some resources & thoughts

Definite courses should be given... in a manner that will stimulate the students to proceed in their studies privately once they return home, for the period of a few days is not sufficient to learn everything. They have to be taught the habit of studying the Cause constantly...

Sifter - Star of the West

About the "Sifter" project:

Sifter was a creative approach to provide full-text search across the fourteen thousand pages of "Star of the West". The print simply did not OCR well and we did not have an army of typists so search was very difficult. Sifter provides search by looking past common OCR errors ("sifting") in order to find the passage you are after -- and then it returns the raw text as well as the image of the original page.

Besides this interesting technology, "Sifter - Star of the West" was the first complete reprinting of "Star of the West" since its original publication. (The 1979 GR reprint contained roughly half the material found in Sifter.)

For many years, while pioneering in India, I was selling Sifter to help fund the development of Ocean. Now, however, my wife tells me that I should give it away free. Below is a download link as well as the great introductory essay from Duane Troxel -- since it serves as an excellent introduction to "Star of the West" in general.

I may post a Mac version if there is interest.

Download "Sifter - Star of the West" for Windows -- all versions

PC:   (657mb!!)

Instructions: Download and unzip. Next, run the setup.exe file and follow the instructions.
If you need a free zip program, you can download JustZIPit from

An Introduction to "Star of the West"

By Duane K. Troxel

Y FIRST contact with Star of the West began nearly 40 years ago and grew out of my interest in history and of finding photographs of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My search led to the discovery that some of the older Bahá'ís had whole books of precious photographs and articles in bound volumes called Star of the West.

The late artist, Gertrude Garrida - compiler of Directives of the Guardian - was my mentor. Though she loved me like a son I was not permitted to take a single issue of her precious Star of the West volumes out of the house. Nevertheless when I visited her I was permitted to browse the worn collection of red and green cloth volumes of Star of the West to my heart's content. Page after delightful page revealed scores of photographs of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and many more of the early believers of the Heroic and Formative Ages. Holographic Tablets, travel diaries, serialised books, poetry, talks, obituaries, stories, drawings by 'Auntie' Victoria - even jokes could be found.

Star of the West was the first international Bahá'í periodical and documented the years from 1910 to 1935. We need only reflect on how many books have been written of the earliest days of Christianity - books based on fragmentary documents and oral traditions - to grasp the historic potential of this new release of Star of the West in a searchable database. Sifter - Star of the West is an indelible snapshot of the early Bahá'ís of the West that will yield a cornucopia of riches in the months and years to come.

The recent world-wide broadcast of the dedication of the Terraces on Mt. Carmel demonstrated the power of new electronic media to proclaim the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh globally.

"The diffusion of the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the entire planet and the proclamation of its Message on a global scale could be realized only at a time when the peoples of the world are able to communicate easily with one another. Without a worldwide system of communication linking all humanity together, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh would have been impractical and ineffective. For this is a Faith whose basic teachings revolve around the principle of the oneness of mankind. Its message is universal and its aim is to establish a spiritual world order for all who dwell on earth." 2

Importance and Authenticity

Is the material in Star of the West authentic or is it in the category of "pilgrim's notes"? The Master warned against trusting verbal accounts and the subjective recollections of individuals 3 and Shoghi Effendi reiterated 'Abdu'l-Bahá's warning:

"According to the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh no authority can be attached to a mere hearsay, no matter through whom it may come. The Tablets that bear the seal or signature of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master are the only parts of the literature that have any authority and that constitute the basis of our belief. All other forms of literature may bear points of interest but they cannot be considered as authentic." 4

William Collins - the bibliographer par excellence of Bahá'í literature in English - said of the Star of the West: "In its presentation of first-hand reports about people and events connected with the early development of the faith, it is an unparalleled source of historical information." 5

Bahá'í historian Robert Stockman, says, "it provides one of our best sources of information about the early Bahá'í world community." 6

Thus, while all the material in the Star of the West isn't wholly authentic it does belong to a class of literature that must be regarded as unique.

In 1978 the George Ronald publishing house reprinted 14 of the 25 original volumes of Star of the West in eight blue clothbound volumes. The Universal House of Justice advised that its republication should be exactly faithful to the original 7

"The Star of the West is, as you will realize, historically unique, not only because of its position in the early history of the Cause in the West, but most important, because of its close association with the Master. He highly commended its publication and even wrote for it. In view of this, the House of Justice felt that republication in its exact text, would be a valuable addition to available Bahá'í literature, and give the friends some insight into the early days of the Faith in the West." 8

A further note makes clear that any text from Star of the West slated for publication should be checked by the Bahá'í World Center first.

