs. They were ask to rate the programs on a scale from one to five on such matters as "inspired me to take initiative and seize opportunities," "deepened my knowledge of the cause of Bahá'u'lláh," and "encouraged me to become more active in teaching."

While comparing the different programs is difficult‹they were not designed to do the same things‹the resulting data is encouraging for the Wilmette Institute. Ninety percent of the respondents rated the Institute "4" or "5" (on a scale from 1 to 5) on such matters as deepening the believer, helping the believer look at world conditions from the point of view of the writings, strengthening the believer's desire to obey Bahá'í laws and teachings, and deepening the believer's love for Bahá'u'lláh. Eighty percent and 77 percent, respectively, gave a "4" or "5" to the Institute in "helped me to cultivate an inner spiritual life" and "taught me new skills to serve the Faith."

On two socially-related criteria‹"helped me to make new friendships and build relationships" and "helped me to gain skills to improve my interpersonal relationships"‹the Institute scored moderate to low (60% and 44% respectively), probably reflecting the fact that the students were taking distance-learning courses that cannot easily be interpersonal in nature. The Institute received a "5" or "4" from 60 percent of the students responding to the statement "encouraged me to become more active in teaching," suggesting the Institute needs to do more to help its students connect study of specific texts or subjects to teaching. In this case, the survey revealed an area of improvement about which the Wilmette Institute Board had already been actively consulting. Overall, the Wilmette Institute's programs came in a close second in the survey, and if the socially related questions were not included, it would be tied for first.

Letter on Behalf of the Universal House of Justice:

On October 6, 2000, the Wilmette Institute received the following message from the Universal House of Justice in response to the letter sent by the students at the 2000 summer session of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program:

Dear Bahá'í Friends:

      The Universal House of Justice acknowledges with appreciation the receipt of your email message dated 1 September 2000 forwarding a report on the dedicated efforts of the Wilmette Institute class of 2000-2001. Kindly assure the participants of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines on their behalf.

      With loving Bahá'í greetings,

      Department of the Secretariat

Student News

This [course, Bahá'í Theology] will be my fourth Wilmette Institute course I am taking. I love the systematic study of the Faith, which these courses allow us to do. I have been a Baha'i for many years but have never studied the Faith in a systematic way until I was introduced to the Wilmette courses.  Many of the introductions from the students sound really exciting and I hope we will have an interesting and productive next three months.  --Rigmor Mereness

This is the second course I am taking through the Wilmette Institute (previously studied The Advent of Divine Justice) and am still in the middle of facilitating an ongoing deepening regarding the ADJ in my community. In addition to this course through the Wilmette Institute, I am also participating in a weekly course in another community regarding "Teaching Christians Effectively." Although I completed the first Ruhi course while my children attended the Varqa Bahá'í School last year, I am taking it again as it is the adult class again this year.

Taking these courses are part of my attempt to engage in "systematic training." Based on the exhortations of Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice as a step in preparing oneself to teach, I enrolled in the study of the Qur'án. Already, in reading the first unit assignments, I am being enlightened in just how ignorant I am regarding Muhammad, Islam, and the Qur'án. I feel already that this class will open a new world to me. I am hoping that through my personal spiritual growth I will be able to encourage/help my small community to arise and to take a greater role in teaching. ­Charlene Logan

These readings [for the course on Bahá'í Theology] sure have been thought provoking. One of my co-workers is a devout Christian, very open-minded and we often discuss religious topics both on the earthly and spiritual level. The readings aided me in a real good discussion with him on what a Manifestation is and how it relates to both Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith. He understood and even agreed with the concept of what a Manifestation is and how they are a reflection of God (this is the short and simple abbreviation of a long discussion). As a Catholic child, I was never able to accept the divinity of Jesus, and this threw my religious views for a loop. I must admit that my investigation of the Faith has helped me come to understand and accept Jesus as a Manifestation in a way that I never could as a Christian. ­Harold Agnew

Last month, I presented my paper (remember, "The Keys to Islam in the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh"?) at the `Irfán Colloquium at Louhelen Bahá'í School. It was quite an event for me. . . . My presentation went well. . . I was somewhat humbled to be in the presence of such distinguished scholars as Dr. Susan Maneck, Dr. Todd Lawson, Habib Riazatti, Dr. Nader Saeidi, Mr. Jack McLean, Dr. Frank Lewis, etc. I felt like a newbie!! I felt like a party crasher. . . . It has been such a wonderful experience for me (dabbling in Bahá'í scholarship), and it all started the Wilmette Institute! Thanks for all your wonderful support and encouragement - it really helped.

