The Lamp, volume 6 Number 1

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 6, Number 1, March 2001


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IN THIS ISSUE:

Major International Expansion Inaugurated

For the first time, North Americans are a minority in a Wilmette Institute course. The course on Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, which began January 15, includes about sixty students from India, seven from Albania, two each from Canada, Ireland, and Israel, and one each from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Malaysia, New Zealand, and South Africa as well as fifty-four from the United States.

The composition of the class has been affected by three developments. First, the Wilmette Institute has finalized an agreement with the Bahá'í Academy in Panchgani, India, whereby the Bahá'í Academy has appointed seven mentors in cities across India and neighboring territories who coordinate local study circles of five to fifteen students each. The students receive their course materials via the Web and are mentored locally, but if they have e-mail (which most do), they participate in the course's listserver. The students pay tuition to the Bahá'í Academy to cover its costs; the Wilmette Institute's costs have been covered by a small private grant. If the experiment proves successful, the Bahá'í Academy plans to organize local study groups for several other courses in 2001.

The second development is the establishment of a relationship with Bahá'ís in Albania, to whom a similar arrangement was extended. It is hoped that many Albanian students will participate in Wilmette Institute courses and that a Wilmette Institute representative or committee will be appointed in that country in consultation with its National Spiritual Assembly.

The third development involves South Africa, where two Bahá'ís who serve as faculty for the Wilmette Institute reside. When one commented that he was concerned that he was spending time assisting the developed world to improve its human resources while he had moved to Africa to assist there instead, it was proposed to him that for every Wilmette Institute course he taught, two free scholarships to Wilmette Institute courses be provided to South African students. This arrangement was taken to the South African National Youth Committee, and a Bahá'í student registered to take the course on Epistle to the Son of the Wolf.

One challenge that has resulted from such a large number of students posting messages to the same Internet listserver is heavy traffic volume: over 360 messages in the first five weeks of classes. For those unable to pay for receipt of so many messages, or unable to read them all, a low-volume listserver has been set up, to which no more than five messages a day are sent. The Board is considering use of chat rooms and thread-based bulletin boards on the Web in order to offer a wider variety of ways that students can participate in the course.

The Wilmette Institute Board is delighted by the expansion in its outreach to students outside the United States. It hopes to finalize arrangements with other countries as well, notably Australia. The result should be greater diversity in the experience and content of future Wilmette Institute courses.

The Wilmette Institute and the Five Year Plan

During Ridvan, the Bahá'í world community embarks on a new phase of the Divine Plan: the Five Year Plan. The Wilmette Institute, operating as an agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, has developed its own systematic plan to further contribute to the development of human resources within the Bahá'í community. The three major goal areas that are included in the Institute's plan are as follows:

By creating new courses, expanding its audience, and improving its technical and clerical support, the Institute hopes to provide increasingly high quality services to assist with the expansion and consolidation of the Bahá'í community in the coming five years.

Welcome to Misha Maynerick

      The Wilmette Institute was delighted when, on February 8, Michelle (Misha) Maynerick arrived from Washington state. Misha heard of the Wilmette Institute in November when she e-mailed the coordinator asking him about service possibilities in connection with Bahá'í Studies. He suggested that she consider working for the Wilmette Institute, and she was immediately interested. She has proved to be an excellent addition to the staff of the Institute.

            Misha Maynerick recently graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, with a self-designed major in Religious Studies and Sociology. Her interests include race-relations work and creating artwork around Bahá'í-inspired themes. She also cooks delicious vegetarian enchiladas.

Spiritual Foundations Program Takes Shape

The details of the 2001 Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization summer session are gradually falling into place. The December 2000 issue reported that Dr. Michael Penn and Dr. Saba Ayman-Nolley would be teaching the unit on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development of the individual and Mr. Marc Greenberg the workshop on teaching the Faith. Since then, all the other faculty have been confirmed. Dr. Leslie Asplund, a social worker who is both on the faculty at the University of Washington as well as a hypnotherapist in a private counseling practice, has agreed to teach the unit on Bahá'í marriage and family life. Dr. Asplund has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and her professional expertise is in personal and family transformation. It is anticipated that she will bring considerable theoretical knowledge and practical experience to the session.

