Here is the story about how I became a Baha'i and ongoing spiritual journey written for the Baha'i Histories project  http://bahaihistoryuk.wordpress.com/


Becoming a Baha’i

My story begins with my Mother’s fiftieth birthday and ends now, twenty-five years later on my own fiftieth birthday. When my Mother reached the age of fifty she decided that she was at an age when she really had to make up her mind about what she believed. Her search led her to get a book out of the library about all the major religions in Britain and the last chapter was on the Baha’i Faith. As she read this chapter she thought “Yes I agree with that”, about everything she read, and so decided to ring a number out of the telephone directory and was invited to a fireside.
       Simultaneous with this I was going through my own search for Faith. I had spent seven years within a difficult relationship which had gradually undermined much of my self-worth. I spent a lot of time trying to be what I thought someone else wanted me to be, rather than coming from a genuine place of strength, from within. I instinctively felt that, in order to free myself from this emotional attachment, I needed to draw upon a higher power to give me the love I lacked whenever I tried to break away. I remember going to church with my friends in the hope that this would bring me faith, but it did not ring true for me when the vicar preached about all the lost non-Christian souls. He used the metaphor of a sinking boat and the necessity to save as many as possible. On the way home in the car I decided to pray for guidance from God just encase I had got it wrong and he did exist after all.
        A week later I was on holiday with my family and my Mother, with some trepidation, started to tell us about a new religion she had been investigating. I listened with encouragement and interest as she told me about this universal faith and it seemed familiar to me, maybe because the teachings also resonated with everything I held to be true.
        A while later, after my Mother had declared her belief in Baha’u’llah, she invited me to a Baha’i Women’s group meeting in her home. A reporter had also been invited to this meeting because she wanted to write an article about the Baha’i Faith. At this first Baha’i meeting I ever attended I must have felt as though I was coming home spiritually, as well as physically, because I remember feeling safe to speak candidly about the violent relationship I felt trapped within. The Baha’is were very supportive and loving but I know that my Mother felt quite embarrassed that the reporter was taking notes, whilst her daughter was spilling out all the emotional mess of her life. Around this time I also read Viv Bartlett’s book “Finding the Real You” and this started to direct me towards the tools within the Baha’i teachings which would help me rebuild my life and rediscover the strength of my childhood years.
       I was brought up within the most beautiful nurturing family anyone could ever ask for and was raised within the church and Sunday school. It is a reoccurring pattern of my life that romantic love often seems to open my heart up in order to allow a greater capacity for spiritual love. Faith first came truly alive for me when I was fifteen years old just after my heart had been broken for the first time. I found solace by spending the school holidays reading the Bible. I remember the transcendental feeling of detachment it gave me – all the petty fears and concerns of an insecure sensitive fifteen year old schoolchild disappeared because I could imagine my soul floating up above my body with God, whilst I went through the daily routines of school without fear or anxiety. After a week or two the feeling of detachment faded. I dived into the excitement of exploring the boundaries of grown up life and faith disappeared to be seen through cynical eyes as a crutch for the weak.
       Returning once again to my mid twenties search for faith; I believed in Baha’u’llah and had signed the declaration card but hid it away in my drawer because I was not ready to make the final step of joining an organised religion. This step came for me when I was able to link the intellectual concepts, within the Baha’i Faith, and the personal spiritual relationship with God it had given me, with my own path of service. This was when I was able to connect the Baha’i Writings with my life’s greatest passion and source of self expression – visual art.
      As a child I would spend hours creating intricate cards for my parents expressing my love for them. This was preparation for adulthood when I would use my art to express my love for God. As a teenager I often felt too self conscious to communicate through words but I could escape into my own world through art. One of my other earliest memories of a transcendental experience was during my degree in printed textiles exploring colours and discovering hidden layers of meaning through aesthetic awareness. The sense of excitement free spontaneous creativity inspired within me, and also the tangible sense of presence I felt from artwork within galleries, was the closest I got to a direct spiritual experience at this stage of my life.   
      As I started to investigate the Baha’i Writings I decided to illustrate the following quote by Abdu’l-Baha:

To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken… Our body is like the cage and the spirit is like the bird. We see that without the cage this bird flies in the world of sleep; therefore, if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue to exist. Its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased.



I used my sister sleeping as a model for the figure asleep at the bottom of the picture and drew a parrot flying out of a cage and through a window. I then started to colour in the pencil drawing and as I did this three events of synchronicity occurred as confirmations that I had fallen in line with my destiny. As I painted the green and orange colour into the parrot I heard on the local radio news bulletin, in the background, that a green and orange parrot had escaped out of its cage and the owners were requesting help to find it. The next day I painted in the sunset representing the freedom and later on when I looked at the evening sky it was exactly the same as in the painting. On the third day I painted in my sister dreaming and that was the day that she had an interview to get into University and from that pivotal moment in her life many of her dreams for her future fell into place. In this painting I also expressed my own soul’s freedom from the oppressive ties of a very limited life into the joy of a future where I could use my creativity to express my love for the beauty of the Word of God.



