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This prose-poem below will deal with: goals and goal setting, purpose and process, dealing with difficulties and seeking understanding, among other subjects.

__________

Part 1:

 

What makes poetry, at least for me, is the simultaneity of ideas, the greater density of language. I attempt linearity and the sequential in my poetry; these are the chief features of prose. Much of my poetry is very much like prose and this is, as I say, because of the sequence and the linearity in my work. I do this partly to make it readable. I’m after simplicity and communication, not obscurity and complexity. But these goals can’t be reached all the time. I write quickly in both forms; the length of novels puts me off. I don’t have the energy and enthusiasm for fifty to one hundred thousand words with characters, story-line, etc. Also I don’t like writing dialogue, so most story forms are out of my league.

 

Reworking pieces of writing is also something that does not interest me, although I often rewrite a poem when posting it on the internet for some specific purpose.  I write a piece and move on: poetry or prose. When I read it later on: says, weeks, months or years later the poem feels like the work of someone else. It feels fresh, new or it feels stale, or, or.....It is then that I write a new poem. This was the approach of the Irish poet, W.B. Yates. His poetry and style serve as one of my many models. I may make the occasional alteration or many alterations but, as Yeats says, he makes a new poem whatever alternation he makes. And so do I--at least that is how I see the process.

 

Part 2:

 

I find the approach of Marjorie Pickthall(1883-1922) to poetry relevant to my approach.  The music of poetry and the supremacy of thought was more important than the "heavy mechanism of verse," as she put it.  Strict adherence to form was "ruinous to the temper."  One year before her death in 1922 she was "more firmly rooted than ever" in her opinion that rigid schemes of construction and melody were "fatal" to poetry in the English language (Remembrance 131-32). In the context of her poetry, these remarks suggest that Pickthall conceived of poetic thought as a pleased and pleasing, yet exact and musical, manipulation of a wide range of literary contexts.(1)

 

My poetic, like Pickthall’s retains traces of what Walter Pater called "speculative culture," which must perceive and disseminate a reality of "the inward world of thought and feeling" where the flame of perception burns "more eager and devouring." Her search for literary intensity gradually matured into the psychological paradox of a longing for death that was, at the same time, a desire for life.  But my approach to poetry has many differences to Pickthall.  She had no use for her contemporaries. Due to the internet I have access to more contemporaries than I can shake a stick at, so to speak.  She took no part in the established systems of politics, sociology or religion; her chief desire was for liberation from all abstract ideas, systems and forms. I find that these fields, these disciplines, of thought, provide fertile worlds for my writing.

 

Part 3:

 

My poetic aims at what Baudelaire said of the prose poem in his Spleen of Paris: "Which of us......has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhyme and without rhythm, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of the psyche, the prickings of consciousness."(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Alex Kizuk, “THE CASE OF THE FORGOTTEN ELECTRA: PICKTHALL'S APOSTROPHES AND FEMININE POETICS,” in Studies in Canadian Poetry, Volume 12, No.1, 1987; and (2) This quotation comes from Michael Benedikt, "Introduction," The Prose Poem: An International Anthology, Dell, NY, 1976, p. 43.

 

A poem is like an axe or an iceberg:

it breaks-up the woodenness of life

and sometimes melts life's frozen sea-

not global warming, inner warming

and my waters flow down to the sea.1

 

A poem is also like an opera,

unnatural really, however much

I try to make the intensities

something for quotidian man--

still it is unnatural--to most.

 

A poem is an exercise

in self-dramatization,

however much I try

not to pose & posture.

 

I find I come at a poem

like a hawk or a pigeon

in a dive and sometimes

I come up with nothing

at all, empty handed--

and I fly up and away

yet again in an endless

search of the skies.

 

I search to survive, to eat,

to fly unrestrained as the

wind, or on the air's still

space by oceans of air.

 

1 Thanks to a former student, Serene Anderson, who sent me a photo of an iceberg, including the part beneath the surface and to Franz Kafka in Poets at Work: the Paris Review Interview, editor, George Plimpton, Viking Press, 1989, p.41.

