Jottings of a pilgrim

The following is a reflection I wrote on my pilgrimage to the Holy Land in late November 2016. It appeared in the 2017 Spring edition of the Scottish Bahá’í Newsletter (issue 15) – my name was overlooked, thus the article appeared as anonymously written.

My eyes were fixated when I first saw the long-anticipated, mesmerising view of the Shrine of The Báb. I was surprised by the spectacle; photographs cannot prepare you for it’s real-world beauty. I suspect that no pilgrim ever forgets first sighting the super superstructure. It’s purely majestic and likely one of the definitive moments of any Bahá’i’s first pilgrimage.

I stayed at the Molada Guest House on Hanassi – nearby to the upper terraces entrance. The first morning at breakfast I met Bas, a Dutch co-pilgrim who had also been allocated group H. We struck up a companionship and spent much time in each other’s company. My pilgrim group was assembled from an influx originating from Hawaii, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, USA, UK, Belarus, French Guiana and Suriname. It was fantastic to see the first large group of Mongolian pilgrims whom had come, stunning in their colourful, traditional costumes. One evening at the International Teaching Centre, nine of them chanted a prayer together. The intonation was spiritually transportive and later they sang a wonderful traditional song. Their soulful harmony was uniquely beautiful and I wished only that it had been recorded. With believers come from all over the world, the spirit of a global, faith-unified family was evident.

Visiting the Prison Cell of Bahá’u’lláh felt an important experience as it’s a potent reality of the injustice suffered by Him. It is lasting evidence of the isolation and wrongdoing imposed against the Blessed Beauty. It was unexpectedly large but devoid of even minimal comfort…chilling winds would have blown through the metal bar windows on winter’s nights .

The Houses of Abbud and ‘Abdu’lláh Pahsa, Mansions of Mazra’ih and Bahjí are all places of simplified and dignified beauty, bringing the history of the faith to life.

For seasoned pilgrims, there were some unexpected delights in the form of ’new’ artefacts to see.‘Adbu’l-Bahá’s beautifully restored carriage (at the House of ‘Abdu’lláh Pahsa) and his 1919 vintage Cunningham car (7-seater Touring edition) in Haifá. How fortunate I was to see such plenty, a feast of unforgettable images. Every building which is a part of the official pilgrimage programme was open for viewing.

Bahjí’s gardens caused me to often stop walking and stare, taking in the natural beauty spread all around. As a fan of cacti, it was a joy to see so many species of these evolutionary oddities. Green parrots flying between the trees seemed symbolic of the freedom of spirit in this divine setting. Picking just two words to describe Bahjí, they would be ‘paradisal’ and ‘glorious.’

Quivering quadriceps began – my thigh muscles were quaking. The reason occurred to me; I’d been down, up and down again the upper terraces every day (around 1.5km of climbing daily). About day five the trembling started and I realised it was muscle fatigue. The full ascent is 225m from bottom to top terrace – a costly climb in energy and it certainly tests endurance!

The upper terraces of the Bahá’í Gardens on Mount Carmel, Haifá

I was drawn to the impressive World Centre buildings, resplendent in their dignified majesty, visible signs of God upon the Arc. Their classical designs lend them an an appearance of age but the Pentellic marble stone is so clean that it belies its true youthfulness. It is fantastic to consider that these edifices are to endure for a millennium.

Second only to the Universal House of Justice in its measure of stately magnificence, the Archives Building most resembles a restored Parthenon… elegantly crafted with enduring beauty. 

To see so many artefacts from the early days of the faith is astonishing – the mind spins in wonder. The items that impacted me most were a beautiful white shirt, simply and elegantly tailored, owned by Bahá’u’lláh and the locks of His hair.

Blood-stained garments of The Báb and The Purest Branch were compelling to view and relics such as these give added context to the significant events in the Faith’s infancy. The sufferings, sacrifices and martyrdoms of the faith consciously resonate. So many thoughtful touches are put into the viewing of the precious archival treasures, for example, when looking upon the portraits of Bahá’u’lláh and The Báb the lighting within their exquisitely crafted, cabinet-style reliquaries is brought up gradually and faded slowly out to avoid any abrupt sense of disconnection with the images of the Divine Manifestations.

The Sea Gate isn’t easy to track down for the uninformed, greenhorn pilgrim, even with the map in the pilgrimage pack, unless you’ve been clued into its situation (on Leopold the Second Street). It’s location mark on the map is ambiguous and I found myself at the end of the Seawall Promenade believing I’d identified it. It isn’t included within the organised pilgrimage visit which is perhaps regretful due to its historical significance. On returning again to Akká with a larger group, I did see the ‘proper’ Sea Gate.

Pilgrim guides share narratives and facts of interest but ultimately, we all absorb something different from the experience. We filter and interpret information and sensory input but each brings their total life’s experiences with them to the Holy shrines and sites, so the journey is completely, personally unique.

