A short bio of Alison Elizabeth Marshall
I have been a follower of Baha’u’llah for over 40 years. During my teenage years, I was told, first, by a man who read my tarot cards and, later, by a man who read my palm, that when I was older I would discover great religious truths. I believe I found those truths in the religion founded by Baha’u’llah.
I first learned about him in 1980, when I was 20. At the time, I had pretty much made a mess of my life. I was trapped, unhappy and lost. While hitchhiking one day, I was picked up by a couple who told me about Baha’u’llah. A few months later, I came to believe in him and began to apply his teachings to my life. In the following decades, Baha’u’llah supported me through many difficulties and steered me to my life’s purpose.
I went through a very stressful and confusing time – pulling myself together and learning to stand on my own two feet. I went to university, bought a house and raised my daughter. Ten years later, I had a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws. I married and began my career as a business writer, becoming a joint owner of the company I worked for. I am now retired from that, have moved to the country and am writing for myself.
None of that would have happened had I not learned about Baha’u’llah and applied his guidance to my life. I read in his writings that he believed in me, and that if I worked with him, he would help me achieve worthy things in life. So now I am writing my book about the things he has taught me, in the hope that they will benefit others too.
Off and on over the last 20 years, I have studied classical Arabic, so that I can read the actual words Baha’u’llah wrote and not a translation of them. It has been a gritty battle in perseverence. In the scheme of things, Arabic is one of the most difficult languages for an English-speaking person to learn. I struggled to get on top of it. My confidence was low. But then a new textbook came out, which enabled me to make progress: Alan Jones: Arabic Through the Qur’an. The Islamic Texts Society, 2005. And after that, I discovered several YouTube channels that are dedicated to teaching Qur’anic Arabic. It was the first time I had an Arabic teacher! With much care and attention, I can now translate short passages from Baha’u’llah’s writings, which I am including in my book.
In March 2000, the Universal House of Justice (head of the Baha’i community globally) instructed the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand (the nine elected members who administer community affairs in New Zealand) to remove my name from the community’s membership rolls. This meant that I was no longer a registered member of the Baha’i community, and all contact with me by the community ceased. My close friends remained, but the community moved on. This experience was a turning point in my religious life, for I learned how to be a follower of Baha’u’llah in isolation from other believers. It lead to a new understanding of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, which I have tried to capture in my book Paradise of Presence: Conversations in the Mindscape of Eternity. I have written about the events associated with my expulsion, and they can be found here. I have also written a blog post, Love is what unites us, outlining my current thoughts about what happened to me in March 2000.
One factor that I now see played a key role in the expulsion affair is the fact that I am dyslexic. I am not so dyslexic that I can’t read and write, but it does affect those things, as well as the way I think. An excellent book on dyslexia called The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain explained to me how dyslexia affects my thinking. Basically, I use non-verbal thinking and then struggle to express my understanding in words. My book, for example, is one giant conceptual map in my mind. It is like a landscape of ideas that make up a picture. The book is a narrative that takes the reader on a journey through that landscape. One of the strengths found in dyslexics, which the book identifies, is the “ability to unite all kinds of information about a particular object of thought into a single global or big-picture view and to determine its gist or most essential or relevant aspects or particular aspects.” I used this process to create my book. It is a distillation of the essential Baha’i Faith, as I see it in my mental map. It is therefore a different perspective on the Faith to the one most people hold to. Consequently, it is seen as threatening or wrong or blasphemy by people who I would characterise as lacking in intellectual hospitality.