Welcome to the UK Baha’i Histories Project

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The UK Baha’i Histories Project is collecting the stories of individual Baha’is who currently live in the UK, or have lived here in the past.  The project is sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai’s of the UK.

These stories are personal recollections by the individuals concerned. They will inevitably contain omissions and they reflect the views of the individual author in each case. We cannot vouch for the authenticity or completeness of any of the ‘histories’, although all stories are subjected to an editorial review. We urge readers who may have additional information that is pertinent to any story to post a comment, which may be viewed by all visitors to the site.

We would like to encourage EVERYONE to write their Baha’i history.  Your story is important and interesting, whether you became a Baha’i last week or 50 years ago.  We would also like to see stories from people who have moved to the UK, especially if you moved here from Iran, and your experiences when you first arrived.

To give you some inspiration, take a look at the stories below.  We hope you will then decide to write your own story.  Please contact bhp1uk@gmail.com and the team will help you to get started.

Webpage header photo courtesy of Baha’i Media Bank

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Christine Wagg

Christine Wagg

Beauty is truth and truth beauty – Keats

The jewel, a deep maroon warm of ruby facets, glimmered in the folds of her thoughts. It was her only constant companion in a world that was ever receding from her engagement. The deeper seams of life were all that really mattered now, there she would continue to mine for that which alone may sustain the insatiable hunger for the soul’s nearness to beauty.

Daily visits to the undulating greens of copses and hidden pools, of illuminated and dramatic sunsets that ended those evening meanderings along the paths of a levelled mica that were easy terrain after her previous battle with bogs and rushes and heather outcrops in order to obtain food for the soul. It had been a very long expedition, this life. Her ambition was always to be an explorer, her inner curiosity was not easily satisfied by the usual routines of daily life, yet she had easily traversed the first hurdles of school and college but then the hunger gnawing in her heart began pushing her towards distant dreams. Blue oceans, mountains and white sands, gulls calling and washing tides whose broken lines of turquoise spray filled her lungs with an alertness and vigour for life. Within the varnished waters of that uneven temperament lay the pull of some magic that her mother had always alluded to, in her gentle way. It filled the soul as she quietly drifted far from shore, lifted up upon its sunlit strength, its ancient aeons soothing.

1962 – Harrow on the Hill

The plan was made. Art school would now end and she would find those real pictures that lay deep in her heart. The still life and posed models grew boring, the clay moulded softly but only reached mediocre forms. Artists are born artists, yet, although all the visions in her mind could be painted, it was never enough. It was immersion in the wells of its source she needed to discover. The essence of all things beautiful, the great mysteries of life that she saw in the skies above the darkening oceans of night, would sweep her upwards like a mighty magnet and tear at her brain with unknown emotions. Why O why, she called out, am I so different? Why can I not sit in a London studio and work away for a good salary like others do, why am I not a trainee nurse or a secretary, or something useful? Dreams it seemed were her closest companions. Dreams were for her always the greatest reality. They were so more than real that they never left her but sat somewhere just beneath her daily life, waiting for their time to surface. Sometimes she would glimpse herself as though in a mirror, from outside of herself, and wonder what she was really supposed to be doing. So intense was this inner life at times, that only painting and drawing could calm all her restlessness.

In the great art galleries of London she had discovered so much about people and emotions, of their pain and joy, of the suffering and nobility of martyred souls. In the glowing of Persian miniatures, details of their lives were framed in harmonious patterns so richly illuminated. A purity of line and simplicity in the Chinese culture contrasted with the deepening mystery of shadows and poetry held within Gauguin’s island* paintings. The emotions of the expressionists, the torments of the pacifists and the portrayal of poverty so deeply engraved in Van Gogh’s peasants; all of these great works were to leave their residue ever imprinted upon that very porous soul………

The two years spent at a London art college and the continued practice of art for the rest of her life, had surely prepared her soul for the world shattering Revelation,** that was made known to her, when in her mid-forties.

With a much travelled, but happy family of three children and a loving husband, and with a degree of independence of thought that always remained uppermost in her interactions with the world; a miracle unexpectedly occurred. The once young intrepid adventuress was now to be calmed in a way that seemed an echo of all those fairy tale endings that were written for children —- “and they lived happily ever after.”

It was the touchstone of stability that was so desperately needed by all alike, a fact perhaps seldom admitted. Certitude is a big word with an even bigger meaning. From certitude all grace may proceed and all bounties.

 


NOTES  **The discovery of the existence of such a revelation as the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh occurred in her mid forties. Her only thought then was that she wished she had known of it much sooner. It was for her a life-changing experience and indeed miraculous for her, and although this mighty Cause and its fulfilment were only just glimmerings upon the surface of life, all efforts to implement its fulfilment were now the total focus of her life. The many tasks for the renewal of our rapidly declining and unjust world were to begin upon our own doorsteps. Village life could only change for the better with everyone’s full participation. The need for us to reflect upon the nature of our own soul and its true reality, along with our friends and neighbours, was the only way forward if any plans for a secure honest and fruitful and happy existence were to succeed.

Addressing current needs for the education of children and youth was a priority, supporting each other in a plan that was now encircling the entire globe, and that was the gradual implementation of the Mighty Cause made possible by this Revelation.

