The Lamp, volume 2 Number 2

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 2, Number 2, September 1997

Back to index for The Lamps

Sept. 18, 1997

The National Spiritual Assembly received the following message from the Universal House of Justice directed to the students of the Wilmette Institute:

The Universal House of Justice was encouraged to learn of the spirit that animated you as participants in the courses of the Wilmette Institute, as reported in your email letter dated 8 August 1997, and it assures you of its ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines that each of you may reap the bounties to be derived from accepting the challenges of your Lord.

Department of the Secretariat

Letter from the Student Council to the Universal House of Justice

Dearly Beloved Universal House of Justice

      Refreshed by the fragrant spiritual breezes from the shelter of the Mother Temple of the West, the students of the Wilmette Institute send loving and joyful greetings.

      In the second year of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program, we have been on a journey to the deepest recesses of our being in the hope of better understanding ourselves and our place in the family of humanity.

      Our vision and path are clearly dedicated to Bahá'u'lláh and His Word. Our hearts and minds burst with the ecstasy and hope inspired by the friends who gave so freely of their time and knowledge in the Cause of God.
The transformative breezes that have consecrated each of us have had an ethereal and divine effect. By studying the Sacred Texts and applying them to our lives, we have become part of a community spirit we never dreamed possible. Our hearts and minds have been touched by the hand of Bahá'u'lláh. He has sent to us the wisdom of the temporal world steeped in the infallible Word of the Holy Writings.

      We are deeply grateful to the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, and the Wilmette Institute, its board, faculty and staff for creating the atmosphere to bring to flower this astonishing occurrence.

      Even more than our goal, our mission, is to carry back to our Bahá'í communities the lessons of our experience. We dedicate ourselves to the task of delivering the warmth we feel in fomenting the development of the individual and the family.

      Central to our experience has been the budding recognition that the rose of love planted in our hearts, by the grace of God, has both fragrance and thorns. We have each begun to cultivate the bounty of knowing both. It is our fervent wish that the steed of the valley of love carry us as we advance in the process of entry by troops.

      In the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, "Nothing else will be useful, today. ...The interests of such a Glorious Cause will not advance without individual attention. While we are carrying this load we cannot carry any other load!"

      Through our experience at the Institute, a bridge has been built to unite the understanding of the mind and the love of the heart. This experience fulfills the goal of the Institute to raise a new generation of diverse, knowledgeable and articulate teachers and administrators for the Bahá'í Faith. The service which we now wish to render is a life sacrificed in devotion to God. The Dawn is here, and we humbly request your prayers as we accept the challenge given to us by by Bahá'u'lláh to "Rise then unto that for which thou wast created."

      With deepest love,
The students of the Wilmette Institute, 1997

Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly to the Welcoming Dinner of
the Spiritual Foundations Program
                                   July 19, 1997

Students of the Wilmette Institute
c/o Board of Directors of the Wilmette Institute

Dearest Friends,

We are delighted to welcome you to the second residential session of the Wilmette Institute's Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program and wish we could be with you tonight at the reception to greet each of you personally.

The National Spiritual Assembly eagerly anticipates the benefits your studies will provide in aiding you to become knowledgeable, articulate teachers and administrators of the Bahá'í Faith so vital to fulfilling the primary goal of the Four Year Plan, a significant advance in the process of entry by troops. Your enthusiasm and determination to excel in acquiring the "spiritual insights, the knowledge, and the skills needed to carry out the many tasks of accelerated expansion and consolidation" bring to mind the following statement from Shoghi Effendi:

From Their supernal realms and Their immortal heights, He the exalted Báb, and He Who is the Beauty of the All-Glorious, and the wondrous presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá, all These are gazing down upon Their faithful loved ones, beholding what they do under all conditions, their behaviour and conduct, and all their words and ways, waiting to cry `Well done!' when They see the Teachings carried out, and `Blessed art thou!' to whoso may excel in doing the bidding of his Lord.

