The Lamp, volume 3 Number 3
A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute
Volume 3, Number 3, May 1998
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.
The Institute also fosters Bahá'í scholarship; develops new,
innovative curricular materials; creates high-quality courses on teaching the
Faith; and refines Bahá'í concepts of pedagogy. It aims to
produce teachers and administrators of the Bahá'í Faith of great
capacity, who are capable of demonstrating the Bahá'í truths in
their lives and in their speech and who are able to teach these truths to
Back to index for The Lamps
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:
The Lamp is produced bimonthly by the Wilmette Institute.
536 Sheridan Road
Wilmette, IL 60091-1811
Executive Editor: Robert H. Stockman
Managing Editor: Heather Gorman
Subscription inquiries should be directed to the above address. All material is
copyrighted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of
the United States and subject to all applicable international copyright laws.
Articles from this newsletter may be copied or republished by any organization,
provided that the following credit is given: "Reprinted from The Lamp,
the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute."
Copyright (c) 1988 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of the United States.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE . . .
* Students help form three Assemblies
* Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program names summer
* Registration open for correspondence courses on the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh 1869-92, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, course on the
* Wilmette Institute presents progress report for academic, fiscal year
* Dr. Iraj Ayman responds to student's question with commentary on preamble
to `Book of Life'
Institutes: Essential to Learning to Teach and Administer Faith
Extract from the Ridván 155 Message from the Universal House of
Our hopes, our goals, our possibilities of moving forward can all be
realized through concentrating our endeavors on the major aim of the Divine
Plan at its current stage--that is, to effect a significant advance in the
process of entry by troops. This challenge can be met through persistent effort
patiently pursued. Entry by troops is a possibility well within the grasp of
our community. Unremitting faith, prayer, the promptings of the soul, Divine
assistance--these are among the essentials of progress in any
Bahá'í undertaking. But also of vital importance to bringing
about entry by troops is a realistic approach, systematic action. There are no
shortcuts. Systematization ensures consistency of lines of action based on
well-conceived plans. In a general sense, it implies an orderliness of approach
in all that pertains to Bahá'í service, whether in teaching or
administration, in individual or collective endeavor. While allowing for
individual initiative and spontaneity, it suggests the need to be clear-headed,
methodical, efficient, constant, balanced and harmonious. Systematization is a
necessary mode of functioning animated by the urgency to act.
Toward ensuring an orderly evolution of the community, a function of
Bahá'í institutions is to organize and maintain a process of
developing human resources whereby Bahá'ís, new and veteran
alike, can acquire the knowledge and capacity to sustain a continuous expansion
and consolidation of the community. The establishment of training institutes is
critical to such effort, since they are centers through which large numbers of
individuals can acquire and improve their ability to teach and administer the
Faith. Their existence underscores the importance of knowledge of the Faith as
a source of power for invigorating the life of the Bahá'í
community and of the individuals who compose it.
The facts at hand confirm that the Four Year Plan works where a systematic
approach is understood and applied. These same facts show that the institutions
of the Faith, in their collaborative efforts at national, regional, and local
levels, have clearly been adhering to this understanding. However, with
individuals, on whom rests the ultimate success of the Plan, this understanding
is less clear. For this reason, we must emphasize to our fellow-believers the
importance to their individual effort of this prerequisite of success in
teaching and in other undertakings.
Students Empowered to Teach the Faith
Wilmette Institute Students Help Form Three Assemblies at
Wilmette Institute students helped to form three local spiritual assemblies on
the first day of Ridván. Jennifer Doney, a student in the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh course, went to a community 90 minutes from her home
to give a fireside, which was one of her learning projects for the course. The
community had only eight Bahá'ís and thus would not be able to
reelect its spiritual assembly. But five seekers came to the fireside, and
before sunset on Tuesday, April 21, three of the seekers had become
Bahá'ís. As a result, the spiritual assembly was re-elected.
Spiritual Foundations student Alice Ferro assisted in the formation of two new
spiritual assemblies in eastern Oklahoma. All year she has been conducting
firesides and deepenings in four counties, resulting in the declaration of one
adult and three youths. She used material from the Spiritual Foundations
program in many of her presentations; students she met at the summer sessions
have helped by providing "prayers, pamphlets, books, encouragement, etc." On
April 21, she gave people rides to meetings and helped to collect votes. The
result was the election of two new spiritual assemblies and the formation of
one new Bahá'í group. In her report to the Wilmette Institute,
Alice added that without the help of Wilmette Institute faculty, staff, and
students, "we would have never been able to keep going on." She also apologized
that, as a result of her efforts, she was late completing some of her homework
for the Institute!
