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Spiritual Guides: Dante and Me

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I am intentionally not going to begin at the beginning. Autobiographies which I’ve had a look at seem to be exercises that begin in as many different places as there are authors. Sometimes first memories are found on page one and the account proceeds chronologically if not logically until the last syllable of their recorded time, their allotment on earth, at least up to the time of the writing of their said autobiography. This is not my intention here. Anyway, when does one really begin a journey, a friendship, a love affair? Beginnings are fascinating, misunderstood, enigmatic. I’ve written much about beginnings and the more I write the more elusive they become. But there comes a moment, a point, when we realize that the journey has started and we had not realized it. As we travel along we mark historical moments which we weave into our narrative. They often change, our view of them that is, as we grow older: these rites de passage, these coming of age moments. Unlike the Roman historians of the republican days who wrote their histories annalistically, that is year by year in sequence, this work is much more varied and informal with a slight tendency to write by plans and epochs. It is important, too, that life, my life, not be seen as simply journey and not life. The two are not mutually exclusive.


My ideal doctor for this journey, wrote the late Anatole Broyard, would be "my Virgil, leading me through my purgatory or inferno, pointing out the sights as we go. He would enter into the world of sin or sickness and accompany this pilgrim, this patient through it."<SUP> </SUP>Virgil was Dante's imagined guide in the Divine Comedy. My Virgil, my ideal doctor, in this autobiography is, without doubt, Baha’u’llah; my Divine Comedy is this autobiography. The parallel is, of course, not exact, but it has its relevant points of comparison.


In this context I should add that the three great shapers of my nature were Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. There were others who unquestionably did much shaping, namely my parents and the two women I married, but from an intellectual and spiritual standpoint I would have to give the first three places to these central figures of the Baha’i Faith.

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