Two skills will be taught this summer: expository writing and researching. Ms. Kim Douglas, a professional editor and an English instructor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, will teach expository writing, which focuses on writing of essays and articles (as opposed to creative writing, which focuses on novels, poetry, and other literary forms). Ms. Douglas, currently residing in Holland, Michigan, has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. From 1985 to 1990, she served in the Editorial Department of the Bahá'í Publishing Trust in Wilmette. Research skills will be taught by Dr. Susan Maneck, a professor of history at Stetson University in Florida. Dr. Maneck completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in History (with a specialization on Iran and India) and has published numerous articles about the Bahá'í Faith in various journals.

The unit on scripture as it relates to the development of the individual will be taught by Dr. Ghasem Bayat, a scholar in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh who has authored a manuscript of a book on the Seven Valleys. Last year Dr. Bayat gave very popular classes on the Íqán. The unit this year will focus on the The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, The Four Valleys, and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas--works that cover the mystical relation of the individual to God and the laws that foster our spiritual development.

The unit on Bahá'í history covers the life and writings of Bahá'u'lláh since 1863, the life and works of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and the history and development of the Bahá'í community from 1863 to 1921. Dr. David Ruhe, former member of the Universal House of Justice and author of an excellent book about the life of Bahá'u'lláh, Robe of Light, has agreed to give the classes on the life of Bahá'u'lláh, 1863-92. Mr. Habib Riazati, an expert on Bahá'u'lláh's revelation, will offer an overview of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Dr. Iraj Ayman, a member of the Wilmette Institute Board and a former member of the Continental Board of Counselors for Asia, will speak about the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As this issue goes to press, it appears likely that Mr. Ramsey Zeine will review the writings and talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.Dr. Robert Stockman, administrator of the Institute and a published historian on the Bahá'í Faith, will cover development of the Bahá'í community.

Early levels of interest suggest that the size of the summer session will be greater than last year. Publicity materials featuring a poster were mailed to local spiritual assemblies and registered groups on March 9, and should generate even more interest. It is hoped that many will sign up for what should prove to be a very exciting session.

Kendall Prices Go Up Slightly

Kendall College has announced its 2001-02 room rates and meal prices. A double room will cost $28 per night per person, up from $24 last year (for 14 nights, $392), and meal prices have increased by a quarter, to $5.75 each. The Wilmette Institute regrets that it must pass the increases on to its students.

Radio Program on the Kitáb-i-Íqán is Webcast as Wilmette Institute Learning Project

Dean Martineau, a student from Everett, Washington, in the Wilmette Institute's distance-learning course on the Kitáb-i-Íqán, recently completed a unique learning project for wrapping up the course: a half-hour radio program on the Book of Certitude for airing twelve times over the World Wide Web.

The program, which was webcast in late January and early February, began and ended with music based on a poem of Tahirih's sung by Tadia (Muhtadia Rice, a Los Angeles-based Bahá'í musician and actress). In between, Mr. Martineau discussed the background of the Íqán, tried to offer some incentive for people to read it, listed some of the major themes, and read a few paragraphs discussing a few of the themes. "My hope is to encourage people to read the Íqán," Mr. Martineau noted.

Most students write a brief paper and give a fireside or deepening at the end of a course, thereby fulfilling the writing and presentation requirements that distance-learning courses include. By designing a radio program, Mr. Martineau completed both requirements in one project.

The program can be downloaded from the bahai-perspectives.org site. To listen, go to http://64.177.108.84/acb17.m3u. To download the mp3 file for later listening, go to http://64.177.108.84/certitude.mp3.

In the Students' Words

From Rich Yamartino:
I wanted to thank you . . . for the Baha'i Theology course. I can't convey to you how much I enjoyed it. I didn't want the course to end. It was like reading a really good book that you couldn't wait to get back to. I was impressed with the two texts (Eternal Quest for God and Physical Reality) you chose and the writings selected for each subject. My enthusiasm increased with each section, I could feel it growing inside of me. I think it was the increasing love for Baha'u'llah.

There were many sections that I shared with others, mostly non-Baha'is. In one instance I sent a section on perfection to a minister in town who writes a weekly column in the local paper about spiritual matters. I thought it fitting to e-mail him the reading we did from Some Answered Questions on the proof and evidences of the existence of God. I spoke with him later and he asked to attend a Feast. He's been invited and we'll see where it leads. There are many other small examples of what I have shared with people. I attribute my willingness to share and teach more about the Faith with this course.
From Mary Hansen:
      As I reviewed my final project . . . recently, I was amazed at how much more breadth and depth of knowledge I have gained in a little over two months due to The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh course and related readings. Reading each week's section has become more of a treat than a chore. The historical context gained from teacher and student notes as well as my own correlative readings has helped me understand the spiral evolution of our Faith. The words of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi continue to convey the urgency of the need for all of us to teach.

