The Lamp, volume 3 Number 4
A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute
Volume 3, Number 4, 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
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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
24-hour information line: 847-733-3595
Executive Editor: Robert H. Stockman
Managing Editor: Betty Fisher
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 write about the Wilmette Institute correspondence course,
* Institute plans to repeat correspondence courses on Revelation of
* Was Islam meant to be a Universal Religion: Habib Riazati offers an
* A Student's Perspective of the 1998 Wilmette Institute Summer Session
1998 Spiritual Foundations Summer Session
The third annual residential session of the Spiritual Foundations for a
Global Civilization program, held in Wilmette, Illinois, provided a unique
combination of challenges and successes for the twenty-seven students and
thirteen faculty who participated between July 18 and August 8.
The theme of the program was Community and Governance. Covered in the lectures
were discussions of how communities are created, maintained, and organized both
from secular and Bahá'í points of view. Materials are studied
included readings from the academic disciplines of political theory and
sociology and from the Bahá'í writings, particularly those of
Shoghi Effendi on the administrative order.
The challenge of building community among the faculty and students during the
three-week session was heightened four days before the program began with an
increase in the student body of the Spiritual Foundations program and that of
the simultaneously running introductory Persian course. Because the dormitory
at National-Louis University in Wilmette, normally capable of accommodating
dozens of extra people, was to be largely closed for renovation, some of the
students had to be housed at Kendall College, a half-mile away, in Evanston.
The students rose to the challenge, giving each other rides from place to
The residential session opened with a Welcoming Dinner on July 18. Dr. Bea
Curry, chair of the Wilmette Institute Board, welcomed the students. Mr. Ken
Bowers, secretary of the National Teaching Committee, gave the keynote
This year's faculty, as in previous years, was exceptional. (Impressions by a
student of each teacher's classes may be found on page 6.) The program began
with a class introducing the Bahá'í administrative order and one
outlining the Bahá'í concept of unity. A series of classes by
Bill Collins about the life, writings, and work of Shoghi Effendi followed,
reinforcing the theme of governance and community and setting the context for
academic presentations on it.
Arash Abizadeh gave several presentations on political theory, a subfield of
political science that focuses on the concepts behind governing systems. Dr.
Michael McMullen offered a series of classes about the sociology of
communities, introducing the theory behind creation of communities. Both
Abizadeh and McMullen constantly wove Bahá'í material into their
presentations, integrating Bahá'í and academic theory into a
Dr. John Hatcher, using his book Arc of Ascent, taught classes on the
spiritual and ethical nature of the Bahá'í administrative order.
The topic allowed students to reflect, in a Bahá'í context, about
the academic material they had learned.
Various faculty explored specific Bahá'í institutions. Gayle
Morrison spoke so eloquently about the Institutions of the Learned (the Hands
of the Cause of God, the International Teaching Center, the Continental Boards
of Counselors, the Auxiliary Board members, and their Assistants) that the
studetns invited her back for a second ninety-minute class. Dr. Iraj Ayman
taught courses on the Universal House of Justice and its Constitution, the
Bahá'í World Center, the local Spiritual Assembly, and the
institution of the Haziratu'l-Quds (Bahá'í administrative
Robert C. Henderson invited the Spiritual Foundations students to the council
chamber of the National Spiritual Assembly for a presentation about that
institution. Morris Taylor, a member of the Regional Council for the Central
States, spoke about the new institution of regional councils.
The module on governance closed with classes by Jeff Huffines, representive of
the National Spiritual Assembly to the United Nations, about the relationship
between Bahá'ís and their institutions, on the one hand, and
politics and governments on the other.
Bahá'í history covered during the Spiritual Foundations
residential session included the life and work of the Guardian. It also looked
at the construction of the Administrative Order from 1921 to 1957, persecution
of the Cause during that period, construction of the Bahá'í House
of Worship in Wilmette, and the spread of the Faith during the First and Second
Seven Year Plans and the Ten Year Crusade.
The Bahá'í scripture module, taught largely by Dann May, focused
on works relating to governance and community: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
as it relates to Bahá'í administration, the Kitáb-i-Ahd,
the Tablet of Carmel, the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the Will and
Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í
Administration, and The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
The skills module also related to the year's theme. Dr. Roya Ayman covered the
management of meetings, and Mr. David Rouleau offered a series of workshops and
case studies on the local spiritual assembly.
