The Lamp, volume 1 Number 1

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 1, Number 1, December 1995

Back to index for The Lamps

Wilmette Institute Adopts Logo

The Wilmette Institute now has a logo! It was designed by Trey Yancy, editor of Deepen magazine, in consultation with the Institute's executive board. The logo features the quotation from a prayer by 'Abdu'l-Bahá-- "a lamp of Thy knowledge among Thy creatures"; the prayer was revealed to Thornton Chase, the first American Bahá'í, in 1899 and may be found in Bahá'í Prayers, page 57. The full sentence reads, "With great humbleness and entire devotion I pray to Thee to make me a minaret of Thy love in Thy land, a lamp of Thy knowledge among Thy creatures, and a banner of Thy divine bounty in Thy dominion." All the qualities--humility, devotion, and the desire to be a source of divine love, knowledge, and bounty (service) to all--reflect goals of the Wilmette Institute.

      At the center of the logo is a lamp inspired by a lamp in the room where the Báb first declared His mission. It particularly symbolizes the divine knowledge referred to in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's prayer above. Interestingly enough, the published English-language writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi use the word "lamp" 331 times. Lamps symbolize many things: individuals are lamps ("thou art My lamp and My light is in thee"), as are Manifestations; there is the lamp "of the spirit," "of religion," "of divine civilization," "of God," "of the utterance of God," "of the Cause," "of Salvation," "of His Faith," "of guidance," "of the Covenant," "of everlasting dominion," "of search," "of Divine glory," "of the Supreme Concourse," "of conscience," "of revelation," "of Thy love," "of the love of God," "of Thy names," "of His grace," "of the oneness of the human world." Thus the symbol of the lamp in the logo has many possible meanings.

      Surrounding the lamp is a nine-pointed star, symbolizing the Bahá'í Faith, with a second nine-pointed star under it. Beyond the star are nineteen rays symbolizing vahíd (Arabic for unity: the letters' numerical values add up to nineteen). The five-pointed stars on either side of the words "Wilmette Institute" symbolize the Báb (the numerical values of the letters báb add up to five); the two stars also symbolize the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. The outside is a circle signifying unity and completeness.

Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization--Program Update

The Wilmette Institute's "Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization" program has now entered its third month and thanks to the dedicated students, is going better than we could have dreamed. With this newsletter, students are receiving their third mailing of course materials, now pushing a thousand pages. Homework is pouring in; some students have reached the eighth unit. Conference calls have been conducted with almost everyone, and many students have now participated in two such calls. The faculty of the summer residential session is almost complete. The plans for seminars on how to teach the Faith--complete with readings and projects--are taking shape. The design for the second, third, and fourth years is also moving forward and should be complete in a few months. The staff has been highly encouraged by the enthusiasm of the students. One called the registrar in tears because she was so happy to receive the notebook! The Institute has been blessed by a very dedicated group of students for its first cohort. The students' efforts have inspired the Wilmette Institute staff to work even harder for the program.

What About That Homework?

Probably your most difficult task is completing the homework assignments, for they require a lot of self-discipline (not only for you, but also for the faculty who are grading your homework). We are hoping that students can catch up with the published schedule by January 1. Otherwise, it is difficult to conduct conference calls, because everyone has not read the same assignments. Please make a goal of completing the Judaism assignments and starting Christianity by January 1.

The Keys to Communication

It is a great pleasure to have all of you embarking on the exciting adventure of study and contemplation about humanity's spiritual journey toward a global civilization. Gradually, our "community" is forming, you have already started using the course material and have consulted with Dr. Stockman about it; a few have gotten in touch with each other to start collaboration.

      The aim of the Wilmette Institute is to use all available communication media to facilitate your studies and to create an integrated and cooperative group.

      One method is the conference calls in which many of you have participated. Every few weeks, small groups of students are spending about an hour with an instructor, discussing the topics they have been studying, sharing their insights, and receiving clarification about difficult points.

      Another communications medium is electronic mail. A number of you are taking advantage of the discussions on "Global," the special discussion list created on the Internet for the students and faculty of the program. This is a very effective tool for promoting the exchange of ideas and sharing of information and new understandings.

