The aspirations and envisaged high point of Winny’s 2012 songline adventure was fulfilled in May 2014. In the dark of the evening Rosie and I arrived in Haifa by train. We were unexpectedly offered a lift to our guest house, an act of unasked generosity by a kind Haifa lady who sat beside us on our journey.
Stretching above us were the illuminated terraces leading to the golden shrine which sheltered the sacred dust of the Bab and Abdul Baha. What excitement!,
The next day we entered those shrines and laid our heads in the dust of those holy thresholds. What places of holiness, what an energetic atmosphere of deep stillness. If ever there was a place to open ones heart and share its deepest contents, this was it! In those timeless moments we lay before those holy ones our deepest thanks and our deepest wishes.
Later heats brimming with emotion we marvelled and meandered along the winding paths of the beautiful gardens which surround these shrines. I became aware that the heart beat of these gardens are the souls who dreamed, spoke and lived the vision of unity; mystic, theological and social. The gardens embody the idea of unity at the level of earth. Unity is spoken of through all the rich diversity of shapes colours and designs. It is spoken through the grandeur of its scale. With wonder one realises that this whole mountain side had been literally re-sculptured. Arid scrub land has been transformed into to a sumptuousness of ordered beauty and cascading terraces and waterfalls. It was as if nature itself had become the temple and its adorning all the multitudes of rocks, plants, bushes trees and grasses. It felt as if all were performing an endless melody which celebrates the divine in all things.
As dusk approached we scaled the top nine terraces. Out of breath we looked down over the beautiful gardens, a green oasis surrounded by the busy city and all its traffic. Beyond the city was the safe harbour and many boats lying at anchor. Beyond that again six or so miles across the sea is the point of attraction, the inspiration for the entire enterprise. All the people who work in this busy administrative centre from gardeners to members of the Universal House of Justice look to this place across the sea as their point of adoration, the spiritual heart of the Baha’i world; the shrine of the one who expressed the spirit of the Ancient Beauty, Baha’u’llah.
The next day we were given a tour of what is known as the Ark, these are the buildings shrines and gardens in which the people who energise the development of the Baha’i vision work. Again ones mind becomes aware to the grandeur of this project; the amazing sweep of buildings and gardens speaks of a stupendous vision, It is a place that literally prepares for a time when humans will realise that the purpose of their lives is to create beauty. It works to enable the human world to realise the idea of world unity and supported by spiritual practices. It prepares for the growth of a judicial system embedded in the idea of the oneness of the human family. It celebrates the souls who helped spin this vision of unity:, the wife, daughter, son and daughter in law of Baha’u’llah. We are shown the buildings which are built around this ark. The massive Univrsal House of Justice, the amazing centre for study of the holy texts, the international teaching centre and the building that contains countless holy relics. How amazing that the design of all these buildings and gardens physically mirror the metaphysics of unity which inspired it . How amazing that this project which seems infused by such universal love by the people who are making it happen is developing in such a perfect way. All this ordered beauty is centred on the shrine of Baha’u’llah across the bay beyond Akka.
It is to this spot that we travel next.
The house where Baha’u’llah spend the last 23 years of his life and the place where he breathed his last breath, is also the place where he is buried. His shrine is surrounded by a huge circular garden. It lies a couple of miles outside Akka.
We are greeted by a friendly smile from one of the many volunteers who maintain the beauty of this place. We enter another world full of beauty and magic For visiting pilgrims there is a pilgrims house. Like everything else we have encountered it also is full of a loving thoughtfulness. There are no cafes or places that sell nick nacks, but there are places to refresh yourselves, make tea. have picnics, chat and leave things safely. Our supreme moment is coming. The approach is via a long cypress tree lined avenue of white stone pebbles. You enter the shrine of Baha’u’llah, through a heavy wooden door. Inside all is bathed in a natural light, the decorations are sparse but exquisite in taste, in the centre of the shrine there is a small vibrant garden with four trees growing towards the ceiling. Above is a light airy space surrounded by windows, The room is simple and everything in it bends together in perfect proportion . The atmosphere is light infused, deep and rich. It is all so simple yet so profound, so still yet so energetic, so deep and so totally sacred. It is another place that invites the head to bow and the heart to open. Deep deep thanks are given, for family, for friends, for the Winny’ song line, for being given the consciousness of life. There was a profound sense of the total grace that surrounds everything, there is a strong feeling that the future for all of us will eventually work out for the best. Had life had stopped for me at that moment it would be have been perfect!
Later we earthed our experiences wandering through the wonderful shrine gardens. Ancient olive groves, cypress and eucalyptus trees shade beds of roses and geraniums. It was all so beautiful. We found the old and glorious tree which has been part of our mediations since our last visit 30 years before. We sang some of those songs which had inspired Winnys songline: ‘Hollow reed’ ‘Create in me a pure heart, ‘Oh man of two visions,’ ‘Oh thou kind lord’ and others as a token of what might have been had Winny arrived in Haifa bay. The tree embraced us and the birds sang beautifully in the silence of our finishing.