17. MT. CARMEL
The poetry in this collection celebrates the construction of the Arc on Mt. Carmel and I have included a number of poems as part of this celebration. The history of the developments at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa Israel and especially the recent Arc Project completed in 2001 is provided elsewhere and there are now many photographs available for those who are interested. I have set out below The Introduction to one of my fifty-two booklets of poetry, most of which were sent to the Baha'i World Centre Library as part of a celebration, one of the thousands of notes around the Baha’i community, part of that "befitting crescendo to the achievements of a century....a period that will have left traces which shall last forever," as the Universal House of Justice put it in April 1995. as well as several poems.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2 December 2003.
The Baha'i Cause has a World Centre in Haifa, but around this centre is an immense network which participates in so many different ways in this Centre. You don't really have to live and work in that Centre to be part of it, although obviously one's participation in the physicality of that Centre from a distance is not the same as actually being there. The unquestioned center of the Baha'i World Faith is PO Box 155 Haifa Israel 30 001 or, more especially, the holy dust of the Bab and Baha'u'llah in Their respective shrines. That unique centrality will never end. As the phenomenal world we live and participate in becomes more and more global, as the local and habitual settings in which we physically move are experienced as only part of that phenomenal world, as distance intrudes into local activities overcoming some of its tyranny, that centrality will become even deeper and more pervasive.
We must resolve various dilemmas, though, if we are to preserve a coherent narrative of self-identity in relation to this phenomenal world. This poem is about the resolution of these dilemmas. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Stanford UP, 1991, pp.187-201.
The one and the many,
integration and fragmentation,
bringing it together
and splitting things apart,
bridging the gap,
bridging the gap
in a drama, the role,
that I and others expect
me to be as I participate
in the necessary creation
of this special ideological
culture and my world.
And so I put fantasy, make-believe,
theatre, game-playing, models, plans
and images into a great mix, a repertoire,
to be ready for any contingency,
limit any engulfment,
being overwhelmed by
not haunted, but see it
as a natural state
and so slowly make a new world,
where orchestration, dominance,
is limited as I try to balance
10 October 2000
By the early 1990s the Arc Project was making large holes in the side of Mt. Carmel. During this same period of time, in 1993, the Hubble Spacecraft was fixed in the heavens. As the Arc Project headed to completion in 2000 and 2001, Hubble sent back data that allowed astrophysicists to determine with some accuracy the age of the universe at 12 billion years. Some 40,000 galaxies could be observed in the sky behind a curvature the size of a grain of sand and there was a vast increase in the knowledge of the origins of stars. The Sun and the Moon were also studied during the construction of the Arc Project telling us much more about these heavenly bodies. The Sun's polar regions were investigated during this period. Asteroids and comets were also examined in more detail than ever before. Mars and Saturn also came under the astronomers' microscopes. -Ron Price with thanks to The Internet: Planetary Science Spacecraft, 24 June 2002.
They1 said we stood on the threshold
of the last decade
of the radiant twentieth century.
The prospects were dazzling:
little did we know
we'd be able to go back
and see our origins
12 billion years ago.
Yes, there was an acceleration
of spiritual forces then
as May 1992 approached.
The suddenness, the speeding-up,
the transformational impact
on my poetic output,
the new feelings of delight
on the dry soil of my heart
and a certain bewilderment
which I have been trying
to understand since those
winter months when
it really began,2
made me slowly realize
that, at last, I could
not do everything
on this long, slippery
and tortuous path
as that dynamic synchronization
at last approached.
1The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 1990.
2In the winter months of June to August 1992 I wrote 35 poems, the precursors to an immense poetic unfolding of about 600 poems each year for the next ten years: 1992-2002.
-Ron Price 27 June 2002
THE ALPHABET OF HOMECOMING
In the months surrounding the opening of the Terraces on Mt. Carmel, March to July 2001, astrophysicists studied the second gamma ray explosion of 22 February 2001. They concluded that in the constant stream of light and energy that constituted this explosion they had seen the nursery for the first stars, the first huge clouds of gas and dust. Stars lived and died in this nursery. Black holes were formed in this same period that astrophysicists called associated with what they called 'the cosmic dark ages.' This gamma ray explosion was, in fact, the biggest bang thusfar discovered in the universe. It gave astronomers a window to our distant universe and to how our first stars were formed. It was from these first stars that all our matter, all the elements in the periodic table that we now know, have their origin. -Ron Price with thanks to "Catalyst," ABC TV, 8:00-8:30 pm., 5 April 2002.
It's more than just coincidence
that we got our first big handle
on the origins of the first stars
just at that very time on earth
that the first system for earth,
the first world Order finally
was given its first outer form
in a brilliant Arc
of buildings and gardens
on God's holy mountain,
a rocky hill, Carmel's bony spine.
For as a poet said:
form new configurations,
effortlessly shaping themselves
into the alphabet of homecoming.1
It is not enough to marvel.
The universe asks more.
Let the searchers, drowned,
who look and stare in wonder,
tell us why, returning
from their telescopic haunts,
we stand, wistful in our chairs,
far from those stars and awe.
1Roger White, Notes Postmarked The Mountain of God, New Leaf Pub., Richmond, BC, 1992, p.3.
