Suggested Resources for Background Information on the Bahá’í Faith
What Bahá’ís Believe – organized by theme: The Life of the Spirit; God and His
Creation; Essential Relationships; Universal Peace. Official website of the Bahá’í Faith.
The Life of Baha’u’llah – a photographic, chronological narrative.
Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh (2017) – a celebratory website
with artistic contributions from all around the world.
Bahá’í-inspired Perspectives – articles, videos and podcasts from
a wide range of contributors.
Bahá’í Faith Overview (PDF, 15 pages) – Slide show covering just the
basics, in a condensed format.
The Bahá’í Library Online hosts a listing of Papers and PowerPoint presentations in PDF format,
as well as “Talks by Bahá’í Notables” and Audio presentations/lectures.
NB: The quality of the presentations varies widely, but overall these are very
useful lists for further information on a range of Bahá’í-related topics.
A General Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith (Slide Show, 147 slides)
www.SlideShare.net (2012). Unofficial but good quality, posted by an individual Bahá’í
A Brief Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith (2 minutes, Bahá’í Bog)
Who is Bahá’u’lláh? (2 minutes, UK Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs)
Bahá’u’lláh – The Secret of our Century (38 minutes, Bahá’í Vision)
Why I Decided to Become a Bahá’í | Jessica Kemejuk (11 minutes, BahaiTeachings.org)
Bahá’ís of the United States: YouTube Channel
If you’re new to the Bahá’í Faith, you may be wondering which of the Wilmette Institute’s courses would be best for you. While our courses are generally open to anyone, regardless of current faith or religious background, many involve intensive study of the Bahá’í Writings, and you will get the most out of them if you already have some basic knowledge of the Faith. So how new are you to the Teachings of Baha’u’llah? On a scale from brand new (Very Green) to quite familiar
Science, Religion, and the Bahá’í Faith
11/10/18 to 01/04/19 / 08/05/18 to 09/29/19
The world has seen a remarkable growth of science and an unprecedented decline in the influence of religion since the birth of Bahá’u’lláh two hundred years ago. Many have come to believe that science and religion are deeply at odds with each other, leading to bitter and sometimes tragic divisiveness. However, science and religion are described by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, as “the two most potent forces in human life” that must work together for the healing and the continued development of human society. In Science, Religion, and the Bahá’í Faith, we will look at the Bahá’í teachings affirming that science and religion are both essential to human welfare and that they must be in harmony with each other. After providing an historical overview of the relationship between science and religion, we will explore the unique Bahá’í approach to their affinity. Shoghi Effendi, for example, has declared that the Faith is “scientific in its method,” suggesting that essential elements of the method used in the physical and biological sciences to explore the reality of the material world can be applied in a broader context. In addition, we will examine the Bahá’í writings as they relate to physics, cosmology, biology, and evolution and then consider some perspectives they inspire with regard to the environment and with what some call “the new Atheism.” Finally, we will explore the call by the Universal House of Justice for the systematic development of strong and growing communities through a “culture of learning” and consider effective ways to apply the principles of the unity and harmony of science and religion
The Promise of World Peace
12/05/18 to 01/15/19 / 12/01/19 to 01/11/20
The Promise of World Peace was a ground-breaking document when the Universal House of Justice issued it in 1985. Its discussions of issues necessary for achieving peace (religion; subordinating national self-interest to the requirements of world order; eliminating racism, disparities between rich and poor, and nationalism; emancipating women; abolishing war; accepting the oneness of humankind) remain as relevant today, perhaps even more so. This course will take us through the text in depth and familiarize us with the document’s themes and arguments so that we can draw on them in our conversations and discourses. We will enrich our understanding by engaging with documents and videos from Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í sources.
This course introduces students to a systematic method of studying Bahá’í scripture using a number of literary and exegetical tools. In the course, we will view passages from Bahá’í scripture through four “windows” on the meaning of divine wisdom: language, theme, structure, and the work as a whole. We will also discuss briefly five other “windows”: biography, historical context, oeuvre (the place of a work in the entire body of the author’s works), literary tradition, and world scriptural tradition. The course is designed to help students learn to read slowly and carefully and to assist them in developing tools for analyzing Bahá’í texts systematically.
All readings for this course will be provided online, with no purchase of books required.
“The individual, the institutions, and the community–the three protagonists in the Divine Plan–are being shaped under the direct influence” of Bahá’u’lláh’s “Revelation,” writes the Universal House of Justice in its December 28, 2010, message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counselors, “and a new conception of each, appropriate for a humanity that has come of age, is emerging. The relationships that bind them, too, are undergoing a profound transformation, bringing into the realm of existence civilization-building powers which can only be released through conformity with His decree. At a fundamental level these relationships are characterized by cooperation and reciprocity, manifestations of the interconnectedness that governs the universe.” In this course we will have the opportunity to study and reflect in depth about the nature of the three protagonists and their roles and relationships. Enriched by our deeper understanding gained from the course, we will be better equipped to play our parts in the building of the new civilization envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh.
Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind
09/01/18 to 10/19/18 / 09/05/19 to 10/23/19
In this course we will address the urgent need to make a fundamental transition away from a consumer society and materialist economy that threaten our planetary security. We will start with a general introduction to sustainability from a Bahá’í perspective and its profound implications in achieving the prosperity of humankind. Our objectives include learning to explain the basic issues of sustainable development, why it is important, and how it affects people today and in the future; relating sustainability to the issues of economic development, wealth and poverty, social development, and the environment in an integrated systems perspective; helping ourselves to make enlightened decisions about ways we can live more sustainably that are consistent with our own spiritual and ethical values and to explain our choices to others; and learning ways to educate others about the material and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development and developing plans to do so. After studying the origins and definition of sustainable development endorsed by world leaders, we will review the economic, social, and environmental issues that humanity faces in achieving sustainability and discuss the spiritual principles that can help us find solutions. We will then examine perspectives for the future, both those that show the unsustainability of the present system and the need for fundamental change—as contrasted with the Bahá’í vision of a new world order leading to the prosperity of humankind. We will explore the implications of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for our community action, reflection, and consultation. Finally, we will look at the importance of education for sustainable development, reinforced with spiritual values, as the basis for helping each of us detach ourselves from Western materialistic civilization, reexamine our present lifestyles, and begin to live more sustainably in accordance with the Bahá’í teachings.
The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction
09/10/18 to 11/04/18 / 09/15/19 to 11/09/19
This course offers a thorough and systematic study of the Bahá’í religion. We will start with a review of the vastness of the Bahá’í Faith’s authoritative texts, which sets it apart from other religions. In subsequent units we will examine the fundamental concept of unity and its implications for creating community, reforming the world, and reconceptualizing such subjects as leadership, politics, and conflict; the nature of God, revelation, Manifestation, humanity, creation, religion, and the Bahá’í Faith’s relationship to other faiths; the nature and spiritual development of human beings and the role of marriage and family life; and the Baha’i approach to reorganizing the social life and civilization of the human species. In the historical section of the course we will examine the development of the Bahá’í community from the time of the Báb (1844) to the present, considering the development of new Bahá’í institutions and the Faith’s focus on several important priorities: diversity, geographical spread, and empowerment of the membership. The course is suitable for inquirers wishing a basic overview, new Bahá’ís desiring a chance to explore the religion they have accepted, and veteran Bahá’ís wishing to refresh and deepen their understanding.
In this course we will undertake a systematic introduction to twenty of Bahá’u’lláh’s most important works, ranging from The Hidden Words to Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. We will study themes in the works, topics that Bahá’u’lláh progressively revealed during His ministry, and related tablets wherever possible. The course is designed for learners seeking basic information about the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, new Bahá’ís wishing more context for Bahá’u’lláh’s most important works, and veteran Bahá’ís seeking deeper understanding of the ocean of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation. We will not read the twenty works in their entirety but, rather, will sample passages from the selection of important works revealed by Bahá’u’lláh.
The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh: Two Lives, One Story
10/05/18 to 11/22/18 / Course to be repeated in 2020
In this course we will delve into the dramatic story at the heart of the Holy Anniversary years 2017 and 2019 as the Bahá’í world prepares to celebrate the births of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. From Shiraz to Tabriz, from the affluent courtyards of Tehran to the prison-city of Acre, The Story of Bahá’u’lláh: Promised One of All Religions, the text for the course, brings to life the story of the Twin Manifestations at the origin of the Bahá’í Faith: the Bab (“the Gate”) and Bahá’u’lláh (“the Glory of God”), each with a distinct but connected mission. Together their revelations are intended for a humanity about to enter a new evolutionary stage—the maturity of the human race. The story unfolds in two parts. Part One: The Dawn introduces Bahá’u’lláh in Tehran and interweaves events in the life of the Báb and His principal disciples, basic facts about Islam, and millennial expectations of Christians. Part Two: The Sun in Its Splendor recounts the dramatic events of life in exile for Bahá’u’lláh and His family, together with highlights of His writings and the emerging significance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Throughout our study, references to world events and well-known American figures add context. We will also discuss some basic guidance about storytelling so that in a supportive environment you can explore and practice sharing these stories yourself, whether in a conversation with a friend or in a more formal setting. There are no hard storytelling requirements; the joy is in learning how simple it can be.
NB: The course has one required text. It is available as an ebook.
Druzelle Cederquist, The Story of Bahá’u’lláh: Promised One of All Religions
The Bahá’í Faith and Social Change
10/10/18 to 11/27/18 / Course to be repeated in 2020
This course considers some of the most controversial issues of the day—politics, economics, human rights, the environment—and what can be done about them from the point of view of the Bahá’í Faith. It provides an overview of the Bahá’í perspective on the nature, purpose, and evolution of society; the role of the individual, the community, and institutions in carrying forward an “ever-advancing civilization”; and the value of social action. Each unit provides an introduction to Bahá’í texts and principles on the topic; the tools used by Bahá’ís to translate these into their own thinking, social action, and discourse; and case studies of the implementation of these at the grassroots. It examines the Bahá’í view of history, its understanding of the role of religion in social evolution, its conceptualization of the direction of social progress and how the Bahá’ís are engaging in social action at present, using the tools of education and training, reflection, service to humanity, and consultation. Course participants will be encouraged to make use of what they learn in the conversations they have with others and as they participate in public discourses in spaces such as interfaith meetings or meetings or conferences of civil-society organizations. Individual units look at human utterance and the practice of Bahá’í consultation; power, politics, governance, and law; economics; work and business; poverty eradication and wealth; human rights; gender equality; justice; eliminating prejudice; the environment; unity, peace, and development; education; service to humanity; and consultation.