We assure each of you that during the meeting of the National Spiritual Assembly this weekend you will be remembered in the holiest House of Worship ever to be reared by the followers of Bahá'u'lláh.
                                                  With loving Bahá'í greetings,
                                                  Robert C. Henderson

Maturity, Commitment Animate Spiritual Foundations 1997 Residential Session

The second residential session of the Wilmette Institute's Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program came to an end on August 8. The twenty-seven students attending the three-week 1997 session surpassed in maturity, seriousness, and commitment the participants in the remarkable inaugural session in 1996. They took an intensive series of classes on the nature and station of the individual, the development of spiritual values and moral behavior, and marriage and family life from the perspective of the Bahá'í Faith; the relationship between the individual and Bahá'í institutions, the laws and ordinances of the Faith, and the Covenant; the life and revelation of Bahá'u'lláh from 1863 to 1892; the life, writings, and station of `Abdu'l-Bahá; and Bahá'í community history from 1863 to 1921. The program also included developing skills in writing and in teaching the Faith.

The Spiritual Foundations program secured the services of fifteen faculty to teach the subjects: Dr. Iraj Ayman, Lily Ayman, Dr. Roya Ayman, Dr. Saba Ayman-Nolley, Shahab Fatheazam, Dr. Robert Henderson, Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh, Dr. Heshmat Moayyad, Dr. Peter Oldziey, Dr. Phyllis Perrakis, Mary K. Radpour, Habib Riazati, Dr. David Ruhe, Margaret Ruhe, and Dr. Robert Stockman. As one student noted, "the lectures have increased the commitment, dedication, and understanding of those attending this training. Deep insights were gained by everyone that I talked to."

In addition to classes, the students did volunteer service at the Bahá'í National Center, the House of Worship, the Bahá'í Home, and Bahá'í Publications. They went on field trips to places visited by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Chicago and, following a plan to provide first hand experience of the places of worship of other religions, visited a nearby Sikh gurudwara.

The students prayed daily at dawn at the House of Worship and ended every evening with prayers in the dorm. They elected their own seven-member student council, held a fireside, conducted a memorial service for a departed student, hosted a breakfast for the National Spiritual Assembly and its staff, assembled a yearbook of the program, held three unity feasts, and audiorecorded the classes for their own use.

The students' response to this well-rounded program included many resolves. Students have committed themselves to giving monthly firesides and deepenings based on the materials they are studying; to keeping alive the spirit of their extraordinary community through telephone, letter, and email correspondence and through working in support teams throughout the United States and Canada; to helping each other in the ten-month home-study portion of the program; and to being ambassadors for the Spiritual Foundations program by giving a number of talks about the program.

Words are inadequate to express how well the residential session went this year. One faculty member said she feels the Wilmette Institute's program is the most effective, most efficient response she has seen to the call of the Universal House of Justice for institutes. Another, who said his understanding of what the program is about blossomed during his week in Wilmette, said that the program must not fail and that he intends to do everything he can to make it viable, including sending a contingent of students from his state. One returning student said she almost did not come back because last year was so good that this year was bound to be a disappointment; but the first week of this session, she said, surpassed all of last year's session.

The students have now returned home to give firesides and deepenings and continue their study. Their work will culminate in March with a final examination.

The 1998-99 residential and home-study program will focus on the Bahá'í community and administration and issues of the creation and governance of human communities in general. The 1999-2000 program will focus on the creation of global civilization. In the summer of 2000 the four-year sequence will begin again with world religions in Bahá'í perspective and Bahá'í theology (that is, its concepts of God, revelation, humanity, creation, afterlife, and Covenant). Each year also includes study of Bahá'í history and scripture, workshops on teaching the Faith, and seminars focused on developing various skills necessary to become better teachers and administrators of the Bahá'í Faith.

