Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Problems with the Ruhi Model

This post is the result of honest exchanges on the challenges, the tensions, the heartaches that many of us have found in the process of integrating the Ruhi study circles into our communities and our lives.

Among the questions addressed in this post are: pro-Ruhi vs. anti-Ruhi; how do we judge if is it a good or a bad methodology? Painful Ruhi experiences, successful Ruhi experiences, rigid attitudes and disenfranchisement of fellow Bahá'ís, discarding firesides and deepenings for Ruhi, dealing with narrow community responses, participation and abstention, fostering change. And throughout reflections on the Ruhi model, on tutoring, and on Books 2 and 6 of the Ruhi sequence.

The following, then, is one attempt at understanding the place and implementation of the Ruhi model in the processes of community growth and cultural change, and addressing some of the very real and painful tensions that arise along the way.

Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by the world Bahá'í community today is the imperative to a change of culture whose magnitude we are still, it seems, very far from begining to conceive. The timescale contemplated for this change stretches from 1996 to the year 2021, the end of the first century of the Formative Age of the Faith.

I don't think the vast majority of us, myself included, have grasped the degree of change that such a timescale implies. Rather, we seem to approach, with great frustration, the changes being introduced into our community processes as a rather full-scale make-over, which nevertheless remains purely cosmetic. We are yet far from recognising 1996 (the moment when this process of conscious culture-change was propelled by the Universal House of Justice), as "a turning point of epochal magnitude." (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 153, 1996)

As this process has gathered momentum, it has become increasingly, virtually universally, linked to the Ruhi Institute, bringing in its wake, the world over, both great successes and formidable cultural tensions. In the midst of the undoubted trials accompanying the profound tranformation we are undergoing (and it is a profound transformation, which, as these exchanges aver, is painful all over, however pregnant with promise), I find solace, direction and power in the moving and instructive words of the Universal House of Justice.

"Let no excessive self-criticism or any feelings of inadequacy, inability or inexperience hinder you or cause you to be afraid. Bury your fears in the assurances of Bahá'u'lláh. Has He not asserted that upon anyone who mentions His Name will descend the "hosts of Divine inspiration" and that on such a one will also descend the "Concourse on high, each bearing aloft a chalice of pure light"? Step forth, then, into the arena where all His loved ones are equally summoned, equally challenged and abundantly blessed. For to teach, Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms, is to do the "most meritorious of all deeds". And at this extraordinary moment in the history of the planet, nothing whatever is of more critical importance than inviting people of every sort and every gift to the banquet table of the Lord of Hosts." (Ridvan 152, 1995, p. 3)

What I frequently feel in discussions of the Ruhi process is the presence, explicit or implicit, of "excessive self-criticism" and/or "feelings of inadequacy, inability or inexperience", which generate frustration, can provoke disunity, and, in the end, "hinder" us, and cause us "to be afraid", for the future of the Cause, the viability of its processes, or our own space and sense of belonging within its community. And really, it is only through that spirituality that breaks through us when "the heart giveth way, and willing or not, turneth humbly in prayer unto the Kingdom of the Lord", that the promises and assurances of Bahá'u'lláh achieve the inner plausibility and eventual certitude to act as a genuinely compelling counterweight to the ubiquitous material evidences of our inescapable "inadequacy, inability and inexperience", before what, with the eye of faith, is a Plan which is firmly in the mighty grasp of God, under the stewardship of His Universal House of Justice.

I have seen and shared in dismal, disempowering study circles. As I reflect upon them, my negative experiences of Ruhi have teded to take place at early stages of its implantation in a new cultural context, be that a national community or a cluster or locality. I remember it from the very beginning of the process in Scotland and encountered it again much later at a similar stage on the local level in different places, and again when I moved to Tenerife. There are two tendencies which I see in the early stages of the application of Ruhi, and which I have personally observed in some 5 communities in different countries, and heard echoed in other places too. One is to take a minimalist approach to Ruhi, which basically, as the experiences so reccurrently shared in this dialogue also painfully illustrate, may mean that only those who have done the relevant book are to do the core activities. Alternatively it may mean that only the core activities are to be done, and the anecdotes shared about Auxiliary Board members declaring that deepenings were a thing of the past, or the local discouraging of firesides, or the dismissing of Association of Bahá'í Studies meetings because they lacked a skills component, etc. This flies in the face of all the guidance which on the contrary urges us to be entreprneurial as individuals, to experiment, to initiate, wherever we might be or not in the sequence. The other extreme, which I have seen in the early stages too, is the maximalist extreme, where the instruments, instead of mastered, are altogether recast into alien if more familiar configurations. Here Ruhi becomes a poor deepening. A third hamstringing of the Ruhi model is, in my experience, to divorse it from the simultanoues and equally crucial elements of the new paradigm of growth, namely, the concept of the cluster and its stages of capacity building, and the concept of core activities. Isolated from these complementary elements, the effectiveness of Ruhi in consolidating and propelling community development becomes mutilated and hence distorted.

On the other hand, I have also found consistently, in my own personal experience, the Ruhi model's power to transform, to motivate, to unite and inspire, both new and old believers, from all social classes and levels of education and understanding, at the same time. In a recent Book 1 that finished last december, I had the precious gift of tutoring a circle which began with 10 non-bahá'ís and 3 Bahá'ís. The beginning was wonderfully fun and challenging, with an age range of 16-82, all women bar me. By the third or fourth session there were only 5 of us who could make it regularly, me the only Bahá'í, with occasional "parachutists" who dropped in and spiced the circle. They all became Bahá'ís. One more who had to leave the circle, became a believer the week after, and finished the book in her own town with different tutors. The transformations were palpable. One man, disabled and obese, with low self esteem and a serious problem with his temper, transformed so dramatically within the first few weeks, actually within the first few days of initiating the excercise of reading the writings morn and eve, with the single prayer he had been given, that first he remarked upon it, then his mum phoned another participant, without any idea that her son was involved in anything, to say that he had tranformed beyond recognition for the better. The atmosphere itself was transforming, so that one old lady that two of the participants were employed to care for, and who did not really follow very much, softened and revived, to the point that her relatives and acquaintances asked her carers whether they had been putting new make-up on her because she looked so well. I could go on with the stories. They proved successful in raising human resources too. The four new believers had been attracted in the first place by the single new believer with whom we started the circle. Only last week, some three months after ending book 1 and one month into book 2, the same man I mentioned, who has no eloquence, no apparent "leadership" qualities, and very limited knowledge, brought another soul into the Cause. The neighbouring circle had similarly strong results, with three of the four participants becoming believers and the other one a closet Bahá'í. One of those new believers brought, almost concurrently, the week after her declaration, another soul into the Faith. Another of those believers initiated a regular devotional in her home. For unit convention, they could not make it, but all sent postal ballots. The believers in my circle had had no previous contact with the Faith. One was a mormon, another a Catholic, another a more synchretic seeker. From the other circle they all recently went to the World Centre on a 5 day visit, without much money, all of which they spent on the trip. You can understand that such an experience can be deeply moving, and it was so for me. The bonds I have made I will take to the next life with me.

