Monday, 11 October 2010

Free Audio Version of the Mysterious Forces of Civilization

I've recently completed an audiobook recording of the Mysterious Forces of Civilization by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Mysterious Forces of Civilization (Persian: Risálih-i-Madaníyyih) is a work written before 1875 by ‘Abbás Effendí, known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the Servant of Bahá) (1844-1921). The Persian text was first lithographed in Bombay in 1882 and printed in Cairo in 1911. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the eldest son and appointed successor of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The original text of this work was written and published anonymously, and the first English translation (by Johanna Dawud) was published in London in 1910 and Chicago in 1918, under the title ‘Mysterious Forces of Civilization’ written by "an Eminent Bahai Philosopher." This audiobook is based on the 1918 edition. Another translation was completed by Marzieh Gail and published in 1957, with an introduction by Horace Holley. The title was re-translated as “The Secret of Divine Civilization”.

The book was widely known in its time as an attempt to improve the degraded condition of Persia (Iran). The author frequently references current issues that were being debated, such as whether to modernize and accept Western technology, or to reject Western culture and rely on technology developed in Persia and the Islamic world.

There are many public domain Bahá’í texts available online (including scanned pdfs at Internet Archive). Others can be found at Bahá’í Library Online and H-Net Baha'i (both in English/French and Arabic/Persian). In general, works are in the public domain (in the US) if they were published before 1923. Only works which are public domain in the United States can be recorded for LibriVox, because files are stored in the Internet Archive, which is based in the US. More books (published after 1923) will apparently enter the public domain in the Holy Year 2019, thus increasing the number of potential Bahá’í audiobooks that could be recorded for LibriVox.

Nevertheless, many great Bahá’í books were published before 1923 and I look forward to seeing many more of them available as public domain audiobooks. It would be great to see more Bahá’ís involved in LibriVox and other projects to make free public domain Bahá’í audiobooks, so that the teachings may become more widely available in an audio format, for the benefit of all the waiting masses that shall enter into the Faith "by troops" (Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, v. 270, p. 135).

Monday, 4 October 2010

Free Audio Version of Paris Talks by 'Abdu'l-Bahá

I've recently completed my recording of Paris Talks (a.k.a. Talks by Abdul Baha Given in Paris) from an old, public domain edition available on Internet Archive (see here). Before recording, I divided it into 39 short sections, worked out the word counts, etc. and set it up as a solo project on the LibriVox forums. LibriVox is a volunteer initiative to record every book available in the public domain. As one can imagine, there are millions of books in the world (I'm not sure how many in the public domain), so LibriVox has a huge goal. Nevertheless, over 3,000 audiobooks have been produced so far, and each of these is free to download and listen to legally. In fact, since they're public domain, one could even sell the recordings on ebay (which actually does happen). A few of my audiobooks, including The Bahai Revelation and In Galilee by Thornton Chase, The Revelation of Baha-ullah in a Sequence of Four Lessons by Isabella D. Brittingham, Persian Self-Taught, Esperanto Self-Taught and others are currently being sold by ebay sellers not associated with me in any way. In a sense, though, that's the beauty of the public domain. It is free and universally available to all. If one wants to make a cd of a public domain book and sell it, one is free to do so. Knowledge must be universally accessible, and LibriVox is a part of the initiative to make it so.

Shoghi Effendi envisioned the internet age in the 1930's ("A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity"The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 203) and the Universal House of Justice envisions a convergence of information technologies (telephone, computer, etc.) into one universally accessible means of communication and distribution of knowledge ("It is apparent that the decades immediately ahead will see the integration of telephone, television, and computer technologies into a single, unified system of communication and information, whose inexpensive appliances will be available on a mass scale", 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future).

Bahá'u'lláh teaches that we must seek the truth. Indeed, the greatest oppression is to seek the truth and not know where to find it (""What "oppression" is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?" The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 30). The internet is helping us to overcome this oppression. Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg and LibriVox are among the many projects, movements and initiatives led by volunteers to open up the entire realm of human knowledge and make it accessible to all and downloadable by all. With such tools, if one searches the world religions and their teachings, one cannot fail to find the Bahá'í Faith. If one has an open mind, frees oneself from prejudice and past superstitions and purifies oneself (as described in The Kitab-i-Iqan Book of Certitude), one cannot fail to recognise its truth. The internet is thus one of the great means for conducting a search after truth and true salvation.

LibriVox is a tremendous way of producing public domain, freely accessible Bahá'í literature. One needs only find a public domain Bahá'í text (and there are many at Internet Archive, Google Books, H-Net, etc.), create an account at the LibriVox forum, read the Newbie Guide to Recording, submit a 1-minute test  (to check one's settings are correct) and then one can begin to bring the world of Bahá'í literature to life in an audio format, so that the waiting masses of humanity can hear and appreciate the Word of God and the Divine Teachings. This is a great service to the Faith, that any Bahá'í can do. It's easy, it's fun, it's worthwhile and everyone can do it. You don't need to have the vocal chords of Patrick Stewart. Anyone can be a great audiobook reader. And the Bahá'í presence at LibriVox needs to increase many-fold.

In addition to public domain English texts, there is a  huge possibility to record original works of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the original Persian and Arabic texts of which would now be public domain. Indeed, this is a great service which Arabic and Persian speaking Bahá'ís could do, by producing easily accessible, free versions of the Bahá'í writings in their original languages through LibriVox! :)

My recording of Talks by Abdul Baha Given in Paris is 6 hours, 26 minutes, 34 seconds in length and can be downloaded either from the LibriVox catalogue page or from the Internet Archive page. Internet Archive hosts all of LibriVox's finished recordings. It was catalogued on the 28th of September 2010 and, as of the 4th of October 2010, it has already been downloaded 120 times. I hope you enjoy it. If you like this recording, you will also like my recordings of:

The Bahai Revelation by Thornton Chase (already download 1,715 times)
In Galilee by Thornton Chase (already downloaded 395 times)
The Revelation of Baha-ullah in a Sequence of Four Lessons by Isabella D. Brittingham (already downloaded 2,311 times)

For more Bahá'í recordings which I have completed, see: My Audiobooks