Sunday, 24 January 2016

Keven Brown's translating experience

Someone on Facebook asked me about Keven Brown and his experience in translating the writings. Keven is translating tablets of Baha'u'llah for the Windflower Translations Project. This correspondent asked for some reassurance that Keven would be able to safeguard the integrity of the great spiritual station of Baha'u'llah's word. He thought that this might be a concern to people when they were deciding if they wanted to support the project.

I decided that the best way to reassure people about Keven's ability to do a worthy job of translating the word of Baha'u'llah would be to point readers to translations that Keven has already done. Mostly, these translations are of passages in the writings that bear on research that Keven was working on. He has written many articles in the area of Baha'i studies, most of them related to philosophical matters. A full list of the articles that Keven has written and published can be found at the Baha'i Library Online. Some of these articles contain small provisional translations. For example, Keven's article "Creation: The Nature of God and the Creation of the Universe in Bahá'í Cosmology", found at the Baha'i Library, contains several revised translations from passages out of Some Answered Questions.

But, as it turned out, while researching for this article, I discovered a fabulous blog post that contains many provisional translations done by Keven relating to the subject of dreams, a subject that he has researched. The blog post is called "The Unsearchable Wisdom of God. Regarding Dreams in the Baha'i Faith" and is found on the blog called Baha'i Mosaic. The author, Paul Mantle, has done a great deal of research on the subject of dreams and found numerous passages in the writings about them. A good number of the passages he quotes are from provisional translations done by Keven. Here is an example:

"Moreover, thou hast asked about the dream state. It is a world distinguished among the divine worlds that expresseth and indicateth infinite conditions. [i] For example, it is proof of a world without beginning and end or first and last, inasmuch as something is seen in a dream and after a period of years the same event is observed in this world. From one perspective, if it be said that it is the intermediate world of similitudes[ii]* resembling the Kingdom,[iii] which some regard as the world of similitudes located between the world of Dominion[iv] and this mortal world,[v] this is correct. In short, shouldst thou ponder deeply upon this state, thou wilt comprehend innumerable subjects.

...O questioner, man is the supreme compendium and the most perfect talisman; he is the compendium which containeth a similitude of whatever hath been created in the heavens and the earth. When the soul is released from transitory restrictions and terrestrial states, it will traverse all the stages, and the greater its freedom, [vi] the stronger, more steadfast, and true will be its flight."


[i] (umūrāt); [ii] (‘ālam-i mithāl)*; [iii] (malakūt); [iv] (jabarūt); [v] (nāsūt); [vi] (farāgha)
(From a Tablet of Baha’u’llah, Layālī al-Hikmat, vol. 2, p. 65–66 in Amr va Khalq, vol. 1, compiled by Fadil-i-Mazindarani, Tihran 1954-55. Provisional translation by Keven Brown.)

From Paul Mantle: The Unsearchable Wisdom of God. Regarding Dreams in the Baha'i Faith. Part 1

Paul Mantle ends part one of his article about dreams with a message of thanks to Keven for supplying the translations and for taking the time to update them and for encouraging Paul in his studies. It is a moving tribute to a person who is not only a great translator but a lovely person and a real asset to Baha'i scholarship.

"Warmest appreciation and a debt of gratitude go to Baha'i scholar Keven Brown for sharing, some twenty-one or so years ago, (and for recently renewing permission for its use and reviewing and updating the material), his unpublished compilation, "The State When Asleep and Dreams: Their Interpretation and Wisdom." The several excerpts taken from that compilation, consisting of Keven's provisional translations of passages from Amr va Khalq, vol. 1, are a key component herein. Additionally, he has recently provided another important element quoted in this article, his provisional translation of Lawh-i Haqqu’n-Nas, and given me invaluable encouragement."

Here is a passage from Lawh-i Haqqu'n-Nas that Paul refers to:

"Now reflect. What kind of world is that wherein His father and mother are seen as the sun and the moon, and His brothers appear in the form of stars? And what is this world wherein the inverse is seen: the sun and the moon in the form of His father and mother, and the stars in the form of His brothers? He saith, exalted be His sovereignty, 'I saw eleven stars, and the sun and the moon; I saw them bowing down before me.' The interpretation of this vision became clear once Joseph was established upon the throne of glory, and Jacob and Joseph’s eleven brothers prostrated themselves at His feet.

Now, since this question hath become established and ascertained, it is evident that the requital of every due taketh place in every world in a form befitting that world. Otherwise, assuredly the administration of justice could not be fulfilled."

(Baha’u’llah, Lawh-i Haqqu’n-Nas, ‘Tablet of the Right of the People.’ Provisional translation by Keven Brown)