The tab for resources contains a list of hyperlinks to a number of extremely valuable studies and databases for further study about Baha’i history and texts. It will be updated as the courses continues

These classes are not intended to be a substitute for the Ruhi Institute courses but will hopefully augment some of the same crucial subjects raised in that sequence. Due consideration is given for attendees who are not Bahá’ís, both in the sequence of presentations and in the discussions that follow. Some of the subjects discussed are treated more in depth in my BOOKSs.

Click on the titles to access the video on YouTube and a PDF of the slides.

This first class discusses what the Bahá’í writings indicate is an inextricable relationship between the advent of the Manifestations or Prophets of God and the advancement of human civilization. It further broaches the idea that creation itself emanates from the desire of God to be known that human beings can thereby become enlightened and evolve spiritually and materially, both in this life and the afterlife.

This session is part one in a series of classes that will discuss the nature, purpose, powers, and suffering of the Manifestation. It is largely derived from my book, The Face of God Among Us.

While it is certainly valuable and intellectually rewarding to study the logic underlying the Bahá’í theory of progressive revelation, one can only derive an authentic personal belief in God or His Messenger from an ongoing relationship with the Manifestation. Otherwise, our belief is limited to theory rather than to any substantive change in our lives.

For what reason do the Prophets or Manifestations of God employ various types of figurative imagery in the verses They reveal. If Their purpose is to teach us, then what is gained by veiling Their language in poetic devices that, for most people, make the meaning of these teachings more difficult to understand. Christ, among other Prophets, explains the rationale for this indirection, and Baha’u’llah actually demonstrates how to interpret symbolic language in The Book of Certitude.

Examining samples of poetic language—principally from the Abrahamic religions—Professor Hatcher examines samples from Biblical and Bahá’í scripture to appreciate the value of the poetic style of scripture that is so often challenging for us to understand.

While mixed in with all our discussions are various insights into Bahá’í teachings, we will for the next few classes focus primarily on Progressive Revelation, not so much as a theory, but analyzed systematically by reviewing the sequence of Abrahamic religions. This class will examine the overlay or schema with which we will undertake this review.
In addition to examining the overall stories and characters that populate the four thousand years of history represented in the Old Testament, this class attempts to summaries the major concepts that underlie the origin and evolution of Judaism and the Judaic people. Besides the oral formulaic and symbolic/mythological nature of the the narratives, we discuss the meandering journey of these people from the time of Abraham to the establishment of the Land of Israel as Moses’ successor Joshua leads the Israelites into Canaan where, ultimately, the effulgence of Israel emerges as a mighty kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon.

This class/fireside is the first in a series of classes dedicated to a study of Christianity from the Baha’i perspective of the gradual unfolding of the Abrahamic religions, all of which lead up to their fulfillment with the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, even though the education of humankind and the succession of future Manifestations will continue.

This class focuses on those particular statements of Christ regarding the law and His station in relation to God. We will likewise take note of those events that have particular relevance to how the Christian religion takes shape after Christ’s crucifixion, especially during the Apostolic period.

This class/fireside discusses the seeds of conflict among the apostles after the crucifixion of Christ, especially regarding what laws were incumbent on new believers, as well as ideas introduced by Paul regarding women, primal sin, and the concept of salvation. These, in addition to the crucial question of the station of Christ (Christology) become the source of schism in Christianity relatively soon in the history of the church.

Not that long after the persecution of Christians by the Romans ceased, there arose among Christian ecclesiastics disputes about the ontology of Christ, the station of Mary, and a number of other doctrinal issues that a sequence of ecumenical councils attempted to resolve. Most famously at the first Council of Nicaea in 325, the doctrine was established that Christ and God were the same essence. Soon after, Christianity was accepted as the state religion of the Roman Empire. This discourse traces the historical events that set the stage for the advent of Muhammad, Who, among other things, deals directly with this matter and establishes a theology which provides a coherent overview of the succession of Abrahamic religions, as opposed to the Christian doctrine that the advent of Christ was a singular event in the human history.
After the various ecumenical councils failed to provide a unified creed, especially regarding Christology, the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Catholic division of Christianity occurred in 1054, followed by the Crusades where Christianity attempted to re-take the Holy Land from the Moslems, and then the Reformation in 1517, marking the schism between Western Catholicism and the Protestant movement, which itself generated a plethora of denominations and sects. Meanwhile, Muhammad had appeared in Arabia in the 7th century, founding Islam, which, after unifying the tribes of Arabia, proceeded to spread the religion and conquer major portions of North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and establishing influential centers of learning in Spain, the source–according to the Baha’i Writings–of the impetus that brought about the Renaissance. This brief discussion alludes to this transition by way of introducing our study of Islam.

This class discusses some of the historical and cultural background in Arabia during the time when Muhammad lived. Focusing on the functions of the cities of Mecca and Medina, this discussion begins with the theory of how the Manifestations choose where They will appear, what persona They will assume, and how They receive the first intimation of Their Revelation.

