The Lamp, volume 1 Number 2

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 1, Number 2, April 1996


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Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization
Focuses on the Prerequisites for Teaching Effectively

"My chosen servants who have arisen to make mention of Me among My creatures and to exalt My Word throughout My realm . . . are stars of the heaven of My loving providence and the lamps of My guidance unto all mankind."      --The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Verse 117

The main goal of the Wilmette Institute study program, Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization, is to enable our participants to become effective teachers of the Bahá'í Faith. Propagation and teaching the Faith are spiritual obligations for every believer: "The Pen of the Most High hath decreed and imposed upon everyone the obligation to teach this Cause" (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 312). "The teaching work should under all conditions be actively pursued by the believers," 'Abdu'l-Bahá emphasizes, "because divine confirmations are dependent upon it. Should a Bahá'í retrain from being fully, vigorously and wholeheartedly involved in the teaching work, he will undoubtedly be deprived of the blessings of the Abhá Kingdom." We have to prepare ourselves for properly performing this task. There are a number of prerequisites mentioned in the Writings for teaching the Faith successfully.

      The three most essential prerequisites are (a) teaching one's own self, (b) mastering sufficient knowledge of the Bahá'í Faith, and (c) being sufficiently informed about the belief system prescribed by the person with whom the message of Bahá'u'lláh is shared. These are the main objectives of the lessons, exercises, and assignments of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program. How can we give the message of Bahá'u'lláh to others if we are not sufficiently knowledgeable about what we want to convey? How can we develop proper rapport with the receiver of the message and give the message in a way that he or she can understand and appreciate if we are ignorant of his or her mind-set and belief system? Therefore, teaching the Faith is a three dimensional effort.

      The Author of our Faith has clearly stated that "whoso ariseth among you to teach the Cause of His Lord let him, before all else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them that hear him. Unless he teaches his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker" (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 276). This transformation needs divine assistance and will naturally take place through teaching itself. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, referring to such a process, says, "When the tongue of the teacher is engaged in teaching, he will become a magnet attracting the divine aid and bounty of the Kingdom, and will be like unto the bird at the hour of dawn, which itself becometh exhilarated by its own singing, its warbling and its melody" (Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 267).

      We invite you to try to relate various assignments of the program to the main prerequisites of teaching and to make a self-assessment of the progress you make in respect to each one of them. We look forward to hearing about your teaching successes.


Compare Your Answers
Learning from Each Other

The following are just a few excerpts from the homework students in the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program hove been turning in. We hope our students will enjoy seeing how their answer compare to those of their fellow students, learning from others' insights and perceptions, and keeping their thought processes active.

Unit 1: Introduction to Religion

Definition of Religion: I think the point of the readings was to show that secular scholars do not really agree on a definition. Bellah's definition seems to be behavioral, i.e., he defines religion in terms of the things people do that demonstrate their relationship to the Ultimate; he also describes religion through the ages as a linear, stepwise progression of behaviors reflecting attitudes toward the godhead that change over the millennia. The author (Stockman?) of the article "An Introduction to Religion" and the items on Scripture arid Progressive Revetation has a similar take, although he adds beliefs to activities. Nigosian's approach is a little more intuitive: he sees human nature as having inherent spiritual needs and religion as being a manifestation of the creative mind's attempt to satisfy this spiritual appetite. If, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá says, religion is really the revelation of Divine will to man, it begs the question of what the theorists are studying. Perhaps in their effort to achieve objectivity on the subject of God, secular scholars have ignored the heart of religion--the revelation of God's will--and concentrated instead on how this has been expressed (or interpreted or convoluted) by man.

Nigosian offers various definitions of religion. How do the Bahá'í writings define the term? (See compilation in Handbook, Unit 1)

Religion, according to Nigosian is an invention or creation of the human mind for regulating all human activity. This creative activity is a human necessity that satisfies the spiritual desires and needs inherent in human nature. Certain individuals possess unique qualities of the imaginative mind hidden from ordinary people. The images are attributed to an internal source as insight--on Eastern idea---or to an external source as revelation--a Western idea-- translated as "Ultimate Reality" or "Absolute Truth."

      This imaginative experience is so great that the individual involved can transcend time, and space, and reason and create another order of existence or reality. As others are drawn to him and his ideas, his creation takes on form and an organized religion evolves with places to worship, lows, rituals, prayers, moral and ethical codes, scripture, basic tenets--all projected from his original image, and "faith--the unquestioning belief, trust, or confidence in someone or something--can be seen as the product of a privileged imagination." These religiously creative individuals "initiate radical and massive changes in civilization because their religious imagination appeals to large segments of society," so they help shape history.

