The Lamp, volume 3 Number 2

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 3, Number 2, March 1998

Back to index for The Lamps

The Lamp is the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute. The Institute was 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. The Wilmette Institute offers courses about the Bahá'í Faith that are at a university level of rigor and are often available for university credit. It is also interested in fostering Bahá'í scholarship; developing new, innovative curricular materials; creating courses on teaching the Faith that are of high quality; and refining Bahá'í concepts of pedagogy. It aims to produce teachers of the Bahá'í Faith of great capacity, capable of demonstrating the Bahá'í truths in their lives as well as by their speech, and able to teach these truths to others.

For more information about the Bahá'í Faith, the Wilmette Institute, courses offered by the Wilmette Institute, or registration for courses at the Wilmette Institute, please contact:
    Wilmette Institute
    536 Sheridan Road
    Wilmette, IL 60091-2849

    Phone: 847-733-3415
    Fax: 847-733-3563

The Lamp is produced bimonthy by the Wilmette Institute.
Executive Editor: Robert Stockman
Managing Editor: Heather Gorman

Subscription inquiries should be directed to the above address. All material is copyrighted by the Wilmette Institute and subject to all applicable international copyright laws. Articles from this newsletter may be copied or republished by any organization provided that they are attributed as follows: "Reprinted from The Lamp, the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute."

(c) 1998 by the Wilmette Institute


          THE REVELATION OF BAHA'U'LLAH, 1868-92      3
          `IRFAN COLLOQUIA                            4
          AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION                4
          A POEM BY JOYCE MCCLEARY                    5
          A FORUM ON LEARNING                         6
          COMMENTS BY ROBERTA BRUNS                   7

Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization Program
The 1998-99 Session Is Just Around the Corner!

The 1998-99 session of Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization begins May 4, just weeks away! Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civlization is a four-year program designed to raise up teachers and administrators for the Faith by imparting knowledge, developing skills (especially teaching skills), and fostering Bahá'í identity.

Eight modules are covered over four years, which may be taken in any order. The summer of 1996 saw a focus on Module A--world religions, philosophy, and Bahá'í theology--and the summer of 1997 covered Module B--the development of the individual and the creation of strong Bahá'í marriages and families. The summer of 1998 will emphasize Module C, the nature of human communities and their governance. The summer of 1999 will concentrate on Module D, social and international issues. Every year includes the study of the remaining four modules (E-H) which are, respectively, Bahá'í history, Bahá'í writings, skills workshops, and teaching the Bahá'í Faith.

The Spiritual Foundations' 1998-99 session begins with ten weeks of preparatory home study, ending on July 11. The summer session's three weeks of intensive classes run from July 18 through August 8 and are followed by integrative home study from September 1, 1998, through April 1, 1999. In this year's summer session, community and governance will be examined from the point of view of both the modern academic fields such as political theory, law, and sociology, and from the perspective of the Bahá'í writings. A series of distinguished Bahá'í faculty will explore the subjects through lectures, discussion, and workshops. To date, the following faculty have been confirmed:

Dr. John Hatcher will teach about "The Divine Nature of the Bahá'í Institutions." His recent book, Arc of Ascent (Oxford: George Ronald, 1994), will be the source of many of his presentations. He holds a B. A. and M.A. in English Literature from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Old and Middle English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Georgia. He is professor of English Literature at the University of South Florida. He is the author of numerous books about Bahá'í theology and scripture, as well as Bahá'í poetry.

Mr. Arash Abizadeh will cover "Political Theory," the study of how communities are governed. He will particularly look at types of governmental systems, institutional theory, and theories about election systems. He is a doctoral candidate in political theory at Harvard University.

Dr. Iraj Ayman will be covering the nature, purpose, and functioning of Bahá'í institutions. He received his D.Ed. from Edinburgh University (Scotland) and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Southern California in 1958. He completed his post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. He is professor emeritus of the University of Teacher Education in Iran and has been a visiting professor of education and management at U.C.L.A. and at the University of the Philippines.
Dr. Phyllis Bernard will teach several classes on Bahá'í institutions from a legal perspective and will discuss the nature and functions of several Bahá'í institutions. Dr. Bernard has been the director of a mediation program in central Oklahoma since January 1996 and is a professor of law at Oklahoma City University School of Law, where she teaches alternative dispute resolution, administrative law, state and local government law, legal ethics, health law, and teaches in the Native American Legal Assistance Clinic. Dr. Bernard chairs Landegg Academy's M.A. program in conflict resolution.

Dr. Robert Henderson, Secretary-General of the National Spiritual Assembly, will give two presentations. He will cover the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly.

