Posts Tagged doom

The Dread Jensens

Posted on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at 3:12 am

Back around the close of the 1970s, my friend next door showed me a newspaper article that seemed to be about my father. It was about a Bahá’í chiropractor—a Dr. Jensen—who was making prophecies about a coming calamity. My father, Dr. John Jensen, is a Bahá’í chiropractor with a Bahá’í fondness for doomsday visions. Fortunately—or unfortunately, as the case may be—the Dr. Jensen featured in the article was out in Montana, a long way from my home in central California. It was some other Bahá’í chiropractor named Jensen.

The old Montana State Prison

The old Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana

This was quite a coincidence, of course. It’s not like there are many Scandinavian Bahá’ís like there are hoards of Scandinavian Mormons.

Actually, my father’s dad was one of those Scandinavian Mormons, but that’s another story.

One thing the Bahá’ís and Mormons do share, though, is a peppering of heretics across the Rocky Mountain states. Must be something about mountains that brings out the heretic in people.

This Dr. Leland Jensen of Missoula, Montana was well known among researchers for his string of failed prophecies. He was also known for being convicted for sexually molesting of a minor. It was while doing time in the big house that Jensen received his calling, as so oft it happens. Upon release, Jensen founded his own Bahá’í sect, and commenced to doing what prophets do.

My father was and is quite different. He is a principled man who would never entertain prophetic delusions or manipulate people as the Montana Jensen did.

But my father did—and does—share Leland Jensen’s apocalyptic view of the immediate future. He is a Bahá’í, after all. It’s in the scripture. A lot of bad things are going to have to happen for the world to be cleansed before the last century ends.

As a child in a Bahá’í household, I learned about a horrible calamity that would soon cleanse the world of its blind materialism and render it receptive to the light of faith in Bahá’u'lláh. We weren’t sure what exactly would happen but we knew it would necessarily be bad—something along the lines of Zechariah 13:

In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.

Two-thirds of the people of the world would perish, and many of the survivors might wish they had perished as well. It was a retributive promise laid over the real danger of the Cold War. It was easy for a child to internalize.

Noted skeptic Michael Shermer has also heard of Leland Jensen. Shermer discussed Jensen at length in his book How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science:

On a brisk April 29 morning in 1980, Dr. Leland Jensen, a chiropractor and leader of a small religious sect called the Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, led his devoted followers into fallout shelters in Missoula, Montana, to await the end of the world. Within the first hour, Jensen believed, a full third of the Earth’s population would be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust of fire and fallout. Over the course of the next twenty years most of the remaining population would be ravaged by conquest, war, famine, and pestilence. (page 192)

What I find interesting about this Leland Jensen episode, beside the curious parallels in my family, is the way that Jensen and his followers handled the failure of Jensen’s prophecies. It reminds me of the rationalizations offered by Bahá’ís in response to the failure of mainstream Bahá’í prophecies of peace and calamity in the 20th Century:

Psychologists who studied Leland Jensen and his Baha’i sect … discovered that when the end of the world came and went, they did not quietly disband and go home. Psychologist Leon Festinger applied his theory of cognitive dissonance to failed prophecy, and argued that the stronger one’s commitment to a failing cause, the greater the rationalizations to reduce the dissonance produced by the disappointment. Thus, paradoxically, after the 1980 debacle in the bomb shelters, not only did Jensen and his followers not abandon the cause, they ratcheted up the intensity of future predictions, making no less than 20 between 1979 and 1995! Jensen and his flock applied one or all of the following rationalizations:

  1. the prophecy was fulfilled—spiritually
  2. the prophecy was fulfilled physically, but not as expected
  3. miscalculation of the date
  4. the date was a loose prediction, not a specific prophecy
  5. God changed his mind in order to be merciful
  6. predictions were just a test of members’ faith.

How We Believe, page 202

Our Daily Bread: Abhageddon

Posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 9:44 am

There is a wealth of doomsday prophecies and predictions in the Bahá’í scripture and literature. The following passage, for instance, clearly foresees the advent of Rock & Roll:

Suicidal Stanford

Suicidal Stanford

“The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody.”

—Bahá’u'lláh, Gleanings … , pages 118-119

Of course, the simple fact of the matter is that the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith had already discovered Rock & Roll:

“the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and oftentimes it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest”

Doctrine & Covenants, 85

The Bahá’í writings claim that humanity must be purged of its spiritual slumber and corruption by disaster before it will open its eyes to its Savior, Bahá’u'lláh. In the following citation, Shoghi Effendi describes the calamity that must befall mankind:

The whole of mankind is groaning, is dying to be led to unity, and to terminate its age-long martyrdom. And yet it stubbornly refuses to embrace the light and acknowledge the sovereign authority of the one Power that can extricate it from its entanglements, and avert the woeful calamity that threatens to engulf it.