Dreams, creativity and pilgrimage

I had a dream about ‘Abdu’l-Baha. We were at a big conference that covered an island, sitting in small groups at round tables. I was sitting at the edge of the conference and next to me was a card stand with my cards for sale. ‘Abdu’l-Baha came up to my table and looked at the cards and said that they were good but then he pointed at the table covered with tipped up tea cups and spilt tea and told me to tidy up the mess. In departing he said that he had to go to help people get across the water onto the island.
       The card rack symbolises my creativity and the niche I have made for myself within the Baha’i Faith, which lies at the edge of the core activities, but within which I am able to make my own unique contribution. I have been helped with this enormously by Masoud Yazdani who has published books of my artwork presented alongside the Baha’i Writings. I found it difficult to consciously contrive to keep illustrating direct passages but instead continued to follow my own aesthetic vision, and found that the spirit of faith had indirectly influenced my artwork. In making these books I was able to juxtaposition the writings alongside images in such a way that there was just enough relationship to create meaning and just enough ambiguity to inspire the reader’s imagination.
      The mess on the tables related to life’s tests which often knocked me down. The difference now was that I had the tools I needed to brush myself off and keep trying again more quickly than before. The greatest test for me within the Baha’i Faith itself has been my objections to what I see as outdated morality concerning homosexuality. This was made even more personal through my son’s sexuality and I wrote to the Universal house of Justice in an attempt to find some answers. I received a long response from the Universal House of Justice (22 April 2013) which helped if only by lifting me up to a higher place where I could just about see over the test.
     A year ago I went on pilgrimage for the first time. Before I went I had another spiritual dream. I dreamt that, after arriving at Tel Aviv airport, I jumped into a taxi to take me to Haifa. As I got into the front seat of the taxi, next to the driver, I looked into the back seat and knew that Baha’u’llah was sitting there. I could not see him, visually, because I had not seen a picture of him but I knew he was there. As we drove along towards Haifa he kissed the back of my neck and I felt an indescribable divine energy flow into me and fill my soul with bliss. I then ascended out of the car seat into the sky above and the people in the street exclaimed with wonder as they witnessed my flight.
     I remembered this dream when, at the end of the 9 day pilgrimage, I ventured off on my own to find the temple site. With some difficulty I managed to find it but the time was running out as I was not allowed to be there after dusk. I sat on the hill high above the miniature streets of Haifa and quickly read the tablet of Carmel which Baha’u’llah revealed on this spot. Just as I reached the end a sudden gust of wind blew out of nowhere onto the back of my neck and I felt my spirit soaring above the streets of Haifa. Looking back I realised that this moment would have been the beginning of the Holy day of the birth of Baha’u’llah. I walked down into the Shrine of the Bab and after that last visit to the Shrine of the Bab it felt as though something inside me had shifted. Earlier in my pilgrimage I had been busy striving for visual material, in the wonderful gardens surrounding the shrines, or consciously trying to visualise images linked to the spiritual themes I had been working on. Now I let go and abstract images were spontaneously revealed to my inner eye. I could see fields of pure colours which blended at their edges into intricate patterns, as if a minute speck of the unseen world was seeping through the veils. An experience akin to synesthesia allowed me to see colours and patterns that corresponded to the chanting during the Holy day celebration and as a response to the shrines and spaces I explored throughout the remainder of my pilgrimage.
      On coming home my prayer was that I could somehow express a flavour of this experience through my artwork. In the valley of search Baha’u’llah says, “At every step light from the eternal realm will attend him and the heat of his search will grow”. Although these dreams and synchronicities have limited meaning for others I am very happy that I have been given the chance to write this story so that I can reflect more deeply on the patterns of confirmation which have guided my journey. I feel more reassured now to trust and let go, so that the experience of each moment can unfold from within. Relating my artwork to the Baha’i writings in the books I have made over the past ten years has given me a strong grounding from which I can launch myself again into a purely visual language. I thank God that he has guided me to the Baha’i Faith so that I have something beautiful and meaningful to communicate. I hope that eventually the time will come when I will have a chance to have an exhibition within a proper gallery space where I can convey heart to heart the fragrance of this Faith which has inspired me so greatly. Each painting never quite manages to express enough and maybe it is an impossible task but the desire to keep trying sustains my soul.


www.corinnerandall.co.uk










The Seven Valleys

The Seven Valleys is a book written by Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith. It describes the soul's journey through seven stages of inner transformation, from the abode of self to the realms of nearness to God.  The metaphors within the text point beyond themselves towards a realm that can only be described "heart to heart". In parallel with this process my paintings harmonise outer representational forms with abstract qualities of light, colour and pattern that draw the viewer into an inner space of contemplation.

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Search

"At every step, aid from the Invisible Realm will attend him and the heat of his search will grow."

Baha'u'llah




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Love

"In the city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason."

Baha'u'llah

Sun Dance


Valley of Love


Blaze of Sacrifice

At every moment he offereth a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One.