      Because his theory of tile origins and development of religion demonstrates no clear concept of God, and because the founders of religions are merely highly imaginative humans in whom adherents trust--have faith, I don't see many ways in which the Bahá'í Faith can agree with Nigosian, except perhaps, to see a pattern in the growth of organized religion, where the trappings of ritual and rules evolve in the hands and minds of the clergy and believers over time.

Unit 8, section 1: Christianity: Jesus and the New Testament

Why is the assumption that some New Testament books were written pseudonymously important to understanding the New Testament and the origins of Christianity?

Scholars have concluded that none of the books in the New Testament were written by an individual who met Christ. Some of the books were not written until the second and third generation after Christ's death. This leads one to believe that some of the details in the New Testament may be inaccurate. Since none of the writers actually met Christ, the accuracy of the details of His life and teachings may not be fully correct, yet that is not to say that it is fully inaccurate either. From a Bahá'í perspective, we can only rely on the writings about Christianity that Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi have left us and what the Universal House of Justice has elucidated for us. Shoghi Effendi has assured us that Christianity is fully acknowledged by the Bahá'í Faith, "As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended . . ." (The Promised Day is Come, page 109). Also in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated January 23, 1944, it is stated, "as many of the passages in the Gospel of Saint John are quoted we may assume that it is his Gospel and much of it is accurate" (Unit 8, page 8.11). This statement attributes the accuracy of much of the text of John, yet it remains unclear whether John composed it himself or whether it was written by someone else and attributed to him. Biblical scholars have not yet reached a conclusion about this issue.
Another important point about the possibility of the inaccuracy of some of the details in the New Testament is that the early Christians were not very concerned about preserving traditions about Jesus. "Critical biblical scholarship has shown that a historical consciousness was not a factor in the first generation's motivations for preserving traditions about Jesus; indeed, it does not appear to have been a motivation of any importance at all! Much of the first generation apparently believed that Jesus would return soon, within their own lifetimes; since they thought the world was about to end, there was no need to preserve their memories of Him" (Unit 8, page 8.3).

      Therefore, the study of the early lives of the Christians is important before the study of Christ's life and teachings for much of the traditions of Christ that were passed on were based on the interests of the first generation of Christians.


Homework Issues
Why and how are we graded?

The purpose of reviewing homework reports is to help students to improve their methods of study and writing papers. Grading is an indication of the comparative standing of each individual when compared with other students and with the expectation of the instructor teaching the subject.

      For the assignments on religions, because of the large number of papers to be reviewed, more than one instructor was needed to read and grade: Robert Stockman and Dann May. Mr. May graded the homework on Hinduism and Buddhism and is in the process of grading the Chinese Religion homework. Therefore, some differences in the way papers on various religions are graded occur. An explanation of the grading criteria used by Mr. May has been included with your most recent mailing, Bahá'í Theology. We hope that you will convey any questions or concerns about the grading of your work to the staff of the Wilmette Institute for clarification.

When is it due? Typed or handwritten? Help!?

      Throughout this year, some of the students have been asking for clearer instructions about how and when to complete the homework assignments. There are no single and universally applicable answers to such questions. The faculty of this program would like to leave as much degree of flexibility and freedom as possible for the students to use their own experience and initiative. At the same time, the faculty members are willing to consider specific questions and problems and offer their advice in each case.

      The sum total of such exchanges between the students and faculty will gradually develop into a body of information which could be helpful in finding answers to how the homework assignments could be done.

      One purpose of having the residential session each year is for attending to such questions. During the residential session each one of the students will be able to consult with faculty members on the difficulties or questions encountered in performing their assignments. We intend to make this program as much as possible individualized and suited to the needs and conditions of each one of the students. Therefore, we strongly recommend that students attend the residential session, discuss their problems with faculty members and develop their own individual plan of study

Chairs for Bahá'í Studies Established in India

There are two Chairs for Bahá'í Studies in India. one at the University of Indore (established in 1991) and the other at Lucknow University (established in December 1995). The Bahá'í Chair at Indore University conducts MA. in Philosophy and Ph.D. programs in Bahá'í Studies. It is also conducting various courses on the Bahá'í Faith as part of other programs at the University. Both Chairs have the possibility of establishing their own autonomous institutes on the campus of these universities.

      New degree programs were designed by these Chairs in order to train specialists needed for community services, such as environmental management, small business management for rural women, social assistance for women in the work place, and mediation facilitator training for solving lesser conflicts. In all these programs Bahá'í teachings and solutions will be taught together with interdisciplinary courses from various university departments.

      At the request of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'í of India, the Wilmette Institute has initiated collaborative relations with the university Chairs of Bahá'í Studies in that country. Areas of cooperation would include receiving assistance in curriculum development and exchange of faculty, accommodating students wishing to do their research work in India, and developing academic relations with universities in North America.