Dr. Keyvan Nazerian gave workshops on teaching the Faith. This year's
workshops, however, had unexpected success: the Wilmette Institute students
taught the owner of a restaurant where they often ate, and she declared two
days before the end of the session. Another interested seeker is being nurtured
by telephone and e-mail. These successes can be added to the four new
Bahá'ís brought into the Faith by last year's class of
At the Farewell Dinner on Saturday evening, August 8, the Wilmette Institute
Board gave certificates of completion to two students from the previous year.
Mrs. Juana Conrad, assistant secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly, gave
the keynote address entitled "Morality: The Government of One's Self."
The restaurant owner who had become a Bahá'í was introduced. The
student council read the letter it had prepared for sending to the Universal
House of Justice. Then the summer session ended with a poem, a dance, and a
The students have scattered to their homes all over North America to pursue
home study for the rest of the year, including giving deepenings and firesides
about the material they have learned. Early reports indicate that the faculty's
emphasis on the importance of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
has been taken to heart and that many of the students are reading the book
First Intensive Persian Course
A three-week intensive course on introductory Persian was offered by the
Wilmette Institute and the Persian-American Affairs Office in Wilmette from
July 18 through August 8, the same three weeks during which the 1998
residential session of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization
program was held.
The six students were mostly of college age. The majority were Persians who
had minimal familiarity with the Persian language.
The course consisted of three hours of class work in the mornings and
supervised exercises and homework in the afternoons. Evenings were devoted to
an introduction to the Persian culture, using Persian films.
The course was designed and conducted by Dr. Lily Ayman, lecturer of the
Persian language at the University of Chicago. She used her own specially
developed teaching materials together with commercially available materials for
During the final text students were able to read short quotations and excerpts
from the Persian Hidden Words, write answers to simple questions, and
translate simple sentences into Persian.
The Wilmette Institute and the Persian-American Affairs Office plan to offer
introductory and intermediary courses in Persian during the 1999 summer
residential session of the Spiritual Foundations program. The anticipated
tuition will be $450, the same price as this year.
Comments from a student of the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh, 1853-68, correspondence course
What an incredible course this has been. It is impossible to
express all the changes and growth that being a participant has brought about
for me and my family. Thank you for all you have done to make this a reality
and for giving us a systematic and detailed study of the teachings.
I believe that the one thing I misjudged about this course is its effect on
me. I truly believed that I could read the Words of Bahá'u'lláh
in a clinical manner and study them much as I would any other novel or
historical event. What pride! No matter how hard I tried to keep the readings
clinical, they have effected me tremendously. . . .
Comments by a student of the 1998 Spiritual Foundations for a Global
Civilization residential session, capturing the sense of bonding and community
that he session fostered and her opportunities to use materials from the course
in a variety of venues
What a treat to have a Saturday without a full schedule; the first
thing I did was open the old email [from the Spiritual Foundations students]
and start reading-for hours! It is truly great to hear about all that you have
been up to since we shared that last departing hug. . . .
I had the opportunity to give a fireside at Mrs. Khadem's home last Saturday.
She gave me the topic of "Living the Religious Life." I felt more comfortable
with spiritual life rather than religious life, as I did not want to get into
any discussion about religions but rather about the fundamental spiritual
messages of all religions. So the final title ended up being "Seeking the
Spiritual Life." In addition to previous research done on other religions, the
book Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings on Spirituality was
invaluable. The presentation was fairly short (20-30 minutes) and simple and
from the discussion and questions it engendered, there were many who were
struggling with this issue. I was happy that people were comfortable enough to
ask penetrating questions. (Mrs. Khadem told me later that there were 16
seekers that night)
Next weekend I need your prayers, especially for Saturday. I will be
participating in the panel discussion at the WomenPower Leadership Forum
sponsored by the YWCA in Gary, Indiana. I need all the support and help I can
get! Thanks in advance.
Jumping into the reality of life gave me an ever-increasing love for and
appreciation of the special opportunity we had to study and be together. My
heart fills with joy and I smile each time I think about it.
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 email@example.com, or by writing to Wilmette Institute, 536
Sheridan Road, Wilmette, IL 60091-1811. 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, 1999-2000
The 1999-2000 year will focus on Carrying Forward an Ever-Advancing
Civilization. To apply 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); $647 on
arrival in Wilmette for the residential session ($290 balance for dorm room,
$275 for tuition, and $60 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 three weeks residential session.