      It would be helpful if more of you had access to this tool. Sometimes, universities offer opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to acquire Internet accounts. Or you may have a friend who will let you share his or her computer. You might let it be known that your dearest wish for Intercalary Days is an Internet account.

      Finally, there is the U.S. mail. In order to ensure the uniformity of the experience to the extent possible, we will mail, periodically, highlights of the "Global" conversations to those students who are not on the Internet. We will also use this newsletter as another tool to share as much as possible.

      In addition, we hope that all of you know that you may call 708/733-3492 and leave a message for us, even at night, if you have specific questions about assignments. Someone will return your call as soon as possible.

      We hope that, with the multiple modalities of communication, everyone will have ample opportunities for receiving the needed assistance and guidance. Please feel free to contact us in the way that is most convenient for you.

Financial Support Sought

In an effort to be able to provide the Bahá'í community with programs that will serve our needs, the Wilmette Institute is looking for financial support for the following four programs:
    1. A student financial aid program. Such a fund will help guarantee the Institute's racial, ethnic, and international diversity.
    2. A curriculum development program. Most of the materials for the first year of the pro-gram have been under development for five years. Materials for the second, third, and fourth years need considerable development, and potential faculty may need grants to devote the necessary time to the work.
    3. A book acquisition program. The National Bahá'í Library, the library of the Wilmette Institute, needs extra copies of some Bahá'í books so that it can serve students adequately. It also needs assistance for improving its facilities (such as its electronic card file and check-out system).
    4. Staff and program expansion programs. Grants of various sorts could also assist the Wilmette Institute to expand its staff and programs.
    If you know of anyone who might be interested and able to assist in financially supporting the Wilmette Institute, please have them contact Dr. Iraj Ayman at the Wilmette Institute (708/733-3501; Internet at

          Also, if you require information about the scholarship monies available for students and have not already received it, please contact Phyllis Medrano as soon as possible. She will be happy to forward that information to you.

Telephone Area Codes to Change

Just to make things a little more complicated, the telephone company is changing the "708" area codes in this region. Effective January 20, 1996, "847" will be the area code needed to reach the Bahá'í National Center offices. Be sure to adjust your telephone records accordingly!

Meet Two of Your Faculty Members:

Habib Riazati
Habib Riazati will be serving as one of your faculty members responsible for teaching the subject of Islam, among other subjects. You will first notice his input with your home study work. Many of the readings you have been assigned were specifically chosen by him to begin to prepare you for further instruction this summer.

      Mr. Riazati is a computer scientist working at Hughes Aircraft Company in Los Angeles. He has been privileged to attend the Institute for Bahá'í Studies in Iran where he chose to work on linking the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb with Islamic sources and philosophical thoughts.

      Mr. Riazati has recently been added to our GLOBAL network and will be available to answer your questions via that medium. He will also be available to answer questions submitted by phone (708/733-3492) or mail directed to Phyllis Medrano, 536 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, IL 60091-1811.

Ramsey Zeine
The following message for you was received from Mr. Ramsey Zeine. Mr. Zeine will be providing you with wonderful materials to help you incorporate teaching the Faith into your daily lives. He will also be one of your primary instructors this July.

      "As you (the students) will soon find out, I am the only student in the workshop sessions and you are all my teachers, as well as the teachers of each other. This might sound at first as a bit of 'tarof',' but with time you will find out that it is true. As facilitator, I suggest to you paths which lead to action, and request that you share your experience. You are hopefully enriched by the experience you gain, and enrich everyone else by sharing it. My role is, by and large, to comment and encourage. In principle, there is no 'wrong' answer. They are all 'right' from their own perspective. The wonderful thing about this approach is that it is, with very few exceptions, a win-win situation on all sides."

     You will first notice Mr. Zeine's input with the December mailing. His material "Accelerating the Dynamics of Spreading the Divine Fragrances," is wonderfully inspiring and sure to be one of your favorite sections. He is looking forward to receiving your homework and questions. For those of you with GLOBAL access, he is on-line. Others may feel tree to forward their questions or comments via regular mail or phone to Phyllis Medrano.