 

Ron Price

16/11/'09 to 24/7/'13.

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Preamble:

 

My autobiographical narrative, my memoir, is partly an experiment with a means, a way, of defining my experience of a religious and cultural heritage.  This heritage to which I refer is bound up with the Baha’i community and my experience of it for sixty years(1953-2013). This heritage could be said, arguably, to go back to 1744.[1]

Through this writing, this autobiography, this literary production, I attempt to turn my small part in one of the world’s most significant but, as yet, quite obscure diasporas—that of national and international Bahá'í pioneers--as far as the general public is concerned---into a literary activity that is both an act of personal memory and a part of that heritage and its institutional and cultural memory. 

 

Section 1:

 

My narrative records my confrontation with both a native and a host culture, a Baha’i and a non-Baha’i culture, a confrontation that has been part of my total experience since 1953.  I recognise that any attempt to explicate my experience of the Bahá'í community, and this Bahá'í heritage, in the space of a few paragraphs will necessarily result in a crudification, an oversimplification, of that experience and that heritage.  It is necessary, though, for me to provide some account of my experience in order to set a point of reference for my understanding. I do this because I am a writer and author, poet and publisher. It is this understanding that, in some ways, is at the foundation of my autobiography, a work that is now a 2600 page narrative.

 

Section 2:

 

With the publication of An American Childhood in 1987, poet, essayist, naturalist, novelist and critic Annie Dillard helped usher in the modern, the fin de siecle, age of memoirs—and it is still going strong in this third millennium.  It is certainly going strong in my small corner of it. Following by only a few years the ground-breaking memoirs of Russell Baker (Growing Up, 1982) and Eudora Welty (One Writer's Beginnings, 1984), An American  Childhood, like these predecessors, defined a literary genre.  It became defined just as I was seriously getting into the genre myself by the 1990s.

 

What I try to do in some 16 essays on autobiography and memoirs, diaries and journals written over a 19 year period from 1995 to 2013, essays written after completing the first edition of my own memoirs in the decade 1984-1994; and what I try to do—among other things--in most of my writing is to try and understand a pioneer condition, accept its many dimensions, and explain it to others who have the interest---as much as I am able.  I resort in this work to the act of narration as an expression of my role in the hybrid nature of this global phenomenon, a phenomenon of voluntary migration, migration both in the regions of my own homeland and in the more than 200 countries overseas.  This diasporic phenomenon in its individual details can be found in the public domain in a now extensive literature. In our world of print and image glut, though, this diaspora is largely ignored and, therefore, unknown by the global public, at least for the most part. Competing among 1000s of other diasporas, and a world of refugees now numbering well over 40 million, the Baha'i experience over perhaps a century-and-a-half is largely unknown.

 

This great diaspora won’t be forgotten by history and history’s public memory, though, because the Bahá'í archives in their multitudinous forms have the stories now in books, in boxes, in libraries and in computer hard-drives in thousands of localities around the world.  Mine is but one.

 

Section 3:

 

I face the basic inability of linguistic discourse to fully articulate the whole of my lived experience.  This, of course, is something every who is a writer faces when they go about trying to get a literary handle on their life-narrative.  I find that the whole exercise, my life that is, is partly to dream the impossible dream.  The brilliance of the Bahá'í diaspora over more than a century and a half, a diaspora largely hidden as I say from public gaze by the judicious use of the proverbial light-under-a-bushel, by lack of any real interest on the part of the wider society, and by the very complexity of our age—will one day become well-known.  Such is my view; such is my assumption. The Bahá'í community is a pioneer society in so many ways.  It has provided me with a centre, with some definitive point around which my life could possess an axis as I travelled from pillar to post for most of my life, from the Canadian Arctic in the northern hemisphere, to the far south-west-coast of Tasmania in the southern hemisphere.

