Alison Marshall's Column

Alison is an unenrolled Baha'i, a business writer and a mystic. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Tablet of the Sacred Night

The following excerpt is from Baha'u'llah's Tablet of the Sacred Night. If you are looking for an extended prayer, with extra potency and something to get your teeth into, then this is a good choice. The 'sacred night' refers to the night of the declaration of the Bab.

"By Thy Name I beseech Thee to look, O my Beloved, with Thy generous gaze, upon these persons, who are sleepless during this Night that Thou hast designated a festival for Thy creatures, wherein Thou shonest forth by Thy Name, the All-Merciful, upon the entire contingent world, and wherein the Beauty of Thy Divinity mounted the Throne of Forgiveness.

Praise be to Thee! I beseech Thee by this Night, and by them who remained wakeful during it to send down upon them the most perfect good, the finest beneficence, the richest treasure, the most exquisite beauty, the most evident revelation, the soundest utterance, the most enduring sovereignty, the most flawless word, the most ancient grace, the most potent sign, the Greatest Name, the most ideal benevolence, the most glorious Glory, the most sublime splendor, the most mighty power, the most clear authorization, the most abiding Book, the most fruitful fruits.

For they have, O my God, gathered around Thee on the Day whereon all the inhabitants of earth have scattered and deserted Thee. They have set out for Thy shrine when all have turned away from it."

Baha'u'llah: Tablet of the Sacred Night

You can read an introduction to the Tablet of the Sacred Night at Juan Cole's site.

Go to the original blog entry...

Newspaper article

In mid-August last year, I received an email out of the blue from a journalist from the New Zealand Press Association (usually referred to as the NZPA). In the message, he said that he would be writing a feature article on the Baha'is in New Zealand and related topics. He asked if he could talk to me to find out my opinions. I wrote and agreed to be interviewed. Without realising it, I assumed that the journalist - his name was Reg Ponniah - had already spoken to the NSA or its media people. I didn't know what had led him to me, but assumed it was my website.

As it turned out, when Reg and I got talking, I found out that he had not yet spoken to NSA! He contacted me first because he'd been looking on the Internet for information about "Baha'i" and "New Zealand" and my name persistently came up. He said he'd been inspired to write the article in the wake of the hostilities between Israel and Lebanon, in which the Baha'i gardens had been a target. Reg didn't understand that I was not involved with the administration of the faith. So the interview began with my explaining to him how the administration worked and what it meant that I was 'disenrolled'. I also made it clear that I was a believer and gave him my views on my disenrollment and the state of the Baha'i community. It all went very well. Reg said he'd talk to NSA and then get back to me.

{josquote}A long-time Baha'i member said she was unceremoniously kicked out of the faith without any explanation.{/josquote}

I didn't hear from him again, but his article appeared in Wellington's Dominion Post on January 4 2007, headed "Isles of calm in a hateful world". For copyright reasons, I can't quote the whole article. The angle of it is the persecution of the Baha'is. It describes the New Zealand Baha'i community as "thriving and vibrant" and says that its "followers number about 4000 in New Zealand". The 2006 census puts it at 2772 and declining. See Steve's figures on Baha'is Online. Here's the passage that refers to my disenrollment.

Read more: Newspaper article


This entry was originally posted on my blog on May 20, 2005.

Baquia has an excellent piece on his blog called Ruhi Redux. It is a short analysis of what's wrong with Ruhi and it has a link to Tony Lee's compelling essay, The Ruhi Problem, on the subject.

One of the points Baquia makes is that the thrust of Ruhi is 'taqlid' , which he defines as "blind and unquestioning imitation in action or belief". Taqlid is a big part of Shi'ism. Believers are expected to find a religious leader who they respect and is suitably qualified and then imitate that person's religious belief and action. This is necessary because ordinary people lack the necessary education to figure that stuff out for themselves. Baquia refers to the fact that there are explicit texts that condemn taqlid, but he does not quote any.

That got me thinking that I should post here a section from an old Talisman message by Juan Cole. In it, he pulls together a number of quotes in which Baha'u'llah condemns taqlid. I think this mini compilation is informative because Juan includes with the English the relevant phrases from the original in brackets. The result gives someone like me, who can't read the orginal, an understanding of the context for the ban on blind obedience and a better understanding of what it means. When it comes to our religious beliefs, we are not to imitate anyone - not religious authority or any 'forefather' in any form. If we do, our belief will amount to no more than an attachment to names, where we align ourselves with the name 'Baha' all the while denying its reality. To avoid this, we have to see that reality with our own eyes.

Read more: Taqlid

Witches and dyslexia

Alison's spell goes awry and she creates "Stone Hinge".   (From: Trials of Griselda)

I've mentioned in passing in previous messages that I am dyslexic to some extent - enough to make me different, that's for sure! I haven't been tested scientifically, but I am a slow reader and, after looking into it a bit, I have other characteristics as well. I can see now that being dyslexic has shaped the passage of my whole life so far, including my experience as a Baha'i.

It came to my attention particularly last year, when Tom West, the author of the book "In the Mind's Eye", was visiting New Zealand and was interviewed on national radio. When I heard him talking about how dyslexic people tend to think, I was amazed and I discovered why I had spent my life struggling to 'fit in' and why I never was able to do post-graduate work at university. It was around 1999 when I discovered to my astonishment that it wasn't that I was stupid and everyone else intelligent, but that I was able to see things that others didn't see. Various things were obvious to me, but others never saw them, and so I thought what I saw was wrong (and, often, bad, I was told) and that I was missing what was plain to them. Getting on the Internet discussion lists was what woke me up. Finally, I met a few others who could see what I saw - so I wasn't stupid, for society said these people were smart - but most people didn't see what we saw.

Read more: Witches and dyslexia

On joy - for the fast

Over the past few weeks, I've had glimpses of a groove that I've been aiming for for a long time, but which seemed to persistently elude me. Now that I've had a little success, I've learned some important things about my past failure. As expected, nothing of what I've learned isn't already set out by Baha'u'llah in the clearest possible terms. I've been reading his instructions about it for years. It's hard to put into words: Baha'u'llah says, for example, for us to rid ourselves of vain imaginings and idle fancies and to strip ourselves of all earthly affections, and to enter his paradise and experience eternal reunion with him. But it's all words until something inside gives it meaning.

It seems to be a deceptively simple thing. In a nutshell, we're to train ourselves to attain a state where our inner self is completely absorbed in God, and the proof that we've attained it is that we cannot be jolted out of it by happenings in the world.

Read more: On joy - for the fast