Bahai News -- Albany Democrat-Herald - Archaeologist's motivation comes from Baha'i beliefs

Saturday, March 29, 2003
Last modified Friday, March 28, 2003 12:47 PM PST

Archaeologist's motivation comes from Baha'i beliefs

Archaeologist Joseph Shepp-herd has traveled in more than 50 countries and has lived overseas for more than half his life.

He will share stories from those travels and talk about how his Baha'i faith motivates him at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Old Linn County Armory Building, 104 Fourth Ave. S.W.

The meeting is the first in a series of monthly Multifaith Devotional Gatherings sponsored by the Linn County Baha'i community. Sheppherd, 53, was born in California and lived there until he was about 13 years old. It was at this time that he became interested in the Baha'i faith. Not long after that he attended a Baha'i world conference.

"That was my first experience with a culture outside of my own. From that time on, I wanted to learn languages and study cultures and see how they looked at the world," Sheppherd said.

He soon got the chance to see more of the world when his stepfather, a member of the military, was assigned to Germany. Sheppherd spent three years in Germany with his family and then began his own global journal.

He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of California-Riverside, and then a master's in anthropology/archaeology from Cambridge University in England. Intermixed with these studies, he spent six years in Central and South America, seven years in West Africa, 12 years in England and a year traveling in Central Asia.

Sheppherd and his wife, Jan, moved to Oregon about six years ago to be closer to his father. They live in Bend and he serves as the tribal archaeologist for The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

He said his Baha'i faith has motivated and inspired his career.

"This is a great profession for a Baha'i to be in," Sheppherd said.

He said that three central Baha'i beliefs are very useful to his work. All Baha'is share a commitment to the equality of all people, an understanding of the importance of diversity, and a belief that we all share a common fate.

"We profoundly understand the reality that we are all equal. This means that we are not superior to any other nation or group in the world," Sheppherd said. "And we are different. The realization that there is great diversity in the world, not just by race or culture. Every individual is a diverse entity. The only way to achieve unity in the world is to understand the fact that we are different and accept that."

Sheppherd has written 16 books. Some are technical works about his profession, while others, such as his latest, "A Wayfarer's Guide to Bringing the Sacred Home," are for general readers and describe his findings and his faith.

One topic he will talk about is the different ways that people around the world see the stars.

"When we look up at the sky at night, we all see stars, but we don't all see them the same way," he said. "Some see stars as dots, others see them as scintillating, some see constellations. Others don't see the stars, they see the dark spaces in between them. If you ask people to draw what they see, they draw remarkably different things," Sheppherd said.

He believes this is a very good analogy for our descriptions of God.

"We all experience the creator in our own way, but it's the same creator," Sheppherd said. "We all have the ability to experience things that are spiritual or religious, but we shouldn't presume that our experience is correct. All are approximations."

For more information on the monthly devotional gatherings, call the Baha'i office at 753-5752.

©Copyright 2003, Albany Democrat-Herald (OR, USA)

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