4 April 2002
THE CENTRE AND THE PERIPHERY
The poet who is a Baha'i seeks his identity and his public in an international culture that is too new, too disorganized and too preoccupied with the psychological demands of a world going through a fundamental change in consciousness, a consciousness of humanity's oneness, a world that is moving through a period of social paralysis, tyranny and anarchy, the ultimate consequences of which no one on earth can foresee.1 This theme, this struggle of the poet, also characterized the struggle of the nineteenth century poet in both the USA and Russia. The 'thinness' of the emerging international Baha'i culture is not unlike the thinness of the American and Russian atmosphere that Henry James describes. "It takes," James argued, "such an accumulation of history and custom, such a complex of manners and types, to form a fund of suggestion"2 for a poet, a novelist, a playright indeed any one of the many creative and performing arts. -Ron Price with thanks to 1The Universal House of Justice, Message, 24 May 2001; and 2Henry James in Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, George Steiner, Penguin Books, 1967(1959), p.40.
There's another shifting now,
a migration of the mind
from the centre to the perifery
and the perifery is everywhere
and so is the centre: one,
an unprecedented project,
a wondrous result,
has just stuck its head
above the ground,
a centre for an unparalleled
during this momentous
transition the pain shall pass.
And the thinness of so much
of that century of light will
acquire that accumulation
of history and custom,
that fund of suggestion
that is at once dense, rich
and part of the global spectacle.
28 March 2002
In a letter dated March 29th 1951, given the title Spiritual Conquest of the Planet,1 Shoghi Effendi announced "the rise of the World Administrative Centre" of the Faith, "a process that had been kept in abeyance for well nigh thirty years, whilst the machinery of the national and local institutions of a nascent order was being erected and perfected." About four months later a lecture was given on "Building Dwelling Thinking" to a group of leading German architects. The lecture "had an immense impact on architecture for it represented an axiomatic definition of architecture itself."2 The speaker's name was Martin Heidegger. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.91; and 2 Gunter Dittmar, "Upon the Earth, Beneath the Sky: The Architecture of Being, Dwelling and Building," Internet, 19 December 2001.
A whole new architectural form
and function was just sticking
its head up upon the earth,
beneath the sky, among mortals,
marking the inception
of the Kingdom of God on earth
and the rise of the World
To create cosmos out of seeming chaos,
at the centre of ninefold articulates,
nine concentric circles and holy dust,
to create an identity, a tangible location,
dwelling place for our being,
within the vast, shapeless and infinite
continuum of time and space,
to affirm our presence, gain a foothold
in the universe, generating a matrix
where we would work, meet and play.
Structuring and articulating our relationship
to the sacred, to a vast system,
engaging the world around us
in an ongoing and creative dialogue,
gathering, condensing and giving presence
to our inner and outer worlds,
bringing them into harmonious congruence,
their mystery and meaning becoming manifest
to us in this world of existence
that we may confess His Oneness.
Every bestowal emanates from Thee.
Every benediction is Thine.1
This catalyst towards our dwelling,
mediating between ourselves
and our world; defining our being
and our sense of place in the world,
the beginning of an architectural idiom
in a strong, a deep, a rich cultural tradition,
only a century or two old,
far more than economics, technology
and fashion: and now we search
for this place of our dwelling
and our meaning and our life.
20 December 2001
INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET 34 OF SOME POETRY
Anyone reading my poetry thusfar would easily realize that it expresses a multitude of concerns and interests. Poetry is simply the best means, for me, to express my interests, my beliefs, my values and concerns. Many of my poems deal with my Canadian experience; others deal with the Australian component of my life and still others with an explictly spiritual orientation. Sometimes this spirituality deals with language, sometimes with a universal ethos and quite often with the Baha’i Faith. Poetry can never really capture the reality of life in all its quintessential fullness and beauty, vanity and emptiness. But I try to capture the elusive butterfly, the reality of life, through a clarity of language. Reality is a linguistic creation and must be put into words, if one is writing poetry. There is a vulnerability in the process. There is a walking on glass. One must travel lightly in all the seriousness and deep curves that come along.
The ‘deep curve’ that came along and made the title of this booklet is on the front colonnade of the International Teaching Centre. The photographs and brief descriptions of aspects of the Mt. Carmel Project that come along in the Canadian and Australian Baha’i monthly magazines and that inspire the Baha’i world, I pick up like the elusive butterfly landing lightly on the flowers in a garden; and my heart flies immediately to Mt. Carmel. From time to time an image associated with the Mt. Carmel Project captures my attention and I incorporate it into the title of a booklet of poetry. I have done that here. And then my poetry moves on, like the butterfly.
copyright: Marco Abrar
Some of my poetry, I hope not too much, is uninspiring and prosaic. I have written over four thousand poems in the last seven years. It is my contribution, my offering to the Baha’i World Centre Library. It is a poetic expression in celebration of the period of time in which the Arc was being built: 1992-2000. Not all of this poetry is vigorous, relaxed in its clarity, simple in diction, controlled and containing highly sustained imaginative and intellectual insights. But it aims to capture truth as truth emerges from the contact point between my inner reality and an external world. For poetry is the unity of mind and world in a creative act; it is the weaving of the primary material of sensory experience into a mental coat of many colours. In the end, all things exist for the poet because of a synthesizing, unifying, process of this inner and outer reality.
