How It All Started:
The story leading up to the formation of

The Foundation for
the Investigation of Reality

Mrs. H. Emogene Hoagg was an early American Baha'i who studied Persian and the Baha'i Faith with Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani and other prominent Persian Baha'i scholars in the Middle East and in the United States. During 1900, 1913, 1914 and 1920 she lived and served in the household of 'Abdu'l-Baha, sometimes for months at a time. Shortly after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha in November of 1921, Mrs. Hoagg returned to Haifa, Israel to assist the newly appointed Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi. In the later years of her life, she developed an outline to categorize the Baha'i Writings, published in 1937 and 1938 under 2 different titles: Conditions of Existence: Servitude, Prophethood, Deity, and Three Worlds.

Mrs. Hoagg gave classes based on this outline in various locations, including the Green Acre Baha'i Summer School (23-27 August 1937) and the Louhelen Ranch Baha'i Summer School (9-19 July 1938).

One of the distinctive features of this course is that the course outlines prepared by Emogene for these two summer schools cited specific references from the Baha'i Writings and letters of the Guardian for each topic. These course outlines and Emogene's "Three Worlds" and "Conditions of Existence" aforementioned outlines on which they are based represent Emogene's profound, comprehensive and systematic grasp of the Baha'i teachings. They also demonstrate her disciplined and well-organized manner of thinking and her humility--she did not add a single word of her own in her outlines for the study of the Baha'i teachings; they are all verbatim quotes.

In June 1943, two years before her death, and over the course of about five weeks, Mrs. Hoagg instructed Mrs. Marian Crist Lippitt (then a newly declared Baha'i) in this conceptual system.

Marian and Emogene were patients in adjoining rooms of a private hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, both under the care of the same Baha'i physician.

At that time Emogene was in the process of completing her massive compilation with the full texts of those passages in the Baha'i Writings and other Scriptures which referred to the three conditions of existence and sub-categories which Emogene had derived from the Baha'i teachings.

Emogene introduced to Marian this "God's-eye" view of reality from the top down, beginning with the condition of Deity; and then proceeding to the Greater World, comprising the Cause or Purpose, the Spirit or Power, the Will, the Word and the Manifestation of God; and finally the Lesser World, including the kingdom of human souls and the material, human and spiritual worlds. Marian was given a copy of "Conditions of Existence," Emogene's published outline for the study of the ontological and cosmological teachings of the Faith, which she brought home with her.

After Emogene's death, Agnes DeMille, a Baha'i, typed Emogene's huge compilation and the manuscript was mailed to the Baha'i National Center's archive office.

Fast forward to 1951:

In a letter dated 14 May 1951 from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States (NSA) creating a new committee, The National Reference Library Committee (NRLC), Marian Lippitt was appointed one of its members. Mr. Lawrence Hautz, a member of the NSA, was appointed to convene the Committee. Also appointed were Miss Fanny Jupnik, Miss Flora Hottes, Mrs. May Stebbins and Mrs. Carol Hautz. Mrs. Hautz resigned early on, and on 29 October 1951 the NSA appointed Miss Elizabeth Hopper in her place. Mrs. Dorothy Peterson, Mr. Hautz's business secretary, worked on NRLC projects from the outset.

In 1952-1953, Mrs. Gene Crist (Marian's mother) chaired the preparation of two indexes cross-referencing the Bible and Baha'i Writings, one organized by subject, and the other by Biblical verse. Due to illness, Mrs. Crist was not able to continue as director of this project, so Marian took over for her. These indexes were completed in 1955.

A major task bestowed upon the NRLC by the NSA was the creating of a Master Index to the entire body of Writings of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi.

In 1954, Mr. Hautz pioneered to Africa. Mrs. Gene Crist was appointed Chairman in his place, and Marian was made Secretary, and Marian's business associate in Charleston was also made a member. There were now three members of the NRLC located in Charleston, which facilitated the accomplishment of the tasks assigned the Committee. Mrs. Dorothy Peterson resigned from the Committee in 1955, a year after her business associate Mr. Hautz left the NRLC. Mrs. Mariam Haney was made a member of the Committee in 1954. Most of the professionally-trained librarians who were serving on the Committee resigned by 1955, with the exception of Mrs. May Stebbins, who stayed on until 1958 as the indexer of "Baha'i News," the newspaper of the American Baha'i community.