Students are welcome to enter the program each year; for more information contact the Wilmette Institute, 536 Sheridan Rd., Wilmette, IL 60091; 847-733-3415 (telephone); 847-733-3563 (FAX); (e-mail).

Plans for 1998-99 Spiritual Foundations Academic Year

The Wilmette Institute Board has announced the schedule for the 1998-99 academic year of its Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program:
Preparatory Home Study: May 1-July 15, 1998
Arrival in Wilmette: Sat. morning, July 18
Orientation, Welcoming Dinner: Sat., July 18
Evaluations, Farewell Dinner: Sat., Aug. 8
Departures: Sun., Aug. 9

A day has been added to provide time for evaluations and discussion of the subsequent home study program.

About half of next year's course will consist of an exploration of how human communities are formed and how they govern themselves, both historically and according to current political theory. In particular, the Bahá'í administrative order and the Bahá'í community will be examined in the context of history and theory, their salient features will be identified, and they will be studied as both a theory and practice of community building.

Among the topics to be covered are: Political Theory; the Model of the Bahá'í Administrative Order; Institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order; the Sociology of Communities and Organizations; the Bahá'í Community; the Bahá'í Faith and Global Governance; and the Bahá'í Vision of World Order. Bahá'í and academic perspectives on human communities and their governance in general and on the foundational principle of consultation as it relates to Bahá'í governance and Bahá'í community building, will be explored through lectures, text-based consultation, individual and group work, personal reflection and meditation, the arts, service, and community building among the students. Immersion in the Bahá'í writings relevant to community will be a key emphasis of the course. It will require the rigor and scholarly attention of university study. Readings from both Bahá'í and academic books (several of which will be available for purchase) will be required. There will be a reserve room of readings available during the residential session. The module may be taken for a grade (A, B, C, D, F) or pass/fail.

The scripture and history modules will examine the life of Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957) and his writings, and the history of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 to 1963. A major purpose of the modules will be to show how the Guardian, chief architect of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, erected the framework necessary for a flourishing and expanding worldwide Bahá'í community.

The skills building module for 1998-99 will focus on techniques, such as consultation and the facilitation of the consultative process, that aid the individual in contributing successfully to the development of the Bahá'í community and its system of governance. A series of classes on teaching the Faith will highlight the importance of teaching to community building and assembly functioning. All the modules will be designed to reinforce the overall theme of 1998-99: Bahá'í community and governance.

The Wilmette Institute is already accepting applications for 1998-99.

Fifteenth `Irfán Colloquium: A Study in Prophecy, Comparative Religion

The Fifteenth `Irfán Colloquium was held at the Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, Illinois, August 9-10, 1997. Sponsored by the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund, it focused on the theme of "World Religions and the Bahá'í Faith."

The colloquium was opened Saturday morning by Dr. David Ruhe, former member of the Universal House of Justice, who spoke about the prophetic nature of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Dr. Susan Maneck then offered a presentation on "A Comparison of Mass Movements in Hindu Villages: Bahá'í and Christian." She explored the differences between conversion to Christianity and to the Bahá'í Faith among rural Hindus, finding that the Bahá'í Faith was more successful in attracting people from all castes.

Saturday afternoon Nabil Fares spoke about "Ascertaining the Validity of Islamic Hadíth: A Personal Perspective." The Bahá'í Faith utilizes and, therefore, validates a large number of hadíth, or traditions of words and acts, of the Prophet Muhammad. Joan Sheppard then spoke about "Salvation: Staticity into Motion," offering tentative conclusions about the development of the notion of salvation in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá'í Faith. The afternoon concluded with a presentation by Muin Afnani on "Religion and Science in Harmony: A New Reality," an exploration of the relationship between science and religion in history, in the world religions, and in Bahá'í theology.

Saturday evening Mozhan Khadem gave a presentation titled "The Hidden Treasure." Utilizing audio and visual aides, he explored Bahá'í 'irfán or mystical knowledge, especially in such subjects as the Most Holy Outpouring, Wonderment, Life in God, and the various worlds of God (such as the World of Cause and the World of Creation).

