Monday, May 3, 2010

In Search of Ruhi

The Ruhi Institute may rival the Baha'i Internet Agency (BIC) when it comes to apparent secrecy among self-styled, so-called organizations which purport to be part of, or somehow related to, the Administration of the Baha'i Faith. Click the Ruhi Institute link above and it is like entering a deserted building -- there is nobody there which, alas, is rather creepy, just like at the BIC site. Empty. "Hello, anybody home?" Silence. No "About Us" page. No names. No addresses. No phone numbers. And worst of all, no accountability.

Are there ghosts in these places?
Did Baha'is in these outfits go underground? What is it that I just do not know? Was there a virus mutation or nuclear radiation leak that caused everyone to flee? Oh, you are shaking in fear with an urge to run outdoors into the fresh air and sun light screaming for help? Let us not panic. Let us suck it in and look for a logical explanation.

At Bahaikipedia, which, I think, is information from official Baha'i sources, we find:
Like any other institution involved in the process of education for development, the Ruhi Institute has formulated its strategies within a special framework and a philosophy of social change, development and education. In this case, that understanding has emerged from a consistent effort to apply Baha'i principles to the analysis of social conditions. The Ruhi Institute curriculum has been adopted by the Baha'i World Centre and is currently being used across the world in Baha'i study circles.
This text is a real challenge -- what could it mean?

1. Having taught at Baha'i schools and secular community colleges, medical schools and universities with tens of thousands of students. the author can say rather definitively that the Ruhi Institute is not even remotely "Like any other institution involved in the process of education". Any reputable educational institution is operated by, um, people. Even better, competent people. And best, people who have, yes, names, and if we are lucky, yes, some verifiable background which goes to a thing known as -- sorry for the big word -- qualifications. Might even be a college or university degree somewhere. Stuff like that. In truth, there is no such thing as a reputable educational institution with no people.

2. How can this possibly be explained? An oversight? An inadvertent omission? Not hardly. Academics, and generally any honorable persons, too, typically do not overlook putting their own name on the paper to take credit or responsibility.

3. Fact: This www.ruhi.org web page was made by some human being. Some person signed a statement therein with "The Ruhi Institute". So there is at least one person who knows something about this mystery, but for the moment, remains silent.

Are visitors being played for fools? One almost wants to take a documentary film crew down there to Columbia, or wherever they are hiding, locate this person or persons, corner them and ask a whole lot of questions. "What is your name?" "And don't tell us you are just the janitor here." "Who put you up to this?" "Is it just a lie that you are 'like' any educational institution?" "What are you really doing here?" "Show and tell time."
This is new to me, personally. With BIC and now Ruhi, I can't think of endeavors by Baha'is, considering some decades of experience, where there was an apparently intentional effort to hide identities of the participants. I have heard of "universal participation", but "secret participation" is a new number for me.
4. Similar to BIC's claims to be formed by the Universal House of Justice (UHJ), the quotation above claims that the "Baha'i World Centre" has adopted the Institute's curriculum for "Baha'i study circles" across the world. Let's forget that the Centre is a place and places don't adopt anything. Or was it the receptionist at the phone switch board or the gardener who did the adopting?

Presumably, some entity, other than grass, flowers or sidewalks, like, say -- let's guess, the UHJ, did the adopting. This little distinction is mentioned only because the apparent sloppy attribution might seem to be uncharacteristic of people (where are thou?) producing curriculum. Or was the "Centre" reference intentionally vague?

5. If, as it might seem, the work of the Ruhi Institute has gained wide popularity and some sort of endorsement or approval by the Baha'i Administration as claimed by Mr. Anonymous, then congratulations are due to whoever these people are. I think I do recall seeing a reference to Ruhi materials in a UHJ letter.

However, I would humbly suggest that the UHJ, or whoever did the adopting, should see that this www.ruhi.org web page is removed from the internet, if not a single human being can be found to stand up and put their name on it as a responsible person. Same for the BIC page, too. It is a simple matter of credibility. Want to be anonymous? Well, fine; but don't expect anybody to believe a word you say.

What did they do with the authors?
Are you ready to move deeper into the Ruhi ghost town? Come, it's creepy, but I'll hold your hand. Entering one dusty building, we find ... a yellow book (from my own collection, no less): "Teacher Training Manual For Children's Classes, Age 6" by Ruhi Institute. Wait. Could that be the missing author? A Mr. or Ms. Institute, first name Ruhi? Probably not. On the inside first page we find an actual address (PO box) for the Institute and that it was published by Palabra Publications in 1992. But the author(s) and any U.S. copyright notice are not to be found.

The plot thickens. Where did the author(s) go? Kidnapped? Taken by a UFO? "Let's get out of here," you say, trembling, "There might be a stack of dead bodies in the next room." "You're right; let's get out of here." We took a plane to Palabra Publications looking for any live human who might enlighten us.
Reporter's notebook: Find out what happened to the authors of all these books. Who are they? Why did they not put their name(s) in the publication? Were they volunteers who worked for nothing? Are they wealthy to afford to do that? Do they get any royalties for their work? If not, why not? Why would a legitimate author do this? Were the authors employees who therefore had no right to the fruits of their labor? But then, how come nobody is claiming ownership of this material, at least in the one yellow book I have?
Another deserted building in Florida
Touching down at Palabra Publications, again -- can you believe it? -- the place is empty. Now this is getting spooky. "Wasn't this the place where all those books at $4 or $7 a shot are printed and sent out 'across the world'? Who is getting this money?" "Beats me", I mutter. "Pinch me to see if I'm dreaming."
Nuts. I'm not dreaming. I went to Kalimat Press and there were real, living people named: "Anthony A. Lee and Payam Afsharian, Baha'is in the Los Angeles area". Accountability. Competence. There you are. And the books they publish, shocking though it may be, have ... authors. That's accountability squared, for the math fans out there. Whew. A jolting return to the real world.
Let's clean the dust off that window and peek inside. How could it be that there is nobody here at www.palabrapublications.com.?

Kalimat Press is a private business, so you know who gets the money (its owners), after payment of expenses. Palabra is a non-profit that appears to want to remain in the shadows. Maybe somebody can get their state or federal 990 tax form -- I think some human has to sign that.

The Palabra web site has no people. Not even an email address; only a "contact" form; you know, where you have to identify yourself, but the recipient person is hidden. If you are brave, try sending them a message: "We are earthlings; who are you? Are you human also and do you have a name?" Suggest using one or two syllable words only, nothing complicated.

Indeed, things like phone numbers and street addresses have not yet been found on any official Baha'i web site, but were found here and in my yellow "Teacher Training Manual...".

"Let's catch a plane to Haifa and sort this out", you say, "It's too hot in Florida." "Are you serious? And what if the Baha'i World Centre is empty like a ghost town, too? What are you going to do then? Me, I'm going home, while I'm still alive. If we've got some secret societies going on here, maybe we don't want to 'find the people', if you get my drift."
© 2010 James J Keene