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COLLECTIONResearch notes
TITLEThe Bahá'í House of Worship: The Meaning of the Temple
AUTHOR 1W. Kenneth Christian
PUB_THISNational Bahá'í Center
ABSTRACTText and scan of a flyer about the Chicago House of Worship, summarizing the history and facts of this Mashriqu'l-Adhkar.
NOTES Scroll down for high-res images of this brochure.

Brochure printed as a single large sheet folded in 6 pages, suitable for mailing. While this brochure has no date, MacEoin notes in his bibliography that a version was published in Third World 1 (1 April 1975).

See also The Bahá'í Temple, House of Worship of a World Faith (1942) and Photo brochure of the Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette (1965).

TAGS* Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (House of Worship); - Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, Quotations in; Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, Wilmette; United States (documents); Wilmette, IL

1. PDF version (see text and images, below)

2. Text (missing first page; see text and images, below)

Bahá'í Worship

The purpose of a House of Worship is to bring men and women together in unity. "For thousands of years the human race has been at war. It is enough. For thousands of years the nations have denied each other, considering each other as infidel and inferior. It is sufficient. We must now realize that we are the servants of one God, that we turn to one beneficent Father, live under one divine law, seek one reality and have one desire. Thus may we live in the utmost friendship and love, and in return the favors and bounties of God shall surround us, the world of humanity will be reformed, mankind enjoy a new life"

The auditorium of the Temple is open to all people for prayer and meditation. No race or religion is barred. Services here are not elaborate. There is no ritualism or set form. Bahá'ís have no professional clergy to preside. Sermons or lectures are not permitted in the auditorium. Services are for prayer, meditation, and the reading of selections from the Sacred Scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith and the other great Faiths of the world. The only music is by soloists and a cappella choir.

The curtains at the windows in the auditorium insure the privacy of the worshipper. The quotations from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh which appear in the alcoves attest to the unity of religion and its power to transform human character. The seats in the central part of the auditorium face the Holy Land. Above the heads of the worshippers, in the apex of the dome, is the symbol of the Greatest Name. This is an invocation to God in Arabic script which may be translated as "O Glory of the All-Glorious."

But Bahá'í worship means more than prayer and meditation. Bahá'u'lláh said that any work done in a spirit of service is a form of prayer. The educational, humanitarian, and scientific institutions to be built around the Temple will complete the dedication of the individual to God. To the Bahá'í there is no rigid division between the spiritual and practical parts of life.

Bahá'ís do not solicit funds from the public for any of their activities. From all over the world the Bahá'ís have contributed to the erection of this building. Funds have come from Persia, India - in fact, from all the five continents. This Temple is both a gift from Bahá'ís and a demonstration of their Faith. Here is a building where men and women of all races and religions are welcome to come for prayer. Here no creed stigmatizes the follower of any great faith as infidel or pagan. Here all men may turn their hearts to God and know that they are brothers.

Nine Inscriptions Carved Above the Entrances of the Temple:

  1. "The earth is but one country; and mankind its citizens."
  2. "The best beloved of all things in My sight is justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me."
  3. "My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure."
  4. "Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner."
  5. "Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent."
  6. "I have made death a messenger of joy to thee; wherefore dost thou grieve?"
  7. "Make mention of Me on My earth that in My heaven I may remember thee."
  8. "O rich ones on earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My Trust."
  9. "The source of all learning is the knowledge of God, exalted be His glory."

Nine Inscriptions Appearing In the Temple Alcoves:

  1. "All the prophets of God proclaim the same faith."
  2. "Religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold."
  3. "Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch."
  4. "So powerful is unity's light that it can illumine the whole earth."
  5. "Consort with the followers of all religions with friendliness."
  6. "O Son of Being! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee."
  7. "O Son of Being! Walk in My statutes for love of Me."
  8. "Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home reunion with Me."
  9. "The light of a good character surpasseth the light of the sun."

The Faith of Bahá'ís

THE PEOPLE who built this House of Worship are Bahá'ís. They bear this name as members of a World Faith. The word "Bahá'í" comes from the name of the Founder of the Faith - Bahá'u'lláh ("the Glory of God"). Bahá'í simply means "a follower of Bahá'u'lláh."

The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is called a world religion. There are three reasons for this.

First, Bahá'ís live in more than two hundred fifty countries of the world. Bahá'ís are people who formerly had different and conflicting religious backgrounds. They had been Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Christians, or else people who had no religion at all. They have found in the Bahá'í Faith a basis of unity that makes the competition of sects and denominations seem unimportant to them. Bahá'ís are people of different economic and social classes.

Through a common devotion, rich and poor mingle as equals and work together to establish a world order for all men and women. They are people of different national and racial backgrounds. But the Bahá'í teachings have given them a higher loyalty - the loyalty to humanity. Bahá'ís have no "color line" or racial segregation. In this Faith, people of all races find equality with each other because they are equal before God.

Second, the Bahá'í Faith develops world-mindedness. Read these well-known Bahá'í quotations:."Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own selves."."That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race."

Third, the Bahá'í Faith offers a clear pattern of world order. It does not have any secret mystic doctrines; it does not have any priesthood or professional clergy. People find this a practical, spiritual religion with the mission of uniting the world in one common faith and one order. Bahá'u'lláh declared that in our time religion must unite people or else it has no social value. He declared that religion must show men how to build a just world. He emphasized that justice is the greatest good in the sight of God. To show men how to achieve this, He outlined a pattern of world order.