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1869-1892, Correspondence
To sign up one must complete a simple registration form. Tuition, payable on
acceptance, is $200. Tuition for members of a local study group of three or
more is $160 per student.
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1869-1892, Correspondence
To sign up one must complete a simple registration form. Tuition, payable on
acceptance, is $225. Tuition for members of a local study group of three or
more is $180 per student.
Spiritual Foundations Update
Now that the 1998 summer session is over, home study resumes for the program's
29 students, providing them an opportunity to expand on the intensive series of
courses they took while in Wilmette.
In September the students will read about the life of Shoghi Effendi and
complete a learning project about the Guardian (a learning project is a project
of their choice--it can be a fireside, deepening, essay, compilation, or
artistic effort--that expresses what they have learned about the subject).
October is devoted to the study of Bahá'í history, 1921-57, and
requires another learning project.
November's study and learning project has as its theme the administrative
order. December, currently, is a month of rest and catching up.
In January and February, respectively, the students will complete their study
of sociology of communities and the Bahá'í Faith and politics.
March will be devoted to a final integrative exercise, to pull together the
themes of the year in a single project.
Course on Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, 1853-68, Is Extended to
The correspondence course on the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh,
1853-68, which began in January and was to conclude in June, has been extended
to September to give those enrolled nine months instead of six to complete
After September the Institute will continue to accept homework and provide
advice, but the listserver and conference calls will cease.
In January 1999 the Wilmette Institute plans to repeat the series of
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh courses. To accommodate the busy lives
of the students and allow more time for exploring Bahá'u'lláh's
revelation, this time the material will be divided into four six-month courses
(rather than two): 1853-63, 1863-68, 1868-73, and 1874-92. Students will be
able to take the courses in any order.
The first course to be offered will be the Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh, 1853-63. It begins on January 2, 1999, and runs
through the end of June 1999. It will cover the Baghdad period before
Bahá'u'lláh's declaration in the Garden of Ridván. Among
the works the students will study are The Kitáb-i-Íqán,
The Hidden Words, the Seven Valleys, and The Four Valleys.
The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh courses will be complemented by
others on specific works by Bahá'u'lláh. One on The
Kitáb-i-Aqdas began on September 3. One on The
Kitáb-i-Íqán is scheduled for the spring of 1999.
See above for details on how to enroll in the course on the Revelation
of Bahá'u'lláh, 1853-63.
Was Islam Intended to be a Universal Religion?
An explanation by Habib Riazati
[Editor's note: Mr. Riazati wrote the following comments in response to a
private question to him and forwarded it to the Wilmette Institute. We have
edited it for clarity.]
As to the question concerning the scope of Islam and the idea that
Islam was not meant to go beyond the Arab world, I thought of sharing with you
the following answers:
1. A very careful study of the Qur'án indicates that Islam was a
religion for the whole of mankind and His holiness Muhammad was a Manifestation
of God for the whole of mankind. For instance we read in the Sura
al-anbíyá (The Prophets), verse 107, the following
passage: "We sent thee not but as a mercy for all the creatures."
2. His holiness the Báb in the Persian Bayán (báb 5,
vahid 5) indicates that Islam was a religion for whole of mankind and the
reason that the whole world did not embrace it was the lack of effort on the
part of the Moslems.
3. The same thing can be seen in many of the writings of
Bahá'u'lláh, Master, and the beloved Guardian. Muhammad is
referred to as the Manifestation of universal prophethood and His teachings as
being sent for all of humankind. The Kitáb-i-Íqán
and The Secret of Divine Civilization show that we Bahá'ís
consider His holiness Muhammad to be a Manifestation of God such as Jesus, the
Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, and we believe in their divine unity.
Moreover, we believe that Muhammad was for the whole world.
4. In addition, all the Manifestations of God release an organic energy that
eventually creates an ever-advancing civilization in all the aspects of human
life in all parts of the world. For instance, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in The
Secret of Divine Civilization refers to Muhammad as a "Manifestation of
Universal Prophethood" (p. 99). As to the scope of His mission, we read the
following: "That Blessed Tree Whose light was 'neither of the East nor of the
West' and Who cast over all the peoples of the earth the sheltering shade of a
measureless grace, showed forth infinite kindness and forbearance in His
dealings with every one" (p. 53).
5. The beloved Master in the same book mentions that the reason for Islam not
becoming a religion for all people was the deeds and the words of its followers
(see pages 52-53).