Sunday morning two presentations were given. Dann May spoke about "The Blind Men and the Elephant: Perspectives in Buddhist and Bahá'í Metaphysics," which offered alternate Bahá'í interpretations of such key Buddhist concepts as nirvana (enlightenment), sunyata (emptiness), anatta (no soul), rebirth, and karma. Finally, Paul Dodenhoff delivered a talk on "Buddy, Can You Spare A Paradigm? The Bahá'í Faith and the New Age Movement," an examination of the history of the New Age Movement and ways Bahá'ís can relate to it.

Papers from the colloquium will eventually be published in the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Series, the first volume of which is scheduled to be published by George Ronald in October. Meanwhile, a book of the abstracts is available for $3 from the Research Office, Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091. The 1998 `Irfán Colloquium will also focus on "World Religions and the Bahá'í Faith."

Comments by a College Professor

"I just had a wonderful weekend at the Irfan Colloquium and spent a couple of extra days at the Wilmette Institute. If you ever get the chance to attend the Wilmette Institute, do so. I found it was very well done with presentations at a high academic standard. The two days I was there were devoted to Bahá'u'lláh's Writings during the Baghdad period. You should have been there! Moojan Khadem, son of [the] Hand of the Cause Mr. Khadem gave a marvelous talk on Bahá'u'lláh's `irfán [mystical and theological teachings]. Apparently Mr. Khadem was a student of Annemarie Schimmel [a world-famous professor of Sufism] for four years, and he really knows his stuff."

The Ode to Baker Hall
    [Baker Hall is the dormitory at National Louis University in Wilmette where the Spiritual Foundations students stayed during the residential sessions in both 1996 and 1997.]

    B is for Bob, the man who makes it hum.
    A is for the atmosphere which is really glum.
    K is for the K...K...K...cold showers.
    E is for egad for those awful artificial flowers.
    R is for the reek that is so stinky.
    H is for the home that can be so dinky.
    Ants, flies and dust are there to behold.
    Look not far, look not near, boy that water's really cold!
    Love is a many splendored thing--Baker Hall is not!

    O Baker Hall, O Baker Hall
    We weep, we cry, we sob,
    Even to live there you've really got to be a slob!

    God Bless, God Bless!
    O what a mess!
                --Marc Greenberg

Course Centers on Bahá'u'lláh's Baghdad Period

A one-week course on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh during the Baghdad period (1853-63) was held in Wilmette on August 10-15. Cosponsored by the Wilmette Institute and the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund, the course is the first in a series on the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and the second educational program to be offered by the Wilmette Institute.

Classes were given by a faculty that included Muin Afnani, Dr. Iraj Ayman, Dr. John Hatcher, Mozhan Khadem, and Dann May. An audio recording of a presentation by Mr. Glenford Mitchell entitled "Remembering Shoghi Effendi As Interpreter: The Literature of Interpretation" was played at the end of the program. The students have pledged themselves to a year of home study to enable them to teach others about the tablets Bahá'u'lláh revealed during the Baghdad period.

In 1998 a similar course will focus on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh during the Constantinople and Adrianople periods (1863-68), when most of the tablets to the kings were revealed.

Scholarship in Honor of Henry J. Wurmfeld

On Friday, August 28, 1997, Mr. Henry Wurmfeld, father of Yael Wurmfeld, passed away. Mr. Wurmfeld was in his 80s. To honor him and his daughter, who is a Wilmette Institute student and who served the program with exemplary devotion and self-sacrifice this summer, the Wilmette Institute Board has decided to award a scholarship in his name in the 1998-99 academic year. The Board prays for the progress of Mr. Wurmfeld's soul and the comfort of the loved ones he left behind.