Dr. Michael McMullen will teach a section on "Sociology of Communities and Organizations." He is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in Houston, Texas. He received his doctorate from Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) in 1995, and his bachelor's degree in sociology and mathematics from the University of Kansas in 1989. His revised dissertation, The Atlanta Bahá'í Community: On the Religious Construction of a Global Identity, is forthcoming from Rutgers University Press. His areas of interest include the sociology of religion, organizational development and change, conflict resolution, and mediation.

Module E (Bahá'í history) will look at the life and writings of Shoghi Effendi and Bahá'í history during his ministry (1921-57). This period was the time when Bahá'í concepts of community and governance underwent their greatest development, as a result of Shoghi Effendi's construction of the Administrative Order. Dr. Heshmat Moayyad will cover the life and work of Shoghi Effendi. Dr. Moayyad received his doctorate in Persian literature from the University of Frankfurt. He has taught Persian literature at the University of Chicago since 1966. He is the author, translator, or editor of several works on modern Persian literature in English.

Dr. Robert H. Stockman will cover Bahá'í world history, 1921-57. He received his doctorate in the history of religion in the United States from Harvard University in 1990. He is an instructor at DePaul University, where he has taught world religions for the last seven years.

Module F (the Bahá'í writings) will focus on texts relating to community and governance, such as the Tablet of Carmel, the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and the World Order letters. Instruction on these works will be the primary responsiblity of Mr. Dann May. He received his Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of North Texas in 1993 and is an Adjunct Professor at Oklahoma City University where he teaches courses in philosophy and religious studies. He has also taught religion and philosophy at Landegg Academy and at the Faizi Bahá'í Institute. Dann will also give some talks about Bahá'í institutions.

In 1998, Module G will work on the development of skills useful in Bahá'í governance and community. Dr. Roya Ayman will give a workshop on "managing meetings," including such skills as facilitation, use of agenda, and problem solving. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Utah and is Associate Professor and Director of the Industrial and Organizational Psychology program at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Mr. David Rouleau will teach practical skills for service on a local spiritual assembly. Mr. Rouleau has worked at the Bahá'í National Center for almost twenty years, and has focused on improving the functioning of spiritual assemblies. In addition to being one of the true experts on assembly development, Mr. Rouleau has a wealth of practical experience with Bahá'í communities.

Finally, Dr. Keyvan Nazerian will give the workshop for Module H, teaching the Faith. He has served on the National Teaching Committee, and teaching is a passion for him.

Our excitement at the Wilmette Institute about the upcoming year of the Spiritual Foundations program has been matched by the National Spiritual Assembly, which has requested that Regional Teaching Institutes deputize a Bahá'í to participate in the Spiritual Foundations program. We hope that the Regional Institutes and individual Bahá'ís will be inspired by this call and join the Wilmette Institute in raising up knowledgeable, articulate teachers of the Faith.

It is not to late to apply! If interested, please contact the registrar, Heather Gorman, by phone at (847) 733-3415, fax at (847) 733-3563, e-mail at, or mail at 536 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, IL 60091.

Correspondence Courses at the Wilmette Institute

Registration is open for the correspondence course on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1868-92 (`Akká period), and for the correspondence course on the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.

The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh course begins July 3, 1998, and ends December 27. In its 25 weeks, it will cover some of Bahá'u'lláh's tablets to the kings and rulers; the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; tablets revealed after the Aqdas such as the Bishárát, Tarázát, Tajallíyát, Ishráqát, and Hikmat; the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf; and many others. Students will complete a learning project every week or two and will be able to view their peers' completed homework assignments via a website. They will also participate in a listserver and conference calls. Tuition is $200 for one student and $160 per student for study groups of three or more. Larger discounts are available for groups of seven or more. Students are not required to have taken or completed the course on Bahá'u'lláh's earlier writings (1853-68). That course will be repeated January 2 through June 27, 1999.

A course on the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is scheduled to start September 5, 1998, and end December 27. Its 16 weeks will provide an opportunity to study Bahá'u'lláh's Most Holy Book in far more detail than in the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh course, which devotes only three weeks to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Students will have a series of learning projects to choose among. Extensive course materials have been developed that students may use in firesides and deepenings for years. Tuition for the course is $125 for one student and $100 per person for study groups of three or more. Again, larger discounts are available for groups of seven or more. The course will also include a website, listserver, and conference calls.

While all Wilmette Institute courses have a recommended study schedule, students may complete each course at their own pace. Students are recommended to obtain e-mail for the courses because electronic communication, being almost instantaneous, allows the creation of a learning community and helps to break down the sense of isolation students often feel when they take correspondence courses.

