Born: 15th June 1948 – England.
Contracted poliomyelitis at age 16 months.
Doctor’s prognosis: “Will never sit up and will certainly not live beyond the age of five.”
Education: From age 11 to 20 years, attended Valence Special School for the Disabled at Westerham, Kent. Reason for length of stay being threefold, namely ~
(i) Loss of education due to hospitalization, etc.
(ii) Philosophy of school: “Never mind educating them, just keep ’em happy”.
(iii) Was as thick as two short planks.
Left school having attained 5 GCE “O” levels, and subsequently gained another and a credit with the Open University (equivalent to two “A” levels).
Employment (in chronological order): Assistant to the Buyer of a Plastics firm; storekeeper, then book-keeper and general administrator in an Electronics (Amateur Radio) firm; Solicitor’s Clerk (cashier) then Assistant to Chief Accountant of same firm; since January 1987, Treasury Officer for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom.
Recognition of Bahá’u’lláh: Having investigated a number of religions and recognized their unity, decided that belief in God was enough and that it was when one starts labelling oneself that the trouble starts. Was interested in personal growth which led to learning Transcendental Meditation, and for a time was happy that was all that was needed.
Whilst doing voluntary work for the Samaritans, came across a reference in their A-Z (subsequently corrected) which read: “Bahá’í Faith – Eastern Meditation Sect” followed by an address and ‘phone number. When visiting meditation teacher in hospital (she had contracted TB), mentioned having come across “a new meditation group – the Bahá’í Faith”.
“No it isn’t”, quoth she.
“Yes it is” contradicted he.
“No it isn’t”, insisted she.
“How do you know?” enquired he.
“Because I am a Bahá’í”.
… she won the argument!
Jo Harding, for such it was, had only recently ‘declared’ and had been wondering how best to introduce the Faith to her TM students. This A-Z reference (was informed some years later, it referred to a nest of covenant breakers) had effectively solved the problem. Having learned from Jo enough to excite interest and the details of a forthcoming public meeting, attended same.
Was particularly struck by the diversity of the people and the fact that they were praising all the Prophets of God. Thought: “Something that can bring this motley lot together under one roof in such harmony, bears looking into.”
Fortuitously, the next public meeting had Meherangiz Munsiff as the speaker, her subject being “Prayer and Meditation”. A point she made was: “If you pray for guidance but don’t meditate, it is like knocking at a door and then not waiting for an answer”. Quoting the Guardian’s “Dynamics of Prayer” as cited in Principles of Bahá’í Administration, Meherangiz stressed that having received what one felt could be guidance, one then had to act.
Despite there being much in the Faith that I could accept wholeheartedly – especially the concept of progressive revelation, as I had already reached this conclusion – there were two major barriers: a firm belief in reincarnation, and the decision not to be “labelled”. However, the more I read about the Faith, the more I fell in love with the teachings and the Central figures. Having been particularly moved by Gloria Faizi’s The Bahá’í Faith, I reached the stage where I had to resort to prayer to resolve perplexity. Following Meherangiz’ advice and praying: “dear Lord, how best can I serve thee”, meditated, and found the most persistent thought was: “become a Bahá’í”. Recalling her words that one must then act, got straight into car and drove the 18 miles to the nearest Bahá’ís in Canterbury, Anne and Tony McCarthy and `declared’ on their doorstep in February 1974 (as I recollect, some four to eight weeks from first hearing of the Faith).
Note: Paul was the first Bahá’í in Thanet.