Spiritual Foundations Home Study

In early September the 1997-98 class of the Spiritual Foundations program was sent the home-study unit on `Abdu'l-Bahá's writings and talks. It is a two-month program that involves studying ten books, completing a study outline on each, and writing several brief essays about topics that relate to the theme of this year (the development of the individual and the creation of strong Bahá'í marriages and families). The assignment is due on November 15 and will be followed by an assignment on individual development.

Spiritual Foundations Groups

The 1997-98 Spiritual Foundations students have now been divided into five study groups. Three formed themselves, and members have been assigned to the other two. They are as follows:

Group #1: Aurore Ragston, Amy McGehee, Joy Amos, Perla Talebi, Alice Ferro, Nancy Turner.

Group #2: Patricia Haynie, Sarah Hope Bansemer, Carlie Barbour, Aaron Cederquist, Katayoun Sadri

Group #3: Marc Greenberg, Becky Rouhi, Cyndi Diessner, Yael Wurmfeld, Vicki Kwashka, Neda Etemad

Group #4: Ruhiyyih Brown, Sandra Miles, Amy Sobhani, Carol Bardin, Warren Wittekind

Group #5: Charlotte Gallagher, Shar Gardella, Maya Hetman, Keith Hetman, Amanda Respess, Roberta Bruns

If students have questions about their group, please call Rob Stockman at 847-733-3415.

1997-98 Student Council Elected

On Friday, July 25, the Spiritual Foundations students attending the residential session gathered to deepen, pray, and elect the members of their Student Council for 1997-98. The seven elected were:

Dr. Carlie Barbour (Recording Secretary)
Dr. Charlotte Gallagher
Mr. Mark Greenberg
Mrs. Patricia Haynie (Chair)
Ms. Amy McGehee
Ms. Aurore Ragston (Treasurer)
Ms. Amanda Respess (Corresponding Secretary)

Spiritual Foundations students may write to the council in care of its secretary, Amanda Respess, at the Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091.

From E-mail Messages Posted on Global

Fellow Students,

Arrived home on Saturday and started to work on Sunday, didn't realize what I had with you until I started to work.

Had a women who was upset because she felt I had served someone ahead of her. The fact that she had stepped out of line was irrelevant. I apologized profusely, but to no avail. I realized that she was determined to be upset and nothing and no one was going to change her. It was the early part of the morning and already she had decided the tone of her day. Carole King sings "Mirrored in their faces I see frustration growing and they don't see it showing why should I?" People were like this all day in one way or another. It made me so grateful for the love, caring, generosity, sacrifice, sensitivity and kindnesses that were the hallmark of the four weeks spent in Wilmette. I can't forget you and appreciate the many lessons of love you demonstrated and taught me.

Aurore Denise [Ragston] [August 20, 1997]
There is a type of culture shock that one experiences after attending such a precious setting as is found at the Wilmette Institute residential. I, too, found that same type of setting and the same type of (after) culture shock after attending 2 weeks of residential with the TGSA students in Minneapolis this summer. It was awesome to be in another place where it felt like a Baha'i gathering. When I returned to my earthly life in Yuma, I felt much like people who have described their near-death experiences and rather minded being resuscitated back to life as they found it harder to cope with life now that they had experienced something so spiritual.

By the way--I really missed, painfully missed, not being able to attend the residential in Chicago this summer. I felt you all and prayed for you during that time (especially the first week) that you were in attendance.

All my love, kate oduyale
hello everyone (faculty & students):

hope that everyone is doing ok and getting back to the routines. it was such a pleasure to get to know almost everyone of you. since past week, i have been thinking about my experience that i had in WI., and frankly, i liked every minute of it. however, i am glad that i am back because work is much more relaxing comparing to our schedule there, and hot showers (Mark are you there???!!). well, i am sure that i need start studying for the classes soon. how appropriate?!!! when and to whom should we send our homeworks specially the one for Mr. Riazati? if anyone knows, please let me know. it would be nice actually if i knew what the homeworks are to start with.