Students Find Correspondence Course
Correlates with Four Year Plan Goals
The Wilmette Institute's correspondence course on the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh (1853-68) continues to re-ceive rave reviews. We
share with you extracts from two responses. Below are comments from Ruhiyyih
"Since I started this course, I have regularly evaluated what it does
for me as an individual Bahá'í, as a Bahá'í
operating within my community, and as a family member (mother, spouse, in
"I have two boys (ages 4 and 7) whom I home school. This is an endeavor which
demands discipline of many forms. In doing this course, it has helped me to
become more disciplined and efficient in my daily/weekly planning, in order to
maintain a smooth and happy routine
"My kids also view me from a different perspective. I am no longer `just'
teacher-mom, but I also learn, study and work hard with the materials that I
need to cover. They also observe the Writings being handled in an academic way,
which cultivates in their minds that this has to be taken as seriously as one
does `school' or `college' work. Seeing mom do her homework, has elicited many
questions from my seven year old, in particular. Too often I have seen and felt
that the Bahá'í Writings and the Faith itself is not given an
equal regard, as is the case with other significant endeavors in life.
Hopefully, as my dear sons grow and develop, they will realize that their
spiritual learning requires and demands a far superior effort.
"As a Bahá'í, I have often engaged in conversations about the
Faith and the Writings. There have been many instances in which I was unable to
clearly state Whose Words I was referring to, when talking about the Writings.
I would make statements such as the following: `I am not sure Who says this, or
Who wrote it, but I do remember reading about it (whatever topic would be under
discussion).' I realized that I needed to become more disciplined in my reading
habits, as well as the way in which I publicly made reference to the Writings.
Enrolling in this course, is but a starting point along a path of educating
myself and my family, with humility and moderation.
"Having attended university, I found that it taught me to have a more
disciplined mind. That kind of iscipline of mind and thought also needs to be
established with regard to the Faith. This course has offered me the initial
steps in developing structure around reading, writing and conveying the
Writings (particularly as I have to research the Writings when doing
assignments). For me, this is doing justice to a very fundamental part of my
"In taking this course, I have felt so much more animated with the Creative
Word. Somehow I feel a closer relationship to Bahá'u'lláh and His
beautiful Revelation. I am not the kind of person who functions well as a
result of a lack of sleep, but this course has forced me to find the hours at
night, so as to complete the work. I certainly have been pleasantly surprised,
and so has my family!
"Finally, by studying the Revelation as a course, it has developed and
cultivated my memory in a more meaningful way, as opposed to studying and
deepening on my own. Much of it has to do with the assignments that have to be
submitted, at a particular time (at least, this holds true for me). In short,
this course keeps me in line!"
Another student expressed his gratitude for the course on the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh in this way:
"I wanted to drop you a quick note to express my appreciation and
congratulations for such a wonderful course as the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh. As a fairly new Bahá'í, it has helped
me tremendously by giving me a structured and organized class to help
strengthen my understanding of the Writings.
"As the chair of a local training institute, it has helped in several ways. One
is by showing other members of the community that a focused, structured form of
deepening does not preclude discussion and fun. . . . It has also reinforced
the need for our institute and others like it to offer on occasion a true
deepening in the Writings as well as the more service oriented courses that
seem to be the norm right now. . . ."
Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization Program
Summer Faculty Now Set
The lineup of the Spiritual Foundation's summer faculty is now complete. Mr.
Jeffery Huffines, representative to the United Nations for the National
Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, has
agreed to deliver the section on the Bahá'í perspective on
politics and governments. Mr. Huffines has nine years experience working for
the National Spiritual Assembly in the area of External Affairs, first in
Washington, D. C., then in New York City. He has considerable interest in
educating the Bahá'ís about External Affairs and the United
Nations and has given several classes at various Bahá'í
Last minute personal matters have necessitated two unexpected vacancies in the
summer program that have been filled. Mr. William Collins will deliver the
section on the life and work of Shoghi Effendi, replacing Dr. Heshmat Moayyad,
who is unavailable. Mr. Collins is a prolific and creative author of articles
on a wide variety of Bahá'í topics, including a comprehensive
bibliography of English-language works on the Bahá'í Faith, which
he prepared as coordinator of the Bahá'í World Center's library.