This class will discuss the events after Muhammad receives the first intimations of His revelation: His reveled teachings, the persecution of His followers by His own clan, the emigration to Medina (the date marking the first year of the Islamic Calendar), and His creative endeavors to provide political unity for the diverse peoples of Medina. (Plus, what is meant by the cleaving of the moon!) 

This class will discuss the events leading up to the death of Muhammad and how Umar contrives to assume control of Islam, in spite of what the Prophet had clearly intended, thereby diverting the course of this great religion from many of its intended objectives and ultimately perverting some of its central teachings, including the continuity of the Cause of God beyond the Day of Days.

This class will discuss the events leading up to the death of Muhammad and how Umar contrives to assume control of Islam, in spite of what the Prophet had clearly intended, thereby diverting the course of this great religion from many of its intended objectives and ultimately perverting some of its central teachings, including the continuity of the Cause of God beyond the Day of Days. 
This class will discuss the value of employing the tools of critical thinking as we assess our knowledge of and attitudes towards Muḥammad and Islam. This discussion will focus particularly on how we can avoid letting the current actions of certain Islamic factions undermine what we know from authoritative sources to be the truth about Muḥammad and His revelation. For while the religion was fractured early on, its deviation from the intended course was no more grievous than was the course of Christianity.
This class discusses the complexity of the concept of Jihad as it applies to the attempt by the Manifestations to implement social justice based on spiritual principles. In particular, we will allude to the distinctions among the Abrahamic religions as each Manifestation must adapt laws of His Revelation to the exigencies of the historical context in which He appears. We will also discuss the distinction between justice at the level of the individual and at the level of the community.

This class discusses five of the major themes of the Qur’án: (1) Monotheism & the powers and attributes of God; (2) Interpretation of the abstruse versus the “perspicuous” verses; (3) The Qur’án and Christology (4) The Qur’án and Progressive Revelation (5) The Qur’án and Eschatology. 
This discussion focuses on some of the laws and guidance concerning women as derived from the Qur’an prior to the evolution of the sharia and the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. 
This class discusses the Baha’i theory of governance as outlined by the Guardian in one portion of the letters collected in The World Order of Baha’u’llah
This is a discussion of the authoritative documents that constitute the links in the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, thereby rendering inviolable, unlike those Covenants in previous dispensations when the covenants of the Manifestations where there was no explicit designation of succession or format for the institutionalization of the religion, or else where the instructions of the Manifestation were broken, as in the case of Muhammad.
This class discusses the axiomatic and systematic process by which the Baha’i Writings assert that any action, especially spiritual development, should be undertaken. This process involves at least four steps or stages of knowledge, volition, action, and habituation, and can be usefully applied to both individual and collective endeavors.

This class discusses the transition between what became Shia Islam and the events that are a prelude to the Declaration of the Báb to Mulla Husayn. We will cover the story of the twelfth Imam, the Minor Occultation, the Major Occultation, the signs in the visible and invisible heavens that presage the advent of a new Manifestation, and some of the events surrounding the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí.

This presentation focuses entirely on the night of May 23rd, 1844, when the Bab declared his station to Mulla Husayn, thereby instigating the point of beginning the Baha’i Era, the Baha’i Cycle, and the Babi Faith. It also marks the point of confluence of two universal cycles: the end of the Prophetic or Adamic Cycle, and the beginning of a cycle destined to endure at least 500,000 years.

This discussion focuses on how, after His Declaration to Mulla Husayn, the Bab sets in motion a series of actions indicating a well-conceived plan for teaching the new Revelation throughout Persia.

While following the progress of the Báb from place to place as He gradually unfolds His station and purpose is fairly simple, the plethora of activities and heroic stories emanating from His influence and the effect of His followers on Persia is quite complex, certainly more than a single narrative could hope to portray. This is the first in a series of attempts to highlight some of the more important episodes that take place during these first few years of what is called The Heroic Period of Baha’i history.

This discussion focuses on how the Manifestations allow Themselves to be moved from place to place at the whims of the government, even though They have the power and the will to do otherwise. Do They have free will or is Their response to the changes and chances of life merely the will of God and, therefore, out of Their hands?

While many may be familiar with the basic facts about the Conference of Badasht, especially the climactic proclamation by Tahirih that the Trumpet had sounded and a new dispensation had begun, there are underlying facts that give additional elucidation about this momentous gathering. This talks explains how the Bab and Baha’u’llah were actually the planners and executors of this abrogation of Islamic law and the advent of the dispensation of the Bab.

Halfway through this class we switch from tracking the chronology of Bahá’í history – something readily available to everyone via books or online resources – and begin a series of discussions on some of the essential concepts presented in the Bahá’í teachings. Some of these will involve Bahá’í history, but we will begin with some major theological matters, the first being a couple of classes devoted to examining the  concept of Satan, sin, and salvation, a subject that has confounded so much religious discourse about morality and human nature.