Institute for Bahá'í Studies Conferences in 1996

The Institute for Bahá'í Studies was established by the National Spiritual Assembly to foster scholarly study of the Bahá'í Faith. It works closely with the Wilmette Institute. Students of the Wilmette Institute are encouraged to come to all of its conferences, if possible.

      January 26--28, 1996: The New World Order in Bahá'í Perspective. The conference's purpose is to look at the concept of a new world order--both the Bahá'í concept and those of other organizations--and to explore them in order to understand better humanity's future and the role of the Bahá'í community in it. The conference themes were detailed on page 12 of the October 16 American Bahá'í.

      March 29--31, 1996: Irfan Colloquium. This is a seminar that will examine criticisms of the Faith and ways to respond to them. Presentations on a range of' issues are expected. There may also be presentations continuing last year's theme, which was study of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The conference is cosponsored by the Institute for Bahá'í Studies and the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund.

      June 7--9, 1996: biennial History Conference. Presentations on all aspects of Bahá'í history, but especially history of the Bahá'í Faith in North America, are welcome. An international attendance is expected.

      All the conferences will start on a Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. and conclude Sunday at noon. They will be held at the Bahá'í National Center in Wilmette, Illinois, with hotel accommodation available at the North Shore Hilton (please call them directly at 708/679-7000) for a special conference rate of $65 per night (single and double occupancy) if you register two weeks in advance. The registration fee ($60 for the New World Order Conference, though the Wilmette Institute Students receive a 30% discount) includes all food for the weekend. A special meeting will be planned for Wilmette Institute students able to attend.

      Everyone is welcome to attend these conferences. If you would like to offer a presentation at any of them, send a 500-word abstract describing your proposal to the following address: Ms. Lynnea Yancy, Research Office, Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091; 708/733-3548 (phone): 708/733-3563 (FAX); (e-mail).

Your Comments

"Received my incredible package today, just in time to take it with me on the trip and do some reading on those long flights!!! Perfect. It is a beautiful package, hats off to you all!!" --Nancy
"I have found that with each additional piece I read, that I gain a more thorough understanding of the subject at hand. Each author uses their own words to paint the picture and this helps me to 'see' it better." --Katherine
"I am thoroughly enjoying the learning. I can't get enough!! I don't believe I have ever been so 'thirsty' in my life. So my answer to your question is that yes, there is a lot of reading and the questions require a lot of reflection, it is time consuming but personally, I am loving it." --Kate
"I am enjoying the course and loving the readings. I am not having any real problem with reading retention, but I feel that my writing skills are terribly rusty because I have been out of school for many years. I think the homework is taking me longer than it should. It is taking me extra time to express myself well." -Alice
"As pioneers we try by all means to organize study classes and deepenings but due to various reasons one is seldom able to either organize an intensive study program or due to unavailability to participate in one. Also the classes which at times are organized are understandably held on a level which is most beneficial for the local believers and therefore often cover time and again the same level. This leads to an intense thirst for a deeper and more intense knowledge and to be part of a program which can satisfy this need. Being part of such a program is also of more value than personal study, as one is stimulated to adhere to a schedule.

"As I arrived in Africa during the same week that I finished my studies I have never been able to participate in such a class, all my visits to Europe were in order to see my family and no time could be set aside for classes there. It is for the above reasons that I am so eager and grateful that I can participate." -Vera
"I am very happy to be a part of this new and historical program. I look forward to getting to know each of you throughout our time here and beyond. I received the first materials about two weeks ago and am happy with the content and organization. The quantity of material we will be covering is quite amazing." Ruhiyyih

Do You Have a Friend?

We are still enrolling students in the second semester of this year's program. We have divided the home study program into two halves; the second semester starts with the study of Islam at the end of January. We plan to admit a new group of students at that point. They will attend the summer program with the students who started in the fall of 1995 and will be able to complete the fall 1995 work in the fall of 1996.