Now, this is just one successful experience. As I say I have also had pretty poor ones. And anecdote by anecdote we can build either picture. What is going on? That the process of developing, implementing, refining, transplanting, implementing, refining, multiplying, refining again, and disseminating reformulated models of cummunity learning, is a developmental, laborious, time-consuming and non-linear process, that obeys the more general dynamics of Bahá'í community-building:

"The Faith advances, not at a uniform rate of growth, but in vast surges, precipitated by the alternation of crisis and victory."
(The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 53)

"The Faith of God does not advance at one uniform pace. Sometimes it is like the advance of the sea when the tide is rising. Meeting a sandbank the water seems to be held back, but, with a new wave, it surges forward, flooding past the barrier which checked it for a little while. If the friends will but persist in their efforts, the cumulative effect of years of work will suddenly appear."
(27 July 1980, written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
(The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Nov 09, Promoting Entry by Troops, p. 11)

We are, still, in the "cumulative years of work" stage. In this respect it is instructive to recall the stirring, and to many of us dangerously so, call from the Universal House of Justice for pioneers. Whereas in the past pioneer movements obeyed a spatial priority, where do we need more Bahá'ís to create or sustain fragile National Assemblies, the priority today is qualitative: where do we need more Bahá'ís to establish successful models of community that may be applied to communities in earlier phases of the community development process, understood in terms of cluster categories. When we have this critical mass of working models of community generally, and of the core activities specifically, it is logical to expect the focus to shift from model-building, to diversified application and adaptation of tried and tested models of success. I imagine and sense however that we are close to a qualitative leap, the "sudden effect", for the empirical base of good practice is very rapidly accumulating, built on multiple and formidable piles of average, mediocre and plain bad practice in our efforts to reach the heights, like the many dead ends, detours and scenic routes one takes to find the way to the centre of the labyrinth. Such meanderings are indispensable and inevitable parts of the process of finding the right track, however, once that track is found, and mapped from different starting points, the subsequent comings and goings are smoother and infinitely and more efficient. One can begin to focus on beautifying the paths, rather than simply discovering them.

This to me is precisely the point of getting the system fully in place and understood before judging and modifying it. Book 6, for instance, suggests that the process of launching a teaching campaign focused on a receptive population might and should take something approaching two years of preparation, consisting of a number of systematic, iterative pilot projects, evaluation and refinement. That kind of rigour or such timescales for a teaching campaign is not something we are used to. Likewise, I think the timescales involved in establishing, implementing, and understanding the three new concepts of core activities, sequential training, and capacity-building segmented clusters, are much longer than most people work with to arrive at judgements of their efficacy or adaptability. I am sure, and several letters allude to this, that after a good few years more, during which uniformity of format allows for validity of comparisons, there will be a phase of regional modification and adaptation, but one based on a worldwide, large-scale empirical process of action research, over several years, going on even as we speak and stewarded by the ITC, with a solid statistical and qualitative base in each country of the world. Only then will we be in a position to know what is essential and what is non-essential to the working models we have only begun to put in place.

The simple process of selecting those concepts, (core activities, sequential training, and capacity building segmented clusters) to build the present working model, took close to a decade of cross-cultural comparison, pilot projects and experimentation, as I discussed in my paper, not to mention the decades that went into building the alternative models from which the selection was made. Anyone with professional experience of community development will recognise the timescales and incredible resistance involved in incorporating participatory structures into communities, and the even longer timescales involved in making them work, as well as the conflict they almost inevitably engender as they disrupt existing structures and replace, not do away (in this I agree with the sceptics) existing hierarchies. What changes, in my view, is not the existence of hierarchy, but the more widely accessible processes underlying them, and the more transparent criteria and processes for establishing them. Again, anyone with solid grassroots experience in participatory democracy, will know how in the process of change a good number of immature power-games operate, on all sides, which become increasingly marginal, if the strategy is truly participatory and process focused, as the new structures gather momentum, familiarity and efficiency, that is, as they become integrated into the commonality of a new community culture.

I agree entirely that to see Ruhi-propelled firesides, devotionals, etc., as the invention of the wheel is both inaccurate and inhibiting. As I suggested in earlier messages, the distinctive element of this Epoch is that Bahá'í activities are integrated in a subtle and complex yet overarching context that involves Ruhi, not as a stand-alone activity, but as part of a system and model of community building and community development that also includes clusters categorized in accordance to community capacity and core activities tried and tested and eventually arrived at as the key generators of Bahá'í community. I this respect it is interesting to note that the quest for these key elements, for the most important activities to focus on to build and develop communities, began systematically in the first 9 Year Plan, and only after immense experimentation and further systematic pilot projects it was found that these three, now four core activities, are the support of the proverbial lever.

In other words, what makes the new paradigm of Bahá'í community distinctive is not the concrete activities. As Century of Light explains, by the 1980's there was not an activity or approach that had not been tried. Rather it is their integration into a coherent, globally applied systemic model that enables systematic community learning to take place, and, out of the immense range of Bahá'í activity, identifies, not on the basis of theory or personal preference, but on the basis of exhaustive trial and error across decades and countries and ethnicities, those "core" elements that have the capacity, within a sufficiently large yet coherent geographical area with a basic institutional and community capacity (several functioning LSA's , a good number of capable believers who understand and support the new systemic processes of growth), to achieve a multiplication and enrichment of
Bahá'í community activity, and a context that facilitates growth. This coherent and shared model makes possible the meaningful comparison of data and achievements, which in turn enables refinement to the model. Thus the core activities began as three, but as the model was applied in a variety of contexts, it became apparent that the education of junior youth played a no less important, foundational role in the gestation of community as the previous three activities. We now have 4 core activities. Again, the devotional meetings and study circles were originally built into the model as Bahá'í only activities. The accumulation of comparable experiences within a coherent model allowed for a further refinement that first encouraged further experimentation in opening these activities to the wider community, and then made such involvement of the acommunity of interest in these core activities absolutely pivotal to the global model we are applying, going as far as designating them portals for entry by troops. This change was reflected in the new statistics of non-Bahá'í participation that began to be gathered. In the Canaries, devotionals that don't include non-Bahá'ís are no longer quantified, for the statistical needs of the model have moved on.

The point I'm making is that by linking our individual initiatives to the new mechanisms of this epoch, the core activities, the Ruhi focused institute process, the cluster and its area committees, the community of interest, the capacity building movement through cluster categories, what we are doing is not merely, or I would argue primarily, contributing in a frequently haphazard way to our local community. Rather, we are participating in a systematic process of cummunity learning on a global scale that, for community development professionals, is an incredible, awe-inspiring achievement. We do so, not only by our own reflection on how to make the new tools work for us, but specially by furnishing a unqiquely individual, precious atom of experience that, when systematically viewed alongside thousands of similar contributions, will reveal, under the inspired guidance of the Universal House of Justice the parts of our experience that are genuinely in tune with the potentialities of our moment, those which are redundant, and those that are obstructive. This is a feedback loop that makes the community, as opposed to individual, insights incomparably keener, more widely accesible to more diverse participants, and better skilled at growth, change and maturation.

