Blogs by Bahais

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Birthday of Literary Luminaries – Miles Franklin, Katherine Mansfield, Hannah Arendt,

Stumbling Through the Past

Drawing of a woman in early 19thC dress carrying a suitcase approaching a home with extensive verandahs. Google Doodle in honour of Miles Franklin, 14/10/2014.

Today, 14th October, marks the birth dates of three literary luminaries of the twentieth century – Miles Franklin, Katherine Mansfield and Hannah Arendt. These three women have made a big impact on western cultural life and thought and continue to do so.

Miles Franklin’s, novel, My Brilliant Career, has a secure place in Australia’s literary canon. This is extraordinary for a book written by a woman, first published in 1901 and coming from the pen of a twenty-one year old. Miles Franklin threw herself into life and writing, taking herself off to live in the United States before World War I, moving to England, nursing soldiers in dangerous circumstances in Macedonia before moving back to Australia. In the words of her biographer, “Miles was no wimp”. She did not make her fortune but through frugal living she conceived and endowed Australia’s…

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The Currency of Suffering (1/2)

Everybody Means Something

Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahji Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahji

My recent post on the plight of Ramin Zibaei, as well as the recent executions by IS, called to mind my various attempts to grapple with the problem of  the existence of intense suffering in a world created, as I believe, by an all-powerful and all-loving God. This entails factoring in natural disasters, the Ebola outbreak being perhaps the most significant recent example, as well as human atrocity, the latter being also something I have attemptedtounderstand.

I felt it might be timely to republish some of my earlier posts on the issue of suffering. For reasons I explain in the second of this first sequence of posts, they are not meant to convince a sceptic that God exists, but may help to persuade him that believing in God is not completely irrational in spite of all the pain there is in the world.

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the Book of Pain

Blown by the chill wind, the blossoms were thick
in the air, the white petals flying and whirling,
building into soft and delicate snow-like drifts.
Along the street, people got out their brooms
to sweep their walks, humphing over the why of it.

She trudged on through the drifts, her face
frozen, tears in her eyes, flakes in her hair,
her scarf whipping anchorless behind her
as she desperately tried to hold onto
that last shred of spring she had left.


All springs of all types—physical, mental, moral and spiritual—abide with new life and hope. But still, much can be asked and hurt at such delicate moments…

The photograph is entitled Courage and was taken in my home town, Putnam, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works…

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Effie Baker – Baha’i Heroes and Heroines Blog



She surely could not have imagined how her life would change. Could anyone have imagined that within three years, she would be living in Haifa? Could anyone have imagined that, more than this, she would risk her life traveling for eight months through Persia and Iraq, taking the photos that were to be included in Shoghi Effendi’s translation of The Dawn-breakers’


Euphemia Eleanor Baker was born the eldest of 11 children to parents John and Margaret, on March 25, 1880, at Goldsborough. Some of her grandparents had arrived in Australia in the great migrations of the 19th century. Her father’s father, Captain Henry Evans Baker, was born at White Hills, Kent, in England, in 1816, and had moved to New York. Captaining a sea-collier, Henry Baker was in the port of Melbourne in 1852 when gold fever struck his crew. The prospect of making one’s fortune on the gold fields was so enticing that Captain Baker could not find enough men willing to leave Melbourne, and thus form a new crew. He solved his dilemma by selling his boat and joining the rush to inland Victoria.



The captain was thick-set, dark-complexioned, portly and jolly in appearance. He was inventive and technically minded, and on the voyage to Australia had even constructed a dynamo to light his cabin. He is reported to have constructed in 1855 the first Chilean Mill on the Bendigo gold fields — a system in which a horse pulled a stone wheel in a circular motion in order to crush rock in the quest for gold. He had an interest in astronomy, and won a silver medal in a Melbourne exhibition of 1873. He achieved some fame when he was selected to re-polish the mirror of the great Cassegrain telescope at the Melbourne observatory. In 1886 a telescope made by Captain Baker for the newly opened Oddie Observatory at Ballarat was used for the first time.

Captain Baker’s wife, Euphemia McLeash, came from Cooper Angus in Scotland, although the two were married in New York. A brother, William McLeash, went into partnership with Captain Baker on the gold fields. Captain Baker and his partners, Robert Dodd, William McLeash and Samuel Crozier, discovered and opened Bealiba Reef (the Queen’s Birthday Reef), taking a lease on the last day of 1863. They soon created a 4 horsepower engine on the site and the first crushing yielded 77 ounces of gold. At this time, the Bakers were probably squatting in a calico house next to the mine.

