The Lamp, volume 3 Number 3

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 3, Number 3, May 1998

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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 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 60091-1811

    Phone: 847-733-3415
    Fax: 847-733-3563
The Lamp is produced bimonthly by the Wilmette Institute.
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.


    *    Students help form three Assemblies
    *    Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program names summer faculty
    *    Registration open for correspondence courses on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh 1869-92, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, course on the Persian language
    *    Wilmette Institute presents progress report for academic, fiscal year 1997-98
    *    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 Justice

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 Ridván

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 Skrene:

"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 particular).

"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 life.

"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 schools.

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.

General Studies

Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh Course Enters Its Adrianople Period

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, 1869-1892

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 information.

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 Wilmette Institute.

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 come.

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 69)
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 Life:
    "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)

    "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 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.
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, or by writing to Wilmette Institute, 536 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, IL 60091-2878. Information is also available at the Wilmette Institute's web-site ( 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 (1869-1892)

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.
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