Much of my poetry is openly polemical and imposes on the reader an argument that I have already been persuaded to be true. Rather than let the argument arise from the poem itself and leave it to the reader to decide, my biases inevitably direct me toward a certain line of thought. This is because I deeply hold various religious and philosphical positions, various convictions and assumptions and they need to be understood if my poetry is to be understood. These positions result in consistent patterns that can be observed with my passion and my sincerity and varying degrees of assimilation in my poetry.
Breakdown, fragmentation and loss of meaning on the one hand and varying forms of integration and meaningfulness is a theme that appears again and again in my poetry. The integrating forces are not so obvious to the generations of this century. Since the discovery and application of the atomic bomb, a force of enormous potential destructiveness, another force of immense potential integration has spread over the earth: the Baha’i Administrative Order. Baha’i themes, which give expression to this force, appear again and again in this poetry.
One such theme is the ultimate value of the "inner life and private character" mirroring the truths of this new Revelation. This inner life is also given a strong accent, a focus, a centre of attention in my poetry. For it is through our "passion and (our) life....whose mountains are within",1 as Coleridge once put it; and it is through the unique form of the Baha’i Order within which we must channel these ‘mountains’, that our civilization will eventually come to an era of peace, experience the spiritualization of the masses of humanity and a future golden age. This is the basis of the shared vision, rooted in language, without which humanity will not survive. This vision permeates my poetry.
What some poets call the life-force, love, a mysterious organizing and regenerating power is also a factor, an underlying principle or focus in my poetry. I call it the Ya’Baha’ul’Abha factor which is: the melody of eternity, the chord of creation, the rhythm of progress, the cry of the universe, the striking of the chord of divine reality, the whole world of creative thought.2 If this factor was to be given a personalification it would be the Supreme Concourse, perhaps the Blessed Beauty, Baha’u’llah, or holy souls in the world beyond. If it were to be given a symbol it would be the Greatest Name as it appears on Baha’i ringstones. Although this symbol is Arabic monogram, it has many English expressions that describe its meaning. For me, this life-force is the emotional-feeling-spiritual pole that balances that other pole: the mind, the rational factor, learning and the cultural attainments of the in tellectual faculty, that is so dominant in the Baha’i teachings.
Much of my poetry deals with historical themes. In fact, I probably have a too excessive concern for time, for continuity, for the integration of the past, the present and the future into one whole. Another way of expressing this overriding concern is to say it is a concern for unity: the oneness of mankind, of God and of religion. But this is not a plea to an ignorant and simplistic emotionalism. It is rather a recognition of the ultimate basis for synthesis, with poetry as a noetic integrator3 within the wider noetic integrator of a world religion which I joined forty years ago.
I have had some difficulty finding objective correlatives, as T.S. Eliot calls them, for complex and powerful emotional states like love and despair, indeed the entire inner life. So occasionally, hopefully not too often, my poetry becomes too abstract, too philosophical, too heavy with polemic and, therefore, suited for a narrow audience of believers, the Baha’is whom I have worked with all my life in the refining of their organizational framework, the Baha’i administrative Order. They might have the patience to stay with me in these philosophical meanderings. Like some other poets, W.B.Yeats and Judith Wright among them, my poetry becomes preoccupied with a set of almost obsessive ideas which permeate its content. The inner life is but one of these obsessions. I think this is impossible for me to avoid given an active involvement all my life with social and spiritual issues that derive their framework and definition from this new Faith. The need to introduce fresh images, and yet maintain some unified structure of reality for my poetic opus, is an ongoing need. So, too, is individuation, the acceptance, at this stage of my life especially, of my imperfections as a human and those of others in this phenomenal world. This accepting process helps release my creativity and helps me come to terms with the shadow side of life, as Jung would have put it.
1S.T. Coleridge in Flame and Shadow: A Study of Judith Wright’s Poetry, Shirley Walker, University of Queensland Press, 1991, p.11.
2a noetic integrator is a symbolic or conceptual construction which serves to interpret large fields of reality, to transform experience into attitude and unify factual knowledge and belief. See Daniel C. Jordan and Donald T. Streets, "The Anisa Model: A New Basis for Educational Planning" Young Children, Vol.28, No.5, June 1973, p. 290.
3‘Abdu’l-Baha describes the meaning of this expression in an unpublished article I was given while living in Perth.
12 January 1999
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
In many of the inner cities of North America and throughout the West, from about 1890 to 1920, there was what is now called a 'golden age' in the history of city architecture. During this period the central core of a great number of cities was invigorated, given a fresh, a stimulating, exterior. After the years of decline of this core, what is often called the central business district, from about 1950/60 to 1980/90, these CBDs were reinvigorated in many places. Entertainment, fantasy, a new commercial leisure culture began to occupy the central squares. This began to happen all over the world during the fin de siecle and is continuing in this new century. Part of the plan, the central assumptions, the raison d'etre, behind this architectural and leisure culture renewal has been: if you build it they will come. In Haifa this same process has been at work, for fifteen years and perhaps much longer, a process in which an 'exquisite power,' a grace 'so contained as to pose no threat,' has found a home, a 'crystal concentrate of beauty.' It has now been built and they are coming. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger White, "The Artifact," The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.97.
Faithful to the memory of that appointed hour
which he'd assigned so long ago to that design;
we have set her in that place of honour
in the central square;
we find, but hardly know,
the exquisite power
which she one day will wield;
'tis dismissed as fantasy by the solemn elders
and, of course, in history's court,
among the present cognoscenti,1
all is arguable and they may be right.