More recently, he supplemented his Master's degree in library science with one
in social science from Syracuse University; he is turning his Master's thesis,
on the Bahá'í Faith and millennialism, into a book.
Ms. Dawn Haghighi will speak about the Bahá'í institutions from a
legal point of view, replacing Dr. Phyllis Bernard, who also must attend to
some personal matters. Ms. Haghighi is an attorney in Chicago and was a member
of the National Teaching Committee from 1993 to 1996.
In addition, the Wilmette Institute is trying to arrange a special guest who
will offer personal reminiscences about Shoghi Effendi. One or two surprises
have also been planned for the summer program (which cannot be disclosed here,
if they are to remain surprises). The number of faculty now stands at 14: Arash
Abizadeh, Iraj Ayman, Roya Ayman, Bill Collins, Dawn Haghighi, Robert
Henderson, John Hatcher, Jeff Huffines, Dann May, Michael McMullen, Gayle
Morrison, Keyvan Nazerian, David Rouleau, and Robert Stockman.
Registration is proceeding well, with 25 students registered as of May 17. The
program promises to be dynamic, engaging, and a lot of fun.
First Home Study Assignment Mailed
On Monday, May 4, the first round of home study assignments were mailed
to the 1998-99 Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization students. The
assignment was for May 7 to June 14 and covered three subjects: the life and
work of Shoghi Effendi; Bahá'í history, 1921-57; and
Bahá'í writings and commentaries about Bahá'í
community and administration. Home study assignments for June 15 to July 12
have also been mailed. Students are being given no more than five hours a week
of home work--all reading, no writing or other exercises--to prepare them for
the three weeks of intensive classes.
Additional home study after the residential session will include reading and
exercises to integrate and apply the learning and are scheduled for September
1998 through April 1999. Faculty have been asked to bring their entire
post-study plan to the summer program, so they can explain them to the
students, answer questions, and modify the assignments based on feedback and
class experience. Students will leave the summer program with all their
assignments for the rest of the academic year.
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh Course Enters Its Adrianople
The course on the revelation of Bahá'u'-lláh,1853-68, has
now entered the Adrianople period; its focus is Bahá'u'lláh's
first tablets to the kings and rulers. Homework continues to pour in,
challenging the faculty to keep up. Students continue to report a new
confidence in explaining the Faith to others and a greater desire to
teach--goals that the Ridván message challenges us to meet.
Correspondence Course on Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh,
Registration is open for the Wilmette Institute's second correspondence course
on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1869-1892 (the Akka period),
and several students have already signed up. The course begins July 2 and runs
through September 27. It covers works Bahá'u'lláh wrote during
the early and late Akka periods. See the last article for registration
Course on Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Related Documents Scheduled
The Wilmette Institute plans to offer a correspondence course on the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, starting September 5, 1998, and ending December 27. In
the four-month period the students will study the Aqdas and related tablets
topically and will complete learning projects exploring the Most Holy Book as
it relates to the Bahá'í community today. The course will cost
$125. See the last article for registration information.
Ten Attend Minicourse at Bosch
The latest Wilmette Institute minicourse at Bosch, April 24-26, 1998, attracted
ten students eager to learn about the Old and New Testaments. The course began
with study of a compilation of Bahá'í texts about the Bible,
providing the students with perspective on the interpretation of the Bible in
the Bahá'í scriptures and the nature and purpose of personal
interpretations of the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. It was
followed by a video on the Old Testament, then a presentation and discussion
about the history of composition of the Hebrew Bible, a summary of its main
contents, and discussion of its relevance to Bahá'ís. The New
Testament received the same type of treatment. Students went home with an
assignment: either to complete a writing project about some aspect of the Bible
or to give a fireside or deepening about it and describe the gathering to the
The Bible minicourse was the fourth one at Bosch. It followed classes on
Hinduism and Buddhism (January), Chinese Religions (February), and Judaism and
Christianity (March). Winter weather and El Niño rains kept down
attendance at the first three. Three more minicourses are scheduled, on Islam
(June 12-14), Philosophy in Bahá'í Perspective (September 11-13),
and Bahá'í Theology (October 30-November 1).