Returning home from my pilgrimage, I reflect upon what an unforgettable, beautiful experience it was. I was blessed to have been guided and helped by friends in preparing myself in readings and explanations which facilitated my spiritual readiness and my heartfelt thanks goes to them.

One of the most lasting images that I brought home with me is the long, gravel path approach to Bahá’u’lláh’s Shrine. The time taken approaching, walking that path, I used intensively to gather my spiritual concentration, aligning my awareness with the entire journeys purpose, the path’s endpoint and destination – preparing myself as completely as possible. It took surprisingly long to walk this relatively short distance, the gravel underfoot effectively designed to slow the approach and induce a more meditative mindset.

On the final evening there was a lightning storm across Haifá Bay, and watching it from the higher terraces, it was an unforgettably striking ending. I felt blessed to witness this powerful, beautiful display of natural energy; its position was directly above Akká and Bhaji. Every moment felt perfect, an ‘electric’ atmosphere of discharge and conclusion. I lingered for about 40 minutes soaking up the memory of this farewell spectacle.

A video frame capturing the night sky lit up by lightning in the background of the Shrine of the Báb, above Akká and Bhaji.

Holy Places are undoubtedly centres of the outpouring of Divine grace, because on entering the illumined sites associated with martyrs and holy souls, and by observing reverence, both physical and spiritual, one’s heart is moved with great tenderness.”

`Abdu’l-Bahá

Eyeing invisibility: Seers Of Hidden Vision

Clarified

Hour by hour
renew faith
and vanquish fears.

Day after day
put trust in Love.

Year upon year
hope for fertilisation
of the embryonic spirit.
Beacon Emission

Seeking Light
Reaching Light
Moving into Light
Taking Light in
Absorbing Light

Loving Light

Reflecting Light
Sharing Light
Letting Light out
Broadcasting Light
Emitting Light

Being Light
Examined for past clarity

Something born without a name can
know itself

yet cannot look back upon pre-existence
the unfixed ground of reality.

Recognising it’s own face from
others’ smiles.
Minding your ‘eiches

Not hostile, but hospitable
Not hateful, but holistic
Not horrendous, but heavenly
Not hellish, but happily
Not hurtful, but healing.

Enigma of The Most Caring Hands

Spiritual Attendant

Template modeller

Observer

Influencer

Guiding by example.

Virtually veiled

He is the Master Code-Writer

The Generator of manifest reality Spirited into intangible spaces

Creator of the material algorithm

His unknowable conscious data evolved sentient organic life. Us

Every soul’s atoms consists of code

Spiritual instructions from decreed DNA… a Majestic material marvel.

Growing Up

Flesh of land

Food of fauna

Skin of Earth’s soul

Ancient soil, common to all.

Decision Tree Dissolution

Man who prefers not his brother to himself is lost

… who does not show love for his family has fallen and failed

… who knows no fondness for his neighbour harms himself more than anyone

… who has no affection for himself is loved by God still.

Valuable actions ultimately are from those most caring hands.

Furnace Bright

Ocean of Rays

Light does not seek to divide itself
It unites from all sources, bringing greater illuminance
Its fulsome radiance has no harsh effect on unaccustomed eyes

– instead it’s a comforting sight to all humanity.

Uncontainable

Material they embody, imbue…
Fire, snow, light. Water
Coalescing with like element
Binding by attraction of unity

Untamed in character, primordial forces alive with mystery

Injecting life – reanimating – ashes burnt to ice

Water shearing off like skin – sunbeams burst out as ripe flesh

Snowfall implodes into shafts of hail fire; shards of rainbow transmute into blazing glow-pools of water

flame-storms evaporate into melting air

Essential and transient – elementally unconstrained, partnered to beauty.

Finer Inferno 

Threads of light radiating from the unseen

Filaments of the sun eternally spinning out from purifying fire

Flickers of inferno ablaze in transience

crackling the horizon with vibrancy.

Tendrils of flames released from an amorphous core; Truth Being illumined.

Manifesting sparks from a channelled vessel… realising

readying every space blessed throughout eternity.

Constructions of An Imagination

There are no true borders between the nations of the world – this fact was espoused most profoundly by Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith. He said:

It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.

Historically we have sought to create barriers and divisions, undoubtedly due to security fears (invasion and war was far more common than it is now) and through a mistrust of neighbouring kingdoms and its peoples, but also probably at times as a instrument to stockpile its resources and safeguard its wealth. In this respect many nations’ motivations could be viewed as instituting the governmental tools for holding onto trading advantages and implementing economic competition. The following quote, again from Bahá’u’lláh, echoes this same sentiment as the quotation above.