      As a result of this course, I now feel more confident. I have started guiding at the House of Worship. I have guided 25-30 hours since July and am much better able to answer seekers' questions about our administration. When I confidently wear my "no room in my heart for prejudice" tee shirt, the people working in the grocery return my smiles. A mom at our multicultural camp meeting chose to sit by me and started up a conversation, when I wore the shirt, though my husband was sure I'd start a riot. I share my observations at firesides. I have a teaching plan and have ordered support materials from Special Ideas which I carry in my car.

      The most striking outcome, however, seems to be that some of the seeds of the Faith I planted months earlier when I first became a Bahá'í are now taking root.       Two friends this week asked for more information about the Faith. Both have children who play with my child and are very concerned about giving their offspring a set of values for life. They appear to have families that will share their interest. I think the timing of their inquiries is more than happenstance. I see it as God's acknowledgment that I am ready to teach.
From Don Plunkett:
I find the Wilmette Institute courses indispensable and a true attribute to deepening our understanding of the Cause. Without a priesthood, we have no choice but to continually expand our knowledge. We can deepen on our own, but the structured format keeps us focused and motivated and allows for an efficient and effective medium for questions/answers, etc. Thank you again for your service.
From Clara Garner, about the course on The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh when it ended:
The classes I have taken these past couple of years have greatly increased my understanding and appreciation of the three central figures of our Faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was my first love. Studying the Kitab-i-Íqán and the Kitab-i-Aqdas gave me a new understanding and love for Bahá'u'lláh. But Shoghi Effendi has always been a bit distant, even though I knew he was our Guardian, interpreter and head of our Faith. And now, after studying his writings, I feel a great love, admiration and awe for him. What a grasp he had on the writings, how patient he was, and how hard he worked for us. His letters always . . . explained the various calamities and difficulties so we could see them as a step forward rather than a step backwards; he never criticized our shortcomings, but rather praised and encouraged our efforts which, of course, spurred us on to greater efforts. And now these classes are revitalizing our spirits and spurring the believers on to new and greater efforts in establishing the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.

I look forward to the next course I decide to sign up for, although feel I must take a break. Already I feel left out of the circle but look forward to the correspondence on the alumni listserver. What a good idea to set up that list.

The Concept of the Covenant

An abridged posting by Dr. Fiona Missaghian to the Theology Course
The concept of the covenant is not unique to the Bahá'í Faith. The theology of the covenant is a vital part of all Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). In particular, the covenant is some kind of agreement between two unequal parties: on one side there is God, on the other side there are His creatures. Both sides have to fulfill particular tasks: God promises to guide and bless His creatures, if they in turn fulfill their particular task: to worship the one God and follow His commandments. The story of Abraham, as we can read it in the Hebrew Bible, is one description of this covenant.

What is new in the Bahá'í Faith is the distinction between different types of covenants and the stress on the Lesser Covenant in particular. According to the Bahá'í theology of the covenant, there are at least four types of covenants, which differ from each other but are still interconnected: the Eternal Covenant, the Covenant regarding the Day of Judgment, the Greater Covenant, and the Lesser Covenant.

The Covenant of God, or Eternal Covenant, is like a contract between God and His creatures. God provides never-ending guidance, blessings and grace to His creatures, if they in turn follow His Manifestations and their commandments. In fact, in the very first verse of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh outlines this covenant.

The Covenant regarding the Day of Judgment consists of the announcement of the time of fulfillment, which is this day, by every Manifestation of God. Since there were Manifestations and Prophets, it was part of their divinely given duty to announce to the people the coming of the Day of Judgment or the Day of God and to remind their followers to prepare themselves for this day. According to Shoghi Effendi and Bahá'í theology, this Day of Judgment has begun with the coming of the Báb and is thus fulfilled with the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.

The Greater Covenant describes the agreement between each Manifestation of God and their followers regarding their acceptance of a future Manifestation of God. The followers are told to follow the next Manifestation of God, who will also confirm the previous Manifestations. See the Lawh-i-Ahmad: "Be thou assured in thyself that verily, he who turns away from this Beauty hath also turned away from the Messengers of the past and showeth pride towards God from all eternity to all eternity."

