The Badí‘ (Bahá’í) Calendar 2015: A Learner Shares How the Course Reshaped His Material, Social, and Spiritual Reality
Stewart Mathison, who lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA, and is the marketing director for the Bahá’í Distribution Service in the United States, took the Wilmette Institute course on the Badí‘ (Bahá’í) calendar in May 2015. A first-time learner in the Wilmette Institute, he shares with us what he learned in the course.
“One of my goals was to learn about calendar history, including the development of different calendars and why and how they came about. This aspect of the course greatly exceeded my expectations, for I had no idea there would be such a wealth of resources available as background for the topic itself, including insights made and resources shared by fellow participants. I enjoyed this aspect of the course and hope to be able to maintain a personal archive of the materials and/or links for future reference.
“I had no clear sense of the integration and depth of the how the calendar was formulated, why it was created, or what it means in both a practical as well as spiritual context. Part of this was processing the foundational units of the course, which laid out the nature of calendars in general so that the learners in the course would have a better understanding of what they are, how they work, and how diverse they are in terms of trying to measure time as humans understand it. While this is still a function of the Badí‘calendar, its implications go much farther. It is, in a sense, a way of tracking time and, yet, it is outside of time. As Spock would say: “Fascinating.”
Another of my goals was to be able to explain to Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís the Badí‘ calendar and its relevance today and in the future, as well as how it is distinguished from other existing calendars. My ability to understand the Badí‘ calendar and to be able to present its salient points to others is the main skill I acquired. I have been able to do this in bits and pieces during the course itself and as it has come up in conversation, whether with fellow Bahá’ís and on Bahá’í-oriented forums. In my Bahá’í community gatherings where questions related to, especially, Holy Day calendar planning have arisen, I have been able to remind fellow Bahá’ís about the changes to the calendar and to explain why these were made at this time. I have also become more attuned to looking at the nature of time as a concept and reflecting upon this within my own prayer and meditation practice.
Yet another goal was gaining a clearer understanding of the spiritual nature and aspects of the Badí‘ calendar and ways in which this can impact one’s daily life. The resource materials in particular greatly added to my understanding of the deep mystical side of the calendar as conceived by the Báb and implemented by Bahá’u’lláh. I knew there were some aspects to this before I took the course, but the coherence and completeness of the calendar is remarkable.
As to the question “Why implement the common Badí‘ calendar now within the global Bahá’í community?”, my simple takeaway is that it is time (no pun intended) for the purpose of further enhancing the unity of the worldwide Bahá’í community and beyond.
I came away from the course with a deeper appreciation for the Báb as One who had an amazing grasp of the totality of all that is. He saw the unity of it all and tried to express or capture that in a new calendar. The fact that the Universal House of Justice has now chosen to fully implement it worldwide among its membership has also given me, yet again, an appreciation for how privileged I am to be a part of the Bahá’í Faith and the privilege to live out my life in a more spiritual way within the context of a deeper understanding of the Badí‘ calendar within which we Bahá’ís live, move, and have our being.