A letter written on behalf of the House of Justice to an individual believer on 15 April 1987 stated "There is no objection to citing verbally passages published in Star of the West … in discussion groups or at Nineteen Day Feasts, etc. However, if such passages are to be included in new publications, it would be preferable to check with the Bahá'í World Centre, so that if original texts have become available, the original translations could be checked and, as necessary, improved upon." 9

Improvement of translations is an ongoing process with regard to Bahá'í sacred texts. The Star of the West contained English translations of many Tablets sent by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Many of these translations were made by Bahá'ís unskilled in translation. Shoghi Effendi, during his tenure as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith and authorized interpreter of its writings, retranslated works - such as The Hidden Words - setting a new standard for translation in the process. He also called for standardizing the transliteration of Persian and Arabic words. It is these standards that will no doubt be applied to revisions of those translated Tablets published in Star of the West.

History of Star of the West

The creation of a Bahá'í periodical had been discussed as far back as the first decade of the Faith in America. A short-lived precursor to Star of the West was the Bahai Bulletin, which began publication in New York City in September 1908 and ended just eight months later with its April-May, 1909 issue. 10

"In early 1910 Mountfort Mills, a member of the New York Board of Counsel, visited Chicago on business. The plans for a magazine were described to him and he agreed to relay them to the New York Board of Counsel. The New Board decided not to revive the Bahai Bulletin and on 19 February 1910 telegraphed Albert Windust to proceed with the magazine." 11

Star of the West began life as Bahai News 12 on March 21 1910. Its editors were Albert Windust and Gertrude Buikema. It was a tiny publication measuring roughly three by six inches. Its first issue was a scant nine pages long. 13 A sepia photograph of Mírzá Mihdí ('The Purest Branch') - Bahá'u'lláh's son - was glued onto the first page of its inaugural issue.

That first issue explained:

"The need for a Bahai News Service is apparent to those who are in touch with the progress of the Bahai Movement throughout the Occident. To meet this need this humble publication has stepped forth from non-existence into the court of existence. Whether it shall remain and grow into a distinct department of service in this Glorious Day, we cannot foretell, knowing that "God doeth whatsoever He willeth." It is the purpose of those undertaking the initial step to do all within their power to make a success, but the co-operation of all is needed that this Service may extend unto all. In a word: It is your Service and needs your assistance.

"It is our hope that the Bahai News may appear every 19 days, but if the subscriptions received do not warrant the expense of so doing by covering the cost of printing and postage, it will appear less frequently during the year, according to the means at hand.

"We trust the Bahai News will be a messenger of peace, in accord with the spirit of the Cause it hopes to serve. To this end its editors respectfully request that contributors of news endeavor to follow the Biblical injunction 'to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.'" 14

That first issue was mailed free to over one thousand Bahá'ís, whose addresses "could be found." 15

The Persian section edited by Ahmad Sohrab began with the eighth issue on 1 August 1910. 16 Its original name translated into English was "The Occidental Messenger." This name was exchanged for Star of the West on 4 November 1910 after having received a Tablet from the Master addressing the publication as the Star of the West. 17

'Abdu'l-Bahá gave advice and encouragement to the editors:

... The Magazine, the Star of the West, must be edited with the utmost regularity, but its contents must be the promulgation of the Cause of God that both East and West may become informed of the most important events. 18

For the first twelve years of its publication (1910-1922) the Star of the West went to press nineteen times a year, based on the division of the Badí' (Bahá'í) calendar into nineteen months of nineteen days. Beginning March 21 1922, the publishing cycle dropped to twelve monthly issues per year based on the Gregorian calendar. Those twelve issues were numbered from March 21 (No. 1) to March 2 (No. 12) across two calendar years.

The passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (1921) and the appointment of Shoghi Effendi as Guardian and head of the Bahá'í Faith resulted in a change of overall management of Star of the West, placing it under the supervision of the National Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada. In a letter addressed to "the Bahá'ís of America" dated March 5, 1922, Shoghi Effendi specified that Star of the West must "be minutely and fully directed by a special board" placed under the direction of the National Assembly. 19 A special board was then elected by the National Spiritual Assembly to "exercise constant and general supervision." 20

The very next issue bore the names of two new acting editors, Albert and Emily Vail who succeeded Albert Windust and Gertrude Buikema. Dr. Bagdadi continued as Persian editor. Two issues later (November, 1922) a new division of labor was parceled out, making Albert Vail the editor with Dr. Bagdadi and Ahmad Sohrab acting as co-editors of the Persian section and naming Edna M. True business manager.

Shoghi Effendi had high praise for Horace Holley and Stanwood Cobb, two of the writers who published in Star of the West.

"With regard to the Star of the West, I have been impressed by the beauty and force of the various articles contributed to the Journal by Mr. Horace Holley and Mr. Stanwood Cobb, and would indeed welcome with genuine satisfaction an even more active participation on their part in the editorial section of the Bahá'í Magazine." 21

Cobb became chief editor of Star of the West for the May issue of 1924, continuing in that role until the magazine ceased publication in March 1935.

The publication continued to bear the name Star of the West on its masthead until November 1922 when it became a subtitle under the smaller type heading of The Bahai Magazine. In April 1931 the subtitle "Star of the West" disappeared from the masthead altogether only to appear on the spines of annual hardbound volumes.

In March 1935 publication of The Bahá'í Magazine - formerly known as Star of the West - ceased publication. A new magazine - World Order - took over.

Sifter - Star of the West is a virtual archive of 25 years of Bahá'í activities. One might even venture that it is a "family album" of the growth and development of the Bahá'í Faith from 1910 to 1935.

The twenty-five original volumes of Star of the West weigh roughly fifty pounds. Sifter - Star of the West preserves the entire contents in a searchable database on just one digital CD weighing less than an ounce. A special plus of this collection is that it includes total access to all the graphics and photographs published in Star of the West. Sifter - Star of the West marks a tremendous advancement in Bahá'í electronic research publications. New technologies for the propagation of the Faith are multiplying. The revolution in digital media is rescuing print and graphics from dusty archives and translating them into the new universal language of ones and zeroes. These precious words and images can now be banked off orbiting satellites and fall like blessed rain on the global village.

1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 2, No. 2, 8.

2 Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol. 1, Oxford: George Ronald, 1974, 217.

3 "Thou hast written concerning the pilgrims and pilgrims' note. Any narrative that is not authenticated by a Text should not be trusted. Narratives, even if true, cause confusion. For the people of Bahá, the Text, and only the Text, is authentic." ('Abdu'l-Bahá: from a previously untranslated tablet) Lights of Guidance, 438, item. #1431.

4 From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 18, 1931) Lights of Guidance, 439, item #1437

5 William P. Collins, Bibliography of English Language Works on the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths 1844-1985. Oxford: George Ronald, 1990, xvii.

6 Robert Stockman, The Bahá'í Faith in America Early Expansion, 1900-1912, Vol. 2. George Ronald, Oxford, 1995, 428.

7 Only the size of the first three volumes of the original Star of the West was altered to fit a standard size for all eight republished volumes.

8 Memo from the Research Department included in a letter from the Universal House of Justice to Erica Toussaint, dated 3 March 1999, quoting portions of a letter written on behalf of The Universal House of Justice, dated 15 April 1987.

9 Ibid.

10 Bibliography of English-Language Works on the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths 1844-1985 by William P. Collins, George Ronald, 1990, 165.

11 Robert Stockman. The Bahá'í Faith in America: Early Expansion, 1900-1912, Vol.
2, Oxford: George Ronald, 1995, 320.

12 This publication should not be confused with a later publication of the same name
that began publication in 1924 and ceased publication in 1974.

13 These dimensions were retained for the first year of publication (1910-1911). In fact the physical dimensions of the magazine fluctuated over the first three years before finally standardizing on a height and width of 9.5" x 6.5 for volume III (1912-13) and the remaining 22 of its 25 volumes.

14 Robert Stockman, The Bahá'í Faith in America: Early Expansion, 1900-1912, Vol. 2, Oxford: George Ronald, 1995, 320.

15 Star of the West, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 21, 1910, pages 10-11.

16 Ibid. 321

17 Ibid.

18 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 52

19 Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 17, 1922, p. 87.

20 The board members were Montfort Mills, Chairman, Roy C. Wilhelm, William H. Randall, Albert Vail and Edna True. Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 17, 1922, 80.

21 Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, 55.