In this light, it is important to recognize that Ruhi itself is very far from static, and that the empirical evidence that has been and is being gathered through its application in diverse cultural contexts has already dramatically changed its contents from its original Colombian incarnations. To cite but one example, in Colombia the arts played no significant part in the Ruhi methodology. In book 7 it is critical. Again, in Colombian Book 7 itself did not exist, and the sequence was not always the same. Originally Book 1 began with Life After Death. So, as with every other tool (examples could be added of change in our modelling of clusters, and I am certain the same will happen before long with junior youth, as the three core materials become tested and tried in enough environments for enough time).

With this in mind I, for one, consider myself very far from being in a position at such an early stage in the game and with such geographically limited experience, to really get what Ruhi is about. Each time I study it some more, and particularly each time I creatively and receptively apply it once more, as well as each time I see it applied in a new cultural or social or even individual context, I realize that there is more to it than I previously thought. What I feel though is enough confidence to recognise when its failures are due to parrochial and inevitably ephemeral applications of the process, and when they appear to stem from structural aspects in the methodology itself. The biggest barrier to the successful implementation of Ruhi, not as either an exclusive endoeavour, or as a panacea for all challenges and problems, but merely as a crucial tool in propelling and integrating the learning-in-action of our community on a global scale, is the often alien and particularistic conceptual models we use to approach it and define it even before studying or experimenting open-mindedly with it in a spirit of learning to use a new instrument.

An example of such particularistic "either/or" models, which the Ruhi books set out, in fact, explicitly to challenge, is sadly furnished by the examples, which I have also seen in many, many places, with similarly discouraging impacts on so many Bahá'ís who feel disenfranchised when the either/or becomes naturally embodied in us/them relationships (both by advocates and detractors of Ruhi), is the perception that firesides and deepenings are somehow, if not a thing of the past, then at least in competition with Ruhi study circles and at a lower order of priority. Faithful application of the books' methodology, however, shows this to be a serious distortion of the model. The House of Justice letters on this subject are almost repetitive. Not only is Ruhi not a replacement for firesides but on the contrary firesides are enjoined as an essential part of the current pattern of community activity, for many years now, and measured in the statistics as measures of community capacity, vitality and progress. Deepenings, likewise, far from being marginal to the process, are the main service activity together with home visits of book 2, and there are many letters suggesting their indispensability and complementarity. Again, many letters emphasize the inadvisability of replacing other activities with Ruhi, rather Ruhi is seen as an engine to stimulate a multiplication of precisely such activities. That in early stages the result is the opposite is to be expacted, as the priority becomes having a core of trained resources. That happened here in Tenerife, as it happened in Nottingham, the two areas of which i have some close experience of the process. Then, as the priority for completing the sequence became less when a sufficient number of tutors became available, the focus precisely shifted onto the complementary activities indispensable to the success of Ruhi. Thus, the Ruhi sequence hardly covers the administrative order, and we have found that as new enrolments take place through Ruhi, devotionals and firesides, the need to deepen on this theme was pressing and obvious.

ut even within this framework, the minimalist approach, can be excessive, so that deepenings that are not vernatim recitations of Ana's talks, or firesides that likewise depart from the given texts in Books 2 and 6, are somehow seen as deviations, or at most approximations with regard to the ideal deepening and fireside. When one reads them closely, one discovers that the deepening, home visit and fireside contents are not prescriptive but indicative. Book 2, for instance, specifically suggests that the talks provided are starting points. The participants, including the tutor, have enormous room for creativity when applying the basic concepts and skills cultivated in book two to thei specific local and individual contexts, another thing that is explicitly encouraged in Books 2 and 7. The same applies with Book 6. The teaching campaign is offered, like Ana's talks in Book 2, as a template, but the group is encouraged to arrive at its own daily programme and campaign through consultation on its specific needs. The public talks suggested as part of an intensive campaign have titles that bear at times no resemblance to the templates given earlier. It is here that is suggested that the process of identifying a receptive population, getting to truly know and understand its needs, developing appropriate materials and approaches, and finally designing, on this basis, a comprehensive campaign, is likely to take some 2 years. Hardly a reified prescription or a rigid formula to be followed...

All this is very well in theory, but what to do when face to face with narrow attitudes (on either side of the proverbial fence), with inadequate implementations of the process, or with categorical judgements of its merits wholly on the basis of personal preference, local experience, or anecdote? What to do when a community, local, regional or national appears to be either apathetic about the nationally adopted Ruhi model, or else excessively, discouragingly and polarizingly rigid in its application? After all, what prompted this discussion are the real life experiences of pain before inadequate applications of the model, regardless of the merits that it may possess in theory, or that it may possess in paractice in more receptive or more experienced environments.

In the last analysis, what is described in such negative, and very, very far from universal experiences, is to me simply more evidence of the conceptual distance yet to be traversed by one community to understand better what the Universal House of Justice, and for those who care to read attentively, the Ruhi model itself, advances.Here, as in everything in the Bahá'í community, the nobility of our endeavours lies in our persistent arising before an ever more palpable consciousness that we are but mere approximations of what we most cherish and seek and are bidden be. We can retard things, but not stop them, The Word trumps all things, soon or late, every time, for love, in the end, rules in our hearts. If the House of Justice says, deepen, have firesides, do home visits, do external affairs, scholarship, SED, as well as the "core" activities, then, some communities quicker than others, we will respond, because the power of the Covenant ultimately impels us. You can only ignore the guidance, with good intentions, so many times before you "get it", then it's there for keeps. Now, the responsibility we bear in understanding and responding to it with promptitude is undoubted, and our progress, our "spiritual velocity" and community development are dependent on that. Thus there have always been diverse levels of achievement and vitality in different communities, as some engage fully with the guidance earlier or more wholeheartedly than others. Nor is this static. The British Bahá'í community was at the very vanguard of the world Bahá'í community, precisely because of the promptitude and consecration of its response to Shoghi Effendi's guidance. A recent message from the Universal House of Justice suggests that this community lost vitality over many long years, and has only just reclaimed its destiny, through a leap in response to the guidance of the Supreme Body. I found it interesting that, in highlighting the most distinguished achievements in community building, Century of Light dwelt exclusively on communities in the global South, even war-torn communities such as those in Liberia, with none of the more established communities with clear destinies, such as the United States or Britain, being singled out for praise, save in the area of external affairs. And while the institutions have an essential, a critical role in leading the community's engagement to the guidance of the Supreme Institution, there can be no doubt that the power of response is fundamentally vested in us as individuals, and it is when a sufficient numbers of individuals respond fully and intelligently, within and outwith institutions, that a community achieves the potentialities that invest it with destiny and vitality.