The librarians apparently agreed that the Dewey Decimal System, then in general use in the field of library science, was entirely unsuited to the categorization of the Baha'i Revelation. They knew of no other system which was able to accomplish this aim.

In 1954, Marian, who was not a professional librarian, wrote to the NSA, asking if the classification system developed by Emogene Hoagg could be adapted for use in compiling a Master Index to the Baha'i Revelation. Marian was appointed the convener of a reconstituted National Reference Library Committee in a letter from the NSA dated 16 June 1955, in which the new appointees were Mrs. Dorothy Peterson, Mrs. May Stebbins, Mrs. Mariam Haney, Miss Garnet Crawford, Mrs. Gene Crist, Mrs. Juliet A. Cole, Mrs. Kathleen Javid, Mrs. Sarah M. Russell, Miss Pearl Pohl and Mr. Hillard P. Hatch. From 1954 to 1956, Marian appears to have been largely if not entirely responsible for studying and describing the classification system which was to serve as the matrix for the Master Index. On the 20th of July 1956, she submitted the classification system plan to the NSA, as Secretary of the NRLC. On the 6th of September 1956, the NRLC received a letter which stated:

"The National Spiritual Assembly examined with sincere interest at its recent meeting the material which you submitted to explain the plan you have adopted for listing and indexing all the ideas and verities expressed in the Sacred Writings and the works of the Guardian. It seems to us that you have devised a very practical system, but as you say, you may find it necessary to make minor changes as the work progresses. The National Spiritual Assembly voted to approve the plan as you have outlined it and we wish you every success in your efforts. Undoubtedly a great many friends will volunteer to assist you....The members of the National Spiritual Assembly feel that when this work is completed it will be of very great value in many, many ways to the friends."

During the next two years, Marian and her fellow Committee members collected some 1500 references to the Baha'i Writings and organized them according to the classifications which Marian had developed from her study of Emogene's "Conditions of Existence" and her own investigation of the Writings. The resulting "Worlds of God" compilation was completed in 1958 or 1959. In 1959 the NRLC began the process of recruiting and training volunteer indexers to assemble the Master Index.

The NSA appointed the Secretary of the National Teaching Committee to "watch over" the NRLC in 1959. Marian prepared a 60-page course to prepare indexers based on the "Worlds of God" compilation. This course was duplicated and sent out to Committee members, and they were each asked to start their own classes to attract volunteer indexers for compiling the Master Index.

On 26 January 1960 the NSA wrote a letter to the NRLC, stating concern that this course would distract Baha'is from the teaching effort (Baha'is were at this time very focused on traveling to other countries to promote their religion, and a good number of these Baha'is doing so were from the United States), then regarded as of primary importance. The NSA suggested in this letter that this course may instead be useful in Marian's own personal teaching. The use of the course was discontinued, so Marian had to do the bulk of the indexing herself, as the course is what she was using to train indexers.

Marian wrote on the 21st of November to ask the NSA if it would permit the "Worlds of God" compilation to be typed and used by NRLC members. On 14 December the NSA responded, agreeing to both requests, and encouraging Marian to organize her material into two books, one for consideration by the Baha'i Publishing Trust and another for commercial publication. At the same time, the NSA assigned the NRLC the task to prepare subject indexes for individual books based on the "Worlds of God" classification system. It also authorized the continuation of the Master Index. The long course for training indexers was not permitted to be taught (because it was long and would detract from the teaching effort), and so, as Marian had no other way to train indexers, at this time she had to do all of the indexing herself.

In 1962, Marian began to prepare a shorter course based on the "Worlds of God" compilation for use in her own personal teaching. Her husband Ted was her chief partner in this enterprise. On April 6th and 13th 1963, this new course was used in firesides which Marian gave in Charleston and Montgomery County, West Virginia. In 1964 Marian telephoned Dr. David Ruhe, then Secretary of the NSA, and offered to teach a short course at the Green Acre Baha'i Summer School. This course was to consist of five lectures with 30 charts and diagrams, and the presenters were to be Marian and her husband Ted. The director of the Summer School in 1964 was Mr. Samuel McClellan, and he agreed to their presentation of the course. However, when they arrived at Green Acre they found that no classes were planned for that summer as the School was badly in need of repairs. Ted had been asked to take over the management of the physical plant, and Marian became Green Acre's librarian. In summer 1965, Marian gave her short course for the first time. She was alotted one hour a day for five days. The NSA met at Green Acre immediately after the summer session, and approved the "Worlds of God" compilation in September 1965 to be used in its mimeographed form, in personal teaching and in the compilation of the Master Index.