For who can doubt their knowing ways.
Now she lay there and we grow accustomed
to this wondrous crystal concentrate of beauty,
as the eye `does to any artefact.
We marvel, but we easily forget
in our troubled days
while our cities are swept
with confused alarms
and our feet hardly feel, being shod.
But my heart says this beauty will not be spent.
Here is a freshness, deep down things,
dearest, oh morning, eastward springs,
a spirit bent over the world broods
with her warm brest and with ah! bright wings.2
1 Latin term for 'those who know.'
2Gerald Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur," Gerald Manley Hopkins, Penguin, 1953, p.27.
Ron Price 20 July 2001
Very few people seem to care for pure beauty of line. Very few people, as yet, have any idea of the power in this Cause. As yet, it poses no threat .-Ron Price with thanks to Gerald Manley Hopkins in Hopkins: A Literary Biography, Norman White, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992, p.277; and Roger White, "The Artefact", The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp.96-97.
I caught this morning morning's terrace green.
Daylight bringing it all fresh, widely eyed.
Rolling, rolling through the steady air;
Hanging there in mid-mountain's sleek height.
They drank in ordered wonder the rising light
And marvelled that they, so round and even
Should grow luminous and warm with day.
They can not speak alone or in unison
But, if they could, they'd chorus loud
So clear and crystal pure:
The Sun! The Sun!
In sweetest ecstacy they'd sing
And Carmel would to Zion ring.
Holy dust resides here on this Isle
Of Faithfulness, shipwrecked ashore—
Re-wrapt in a silken shroud, blood-red
Dried-up now in purest form
A potency beyond all that's born
Dust of dust, holy of holies, at this hour
This beauty, in this place of honour,
Our handiwork, our love, our heart
Is here laid out, all loveliness.
A power crosses here between the dust
And marbles, terraces, between what must
Be the grace that keeps our hearts
From dieing into eternity's wondrous parts.1
10 August 1998
1Some of the most remarkable poems ever produced come from the corpus of Gerald Manley Hopkins. They are subtle autobiographical documents. (ibid.,p.vii). This poem is an attempt to immitate Hopkins' style.
The Baha’i gardens in Haifa are a paradisial symbol of transcendence. They conjure into active imagination a sacred transendent presence; they play a crucial part in restoring a centre and wholeness to everyday life. This transcendence arrests the drift of human action by infusing it with governing spiritual purposes. These purposes arise as much from the depth of the fallen present, the discontinuity and brokenness of humanity from the ultimate and a nostalgia for a lost mythic garden, as from the yearnings for wholeness, for renewal, for reconciliation. There is here, the unobtrusively trickling thread of water that momentarily pools and then passes, reminiscent of the transient in all forms and of purity, sanctity, enlightenment and holiness, in their many forms. The transendent depends on manifested form to be accessible. The manifested form, the manifestation of God, depends on the transcendent, to be real and to escape its transient immediacy. This water leads the pilgrim toward the vision and the mystery that is the manifestation of God.-Ron Price with thanks to Robin Matthews, "In the Trial of the Serpent: A Theological Inquiry," in The Meaning of Gardens, editors, Mark Francis and Randolph Hester, Jr., The MIT Press, London, 1990, pp.46-53.
* conjure: to appeal solemnly to a person to do something
The Cup-bearer bringeth
crystal cool water at last,1
with His exalted utterance,
the water of life,
here in this garden,
art form, symbol carrier,
statement of our place
in the cosmos, of human
dominance over nature,
the very raison d’etre,
the very essence of a garden,
symbol of power. And the price
for all this: eternal vigilance and
a preeminent act of will,
nature slowed down to stasis
for human delight of the eye,
the ear, the mind and the heart.2
6 December 1999
1the water flowing on Mt. Carmel in the gardens from terrace to terrace.
2This poem, a vahid, gives special emphasis to control over nature as the essence of a garden in the same way that control over our natures, a preeminent act of our wills, lies at the heart of our lives.
Landscape architect Peter Walker once said that landscaping goes "beyond merely human needs or intervening in natural processes." Its aim is to achieve an expressive landscape, full of feeling and spirituality. The landscaper’s task, Walker went on, is to discover what is already contained within it, the hidden and the dormant, and bring it into the light and, with a little "magic" offer it to the attention of the public. The task at the Baha’i World Centre in the Mt. Carmel Project in the 1990s was to create a connection between the religious history, the memory, the experience of the Baha’i community going back a century and a half and the collective social-psychological and intellectual-spiritual aspirations of this emerging world religion. Equally, the task involved creating an environment worthy of the claim that it was, and is, "the spot round which the Concourse on high circle in adoration" and, in the realm of the spirit the "Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve."1-Ron Price with thanks to Peter Walker in The World of Landscape Architects, Francisco Cerver, 1995, p.41; and 1 in Citadel of Faith, Shoghi Effendi, Wilmette, 1965, pp.95-6.
It’s a way of perceiving the world,
what is human and relationships,
cultural and narrative spaces.
For there is a story here
and we want the observer
the elements and sensations
of this modern story
that the world knew not,
has not noticed, yet.
It is an unfolding,
a rising and a falling,
a going out and a coming in,
the roots, the story,
of the religion of Western
civilization in all its tragedy,
its beauty and its grandeur.