I am sure that is the case with Ruhi as well, with some communities having a more rounded and engaged perspective than others. I also think this is why there is such a focus on priority A clusters, because we need a good number of functioning models of the potential of the new processes, not only for expansion but also for consolidation, for a community that is rich and varied and rounded and abundant, in diverse contexts, to be able to disseminate that learning and change, gradually, entrenched or short sighted attitudes and cultures in less discerning or responsive contexts. To return to the example of the British Bahá'í community, it was the success of the American 7 Year Plan that prompted the UK Bahá'ís to request a plan of their own, being given a ridiculously ambitious 6 Year Plan by Shoghi Effendi. Far from responding on time, the British community lagged dramatically in it arising, so that the Guardian was forced to offer to postpone the deadline a few months, saying it is the most I can do. Hugh McKinley tells of Marion Hofman visiting every believer in the final year of the Plan to say: "Friends, you know why we are not accomplishing more? Because we don't understand the station of Shoghi Effendi. Not his function as Guardian, but his spiritual station as the Sign of God on earth, as the Will and Testament refers to him. If we did, we would not delay one instant." This message, as well as the Guardian's urgent pleas, in other words, the vitality of their love for the Centre of the Covenant, made them finally arise with such vigour and sacrifice as to win all goals in time and have the distinction of being the community which, in war-time and under the Blitz, sent forth more pioneers, some 60% of the community uprooting themselves entirely, if memory serves. Perhaps a more spiritual, more loving, more reverent and consecrated understanding, not only of the function, but of the station of the Universal House of Justice might accelerate and refine our level and quality of spiritual response, and in that leap increase not only our commitment, but our spirituality and success.

And in the meantime, here we are, still, with the same question: all that is very well, and the community may indeed advance gradually toward its destinty, and all things get better, but in the meantime, we are, many of us, still confronted with unpropitious community environments, feel left out, see better ways of doing things, would wish Ruhi study circles would be applied in different ways, and that frustration does not go away, and sometimes carries on growing.

Here I sense the importance and urgency of people who would not naturally gravitate toward Ruhi (I include myself), to get deeply involved in its processes, to go through the sequence, learn to make it work for them, increasingly, and then, from the spiritual leadership that success in close alignement to the guidance and thrust of the Plans naturally engenders (I'm not talking institutional leadership, but the simple power of attraction), we are in a position to bring our individuality to bear on the collective processes, and ensure, through our diversity, that the notes we hear that pass others by become part of the music, and that the notes we cannot yet make sense of and others seem to hear so clearly gradually resonate within our consciousness. This is not a narcisistic endeavour, but rather one the Universal House of Justice explicitly furthers:

"The advancement of the Cause is an evolutionary process which takes place through trial and error, through reflection on experience and through wholehearted commitment to the teaching Plans and strategies devised by the House of Justice. Believers ...who appreciate the opportunities thus provided, can be of great assistance by encouraging their respective countries and assemblies to similarly invest themselves in the process." (22 August 2002, to an individual)

In fact, not only as a tutor, but even as a participant in the Ruhi process one can stimulate such rounded applications of the process, simply by carrying out the practices involved in a way that personally makes sense. Anyone who gets to book 2 has an ample field indeed, as part of the course, even as a participant, to initiate a wide-ranging series of deepenings. That is an essential, critical part of Book 2's requirements. One of the key skills it seeks to develop. I have found that in my participation, even when the tutor is not switched on to the practice elements of the books, which are increasingly being emphasised at all levels now that the hurry simply to complete the sequence is over and the focus is on completing it well, I can, simply by offering a personal initiative to fulfill the Book's requirements, not only make deepenings and home visits happen, but stimulate others to feel more confident about doing so too, and in any case imparting an impulse to this dimension of the process.

Now, if one does not participate in these books, if one does not bring one's power of individual initiative and spiritual leadership based on attraction and consultation, if one does not engage with the actual practices of the learning process that lift the method from a conceptual, spiritual excercise to a life-engaging, life-challenging, and life-transforming iteration of prayerful study, action, and reflection around a common and spiritually informed purpose, then, as Moojan points out, the speed at which we will finally apply effectively the Ruhi system, with its concommittant implication of a multiplication of deepenings, firesides, teaching projects, arts events, and social interactions, will be much slower. The Faith relies on our diversity to achieve maximum effectiveness. As long as all the people who are instinctively resistant to the initial applications, and conceptualisations, of the Ruhi process, fail to become engaged in enriching and transforming it to fully include their distinctive orientations, the process will be distorted by the undoubted insights, and undoubted blindspots, of that population of Bahá'ís that resonates immediately with its early, woefully inadequate application.

The Native American experiences and perspectives on the Ruhi process, shared earlier, are highly instructive in this regard, and echo my own experiences of seeing the sequence applied the sequence in a Spanish, evangelical gypsy context. If, when encountering applications of the Ruhi sequence that silence the voice and diversity of the Native American, or Gypsy, or any range of populations relatively marginal to the cultural bias of a given Bahá'í community's culture, (might one include the formally trained scholarly population?) the reaction was non-involvement, not to speak of passive resistance, the maturation of these new processes would be hamstrung and retarded. It is on the contrary by their full engagement with the core guidance that unites and makes equal all Bahá'ís, that a space is created, a very empowering space, to broaden and enrich the cultural content and practical expression of the shared model of the Ruhi process. And, again and again, we find that that process will engender resistance, but more consistently and lastingly, engenders success, such as that reported among the Native American believers and their community of interest, and in the growth engendering circles here in Tenerife, and in the successfully inclusive study circkes in Nottingham and in the groundbreaking study circles with evangelical ministers among the gypsies of Spain. It is that success that eventually leverages cultural change, for the drive to succeed in applying the divine guidance is ultimately a more powerful motivator for Bahá'ís than that of preserving the status quo, which we cannot but be, if it is our primary cultural referent, very strongly attached to.

When I hear the reports of the distorted implementation in these very early stages of the process, and personally witness them too, and then hear the voice of those who feel somehow disenfranchised by the current application of the new processes, I silently pray that those, the disenfranchised, become fully engaged in the processes, "even unto tutoring", for I know that on this depends, in very significant measure, the pace of our eventual arrival at the working model that Ruhi has been systematically tested and modified to be, over several decades in several continents, or, in our case, to become. When it is fully in place, when we can say that the overwhelming majority of Bahá'ís in a community are applying the Ruhi methodology in all its aspects, with the proliferation of devotional meetings, deepenings, home visits, personal teaching plans, firesides, small group teaching projects, artistic creativity and empowering of local artistic traditions, and intimate informal socializing, all focused on a multitude of small groups of increasingly spiritually intimate friends deeply engaged with and authentically enriching their family, work, neighbourhood and friendship networks, only then, will we have a basis to judge the effectiveness of the Ruhi system, and be in a position to identify, from a position of experiential as well as statistical and theoretical insight, the adaptations and modifications that might refine its workings in a given local or national context.