Marian and Ted were called back to Green Acre in 1966, and, once more they were able to present the abbreviated course. In its Ridvan 1967 message to the American believers, the Universal House of Justice called the attention of the American Baha'i community to the great importance of "deepening" their knowledge and understanding of the Baha'i Revelation. The NSA, for the first time in many years, allotted a small budget for the development of a deepening program. The indexing course was tested on a group of students at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan. The course met weekly, and was lead by Mr. Roy Earl, a gifted teacher. It began with fifteen students and ended with thirty-five 13 months later.

In 1970 the NSA turned its focus to mass teaching. In a letter sent to the National Reference Library Committee in April of that year, the Secretary of that Institution wrote that the Ann Arbor course was to be discontinued, that the "Worlds of God" compilation needed revision and that in its judgment it was beyond the resources of the American Baha'i community at that time to revise the compilation. The NSA decided that the Publishing Trust would not publish the "Worlds of God" compilation. However, the NSA permitted the NRLC to continue printing and distributing copies of the compilation.

At this juncture Marian felt impelled to write to the Universal House of Justice on 15 June 1970, with various enclosures documenting and describing her work on the Master Index, the "Worlds of God" compilation, and her various course offerings through Baha'i summer schools. Copies of that letter went to the NSA and members of the NRLC.

On 6 October 1970, the Universal House of Justice replied to Marian's letter. It wrote that "Any comprehensive indexing of the Writings and Teachings, of course, would be of great interest to our Research Department, since it has been assigned the task of classifying the texts for study, and, as called for, for application by the House of Justice of these texts to the many needs of the Faith....We appreciate very deeply the devotion manifest in your decades of labor for the Cause, a labor of love which indeed has had its own rewards as you indicate, for you have been able to undertake a thorough study of the Words of the Prophet of God for this day....Please be assured of our prayers at the Holy Shrines for your guidance and continued service." A copy of this letter was sent to the NSA of the United States, and, supplementary to this, the Universal House of Justice assured Marian that "we are communicating with your National Assembly to ascertain whether the work cannot be pursued in some form or another" and "We shall write to the National Assembly expressing our views."

In 1971, Marian and Ted moved from Charleston, West Virginia to York, Maine, a short automobile drive to the Green Acre Summer School which was the principal site of their course offerings. In December of 1971, Marian and her long-time friend Dr. Mary Tomanio, chiropractor and Baha'i, made their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There she met with two Hands of the Cause of God and two members of the Universal House of Justice, all of whom were very supportive of her work and encouraged her to continue to assemble the Master Index and to teach courses on the spiritual teachings of the Faith. Dr. Daniel Jordan (a good friend of Marian's), then the Chairman of the NSA, asked her to hand-deliver to Dr. David Ruhe, member of the Universal House of Justice, the proposal for a comprehensive deepening program. This program was one in which Marian served as general consultant; it was developed by the NSA, the NSA's National Education Committee, and Dr. Jordan himself as a member of both. She carried out this mission with humility and reverence. The pilgrimage had an enormous impact on Marian, making her feel that all of her years of devotion to this project was something worthwhile in the sight of God.

During the early 1970s she forged very close relationships with her fellow NRLC members and other collaborators, including Mrs. Agnes De Mille, Mrs. Dawn Gregoire, Miss Lisel Lowen, Mrs. Constance Nenni, Mrs. Emma Rice, Mrs. Lura Rousi, Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, Mrs. Kay Zinky and Mr. Richard Snyder. She trained Mr. Snyder and Mrs. Lee Errington as indexers. Marian spent an alloted amount of time every morning doing indexing. Mrs. Janis Jacobs and Mrs. Marguerite Robinson were among the volunteers who assisted the NRLC by typing index cards for placement in the Master Index.

