Ruhi in three weeks, or your money back

The Baha’is in Sikkim sure have Ruhi systematised. They’re managing to put people through the seven books of Ruhi at the astonishing rate of one book every three days.

21 days Winter camp organized by Denzong Baha’I Institute of Sikkim began from 20th December 2009 at Baha’I School, Tadong.

Each group has to go through systematic sequence of courses which is from level 1 to level 7.

Admittedly, there’s not a lot else to do in Denzong over winter, but that’s still pretty impressive.

The Revelation Will Not Be Ruhi-ised

The Revelation will not Be Ruhi-ised.
You will not be able to home-visit, brother.
You will not be able to build a pyramid in your cluster.
You will not be able to lose yourself in paths of service,
Skip out for coffee during practicals,
Because the revolution will not be Ruhi-ised.

The Revelation will not be Ruhi-ised.
The revelation will not be brought to you by Palabra Press
In seven parts without commercial interruptions.
The revelation will not show you images of suns, lamps and mirrors.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revelation will not be right back after a message
about a political non-involvement, obedience, or unity in conformity.
You will not have to worry about the two essential movements, or exploiting the frameworks for action.
The revelation will not go better with accompaniment.
The revelation will not fight the apostates that may cause bad belief.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revelation will not be Ruhi-ised, will not be Ruhi-ised,
will not be Ruhi-ised, will not be Ruhi-ised.
The revelation will be no re-run, brothers;
The revelation will be live.

Swine flew?

I’ve been skimming a document called Attaining the dynamics of Growth. It’s a recent publication from the International Teaching Centre that explains how Ruhi — or more specifically, Intensive Programmes of Growth — are doing. The text indicates that things are going very well, but the accompanying data seems to tell another story when you take a close look at it.

For example, here’s some data about a cluster in Colombia,

Participation in devotions

Note that we are told that “the table shows the steady increase in participation in devotional activities over several cycles”. But the growth lasts for just six cycles, after which there’s a plateau or decline. You can see this much better with a graph, which I’ve created:

I’m giving just one example, but there are many more in the document, and the examples are across five continents. Unfortunately, there’s very little mention in the document of the fact that the cycles of growth — even in model clusters — seem to peter out after 3-6 iterations.

Unless there’s some amazing out-migration / falling away of trained tutors, the problem can’t be lack of tutors — the programme creates tutors, for heaven’s sake! I’m guessing the problem is that the programme’s participants quickly get a bad reputation for turning into tedious one-track Ruhi zealots. The programme loses its attractiveness to capable people, who see it as potentially very cult-like and socially isolating. Tutors and participants — particularly the more capable — see the light and become inactive. The programme ends up attracting and retaining only needy people and starts to collapse under its own weight, dysfunction and low morale. But that’s just a wild guess.

Mormons have been doing Intensive Programmes of Growth for decades. They call them “missions” and they seem to have managed sustainable growth over many decades, to the extent that Sociologist Rodney Stark thinks Mormonism could be the next world religion.

Baquia has identified a possible problem with the Baha’i programme-driven approach. Willow Creek Megachurch realised that its expensive programme-driven approach didn’t create strong disciples with an internal locus of control. Those few self-starters soon became dissatisfied with Willow Creek and generally moved on to other churches that catered better to their needs and abilities. Those who weren’t self-starters just filled the pews every Sunday and listened mindlessly to the same old recruitment message endlessly repeated.

I think of Ruhi and Intensive Programmes of Growth as attempts at self-fulfilling prophecy. The AO keeps doggedly saying how good they are. (Yes, yes, and pigs will fly.) It needs to create a buzz to induce otherwise sane people to take the plunge and become friendless teach-it-up zealots, thus feeding the process. Those people will get converts with their full-on activities provided they concentrate their attention on needy populations. The AO is trusting that the process will at least semi-snowball in enough places to generate the good news stories needed to keep the recruitment going elsewhere.

Think of Ruhi as an unstable, fast-mutating ‘flu’ virus. After millions of go-nowhere changes it’ll accidentally get all its RNA in a row and you may possibly have yourself a pandemic. However, in most cases the virus has a fatal flaw or two.

Likewise, Ruhi may well “take-off”, briefly, in certain parts of the world. Actually, the original pre-1994 Colombian Ruhi “strain” probably had a better chance of catching on because it was more grounded in social action and economic development projects, and thus had a better chance of lifting a community — socially, spiritually and economically. The current “strain” has moved towards the inherenly unsustainable Amway pyramid scheme model, where the product — balanced development of a community — is much less important than the “two essential movements” — clusters moving from C to A and participants moving from Book 1 to Book 7.