This may sound like pie in the sky, but it is in fact the daily, if far from prosaic experience of a multitude of study circles the world over, which as yet constitute but a tiny proportion of the whole. This whole, the entirety of the thousands upon thousands of study cricles running worldwide, may be said to be distributed, in different concentrations en each national and local community, along a spectrum ranging from simple learning by rote, skipping "boring" or "simplistic" sections, else turning them into interminable discussions of personal opinions, without a practical or even an emotionally or intellectually engaging component, and an artistic element, if any, at most stretching to doing kids' drawings ;-), where membership is limited, sometimes by design, to Bahá'ís only, and only the right kind at that, (I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been part of such scary circles); all the way to empowering, dymanic and intellectually and spiritually exhilarating study circle experiences such as those described by in Native American communities, and such as I witnessed among the ministers and leaders of the Gyspy evangelical churches, and in my own little group, and such as doubtlessly many, many more people have experienced, dotted around the globe and building slowly a critical mass of good practice. When this is in place, when we have finally enough truly compelling, and sufficiently diverse "successful embodiments" of the Ruhi process the world over, its maturation beyond the simplistic polarities of an early conceptual framework with a budding and in many communities virutally non-existent and undiversified experiential base, will, I am certain, dramatically accelerate, as we stop having to reinvent the wheel, which we still largely have to do in most local contexts.

In this, as in all things in this Cause, in the absence of a clergy, depending entirely on the ultimately unfettered consent and participation of the individual, else his or her non-involvement, change takes place, engagement is effected, participation is leveraged, reflection and reconsideration are prompted by, primarily, the mighty power of example. Hence the priority now is, clearly, achieving the necessary number working models, of compelling examples, of a rounded, abundant application of the Ruhi process and the other key processes associated with this Epoch, that can be relevant, not universally but singly, to large rural communities, large urban ones, tiny urban ones, tiny rural ones, mainstream, alternative, ethnically mixed or homogenous, upper, middle, working class, and "lumpen", global North and global south.

As time goes by, and I understand better the Ruhi method, and get more experience under my belt, and put more fire into it in my own process of maturation, I find that my wonder increases, and my sense of its immense potential deepens. It also emphasises for me the developmental nature of the skilling and capacity building process. In our cluster Ruhi almost paralysed everything for some two or three years. Now it is beginning to act as a catalyst of further activity, but that is also linked to the equally developmental and still unwieldy tools of the cluster itself, of the area committee, and especially the budding intensive cycles, all of them new tools we are but learning to develop. It took the World Centre itself, as I discussed in my paper on community, some 5 years to develop a working model with hand-picked communities. We are but 6 years into a process of integrating counter-cultural methods into frequently ill-equipped communities without the benefits of direct and daily support, participation and guidance from the Counsellors . To judge the effectiveness of these tools at this point in time seems to me a bit like trying to measure the worth or beauty of a building when the foundations are still being laid, or the speed and maneuverability and flair of a car while driven by someone who only just got their license, and frequently by those like me who are still learning to drive.

Be that as it may, it seems to me that the reply of Candide to the theoretical meanderings of Pangloss after a long journey of personal experiential testing of reified mental models, is most apt: "all that is very well, but let us cultivate our garden." Let's create, each one of us, models that work, that we can share and contribute from our individuality and diversity, within the shared context of the processes of this Plan, which will give the fruits we pluck from our individual plot, a currency and impact that will undoubtedly go far beyond our little garden. It may be that some of the communities that don't get it, might do so yet, and that when they do the potential for making up for lost time might very much be there.

It makes me think of one of the most suggestive and touching passages of the Master:

"The blessings of Bahá'u'lláh are a shoreless sea, and even life everlasting is only a dewdrop therefrom. The waves of that sea are continually lapping against the hearts of the friends, and from those waves there come intimations of the spirit and ardent pulsings of the soul, until the heart giveth way, and willing or not, turneth humbly in prayer unto the Kingdom of the Lord."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 192)

That is how I see the processes of the change of culture, of the new mechanisms and the inherent, hidden blessings in the Universal House of Justice's guidance in this challenging new Epoch: as lappings of divine grace against the hearts of the myriad variegated communities that make up the people of Bahá. Eventually, each and all will give way, and, "willing or not", discover the bounty of knowing that He is the prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God. In the end, as that tablet further declares: "Ye live, all of you, within the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá."

Is that not beautiful and brimming with certainty?

With love,



Bonita said...

I'm just a simple Baha'i who loves the Ruhi program, its good intentions, its positive spirit. It is like a team of inexperienced mountain-climbers at the bottom of the mountain, getting ready to gear up. They aren't sure of the exact path - the quickest and easiest one. But, with good intentions and loving spirits they just start climbing. One way or another, through the loving spirit of collaboration, they will make it to the top. A change in trails might ensue, rest periods, even discouragement. But, by the end of the trail, all of the climbers helped each other make it to the top, one way or another. The route is really somewhat inconsequential, if the intention is pure and good they will make it.

Ismael Velasco said...

Dear Bonita,

You've put in one paragraph what I tried to express in 978.889 paragraphs. Truly, "knowledge is a single point which the ignorant have multiplied". I confess myself ignorant!

Thank you so very much for a beautiful, simple, and very resonant metaphor.


Anonymous said...

I find Ruhi to be a rather shallow way of studying the holy writings, and not in keeping with the spirit of Baha'u'llah's teachings. According to the holy writings, it is an essential requirement for believers to be able to understand the holy writings on an inner and mystical level. Ruhi, however, fosters a very literal and superficial study of the writings, as evidenced by the questions asked after reading certain passages. According to Baha'u'llah the qualities needed to effectively teach the faith are: purity, wisdom, and knowledge of the holy writings and holy books. Also, one's understanding of the holy writings is dependent on their purity and reflection. So, what Bahai's should be focusing on is acquiring those qualities as opposed to something like Ruhi. Below are some references on this.

O My Name! Utterance must needs possess penetrating power. For if bereft of this quality it would fail to exert influence. And this penetrating influence dependeth on the spirit being pure and the heart stainless. Likewise it needeth moderation, without which the hearer would be unable to bear it, rather he would manifest opposition from the very outset. And moderation will be obtained by blending utterance with the tokens of divine wisdom which are recorded in the sacred Books and Tablets. Thus when the essence of one's utterance is endowed with these two requisites it will prove highly effective and will be the prime factor in transforming the souls of men. This is the station of supreme victory and celestial dominion. Whoso attaineth thereto is invested with the power to teach the Cause of God and to prevail over the hearts and minds of men.
-- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 198-199

Be thou steadfast in the Cause, and teach the people with consummate wisdom. Thus enjoineth thee the Ruler of earth and heaven. He is in truth the Almighty, the Most Generous. Ere long will God exalt thy remembrance and will inscribe with the Pen of Glory that which thou didst utter for the sake of His love. He is in truth the Protector of the doers of good.
-- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 15