Núr University is looking for Bahá'í youth
year of service volunteer to assist in its Department of Peace and Integration
(DEPAZ), specifically in the areas of human rights and conflict resolution. A
person bilingual in Spanish and English is preferred. The university is
developing a group of students and professionals in these fields and needs to
provide support service. For more information, contact Caroline Sawicki (in
English, Spanish, or French) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second half of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh
correspondence course--covering the years 1868 through 1892--will begin on
October 3 and run through March 27, 1999. It covers the early and late Akka
periods. Students will examine portions of Gleanings from the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh as well as The Proclamation of
Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after
the Aqdas, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and Epistle to the Son of the
Thirty-five students who have signed up for the course have already received
homework assignments, and a listserver is in operation to facilitate
communication among the students and faculty. Students are still being accepted
for the course. See page 3 for details on how to enroll.
1998 Spiritual Foundations Summer Session:
One Student's Impressions
by Patricia Campuzano
I could tell you about my harried at the residential session of the Wilmette
Institute's Spiritual Foundations for Global Civilization program, but then I
would have to explain what it was like putting my life on hold for the three
weeks. I had been studying five to ten hours a week since May in order to keep
up with my [pre-residential] reading assignments, which arrived indifferent to
of my comfort level with the new, albeit self-imposed, schedule. There were
articles, books, pamphlets and of course, compilations. Now I was ready to meet
my teachers and sit through the daily lectures. My mind felt free and eager to
hear the gun at the starting gate.
During our formal welcoming, Dr. Bea Curry (Chair of the Wilmette Institute
Board) and Mr. Ken Bowers (Secretary of the National Teaching Committee) made
warm and encouraging remarks, but I can only quote by heart: I've come here
with "no other provisions than my sins," a case of selective memory. The first
class was given by Program Administrator Dr. Robert H. Stockman. And it was a
good thing that the topic selected was Unity, because I was already having
self-doubts about my ability to deal with this much communal (i.e. dormitory)
living. My life at home is quiet, but here we had to make group decisions for
every meal and for transportation--it can test your trust in the consultative
process. But I can report that everything went well if not always smoothly.
Dr. Iraj Ayman's several classes on the administrative order and the
Institutions of the Faith were remarkable. His mind is sharp and clear, if a
bit strict for the academic rustiness of the diverse group. I was personally
touched by his seriousness. Sometimes I think that only people who have made
great sacrifices for His Cause, and the new believers fresh from the mad world,
can feel the sense of urgency.
Bill Collins was more theatrical, easier on the short attention span, but his
contribution was equally brilliant and his insights on the Guardian, and the
times in which he lived, were needed and welcomed. His best performance was a
rendition of the first paragraph from The Promised Day Has Come as if he
were a tele-evangelist. Of course, he treated the text with all due respect.
The students cheered.
A lot more challenging were the presentations of Arash Abizadeh. His lectures
on Western Political Theory were frequently interrupted because we needed him
to define his terms. None of us will ever get republican, liberal and idealist
concepts of freedom confused again! And although he did not get to deliver all
the lectures he prepared, he enriched our conceptual apparatus very much. We
discussed political authority, religious law, mechanisms of enforcement, and
Aristotles' vs. Kant's placement of the emotions within and without the sphere
of Ethics. On the same day as that class, unfortunately, we had a practical
application of the information. Arash attempted to tell us of the martrydom of
Mr. Ruhollah Rohani, but his very appropriate emotions prevented him from
completing the announcement. I have to say I admire so much how the
Bahá'í intellectuals afford themselves such big hearts. I must
add that Arash taught me outside the classroom as well. In a rush, I asked an
Evanston Hospital employee in my haughty way if there was a restaurant open in
the neighborhood, since the hospital cafeteria was closed. He answered me
courteously. Arash smiled and said to the man "Do you want to come with us?"
Laughter and love started to flow.
We were given the opportunity to visit the Haziratu'l-Quds and hear Dr. Robert
C. Henderson speak about the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly. We
listened to his stories about his grandmother's conversion to the Faith, and
about the sense of humor fostered in National Spiritual Assembly meetings. My
favorite quote of his was "an Institution that has the obligation of making
things right, gets a lot of chances."
The Wilmette Institute students had the honor of being invited to breakfast at
the House of Worship with all the members of the National Spiritual Assembly,
the staff of the Bahá'í National Center, and members of guest
local Spiritual Assemblies from Minnesota. We heard the newly elected member of
the NSA, William Roberts, speak movingly of the recent procesion to the grave
of Louis G. Gregory by the 12th annual Black Men's Gathering at Green Acre.