10 December 1999
HEAL ME! HEAL ME! HEAL ME!
The Baha’i World Centre on the side of Mt. Carmel is like opera music in the sense that it symbolizes, as opera does, beauty, love and truth. It is there, as is opera, for people to behold and wonder. -Ron Price with thanks to Golden Voices of Film, ABC TV, 12 December 1999, 11:15 pm.
Here is beauty, love and truth.
They cannot be embodied here,
but they can be symbolized
and here they are symbolized
for the eye to see,
the ear to hear
in a Word so near,
so clear, so rich, so dear,
the senses to feel,
so real, so real,
Heal me! Heal me! Heal me!
as I kneel, as I kneel, as I kneel.
13 December 1999
THIS POETIC VAULT
.....in poetry the enjoyment of poetic experience of any part of the world is fraught with the necessity of discovering a wider and more inclusive imaginative apprehension, in which more and more elements in experience are caught up and incorporated. The imagination of the great poet at least never rests from this momentous labour which endeavours to encompass the whole of life, and to achieve a comprehensive unity of imaginative pattern. -In Skepticism and Poetry, George, Allen and Unwin, London, 1937; quoted in The New Apologists for Poetry, Murray Krieger, Greenwood press, Westport, conn., 1956, p.107.
Time will tell who and what is great,
but there is momentous labour here,
just recently embarked, energies
transferred to this poetic passion.
We joke about it around the house
and I don’t talk about it much:
all part of keeping the serious unserious,
the heavy, light and Murphy’s Law
firmly entrenched in an Aussi psyche.
When you’re doing something
that never seems to let you rest;
that hangs around your head
waiting to be fed like some new
behemoth; that waits to be translated,
incorporated, tucked into this
comprehensive, imaginative pattern
that encompasses the whole of life--
and by God you’ve been trying
to play your part, find your place,
do your thing, make your home
in this global Crystal Palace
all your life, with your life, for your life,
to your life and the lives of others
all over the place, so many specific places--
you get an enormous weariness
that keeps coming back after it has
sucked out every conceivable energy
you’ve got and you die.
Of course, morning always comes
and a more inclusive imaginative apprehension,
some rich and elaborate organizaton of impulses;
more and more is caught up and absorbed
into this great poetic vault which you offer up
to a place as near to your Lord’s casket--
His alabaster sarcophagus, where lies
that inestimable jewel--as will be accepted.
If this vast construction, which labours
like a pregnant woman, will not lie on
the spot round which the Concourse on high
circle in adoration may it repose nearby
in the library as your gift for His gift.
Life, the inner life, the life of the imagination, in which the senses are messengers from the outer world brings joyous and disquieting tidings: this life of crisis, of ecstacy, of a hundred differently defined sensibilities is the life of poetry. Poetry is, then, a language, a language of crisis, of ecstacy, of these varied sensibilities. Poetry arrests these various states in mid-flight and mentally transposes emotions and sensations, creating an atmosphere along the way.
A poem is a becoming, a process. A landscape is magically evoked and blended into a single effect. A sustained impressibility towards the mysterious conditions of man's everyday life, towards the very mystery itself, gives a singular gravity, a quality of joy, of the exquisite, to poetry. Much of life is trite, humdrum, tedious, trite. These emotions of quieter intensity become part of poetry, of poetry's voice. -Ron Price with thanks to Walter Pater and Edward Engelberg in The Symbolist Poem: The Development of the English Tradition, E.P. Dutton and Co., NY, 1967, pp.289-345.
Marble pillars and garden terraces are fellow
travellers on this mountain side and with them
I did pass several days at a slow step, my mind
on fire with emotions of a lifetime. This vastly
augmented World Centre reared for that Divine
Target of grief, creating a tranquil calm, an efflorescence
on God's Holy Mountain, of profound significance,
of providential opportunities where tribulations
are transmuted into instruments of redemption.
And now constructing, landscaping, erecting
edifaces imbued with sacred remembrances at
this culmination of a cycle of six thousand years
in an age of fulfillment of five thousand centuries
in which we have just finished the first and a flight
of stairs to meet His majestic shrine, this Threshold
of the City of God where a welter of concrete, steel
and stone are strewn across thousands of square metres.
27 April 1996
MEDITATION ON BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE
...............my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
...............to the external World
Is fitted. -William Wordsworth, "The Recluse", William Wordsworth: Selected Poems, Walford Davies, editor, Dent, 1975, p.132.
Here I behold a mind that
feeds upon infinity, a mind
sustained by direct transcendent
power and holds converse with
a spiritual world of past, present
and to come: epoch to epoch,
past recorded time.
Here I see days gone by
returning from those first
glimmerings at the dawn of this Age,
enshrined now: the spirit of the Past
for our future’s restoration.
The characters are, now, fresh and visible
in this spot of time with its distinct pre-eminence
and its renovating virtue whereby
our minds are nourished and
Here are those efficacious spirits
who have profoundest knowledge
of leavening of being and
of the workings of One Mind,
the character of this Great Apocalypse
and the types and symbols of eternity,
gathered, as they are, among solitudes sublime.
Here we find our better selves,
from whom we have been long departed,
and assume a character of quiet
more profound than so many of
the pathless wastes where we have
long walked, too long, its roads.