In September of 1976 Marian was contacted by the administrator of the Louis Gregory Baha'i Institute (LGBI), inviting her to consult with members of the staff for a period of sixteen days in October. At the end of that consultation Marian was invited to give a week-long course based on the "Worlds of God" compilation for 25-30 July 1977. During the same time, two persons who had taken the long course on the "Worlds of God" were appointed to the Green Acre Council. In addition to her presentation at the LGBI, Marian gave a course on "Developing the Science of Reality" from the 13th through the 16th of May, a week-long course on "God's purpose for man" from the 18th to the 24th of July, a weekend institute on "The Reality of the Soul" on the 13th and 14th of August, a series of weekly two-hour sessions on "Spiritual Psychology" from the 7th of November through the 19th of December, and winter session from 25 to 30 December on "Spiritual Psychology," all of these classes at Green Acre. The winter session at Green Acre was attended by almost 50 students in their twenties and thirties. Also, in 1977 Marian received permission from the Green Acre administration to house the Master Index in its library.

But the most exciting venue for her approach came to her by way of Dr. Leonard Hippschen, a professor of criminology at various institutions, in 1975 at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. In a letter dated 26 April 1975 Marian announced the completion of a course designed for the moral re-education (rehabilitation) of juvenile delinquents. The course, called Successful Self-Direction (SSD), had been commissioned by the Juvenile Treatment Center in Glassboro, New Jersey, under the supervision and sponsorship of the Department of Law and Justice Studies, Glassboro State College; the course was initially funded by the state and county government and was slated to begin on the first of July 1975. Suddenly, abruptly, the funding for this initiative was cancelled. From 1976 through 1978 Dr. Hippschen called repeatedly on the NRLC for references, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on International Criminal Justice, and Director of planning for an International Conference for a World Criminology, as well as Head of the Department of the Administration of Justice and Public Safety at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Marian, however, was starting to feel her age. She turned to Dr. Shirley S. Snow, a naturopath, and over the course of the next two and a half years, her health improved, and was entirely restored. The responses of her students, in letters written to the National Education Committee of the NSA, resulted in an open offer to present her courses at all three of the Baha'i summer and winter schools. She answered this offer with a letter of her own, declining. Marian continued to offer her material to classes at Green Acre, with weekend institutes on "Spiritual Solutions to Everyday Problems," on the 15th-16th of April and the 20th-21st of May; she regarded these as teacher-training institutes based on the "Worlds of God" compilation. Also, for a two and a half day institute at Prince William State Park, given for the Baha'is of northern Virginia, Marian gave a course on the "Worlds of God."

In April of 1980 she spent ten days (the 10th through the 19th) presenting a course on the "Worlds of God" at the Southern California Baha'i School, held that year in San Diego, at the instigation of Dr. Jordan and his wife Mrs. Nancy Jordan. In 1980 Marian prepared a monograph which was presented at a conference of educators called by the Association for a World University for June of that year. This conference had been organized by Dr. Hippschen, and was sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. Over 4000 educators were invited from all over the world; 75 attended. Dr. Daniel Jordan and Dr. Dwight Allen (both educators and Baha'is) attended this conference, as did Marian, and Dr. Jordan presented Marian's monograph entitled "An Introduction to the Science of Reality" to the group of assembled educators. Subsequent to this, Marian was asked to present a proposal for a core curriculum for the proposed World University, and she did so, calling this curriculum "The Science of Reality." In April of 1981 the Association for a World University wrote Dr. Jordan, indicating that Marian's proposal had been accepted. Dr. Jordan was on his way to a meeting with the Association when he was murdered. Dr. Hippschen also died in this time frame. The Association for a World University lapsed into non-existence.

Meanwhile, in 1981 Successful Self-Direction (SSD) was revived by Mr. Douglas McAdam (a current Foundation for the Investigation of Reality Board Member) and Mrs. Lee McAdam, a couple then residing in Nebraska. Mr. McAdam upon digesting the course was heard to say: "We all behave like spiritual juvenile delinquents from time to time!"

