A concise encyclopedia

Yesterday, I was delighted to see that one of my new books had arrived in my letterbox. It was A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith by Peter Smith, published by Oneworld Publications in 2000. I had been looking for a good reference book to help me to write my introductions to the tablets. I had borrowed a copy of A Basic Baha'i Dictionary edited by Wendy Momen and published by George Ronald, but it really is basic and doesn't have all the things that I need in it.

But then my concise encyclopedia arrived and everything changed. I looked up a few things and found that they were all there. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was an even an entry on 'detachment'! After thumbing through the book and looking at the pictures, I discovered that this concise encyclopedia is an excellent piece of research and writing. If Peter Smith does nothing else in his life, he has already done something that will assure his entry to the kingdom. In my view, this is a 'must have' for all Baha'is and all those wanting to find out more about the Faith.

Under the entry "Baha'u'llah, Writings of" is a comprehensive list of the major works, with a brief description of each of them. You will also find separate entries on lesser-known writings such as Ode of the Dove. In short, the concise encyclopedia is truly comprehensive. It seems that no effort has been spared. Where possible, Peter has reproduced photographs relating to the entry. I was particularly impressed to see photographs of all 15 of Baha'u'llah's apostles. I didn't even know who they were, much less know what they looked like. Peter has bravely included an entry under 'infallibility', where he explains the difference between the Most Great Infallibility and 'conferred' or 'acquired' infallibility and gives a summary of the Guardian's explanation of his own infallibility.

As I said, the book is particularly important to me because I was looking for a reference book to help me with my introductions. When I am finished writing the introductions, I want to write a sort of glossary that will contain explanations of the mystical terms used in the tablets. This is the sort of information that isn't contained in the concise encyclopedia. I think there is a great need for the Baha'is to better understand the mystical roots of the revelation.

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