The ITC strain is quick-acting once someone is infected, but it seems to have two fatal flaws

  1. Those infected with the the virus generally transmit it only to people a lot more needy than themselves. Since it has a very limited capability to make those infected less needy, the virus runs out of folks who are sufficiently needy after being passed on a few times.
  2. The target population seems to develop an immunity to it.

For the person who knows everything

I know this from my learnings

Earlier, I wrote:

The House is nothing if not systematic. It tries something, evaluates and adapts it, then tries again. If anything seems to work, it gets adopted and tried elsewhere. “Anna’s presentation” is probably a good example. A script in a training manual becomes an integral part of door-to-door teaching.
Expansion by expulsion

Today, I discovered a brand new use for Anna’s Presentation – the processing of self-recruited Baha’is:

Tonight she and I went through fundamental principles of the Faith using Anna’s Presentation over the phone to complete the confirmation process. (I explained that this is part of the process when a person is in an isolated locality and has never met with a Bahá’í about their declaration.) She already knew everything. She also knew about Feast and the Calendar and repeating the Greatest Name. She is fasting and looking forward to Naw Rúz and asked how she could contribute to the Fund.
“She already knew everything.”

What a handy-dandy document! It seems All We Really Need To Know We Learn In Kindergarten Anna’s Presentation

Forty-one out of forty-one

Mission accomplishedCongratulations to the Baha’i community for achieving all forty-one of its planned conferences, on time, and on… Oh, who cares about the budget? The Baha’is are playing their part in global social and economic development by stimulating the world economy, right when it’s needed.

And they’re doing this as an “extra”, right in the middle of a very ambitious Five Year Plan. With the score at forty-one out of a possible forty-one, it doesn’t get better than that!

In the wake of this great success, and with the demonstration of such strength and resolve from the Baha’i community, I fully expect to hear from the Baha’i administration that many more communities are now ready to forge ahead with door-to-door teaching.

Pyramids – not just places to store dead bodies

It makes no difference what numbers you put into a pre-drawn pyramid, it's still going to look perfect. This is no good for analysis, but it's great for PR!
It makes no difference what numbers you put into a pre-drawn pyramid, it's still going to look perfect. This is no good for analysis, but it's great for PR!

Baha’is have been talking about “pyramids” for a few years now.  Probably the best known use of the term is in the phrase “What does the pyramid look like in our cluster?”. My limited understanding is that pyramids are a snapshot of a community’s “pyramid of human resources” In other words the numbers of people who have done each of the Ruhi books.

For example, each asterisk represents a person (sorry, a human resource), and each level represents a book:

Book 7 *
Book 6
Book 5 ***
Book 4 *******
Book 3 *****
Book 2 ************
Book 1 **************************

If you look real hard, you have a pyramid.   You can quickly see that too few human resources have taken Book 3, and that, sadly, book 6 is a human-resource-free zone. And somehow this matters.

I understand that it’s important for Baha’is to…

“move through the sequence of courses, in order to provide more human resources for the next cycle of the intensive program of growth”
ITC, 28 November 2004

…so maybe there’s a similar pyramid that charts how many Baha’is have taken how many courses.

Once you know the jargon, you can start introducing it naturally into your conversation, like this:

“The tutors then went into a consultation about plans to expand their pyramid of human resources in the next three months. 5 study circles will be started by 5 Book 7s and they aim to complete them by June.”
National Institute Board, “Tutors Times”, March 2006

Note the use of the phrase “Book 7s”, presumably denoting people who have completed the entire sequence of courses that are available so far.

“An important capacity of the institutions in promoting the two essential movements is the ability to interpret the ‘pyramid’ of human resources, that is, to look at the development of human resources and the consequent level of activity in the cluster and determine what needs to be done next.”
ITC, 28 November 2004

And that’s why we need institutions. Why, I bet half my readers couldn’t even name the “two essential movements”.

Ha-ha. No, that’s definitely not one of them.

“The friends in some clusters have successfully established their training program and pyramid of human resources, helping a sizable number of believers to proceed through the entire sequence of courses, thereby creating a new dynamic in the activities in the cluster.”
ITC, “Reflections on Growth”, March 2004

“Creating a new dynamic” – doesn’t that just sound new …and dynamic!

And please don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation of the revised training pyramid:

“View a presentation describing the process of training spiritual human resources, their movement through the sequence of courses, and their employment in various acts of service toward the community.”
Crimson Ark Regional Training institute – Understanding Trainings

I don’t know what the old training pyramid looked like, but this one is a whole lot better. A lot more learnings went into this one.