The message of these quotes goes straight to the heart of the fundamental teaching of the Bahá’í faith; that all people are part of one human family, literally, we are all related genetically and that we must recognise the oneness of humankind. All individuals are born of equal value and so we must all strive to create a more just world, both socially and economically, to eliminate the extreme inequalities, prejudices and social injustices that presently exist. In order to achieve these ends, practical actions of improvement must come to light, not merely words which promise action. Important changes can begin at the community level whilst radical alterations will also have to take place between governments at the global level in order to see wealth redistribution and environmental protection realised. Perhaps the most significant amendment that’s needed from international agreements is that the signatories of countries remain honest in their word and follow through on their commitments. Without truth and trust there cannot ever be any real or measurable progress.

Unity – Progress via Communication (… embryonic inner ripples)

I was intrigued to find that I could look at statistics from viewers of this wee blog site and can clearly determine where in the world individuals that have read some content are from (and how many from each of those countries). After some consideration, my purpose in sharing this is not to praise or inflate this, my very-average website, but to illustrate how far-reaching the interest of spiritual matters in relation to the Bahá’í Faith (as most of my posts have a ‘Baha’i tag and are sometimes shared on Bahá’í groups on social media such as Facebook).

The followers of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings are second-most only to the Christian faith in terms of their geographic extent spread around the world. This, I believe is due to the core message of the Bahá’í Revelation which is to foster complete unity of all peoples around the world, the inhabitants of all nations recognising humankind as one global family, with all its diversity of cultures preserved. It is expressly stipulated within the Baha’i faith’s writings that global unity is not only necessary to solve the prevailing problems of world, but it is inevitable. From looking at the extensive list of countries from which viewers have accessed this website, it seems very clear to me that it’s the Baha’i-related ‘content’ that arouses interest… which, speaking modestly, is evidently satisfying.

So, having explained my intention behind the post, I’ll first state the obvious that all of my posts are in English (with perhaps a sparse sprinkling of Scots here and there), and so it’s not a surprise that the two most frequent locations by far that historical viewers of this site reside in are the US and the UK. Captured a few days ago, this world map screenshot below shows the full scale of this site’s viewer’s locations going back about three years since I began the blog – the pink-red shading reveals the scale of increasing number of views. However, the statistics revealed are not all of what I expected, or what other people would anticipate.

Screenshot of the viewers’ country location statistics for this WordPress blog site

Some of the biggest surprises are of course those least expected places around the globe (well, for me personally anyway). Of course, many of these which can be seen show only a small number or very few visits, but nonetheless, I did not expect that the vast majority of these would show up in the stats. From a blogger living near Glasgow, it’s a bit mind-boggling that site content is viewed in so many extremely diverse places with such rich cultural and religious ‘differences’ and outlooks.

From a csv file generated by WordPress, I popped the stats into MS Excel to create this graph

Below, a bit more legible (apologies for the tiny-seized type in the graph above) in larger sized type are the nations ranked from most frequent. Looking down this list of nations, it presents an unarguably international ‘story’ of internet users.

United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, Australia, Ireland, France, Malaysia, Indonesia , New Zealand (surprisingly perhaps NZ, bilingual with te reo Māori and English although the latter is much more common, with fewer views than Malaysia and Indonesia – until one learns that there are a large number of Bahá’ís in these 2 S.E. Asian nations), Netherlands, Dominican Republic, China, Russia, Spain, Philippines, Finland, Sweden (by a strange coincidence, two neighbouring Scandinavian countries sitting both with 9 views each), Mexico, Italy, South Africa, Israel (interesting for its association with the Bahá’í faith, the religions World Centre Administrative Headquarters being located there, as well as the Shrines of the Bab and Baha’u’llah in Haifa and Acre respectively), Greece, Switzerland, Denmark, Fiji, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Botswana, Romania (notable as a country for producing the first monarch, Queen Marie, to recognise Bahá’u’lláh as a manifestation of God and accept the Baha’i faith) , Morocco, Mauritius, Bermuda, Ethiopia, Gambia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Belgium, Guyana, Poland, Bangladesh, Hong Kong SAR China, Albania, Egypt, U.A.E., Nigeria, Marshall Islands, Chile, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Belarus, Croatia, New Caledonia, Cyprus, Austria, Norway, Brazil, Hungary, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru. All told, that’s 62 counties as well as the territory of Hong Kong SAR China – the list reads like its own kind of poetry I feel. I believe that it can be looked upon as a reflection of a continually unifying and integrating world; a modest signature of our global village. Perhaps justifiably, I might suggest the claim that this aspect of such a geographically widespread historical viewing is the sole remarkable aspect of this site. So, although admittedly this perhaps was another obscure topic posting, the signs of supranational communication, as these indicative, immature statistics flagged on this blog, looks set to continually progress.. The progress, in all its facets, of our entire civilisation, as explained in the Bahá’í faith’s teachings, will only come through the advancement of loving kindness between all people, developing ultimately to humankind’s worldwide unity. Unarguably, that begins with communication and consultation across the planet. I allow myself to hope that this is embryonic evidence of it here.