Here, too, I hear at last my song which
with its star-like virtue shines to
shed benignant influence,
make a better time,
more wise desires and
simpler and humbler manners.
Perhaps some trace of purity may
come with me and guide and cheer me
with Thy unfailing love
which I forget.
19 June 1995
Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. -Nietzsche.
Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
It’s all happening pretty fast
in this incredible mix of
time-and-space, some kind
of speed warp as the century
goes down to the wire.
Why, we may have HAL ready.
You remember his calm, eerily
human voice from the film
2001: A Space Odyssey.*
Why, we’re mapping the brain
and the universe and a thousand**
other things as we welcome
the first stirrings of an Order***
that will slowly crystallize and
radiate throughout the planet.
Why, we’re building the most
beautiful world centre of any
of the world religions, a centre
which houses a handful of Dust
whose potency is world-shaking
world-reverberating, but whose
exquisite power remains, still,
3 January 1996
* Charles Arthur, New Scientist, 4 March 1995, p.26.
** Since the 1953, when according to Shoghi Effendi the Kingdom of God on Earth began, there has
been a staggering explosion in knowledge.
*** The first stirrings of this new World Order will occur in the years 1944-2044. Current Baha’i Administration is but the instrument that is the precursor of that Order.
The writer himself left a considerable body of self-depiction....Although precisely delineated each vignette seems to leave the poet's actual self largely untouched and the reader double-guessing. -Michael Ackland, Henry Kendall: The Man and the Myths, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1995, p.2.
With the precise delineation of the last four years
there should be no second guessing
as far as my actual self is concerned,
at least as far as my own understanding
of my own self. Like Kendall I see myself
at the dawn of a new consciousness,
but in world literature, a Baha'i consciousness,
emerged just in this fourth epoch, hardly seen,
barely touched, raised its head above the ground
like a universal groundhog testing the waters
for the new spring whose rains have been
watering humanity for a century or more,
unobtrusively, and whose World Centre
will soon be completed for all eyes to see,
offering humanity a visible evidence
of a model that will slowly in the years ahead
take the world by storm,
based on a very precise delineation
of a whole new paradigm..
8 March 1996
WHAT IS GOING ON?
The real, central theme of history is not what happened but what people felt about it when it was happening. -G. M. Young in Representations: Essays on Literature and Society, Steven Marcus, Columbia UP, NY, p.5.
Most have no idea what is going on
in this great World Centre and, consequently,
have no feelings about the project at all
and the few who do, have a range of feelings
and attitudes ranging from intense excitement
to complete bewilderment at what is taking place.
Dear Mr. Young: The central theme of history
is not what people feel about the events,
but where is the repository of the creative power
of the age and the nature of the Providential control
over the historical process.
There are many things that are going on,
too many to list here, but at the core of the process
today is a realization that self interest
and the collective interest are the same.
3 May 1996
BEAUTY’S INSINUATING POWER
Here was a message for the world over ABC radio at 1:30 am from a place of such potency housing the dust which is the spot where the Concourse on high circle in adoration. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 24 May 1996.
It came over my little chirping box,
must have been one-thirty am,
the hundred and fifty-second
anniversary of the declaration
of the Bab. They gave a message
of beauty, a news item centred on
beauty, beauty’s insinuating power
coming out of the north, across air-
waves, across the earth, right into
my head in the middle of the night
telling the world of the embellishment
of my World Centre, the beautification
of the gardens, the Qiblih, the Mountain
of God, the sacred precincts of holiest dust.
24 May 1996
FOR THE BWCL
I do not mean that once a poet is invited to send his work to the Baha’i World Centre Library he can then sit back and imagine that he is safely fixed in the niche of Baha’i consciousness in poetic literature and history well into the future centuries of the Formative Age, with perhaps some residual existence in the Golden Age. On the contrary, I doubt if an invitation will do any more than cheer him up and make him think that someone, at least, has read and liked his work. Even that is doubted. For the collection of poetry at the Baha’i World Centre Library is there for the researchers of the future, evidence for some theory, information for enhancing an understanding of the fourth epoch of the Formative Age. -Ron Price with thanks to A. Alvarez, Beyond All this Fiddle: Essays 1955-1967, Allen Lane, London, 1968, p. 516.
I’d written histories1 before, brief summaries,
usually less than ten thousand words, always
seeming superficial, lamentably inadequate,
a surface sketch, tip-of-an-iceberg,
never down deep, never near the ocean’s abyssal plain,
never edging the mountain’s top, the jungle’s heart,
the civilization’s embryonic core.
And those essays,2 for all their freedom,
fertility and fecundity, did not capture my heart,
my soul, my mind; only a public place,
written for a public race, not as succinctly
as these poems in their earnestness,
their lightness, their intensity, their fullness,
their suppleness, their diffuseness, their utterly
personal styles and statements on a life
which has been rich in humanity
and for laying these earliest foundations
for a wondrous Order.
14 August 1997
1I started writing histories of various Baha’i communities in about 1980 an d discontinued the practice about 1990.
2the essays, begun in 1983, have continued until the present, but not with the same enthusiasm as the poetry.
I CAN SEE YOU NOW
I have found it difficult in the last several years to get my mind off the Arc that is being built on Mt Carmel. It fills me with profound pleasure and ardent expectations. -Ron Price, A comment on the poem which follows.