Expansion by expulsion

The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Masaccio)The Universal House of Justice is trying every which way to make Baha’is more active. It’s tried working through national and local assemblies and it’s tried through the ITC, Counsellors, ABMs and clusters, using the Ruhi institute process. More recently, it’s trying out a bunch of regional conferences. All those methods have been quite labour-intensive and sometimes quite capital-intensive. Travel, study, venues, accommodation and materials all add to the cost.

The House is nothing if not systematic. It tries something, evaluates and adapts it, then tries again. If anything seems to work, it gets adopted and tried elsewhere. “Anna’s presentation” is probably a good example. A script in a training manual becomes an integral part of door-to-door teaching.

But there’s one thing the House has tried that seems to have had stunning results in activating Baha’is, yet doesn’t appear to have been adapted and adopted.

I’m speaking of removal of membership. Michael McKenny appears to have been an early “failure”, but Alison Marshall and Sen McGlinn have shown that the method has great promise. Those two have become real powerhouses since their expulsion. Think how amazingly vibrant the Baha’i faith could become if the House would remove just 1% of the Baha’is from membership, let alone 10% or 100%.


Screenshot of the new video game, Learnings.

Screenshot of the new video game, “Learnings”.

The Baha’i World has been eagerly awaiting the next major stage in the roll-out of Ruhi to the masses. Meanwhile, there have been hints from Baha’i officials about the existence of something called “Learnings”.

At last, it can be revealed that a new version of Ruhi for the Video Age has been developed. It will shortly be available from Baha’i Distribution Services and other approved outlets.

Learnings is a puzzle game in which the goal is to guide a certain number of Learners to the exit on each level. The Learners enter the level through one or more hatches somewhere on the level. They can be assigned skills that are used to help them get to the exit. The levels get progressively harder, with some of the last levels being very difficult.

Sneak preview of the product.

Sneak preview of the product.

Wikipedia — an online, user-generated encyclopedia, specialising in popular culture — has already picked up on this exciting new development, and is featuring the new game. This augurs well for its future popularity!

“The game is unique and based around a concept previously untried. In the original Commodore Amiga version, there are 120 levels, and on each level, the player must guide a group of up to 100 learners (or 80 in many versions, such as DOS and Windows) home by giving individual Learners various commands. The “Learners” of the game are small, green-haired humanoid beings that mindlessly walk en masse into any danger in their path, following the popular myth that real lemmings behave in a similarly suicidal fashion.”

The Study Circle at Pooh Corner


“Piglet,” said Winnie the Pooh, after a very long pause, “what exactly is a Study Circle?”

To Piglet this was a sort of Hum! question. A Hum! question was one where you said “Hum!” in a very loud voice, in a manner that suggested you weren’t just saying “Hum!”, you were saying, “Hum! Well, that is a very involved and complex question, to which there is no easy answer, and I will have to gather my thoughts properly before I give you my considered response.” It was very important not to say “Hum!” in such a manner as to suggest you really meant, “Hum! I’ve no idea.”

“Hum!” said Piglet, to the best of his ability.

“Hum,” agreed Winnie the Pooh.

This was not an altogether agreeable response to Piglet, who would have preferred something more along the lines of, “I see”, or, “Well, maybe that would be best saved for another time,” or even, “Goodness is that the time? I must go and attend to a Very Important Thing which is Somewhere Else.”

Pooh sighed. “It’s only, Rabbit invited me to one, and he said you were coming too, and so I thought to ask you what it was. I did ask Rabbit, and I think what he said would have made sense to Rabbit if I’d said it, but because it was Rabbit saying it to me, somehow it didn’t quite stay in my head. Bother.”

“Hum,” said Piglet – not at all like he’d said “Hum!” last time, because this time it was a “Hum,” that clearly meant “Hum! I know exactly what you mean.”

“I think,” said Pooh, “that it’s a sort of Expedition. Because Rabbit said we would be walking a path of sorts, and I asked him where the path went, and he said that it was up to us to find out. I will have to ask Christopher Robin,” Pooh decided.

At that point, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo came along.

Winnie the Pooh group

“Hello Pooh! Hello Piglet! Hello Pooh and Piglet! Do you know what me and Eeyore are doing?” said Roo excitedly.

“Eeyore and I, dear,” said Kanga patiently.

“Do you know what me and Eeyore and mummy are doing?” said Roo, bouncing up and down on the spot. “We’re doing a Roo-hee! Do you want to do a Roo-hee too-hee?” squeaked Roo and bounced faster.

Pooh thought that if a Roo-hee involved that much bouncing then perhaps he wouldn’t, but didn’t want to be impolite, so instead he said, “Hum!”

“Everyone who does a Roo-hee,” said Roo proudly, “goes round in circles.”

“To some amongst us,” noted Eeyore, “this is not a new experience. In fact, I am sad to say that some of us have been making a habit of this over many years.”

