Century of Light Gives Learner New Historical Insights and Determination to Use Them in Ruhi Courses

Sue Rishworth1Sue Rishworth may be familiar to some Wilmette Institute learners, as she is one of the faculty for How to Organize and Maintain a Bahá’í Archives. A mother to three and a grandmother to seven, she retired in December 2013 as Archivist at the American College of Surgeons in Chicago, where she worked for twelve years. Before that she worked as Archivist/History Librarian at the American College of Ob/Gyns in Washington, DC and as Library Director at Southeastern University in Washington, DC. She has also worked in the library of Michigan State University and at the Library of Congress. She holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin (a BA), Indiana University (an MLS), and the University of Maryland (an MA in social history). She is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists, Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the Society of Florida Archivists and founded the Chicago Area Medical Archivists in 2002. She co-founded the Lone Arrangers Round Table of the SAA, of which the online discussion list is open to all, as are all SAA Roundtable discussion lists. She and her husband now live in Florida. In 2015 Sue took the course on Century of Light. Below she shares insights and take-aways that she intends to use “with increasing intensity” in her “path of service to facilitate more Ruhi study circles.”

Century of Light is very powerful and intense. Of the myriad of facts from it that stand out for me are the village communities that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fostered and encouraged. What a miracle they were at the beginning of the twentieth century, real Bahá’í communities, having all the attributes of communities we are trying to develop today. I think the lesson is that it IS possible, and this should inspire us to work harder for it.

“The other major take-away is the history of attempts at world unification, beginning with the League of Nations, continuing with the United Nations, and culminating in world conferences. Century of Light makes clear how, at the beginning of the twentieth century, people did not even have a frame of reference for such things happening. It strikes me as quite miraculous and prophetic that it did.

“A part of the take-away about attempts at world unification is that now I have further appreciation of the early believers who had a ‘high degree of individuality’ but, nevertheless, worked together to contribute to building a collective unity, the chief attraction of the Cause.

“I also have new ways of appreciating Shoghi Effendi. The realization that he consulted with various Bahá’í leaders and that ‘even a formal discussion with qualified believers about the creation on an international secretariat would be not only useless but counterproductive.’ (p. 46) So he did it all himself!

“Some of the other new insights I gained from our study of Century of Light can best be shown through a number of quotations from the book:

“From page 49, one insight is the value of the Covenant: ‘This sad history is of importance to an understanding of the Cause in the twentieth century not only because of what the Guardian called the “havoc” it wreaked in the Holy Family, but because of the light it casts on the challenges the Bahá’í community will increasingly face in the years ahead. . . . . Apart from insincerity that marked all too many of them, the relatives of Shoghi Effendi demonstrated little or no awareness of the spiritual nature of the role conferred on him in the Will and Testament.’

“From page 53, another insight is Shoghi Effendi’s admonition in 1923 ‘“that though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God’s grace. . . .”’

“From pages 63 and 62, yet another insight is the idea that industrialization led to the dawning of materialism and ‘humanity’s infatuation with the ideologies its own mind had conceived.’ I found particularly fascinating the statement that ‘so wilful an abandonment of reason on the part of a considerable segment of the intellectual leadership of society demands an accounting to posterity.’

“From page 71, another insight is that World War II occurred to force the United States to ‘“assume through adversity its preponderating share of responsibility to lay down once and for all, broad, worldwide unassailable foundation of that discredited yet immortal System [the League of Nations].”’

“On page 89, another insight is the idea that, ‘With the collapse of the Soviet Union, impulses to devise and promote any formal materialistic belief system disappeared,’ but materialism was facing no challenges. This observation provides me a new way of looking at the history of Communism, which seemed to be a permanent ideology in the decades of the Fifties through the Eighties.

“In short, the study of Century of Light has encouraged me to go forward with increasing intensity on my path of service to facilitate more Ruhi study circles and to share in them insights gained from this course.”

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