 

As the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci(1891-1937) wrote: “In history, in social life, nothing is fixed, rigid or definitive. And nothing ever will be.”[2]  This community, this international Baha'i community of several million souls, enabled me to respond to the challenge of modernity. Other aspects of my life-narrative also helped to provide an axis, a centre, for my literary and physical wanderings. Gramsci said that to meet the challenge of our time human beings had “to live without illusions without becoming disillusioned.”[3] Whatever illusions I began with in my teens, far back in the 1950s when I formed my initial beliefs in the Baha’i System, have been well and truly discarded or, perhaps more accurately, they have been tested in the flames and fires of life.

 

Section 4:

 

Canada, the home of my birth, is a pioneer society historically.  It is a country six time-zones wide (93 degrees of longitude), with its head high in Arctic ice and its feet in the same hot latitudes as the Mediterranean Sea.  It has ten million square kilometres of land, over half covered by boreal forest and 34 million people at last count. It is a country filled with pioneers: the indigenous peoples long before the end of the ice age, perhaps as early as 30,000 years ago, came across the Bering Strait; the first Europeans five centuries before Columbus--1985 was the millennium anniversary of the Norse arrival in what is now Canada; and in the last century or more pioneers who came from many lands to make up the present multicultural society that is Canada.  These first European peoples lived in tiny communities of fishing and minimal farming which lasted some 350 years. These Norse people did not try to enslave the native peoples and the natives were not destroyed by disease nor were they worked to death in gold and silver mines as happened in the Caribbean after the Spanish arrival.

 

Small fishing, hunting and farming communities made good sense in a cold, rocky landscape. That northern tradition of life continued over centuries: it was largely people from the Orkney Islands and Scotland who, after 1670, opened up the centre of our country to Europeans through the fur trade via Hudson Bay.  I mention all of this because Canada has a long history of pioneers and so, too, does Australia, although I won’t go into that here as I have done in relation to Canada. The pioneer is endemic to both countries and I see myself within this long tradition, of course in quite a different context, a socio-historico-spiritual one.

 

Section 5:

 

This autobiography of my own pioneering has taken half a century(1962-2013) thusfar, 50 years of personal events in the realm of memory. It locates connecting points between ancestral, family, societal and religious history along linking lines in an attempt to create a unified whole, a synthesis in time and space.  And so it is that, in the context of reproducing my history and my family's history, this autobiography is critically rewriting—at least in part--a new version, a variant, of the old story of my community, my Baha’i community, to say nothing of the multitude of other communities in which my life has been embedded.  At the same time a dialogue is created both within and without the Baha’i community, a dialogue about that community’s memory, its contents and discontents.  

 

Fiction writing, it is often said, is about things that are not true but they are real or, to put it another way, they are not real but they are true.  In the case of my story, I like to think it is both real and true.  I try to steer a safe navigation, as I go about this written exploration, of a course between the twin perils of scepticism and dogmatism which dog the paths of memoirists. These twin perils also dog the paths of the writers of many other genres of expository and intellectual writing and belle lettres.[4]

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The Main Frame of This Autobiographical Exercise:

 

Part 1:

 

In this essay I want to draw on the writing of a fellow Canadian here: Emily Carr(1871-1945). This famous Canadian artist wrote a great deal of autobiographically-based prose, and the collections of her work are now read as a record charting the development of a uniquely Canadian brand of individualism and artistic development.  She died in my first year of life.  Perhaps my own work, all of my autobiographically-based prose and poetry will one day help to chart the Bahá'í experience in the first century of the Formative Age. 

 

This writing could be said to exist as a text, as "literature engagée," which attempts to contribute in its own way to new didactic readings of Baha’i history, its politics and sociology, its psychology and the poetry of its community, indeed, in general terms what it means to be a Bahá'í, and especially a pioneer, in the last six decades(1961-2021) of the first century of that community’s Formative Age.[5]  There are many layers of circumstantial memories in the Baha’i community, a multiplicity of narratives, multiple voices and multiple interpretations of the same story.  The ones that are written down—and there are a myriad of them now after more than a century and a half of the history of this community—are for the most part short and sweet or not-so-sweet as the case may be; some are of medium length and they can be found in all sorts of publications and a very few, like my memoir, are long-and hopefully sweet, bitter-sweet and of some pleasure to the intellectual taste-buds of readers.   There are a very few personal and historical narratives that are long ones and multi-volumed as is this one.