United States

United Kingdom
Canada
Germany
India
Australia
Ireland
France
Malaysia
Indonesia
New Zealand
Netherlands
Dominican Republic
China
Russia
Spain
Philippines
Finland
Sweden
Mexico
Italy
South Africa
Israel
Greece
Switzerland
Denmark
Fiji
Portugal
Saudi Arabia
Ecuador
Botswana
Romania
Morocco
Mauritius
Bermuda
Ethiopia
Gambia
Bulgaria
Turkey
Uzbekistan
Belgium
Guyana
Poland
Bangladesh
Hong Kong SAR China
Albania
Egypt
United Arab Emirates
Nigeria
Marshall Islands
Chile
Czech Republic
Pakistan
Belarus
Croatia
New Caledonia
Cyprus
Austria
Norway
Brazil
Hungary
Vietnam
Singapore
Peru

LESS – a journal of degrowth

I’m sharing this excellent new publication LESS which is concerned with the topic of ‘degrowth’; for those unfamiliar it is an area of study which examines the imperative of reversing the prevailing economic model of ‘perpetual growth’… the latter which is of course entirely unsustainable – ecologically and thus socially too – on a planet with finite resources. You can download the full issue below.

The following is taken from one of the articles…

Going to the Moon We are going back to the Moon. In 2023 and 2024 there will be the first woman, and the next man, on the Moon. These landings are planned as the next ‘giant step for mankind’ before creating Moon bases for mining purposes by 2028. In turn, these bases could be the […]

Source: LESS – a journal of degrowth

Getting more graphic

I created the following array from an idea I had about printing little cards (business-card size) with very brief text/words imagined, or creatively intended, to intrigue any ‘readers’ of these. I’ve place this collection together on one page, which can be printed off onto card and then cut into the appropriate equal sizes. The second page is all of the one design, nine same images… which is more convenient for mass printing to create a substantial number of same-style cards (I hoped that this one would perhaps be the most popular, being the most visual using the Earth globe image). So, anyone is welcome to freely download them and use these if they wish. On the mixed sheet, five of them are written with the global Baha’i website bahai.org – 3 of them display the specific UK Baha’i site bahai.org.uk – and one shows both sites. I suppose, hopefully, that they’re intriguing ‘wee inspirations.’

Download these ‘wee inspiration’ arrayed card sheets here :

Promoting other Artists and Creative Talents

There are so many gifted individuals out there that I feel that it’s appropriate and proper to share other artists’ work, especially when I deeply admire their creations and believe that their endeavours are more impactful than anything that I will personally accomplish. This goes for any field whether it being music, ceramics, wood-turning, poetry, silversmithing or needlepoint.

So, I’ll share some resources which are well worth investigating. Personally, I think that it’s a wonderful experience to discover an artist whose work resonates with you. Click to on these links below…

https://www.bahaiartsconnection.com

https://bahai-library.com/bafa/profiles.htm

Some sites to find work of brilliant Bahá’í artists new to you:

https://bahaimusicstore.com

https://9starmedia.com

The ART which follows was inspired by the Twin Luminaries’ 200th year anniversaries of their Births. The Bicentenaries of the Herald and Forerunner of the Baha’i Faith, The Bab – and Baha’ullah, the Messenger of God for this day and Founder of the Baha’i religion. The Bab, also known as the Primal Point, who revealed His own new faith in His writings of the Bayan, foretold the coming of Baha’u’llah as “He whom God shall make manifest.”

Artistic Expressions offered from the Bicentenary of he Birth of Baha’u’llah celebrations 2019

https://bicentenary.bahai.org/bahaullah/artistic-expressions/

..as well as from the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab in 2017

https://bicentenary.bahai.org/the-bab/artistic-expressions/

… and…

Click HERE to view fascinating VIDEO RESOURCES on the Baha’i Faith.

Thought-provoking animation shorts

I’m sharing the following two excellent animations produced by the UK Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs in the hope that even just a few more people might have the opportunity to see them and receive the benefit fo their content. The following is the introductory text from the source webpage addressing ‘Social Cohesion‘.

We all feel the need to belong somewhere, but are the ways in which we are trying to satisfy this need actually bringing us closer together?  This animation explores what’s happening to our sense of community and belonging, and how focusing our attention and energy towards serving our local community could strengthen the bonds that connect us. This helps us to develop a greater sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Here’s the second animation short; I recommend watching both thoroughly.

Relevant link: https://www.publicaffairs.bahai.org.uk/social-cohesion

All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.

Baha’u’llah

The following 3 social action video compilations on Selfless and Transformative Service within Our Communities were produced from the Baha’i World Centre.


… and press HERE for some more wonderful and inspiring Social Action videos from an international and global perspective.