Dr. Roya Ayman made us all aspire to efficiency during her talk on managing
meetings. She began by discussing things that retard progress: seeking
recognition, back biting, no follow through, wanting to prove others wrong,
lack of detachment, straying from issue, defensiveness, repetitiousness, lack
of planning and strategies, the need to dominate, acting out, and no evaluation
of results. We all seemed to be painfully familiar with the issues. She sent us
home with excellent suggestions including instructions for creating a good
agenda. She explained also that although there are two goals in
consultation--process and results--she believes that in the last Ridván
Message, the Universal House of Justice clearly wants us to become more
interested in results.
Our next two teachers complemented each other marvelously well. Mike McMullen
painted a clear picture of the different social systems and organizations of
the past, how social change happens and is made to happen, interposing during
the lectures his luminous personal faith in Bahá'u'lláh and the
applications of the material to His Cause. He assigned articles by Putnam and
Robert Bellah defining very useful terms like social capital and vital civil
society, and explaining such concepts as trust in institutions as a renewable
resource. He revived my love for Sociology!
The other teacher that weekend was John S. Hatcher. You will just have to read
his great books. He talked this year about material in The Arc of
Ascent. The ideas he covered are too numerous for me to explain, but I will
give a couple of my favorite examples. He said the Bahá'í Faith
has no built-in cultural bias because any group in the world can consult, hold
feast, and organize itself following His Divine Plan without compromising the
diversity of their culture. Also, he said that His Plan is ingenious in view
that it eliminates greed and political competition, since the
Bahá'í administrative order gives rank only to the selfless. My
very favorite comment of his made me feel young: maturity is not the end of
anything, but the beginning of meaningful development.
How can I explain Dann May? I need to widen my mind if I wish to grasp him. He
was fast, funny, but very, very thorough in his presentation of the Institution
of the Guardianship, the Tablet of Carmel, the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the
Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Kitab-i-Ahd, and The World Order of
Bahá'u'lláh. In retrospect I can't believe we covered all
these works (but we did) and he still managed to tell us so many jokes. He
spoke in a very soft voice only when he really wanted us to listen, otherwise
he spoke forcefully but sweetly.
We were lucky to have Gayle Morrison talk to us about the appointed arm of the
Administration: the Hands of the Cause of God, the International Teaching
Center, the Continental Counselors, the Auxilary Board Members, and their
Assistants. Being new, this part of the Administrative Order still gets
misunderstood, but Gayle was of great help in shedding light on the whole
Institution of the Learned, or as she called it, the institution of the
Morris Taylor, a member of the Regional Council for the Central States, spoke
to us about the new Regional Councils. His book Helping Joe Strong was
recommeded by Dave Rouleau, who on his part, designed a wonderful Workshop for
us on Local Spiritual Assembly Development. His sense of humor was the more
delighful because it was so unexpected. I can see how a man like him could be
in charge of "putting out the fires"; I cannot picture him escalating
conflicts. Again, my hat off to the way Bahá'ís can combine
intellect and great character.
I am reluctant to speak of Dr. Keyvan Nazerian because I don't know how to
express myself about him. He reminds me of a dear poet friend (Bill Stafford)
who is no longer with us, and I don't seem to be able to separate the two. Dr.
Nazerian's dedication was our bounty. As students of the Faith who aspire to
learn to teach the Faith well, we could have not asked for a better person to
encourage us and define for us our tasks. His key word: SYSTEMATIZATION.
I also need to touch upon the other classes of Dr. Robert Stockman. He taught
courses on the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, the Creation of the
Administrative Order and Opposition to the Faith. Doesn't he look awfully
relaxed to be carrying all those dates and information in his head? Plus of
course the responsibilities of the Institute and the Research Department?
The only teacher I am leaving out of my review is Jeffery Huffines, for the
simple reason that I had to leave before his classes began. But I was very
impressed with his reading assignment, not only in terms of length, but also in
content. It covered the topics of the Crisis of Governance, Baha'is and
Politics, Nonpartisanship, and the Baha'i Faith and the United Nations. It
seems to me that the 1997 report on the work of the United Nations by
Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, titled Renewal and Transition,
parallels many of the Bahá'í views and sometimes almost uses
Bahá'í language. I felt proud to understand in depth such a
comprehensive view of the world and its situation. But then, I think that has
been the purpose of this year's curriculum.