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 https://bahai-library.com/author/Ian+Kluge. 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.