The Wilmette Institute is considering additional courses as resources allow. It is especially looking at courses on world religions and on Bahá'í history. Ideas about possible new courses are welcome.

Opportunities for Bahá'í Scholarship

The Wilmette Institute helps to support various scholarly conferences. Wilmette Institute students are urged to consider whether they can attend any of them, for such conferences can provide new perspectives on the Faith.


The Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund has scheduled two English language conferences for 1998. They will be the nineteenth and twentieth "`Irfán Colloquia" (`irfán being an Arabic and Persian word referring to mystical, theological, or spiritual knowledge).

The first will be held August 21-24, 1998, at Middlesex University in London, United Kingdom. The second will be held November 6-8, 1998, at Louhelen Bahá'í School. Both colloquia will have general sessions on "The World Religions and the Bahá'í Faith." Both will be followed by a seminar on the writings of Bahá'u'lláh revealed during the Adrianople period (1863-68). Presentations should be up to thirty minutes in length. If you would like to present at either colloquium, send a 500-word abstract and a brief (100 word) biography to the Research Office, Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091; 847-733-3425; 847-733-3563 (FAX); (e-mail). The deadlines for submission are two months before the beginning of each conference. Information on the costs of registration, housing, and meals is forthcoming.

Wilmette Institute students, especially those taking the course on the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, are encouraged to consider submitting a brief presentation (even 15 minutes) for a student session. We hope the colloquia will prove to be a good opportunity for students wishing to hone their skills to offer a brief presentation on either world religions and the Bahá'í Faith or on the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.

Research Center for
Global Governance in Brazil

"Governance is the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken. Global Governance involves non-governmental as well as governmental organizations, citizen's movements, multinational corporations and the global capital market. Interacting with these are global mass media."

The Research Centre For Global Governance (RCGG) is looking to increase its membership. RGCC is a think tank searching for lasting solutions to the problems of humanity. The Centre believes that the new millennium requires a new vision and a change in paradigm. Members of the RCGG identify problems and offer solutions and suggestions to attain the objectives of global governance. Ideas generated by the RCGG will be executed in the measure possible. Areas of study include: 1) global prosperity, 2) global security and world peace, 3) economic governance, 4) reform of the United Nations, 5) moral development, 6) human rights, 7) the status of women, 8) nuclear activities, and 9) ecology.

Present membership represents more than 90 countries, and they aim for Universal Participation. To learn more about the Centre, contact Dr. F. Sefidvash by e-mail at, by fax at 55-51-316-3983, or mail him at Av. O. Aranha 99 DENUC, 90046-900 Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Call for Presentations by the American Academy of Religion

The Bahá'í Studies Colloquy will next meet at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Orlando, November 21-24, 1998. It will host one or two sessions of talks on the Baha'i Faith as it relates to themes and interests of the American Academy of Religion, which is a professional gathering of 8,000 university professors and graduate students of religion and the Bible.

The presentations should be thirty minutes in length. Talks will be selected based on 250-word abstracts describing their main points. Please submit abstracts to Mr. Paul Dodenhoff, 19 Kent Rd., Glenrock, N.J., 07452; 201-447-4899; The deadline is April 30.

Studying the Revelation

Habib Riazati on the Nature of the Soul
Concerning the question of the existence of the soul prior to physical being, there are a number of points to consider:

1. According to the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the soul is an emanation from the spiritual worlds of God and its reality is unknowable to humankind. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Lawh-i-Abdu'r-Razzáq, states: "Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp. . .. Verily I say, the human soul is, in its essence, one of the signs of God, a mystery among His Mysteries" (Gleanings, LXXXII).

2. Moreover, in the same tablet Bahá'u'lláh states that the soul is exalted above all limitations pertaining to the realm of space and time (the material world). Bahá'u'lláh says: ". . . the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress" (Gleanings, LXXXII).

3. Although the soul of the individual is an emanation from the spiritual worlds of God, it comes into the realm of existence when the conception of physical body takes place. The beloved Guardian, in a letter to an individual believer, states: "The soul or spirit of the individual comes into being with the conception of his physical body" (High Endeavours: Messages to Alaska, 71, no. 98).

4. These statements are true about all humans. However, there are individuals whom the beloved Master has referred to as having "a special individuality." These individuals are none other than the Manifestations of God, who have a physical reality, an individual reality or rational soul, and "the divine appearance." The beloved Master describes these three realities of the Manifestations of God in Some Answered Questions, section 39:

      The physical state is the human state which perishes because it is composed of elements, and all that is composed of elements will necessarily be decomposed and dispersed.