Faizi Institute Holds First Residential Session

The Faizi Institute, offering advanced study pro grams for the benefit of the friends in the Middle East, has started a ftour-year program for advanced studies in the Bahá'í Faith. The first residential session of the Faizi Institute was held in February 1995. The Faizi Institute has close affiliation with Wilmette Institute, and its four-year study program is very similar to our Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program.

      Professor Firuz Kazemzadeh was invited as the senior lecturer on Governance and the Bahá'í Administrative Order. Dr. lraj Ayman, a member of the Wilmette Institute Executive Board, taught two courses, one on the aims and objectives of the Bahá'í Faith and the other on the principles of Bahá'í theology. The program received special blessings by cable from the Universal House of Justice on this occasion.

Residential Study to be held in Wilmette July 7 - August 3

The first residential session of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program will take place at National-Louis University in Wilmette, Illinois, July 7 through August 3, 1996. This integral part of the program provides firsthand contact between the faculty and students. Being so close to the Bahá'í House of Worship and National Bahá'í Offices are a special privilege for those attending the residential session. Skills development, individual guidance from faculty members, including counselling and consultation on an individualized plan of study, are elements only possible through attending the residential session. The sooner a student has exposure to such an experience, the sooner he/she will be able to obtain academic credits and/or completion of the program.

      Some of this year's faculty members and the topics they will cover during the residential session are:
Primal Religions
Communication Skills
Religion, Its Nature and Scope
History of the Báb and Bábí Community
Introduction to Philosophy
Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity
Islam and the Qur'án
Teaching Skills
Hinduism
Buddhism and Chinese Religion
Principles of Bahá'í Theology
The Life and Station of Bahá'u'lláh
Dr. Robert Stockman
Dr. Roya Ayman
Dr. Moojan Momen
Dr. Moojan Momen
Dr. Behrooz Sabet
Dr. Robert Stockman
Mr. Habib Riazati and Dr. Frank Lewis
Mr. Ramsey Zeine
Dr. Anne Pearson
Mr. Dann May
Dr. Julio Savi
Dr. David Ruhe


Your Comments...

Each Bahá'í is supposed to have an occupation. Mine is the Wilmette Institute. Thanks to you all, life is interesting again. I really enjoy the challenge of the questions. The work is hard,
I but it is also fulfilling.--Alice

I am thrilled to be accepted into the program and hope to prove worthwhile as a student. My writing and thinking skills are very minimal, but I have high hopes of becoming a scholar of the Bahá'í Writings--a word never considered in relation to myself before (scholar). Because of the importance of presenting the Faith to everyone in ways they can relate, I must accomplish this material by getting "self" out of the way in order to carry on with the work--trusting in the Concourse on High to come to the aid of this endeavor--Kathryn


Getting to Know the Faculty of Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization

Dr. Julio Savi is the translator into Italian of most of the major Bahá'í texts published in the last twenty years in Italy. Beginning with The Dawn-Breakers, he went on to translate Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and Tablet of the Holy Mariner, among numerous other tablets, books, and compilations. This work provided the backbone of the comprehensive and detailed knowledge of Bahá'í Writings that went into the writing of The Eternal Quest for God, which comprises a large amount of the required reading for your unit on Bahá'í Theology.

      Two early influences were important for Dr. Savi: his father's encouragement to study philosophy and his own love of the unspoiled wilderness of Ethiopia where he was born and grew up. He received a classical education and then studied medicine at the Universities of Bologna and Florence. He earns his living as a specialist in the public hospital in Bologna, the city where he lives with his wife and two sons.

      Much in demand as a lecturer on Bahá'í subjects, he has written about Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, and about the spiritual education of children. He is a regular contributor of articles to Opinioni Bahá'í, a quarterly magazine, and has served as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Italy for the last fourteen years.

Dr. Behrooz Sabet is a writer, speaker, educator and researcher. He has written on Bahá'í, educational, philosophical, and social themes and presented papers and co-authored the proceedings of several national and international conferences. He has taught both on the high school and college level. He has taught philosophy and education at Belmont Abbey College and Johnson C. Smith University and has incorporated philosophical themes and methodo1ogy and epistemology of science into the content of every education course he has taught at the Graduate Regional Centers of the University of South Carolina.

      In addition, he has been an adjunct faculty of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has been engaged in social, economic, and business development activities. He has also written texts for educational filmstrips and videos and interactive educational software.

      Dr. Sabet received his doctoral degree in education from State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives as a home front pioneer in South Carolina where he undertook, in 1988, the development and teaching of an inter- and multi-disciplinary course on the Bahá'í Faith; the result was a core curriculum for the academic study of the Bahá'í Faith with volumes of supporting research materials.


