The Lamp, volume 3 Number 4

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 3, Number 4, May 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. 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
    24-hour information line: 847-733-3595
    Phone: 847-733-3415
    Fax: 847-733-3563
The Lamp is produced bimonthly by the Wilmette Institute.
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.

    * 	Students write about the Wilmette Institute correspondence course,
    residential session
    * 	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 place.

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 address.

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 whole.

      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 center).

      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 twenty-seven students.

      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 prayer.

      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 closely.

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 spoken Persian.

      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.

Letters from Students

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. . . .
-Dana McMurray

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.
-Yael Wurmfeld

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 60091-1811. 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, 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 Course

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 Course

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 September

      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 their work.

      After September the Institute will continue to accept homework and provide advice, but the listserver and conference calls will cease.

New Correspondence Course Series to Get Underway in January 1999

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

The Revelation of Baháulláh, 1868-92, to Begin in October

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 Wolf.

      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 "Learning."

      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.
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