 

The story of Emily Carr’s life and art, writes Susan Elderkin, sometimes appears to eclipse the woman and her experiences.[6]  I trust this will not be the case with my story, although one has little control over what others will do with what one writes before one’s passing and noe, of course, after. Throughout her fictions, autobiography, journals, and published letters, Emily Carr displays her frustration and preoccupation with the public reception of her works.  Perhaps, if Carr had had access to the internet in the way that I have enjoyed in the last decade, her frustrations and preoccupations would have been less intense.  I get feedback which is immediate and simply pass by the publishers who once concerned me back in the 1980s and 1990s. 

 

It has also been suggested that Carr needed to regard herself as an unappreciated artist in order to continue her work.  For the most part, the appreciation or lack of it in the public domain does not concern me since I am a small-time player in an immense ball-park of print that threatens to submerge the reading public, if they have not already drowned.  This great burgeoning of print is something of concern to many a writer and they must each and all work out their own solution to this problem. This print-glut is also of concern to readers who each must work-out their respective MOs in dealing with the information challenges of our age.  I came to writing late in life after completing my career as a teacher, and after raising a family. I had had enough success to satisfy my need for recognition.

 

Part 2:

 

Carr's attention to the reception of her work suggests a keen interest in self-disclosure and disguise. The two apparently contradictory impulses, revelation and self-protection, appear in a wide variety of guises in all of her prose. She repeatedly describes identity as something immediately present yet undisclosed, and she accentuates this paradox by expressing selfhood metaphorically.  Self-disclosure and disguise, or non-disclosure, is also a concern of mine as memoirist.  This is not only because of the desire for self-protection but also due to my preference for a moderate, as opposed to, a full-blown confessionalism in my writing.

 

I aim to create a construction of history and culture that is a shared one, a process, based on a collective effort, that excludes no one in the Bahá'í community and involves anyone who has the interest and the desire to read what I have written.  As a general comment, though, I would like to emphasize that my memoir is not a particularly easy read.   My own experience of the many fields of analysis in the social sciences and humanities is now clearly hopelessly out of date but, still, I try to draw on  the developments in the several disciplines of the social sciences that are relevant to this account.  It has been impossible for me to keep abreast of the burgeoning fields of knowledge that relate to writing this memoir.  As I have gone about this literary construction, I have done the best I can, given the expanding, efflorescing nature of the social sciences and humanities that relate in one way or another to my literary work.   I am tempted to say: “who can?”

 

Writing this autobiography has been a major exercise with many hurdles along the way.   Readers trying to engage with this work may find they, too, have their problems.  The language that I use may cause them to get out their dictionary or turn to a glossary which my editors may want to include one day when my work is published.  Sometimes I think my work, my writing and commentary, is overly courteous, that I have a too gentlemanly manner and that in reading my multi-faceted oeuvre readers may form the impression that I am too polite and uncritical.  This would be a mistake for I have often been aroused in life, even on not-so-rare occasions to towering rages, in part due to my bipolar disorder.  I have certainly been moved to much displeasure and annoyance when irked by the often and awkward uncooperativeness of many who have crossed my path in life. 

 

Part 3:

 

By these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80), this annoyance and irksomeness has dissipated significantly but I think this has been due to the new medication regime that came into my bloodstream at the age of 63, and its variants in the last 6 years, more than any inherent spiritual development that has come my way.  I am not the gregarious person I once was, and my capacity for social interaction and maintaining patience, tolerance and compassion--when I do engage with others--is not as high as I would like or as it once was.