Bahá'u'lláh's vision of a united world begins with each man and woman. Individuals must have high moral standards and a new basis of belief if they are to become citizens of one world.

Bahá'ís believe in one God, even though men have called Him by different names. God has revealed His Word in each period of history through a chosen Individual Whom Bahá'ís call "the Manifestation of God." He restates in every age God's purpose and will. His teachings are a revelation from God. Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad were Manifestations of God. Each gave men divine teachings to live by. Bahá'ís believe that true religion is the real basis of civilized life.

Since there is one God, these Manifestations of God have each taught the same religious faith. They have developed and adapted it to meet the needs of the people in each period of history. This unfoldment of religion from age to age is called "progressive revelation." Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, is the Manifestation of God for our time.

This is the basis of Bahá'í belief: one God has given men one Faith through progressive revelations of His Will in each age of history, and Bahá'u'lláh reveals the Will of God for men and women of the present age. This basic belief enables Bahá'ís to unite and work together in spite of different religious backgrounds.

The Oneness of Mankind is like a pivot around which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve. This means that men and women of all races are equal in the sight of God and equal in the Bahá'í community. People of different races must have equal educational and economic opportunity, equal access to decent living conditions - and equal responsibilities. In the Bahá'í view, there is no superior race or superior nation.

Bahá'u'lláh declared that a House of justice must be established in each community. This body, elected by the people, is to be composed of men and women so qualified that they may be "trustees of the Merciful among men." Each nation will have a secondary or National House of justice whose members are the electors. of the international or Universal House of Justice.

Bahá'u'lláh emphasized certain principles to help bind people together in a united world:

  • Men must seek for truth in spite of custom, prejudice, and tradition.
  • Men and women must have equal opportunities, rights, and privileges.
  • The nations must choose an international language to be used along with the mother tongue.
  • All children must receive a basic education.
  • Men must make a systematic effort to wipe out all those prejudices which divide people.
  • Men must recognize that religion should go hand-in-hand with science.
  • Men must work to abolish extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

This Faith and these challenging ideas originated in Persia (Iran) in 1844. In that year a young Man Who called Himself the Báb (or "Gate") began to teach that God would soon "make manifest" a World Teacher to unite men and women and usher in an age of peace. The Bib attracted so many followers that the Persian government and the Islamic clergy united to kill Him.

And they massacred more than twenty thousand of His followers.

In 1863 Bahá'u'lláh announced to the few remaining followers of the Báb that He was the chosen Manifestation of God for this age. He called upon people to unite; He said that only in one common faith and one order could the world find an enduring peace. He declared that terrible wars would sweep the face of the earth and destroy the institutions and ideas that keep men from their rightful unity.

The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are a ringing call to action. They offer hope, courage, and vision. The books of Bahá'u'lláh in English are: The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, The Book of Certitude, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Prayers and Meditations, and Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. A selection of His writings is in the anthology called Bahá'í World Faith.

But Bahá'u'lláh was not greeted with enthusiasm by the religious leaders of Islam. As they saw His Faith spread, their hatred grew. They forced Him into exile - first to Baghdad, then to Constantinople, to Adrianople, and finally to 'Akka, Palestine. There He died, still an exile and prisoner, in 1892.

Bahá'u'lláh appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His eldest son, as the Interpreter of His teachings and the Exemplar of the Faith. Under the leadership of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the Faith was introduced to Europe and America. After He was freed from prison in 1908, 'Abdu'l-Bahá made several missionary journeys. In 1912 He was in America for eight months during which time He laid the cornerstone of this Temple.

In 1921 'Abdu'l-Bahá died and left a will naming His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith and the interpreter of the teachings. Under Shoghi Effendi's direction the Bahá'ís throughout the world have adopted an administrative order that is an application of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings for a world order. Thus Bahá'ís have begun to practice in their own affairs the social teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.

Local and National Bahá'í Spiritual Assemblies are the pattern for the Houses of justice of tomorrow. Bahá'ís know from increasing experience that differences of nation, race, class, and religion can be removed by the uniting power of Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'ís know from increasing experience that this Faith can save men and women from the hatreds, the pessimism, the corruption, and the materialism of our age. They know this because they have seen it and experienced it. They invite you to investigate this Faith and share in this spiritual adventure.

Total cost of construction: $2,613,012
Area of Temple property: 6.97 acres
Seating capacity of auditorium: 1,200

Chief dimensions of structure:
Height from floor of basement to pinnacle of dome ribs: 191 feet
Height of structure from main floor to pinnacle of dome ribs: 165 feet
Height of auditorium from main floor to inside apex of dome: 138 feet
Depth of caissons: 120 feet
Diameter of basement floor: 204 feet
Diameter of circular platform at top of outside steps: 152 feet
Height of first gallery above main floor: 36 feet
Height of main story pylons: 45 feet
Height from first gallery to second gallery: 45 feet
Clerestory height to base of dome:19 feet
Height of dome: 49 feet
Outside diameter of dome: 90 feet
Inside diameter of dome: 72 feet
Architect - Louis J. Bourgeois
Landscape Architect - Hilbert E. Dahl

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