The attainment of the most great guidance is dependent upon knowledge and wisdom, and on being informed as to the mysteries of the Holy Words. Wherefore must the loved ones of God, be they young or old, be they men or women, each one according to his capabilities, strive to acquire the various branches of knowledge, and to increase his understanding of the mysteries of the Holy Books, and his skill in marshalling the divine proofs and evidences.
-- Compilation, Baha'i Education, Abdu'l-Bahá

... the reading of the scriptures and holy books is for no other purpose except to enable the reader to apprehend their meaning and unravel their innermost mysteries. Otherwise reading, without understanding, is of no abiding profit unto man.
-- Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 172

The understanding of His words and the comprehension of the utterances of the Birds of Heaven are in no wise dependent upon human learning. They depend solely upon purity of heart, chastity of soul, and freedom of spirit. This is evidenced by those who, today, though without a single letter of the accepted standards of learning, are occupying the loftiest seats of knowledge; and the garden of their hearts is adorned, through the showers of divine grace, with the roses of wisdom and the tulips of understanding. Well is it with the sincere in heart for their share of the light of a mighty Day!
-- Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 211

Randy Burns said...

Dear Anonymous, you make a good point about Ruhi. It is a poor method of studying the writings, however if I understand Ismael's comments then he contends that Ruhi is not a method of studying the writings at all, was never meant to be. It is something other than a method of studying the writings. Perhaps this severe lack of understanding of the purport of Ruhi is one of the difficulties of dealing with it. Personally I don't care much for Ruhi, I think it is rather a silly program, but I don't fear that it will be just another in a long line of failures for the Faith, rather I fear that it will suceed, because if it does then most of the people I know in the Faith will probably leave it far behind. And I will miss them.

Cheers, Randy

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Ishmael's comments and musings on the subject of Ruhi, which were insightful, and also have some sympathy with the other postings. My observation is that Ruhi remains an ideal stick for the fundamentalists in the Cause to beat us with and that much of the negative reaction is little to do with the program itself, for whatever its limitations (and there are many) it is after all, no more than that, just a program. One, I am inclined to believe, that was copied or at least modelled on similar materials developed by the Catholic Church in Latin America and typical of those widely used by many other religions pursuing community building agendas. E.g. www.alphacourse.org

Like Ishmael I do hope and pray that with time the pendulum will swing back and that more friends will realise that baking the cake involves much more than just reading out the recipe ad infinitum. The iterative nature of this process of trial and error is of course gives us some cause for hope but one would hope that we do not have to continually have to re-invent the wheel in so doing.

In my view many of the negative reactions are more to do with the way Ruhi have been introduced and imposed by those who saw themselves as the new gatekeepers to truth. Those more comfortable with literalist and fundamental conceptions of faith felt themselves emboldened and rapidly took over local and national communities. It may have been transformative, but it also created shockwaves which sank many hearts and marginalized countless others. Whereas there is no doubt that most were motivated by a sincere desire to serve and obey the UHJ the net effect was to substitute the institute process for the Baha'i community. It was as though the child nurtured and cherished by so many devoted souls for so many years was stolen in the night and an ugly changeling was left in its place. The mystical bond which, as the Guardian so often reminded us, lies at the heart of individual faith and which ultimately unites the community of the Greatest Name was retranslated into a simple mantra of "get with the program"

This is no idle comment. In some places every aspect of our community life was taken over by self-appointed priests who believed they had the right to take over LSA meetings, feasts, devotional gatherings, schools and even holy days and turn them into browbeating sessions about numbers and schedules of core activities. It was humbling indeed to realise that after my own modest service of some 25 years as a pioneer, teacher and servant of the Faith at local and national levels I was no longer actually counted as a member of the Baha'i community. As it was decided "by the Counsellor no less" that it was better to rely on "true believers" (i.e. those who had participated in the program) when making our community returns. Having thus been relegated unwillingly to the status of a doubtful believer I also know of a fellow life-long believer (94 years old) being publicly humiliated by a 20 year old “tutor” at a feast. His crime? Not attending the institute courses. Such examples are sadly all too common. Many of the strongest advocates of Ruhi have behaved quite frankly as bullies.

Change of any description is painful of course but the type of overzealous conviction associated with fundamentalism is usually associated with madmen, religious fanatics and despots. Whatever deeds and sacrifices we are called to in this next stage of our evolution as a global faith community the deep faith and unquestioning loyalty of the friends in many parts of the world has in my view often been tested "unnecessarily" by such misguided behaviour. Living as I do, in a country which underwent its own cultural revolution not so long ago, the list of casualties is long and its effects enduring. I hope we can soon restore the balance and put an end to such nonsense masquerading as Faith. We need certitude but one which produces a generosity of faith and calmness of soul supported by sacrifice and wisdom not simple emotion. Love, not fear must prevail.
Knowledge not mantra must guide our actions.

I think it important to remember that the cultural change envisioned by the UHJ anticipates a major transformation in the body politic of the Baha'i community.
It has been my experience that many of the problems caused by the Ruhization of our community life are also socio-political in nature and not just "spiritual". Having moved to Asia some years ago and witnessed the response to Ruhi here my own prejudices and intellectual veils were greatly challenged.

Here the traditional high power-distance cultures and passive learning styles respond to the fundamentalist style of rhetoric and text-based approach of Ruhi very well. On a positive note one can see that the group framework of Ruhi can encourage real advances in learning too, although there is still a definite preference for simple instruction from a wise teacher. Here the challenges are altogether different. There is an unquestioning acceptance of anything written in a book and a deference based on a traditional fear of authority. The good news is that the response to the systemisation of community building has overall been very positive. The liberal and individualistic West, which has driven the intellectual and cultural development of the Faith for so many years, finds the obvious limitations of Ruhi more of a challenge. The success of the institute process here is a also a reminder that the power balance of the world community is changing fast and the significance of the emerging communities of Baha in Asia and elsewhere is very exciting.

So for me there is definitely a paradigm shift in the Baha'i community. I realise now that whereas before much of my criticism was focused on the poverty of the Ruhi materials themselves and the dangers of those who sought to begin from year zero I have come to accept that at the moment it is a social fact I need to deal with. This the course the Baha’i community has embarked upon and whatever its faults combined with my own lack of vision it is my duty to support it in whatever humble way I can. The dangers of continued fundamentalism remain and I live in hope that we shall soon be weaned from the restricted diet of Ruhi but the most important thing is to feed the world…

Questans said...

I am an ancient, a Baha'i since '58 with the great advantage of experiencing and comparing Plans, progressive ways of studying, teaching, serving over the years. Those of us who have lived through the years of self motivated study and service can now recognize the great value in group learning available to Baha'is and their friends that cover many of the basics of the Faith quickly, however briefly. That is a reason why we reasonably tend to support the study circle concept. Many scholars and professionals love the study circles.

I try not to focus too much on or worry about the method used presently as it will evolve into a form of learning much more suited to a wider audience in the future. No doubt.