In spite of the small class sizes, students have been enthusiastic and many
have come long distances to attend several of them.
Persian Course Is Planned
The Wilmette Institute and the Persian-American Affairs Office are planning a
three-week course on the Persian language, to run July 18-August 8. The
students will stay in Baker Hall, the same dormitory the Spiritual Foundations
students will occupy.
The course will involve about five hours a day of intensive classes in the
Persian language. The course offered this year will be an introductory course
only. Tuition is $450; lodging in Baker Hall costs $20 per night. For more
information, contact Dr. Manuchehr Derakhshani at 1-847-733-3526 or
Annual Progress Report
The Wilmette Institute completed its academic and fiscal year on April
30 with a sense of accomplishment and of anticipation of a year of expansion to
The year 154/1997-98 saw the completion of the Spiritual Foundations for a
Global Civilization's first year of classes (which focused on world religion
and philosophies and Bahá'í theology), the beginning of its
second year (which focused on the individual and the family) with a remarkably
successful 1997 summer session. The 1997-98 program was enjoyed by 29 students
and taught by 15 faculty. The year ended with the detailed planning of its
third year, begun on May 1, which focuses on the creation and governance of
communities, particularly Bahá'í communities.
The year saw the fruits of the Wilmette Institute's plan for diversification
with the launching of its first correspondence course and its first minicourse
in January. Before the year ended, three more minicourses were conducted at
Bosch, plans for two more correspondence courses were announced, and a General
Studies program (consisting of one or more certificates based on taking a
series of correspondence and minicourses) has begun to take shape. The
correspondence and minicourses together brought 110 more students into the
Wilmette Institute family, a number that is sure to grow over the next year.
The expansion of the Wilmette Institute's programs necessitated improvements in
other aspects of its organization. It augmented its publicity/outreach
function. The year started with production of a catalog, the Institute's first.
It has already gone through two subsequent editions. In October an automated
twenty-four hour information line (1-847-733-3595) was inaugurated, which has
been visited by 150 people. In January a website containing the catalog and
sites for correspondence courses was begun. A publicity plan, complete with a
budget, was implemented in the fall. A fund-raising plan also was approved.
Administration also expanded. The Wilmette Institute hired its first full-time
staff person in January (replacing a full-time youth year of service
volunteer). A structural reorganization in March allowed for more efficient use
of the time of its Board members by creating a series of task forces
(admissions and financial aid; curriculum; development; finances; Persian
language courses; publications; publicity), thereby focusing the Institute's
attention on key areas and increasing the number of people assisting the
Institute. The Institute's accounting was moved to Quickbooks, improving the
Institute's ability to generate invoices and receipts. Thanks to the generous
support of its friends, the Institute has a small nest egg that gives it
flexibility in implementing new programs and the freedom to consider new
directions in developing Bahá'í education.
The Wilmette Institute's staff and faculty are constantly encouraged by the
expressions of gratitude and appreciation showered upon the Institute by its
students. Their loyalty and support bodes well for the continued expansion of
the Institute's programs and reinforces the Institute's belief that its
serious, challenging courses on aspects of the Bahá'í Faith are
important contributions to the development of human resources and fostering the
process that will inevitably lead to entry by troops.
Listservers Up and Running
The Wilmette Institute's listservers are once again up and running
normally. For two weeks (about April 25 to May 5) software problems at the
Bahá'í National Center caused them to function sporadically at
best. There may be further difficulties during the transition to new software
in the coming months.
Studying the Revelation
A Commentary on `The Book of Life'
The following question was posed by Ted Brown-stein, a student in the
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh correspondence course. Interestingly,
the question resulted from a conversation he had with Patricia Haynie, a
Spiritual Foundations student.
"Patricia and I were discussing a passage from the Aqdas yesterday at a
deepening she conducts at our local Bahá'í Center. . . . In our
discussion another question came up, this same passage mentions the `preamble
to the Book of Life.' What is it referring to? In the Bible, the Book of Life
is a listing of the faithful, whose names are recorded in it. If someone falls
away from the faith, it is said that their name is blotted out of the Book of
Life. In Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, page 229,
having one's name in the Book of Life seems to equate with having God's favor,
`Again have the prideful devised all manner of plots and schemes to completely
disable the Cause of God and to erase the name of `Abdu'l-Bahá from the
Book of Life.' What, though, is the `preamble' to the book?"