Baha'u'llah



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Knowledge

"They have passed beyond the worlds of attributes and made their dwelling-place in the shadow of the Essence."

Homage to the Moon

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"Split the atom's heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun."
Qur'an
Sun Atoms

"And there he beheld his beloved with a lamp in her hand,searching for a ring she had lost."

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Unity

"He looketh on all things with the eye of oneness, and seeth the brilliant rays of the divine sun shining from the dawning-point of Essence on all created things, and the lights of singleness reflected over all creation."


Eternal Dawn



Surging Ocean
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"Your souls are as waves on the sea of the spirit; although each individual is a distinct wave, the ocean is one, all are united."

Sea of the Spirit

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Contentment

"From sorrow he turneth to bliss, from anguish to joy. His grief and mourning yeild to delight and rapture."

"Although to outward view,the wayfarers in this Valley may dwell upon the dust,yet inwardly they are throned in the heights of mystic meaning."


Valley of Contentment


Garden of Delight



Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness,
O Source of my being.


 

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Wonderment

"How many a mystic tree hath this whirlwind of wonderment snatched by the roots."

Winter Night


Woodland of Wonderment

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"The bird of her soul escaped! Free of the body and the grieving, Flying in a vast region that was itself, Where it could sing its truth!"
RUMI

 
Spirit Released
Spirit Released
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" To the court of holiness I summon thee; abide therein that thou mayest live in peace for evermore."


Court of Infinity


Court of Glory


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Nothingness

"When the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparking beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover's heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. Yea all he hath , from heart to skin, will be set aflamre, so that nothing will remain save the friend."

Veil of Blossom


Rainbow Mist


Garden of Possibilities

Frosty Morning

Shrine



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BAHAI POSTERS AND FLYERS














The Hidden Words. Part I, From the Arabic

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RADIANT HEART
1. O SON OF SPIRIT!
My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.



REVEALED BEAUTY
3. O SON OF MAN!
Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee: therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.



SPIRIT OF LIFE
4.O SON OF MAN!
I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.



RECIPRICAL LOVE
5. O SON OF BEING!
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.



HEAVENLY HOME
6. O SON OF BEING! Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above and Our exalted dominion.



RENOUNCIATION
8. O SON OF SPIRIT!
There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is.



STRONGHOLD
9. O SON OF BEING!
My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.



THE SWIFT STILL MOVEMENT OF THE SPIRIT
10. O SON OF UTTERANCE!
Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee.



MOULDED LIGHT
12. O SON OF BEING!
With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.



CREATED RICH
13. O SON OF SPIRIT!
I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I moulded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.



COMMUNION

16. O SON OF LIGHT!
Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.



MANIFEST LIGHT-VEILED
20. O SON OF SPIRIT !
My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten. My grace to thee is plenteous it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured.



SORROW NOT
21. 0 SON OF MAN!
Upon the tree of effulgent glory I have hung for thee the choicest fruits, wherefore hast thou turned away and contented thyself with that which is less good? Return then unto that which is better for thee in the realm on high.



CREATED NOBLE
22. O SON OF SPIRIT!
Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.



MESSENGER OF JOY
32. O SON OF THE SUPREME!
I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendour. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?




REJOICE
36. O SON OF MAN!
Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty.



WONDROUS FOUNTAIN
37. O SON OF MAN!
Divest not thyself of My beauteous robe, and forfeit not thy portion from My wondrous fountain, lest thou shouldst thirst for evermore.



BENEATH THE CANOPY
45. O SON OF BEING!
Seek a martyr's death in My path, content with My pleasure and thankful for that which I ordain, that thou mayest repose withMe beneath the canopy of magesty behind the tabernacle of glory.



TEARS OF EXALTATION
46. O SON OF MAN!
Ponder and reflect. Is it thy wish to die upon thy bed, or to shed thy life-blood on the dust, a martyr in My path, and so become the manifestation of My command and the revealer of My light in the highest paradise? Judge thou aright, O servant!



FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SIGN
48. O SON OF MAN!
For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials.



PARADOXICAL PROVIDENCE
51. O SON OF MAN!
My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. THis is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.



SANCTIFIED WEALTH
56. O SON OF MAN!
Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?



CRYSTALLIZATIONS
57. O SON OF MAN!
Bestow My wealth upon My poor, that in heaven thou mayest draw from stores of unfading splendor and treasures of imperishable glory. But by My life! To offer up thy soul is a more glorious thing couldst thou see with Mine eye.



GARMENT OF ETERNITY
64. O SON OF MAN!
My eternity is My creation, I have created it for thee. Make it the garment of thy temple. My unity is My handiwork; I have wrought it for thee; clothe thyself therewith, that thou mayest be to all eternity the revelation of My everlasting being.



CREATED EQUAL
68. O CHILDREN OF MEN!
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same subatance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.



TREASURY
69. O YE SONS OF SPIRIT! Ye are My treasury, for in you I have treasured the pearls of My mysteries and the gems of My knowledge.