For if we look back at one hundred years of an unexampled history of unremitting progress, we also look forward to many centuries of unfolding fulfillment of divine purpose...incrementally realized.... -Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1992, p.1.
I can see you now: close and distant, near and far,
with pregnant and tragic import, loosening and
tightening, expanding and contracting, separating
and compacting, soaring and drooping, rising and
falling, dispersive and scattering, hovering and
brooding, unsubstantial lightness, massive blow--
such is the stuff you are made of, up on that hill,
over there, infinitely diversified, but I can express
you here: the significant, the relevant, compressed
and intensified in some exalted rising, surging
and retreating, the sudden thrust, the gradual
insinuation until I am obsessed with your wonder
and can hardly take my mind off of you: the enduring,
the voluminous, the solid, room, filling, power, energy
of position and motion, rightness in placing.
And so I am in poised readiness to meet your
surrounding forces, to persist, to endure with
some energy and some opportunity for action
with my unique experience, gradually letting
you yield to me in the changing light and moods,
your enduring sacredness and charm and your
monumental register of cherished expectations.
23 December 1995
A DANGEROUS PRESENT FRAUGHT WITH HOPE
The projects underway on this mountain are of profound significance. They represent much more than the erection of buildings to meet the expanding needs of the Baha’i World Centre. -Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1994, p.1.
They were end times for the
cataclysmic imagination, huddled
masses waiting for judgement day.
Just after the great fiery sweep of the
mushroom cloud came down from
God out of heaven1 and a drift toward
unparalleled disaster ushered us toward
the gates of a new Eden, what he called
the Kingdom of God on Earth,2 back then.
These are still terminal times with their
apocalyptic temper, poised as we are in
the last state of history. He saw them as
times for beginnings, the tenth state of
history,3 a war, a theatre, a spiritually
charged dramaturgical process on a long,
tortuous and thorny stage, with sweetness
distilled from life’s consecrated joy, and the
agony of history with its shifts and changes.
We have here on this mountain a gesture of
confidence, an urgency and context for an
act of moral imagination, giving us a way of
living in a dark time. This is no retreat from
reality, but a radical reformulation of the nature
of reality. When night seems thickest and life an
intricate absurdity, a nonchalant breathlessness
is injected up there with millennialist spirit. A
stirring assertion of dignity and the reassurance
that a dangerous present is fraught with hope.
21 April 1997
2Shoghi Effendi called 1953, the completion of the mother-temple of the West, the beginnings of this Kingdom.
3Shoghi Effendi saw 1963 as the beginning of the tenth stage of history.
COSMIC AGE OF LIGHT
The cosmic dark age, perhaps as long as 10 to 12 billion or more years, is one of the great mysteries of astronomy. -John Mather, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Most of our 15 billion year journey
has been completely dark
and we still know little
how galaxies were formed,
how stars were generated.
It all seemed to happen in that cosmic
dark age of, what, 10 billion, 12 billion
years? We may just discover
in the Next Generation Space Telescope1
to be launched in 2007 ,
the origins of the universe, of stars
and galaxies and the entry, at last,
of masses into history’s cosmic light Force2
as it spreads its unifying powers
and transforms the globe in ways
quite obtrusive, quite sublime, quite celestial,
revolutionising the soul of humankind, utterly.3
20 February 1998
1The Hubble spacecraft’s successor.
2By 2007, all being well, all the buildings and the major embellishments to the Baha’i World Centre will be completed. The process of entry-by-troops will be well advanced and an eventual and inevitable mass conversion will revolutionize the fortunes of the Cause at some time in the following decades.
3the initial impetus for this poem came from reading "Let There Be Light", New Scientist, 7 February 1998, pp.26-30.
In Persepolis, the themes and motifs of the images complement one another to form a new blueprint for a specific concept of Persian kingship and empire. Here we find the expression of a timeless idea of universal and cosmic order upheld by divine assistance and mutual loyalty between king and subjects.....The Achaemenids, and above all Xerxes, were for a long time criticized for arbitrarily mixing the most dissimilar artistic traditions and motifs....What really underlies the Persepolis programme of buildings and imagery is the conscious attempt to impress upon all subjects and visitors the Persian imperial order with its claim to universal and eternal validity. -Josef Wiesehofer, Ancient Persia: From 550 to 650 AD, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London, 1996, pp. 25-26.
In Haifa, the themes and the images of what some call The Hanging Gardens complement one another to form a new blueprint for a specific concept of democracy and theocracy, a specific model of beauty and truth. Here we find, on the side of Mt. Carmel in Israel, the expression of a timeless idea of universal and cosmic order based on the teachings of twin-prophets, two man-Gods whose dust has been laid to rest here in its shrines, and upheld by a claim of continuing divine assistance. There are here, similar and dissimilar, architectural and artistic traditions and motifs and some might be critical of the attempt to arbitrarily mix, such different forms. But this great design here is one which attempts to blend and embody some of the major forms and influences in our now global community. What really underlies this Mt. Carmel Project, as it is currently called, with all its buildings, gardens and forms, is the conscious attempt to impress upon all subjects and visitors a particular concept of democratic theocracy with its claim to universal and eternal truth by means of an imposing, an impressive beauty. For, as Keats once noted, "beauty is truth."-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, April 13, 1999.