Dr. Iraj Ayman prepared the following reply:
The expression the Book of Life is used in English translation of the
Words of Bahá'u'lláh and the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá for
different terms in the original Arabic and Persian texts.
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the Arabic expression used is
kitábu'l-vujúd (the book of existence):
"Such is the admonition of the Lord, aforetime and hereafter--an admonition
wherewith the preamble to the Book of Life hath been embellished, did ye but
perceive it." (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, page
Here the whole creation is compared to a book. "Preamble" is given as a
translation for the word díbáj. Díbáj
has a number of meanings and con-notations. In this context it refers to the
opening pages of a book. In Iran and some other Western Asian countries the
opening two pages of important books were (and still occasionally are)
specially and beautifully illuminated. In this passage
Bahá'u'lláh emphasizes the importance of His manifestation by
saying that in this day no one should stick to any book or creed other than His
revelation. And He says this is the decree of God. It is so important and so
exalted that it embellishes (illuminates) the opening pages of the Book of Life
(the whole creation). He adds that this has always been the decree or
commandment of God, because in each dispensation everyone should turn only to
the laws and teachings of the Manifestation of God in that age and time.
In Gleanings, page 133, Shoghi Effendi has used Book of Life to
translate daftar-i-`álam (book of the universe):
"O thou who art the fruit of My Tree and the leaf thereof! On thee be My glory
and My mercy. Let not thine heart grieve over what hath befallen thee. Wert
thou to scan the pages of the Book of Life, thou wouldst, most certainly,
discover that which would dissipate thy sorrows and dissolve thine anguish."
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pages 132-133)
Book of Life is the best choice of words to present the meaning of the
original Persian term in the context of the passage, where
Bahá'u'lláh is re-ferring to the subject of life and death.
In the English translation of Selections from the Writings of
`Abdu'l-Bahá two other Persian terms are translated as Book of
"Again have the prideful devised all manner of plots and schemes to completely
disable the Cause of God and to erase the name of `Abdu'l-Bahá from the
Book of Life." (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of
`Abdu'l-Bahá, page 229)
The first useage is a translation of law-i-vujúd (tablet of the
world of existence) and the second is a translation of
afi-yi-ká'inát (the face or the page of the whole
existence). On both occasions `Abdu'l-Bahá is actually comparing the
world of existence to a tablet on which something is written.
"Let them be fruitful trees in the celestial bowers, sweet-scented blooms in
the divine gardens; let them be verses of perfection on the page of the
universe, words of oneness in the Book of Life." (`Abdu'l-Bahá,
Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, page 232)
The same expression Book of Life has been used in the translation of
The Memorials of the Faithful:
"He reflected day and night on the most abstruse of spiritual questions, and
gazed in wonderment at the mighty signs of God as written in the Book of Life."
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, page 21)
It represents yet another Arabic/Persian expression,
raqq-i-manshúr (an outspread or opened leaf
or page of a book), which is another literary term for the world of creation.
It is a page of the book of creation that is spread out.
One can see that the Book of Life has been used to refer to creation as
a whole or the whole world of existence. The term preamble refers to the
opening pages which start that book.
How to Register for Wilmette Institute Courses
To obtain information about any or all of the Wilmette Institute's
courses, contact the Registrar, Heather Gorman, by telephone at (847) 733-3415,
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to Wilmette Institute, 536
Sheridan Road, Wilmette, IL 60091-2878. Information is also available at the
Wilmette Institute's web-site (www.usbnc.org/wilmette) and by calling the
24-hour automated information line (874) 733-3595.
Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization
To register one must turn in a completed application form, a 500-word personal
statement, a recommendation letter, a copy of a recent transcript, and a $25
application fee. Students are expected to pay a $300 deposit on acceptance
($150 for tuition and $150 for dorm room); $620 on arrival in Wilmette for the
residential session ($290 balance for dorm room, $275 for tuition, and $55 for
communal meals; and $400 in September (for tuition). Required textbooks may
cost up to $100. Allow at lest $15 per day for food for the three-week
residential session. All amounts are in U.S. dollars.
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh Correspondence Course
To register one must complete a simple application form. Tuition, payable on
acceptance, is $200. Tuition for members of a local study group of three or
more is $160 per student.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas Correspondence Course
To register one must complete a simple application form. Tuition, payable on
acceptance, is $125. Tuition for members of a local study group of three or
more is $100 per student.