The Lesser Covenant concerns Bahá'u'lláh's explicit designation of authority to His son 'Abdu'l-Bahá as His successor (and later to Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian and finally to the Administrative Order). The Lesser Covenant is one of the distinctive features of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. It is the first time in the history of religion that a Manifestation "officially" (i.e., in His Testament) assigns a successor. The beloved Guardian writes in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh ("The Administrative Order," p.145): "Nowhere in the sacred scriptures of any of the world's religious systems, nor even in the writings of the Inaugurator of the Bábí Dispensation, do we find any provisions establishing a covenant or providing for an administrative order that can compare in scope and authority with those that lie at the very basis of the Bahá'í Dispensation."

It is vital to be aware of these different types of covenants because they are sometimes not explicitly distinguished in the Writings. For example, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes about the power of the covenant being "the axis of the oneness of the world of humanity," He is talking about the Lesser Covenant. In fact, it is this type of covenant, the Lesser Covenant, that distinguishes the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh from previous dispensations in that it will provide the Bahá'í Community with the necessary strength and unity to improve this world and lead it towards world peace. It is very important that we study the meaning of the Lesser Covenant in order to become firm in it.

To my limited understanding, it is also vital that we study the Eternal Covenant with its implications to salvation history and to our personal life. The Eternal Covenant has also an immense impact on the understanding of Bahá'í ethics. It provides ethics with an unshakable binding force.

One of the Eternal Covenant's functions is humanity's continuous development and education as a whole and the individual soul's development. Both God and humanity take a responsibility (which are not interchangeable!). God's responsibility is guidance, man's responsibility is obedience. God provides the means to attain salvation. One aspect of salvation is leading a life in tranquility and peace on this planet. The other is eternal life: God also tells His creatures what they need to do to attain eternal life as close as possible to Him. To attain both kinds of salvation, however, is inseparably connected to accepting the Manifestation of God of this age and to follow his commandments.

It is important to note that every individual has the freedom to choose if he or she wishes to accept and follow the Manifestation (otherwise nobody could be held responsible for not fulfilling his duty). But Bahá'u'lláh makes it very clear that they who have turned away are "accounted among the abject and foolish" for "They that have violated the Covenant of God by breaking His commandments, and have turned back on their heels, these have erred grievously in the sight of God." (Aqdas 2).

Wilmette Institute Distance-Learning Course Schedule

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. For a complete current calendar, see http://wilmetteinstitute.org/calendar.html.


Courses on Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation:
      Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (Jan. 15-Apr. 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 (Apr. 1-June 30, 2001)

Courses on Bahá'í History and Teachings:
      Rediscovering the Dawnbreakers: The Báb and the Bábí Community (Mar. 1-May 31, 2001)
      The Bahá'í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction (June 1-Aug. 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)

Ramsey Zeine Confirmed for 2001 Summer Session

Mr. Ramsey Zeine, coordinator for the 1996 summer session of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program, has agreed to coordinate the 2001 summer session as well. As coordinator of the very first summer session, Mr. Zeine helped shape the content and tone of the entire program. His workshops on teaching the Faith were memorable, and the spiritual atmosphere he helped to set became the standard for subsequent summer sessions. More students from the 1996 session returned than for any other year, and students still remember him fondly.

Mr. Zeine brings a remarkable background to the program. He has served as chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Lebanon and has devoted considerable time and thought to the question of how one can teach systematically the subject of teaching the Faith. He has earned his living as a professional architect and director of an English-language school in Lebanon.

In addition to informal classes on various subjects, the Institute has asked Mr. Zeine to teach two ninety-minute classes on the writings and utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Distance Learning Courses Continue to Diversify

The Wilmette Institute website is attracting more and more students and faculty from outside North America, even from countries with which the Institute has not established institutional agreements,. The course on Judaism for Deepening and Dialogue, February 1 to April 30, has twelve students, including one student each from Australia and Canada and a New Zealand pioneer to Japan. "Rediscovering the Dawnbreakers: The Báb and the Bábí Faith," March 1 to May 31, has a total of twenty-four students, including two from Germany and an American pioneer in China. Among the faculty are Bahá'ís residing in Canada and the United Kingdom. Finally, the course on The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, April 1 to June 30, includes among its fifteen students a French Canadian, a Brazilian homefront pioneer to the Amazon region, and a pioneer from India to Kyrgyzstan. Among the faculty is a Bahá'í from Sweden, and the course coordinator, Dr. Geoff Marks, lives in Capetown, South Africa. The Internet is providing a taste of the unity that is possible when "a mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity" (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 203).




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 2001 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States.
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