This past weekend, I took a small trip to Wilmette, a north suburb of Chicago, to visit a site that’s been on my “Must See” list for a while now: The Baha’i Temple.
For those who don’t know what Baha’i is, I’ll add a bit at the bottom of this that explains the tenants of the religion. But first, photos.
A Sight at Night
I went to the Baha’i Temple at night because Sarah invited a few friends over to the apartment and had a “Girls’ Night”. This is my idea of hell, so I left, exiled to the dark abyss of a late winter’s night.
As I walked down the street, I remembered all of the times that I wanted to go to the Baha’i Temple, but never did. “I’ll do it later”, I’d say. “Maybe next weekend, I’ll go.” At this point, I arrived at the car and knew the time was now. I briskly walked back to the apartment, grabbed my Big Nerdy Camera, and drove the 25 minutes north to Wilmette.
The Baha’i Temple at Night
When most people go to the Baha’i Temple, they go during the day. A quick Google search will show that it’s often photographed surrounded by lush and manicured gardens and Lake Michigan in the background.
At night, I got none of those things. And it’s still hovering around freezing, so the fountains weren’t on. But I like about going places at night because I get to see the lighting. Anyone who has ever worked a theatre production, camera studio, or tried to shoot a video can tell you that lighting isn’t as easy as “Point this light there. K, good.” A good lighting job emphasizes the detail of the building and breathes depth into its character. And the lighting job of the Baha’i Temple does just that.
The way that the temple is lit shows all of the intricate carvings that adorn the exterior walls. It becomes a formidable fortress, a beacon to all who seek it.
. Each of the pillars have a cacophony of religious symbols on them. From the pamphlet comes a Louis Bourgeois quote:
“In the tracery of the towers are intertwined all the religious symbols of the past, demonstrating to each beholder of any religion: welcome to this Temple exemplifying universal brotherhood.”
Inside the Baha’i Temple
Since it was dark and winter, I was finished pretty quickly with my outside pictures. I moved inside. While I expected it to be pretty, I wasn’t expecting this:
Inside was one large room with a domed-ceiling. At the top is a crest with Arabic writing that reads Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá, an invocation meaning “O Glory of the All Glorious”.
Now, real talk for a second, if you go to the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, they have a no photo policy inside. It exists as a courtesy to others who are there to pray and find peace. While I’m not a terribly religious person myself, I understand and respect this code.
That said, no one was inside while I was there. I was alone. I was not disturbing anyone, and if someone else had entered, I would have packed my camera away. Eventually, the security guard did enter the temple, and I apologized and told him that I figured it was okay since no one was there. He agreed, and said that people take pictures all the time.
Just be mindful, if you go. Enjoy the architecture and the atmosphere, but be mindful of those who are trying to be mindful themselves (a tenant of the Baha’i faith).
What is Baha’i?
My information is sourced from the handout at the Baha’i Temple as well as their website (link here).
Baha’i is a religion that began in Persia (now Iran) founded by Bahá’u’lláh in the mid-1800s. The Baha’i faith is centered around the belief that all religions are talking about the same god, merely different manifestations of his presence. They all share a similar aim and source. Together, we form one human race that should strive towards peace through the following pillars:
- Oneness of humanity and dignity of every human being
- Freedom from prejudice
- Equality of men and women
- Spiritual solution to economic problems
- Commitment to education and the search for truth
- Highest moral standards
- Harmony of faith, reason, and science
On the walls of the temple were messages that could double as inspirational posters: messages about being a good person, being virtuous, things like that.
Not only did I think the temple was beautiful, I found the messages of acceptance and unity to be soothing, especially in a bitterly divided world. I’ve always had a soft spot for Eastern religions that focus more on the self than worshipping a god. I think self-awareness and understanding could do us all some good, but that’s a conversation to be had over drinks with friends, not the public at-large.
If you want some peace in your travels, I’d recommend swinging by.
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