Having said all of the above, I both rejoice and empathize deeply with all of the comments so far. Sometimes limitations of the study method used at present can cause great concern for those of us with minds and spirits eager for in depth study, exposure to the works of scholars. As most scholars and students have already developed habits of sefl motivated study, they have a great advantage and can continue to do so.

My great concern is that all the pressure (and make no mistake there is heaps of pressure)placed on community members to do all things, work harder, give more time, seems to leave little time and energy for private study and suitable teaching experiences for many if they succumb to that pressure. Some of us have no choice but to opt out of some of the core activities for various periods of time. Let's always remember that in the House of Justice message of 27 Dec. '05 par. 16 they kindly indicate that indeed ". . . the time available for the friends to serve the Faith in every community is not without limits." and the message of 27 Dec. '05 par. 6 opens the door for anyone to opt out of any of the activities for any reason and feel good about that. So I think we do have an opportunity to pick and choose what we do. Some may not wish to do the Ruhi books at this time, rather they may wish to put their engergies into creating devotional opportunities that truly reflect and provide an atmoshpere for true expression of and participation in that aspect of the mystical nature of Baha'i Community. One which could benefit from quality attention. Some will put huge amounts of energy into wisely creating opportunities and atmospheres for the learned, the scholars, the professionals and business community to explore the Sacred Writings in comfort and satisfaction.

Personally, I make choices, that take in aspects of core activities in the Five Year Plan and make certain I do have time and energy to serve my own needs for in depth study and group mystical atmosheres and contact with varible parts of society. In the process, those of us who make these choices perhaps can serve the Plan in a quite profound way we might not otherwise be able to do.

We have great flexibility in the Faith. Our Sacred Writings and Interpretations and the guidance of the Universal House of Justice have assured us of that for ever.

Hang in there and enjoy some of everything from time to time! Questans.

Neysan Zoelzer-Mehrabkhani said...

Ismael, God bless you. There is so much ignorant criticism of the institute process, that your article was like a soothing shower of love. Thank you. Deepest regards and gratitude, Neysan

Anonymous said...

Christ Once in a Secret Teaching to The Apostles said
"By Their Fruits, Ye shall know them..."
So out of The Central Source of One of Greatest Threats to Stability and cause of Gangsterism and Depraved Homicidal Mayhem and Governmental Corruption, Columbia, Birthplace of Mama Cocoa also known as Cocaine. Comes that which has been cobbled together from a failed Business and Free Market Philosophy to teach Semi-literate indigenous Columbian Tribes. Is such then regarded by a Body of The Appointed Branch as The Magic Bullet to cure all Bahai Ills. which is what? It The Bahai Faith is not being accepted by a troubled world more concerned with Major Problems Such as The way Wahabism has spread like wildfire with it`s Doctrine of Hatred and Corruption of The Profundities and depth of Mystical Knowledge found in The Qoran. Why I ask myself should I exchange a shiny tawdry gewgaw for "The Pearl Beyond Price".
Ruhi is the Product of Men plain and simple,as well as which it
contains the Shadowy Potentiality of an unwanted Priesthood.
The Sacred Writings comes from God.
Baha`u`llah Abdu`l-Baha The Guardian all proclaimed the Ideals of Unity in Diversity The Principle
of Individual Investigation of Truth and the Idea of befriending people by use of Firesides. The Universal House of Justice upon The
First Meeting of It`s August Body in Rutland Gate, London. Establishd The Eternal Guardianship as Being
The Guardian Shoghi Effendi Great Grandson of The Manifestation Baha`u`llah and Grandson of Abdu`l-Baha`s Translations of The Writings of The Bab, Baha`u`llah, and Abdu`l-Baha:
Now to be Known as The Sole Authority of The Collected Canon of The Writings of The Bab Baha`u`llah and Abdu`l-Baha to be forever Known as "The Sacred Writings:
Only Shoghi Effendi`s Lexicon can be used in Translating The Sacred Writings.
Ruhi is nothing more than a Basic Primer and should be Treated as Such Ruhi Tutors are the equivalent of Bahai Sunday School Teachers without any Station or Authority.
As I remarked
"By their fruits ye shall know them..".
I have seen selfagrandisement of themselves, by Ruhi Afficionado`s
Boasting of The Number of Books they have done.
Disparagement of Aged Bahai`s Life of Sacrifice and Service. Insularity and Exclusion of Bahai`s because they have for various reasons been disinclined to be involved in Ruhi.

I am led to ask if this is So GOOD
why has it caused such pain and dissension
As Queen Victoria was purported to have said:
If it is of God in time it will show itself, and if not it can do us no harm.

Nevertheless owing fear of "The Ruhi Police" I am forced to remain

Anonymous said...

Firstly it is welcoming to find some constructive views over the Ruhi programe; for this I thank the author, Ismael, and the various contributors here.

For me I was first introduced to Ruhi in the mid 1980s CE. A young Irishman fresh from South America and on fire with the Faith carried the essence of his experience with Ruhi and the indigenous believers in his heart. Indeed, while it was a farewell time for Adib who was then about to be packaged off to serve the Universal House of Justice (UHJ), it was this young vibrant soul that I remembered.

The second occasion was in the early 1990's CE when a young Persian lady was keen to develop the Ruhi model in the United Kingdom. While unsure of how it would work, she was able to grasp the concept that it was having a positive influence on some people and may well work in more industrialised countries too.

The third occasion was when Ruhi was adopted to be the study circles model by some National Spiritual Assemblies (NSAs) after receiving guidance from the UHJ in the early 2000s CE.

All NSAs were, to my understanding, given the opportunity to build a study circle programme or adopt an existing model. Many choose to adopt the Ruhi Institute. To my mind this is where the Ruhi difficulties actually started. For in essence, while the UHJ was promoting the concept of study circles, it did not appear to be advocating any particular approach as to how these should be achieved.

It should be born in mind that the Ruhi model was never originally designed to provide study circles for it was already in existence before the term was even conceived by the UHJ. The Ruhi programme was directed towards teaching people how to read so they could read the Baha'i Writings. So in many ways, I find it quite funny that a reading curriculum designed for South Americans ended up being chosen as the natural core component for the means of studying the Baha'i Faith in many western countries. Naturally it has developed, but let us appreciate its roots if we are to offer any valid critique, for to fail to do this merely misdirects us from a wider appreciation as to its intended role.

Now the Ruhi model is over twenty years old. There was no internet at the time it was conceived and as such it shows its age enormously. Indeed, by today's standards to offer to teach someone to learn the English language by inviting them to read the Baha'i Teachings alone could be perceived as being filled with religious imperialism. Yet despite this, there appears to be prevailing view that the future of humanity depends on Ruhi.

To my mind, this view is born out of personal failure to teach the Faith to good effect. Many friends simply appear to believe that if they continue to persevere with Ruhi they will finally start to obtain declarations and thus can credit their egos as reaching the illustrious standards of being a 'Teacher'. But of course, real teaching is shown through ones character and deeds - not through ones desire to convert another soul.