You1 went up 2500 years ago,
the richest city under the sun,
with images from your gift
bearing subjects, symbolizing
the solidarity between the centre
and its perifery, a procession to
‘the holy city’, blueprint for the
world, for a timeless and cosmic
order, for the eternal realm.
And now, you,2 who are just
going up before our eyes,
our faces set, as we do,
towards the splendors of Thy countenance;
our mouths prompted, as they are,
by our own caprices and, hence,
we understand not.
But believing, we say,
the verses have been sent down.
the hour has come and passed
and now the light of the countenance
of God is lifted here upon you.
13 April 1999
2The Baha’i World Centre in Haifa
HIDDEN YET MANIFEST
The image in my mind of Mt. Carmel and the Baha’i gardens exists not as something fixed, architecturally complete and ready-made for my mind and its consumption. This image arises and unfolds before my senses. Its strength resides in a creative process that includes both my emotions and my mind. This is true for all those who view this tapestry, this image, of beauty. Everyone, in correspondence with their individuality, their own style of thinking, their own emotional tone and setting, and out of their own experience-out of the wonder of their fantasy, out of the warp and weft of their associations and all conditioned by the premises of their character, habits and social appurtenances, creates their own image. -Ron Price with thanks to Eisenstein in The Poetics of Gardens, William Turnbull, Jr., et al., MIT Press, London, p.81.
The more powerful the images,
the more distant the reality.
There were images even back then
in those earliest years
when my mother became a Baha’i,
but I can’t remember any of them.1
Then, in those interregnum years2
and just after, a rush of images
hit me, usually slides, so that,
by the ‘70s, the overt images
got a little tiresome: more slides!
But this feeling system
got periodic injections, rushes;
the warp and weft of associations
got coloured and combed,
beginning in the Five Year Plan.3
That unravished bride of words,
that ocean-source eternal,
with her sweet and flowery tale
and tune and her silent melodies,
this most exalted Spot
gradually was set in a tapestry
of great beauty, with an angel’s face
and as we came to fix our gaze upon it,
in our eagerness, we found ourselves
by our separation, our remoteness.
For the reality was distant,
always distant, hidden, but
oh, oh so manifest, so manifest.4
4 December 1999
1In the years 1953 to 1959 before I joined the Baha’i Faith, as a youth and a pre-youth, I can not remember any images of the World Centre.
2These were the years 1957-1963.
4some of the language in this last stanza comes from Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of Carmel and His prayer in Baha’i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.143.
James Dickey said of the poet Richard Wilbur that "the thing that would eventually make him a truly important poet" was the quietly joyful sense of celebration and praise out of which he wrote. This was partly true of Price, but Price also wrote out of other proclivities, the central one being the immense meaning system with its multiple paradigms that was the Baha’i teachings. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Still, The World’s Hieroglyphic Beauty: Five American Poets, University of Georgia Press, 1985, p.71.
I brought them delights
in the mornings and the nights.
But they found no lodging
these delights,* though
they’d come to earth to stay.
They seemed to be quite beyond
a home, a place to stay,
in those hearts I talked to
while I was travelling the way.
And so I learned to take them
into my own place to pray.
I kept them close; I kept them far,
for distance was no problem.
But the world was cold to my delights,
so I turned the heat up slowly
in the one place: private, lowly.
A thaw began to appear
in the dark heart of the world,
for so dark had it become;
and by that time I had started
to write with quite a whirl. **
These delights now have a home
far from the winds a-storming
and though the world is still quite cold
a lodging*** now is forming.
----------------Ron Price 1 August 1999
* The Baha’i Writings
** There was an increasing receptivity to new ideas in the world by the 1990s, but it required an energy, a passion of pursuit, that I seemed to have lost by then, in order to promote them by ways that I had done for the previous forty years. So I turned to poetry.
*** Baha’i World Centre
RON PRICE’S LATTER-DAY ULYSSES: ‘THE END OF A JOURNEY’
The following poem is a rewriting of Ulysses’ homecoming. The reader is invited to see Ulysses’ homecoming as analygous to the more general condition of the international pioneer in which homecoming never occurs and the consummation of life’s long awaited hopes lies in "the trials of homelessness and adversity in the path of God" and a deeper realization that "the blessing of homelessness shall endure forever." -Ron Price with appreciation to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Centre, Haifa, 1978, pp. 280-1.
Penelope had been with Ulysses
for many a long year out on the sea.
There was no expectation that
they would see their home again,
except, perhaps, on one of those
short trips that had become quite
easy for them with their advanced
boating skills. She, of course,
had enjoyed long stays in her home
to see her family. Ulysses had met
her on one of the islands where he had
wandered in search of a job many
a long year ago when he was still young.
Ulysses had been to so many places
on his foreign and domestic journey
and talked to so many people that
his spirit felt thin, somewhat like glass.
He felt he could be seen through, so
incapable was he of any pretensions.
He had made a home of homelessness;
he had tried, as far as possible, to remove
strangeness. Now he was quite alone, as
alone as he could be, with Penelope, this
time at the end of the earth---in Tasmania.
His Ithaca would remain far off;
here was his new Ithaca;
for everywhere was Ithaca
with some degree of the inhospitable,
the harsh, the uninviting:
cares, anxieties and trials.
This was part of his reality;
it would remain so, forever.
Off in the distance, however,
he could see his final home
rising on the mountain,
a celestial retreat,
a tapestry of beauty
in a tossed and tormented world.
17 October 1999