Friday, April 3, 2009

"Divorced from the Institution of the Guardianship"

“Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship, the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated. . .” What did Shoghi Effendi mean by this?

Shoghi Effendi makes this pronouncement in his great expository letter “The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah:”

Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be mutilated and permanently deprived of that hereditary principle which, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written, has been invariably upheld by the Law of God. "In all the Divine Dispensations," He states, in a Tablet addressed to a follower of the Faith in Persia, "the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright." Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn. (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 148; hereafter, “Paragraph A”)

What does Shoghi Effendi mean by this? Does he mean, if there is ever not a living Guardian, the World Order of Baha'u'llah will be mutilated and all these unthinkable things will happen? Is the World Order mutilated right now, because Shoghi Effendi was not able to name a successor Guardian, and the Universal House of Justice functions as the Head of the Faith without the presence of a Guardian? Faithfulness to the Writings requires that we strive to understand exactly what he meant.


The purpose of this posting is to strive to understand Shoghi Effendi's intent in Paragraph A. To do so we will review a certain unique language pattern Shoghi Effendi uses when speaking of the inter-relatedness of the component parts of the Faith. We will see that Shoghi Effendi's intent was something very different from describing the effects of the absence of a living Guardian.



The Master's Translator
A photograph of Shoghi Effendi taken during his college years,
when he served as translator of the Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha into English

Copyright 2009 Baha'i National Archives, United States, reproduced with permission.
Please click on photo for larger image

The milieu in which Shoghi Effendi wrote about the Baha'i institutions

From the very beginning of Shoghi Effendi's ministry he provided emphatic and detailed instructions directing the
Baha'is to establish local and national spiritual assemblies. In these letters (e.g., Baha'i Administration, p. 20 and pp. 34-43) he pointed out that his instructions regarding these institutions were “in accordance with the explicit text” of both the Most Holy Book (Ibid., p. 37) and the Master's Will and Testament (Ibid., p. 39). This explanation laid a foundation for his “World Order letters” (published as the book The World Order of Baha'u'llah) written several years later, in which he elaborated in more detail the foundations on which the institutions of the Baha'i Faith rest. He wrote these letters to assure the friends that the need for these institutions was not his own idea, but was rooted in the sacred Texts, and in furtherance of the direction set by both Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha.

The principle of “inseparability” set forth in the first two World Order Letters

In these first two World Order letters (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 3-26) Shoghi Effendi elucidates the foundations underlying the institution of the Guardianship, and the institution of the House of Justice at all levels—local, national and international. He introduces these letters (“The World Order of Baha'u'llah” and “The World Order of Baha'u'llah—Further Considerations” by stating that his purpose is to set forth the true precepts of the Cause, regarding the validity of these institutions that stand “inextricably interwoven with the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 3), that are “inseparably associated with the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 13) It will help us if we fix those phrases in our minds; these terms “inextricability” and “inseparability” are extremely important, and embody what the Universal House of Justice terms “the principle of inseparability” elaborated by Shoghi Effendi. (“The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice,” letter dated 27 May 1966, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, paragraph 35.9, page 86) Understanding this principle is key to understanding the Guardian's intent in Paragraph A.


The Baha'is were not expecting the Institution of Guardianship after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha

During the lifetime of Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha never spoke to the Baha'is about the institution of the Guardianship. He frequently stated that after Him, the Universal House of Justice would be organized and would be the Head of the Faith. Dr. Youness Afroukhteh gives several examples of this (e.g., Memories of Nine Years in Akka, pp. 169-172). Furthermore, the Universal House of Justice was the only institution mentioned in the Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha during Their lifetimes to lead the Faith, and it was what the friends, worldwide, had every reason to anticipate would come into being soon after the passing of the Master. Shoghi Effendi told his wife and groups of pilgrims several times that he himself had no foreknowledge of the existence of the Institution of Guardianship, and at most thought that perhaps as the eldest grandson of Abdu'l-Baha, he might be asked to convene the gathering for the election of the Universal House of Justice. (The Priceless Pearl, p. 42) The very concept of the institution of the Guardianship was not addressed in the Writings of Baha'u'llah or those of Abdu'l-Baha until the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was promulgated in 1922.