 

“The provincial intellectual is doomed to arguing at low level,” Clive James wrote in an essay on the Australian poet Christopher Brennan which appeared in the London Review of Books in 1982.  “There is still no Australian literary world, not in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth or Canberra,” writes James. It is some consolation to realise, at least according to James, that there is no literary world in Birmingham or Los Angeles either.  James says that he has heard there is one in Montreal, but he doesn’t believe it.  The literary world is in London and New York, he continues his analysis.  They are the only cities big enough to sustain magazines which can afford to reject copy.  I’m not sure how accurate James’ views are here. It hardly matters to me one way or another. My intellectual world is in cyberspace and there it looks like staying for the time being. I do not have the social and psychological energy to sustain such a world in real space, if it did become available to me.  If I lived in the midst, in the vortex, of such an intellectual world in any of these cities I would have to remain far out on the periphery.

 

In my intellectual world and the larger non-intellectual world of cyberspace in which I have come to dwell in the last decade, I have no desire to dumb-down my work, although I do make every effort to use simple language, language free of unnecessary jargon.  And I am more than willing to put up my own hand in pleading appalling ignorance in so many fields.  Being sent scurrying to look up words like ‘hermeneutic’ and ‘epistemology,’ should not be too frequent an experience for readers of my work. I hope so anyway.  I try to keep readers free from the experience of swallowing sentences like: ‘The idea of an ungraspable entity that affects discourse is one elucidated by the Lacanian psychoanalytical concept of the “real.”’  It is sentences like this which fill many a volume in today’s academic world, which give readers intellectual indigestion and which make them jump analytical hoops in the course of their literary negotiations.   I hope I fully explain my analytical journeys and help readers work through as well as comprehend each argument that I use as I go about my own journey.  In this way, I trust my memoir and my writings in general, are both educational and rewarding to readers who are initially attracted, or accidentally come across my work.  May readers gain an appreciation of my life, my times and my religion that they could not acquire any other way.

 

Part 4:

 

Dipping into my five volumes of memoirs and expecting to glean little nuggets of information which readers can slip casually into their next conversation is an ideal that for some will be reached.  I’m sure, though, that for most such a reward is something I advise readers not to expect, not to shoot for.   If  readers want to prepare to read my work, if they want to prepare the foundations for their own appreciation of my autobiography, they can read in much the same way I did when writing my book, my prose in its several forms and my poetry.[7]   In this way readers will be involved with me in what the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin(1895-1975) calls dialogic interaction.  "Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of dialogic interaction," writes Mikhail Bakhtin in his analysis of Dostoevsky's Poetics.[8]

 

---------------------------------FOOTNOTES-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

[1] I take the beginning of Babi-Bahá'í history as the birth of Shaykh Ahmad in 1744 or 1753(date still arguable) as described on page 1 of Nabil’s The Dawnbreakers, Wilmette, 1932.

[2] Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Cultural Writings, Harvard UP, 1991.

[3] Antonio Gramsci, “Quotations,” at The Philosophers Magazine, Online.

[4]  See C. Beiser Frederick, “The Context and Problematic of Post-Kantian Philosophy,” in A Companion to Continental Philosophy, ed. S and Schroeder Critchley, W.R. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999).

[5] A period in Bahá'í history which began in 1921 and has no specific end point. It is, in some ways, modelled after the 3 phases of Greek history: heroic, formative and golden.

[6] Susan Huntley Elderkin , “RECOVERING THE FICTIONS OF EMILY CARR,” Studies in Canadian Literature, Volume  17, No. 2, 1992.

[7] Ron Price with thanks to Imed Labidi, “A Review of Azade Seyhan’s Writing Outside the Nation,Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature, Volume 4, Number 2, Spring 2004.

[8] Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, editor and trans. Caryl Emerson, the introduction by Wayne C. Booth, UP of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1987, p.110.

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Edited by RonPrice
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Your brief comment, nonsuch, is appreciated. You can access much of my memoir and poetry at this link. You must type the word 'Price' into the search box, when you get to the access page. My reading, nonsuch, is virtually entirely in cyberspace these days. There are unnumbered, free, electronic journals online. I read essys and articles from many of these journals. Here is the link: http://bahai-library.com/author

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Part 1:

 

Since there are so many questions raised and issues discussed concerning people’s basic assumptions about life, about their philosophy, about their religious beliefs, indeed, about their very approach to reality and the way their society goes about organizing things, it seemed like a useful exercise, useful at least to me and hopefully to some others at this site, to say a few things about: My Position and Beliefs: My Religion. 