(Brian Wittman to his mentor for the course on "The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh," Dr. Geoff Marks)

Explanation about the Letters of the Living

In the Kitáb-i-Íqán course, a student asked whether the Báb was the nineteenth Letter of the Living and Bahá'u'lláh the twentieth. Someone else noted that the 1932 edition of The Dawn-breakers listed the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as such. Here is a comment on the matter by Dr. Muhammad Afnan, a Bahá'í scholar who happens to work for the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice. His reply was not an official statement, but provides useful illumination:

"On the subject of the number of the Letters of the Living, your response to the Enquirer/s is very well explained and there is no doubt that those selected ones were eighteen, not nineteen. Thus the fact we should keep in mind, according to the letter written on behalf of the Beloved Guardian (Unfolding Destiny, p. 428), is that the Báb is Nineteenth Letter of the First Unit (Vahid), not of the Letters of the Living. The numbers of the Letters of the Living in the Dawn Breakers, p. 80 (American Edition 1974) is straightforwardly counted as 18 not more. As you mentioned in your email to them, the title Letter (harf) is a general term used in The Bayán for a believer and that is why Bahá'u'lláh has applied it to Himself in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.

"The question of twentieth Letter goes back to years ago, it is already corrected and there is no such mistake in the list of illustrations in the Dawn Breakers printed from 1974 onward. To our knowledge the List of Illustrations was not prepared by the Beloved Guardian, but by a committee in the U.S."

Faculty News

Dr. Farhad Sabetan, faculty member for the Spiritual Foundations summer session in 1999 and 2000, has accepted a position at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel, as coordinator of a new Persian Desk. We congratulate him and wish him well in his new position of service to the Cause.

`Irfán Colloquium 2000

The `Irfán Colloquium has just completed its eighth year of activities. During the past eight years, a total of thirty-two sessions of the colloquium were held in Europe and North America. The main goals of these activities were to promote comprehension and clearer vision of the fundamental principles of the Bahá'í Faith, systematic study of the Bahá'í holy texts, and studies of the world religions and schools of thought as they relate to the Bahá'í Faith. Special attention has been paid to inviting those engaged in scholarly research to present the results of their studies and to increase the number of women, youth, and members of various minorities engaged in systematic Bahá'í scholarship.

The `Irfán Colloquium was initiated and is financially assisted by the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund, which is managed by the Treasurer's Office of the U.S. Bahá'í National Center. In order to facilitate participation of youth and those from financially less privileged countries, a scholarship fund in the memory of Nadia Saadat was donated in 1998.

During the past eight years, thirty-two colloquia were held in Europe and the United States. The combined number of participants in these sessions were 2,000, coming from forty different countries. Every participant received a booklet containing abstracts of the presentations. In 2000 they also received a volume containing texts of papers presented at earlier sessions, a guidebook for the study of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and other occasional papers and handouts.

Since 1996, a seminar section has been added to the colloquium sessions. The seminars were devoted to the systematic study of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh in chronological order of revelation. This year the writings revealed during the Akka period were discussed at the colloquia in Europe and at Louhelen, while writings revealed in Istanbul-Adrianople were studied at Bosch.

During the current year, six sessions of the `Irfán Colloquium were held, three in Persian and three in English, at the Acuto Centre for Bahá'í Studies (Italy; Persian only), London School of Economics (U.K.; English only), Louhelen Bahá'í School (U.S.; English and Persian) and Bosch Bahá'í School (U.S.; English and Persian). The main themes of the colloquium were two: mysticism and the Bahá'í Faith and world religions and the Bahá'í Faith. In these sessions 64 scholars, including 18 women and 16 youth, made a total of 103 presentations.

Activities of the Wilmette Institute and the `Irfán Colloquium are complementary. Students of the Wilmette Institute are most welcome to make presentations based on their research and studies initiated in Wilmette Institute courses. This year, in addition to ten Wilmette Institute faculty, two Wilmette Institute students were among the paper presenters at the `Irfán Colloquia. Brian Wittman presented a paper on "Keys to the Proper Understanding of Islam in Shoghi Effendi's The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh" and LeRoy Jones gave a paper on "The Mystic Cup: The Essential Mystical Nature of the Bahá'í Faith." It is hoped that as both the Wilmette Institute and the `Irfán Colloquia expand, more and more students will be stimulated in the former to attend or speak at the latter.

`Irfán Colloquium Call For Papers/Presentations

The `Irfán Colloquium at Bosch Bahá'í School, instead of being held over the Thanksgiving weekend as in previous years, will be held over the weekend of May 18-20, 2001. The theme topic of the Colloquium will be "Mysticism and the Bahá'í Faith" as well as fundamental principles of the Bahá'í beliefs. The seminar section of the program will be devoted to the tablets revealed during the early Akka period. Alumni and students of the Wilmette Institute are cordially invited to participate in the program. Proposals for presentations should be received before the end of February 15, 2001. For further information please contact:

    Bahá'í National Center
    1233 Central Street
    Evanston, IL 60210-1611
    Tel: 847-733-3501
    Fax: 847-733-3502

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

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

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