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Ronald Frederick Price

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A REVIEW OF JOHN DAVIDSON'S PATHWAYS TO TRANSFORMATION
by Ronald Frederick Price   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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'JOHN ESSLEMONT WOULD BE PLEASED': A REVIEW OF JOHN DAVIDSON'S PATHWAYS TO TRANSFORMATION

I have been using a new Baha’i book for over two years and given its practicality to Baha’is and interested seekers, I thought I’d say a few things about it.

'JOHN ESSLEMONT WOULD BE PLEASED': A REVIEW OF JOHN DAVIDSON'S PATHWAYS TO TRANSFORMATION

I have been using a new Baha’i book for over two years and given its practicality to Baha’is and interested seekers, I thought I’d say a few things about it. Hopefully others will benefit from its use as I have done. For years I had been looking for a replacement for Esslemont's Baha'u'llah and the New Era. Back in the 1950s and sixties Esslemont was the book you gave people who wanted to get a comprehensive picture of the Baha'i Faith between two covers. By the 1970s and 1980s Esslemont was still useful, but getting a little tired. Newer editions were still somewhat dated. But there were also a host of other books appearing in the Baha'i literary marketplace. By the 1990s there were so many books that the average Baha'i was getting lost in a sea of new literature. This mass of literature was useful, though; indeed you could tailor a book for a seeker with a high degree of specificity after some good literary digging even if the process of digging was not easy.

With the arrival of the new millennium a new book appeared, as comprehensive as Esslemont but much more up-to-date; as easy to read as one of the many slim introductory works on the Cause that are just about flooding the market; as meaty and persuasive as, say, Huddleston's The Earth is But One Country; as full of quotations(well not quite) as the invaluable Lights of Guidance in its first or second editions; as much a practical guide as any of the many 'how-to' books which have appeared in Baha'i book shops since the beginning of the great book burgeoning in the 1980s; as beautifully put together and presented, with a fresh, bright feel about it, as any of the glossier books you will find in our emerging and burgeoning Baha'i library.

Am I overstating the case. Perhaps. But justifiably so because for me, at least, this book is about teaching, about information, about relevant quotations on a wide range of Baha’i subjects: useful for the novitiate and the veteran believer. I use it on my radio programs more than any other book. I use a wide range of books on my program, but if I want a quotation on some Baha’i subject on the spot without my computer compilations handy--then Davidson comes to the rescue. I use his new book every week.

You might not want to use it as your first book for a seeker or for someone who has just become a Baha’i. Every Baha’i has their literary preferences, their book preferences in their teaching work and their personal deepening. But for my money, I’d put this book in the running, in many of the races for relevance. It’s made to measure for a market, for an individual who just wants to read a few pages at a time, who needs a mini-encyclopedia for day-to-day reference with the writings of the Central Figures of the Cause and the institution which is Their trustee in our world laid out for readers in an up-to-date and handy compendium.

What sort of book do you give to people who want to know something about the Cause? One that’s not too heavy, not too light, not to simple, not too complex. We've got lots of books you could float by serious seekers for their initial investigation. You might like consider this one. There are many little booklets currently available which don’t say enough; others say too much and give the reader indigestion. Some oversimplify, although they often have their place. Here’s a book right down the middle, a kind of Baha’i encyclopedia without the weight, without the endless divisions of an encyclopedia; a book with quotations weaved together to make a quilt of the Baha’i teachings, a quilt you can put on when you want a theme, a quote, a thread to keep you warm for a time.

John Esslemont would be pleased. In a letter dated August 5th 1941 Esslemont wrote about the "most delicate matter" of teaching. In this delicate exercise John Davidson has put together for our use in the teaching process--and for our deepening--this invaluable resource manual for: personal and community development, history, social issues, the Baha'i administrative order, the lesser peace, the list is long.
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Davidson writes well, although there is little of his own words in this compilation. You find his outline of the text in his introduction. Here he summarizes the contents of this book in some six pages. He quotes Carl Jung with what is a very helpful perspective on the whole transformation process which this book is about in its explication of the Baha'i journey. Jung wrote:

"the greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They must be so because they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating mechanism. They can never be solved, but only outgrown."

This outgrowing, Jung continues, consists of a new level of consciousness, a wider horizon. Davidson presents to us some of the story of this wider horizon and the emergence of a Baha'i consciousness in the global culture especially since 1969 when he put together an earlier work entitled Baha'i Life. With the help of several Baha'i institutions, friends and family. Davidson presents the Baha'i Faith centre-stage on what for me is a solid, a comprehensive, foundation. That foundation is the writings of the Central Figures of the Cause and those who are the trustees of the global undertaking set in motion over one hundred years ago.

John Davidson has been putting many things together for the Baha'i community since he became a Baha'i in the 1960s. He served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia over three decades and in the University of Tasmania Department of Psychology for an equal length of time. His book Pathways to Transformation has been out of the blocks for three years now, has been found to be user-friendly by many and I recommend it highly to Baha'is the world over for its practical usefulness as a resource in the teaching work and in their personal deepening.

Ron Price
November 22nd 2004

Web Site: Pioneering Over Four Epochs



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