Another reef, the Goldsborough, was discovered in 1865, and Captain Baker bought a house near it in 1868. Goldsborough had only been established in 1854, and grew to be a thriving town of 70,000 people. But these were living mostly in semi-permanent calico huts, the prospectors shifting with the rumors of new gold fields. The streets were named “Pick,” “Shovel,” “Windlass” and the like, emphasizing the town’s functional nature.

Childhood and Youth
Effie’s father had been educated at Wesley College, Melbourne, from 1868 to 1869 but had to interrupt his studies and return to Goldsborough when some people tried to jump the Baker claim to the Birthday mine. John Baker subsequently worked as a foreman in the mines at Goldsborough.

He married Margaret in December 1879 and in 1880 Effie was born. With John and Margaret Baker’s family growing, Effie, at age six, went to live with her grandparents at their home, Cooper Angus, in Ballarat. Although Captain Baker died four years later, in 1890, while Effie was still a young girl, she was already greatly influenced by his enthusiasm for science, and for technical instruments. In Ballarat she attended Mount Pleasant State School and later Granville College. She lived at the Mount Pleasant Observatory from 1886 until Captain Baker’s death, and from then on moved between Ballarat and Goldsborough.
As a child in Ballarat, Effie studied piano, and in 1892 won second and third prizes in a music competition. Later, she became interested in painting and attended the old Ballarat East Art School and then Carew-Smyth’s Art School. She also attended Beulie College. After receiving a thorough grounding in art and especially in color and composition, she became interested in the new science of photography and the traditional one of woodworking.

Effie learned photography after acquiring a quarter-plate camera in Ballarat and was encouraged in her work by her aunt “Feem.” Following holidays in Perth in 1898 and around the Ballarat district in 1899, Effie made photograph albums for her parents and filled them with the photos she had taken, developed and printed. With the help of her family, most of whom could either paint, draw or play the piano, Effie received the best education possible for a Victorian country girl at the turn of the century.

Interest in photography and woodwork

Sometime after completing her education, Effie moved to Black Rock, a suburb of Melbourne, to live with her aunt Ephemia, a school headmistress and one of the first women to obtain entrance to the civil service university course in Victoria.

In the house at Black Rock, Effie had a room set aside to work in. It was always full of tools, materials and projects. She became interested in the photography of wild-flowers, which grew profusely in the district. She hand-colored her photographs and in 1914 published a booklet, Wildflowers of Australia, which was an immediate success and went into a second edition. This was possibly the first book of its kind to be published in Australia. The booklets were printed in Melbourne by T&H Hunter, three-color printers. Series One (1914) contained seven prints, and Series Two (1917) contained six. These were subsequently printed in a combined edition in about 1922.

A newspaper article of the time said: “The colors of these are faithfully reproduced with exquisite softness through the medium of hand-colored photographs,” and suggested the booklet would make an ideal gift for Christmas.

At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, Effie began to work with wood, in preference to painting wildflower studies, of which she was tired. An arts and crafts society was holding a sale of work for the Belgian Relief Fund, and Effie contributed, in place of paintings, a set of dolls’ furniture in three-ply wood and upholstered in mauve leather. It was greatly admired and Effie was asked to make another set for the Christmas sale.

At this time she conceived the idea of toys for children which were typically Australian. Her first attempt was a small dolls’ house, constructed so that a child could build it up and take it to pieces. Another original design was an adaptation of the Biblical version of Noah’s Ark into a traditional Australian setting, substituting a bark hut for the ark and using an Aboriginal man and woman and Australian animals. Effie also created expanding toys which opened on a “lazy tong” or hat-rack system, and on which were placed a procession of emus and kangaroos, a native boomerang thrower, or flocks of geese and fowls.

Although Effie had become close to Wally Watkin, the two had not married. She had waited because she felt that her grandmother and Aunt Feem needed someone to look after them. In the meantime, Wally met and married another girl. As she didn’t marry, Effie had to provide her own income, and may have done so through selling her woodwork and photography. She was also fortunate to inherit her grandparents’ house in Ballarat and her aunt’s house in Black Rock, as well as the home in Goldsborough in which her parents were living.

Encountering the Baha’i Faith

Effie had received a good Methodist upbringing. In the early 1920s many people were still horrified by the results of the war and were looking for solutions to the world’s problems. Effie’s two brothers, Jack and Jim, had served in the war, so Effie’s family could well have learned about it from them. Also at this time, many people were questioning the role of the established churches. It was becoming more common to retain Christian beliefs but to move away from regular church attendance.