My entire time as an Assistant revolved around being asked by Board Members to promote the Ruhi model. I had numerous meetings with Spiritual Assemblies and communities and one factor was very evident. The friends welcomed the study circle approach that the UHJ was directing them towards, but many felt the Ruhi model was too simple and they did not feel comfortable with it.

On a personal level it is far too simplistic to assume that the study circle debate actually revolves around Ruhi, it does not. I for one am grateful for this for such a concept undermines the efforts undertaken by the Ruhi staff. Rather it revolves around the impact of the UHJ directing NSAs to create a suitable model where study circles may be employed. To my mind the purpose of a study circle is clear, it is designed to help people to read and thus form a basic understanding of the Baha'i Writings.

I can very much equate with this and during my first five years as a Baha'i a very capable mature reader spent four hours with me every day in order to teach me how to read the Writings. For the style and language used is not standard language and there is a need for linguists to aid many people in this very important role, or otherwise access to the Faith is denied to many people.

To unravel and read the Writings for the first time in your life is a consummate blessing. When the wider community appreciates that many people simply lack the skills to read and comprehend what they are reading, then to my mind study circles will begin to work. Whether this is through Ruhi or the dedicated love and devotion of friends is yet to be seen. Personally I prefer the latter, for had it not been for the local communities devotion to me, i simply would have been unable to read the Writings and progress. In this respect, I would always caution those that would seek to call themselves friends to be wary of any persons ability to read. Indeed, had the UHJ had said form reading circles, I think we could all have avoided so much confusion. But of course, studying employs more than reading. It is also a more sensitive way of suggesting a person cannot read well...

Everything I have achieved in my modest Baha'i existence is down to the few individuals that taught me how to read the Writings. Ponder this well and I am sure you will soon begin to see what study circles are all about, even in the industrialised world.

Thank you all for you time once again.

Anonymous said...

I've gone through the entire Ruhi series and became a Tutor as well.. but I began to feel the Ruhi process is far too time consuming and replicating it's own pattern.

As a Study Program it's not unlike other study prograns but with an important exception it has the full weight of the Regional Councils, National Spiritual Assembly and the Universal House behind it.

It also has it's own hierarchy and self promoting agenda.. I don't recall any other programs in the past like it.

Many seekers in my area have been turned off by Ruhi or became Baha'is in spite of it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread, with something missing in my view. We read people say why they appreciate or do not appreciate Ruhi. This is a consumer approach to religion; The UHJ is telling us what the world needs at the moment, not our personal needs. Since 1996 they are calling for a sharp rise in human resources. As Shoghi Effendi wrote, we have to cope with not having a professional clergy:

“Baha'u'llah has enjoined upon the Baha'is the sacred obligation of teaching. We have no priests, therefore the service once rendered by priests to their religions is the service every single Baha'i is expected to render individually to his religion. He must be the one who enlightens new souls, confirms them, heals the wounded and the weary upon the road of life, and gives them to quaff from the chalice of everlasting life - the knowledge of the Manifestation of God in His Day.” (From a letter dated 5 July 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of the Benelux countries)

Hence, we are all responsible, and to meet that responsibility we need training in order to cover the needs of humanity through the core activities and teach in a simple manner acceptable by all, including the 2/3 of humanity, many of them in rich countries, that have a low education level and who would not understand the sophisticated reasoning of Baha’i studies sessions.

Ruhi is a tool for that. It is not a replacement for Baha’i studies, nor a goal in itself. It is a simplified fundamental basis usable by those who wish to serve humanity, on which other intellectual and service orientated activities can be built up by those tutored.

Someone having completed the courses should be in a position to render service to the community and tutor others into the same. In addition, he will be capable of tutoring future tutors to tutor other tutors... a chain reaction.

This is no replacement for Baha'i studies, deepenings, erudition, etc etc. It is not this instead of that, but this AND what we had before.

We might not be especially interested in organising children's classes, holding devotionals or commemorative meetings, but someone has to do it. It is a necessity for our community, and for humanity and not for our personal fulfilment.

Anonymous said...

To those who find the approach to Holy Writings provided by the Ruhi books as too shallow, I would like to present the words of Augustine of Hippo, Confessions Book 3, Chapter 5 where as a 19 year old youth, inflated by philosophy of Cicero he rejects the Sacred Scriptures as too simple, not to be compared with the dignity of Tully:
"I resolved, therefore, to direct my mind to the Holy Scriptures, that I might see what they were. And behold, I perceive something not comprehended by the proud, not disclosed to children, but lowly as you approach, sublime as you advance, and veiled in mysteries; and I was not of the number of those who could enter into it, or bend my neck to follow its steps. For not as when now I speak did I feel when I tuned towards those Scriptures, but they appeared to me to be unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Tully; for my inflated pride shunned their style, nor could the sharpness of my wit pierce their inner meaning. Yet, truly, were they such as would develope in little ones; but I scorned to be a little one, and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself as a great one.

Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

I spend a great deal of time sending emails and writing on the internet. It is a world unto itself with its own problems and challenges, advantages and wonders, as I'm sure readers here already know. Readers at this "Baha'i Epistolary" site/blog might enjoy what is, as far as I know, the most extensive contextual analysis of the new Baha'i paradigm of learning and growth. I posted an introduction to this paradigmatic shift in the Baha'i community, the new culture of learning and growth that is at the heart of this paradigm, some 24 months ago. I did this posting at several internet sites and have updated that post in these last two years. It seemed like a good idea to give readers some specific steps on how to access this now revised article/essay at Baha’i Library Online(BLO).

In that two year period there have been many thousand views of my article at the few sites where it has been posted. In addition to googling "Baha'i Culture of Learning and Growth" and accessing my article in the process, readers can take the following steps to access my article at BLO: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box “By author” at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type “Price” into the small box that then appears and click on the word “Go;” and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #46 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to a revised article, a 170 page, 77,000 word context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 13 years.

The statement is a personal one, does not assume an adversarial attitude, attempts to give birth of as fine an etiquette of expression as I can muster and, I like to think, possesses both candour and critical thought on the one hand and praise and delight at the process on the other. I invite readers to what I also like to think is “a context on which relevant fundamental questions” regarding this new paradigm may be discussed within the Baha’i community. It is also my intention to update this article in the months and years ahead. One of the advantages of the BLO site is the freedom it gives to a writer to update the article right on the site in an ongoing process as new insights from major thinkers in the Baha'i community and information from the elected and appointed institutions of the Cause comes to hand.

If time and the inclination permit, check it out. No worries, no obligation, just if it interests you. You may find the piece of writing too long as I'm sure many readers do. You might also find it too personal for my context is a personal context and text, a personal experience. After a few paragraphs of reading, you will get the flavour of the exercise. Just keep reading if your mind and spirit are enjoying the process.

Anonymous said...

Is there anymore information you can give on this subject. It answers a lot of my questions but there is still more info I need. I will drop you an email if I can find it. Never mind I will just use the contact form. Hopefully you can help me further.

- Robson