      But the individual reality of the Manifestations of God is a holy reality, and for that reason it is sanctified and, in that which concerns its nature and quality, is distinguished from all other things. . . .

      The third plane of that Being is the Divine Bounty, the splendor of the Preexistent Beauty, and the radiance of the light of the Almighty. The individual realities of the Divine Manifestations have no separation from the Bounty of God and the Lordly Splendor. In the same way, the orb of the sun has no separation from the light. Therefore, it may be said that the ascension of the Holy Manifestation is simply the leaving of this elemental form. For example, if a lamp illumines this niche, and if its light ceases to illuminate it because the niche is destroyed, the bounty of the lamp is not cut off. Briefly, in the Holy Manifestations the Preexistent Bounty is like the light, the individuality is represented by the glass globe, and the human body is like the niche: if the niche is destroyed, the lamp continues to burn. The Divine Manifestations are so many different mirrors because They have a special individuality, but that which is reflected in the mirrors is one sun (Some Answered Questions, 154-156).

On The Seven Valleys

by Joyce McCleary
In the Valley of Search, the wayfarer
Must strive with a patient soul,
He hopes to sacrifice his all
To reach a wondrous goal.

He will journey in realms unknown to him,
To search each person's face,
Seeking his Beloved One,
But glimpsing just a trace.

In the Valley of Love, the wayfarer
Knows pain, and welcomes more.
And though he flounders in the sea
He's guided to the shore.

He'll gladly lose his self for God,
Is free though he be chained.
True Lovers' Court he hopes to see
With understanding gained.

In the Valley of Knowledge, he enters,
With virtue, his guiding light,
And sees "The End in The Beginning,"
With inner and outer sight.

Now the lamps of mystic wanderings
Are quenched, and wayfaring done.
He seeks the help of Holy Souls
In search of the Belov'd One.

To the Valley of Unity he goes,
To see with the eye of oneness,
No name or virtue or rank has he
In the "heaven of singleness."
The true seeker of Love is eager
To then impoverish self.
He drinks from the river of glory,
And enters the court of wealth.

In the Valley of Contentment, he
Drinks pure spiritual wine.
The Nightingale of the heart
Sings sweet songs of the Divine.

Gaining the garden of significances
He seeks to find his Lord,
He perceives the New Creation
And fastens himself to the Cord.

In the Valley of Wonderment, he will find
That Mysteries, Wisdom, Worlds,
And Untold wondrous knowledges
Within a dream are furled.

"O Lord! Increase my astonishment"
The wayfarer will respond,
For he has found great wisdom
and lofty heights beyond.

In the Valley of Absolute Nothingness
The wayfarer owns not one
Limited thing of the world.
The Friend manifests like the sun.

He is braced by the breeze of this garden,
He dwells on this blessed plane,
Seeking again the answer
In order that no doubt may remain.

In order that no doubt may remain . . .
Presented to the Wilmette Institute as a learning project for the course on the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, 1853-68.

Student News

Gina Shamey to Receive University Credit

Wilmette Institute student Gina Shamey has been successful in her attempt to receive credit for her Wilmette Institute course work at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst. A former student of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program, Gina will receive credit for taking the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1853-68, correspondence course as part of a self-designed degree in Religion and Culture.

Because UMass has no religion department, Gina designed her program by including courses offered by the history, Judaic studies, and Middle Eastern studies departments at UMass, as well as classes offered at the nearby Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Amherst Colleges. Two courses through the Wilmette Institute will complete her program for her degree.

Gina began the process to get credit for her Wilmette Institute courses by meeting with her program advisor. The advisor said that Gina could get credit by signing up for an independent study with a Bahá'í professor at UMass and use the Wilmette Institute course work as the independent study course work. The professor would work with her one-on-one and review her work for the Wilmette Institute independent study. A Bahá'í member of the UMass faculty, Dr. Juan Caban, also helped. However, he resigned his teaching position, which disqualified him to be Gina's advisor, even though Dr. Caban still held an administrative position. Fortunately, at the same time a Bahá'í professor, Dr. Jean Swinney, transferred to UMass and agreed to advise Gina.

Next, Gina was required to produce an Independent Study Course Agreement with the professor, detailing what she was to learn and how. After receiving approval for the agreement, Gina registered for the independent study course at the same time as she registered for her other classes.

Gina provides an excellent example of initiative in pursuing credit for studying the Bahá'í Faith at the college level. Hher achievement demonstrates a way for others to receive credit for their Wilmette Institute classes.