The purpose of the first two World Order letters

Shoghi Effendi had to correct this mindset in the Baha'i commmunity—the belief that there had to be a functioning Universal House of Justice with him to head the Faith, and also to provide satisfying answers to the “misgivings” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 3) and “apprehensions” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 15) in the Baha'i community about the legitimacy of the previously unheard-of institution of the Guardianship and about the local and national spiritual assemblies. In these World Order letters he set out to correct these misperceptions and banish these concerns once and for all.
To this end Shoghi Effendi wrote,

“It should be remembered by every follower of the Cause that the system of Baha'i administration is not an innovation imposed arbitrarily upon the Baha'is of the world since the Master's passing” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 5).

This was what the “misgivings” and “apprehensions” were about—concerns that the Guardianship and the local and national assemblies were his or Abdu'l-Baha's innovation, and had not been part of Baha'u'llah's plan for His Faith. Shoghi Effendi explained that these institutions were a part of Baha'u'llah's plan from the beginning, and that the administrative institutions were as much a part of His plan as were the spiritual and humanitarian teachings of His Faith.
To demonstrate “the essential unity that underlies the spiritual, the humanitarian, and the administrative principles” of the Faith, (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 4) Shoghi Effendi employs the concepts of inseparability and mutilation:

“... the system of Baha'i administration ... is indissolubly bound with the essential verities of the Faith. To dissociate the administrative principles of the Cause from the purely spiritual and humanitarian teachings would be tantamount to a mutilation of the body of the Cause, a separation that can only result in the disintegration of its component parts, and the extinction of the Faith itself.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 5; “Paragraph B”)

When we understand what Shoghi Effendi means in Paragraph B by “mutilation of the body of the Cause” caused by “dissociation” or “separation” of the administrative teachings from the other principles of the Faith; we will clearly grasp what he means in Paragraph A by mutilation of the World Order of Baha'u'llah by “divorcing” the Guardianship from it. How would such a separation take place? Where would it take place? Would it be an outward occurrence in the Cause, an event? I suggest that he means that it would take place in one's own conception of the Cause of God, and in one's explanation of the Teachings. I suggest that he is saying that to treat these components of the Faith as “dissociated” from one another would be to hold a distorted—a mutilated—view of the Faith.

This ominous-sounding language in Paragraph B about the “extinction of the Faith itself,” equally as ominous as the language in Paragraph A, is not elaborating the consequences of an event that can occur in the Cause of God. Rather, this warning against “dissociation” and resulting “mutilation” is Shoghi Effendi's linguistic method to instill in the reader a proper understanding of the coherence of the component parts of the Faith. After reading Paragraph B the believers will never again make the mistake of viewing the administrative principles as dissociated from the rest of the Faith.


Understanding the Guardian's methodology in Paragraph B will help us to understand his statement in Paragraph A—that if the institution of Guardianship were to be seen as separate from the rest of Baha'u'llah's World Order, were to be wrenched from the original plan conceived by Baha'u'llah Himself and presented as an innovation unrelated to Him—such a distorted view would be a “mutilation”.


The essential unity of the Most Holy Book and the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha—Shoghi Effendi's caution to not “divorce” them from one another

In elaborating the foundations underlying the Guardianship, Shoghi Effendi had to address the fact that there was not a single word in the Most Holy Book expressly providing for the institution of the Guardianship; yet, he explained, Baha'u'llah had provided the motivating impulse for its establishment. Shoghi Effendi wanted the believers to understand that this institution originated with the Manifestation of God and is firmly rooted in His plan. To convey this, Shoghi Effendi first explained the intimate relationship between the Most Holy Book of Baha'u'llah and the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha. He describes the closeness of this relationship by stating that the Will of Abdu'l-Baha “confirms, supplements, and correlates the provisions of the Aqdas.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 18). He even describes these Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha as one Book, and Their last Wills as one Will:


“For nothing short of the explicit directions of their Book, and the surprisingly emphatic language with which they have clothed the provisions of their Will, could possibly safeguard the Faith for which they have both so gloriously labored all their lives.”
(The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 22)

Then, Shoghi Effendi again uses the term “divorced.” This word at one and the same time warns the believers not to view these Books as separate and incompatible, and conveys their essential unity and inseparability:

“It would, however, be helpful and instructive to bear in mind certain basic principles with reference to the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, which, together with the Kitab-i-Aqdas, constitutes the chief depository wherein are enshrined those priceless elements of that Divine Civilization, the establishment of which is the primary mission of the Baha'i Faith. A study of the provisions of these sacred documents will reveal the close relationship that exists between them, as well as the identity of purpose and method which they inculcate. Far from regarding their specific provisions as incompatible and contradictory in spirit, every fair-minded inquirer will readily admit that they are not only complementary, but that they mutually confirm one another, and are inseparable parts of one complete unit. A comparison of their contents with the rest of Baha'i sacred Writings will similarly establish the conformity of whatever they contain with the spirit as well as the letter of the authenticated writings and sayings of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha. In fact, he who reads the Aqdas with care and diligence will not find it hard to discover that the Most Holy Book itself anticipates in a number of passages the institutions which 'Abdu'l-Baha ordains in His Will. By leaving certain matters unspecified and unregulated in His Book of Laws, Baha'u'llah seems to have deliberately left a gap in the general scheme of Baha'i Dispensation, which the unequivocal provisions of the Master's Will have filled. To attempt to divorce the one from the other, to insinuate that the Teachings of Baha'u'llah have not been upheld, in their entirety and with absolute integrity, by what 'Abdu'l-Baha has revealed in His Will, is an unpardonable affront to the unswerving fidelity that has characterized the life and labors of our beloved Master.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 4; “Paragraph C”)

This language in Paragraph C exhorting us to not “divorce” the “institutions Abdul-Baha ordains in His Will” from “the Teachings of Baha'u'llah” is in essence identical to his warnings in Paragraph A not to “divorce” the “institution of the Guardianship” from “the World Order of Baha'u'llah,” and in Paragraph B not to “dissociate” the teachings establishing the Baha'i institutions from the rest of the Teachings. Understanding the Guardian's method in Paragraph C will help us to clearly see what Shoghi Effendi wants us to understand from Paragraph A.



Baha'u'llah's Room in the House of Udi-Khammar where He revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas
Copyright 2008, Baha'i International Community, reproduced with permission
Please click on photograph for larger image

The methodology of Shoghi Effendi
There are several points to bring out, that will help to see the pattern of the Guardian's method and more clearly understand his intent. First, the Guardian, referring to the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Master's Will, speaks of their “close relationship,” and of their “identity of purpose and method.” Later, we will see that he makes the same point in similar language when introducing Paragraph A—when writing about the relationship between the Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship. Secondly, he states that these Documents are not “incompatible” or “contradictory;” they are “complementary,” they “mutually confirm one another,” and they are “inseparable parts of one complete unit.” The Guardian again uses these same terms to describe the relationship between the House of Justice and the Guardianship, immediately prior to Paragraph A in the Dispensation. Finally, Shoghi Effendi says these Books should not be “divorced” from one another; and then he explains what he means by “divorce”:

“...to insinuate that the Teachings of Baha'u'llah have not been upheld, in their entirety and with absolute integrity, by what 'Abdu'l-Baha has revealed in His Will.”


This is what Shoghi Effendi is saying in Paragraph C; that it is wrong to believe that the institution of the Guardianship originated with Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi acting on His own, avulsed from the purpose of Baha'u'llah:
“It should be remembered by every follower of the Cause that the system of Bahá'í administration is not an innovation imposed arbitrarily upon the Baha'is of the world since the Master's passing.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 5)

Rather, the institution of Guardianship was rooted in the Aqdas itself; and Abdu'l-Baha's formal establishment of the Guardianship was faithful to Baha'u'llah's design and carried out Baha'u'llah's purpose. Warning not to “divorce” them, and describing such a divorce as a “mutilation,” conveys this sense of closeness and embeds it deeply in the consciousness of the believers.
Rather, the institutions established in the Master's Will and Testament must be viewed as a supplement to the Aqdas, as fully supportive of its provisions, and as completing Baha'u'llah's own design for His World Order which was clearly anticipated in the Most Holy Book.


Historical front view of the House of the Master
The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was first read publicly here in January, 1922
Copyright 2006 Baha'i International Community, reproduced with permission
Please click on photograph for larger image

The Institutions in the System established by Abdu'l-Baha must not be divorced from the teachings of Baha'u'llah
Believing that Abdu'l-Baha veers from the Most Holy Book is to wrench the institutions provided for in the Will from the design of Baha'u'llah—to “divorce” them from His World Order, and thus to “mutilate” His Cause:


The creative energies released by the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, permeating and evolving within the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, have, by their very impact and close interaction, given birth to an Instrument which may be viewed as the Charter of the New World Order which is at once the glory and the promise of this most great Dispensation. The Will may thus be acclaimed as the inevitable offspring resulting from that mystic intercourse between Him Who communicated the generating influence of His divine Purpose and the One Who was its vehicle and chosen recipient. Being the Child of the Covenant -- the Heir of both the Originator and the Interpreter of the Law of God -- the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá can no more be divorced from Him Who supplied the original and motivating impulse than from the One Who ultimately conceived it. Bahá'u'lláh's inscrutable purpose, we must ever bear in mind, has been so thoroughly infused into the conduct of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and their motives have been so closely wedded together, that the mere attempt to dissociate the teachings of the former from any system which the ideal Exemplar of those same teachings has established would amount to a repudiation of one of the most sacred and basic truths of the Faith.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 144; “Paragraph D”)

The final sentence of Paragraph D is another key to understanding Paragraph A, another example of “the principle of inseparability” which is a conceptual tool Shoghi Effendi uses to clarify the understanding of the friends: “Baha'u'llah's inscrutable purpose, we must ever bear in mind, has been so thoroughly infused into the conduct of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and their motives have been so closely wedded together, that the mere attempt to dissociate the teachings of the former from any system which the ideal Exemplar of those same teachings has established would amount to a repudiation of one of the most sacred and basic truths of the Faith.” That is, to view the institutions in the “system” which Abdu'l-Baha has established in His Will and Testament as dissociated from Baha'u'llah's “purpose”, as an innovation not in the Mind and original design of Baha'u'llah, would be to divorce them from Baha'u'llah.

Warning not to mutilate the truth of the Cause
Another passage in the Guardian's writings which convincingly shows that what he means by “mutilation” is to distort the truth by not seeing the elements of the Cause in proper relation to one another, is in his Introduction to God Passes By. Here, Shoghi Effendi uses the same methodology and the same terminology to illustrate the principle of inseparability.

In his Introduction to God Passes By, his history of the first century of the Baha'i Era, he explains that the four periods of Baha'i history must be understood as “closely interrelated,” as “inseparable parts” of “one stupendous whole,” of “one indivisible” drama having “one common immutable Purpose.” To “isolate” any one of these periods from the others, to “dissociate” them from one another, would be to "mutilate" the “structure” and pervert the truth:

"The century under our review [1844-1944] may therefore be considered as falling into four distinct periods, of unequal duration, each of specific import and of tremendous and indeed unappraisable significance. These four periods are closely interrelated, and constitute successive acts of one, indivisible, stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can adequately foreshadow. Each of these acts revolves around its own theme, boasts of its own heroes, registers its own tragedies, records its own triumphs, and contributes its own share to the execution of one common, immutable Purpose. To isolate any one of them from the others, to dissociate the later manifestations of one universal, all-embracing Revelation from the pristine purpose that animated it in its earliest days, would be tantamount to a mutilation of the structure on which it rests, and to a lamentable perversion of its truth and of its history . . . . These four periods are to be regarded not only as the component, the inseparable parts of one stupendous whole, but as progressive stages in a single evolutionary process, vast, steady and irresistible. (God Passes By, pp. xiv-xv) (“Paragraph E”)

This passage, concerned with properly seeing the relationship between the inseparable parts of Baha'i history, is relevant to understanding the meaning of Paragraph A, which is concerned with properly seeing the relationship between the inseparable parts of Baha'u'llah's World Order. In both instances, to see them isolated or divorced from one another is to mutilate the truth.


The Institution of the Guardianship was clearly anticipated in the implications of the Most Holy Book

Now that Shoghi Effendi has firmly implanted in the mind of the reader that the Most Holy Book and the Master's Will are one inseparable unit, he demonstrates that the institution of the Guardianship originated with Baha'u'llah, not with Abdu'l-Baha.
On page 214 of "God Passes By", Shoghi Effendi states that in the Most Holy Book Baha'u'llah "anticipates by implication the institution of Guardianship." He makes a similar statement in the “Dispensation” when he writes, “in the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship.” can be discerned “the faint glimmerings” and “the earliest intimation of the nature and working of the Administrative Order which the Will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was at a later time destined to proclaim and formally establish.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 147)

The point of this statement is to show that even though the institution of the Guardianship was formally established by Abdu'l-Baha in the Will, it does not originate with Abdu'l-Baha. The institution of the Guardianship is anticipated in the Most Holy Book, it is an essential part of the design of Baha'u'llah Himself; and as we see in these other passages, it must not be “divorced” from Him.