 

Religion, in the sense that I am using it here, is the set of values, beliefs and attitudes each of us has as we go about our daily life at a particular moment in time, in this case, at the time of my writing of this post on the internet and in the case of the person reading this post, at the time of the response of that reader.  I hope this opening note of some 1700 words provides a general, a useful, a helpful context for any continuing discussion you and I may have.  If the note I strike is too long, I advise readers to just click me off, a simple enough exercise of the hand and the mind.-Ron Price in Australia.

 

Part 2:

 

Apologetics is a branch of systematic theology, although some experience its thrust in religious studies or philosophy of religion courses. Some encounter it on the internet for the first time in a more populist and usually much less academic form. As I see it, apologetics is primarily concerned with the protection of a position, the refutation of the issues raised by that position's assailants and, in the larger sense, the exploration of that position in the context of prevailing philosophies and standards in a secular society, a religious society, indeed, any society past or present.

 

All of us defend our positions whatever these positions are: atheistic, theistic, agnostic, humanistic, skeptic, cynic, realist, pragmatist and any one of a multitude of religions, denominations, sects, cults, isms and wasms. In a Bahá’í perspective, exclusivist ideas, the idea that my religion is the only true one, or that my view of reality is better than yours, and you need to adopt my view, today raises walls of separation and conflict in an age when the earth has literally become one homeland and human beings must learn to see themselves as its citizens.

 

Part 3:

 

Apologetics, to put it slightly differently, is concerned with answering both general and critical inquiries from others. In the main, though, apologetics deals with criticism of a position and dealing with that criticism in as rational a manner as possible.  Apologetics can help explore the teachings of a religion or of a philosophy in the context of the prevailing religions and philosophies of the day as well as in the context of the common laws and standards of a secular society. Although the capacity to engage in critical self-reflection on the fundamentals of some position is a prerequisite of the task of engaging in apologetics, apologetics derives much of its impetus from a commitment to a position.

 

Given the role of apologetics in religious and philosophical history and in the development of the texts and ideas that are part and parcel of that history, it is surprising that contemporary communities generally undervalue its importance and often are not even aware of the existence of this sub-discipline of philosophy. Authors, writers, editors of journals and leaders known for defending points in arguments, for engaging in conflicts or for taking up certain positions that receive great popular scrutiny and/or are minority views engage in what today are essentially forms of secular apologetics.

 

Naturally in life, we all take positions on all sorts of topics, subjects, religions and philosophies.  Often that position is inarticulate and poorly thought out if given any thought at all.  With that said, though, the apologetics I engage in here is a never-ending exercise with time out for the necessary and inevitable quotidian tasks of life: eating, sleeping, drinking and a wide range of leisure activities. The apologetics that concerns me is not so much Christian or Islamic apologetics or any one of a variety of those secular apologetics I referred to above, but Baha'i apologetics.

 

Part 4:

 

There are many points of comparison and contrast between any form of apologetics which I won't go into here. Readers here might like to check out Wikipedia for a birds-eye-view of the subject. Christians and Muslims will have the opportunity to defend their respective religions by the use of apologetics as will members of the other major religions in the world; secular humanists can also argue their cases if they so desire here.  I in turn will defend the Baha'i Faith by the use of apologetics. In the process each of us will, hopefully, learn something about our respective Faiths, our religions and our philosophies, our various and our multitudinous positions, some of which we hold to our hearts dearly and some of which are of little interest to us or others.

 

At the outset, then, in this my first posting, my intention is simply to make this start, to state what you might call "my apologetics position." This brief statement indicates, in broad outline, where I am coming from in the weeks and months ahead. -Ron Price with thanks to Udo Schaefer, "Baha'i Apologetics?" Baha'i Studies Review, Vol. 10, 2001/02.

