Naw Ruz marks the end of the Fast and the beginning of a new year in the Baha’i calendar. Naw-Ruz is a celebration of a “spiritual springtime” that symbolizes both individual renewal and mankind’s revitalization.
The Wise Men of the West (volumes one and two!) are new novels to hit the shelves by Jay Tyson. They’re about the prophesies and expectations of the return of Christ or the Messiah. We’re excited to hear from Jay about his novels, how they came together, and what he hopes readers will take away with them, long after they’ve finished reading the last page. Here’s what he shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up as a Presbyterian, but always wondered why God had not spoken to us in almost 2000 years. So, in my youth, I was attracted to the Baha’i teachings and became a Baha’i before entering college. I studied civil engineering at Princeton and used my education to enable myself and my wife to serve as Baha’i pioneers to Liberia in the late 1970s. It also provided a foundation for work at the Baha’i World Centre, where we served from 1982 to 1989. Since then, we’ve raised two daughters in my wife’s home state of New Jersey and are now proud grandparents.
As a first-generation Baha’i, I’ve felt a special obligation to share something of my experience with other Christians who may be willing to tread a similar path. But I felt that a novel might be more interesting and more frequently read than a simple memoir.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about your novels?
This first novel is the tale of a search—geographical and spiritual—stretching across two years, three continents and seven religions. Inspired by the teachings of William Miller concerning the fulfillment of biblical prophecies in 1844, but thinking that Christ would appear as He appeared the first time—as a humble but spiritually enlightened teacher in the Holy Land—two seekers, Zach and James, set out in their search. The journey in 1843 in America, England, Rome and the Holy Land is the subject of Volume I—“the West”. Their decision to push eastward in 1844 to Karbila and Persia, together with their return and the reaction Zach receives in America, is covered in Volume II—”the East”.
The story is, in some respects, the mirror image of the story of the Wise Men of the East, who travelled westward from Persia, based on the prophecies of their own religion, in search of the Promised One of that age. Traveling with our leading characters provides an opportunity to “meet” many of the ideas about the coming of the Promised One which circulated in the 1840s, both in the West and in the East.
It is also, in some respects, similar to William Sears’ Thief in the Night except that this exploration of the biblical prophecies takes place within the period of their fulfillment.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write them?
A visit to the William Miller Farmhouse in 2012, and a discussion with the Seventh Day Adventist caretakers there, including our email discussion afterwards. Reflecting on the difficulties in introducing the Faith to people of this background, it occurred to me that perhaps I could show them, in the form of a novel, what was going on in the East while the Millerite movement was flourishing in the West. Thus, my writing began.
I might add that the quote from the Book of Certitude also inspired me: “If, in the uttermost corners of the East the sweet savors of God be wafted, he [the true seeker] will assuredly recognize and inhale their fragrance, even though he be dwelling in the uttermost ends of the West.” If a true seeker from America had existed in 1844, would he have been able to find the Bab at that time? The novel suggests that the answer is, “Yes”.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned while writing these particular novels?
I had to read about 50 books and listened to many recorded books, lectures and Wilmette Institute courses in order to write these books, so I’ve learned a lot, especially about the expectations that the various religions had during this period. But to select one: I’ve learned much about the fact that many of the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to return in the Jewish year 5600 which corresponds to 1839-40 AD. From 1808 until 1840, Jewish people were drawn from all over the world because of this expectation. They laid the foundations for the more complete migration that occurred throughout the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries. Many are still in a state of expectation today.
Baha’i Blog: Who is your target audience?
My target audience is, firstly, the Christian community—at least the part which is interested in the question of the return of Christ. And more particularly, those who are beginning to wonder why so many signs of His coming have appeared, while He Himself has not—those who are wondering if there is some other explanation as to why all of the expectations since 1844 have apparently gone unfulfilled.
A secondary target audience is the Baha’i community—especially those who want to be able to teach the Christian community more effectively. It is my hope that many pairs of Baha’is and Christians will read and discuss this together, and that it may serve as the basis for many conversations of spiritual significance.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will take away with them, long after they’ve read the last page?
That the return of Christ has not only happened, but that it is a part of a far larger story. As noted in the introduction, I would like them to participate in discoveries “which can transform the present cacophony of human religious experience into the most marvelous melodies and the most heavenly harmonies the world has ever known.”
And, as will be clear from the end of Volume II, I hope they will come away with a strong desire to read the Book of Certitude (The Kitab-i-Iqan).
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Jay, for sharing this with us!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Wonderful interview! These are inspiring and thought-provoking historical fiction novels, whether as reading for oneself or as a gift and conversation-starter for Christian and Baha’i friends. We would also wish to note that both of these books are available through BahaiBookstore.com / Baha’i Distribution Service in the U.S. for those who may be interested.
Baha'i Publishing Trust (November 11, 2020 at 5:41 PM)