I came back and I realized that there are lots of things going on in our community and so wonderful that i can be of more service.
please let me know how everyone is doing if you get this post.
hope you'll have a great weekend.

miss everyone of you TRULY.
Katayoun [Sadri]

Progress on the Yearbook

Since the residential session ended, substantial progress has been made on the Yearbook. Cindy Diessner drove to Wilmette over Labor Day weekend, learned PageMaker (with Dr. Derakhshani's help), and set up a master grid for the pages of the Wilmette Institute Board, the faculty, and the students. Then she did rough layouts for the pages, including text. Rhonda C. Wittorf, the office assistant for the Bahá'í Encyclopedia project, has optically scanned dozens of photographs. Now Rhonda is cleaning up the pages and fixing the photographs with Pagemaker technology. Text is missing for much of the rest of the book, though the sections have been mapped out. Cindy plans to call some students and ask for write-ups of certain events and classes. The Yearbook promises to be a treasure trove of memories for the students, faculty, and staff who participated in it and a unique introduction to the program for those who did not attend. Its cost will be $5.00, thanks to a donation to support the publication.

From Anonymous 1997 Residential Student Evaluations:

To raise up a new generation of deepened and articulate teachers of the Faith committed to teaching and service. I am awed at how every instructor provided a vital and dynamic piece necessary to achieve this purpose! Everyday we were stunned at how much knowledge and wisdom and new ideas and perspectives were offered to and opened up to us and how each piece fit so perfectly on the one laid down before. Michael [Penn] and Saba [Ayman-Nolley] provided the basis of the structure--opening up our understanding of ourselves and God. Phyllis [Perrakis] worked on the practical aspects of developing our skills to be more articulate in presenting our thoughts yet also adapted her classes to incorporate what we were learning in our other classes. Habib [Riazati] guided us to investigating and digging deep into the Holy writings to learn to go to a multitude of writings to gain deeper understanding. Dr. [Heshmat] Moayyad brought `Abdu'l-Bahá to life in words as well as brought `Abdu'l-Bahá to life right in front of us as I know `Abdu'l-Bahá was shining through him for he manifested all love, humility, and devotion. Peter [Oldziey] opened a whole new door in teaching and demonstrating love and friendship. Until his classes, I was so worried about how to go about teaching for fear I wouldn't know what to say. But he taught trust in intuition and the senses (as Michael had begun to open up awareness of the senses and Michael and Saba's instruction recognizing the wholeness of the individual in mind, body, soul, senses with God). Realizing that firesides need to focus on forming a bond of friendship and love--I became aware that I'll have no problem for I can easily start with that and build upon my knowledge and skills and ability to present the teachings coherently. Rob [Stockman] opened another new perspective of the history of the Faith and stimulated my interest and desire to better understand the history of the Faith as well as the environment and communities, etc. at the time. Mary Kay [Radpour] helped me to become more alert to, aware of and more able to understand myself and relationships and possibilities of better relationships. Dr. [Iraj] Ayman provided so much vital information needed to better understand the laws and teachings and why it is so vital to follow them. It is very difficult to express all I've gained from each person. May it suffice to say that I gained a world from each one. Everyone provided love and teachings that I will carry with me forever and strive to pass on and share with others and will be incorporating into my new life ahead.
The cohesion of the students was a most meaningful part of this experience. Experience, enthusiasm and dedication of instructors in their areas of knowledge was very good.
I realized that the purpose is to train people for a different level of teacher and was surprised at the encouragement to start now! But this is wise!
My sense of what the Bahá'í Faith [is] has truly expanded to a more 3 dimensional view.
I'm very pleased. I came here to get a deeper grounding in the Faith so I could better serve a growing young community and feel like I have a lot of good knowledge to go home with.
Oh my heart! I knew I needed to come to this to the point it was vital to my life. To my ability to truly live and teach the Faith. But I had no inkling as to the wonder-full blessings I would reap here! Some of the blessings: new spirit, new insight, purer perceptions, new knowledge, new wisdom, new skills which can be refined and developed, a new heart! In every way . . . intellectually, spiritually, and on and on . . . beyond perfect! I now know that through God, through abiding by the laws, I will have the confidence and ability to live and teach the Faith . . . (of course with never ending seeking and learning!)
Coming back this year, one could be concerned that, based upon last year's program, the bar was quite high. The program in 1997 far exceeded all my expectations. Needless to say next will require additional effort. However, if the chemistry of the students and faculty work then the program cannot help but be a success.
I greatly value and admire your [the Wilmette Institute Board's] love, patience, dedication, sacrifice, respect, and value of each individual, your time, your hard work, your flexibility, your ability to foster self-esteem, well-being, development of knowledge, strengths, skills . . . Thank you! Allah'u'Abhá!