 


To know Him and to love Him

The nature of personal revelation has been described by so many all through history.

Scientific or religious it seems as if all the desire you had for truth, is suddenly unlocked and like a magnet is pulled into a perfect match. Each experience is worthy of its own recording, so that future generations and families may understand that which they perhaps could not understand at the time of its occurrence. Being so close to a family member is very hard as the tie of blood is greater usually than all other ties. Yet in the spiritual world that reality is very very different.

As mankind draws closer to its unfolding destiny of an ever-advancing civilisation, it becomes apparent that those who are living the life of steadfastness in the guidance of the latest directives from the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, are assisting the process of building the New World Order described by Him.

Essentially all power to act comes through us when we connect to its source. Yet the understanding of that source is always limited by our human condition. We cannot comprehend it.

The Central Orb of all existence is still the magnet that pulls us towards its mention and praise through both our utterance and our actions. Our personal response is then required for a continued spiritual existence lest we be cut off from this great joy of recognizing that Omnipotence and Glory.

I bear witness O my GOD, that thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee.

Bahá’u’lláh, Daily Obligatory Prayer

Worship is an action that praises God.

A sung prayer, a personal poem of praise, a painting inspired by love of God’s gifts in nature and people. A drama, a commentary, prose, a dance, all art forms old and new and all crafts – all are acceptable when done to the best of our ability.

William Wordsworth and numerous poets were able to see that inner reality.

There is a time when meadow grove and stream
The earth and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

William Wordsworth

As noble souls are the heavenly army and the hosts of the New World Order that is to come about, their undertaking consists of both practical steps and spiritual strength, of both conviction and an audacity that requires imagination and determination for it to even start to flourish.

Through this unprecedented bravery in the face of the general apathy of the sleeping streets of our society, we find our common purpose and our true companionship. This is unity in the face of all hopelessness! We are indeed the new warriors, the peace-makers whose swords are simply His Words and His Love, as defined in the new dispensation now commencing for all mankind.

We have inherited a vast wealth of knowledge from philosophers, scientists, and the prophets of the great religions of the past. If we ever lived long enough to study them all, we would discover the One profoundly simple truth, that they all emanate from the One source.

Peace on earth was ever their intention.

Swords will become ploughshares and the lamb will lie down with the lion.

[A Biblical metaphor regarding a future time when mankind, consisting of different races and religions and having once been at war, will dwell in love and harmony one with the other.]

Visualisation

So who would imagine that by simply seeing pictures deep in your heart and concentrating upon how infinitely beautiful they are, and that the more you attempt to describe them the more they begin to shimmer and come to life, they would eventually appear before you, exactly as how you had imagined them!

I am speaking of the truth of infinite possibilities in the power of meditating upon Beauty.

Keats, our great poet, knew this.

Beauty is truth and truth beauty,

That is all ye know and all ye need to know.

He died very young and was suffering from illness, yet he must have had all those concentrated powers and meditative abilities to envision what he did.

Beauty must attract us to itself like a magnet.

Beauty speaks to all who look and for each of us it is a new vision.

But the knowledge of the Creator of all is the reality that soothes the turbulent mind heading toward madness.

The discovery of truth transforms shards of disintegration and alienation into a beautiful tranquillity that changes the nature of the soul forever.

Christmas 1989 – My new beginning

The revelation that struck straight home into the depths of my being occurred through a friend giving me a holy book of Bahá’í scriptures to read. It was just after Christmas 1989.

Because I have been writing so far about my own personal life and my quest, I hope it will be self-explanatory that this revelation came to me as it were, like a head-on collision. It was instantaneous, a match that lit a pile of dry tinder, and I was set aflame.

If we live in the mansions of His glory, we will never be in need of earthly food again!!

Here is what happened.

I was very busy taking exams and studying to go to University in Lampeter to study comparative religion. I saved the book up until I had time to study it properly. As always, I never wasted time on books but delved in somewhere into the pages, hoping to find a gem of truth there.

I arrived at a page headed the soul.

The words were as follows: 

Release yourselves, O nightingales of God, from the thorns and brambles of wretchedness and misery, and wing your flight to the rose garden of unfading splendour. O my friends who dwell upon the dust!

Haste forth unto your celestial habitation. Announce unto yourselves the joyful tidings: “He who is the Best-Beloved is come!  He hath crowned Himself with the glory of God’s Revelation and unlocked to the face of men the doors of His ancient Paradise!” …

… O lovers of His beauty! Turn the anguish of your separation from Him into the joy of reunion.

Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh CLI

It was the joy of that reunion with the “Best Beloved” that was to be my inspiration for action for the rest of my life. Art as praise, having been on the back burner for 28 years, was now waiting in the wings for me, and in my old age was to become my main focus..

As a long time textile artist, I have included photographs 1 and 3, which are hangings for the birth of Bahá’u’lláh’s HOLY YEAR, and the 2nd photo is the MARTYRDOM of the Báb, displayed on the anniversary of that Holy day.  Depicted at the top is the nail from which the Báb was suspended.

___________________

Christine Wagg

Caerphilly, May 2018

Some of Christine’s textile designs

Image 1

Image 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 2 – Martyrdom of the Báb