Some Commonly Asked Questions and Their Answers!

When is the summer residential session? July 7 through August 3

What do I do with my completed homework for Ramsey Zeine's materials about Teaching? Send it to the Wilmette Institute address. We will then forward it on to Ramsey in Beirut.

Is Ramsey Zeine's homework "required"? It is important to do these homeworks. They are part of the practical exercises in learning and mastering how to teach the Faith. Teaching the Faith is a spiritual obligation f or every believer, and these assignments help the student become aware of all the many opportunities we have to fulfill this obligation. We strongly recommend that each student spend time with these assignments, reading and meditating about the issues addressed. Then take the time to complete the written aspect of each assignment, recognizing the benefit that comes from putting into words the thoughts feelings, and actions that have been a result of the time spent. Those students who have tried to do this homework have been overjoyed by the results and have discovered their potential talents for teaching the Faith.

What should I do with the materials that do not fit in my original binder? We are encouraging everyone to devise a system for their materials that works for them. Currently, we have two systems here at the Wilmette Institute offices. The materials for the first module appear to just barely fit in a 3" D-ring binder. We also have added a 2" D-ring binder to the existing 3" D-ring binder. The first binder holds materials through Islam. The rest of the tabs are placed into the second binder. This binder will then hold C-10, Philosophy, and C-11, Theology, plus Ramsey Zeine's materials and the collections we have been putting under the numbered tabs in section D.


The Four Year Plan and the Wilmette Institute
an editorial comment by Dr. Robert Stockman

The faculty and staff of the Wilmette Institute were excited to read the December 26 and 31, 1995, messages of the Universal House of Justice about the next Four Year Plan. Both messages stressed the need to establish "formally conducted programs of training through institutes and other centers of learning" and noted such programs were an "urgent requirement" in the consolidation process, which itself was essential if the next Plan is to achieve its single, central goal of "a significant advance in the process of entry by troops" (December 31 message to the Bahá'ís of the world).

      The Wilmette Institute, obviously, is not the entire solution to the problem of teaching and consolidation, but it represents a significant effort. The Supreme Institution noted that "occasional courses of instruction . . . are not sufficient as a means of human resource development" (December 26 message to the Continental Boards of Counselors). The Wilmette Institute, we hope, will exemplify the call of the Universal House of Justice for "well-organized, formal programs consisting of courses that follow appropriately designed curricula" (December 26 message). The Supreme Body states that the curricula should endow believers with the "spiritual insights, the knowledge, and the skills needed to carry out the many tasks of accelerated expansion and consolidation, including the teaching and deepening of a large number of people" (December 26 message). This is exactly the goal and objective of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program.

      No doubt many formal programs will be developed to carry out the curriculum goals stated by the House of Justice. The Wilmette Institute's goal is to become and remain one of the premier institutions called for in the message of the Universal House of Justice and to offer the needed programs worldwide. Some of the Wilmette Institute's graduates will establish other programs and its materials will be adapted for other uses. As other articles in this newsletter show, the Wilmette Institute has already established collaborative relationships with the Faizi Institute and the Yerrinbool Bahá'í School.

      For the Wilmette Institute to remain at the cutting edge of Bahá'í educational programs it needs the ideas and suggestions of its students; volunteer assistance to bolster its stretched human resources; and financial contributions, so that it can establish endowment funds for scholarships, curriculum development, facilities development, library expansion, and other necessities. Your assistance in any of these areas is welcome.


Academic Credit
for Students of Spiritual Foundations
for a Global Civilization Program

The Wilmette Institute and National-Louis University have now made arrangements for the students of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program to receive full academic credit.

      If you want to apply for such credit, you will need to fill out a form when you arrive at National-Louis. The credit will be for the residential program only because National-Louis does not give credit to correspondence or other types of home-study courses. The University will charge about $750. For that money you will receive either 10 undergraduate quarter-hours of credit or 6 graduate semester-hours of credit; this is equivalent to two semester-long courses or three quarter-long courses. You will need to contact your own university about how to transfer the credit before coming to Wilmette (some schools do not accept transfer credit after the course is completed if they weren't asked first).

      It may be possible to obtain the credit for the course work directly from your own school without paying more money You should talk to your advisor or your Registrar's Office about the possibility, because each college has its own policies about transfer and life-experience credit. The Wilmette Institute can send you a copy of the syllabus and introductory document it gave to National-Louis, which explains the program and this year's course work. You could also encourage your registrar or another suitable official to contact Dr. Robert Stockman at 312-325-7000, x1271 if they have further questions. Often if universities or colleges are convinced the student's learning experience is of high quality, they will grant credit without charging extra.

      We are exploring ways of giving students credit for the home-study program, and will let you know once we have made the necessary arrangements.
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