Habib Riazati Discusses Unquenchable Thirst for God

Question: I'm wondering if I may ask a question about a prayer in Selections From the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 150. The third line from the top, toward the end of the prayer, reads: "All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love--bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!"

Do you know the circumstance, the source of this prayer, where it was revealed, and is there a meaning attached to "my love" not being capitalized?

I would greatly appreciate your understanding of it, if you find the time to respond.

Answer: Thank you for your loving message. Concerning your question about the passage that appears in Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the prayer to which you are referring is part of the celebrated tablet called the "Tablet of Purity" by the beloved Master. If you pay very close attention to the tablet you will see how the passage you have quoted begins:

For it is even as Thou hast said `All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love--bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!' [italics added] (p. 150)

Here Thou is referring to His holiness Bahá'u'lláh. For example, in a poem known as Sáqí-az-Ghayb-i-Baqá, which is an ode He revealed in Kurdistan, one will find the same passage: "all that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love--bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!" (second line). This poem is in Persian and you can see it in Má'idiy-i-Ásmání, vol. 4, pages 209-211.

This is a poem about detachment and sacrifice. In the tablet Bahá'u'lláh affirms that the true lovers who yearn after the beloved are those who are detached from all earthly things and are ready to give up everything in His path even if that be their lives. One line of the poem states that the true lover always wants to drink more of the Spiritual Wine and his thirst never will be eased by just a full cup. That is to say: the more we walk in the valley of Love of God, the more we feel in need of that unlimited Love.

Bahá'u'lláh in a tablet refers to this line of the poem and then explains that the true lovers are like fishes and the Beloved is like the water: fish never want to give up the water, rather they always wish for a fresher flow of it. The true lovers also never feel fully content with what they receive from their Beloved and always wish for more. He moreover adds that if the lover spend a thousand years with his heart's Beloved it will be as if he had been with Him for an hour. You can see this tablet in "Hadíqih Irfán," pages 82-85, published in Andalib.

The beloved Master, in a tablet, uses this poem in order to describe the true meaning of firmness in the Covenant. In this tablet He says that the true lover is always mindful of the Covenant and constantly yearns to obtain a much deeper understanding of it in comparison to what he may already know.

In short, although the passage you quoted has been used in various contexts, nevertheless it always conveys the same message, that is, be not occupied with the transitory things of this life, and yearn for more insight and understanding from the One who is the "Desire of the World." In the Tablet of Purity, which you quoted from, the Master uses this poem to express the various degrees of holiness and the importance of higher detachments from the desires of the flesh.

As to your question: "is there a meaning attached to "my love" not being capitalized?" Here "my love" refers to the love that every true lover manifests and therefore there is no need for it to be capitalized. That is to say, all of those who have the love of Bahá'u'lláh in their hearts are always wishing for more of His love and blessings.

Please forgive me for the lengthy reply.

[Note: the original e-mail appeared on Global. It has been edited for use in The Lamp.]
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