      The Wilmette Institute appreciates your help in recruiting students. No doubt you have already mentioned the program to your friends. You may encourage them to consider very seriously the advantages of starting the program this year. It will enable them to study with other students locally, thereby creating support groups. And they will have the privilege of being among the Wilmette Institute's historic first cohort of students.

      If you have friends who might be interested in joining the program, urge them to give Phyllis Medrano a call at 708/733-3492. Or, give Phyllis a call yourself and request copies of our new brochure, so that you can give them out to friends and contacts. We have also provided a special ad you may share with your district newsletter editor, to spread the word of the availability of the Wilmette Institute program, Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization.

Study Tips

One of our wonderful students has offered the following study suggestions:

      "I take each unit, as I'm ready to study it, and its required readings out of the big binder and put it in a 1" binder. This allows it to be more 'portable' and also less daunting in appearance. In addition, I type all the questions into a computer document. That way I can add to my answers, as well as go back and review what I've written."

      This lovely student also made the comment that she thought the lessons might get easier as she progressed through t
     he Handbook! As you continue to hone your study skills, the completion of the work might get a little easier, but any hopes of the coursework being simpler is only wishful thinking. No pain, no gain!
If you have tips to share, please forward them to the newsletter c/o Phyllis Medrano.

We are counting on you to let us know now to best serve your needs. if you have any suggestions for making this newsletter more helpful and informative, please forward them to Phyllis Medrano at your earliest convenience. To assist you as you continue your studies, our aim is to provide you with a concise newsletter packed with useful information.

You Are Invited to Join the Wilmette Institute Study Program

The Wilmette Institute was established by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States in 1995 to offer academic and professional programs. The Institute meets its financial needs through grants and tuition fees and is not supported by the National Bahá'í Fund.

     Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization is a four-year, university level, study program offered by the Wilmette Institute. Its aims and objectives are to assist the friends to gain systematic, in-depth knowledge of the Bahá'í Faith and to develop the skills and know-how for propagation and promotion of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. The program consists of two components: 1) eleven months of self-study each year and 2) a one-month residential study session to be held at National-Louis University (located within walking distance of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette) each July. The program has been developed by professionally accomplished scholars of the Faith; the residential portion will feature focused sessions presented by this faculty. The Wilmette Institute recognizes the sacrifices the friends will have to make to attend the residential program. However, it feels that a month of interaction between the faculty and students is necessary to facilitate interaction among the students and teachers and to develop skills that are an essential element of the program.

      The Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program is organized in a modular way to allow for the continuous enrollment of students. Student may enroll in the program during either of two enrollment periods each year (September and February). Because the modules are designed as independent units of study, they may be taken in any order. Within the next few years, modules offered will include the study of the nature of religion, the basic principles of Bahá'í theology, the Bahá'í way of life, the structure and governance of the Bahá'í community, global civilization, Bahá'í history, Bahá'í scriptures, and programs designed specifically to assist the friends in the development of skills necessary for teaching the Faith effectively.

      You are never too far away to join the Wilmette Institute! Our first group of students live throughout the United States and abroad and began the home-study element of the first module in October. The first portion of a multi-volume Student Handbook contained approximately 1,000 pages of material, including program details, assignments, exercises, reading lists, bibliographies, maps, and other reference materials. In addition, students with e-mail capability have access to an electronic network entitled GLOBAL, which facilitates individual and group communication among faculty, students, and Wilmette Institute staff. Each month telephone conferences are conducted for assigned groups of students, to provide direct access to the faculty member(s) responsible for the material being studied and to fellow students.

      The Wilmette Institute is now accepting applications for students interested in entering a period of study that will begin in February. This group of students will have their eleven-month study period extend from February 1996 through January 1997, with the month of residential study being required in July 1996, along with the students already in progress.

      The Wilmette Institute is accepting applications from the friends who would like to be considered for faculty positions or be involved in the development of special programs. Applications for volunteer support staff will be entertained, as will any financial contributions, which will be used to set up a scholarship program for students in need.

      For more information, or to receive an informational packet, contact:
    Wilmette Institute
    536 Sheridan Road
    Wilmette, IL 60091-1811
    Registrar: 708/733-3492
    FAX: 708/733-3502

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