In July of 1981 Miss Norma Gimlin called Marian and offered to move to York (Maine) to help her with her work. She arrived in September or October and Marian, her husband Ted and Norma founded the Science of Reality Foundation, and two other Baha'is attracted by Marian's work, Doug and Lee McAdam were made members of this foundation in 1982. Also, Dr. Phyllis Gudger-Porter became active in the foundation's work. Norma told Marian about Columbia Pacific University (CPU), and urged Marian to earn academic credit for her work. Marian contacted CPU and in short order was granted a B.S. based on her work as an engineer in the 1940s and 1950s. Later that year, Norma moved to New Jersey to work for Univision, Inc. Marian and Nancy Jordan taught over two hundred students at the Southern California Winter School in January 1982, presenting a three-day institute on the "Worlds of God." During this year, Marian created an Advisory Board for the Science of Reality Foundation, including as members her two sons, Ted Jr. and Ray, and her Baha'i grand-daughter. On May 28 the NSA wrote the NRLC recommending that Mr. Ed Fox, Mr. Lee Nelson and G.A. Collier be approached regarding the computerization of the Master Index. On the third of December 1982, Edward C. Lippitt, her beloved husband and the financial mainstay of her thirty years of service to the Baha'i Faith, passed into the next world. The three persons Marian contacted were ultimately unable to commit to a viable plan to computerize the Master Index. Nancy Jordan, wife of Dr. Daniel Jordan, replaced Ted on the Science of Reality Foundation.

Marian remained in frequent contact with Lisel Lowen, Doug McAdam and Norma Gimlin, among others, writing long and detailed letters, mostly related to her ongoing development of secular courses related to the "science of reality." On 22 February 1983 Marian submitted an independent study project to CPU entitled "New Indexing Systems Based on the Compilation Entitled 'The Worlds of God'," and shortly thereafter Marian was awarded a M.A. in Liberal Arts in recognition of her original work in this field. Towards the close of this year, on the 19th of November, Marian wrote to Doug McAdam, describing her plan for the revision of the "Worlds of God" compilation. Her letters indicated that she was more than ever convinced that her work needed to be translated into terms which could be understood by members of secular society, that her "mission" was to introduce them to the "science of reality."

She had become convinced that her major obstacle to recognition was having no doctoral degree. So she continued, in 1984, to work towards receiving a Ph.D. from CPU. Towards this end she revised her unpublished manuscript--the book she had been encouraged to write for commercial publication by the NSA in 1960--"An Introduction to the Science of Reality," and this was to be her doctoral dissertation. She was in the process of editing this manuscript when she passed away, on the 5th of February 1985. CPU refused to award her Ph.D. posthumously--this was against their established policy.

With the passing of Marian, the Science of Reality Foundation and NRLC lapsed. Marian's papers were scattered, and are still in the process of being collected and computerized.

The story doesn't end here.

A couple years after she died, Diane Iverson--a Baha'i who had never known Marian--was living in Fellowship House at Green Acre Baha'i School, and came across the Master Index and related materials in the basement of Fellowship House, where the Index had been moved. Although she did not know what these impressive and imposing looking materials were, she felt mystical forces from the unseen world compelling her to protect them. In retrospect she believes this was Marian Lippitt trying to get her attention. She soon made friends with a group of other Baha'is, including some of the aforementioned people in this article, Doug McAdam, Mary Tomanio, etc.

The Green Acre Baha'i School was not interested in serving as custodian of this voluminous collection, and Fellowship House was about to be renovated, meaning the Index and other materials couldn't stay there, so this group petitioned the NSA for permission to assume stewardship of the former properties of Marian Lippitt and the NRLC, and offered to computerize the Index. This group received a letter from the NSA on 27 January 1992, which stated in part:

"The National Assembly feels that the information compiled in the Worlds of God Index is valuable and agrees that the data should be stored permanently in computer files. In addition, the cards themselves are important archival materials that need to be preserved properly.... We commend your desire to continue working on the index, thereby rendering a distinctive service to the Cause of God."

Since it was obvious that the NSA was not going to provide funding to these individuals for the computerization effort, they decided to form the "Foundation for the Science of Reality" (FSR), incorporated as a non-profit educational organization in the State of Maine, on 30 June 1993 (Marian Lippitt's 96th birthday), to raise funds for computerization and to carry forward Marian's science of reality work.

Mary Tomanio offered her house at 195 Main St. in Eliot, Maine (a property coincidentally nearly adjacent to Green Acre property) as the repository for the materials, and as the address for the Foundation.

In the summer of 1998, the Foundation's name was changed to "The Foundation for the Investigation of Reality," in line with the first teaching of Baha'u'llah: the investigation of reality. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by 'Abdu'l-Baha during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Comp. Howard MacNutt. 2d ed. Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1982., pp. 62, 180.)

Dr. Mary Tomanio passed away on June 5, 2001. Correspondence can be sent to: FIR, P.O. Box 202, Eliot, ME 03903.

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Page last updated: Sept. 15, 2001