It was then that Piglet had one of those special Moments. He imagined it was the same sort of moment that a great detective had when he was solving a very difficult case, or a scientist had when he was working out the answer to a very difficult sum. “You’re doing a Ruhi study circle, just like me and Pooh!” he said excitedly.

“This is going to be a very productive group, I can tell,” said Eeyore. “They catch on very quickly.”

“Are you doing a Roo-hee too, Eeyore?” asked Pooh. “I thought you didn’t like expotitions very much.”

“It’s not an expotition, Pooh,” explained Kanga. “It’s a form of training. You go along to acquire knowledge, skills and insights. Rabbit is going to be tutoring us.”

Piglet was not altogether sure that he liked the sound of being ‘tutored’ by someone, because it sounded like the sort of thing that could be unpleasant for a Very Small Animal. But he thought that if Pooh thought it was All Right, then that would be a very different situation. He hoped very much that Pooh wouldn’t say “Hum!” again because it would be very challenging to know exactly what “Hum!” meant at this particular time. Piglet noticed that Roo was going in circles round and round Eeyore and Kanga, and he felt a little bit like he wouldn’t mind if Rabbit tutored Roo. Then he felt ashamed of himself and thought he wouldn’t wish for anyone to be tutored if they didn’t want to be.

“Rabbit says he’s done ALL the Ruhi Books in an intensive campaign,” Kanga went on. “He’s done all six books from Book 1 right through to Book 7.”

“Evidently, the knowledge, skills and insights he’s acquired so far do not include mathematics,” lamented Eeyore.

“Are you coming? Are you coming? Oh do say yes! Do say yes! It’ll be such fun!” squeaked Roo, bouncing up and down in front of Pooh.

“Roo, calm down dear,” said Kanga. “You’re not ready for Book 1 yet. You’ll be doing an art class instead.” Kanga said quietly to Eeyore, “Rabbit said that Roo could do drawing on the power of the word, and I thought that was a wonderful idea, because he’s always had a very good eye for detail and colour.”

“I’m very glad you’re going to be joining in too,” said Pooh to Eeyore.

“I don’t see that’s anything to be especially glad about,” said Eeyore. “Rabbit said it would help me to find my purpose in life. I asked him what made him think I’d lost it and couldn’t find it without being tutored. And he said it would cheer me up, because Unit 3 would teach me to sorrow not if things didn’t happen the way I wished them.”

“What’s Unit 3 about?” asked Piglet, who was beginning to feel he had a Piglet-sized grasp of the situation.

“Life and death,” replied Eeyore. “I feel cheery already. Ho ho, ha ha. Let’s all bounce up and down. That’s the thing about life. You’re busy enjoying it for all its worth, and then someone comes along and tells you that you haven’t got a purpose and you have to go round in circles.”

“I’m sure you’ll love it once we start,” Kanga said.

“It sounds exciting to me,” said Piglet, and looked at Pooh, who did not look like he was excited or not-excited about the idea of doing a Roo-hee. “A bit exciting,” he added, feeling that there was still a chance he might not want to be excited about it at all.

“Well if you’re not coming, Pooh,” Kanga remarked, getting ready to be on her way, “then Tigger’s starting his devotional meeting in a few minutes’ time.”

“Hum!” said Piglet and Pooh, both at the same time.

Christopher Robin reads Ruhi

“I think Rabbit’s study circle sounds like a fine thing to do this morning,” said Pooh, with the feeling of one who has deliberated long and hard over a Very Important Decision. “Me too,” added Piglet, who hoped everyone would realise that he had been thinking long and hard about the study circle and would have said exactly what Pooh had said without Pooh having said it if Pooh hadn’t said it first. “And Roo! Me too! And me! Roo-hee!” squeaked Roo and bounced off in the direction of Rabbit’s place. “But we can go and see Tigger afterwards,” added Pooh, because he did not want his friend to be left out. “We could get there just in time for elevenses.”

“If we have to,” said Eeyore. “I might be too busy trying to sorrow not because things have gone contrary to my wishes. They always do. Ho ho, ha ha.” But he trudged after Kanga and Roo, followed by a curious Pooh and Piglet.

And Harry Potter, who had been listening nearby, decided that if there were only six Books of Ruhi from one to seven then one was missing, and it was probably an evil wizard who was to blame. And although we haven’t time to go into details now, you can find the story in “Harry Potter and the Fifth Book of Ruhi” including details of all the excellent and spiritually enriching training he received at the intensive campaign that took place by the House of Ruhi-never-ending.

– Barry Thorne.

It is, of course, well known that Winnie the Pooh is a devout muslim.