Ian Kluge, 1948-2023

Aug 1, 2023
head shot of Ian Kluge in a dark suit and blue print necktie, smiling, sitting in front of a bookshelf filled with books.

by Robert Stockman

Wilmette Institute mourns the passing of Ian Kluge, an early and active faculty member who established the Institute’s first courses on philosophy and Bahá’í theology. Ian was born in Germany on May 17, 1948, to a Prussian atheist father and a German-Jewish mother (and Nazi concentration camp survivor) who were refugees from what is now Poland and Russia. In 1954, the family moved to Canada, where Ian grew up. He received his B.A. (honors) at Notre Dame University of Nelson, B.C. He went on to graduate studies at the University of Alberta where he received an M.A. and completed his doctoral studies, but not his dissertation. He met his Finnish wife, Kirsti, on a blind date; they married in 1973 and had four children, two boys and two girls.

Ian notes that “what attracted me to the Bahá´í Faith was its evolutionary and dialectical outlook, which, in my opinion, Bahá´ís and non-Bahá´ís alike are only beginning to understand, especially when it relates to practical issues like human nature, politics, economics, psychology and psycho-pathology, gender and gender relations”. Late in life, Ian’s atheist father became a Bahá’í as well.

Ian’s talents were many and diverse. He was a poet who published at least three volumes of poetry and a playwright, five of whose plays were produced in British Columbia, where he resided. He published a literary study of the American poet Conrad Aiken. He also published regular columns in various local newspapers.

He was best known among Bahá’ís as a philosopher and a writer on comparative religion, meta-ethics, and science and religion. Thirty-five essays of his are available at the online Bahá’í Library One friend of his noted that he “single-handedly raised the depth and sophistication and breadth of our discourse in the correlation of the Faith to the Western Philosophical tradition” and “his work will remain foundational for anyone exploring similar terrain for a good time to come.” He has been described as “a powerful personality, with a strong presence and strong points of view, a big heart, a profound dedication to truth and to service, in evident and frank sincerity.”

Ian mentioned that he had a near-death experience as a result of a drowning at age 14; “it was a beautiful, visual, audial and spiritual experience.” He also has had “spontaneous ‘mystical’ experiences of incredible beauty and power”. In one of his essays, he noted that “In the Bahá’í vision of life and the after-life, the endless quest for ever more adequate self-actualization is a positive vision reflecting the infinite glory God has bestowed on humankind. We are all engaged on an endless voyage of discovery in which every moment is both a sheltering harbor and a point of departure”. He has now left on a new voyage of discovery, through the infinite worlds of God.


Ian Kluge, MA, ABD

Independent Scholar

I am an independent philosophy scholar dedicated to studying the philosophical aspects of the Bahá’í Writings as well as correlating the Writings with major contemporary and past thinkers as recommended by Shoghi Effendi (“Scholarship,” p. 4; p. 17). I am committed to  Mortimer Adler’s assertion that “Philosophy is everybody’s business” and that, knowingly or not, everyone is a philosopher. During my high school teaching career, I developed a program to integrate philosophy into the subjects I taught: Comparative Civilization, English and modern History. I  enjoy helping others initiate their own philosophical studies of the Bahá’í Writings.See Faculty Bio


Robert Stockman, ThD

WI Dean, Bahá’í History, Texts and Tenets

I have had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of my life. My fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, caused me, in 1980, to switch my academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States. As I was finishing my doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, I drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, I was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at our national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which ​focuses on most of the tasks of the institute I originally conceived. Meanwhile, I have also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend, just a mile from home. I have also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the Faith. Listen to Robert’s interview on ‘A Bahá’í Perspective’ podcastSee Faculty Bio


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