Ominous indeed is the voice of Bahá’u'lláh that rings through these prophetic words: “O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight.” And again: “We have a fixed time for you, O peoples. If ye fail, at the appointed hour, to turn towards God, He, verily, will lay violent hold on you, and will cause grievous afflictions to assail you from every direction. How severe, indeed, is the chastisement with which your Lord will then chastise you!”

Must humanity, tormented as she now is, be afflicted with still severer tribulations ere their purifying influence can prepare her to enter the heavenly Kingdom destined to be established upon earth?

Must the inauguration of so vast, so unique, so illumined an era in human history be ushered in by so great a catastrophe in human affairs as to recall, nay surpass, the appalling collapse of Roman civilization in the first centuries of the Christian Era? Must a series of profound convulsions stir and rock the human race ere Bahá’u'lláh can be enthroned in the hearts and consciences of the masses, ere His undisputed ascendancy is universally recognized, and the noble edifice of His World Order is reared and established?

—The Unfoldment of World Civilization.

At the time the above passage was written (1936), the world had already witnessed what it named “The Great War” and “The War To End All Wars”. At that very time, the world was bracing itself for an even more destructive world war. Even World War II, with its millions upon millions dead on the fronts, in the fire bombed cites, in the path of atomic bombs, and in Nazi and Stalinist death camps, even this “Most Great War” was not great enough to teach humanity much about war or genocide. So it is that Bahá’ís, true to their apocalyptic hypothesis, must await “still severer tribulations ere their purifying influence” bring about the utopian world they have been promised.

The Wronged Ones

Posted on Saturday, January 30th, 2010 at 8:59 am

Here’s a single sentence that captures Bahá’u'lláh’s megalomania and narcissistic self-pity to an extent that perhaps no other statement of his does:

Verily, no God is there but Me, the Wronged One, the Exile.

Tablets of Bahá’u'lláh …

The term “Wronged One” is a title that he appears to have adopted early in his career, and taken a great liking to later in life.

Here’s a tally of instances of “this Wronged One” or “the Wronged One” in selected volumes of Bahá’u'lláh’s writings:

  • Epistle to the Son of the Wolf: 102
  • Tablets … after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: 55
  • The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: 5
  • Proclamation of Bahá’u'lláh: 4
  • The Book of Certitude: 2
  • The Most Holy Book: 0

Bahá’u'lláh’s son`Abdu’l-Bahá also referred to himself as the Wronged One, it turns out. In his Will and Testament, he refers to himself as “this Wronged One” ten times.

Why Do You Reject Your Lord?

Posted on Monday, September 28th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

One of the songs I remember best from my Bahá’í youth I may have heard only once or twice, and that, only in part:

World, world, world, world, why do you reject your Lord?
When will you receive your Savior, Bahá’u'lláh?

The couplet echoed in my head until it was as though I’d heard it a hundred times.

I think I remember it being sung in a three-part harmony, with the slow, plodding tempo of a funeral march. I thought it was quite beautiful then, but over the years it began to seem haunted with the dark, lonesome misery of a cult chant. The idolatry in it is almost palpable.

Here’s the complete lyric, according to an obscure Internet source that I don’t see any point in citing:

World, world, world, world, why do you reject your Lord?
When will you receive your Savior, Bahá’u'lláh?
Peace, peace, peace, peace, this is what we’re waiting for.
Love shall conquer all the hatred, Bahá’u'lláh.
Joy, joy, joy, joy, inside of every man,
If only he would discover Bahá’u'lláh.
World, world, world, world, everything has been fulfilled.
For the Prince of Peace has come – Bahá’u'lláh, Bahá’u'lláh.

Our Daily Bread: Divine Retribution

Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Today’s slice is from Bahá’u'lláh’s Persian Hidden Words:

O YE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight. By My beauty! All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.

This passage guided much of my world view as a child. It played well with Cold War fatalism, and gave me a dim outlook on the future, though great things were promised for the people who would survive this “unforeseen calamity”.

Note that this is all about punishment for sin, and it is a worldwide punishment for the accumulated crimes of humanity. Though Bahá’ís claim to have an elevated, sublime notion of God, this God is none other than the jealous, vengeful Yahweh, who has no regard for the deeds of one man in his private moments of conscience, but only of humanity en masse. This is a God of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and Assyrian armies.

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