- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
Dimitri Tishler has written a novel about the meaning of life titled A Placeless Sun: Toward Our Configured Destiny. Intrigued? I know I am! In this post, Dimitri tells us what inspired him to write his novel and what he hopes his readers will take away with them, long after they’ve closed the book’s covers.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in London, UK in 1970, but I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. When I was 16, my father, an architect, found a job in New Zealand, helping to design a performing arts centre in Auckland. My brother and I then moved to New Zealand with our father and lived on a small island off the coast of Auckland called Waiheke Island. It was there that I was introduced to the Bahaʼi Faith for the first time; there was a small Bahaʼi community on the island. A few years later, after reading a book by Bahaʼu’llah, called the Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), I became a Bahaʼi. This decision changed the course of my life and led inexorably to the publication of A Placeless Sun.
I was brought up as an atheist, but my father had said that I should investigate religion if I wanted and see if it possessed any truth, so I did just that. I studied Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity in my late teens. The reason that I settled on the Bahaʼi Faith eventually was that I could encompass all religions as a Bahaʼi, and of course, the main principles appealed to me: that of the oneness of God and humanity.
After three years, I moved back to Melbourne and began university, where I studied sculpture and painting. In 2000, my then wife and I moved to London where I studied classical music privately for five years with a Bahaʼi composer, Paul Rhys, while working as a graphic and web designer. While still in London, I began writing A Placeless Sun in 2003.
In 2005 we came back to Australia where I continued writing part-time. By then I had stopped painting and composing music so that I could focus on my writing exclusively.
Since 2005, I have been living and working in Australia and serving the Bahaʼi community in various ways. I am currently living in Lismore, NSW, Australia, working full-time on my second novel The Illiterate Sky.
Can you tell us a little bit about A Placeless Sun?
A Placeless Sun is a metaphysical journey of my protagonist, Allison, who encounters the Bahaʼi Faith in New York, after meeting a Persian Bahaʼi named Hooman. They eventually fall in love, marry, and settle down in Harlem, a neighbourhood in Manhattan, New York and they begin to serve the needs of that community through the arts, photography in particular. The children in Allison’s photography group begin to explore their racial and national identity juxtaposed with the oneness of the humanity (the beauty of diverse cultures as they are contrasted against each other), an idea introduced to them by Allison.
The story is also allegorical as it reveals aspects of the journey of the birds in the poem The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar and also the mystical writings of Bahaʼu’llah, in particular The Seven Valleys and Gems of Divine Mysteries.
What inspired you to write it? What is it about?
The main inspiration to write the book came from the teachings of Bahaʼu’llah. Over the years I perceived a gap in the market, so to speak, and felt that Baha’is would appreciate the mystical aspects of the Bahaʼi writings set within a fictional world as an artistic object for spiritual contemplation and not just an entertaining story as many novels can be.
What was something you learned in the process of writing this book?
When I began writing A Placeless Sun, I thought I had a fairly good grasp on the teachings of the Bahaʼi Faith, but as I wrote, over nineteen the years that it took to complete the project, I realised that my understanding of the Bahaʼi Writings was poor and fragmented to say the least, so I undertook extensive research, and consulted with many other Bahaʼis to try to grasp the deeper meanings in the Writings. Even now the novel has its weaknesses, but I obviously I had to complete it, knowing that not all aspects of the book were perfect or expressed the Bahaʼi teachings fully or with the required depth.
Who is its audience? What do you hope your readers will take away with them long after they’ve finished reading?
The audience for this book is everyone. I hope that the reader will be inspired to dig deeper into the Bahaʼi Writings and reveal some of their profound meaning with regard to our mystical journey through this life. That is what I hope a reader with take away: who am I, and what is my purpose in this life and the world to come? This mysterious journey of the soul is the main reason that religion exists at all and our journey towards God begins in this world but never ends, as we die and move to higher planes of existence, blazing a way into eternity, like the Phoenix in my novel.
I will end here with a quote from The Seven Valleys, which sums up exactly what I hoped to capture in A Placeless Sun: Toward Our Configured Destiny.
An exposition of the mysteries enshrined in the stages of ascent for them that seek to journey unto God, the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE!
Praise be to God Who hath made being to come forth from nothingness; graven upon the tablet of man a measure of the mysteries of His eternity; taught him from the storehouse of divine utterance that which he knew not; made him a perspicuous book unto such as have believed and surrendered their souls; given him to behold, in this dark and ruinous age, a new creation within all things; and caused him to speak forth, from the midmost heart of eternity, and in a new and wondrous voice, embodied in the most excellent Temple. And all to this end: that every man may testify, in himself and by himself, before the Seat of the revelation of his Lord, that there is none other God but Him; and that all may reach that summit of realities where none shall contemplate anything but that he shall perceive God therein. This is the vision of the splendours which have been deposited within the realities of all things; for otherwise He, exalted be His glory, is entirely sanctified above being seen or witnessed: “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving.”
— Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys
Thank you, Dimitri, for taking the time to tell us about your novel.
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