When the West Comes to the East: Laura Barney’s Lessons from Persia

Painting of Laura Clifford Barney
“Laura at Sixteen” by Alice Pike Barney (Image source)

May 16, 1909: a gathering of New Yorkers listens to Laura Clifford Barney; one audience member jots down her words. This scribe records two talks Barney gives: the first, on her journey to Persia, and the second, on her observations of Abdu’l-Baha. To learn more about the context, please refer to my previous post, which describes the second talk.

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“What I Saw of Abdu’l-Baha”: Vignettes by Laura Barney

‘Abdu’l-Bahá standing on the balcony of the house of Abbas Gholi, c. 1920
Abdu’l-Baha stands on a balcony. (Image source)

May 16, 1909, New York City: a group has gathered to hear Laura Clifford Barney speak. Her name is familiar to the audience from Some Answered Questions, which was published last year. This book brought Abdu’l-Baha’s commentary on subjects ranging from the New Testament to criminal justice to the newborn Baha’i community in the United States.

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Martha Root’s Interwar Lectures: Cosmic Education and the Rhetoric of Unity

Cover of Peitho 21.1 (c) CFSHRC 2018

Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 132-157.

Abstract: This article introduces Martha L. Root’s cosmopolitan rhetoric, which exemplifies how women speaking from (religious) margins interpret traditions to create calls for social change. In lectures delivered between the world wars, Root argued for “cosmic education,” a global peacemaking program promoting openness and civic service in learners, which she distilled from precepts of the Bahá’í Faith. Root implored every listener, from her US co-nationals to audiences worldwide, to evangelize peace. Her rhetoric of unity harnessed principle with practice to animate the cycle of cosmic education, a cycle she modeled by inventing transnational sisterhood with the 19th-century Persian poet Táhirih Qurratu’l-Ayn.

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Laura Barney’s Discipleship to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tracing a Theological Flow from the Middle East to the United States, 1900–1916

Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 28, no. 1–2, 2018, pp. 7–31.

Abstract: The discipleship of the young American Laura Clifford Barney to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the early 1900s resulted in a flow of spiritual teachings from East to West. After several years of intense engagement with her teacher in Palestine, Barney sought to disseminate in her Western homelands what she had learned. Her private and public writings demonstrate how she employed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teachings in her efforts to influence social discourse by promoting the Bahá’í Faith in Europe and the United States. Examining these teachings and Barney’s applications thereof in her rhetoric allows us to witness how a transnational channel of theological knowledge developed.

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The Other Witnesses: Khadijih Bagum and Haji Mubarak at the Declaration of the Bab

The House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran
The House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran (Image source)

When picturing the scene of the Bab’s Declaration, I think of His house in Shiraz, quiet and dark during a spring night in 1844. I think of an upper room where He converses with Mulla Husayn, revealing His spiritual mission as the Promised One and the Prophet-Herald of a new Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah. My mind does not travel beyond that upper chamber to explore the house’s other rooms.

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‘The Revelation of Baha’u’llah’ Books by Adib Taherzadeh

Four books by Taherzadeh
Image source

In 1974, the first volume of Adib Taherzadeh’s monumental series, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, was published. With this publication, and the three volumes that followed, Taherzadeh brought to English-speakers rich insights into Baha’u’llah’s Writings, contextualizing them in the narrative of His unfolding ministry from 1853 to 1892. 

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Women Inspiring Women in Baha’i History: Tahirih’s Lineage

Collage of sixteen Bahá'í women
Some prominent Baha’i women (Image source)

On March 8th, we celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” and acknowledge the urgency of “accelerating gender parity.”1 As much as International Women’s Day is a celebration, it is also a monument to centuries of discrimination.

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Feasting in the Dark: The Month of Dominion (Mulk)

A devotional gathering in London, United Kingdom
Photo copyright © Bahá’í International Community

At the latitudes where I’ve lived the longest (between 40 and 43 degrees north of the Equator, to be exact), November through March are dark and frozen. The Baha’i (Badi) calendar has no celebratory Holy Days during most of this wintry season; the Day of the Covenant falls around US Thanksgiving, and Ayyam-i-Ha comes about a month before the Spring Equinox. In between, for most of the Gregorian months December, January, and February, there are no celebrations on our calendar, in contrast to other religions’ calendars, many of which feature holidays around winter solstice, casting light on the darkest time of year. 

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A Christmas Story: The Forced Migrations of the Messengers of God

Photo by the author

Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah. For Baha’is, these teachers are among a series of divine Messengers, and Their teachings share a spiritual basis. These divine beings’ human lives also share certain features. Nearly all divine messengers have been rejected by most of Their contemporaries, persecuted harshly, if not killed. But for these four, Their persecutions took a particular form: forced migration. They and Their families were pushed from Their native cities into perilous journeys. 

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Sara Louisa Blomfield’s stories from a granddaughter of Baha’u’llah

Interior courtyard of the House of Abbud
Interior courtyard of the House of Abbud. (Photo by the author)

In the years between the World Wars, Tuba Khanum shared with Sara Louisa Blomfield recollections of her grandfather Baha’u’llah, grandmother Asiyih Khanum (Navvab), father Abdu’l-Baha, and older sister Diya’iyyih (mother of Shoghi Effendi, who became Guardian of the Baha’i Faith).

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