Just picture it: a hippie pad in 1967, filled with spiritual seekers and one gigantic baby (me), listening to an elderly man named Samandari, who met the prophet of God.

So here we are in the Pacific Northwest in 1967 or so, fast-forwarding from when we first met Mr. Samandari at Sea-Tac airport, in a big run-down house near the university filled to capacity with a bunch of bohemian students and spiritual truth seekers from all corners of Seattle, all seated around this tiny man, a “strong pillar of the luminous faith of God,” who actually met Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith.

To Baha’is, who follow Baha’u’llah’s teachings like Christians follow Christ’s or Buddhists follow Buddha’s, the opportunity to meet Mr. Samandari held a truly special bounty. Why? Not because of the physical proximity he once had to a prophet, but because he had met the spiritual source and deeply understood the principles he brought:

Baha’u’llah underwent great difficulties and hardships. He was in constant confinement and He suffered great persecution. But in the fortress (Akka) [Palestine’s worst dungeon] He reared a spiritual palace and from the darkness of His prison He sent out a great light to the world.

It is the ardent desire of the Baha’is to put these teachings into common practice: and they will strive with soul and heart to give up their lives for this purpose, until the heavenly light brightens the whole world of humanity. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 29.

So back to the big bohemian pad: my parents are probably passing out cookies and punch to a bunch of students in John Lennon glasses, leather vests with fringe and bell bottomed jeans. I imagine that there are ashtrays everywhere and I’m on a blanket in the corner sucking on a rubber toy in a cloud of second-hand smoke. This would be only a few months before my parents would divorce, my mom would take off to live on a commune in Oakland and then to work at an insane asylum in Bismarck, North Dakota; and my dad would take me to go live in the jungles of coastal Nicaragua and start an oyster farm. In other words, things were about to get cray-cray for baby Rainn.

In those days, many spiritual truth seekers hung out together. Spirituality was definitely not something relegated to New Age weirdos and “Born Agains.” The idea of exploring alternative expressions of the spiritual life and the journey of the soul had become an integral part of the counter-culture just starting to spring up all over American cities, immediately preceding the upcoming “Summer of Love.”

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens

Most progressive people believed that the answers to the problems of life could actually be addressed by spiritual insight and even by religion itself—as long as it wasn’t the religion of their parents. Remember, in only a few years The Beatles would be visiting the Maharishi, Cat Stevens would become a Muslim, Hollywood celebrities would be doing peyote with Native American shamans, Shirley MacLaine would revisit past lives and millions of young mystic wanderers would join various religious faiths in their search for truth and meaning.

During that era, tens of thousands of young Americans would become members of the Baha’i Faith, the youngest world religion. Including my parents: my dad, an artist and writer and my mom, an experimental theater actress and yoga teacher.

This was the milieu I grew up in. LONG spiritual discussions in our living room until the wee hours of the morning. Sufis, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sikhs, agnostics and all manner of aspiring seekers digging into life’s biggest questions and delving, questing, searching for truth and cosmic insight. Bookshelves filled with religious tomes. Bottomless pots of coffee and tea. Art covering the walls. Music everywhere. More second-hand smoke.

During these years America was at war with an enemy most Americans didn’t even really know anything about, an enemy that had never threatened anyone they knew in any way, shape or form: The North Vietnamese. Televisions were starting to show the body bags of dead young Americans being shipped home. Rumors of grotesque violence towards humble villagers were making their way stateside; chemicals that melted trees, illegal bombing campaigns, genocidal massacres. People were starting to freak out. Why all this war? What bill of goods are we being sold by our military industrial complex? Perhaps, as the Beatles said all along, all we really do need is Love?

The Baha’i teachings have a principle for that:

Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 36.

In the south and in the cities another war was being fought. African American men and women being beaten and hosed down like animals. Dogs lunging. Peaceful marchers tear-gassed by the National Guard and ruddy, angry-faced white people screaming the “N” word. All because people of color wanted to be able to sit on a bus or at a lunch counter or get an education. Or be treated with respect. What’s with all the hate? Had this been under our noses the whole time?

And for that:

Look upon the people of your own race and those of other races as members of one organism; sons of the same Father; let it be known by your behaviour that you are indeed the people of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 82.

The time was right and ripe for revolution. If the conservative churches and clergy of our parents don’t hold any solutions, perhaps other modes of spirituality had an answer to all this madness and confusion. People started looking for meaning both outside themselves and in. Way in.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

8 Comments

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  • Rob Vedovi
    Jan 12, 2018
    I was on that corner in the picture... many, many times... Entered the Baha'i Faith in 1970. I was not fortunate to meet Mr. Samandari or any other notables.. just came in because of some mysterious attraction... But I remember those years in Haight Ashbury and up and down the West Coast. And I was out of touch with the momentousness of those times... but somehow.. somehow... the light brought me to the Faith and my life has never been the same... Thank God!
  • Dennis Frere-Smith
    Jan 01, 2018
    Thank you for this and other articles of yours that I have read. You are a great inspiration to me, Rainn.
  • Dec 28, 2017
    I also met Mr. Samandari twice in 1967 or so just before and just after I declared at Geyserville. I level of separation from Bahá’u’lláh. How amazing is that? Every day since then has been a gift and an adventure. Mahalo, Ke Akua!
  • Steve Connor
    Dec 26, 2017
    I too was profoundly influenced by the times Rainn writes about. I too at age 12 prayed earnestly to learn the truth when my bohemian brother told me there was no God. Found the Faith 8 years later at a fireside at Ohio State University. My journey began and I have never looked back.
    Praise God!
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Dec 25, 2017
    Hmm I was just 14 yrs old during this time and being quite protected from the Hippie word (let alone movement) in Australia...LOL I was really only just understanding the way Christians behaved in our church and started questioning some of the principles I was being taught about other religions... Didn't go down really well at all. I might add. But I prayed to Jesus that day and asked Him to show me the truth as I told Him I firmly did believe that people who practiced what their religious leaders taught them, that when they passed away they ...too would have gone to heaven. God really did answer me after several years of me ignoring Him.... Became a Baha'i and never looked back. Enjoying you articles thanks.
    Read more...
  • Dec 24, 2017
    I learned about the Faith during this period when I was at university in CT. Being a Baha'i has enriched my life, inwardly and socially. I am grateful for the diversity and unity of the Baha'is.
  • Graham Burgess
    Dec 24, 2017
    That was the time when I first heard of Baha'u;llah. He nearly caught me twice so I slowed down so He could the third time. Lol. Now coming up to thirty years as a Baha'i
  • Walison Silva
    Dec 24, 2017
    I met the bahá'is in New York in 1975. I can understand what you're saying. Time of changings, big ones.