In 1922 Effie and her friend, Ruby Beaver, began attending the lectures of Dr. Julia Seaton Seers, a Californian who had established that year in Melbourne a New Civilization Centre. Shortly before John Henry Hyde Dunn and Clara Dunn left Sydney for Victoria late in 1922, Effie Baker had become disenchanted with the church. She and Miss Ruby Beaver were on the welcoming committee and were charged with the responsibility of arranging for speakers for the New Thought organization when Hyde Dunn visited Melbourne.

One evening Effie noticed a benign looking white-haired gentleman in the audience – that was Hyde Dunn. Effie turned to Ruby and commented: “Look at that white-haired gentleman sitting in the audience. What a light he’s got in his face!” Hyde Dunn had moved to Australia from America with his wife, Clara, in 1920. He became a traveler for Nestles Milk Company, a job that allowed him to earn a living and at the same time travel to different parts of Australia informing people of Baha’i teachings. Effie made a note of intention to request him to come as a speaker for their group.

The next meeting Effie was late in arriving and saw that the notice board in the vestibule stated that Mr. Hyde Dunn would be speaking on the Baha’i Faith. Hyde Dunn opened with a Baha’i prayer, then prefaced his talk with a quotation from The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah: “O Son of Spirit, Free thyself from the worldly bond, escape from the prison of self, appreciate the value of time for it will never come again or a like opportunity” (an early translation of the passage).

Effie later recalled the occasion:

“Hearing this, I thought ‘I must listen to what this speaker has to say.’ He then gave the 12 principles given to the ‘world of mankind for this age’ by Baha’u’llah. The one that arrested my attention was ‘investigate truth for yourself, don’t follow the blind imitation of your forefathers.’

It suddenly dawned upon me: ‘Why! I was born and christened a Christian. My forebears were Christians for centuries. I certainly have never investigated truth for myself.’ After the principles, Mr. Dunn gave a short account of the history of the Baha’i Faith and immediately proved to me that the Báb, the forerunner or herald of the coming of Baha’u’llah, was the same as John the Baptist who proclaimed the coming of Jesus the Christ. I went immediately and declared myself as accepting the Baha’i message.”

And so it was that Effie first heard of the Faith and accepted it that night. Miss Baker thus became the first woman believer in Australia. The first man to accept the Faith, Mr. Oswald. Whitaker, had accepted earlier in 1922 through Hyde Dunn in Lismore, New South Wales, when both were there on business.


To read the rest visit

(Adapted from the ‘Baha’i News’, July 1986; ‘The Baha’i World 1963-1968’, article by James Heggie; article by Graham Hassall in ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography,’ volume 14, published in 1996)

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Pathways to ….

Pearlz Dreaming

Cover Photo

This one goes out to all of my readers making decisions at cross roads of their lives.  I am doing a lot of planning this week, after a friend asked me some questions about what I wanted to do with my writing and how I was going to do it.  I am taking a deep breath and then moving to the pathways!

I am picking out a path
to navigate my life
standing at the mid point
wanting to move forward.

I am looking to within
through the dreams that
I still have.

North, South, East, West
which way is best?

I am searching for some focus
reflecting where
the confirmations blossom
and the path only dead ends

Or perhaps needs a push down
of the walls.

Birthdays come and go
people come and go
but the constants
love, compassion, wisdom?
stay in my journey’s pocket.

I reflect
on the…

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the Book of Pain


Focus down to the tiniest speck
or gape across a billion years,
but how, exactly, how?
Irises, corneas, rods and cones
are light, not sight,
the question of the question remains.

It’s patterns, I think,
it’s all about patterns—
we are pattern engines
and patterns rule our world:
edges and curves, light and dark,
colors that rise to surfaces
and memories that play
through and throughout,
sight unseen, memories akin,
up and down, round and round,
one side to the other,
until effortlessly we see ourselves
in the illusion we are sure surrounds us.

He is, don’t you see, the Cause of causes,
not the cause. Now do you get the pattern?


Thank you for reading Vision. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on a walkabout photography day in Boston, Massachusetts. For more photography…

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Blue Jay


A Beautiful Jay Thanks dollarphotoclub! A Beautiful Jay
Thanks dollarphotoclub!

It sits in the highest place in the room

A mother blue jay feeding her hatchlings

Precious statuette bought to dispel my gloom

From your own money given to me with such feeling


Your grandfather becomes ill and will die 

God speaks to me about death by sending

In His language an ill blue jay who can’t fly

Telling me of his death soon impending


These birds have played a major part

Tokens and messages from above

You are always giving to my heart

A hollow reed for His sweet love.

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