 

Part 5:

 

The defensive, the apologetic, mode originated in the law courts and political assemblies of fifth century Greece (BCE). Its model text is Plato’s Apology of Socrates’ defence before the Athenian assembly. Since then, defence and advocacy have become the twin functions of apologia. Although apologetics was for centuries one of the recognized disciplines in theology, with the progressive secularization of contemporary society, this engaged, faith-driven approach has fallen out of favour.  This is not the case in confessional colleges and universities.

 

It has been rejected for its polemical, dogmatic, and authoritarian motives, and has been replaced with so-called “objective,” value-neutral, historical-social-scientific treatments of religion. Despite its being contrary to academic fashion, the apologetic voice can be clearly heard in the words of many writers. The defensive mode takes basically two forms: (1) theoretical: as the advocacy, defence or explanation of a doctrinal point, and (2) actual: as “defender of the Faith.”  In my case I see myself as a defender both of the Bahá’í communities, and the Bahá’í Faith itself.  I defend it from attacks and advocate strategies for countering the assaults that come its way.

 

Part 6:

 

Aristotle argued against the mixing of strong emotion with reason when engaged in apologetics. Such a mixing, he saw, was something which  weakened an argument. Pure logic he deemed to be closer to truth. The distrust of emotion can be traced back to Plato’s Phaedrus in which he depicted the soul as a charioteer who is drawn up to heaven by the white-winged divine horse of reason, Pegasus.  That soul was then drawn back down to earth again by the black horse of the emotions/passion. Plato’s figure, his analysis, regrettably succeeded in dichotomizing reason and emotion.

 

Rhetorical theory has, since Plato, legitimized what has long been known, namely, that emotions have a legitimate and necessary place in discourse. Even within science, sociologists G. Nigel Gilbert and Michael Mulkay argue that emotion has a valid place. In their Opening Pandora’s Box: A Sociological Analysis of Scientists’ Discourse (1984), Gilbert and Mulkay found that emotions are part and parcel of the process of the scientific method and they are latently present in scientific statements, even if the emotional experience of the scientist is not explicitly acknowledged in scientific formulations.

 

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I have taken an interest in what moved Dickens to write his novels. Dickens refers to 'a beneficent power' which showed him how to write. I comment on this in my prose-poem below.-Ron Price, Australia

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  THE BENEFICENT POWER

 

"The function of poetry" wrote Robert Graves, "is religious invocation of the Muse....I cannot think of any true poet from Homer onwards who has not independently recorded his experience of her."1  The Muse, in the case of this Baha'i, is something I am happy to personify, but it is based on, is derived from, has something to do with, several complex and interrelated factors.  One is a certain obsessiveness which may have its origins in my bi-polar disorder.  This is as close as I can come to "the inspired madman" that Plato refers to in his Phaedrus and his Letters. 

 

Dickens refers to 'a beneficent power' which showed him how to write. If such a beneficent power is helping me, and for the most part I am not conscious of it directly, it is those souls who have passed on to the next world and have the power to assist the arts and sciences in this world. This hypothesis, this causal explanation, is untestable. But Baha'u'llah says I "can benefit through them."  Undoubtedly, I am dependent on fertile ideas 'coming' to me, on imaginative responsiveness and allowing ideas to take shape in my poems.  I am even more dependent on a sense of wonder and on "new faculties" being created "as standards in the mind" from "the power of the influence" of the writings of Baha'u'llah.2   -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Vintage Books, NY, 1991, p.672; and 2Horace Holley in The Ocean of His Words, John Hatcher, Wilmeete, 1997, p.3.

 

It seems to require all I have

to record my testimony,

as you say, Horace,

to new faculties,

new standards in my mind,

any example of the power

of His influence or Theirs.

 

The beneficent power

bringing these ideas

is quite beyond any

account I might give.

 

Like alien visitors

They come to us

from another world.

 

This is the Muse

spoken of

in begone ages

requiring that I become

an artist myself1

and so open that

infinite resource within.

 

John Hatcher, op.cit., p.6.

 

Ron Price

24/2/'02 to 26/7/'13

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