A Forum on Learning

The following exchange occurred on "GLOBAL," the electronic discussion forum for Spiritual Foundations students. We thought it was of general interest to our readers. Mary K. Radpour is an Auxiliary Board member from Tennessee who taught a section on Bahá'í marriage and family life at the 1997 Spiritual Foundations summer session. Kate Oduyale has been a Spiritual Foundations student for two years.

Comments by Mary K. Radpour
Last month, Patricia Haynie wrote:

I don't know how anyone else feels, but this activity of posting ideas and opinions is downright scary!!!! Any time someone referred to the creation of "scholars" in the class this summer, you could feel the discomfort! I notice that the discussion so far on this subject has not included students, only faculty and board members.

I was pleased to hear her frank assessment and agree that that is a pattern needing to be addressed. It occurs to me to wonder if some of it is not a gender-related pattern, since there are so many women in the class, and women often question whether their voices have relevance in a discussion of ideas.

I heard Jane Faily tell this story in a talk she gave one time: a Harvard professor said to his Psychology class that women tended to personalize discussions of ideas. Then a woman in the class said, "I don't think I do that!" Of course, the entire class laughed, realizing that she had just done it. Jane said that she was both embarrassed for the woman and sympathetic, since she had herself immediately turned to her own experience to decide whether there was truth to the proposal.

A "culture" of scholarship has grown up which involves a great deal of self-promotion and one-up-manship, wherein everyone pretends to already understand everything that they are in theprocess of learning (a contradiction, if you ask me!).

It seems to me that we have an opportunity to blast away at that norm and to create a new one of our own, closer to the Bahá'í standard of humility and loyalty to the Word of God. I would like to encourage the class members to speak out of their own experience, whether it sounds "scholarly" or not, since it is out of this raw experience that we can begin to make generalizations. We all know that almost everything we think and say is wrong anyway, don't we? After all, we think and speak out of a cultural experience that did not include the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and is full of myths and half-truths and outright lies. It requires a safe environment to put those ideas out on the table and to evaluate whether they are valid in the light of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation or not. In other words, cannot we agree to agree that we do not have to be right, only desirous of knowing?

Comments by Kate Touissant Oduyale

I really loved your comments, Mary K. It is this "scholarly" stigma that kept me from starting in the Wilmette Institute in the beginning and it was because of a lot of encouragement from other Bahá'ís who were in it, and have since stopped, that I decided to give it a try. Then I ended up in a graduate program that was so validating of all types of learning and encouraging in creativity in learning that I ended up meeting a goal I never dreamed was possible for me.

We never received grades for our work at The Graduate School of America (TGSA), but did keep submitting the work until it reached a level of expectation. The tutors were very helpful in offering suggestions on how to improve our work based on the first drafts, etc.

When I attended the summer session of TGSA last summer it was one of the most uplifting academic experiences I ever encountered. All the learners were helping each other, because each had a personal agenda and there was no, I mean NO competition - like we were used to in the classroom in most schools. I wish I could better express the wonders of this type of process. We all designed our own homework and projects based on our style of learning and this was then discussed with and approved by our tutors. It made what we studied exciting and still challenging.

There have been times when I felt similar to how I felt in my earlier experiences of school when receiving homework back from the Wilmette Institute. The reason was because I would see red marks on my paper and a low grade. This can be defeating to some (like me) who had such negative experiences all throughout school. I don't mean to sound offensive or undermining in any way, but I have wanted to express that for a long time. There are just too many good ways to demonstrate learning that might be better suited for some.

I'm happy to be connecting more with the students at the Wilmette Institute and hope we can start to share our ideas a little more. I was really happy to find that we can use a write-up of our firesides to replace homework assignments. That part I really enjoy. Thanks for listening.

Comments by Roberta Bruns on How the Spiritual Foundations Program Has Helped her

I did a three-part deepening really inspired by Michael Penn and Saba Ayman-Nolley's presentation to a nearby community when I got back from the Wilmette Institute. It was based on love for the individual, the community, and the Institutions. I also used some of the materials that Iraj Ayman had used. The community really seemed to like it. The Wilmette Institute also inspired me to begin weekly devotional meetings. We started on September 19 and have continued. The Four Year Plan calls us to do this but it was the evening devotions in the dormitory that I missed so much when I got home that really moved me to begin these meetings. I also do volunteering on a weekly basis in my community. I did this before I went to the Wilmette Institute but I think in the past year my ideas about service have changed dramatically. At this point I don't know what to think about my teaching. It seems that the more subtle I am the more effective I am. I am sharing these things only as a way of letting you know how much I have been affected by the Institute.
Back to Top of Page