This informal discussion covers the basic Baha’i concepts of the symbolic nature of Satan, Hell, and Heaven, and, more importantly, presents an overview of the Baha’i concept of sin, guilt, and the process of salvation, whether in this life, or in the continuation of our lives in the metaphysical realm.

The question that arose among Christ’s disciples about the definition and proof of “faith” or “belief” is no less vital in religious discourse today. This informal presentation will discuss the Bahá’í concept of why the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh plays such a critical role in defining “faith” and “belief” from a Bahá’í perspective and what makes it more secure or enduring than the covenant of previous Manifestations.

This discussion focuses on the foundation of the Bahá’í Administrative Order, especially the crucial role played by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in devising crucial institutions, in designing the parameters of their authority, and in establishing the means by which these institutions would be established and perpetuated.

This discussion will continue where Class 33 left off by showing how each of the four institutions created or instituted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá played a critical role in completing the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh by establishing the Universal House of Justice, what could be called the “keystone” in the Arc that is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. Yet at each point in this transition of authority, the links in the Covenant were tested and tempered in the fire of ordeal.

This session will focus on the framework or overview of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work, what I hope will be a useful beginning, especially for those who are not Bahá’ís or who have not had a chance to study the history in depth. This is the beginning of the study for which all 34 previous classes have been but preparation (all ten months!!)

There occurs a point in the lives of the Manifestations of God where They receive some sign or have some experience described by Them as transformative, a turning point when They begin to speak as the Word of God among us. Does this experience represent some change in the nature of Their being, the point where They are changed from ordinary human beings into God’s Messengers? If not, then what is happening or what are They experiencing. This discussion will examine the Bahá’í texts that resolve this mystery, especially as it applies to Bahá’u’lláh’s experience in the Siyáh-Chál.

This class discusses how much we can understand about the process by which God speaks to us through the Manifestations. Are They simply repeating what They hear, or are They creators of Their utterances?

Bahá’u’lláh states that He has revealed His verses in “nine different modes.” This class will discuss what He might mean by this, and the variety of literary styles He employs in the multitude of works He revealed.

While Bahá’u’lláh wrote several works in the mode of a mystic treatise, he explicitly forbids some of the major practices and beliefs of mystic sects, such as Súfism. This is the first in a couple of classes where we will both try to define mysticism, outline the Bahá’í response to its teachings or orientations, and examine several of the works of Bahá’u’lláh that can be characterized as being mystically oriented in literary mode and in spiritual concepts.

This second class on mysticism in Bahá’u’lláh’s works that deal with some of the important themes of the mystic tradition so popular in Persian poetry, will focus on the basic concepts of The Seven Valleys as compared to the same themes of Farid ud-Din Attar’s Conference of the Birds. We will also discuss some more about the influence of Plato on the concept of mystic ascent, and will touch on the notion of “Annihilation or “True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness.”

Before one can understand much beyond the foundational allegorical meaning of Bahá’u’lláh’s “The Seven Valleys” as seven stages in a process of spiritualization, certain tools can be helpful and, in some cases, essential if one is to discover the difficult and diverse figurative devices He has employed in this rich and abstruse work. This class will introduce the attendees to a basic understanding how to identify these devices and how to uncover their veiled meaning.

In the last class we discussed some of the figurative devices commonly associated with mysticism and mystic works. This class will apply these tools to some of what Bahá’u’lláh refers to as the “Húrís of Inner Meaning,” both in His mystical works and in His other modes of revelation.

After finishing a few observations about Bahá’u’lláh’s mystic poetry, we will begin the first in a series of weekly classes of relatively deep study of the most important doctrinal work in the Bahá’í Faith, the second most important work revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, and what may well be regarded as the possibly the most important work in the Bahá’í dispensation. This essential reading for all those who are Bahá’ís, as well as for anyone wishing to discover perhaps the most weighty proof of the validity of the Bahá’í claims about Bahá’u’lláh as the Messenger from God for this age.

This is the first class in a series of weekly classes dedicated to examining the structure and major parts of Bahá’u’lláh’s most important doctrinal work, the Kitáb-i-Íqán (The Book of Certitude). Each class will be designed to provide the participants with a focused examination of how Bahá’u’lláh has structured this two-part essay on (1) why people of failed to recognize Manifestations of the past and on (2) the nature and proofs of the Manifestations. Attendees will be provided with an exacting outline of the entire work, which will serve as the structure for each class on this work, and slides derived from that outline.

This is the second in a series of weekly classes dedicated to examining the structure and major themes of Bahá’u’lláh’s most important doctrinal work, the Kitáb-i-Íqán (The Book of Certitude). Each class will be designed to provide the participants with a focused examination of how Bahá’u’lláh has structured this two-part essay on (1) why people of failed to recognize Manifestations of the past and (2) the nature and proofs of the Manifestations. Attendees will be provided with an exacting outline of the entire work, which will serve as the structure for each class, as well as slides for each class derived from that outline.