As this is a special year marking the centenary of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — a year in which the Universal House of Justice asks us all to reflect profoundly on the Life of Abdu’l-Baha — Baha’i author Michael V. Day has just published a photographic book about the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha titled Fragrance of Glory.
Michael V. Day is a dear friend and we currently live in the same city in Australia and I must say that I am personally delighted by his contributions to the world of Baha’i literature. He is the author of a trilogy of historical books about the Shrine of the Bab, which you can learn more about from his website: www.michaelvday.com. So when Michael told me about this new book in honor of the centenary of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, I had to find out more. Here’s what he shared:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about the book ‘Fragrance of Glory’?
This is a photobook about the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, with a beautiful design by Stephen Beale that I feel is in harmony with the sacred subject. It has about 80 photos, some of them rarely seen before. There are 21 photos of the funeral itself. It also includes concise information. Some of the information will be new to most readers.
Baha’i Blog: Why was this an important book for you personally to publish?
The Holy Day of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha feels special to me. I had an amazing experience while on pilgrimage in 1980. My wife, Chris, and I were with the other pilgrims in the House of the Master in the evening when we commemorated the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha. We visited His room. Afterwards, I was walking with another Baha’i towards the Shrine when a car stopped next to us, and the driver offered us a lift. It turned out to be Mr. Borrah Kavelin, a member of the Universal House of Justice. We all looked up at the illuminated Shrine as we drove up Ben Gurion Avenue and exclaimed at the beauty before us. Mr. Kavelin took us up to the Pilgrim House. I found myself seated next to Ethel Revell, who had served the Guardian and had other prominent roles in Baha’i history. She was very friendly and very funny. I also met the great poet Roger White. The visit to the Shrine was very atmospheric.
Baha’i Blog: So why a photo book?
I thought it would be useful to provide a book that would appeal to those who are not in the habit of reading full-length books as well as to those who like new information and photos.
I had described the Ascension in the final chapter of my book “Journey to a Mountain” but I realized that there had been very little written in modern times that solely focused on this topic, the centennial anniversary of which occurs this year. So it seemed to me that many Baha’is would enjoy such a book.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading the book?
I hope that readers will feel that they have been assisted to follow the guidance of the Universal House of Justice to “contemplate the significance of that infinitely poignant moment when He Who was the Mystery of God departed from this world.”
One part of the book that will surely uplift readers are the prayers revealed by the Master as He approached His Ascension. They are stunningly beautiful and are imbued with His attitude towards death that will help orient us towards our own inevitable passing.
Baha’i Blog: What are some other highlights of the book?
I can’t speak about this book without referring to the exquisite design by Stephen Beale. He has made one of the most beautiful volumes of this kind that I have seen.
I am always moved when I read the eulogies to the Master as voiced by representatives of various religious communities after the cortege reached the Shrine. I also liked writing about the pilgrims, staff, and members of the Holy Family who were present at the time.
Baha’i Blog: What was a particular challenge you faced when putting this book together?
Writing in a satisfactory way about the Central Figures of the Faith is always a challenge because we cannot fully understand their Lives and Roles. However, we can use words to point the way. In describing the Master I chose to quote some compact guidance given to us by Baha’u’llah on how to live. I then point out that the Master lived up to each of the criteria.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you would like to share?
This volume surprised me because I started it while midway through writing another Baha’i history book, but one which is much longer. I thought I could complete ‘Fragrance of Glory’ quite quickly. But the topic came to softly envelop my mind, and my time. I was somewhat diverted from my other manuscript and devoted myself to tell the story in words and photos of the Ascension, which is so instructive to us, as well as heartbreakingly emotional and inspiring. Now I am back to the other exciting book, which should be ready for editing soon.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you very much, Michael, for telling us about ‘Fragrance of Glory’.
This book is available from the US Baha’i Book Store, Baha’i Books Australia, and Baha’i bookstores which have stocked the volume. It can also be found on Amazon and many other online outlets worldwide. In addition to the printed volume, an E-book version is also available.