“The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah”—The Twin Institutions of the Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship

Now that we understand the method and purpose of Shoghi Effendi, let us turn our attention to Paragraph A, in his monumental letter “The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah.” It clarifies our understanding to see that in speaking of the interrelationship between the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice in Paragraph A, Shoghi Effendi uses the same methodology as he used in Paragraphs B, C, D and E.


One reason that Paragraph A concerning divorce of the institution of Guardianship is often misunderstood, is that it is presented in isolation. If we read it in context with the paragraph preceding it and the paragraph following it, we will see it in its true light:

It should be stated, at the very outset, in clear and unambiguous language, that these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions -- instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other's authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims. (“Paragraph F”)

Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated and permanently deprived of that hereditary principle which, as 'Abdu'l-Baha has written, has been invariably upheld by the Law of God. "In all the Divine Dispensations," He states, in a Tablet addressed to a follower of the Faith in Persia, "the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright." Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn. (Paragraph G/ Paragraph A)


Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice this same System of the Will of 'Abdu'l-Baha would be paralyzed in its action and would be powerless to fill in those gaps which the Author of the Kitab-i-Aqdas has deliberately left in the body of His legislative and administrative ordinances. (“Paragraph H”)
(The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 148. Paragraph G and Paragraph A are the same paragraph; for the sake of consistency I will continue to refer to it as “Paragraph A.”)

Striking Similarity

Please observe the language Shoghi Effendi uses in these three interconnected paragraphs. The Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship are described as “complementary in their aim and purpose,” as “permanently and fundamentally united in their aims,” as sharing a “common object,” as not being “contradictory” or “incompatible,” that each supplements the “other's authority and functions,” that neither detracts “in the slightest degree” from the position which each occupies, and that we should see them as “inseparable institutions” and neither of them as “divorced” or “severed” from the World Order of Baha'u'llah.
This is strikingly similar to the language he used in Paragraphs C and D describing the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament as sharing an “identity of purpose and method,” as not being “incompatible” or “contradictory in spirit,” as “inseparable parts of one complete unit” that they “mutually confirm one another,” and we should not “divorce” them from one another or from the World Order plan of Baha'u'llah. In fact, the Guardian is really saying the same thing in all of these paragraphs, though he is being more specific with reference to the Universal House of Justice in these latter paragraphs F, A and H.

Now, to examine Paragraph A one phrase at a time:


_______________

Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated

With these words Shoghi Effendi is saying that the institution of the Guardianship is not an innovation that was conceived after Baha'u'llah—it is a creation of Baha'u'llah Himself. To view the Guardianship as divorced from His World Order, to wrench it from His plan, is to hold a mutilated view of the World Order of Baha'u'llah.

On the page previous to Paragraph A, Shoghi Effendi had made a statement that really summarizes these latter three paragraphs: “...the nature of the relationships which, on the one hand, bind together these two fundamental organs of the Will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and connect, on the other, each of them to the Author of the Faith and the Center of His Covenant."   (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 147) He is summarizing those relationships in Paragraphs A and H.

______________


Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be . . . permanently deprived of that hereditary principle which, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written, has been invariably upheld by the Law of God. "In all the Divine Dispensations," He states, in a Tablet addressed to a follower of the Faith in Persia, "the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright."

It is not my purpose to state that there is no loss to the Baha'i Faith because there is no living Guardian. The House of Justice has itself written, “we must never underestimate the grievous loss that the Faith has suffered.” (“Comments on the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice,” Letter to an individual dated 7 December 1969; Messages From the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, Paragraph 75.14, p. 159)

In Paragraph A, Shoghi Effendi is not laying out the losses to the Faith if there should come a time when there was not a living Guardian. He is laying out the losses to the Faith if there had never been an institution of Guardianship in Baha'u'llah's plan of World Order.


It is my understanding that he is saying that if Baha'u'llah had not provided for the institution of the Guardianship, His plan for World Order would have lacked a principle that is seen in all of the divine Dispensations.

Shoghi Effendi has explained that the Baha'i Faith:
". . . incorporates within its structure certain elements which are to be found in each of the three recognized forms of secular government, is devoid of the defects which each of them inherently possesses, and blends the salutary truths which each undoubtedly contains without vitiating in any way the integrity of the Divine verities on which it is essentially founded. The hereditary authority which the Guardian of the Administrative Order is called upon to exercise, and the right of the interpretation of the Holy Writ solely conferred upon him. . .” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 326) These three forms of government are monarchy (government by one person), aristocracy (government by a select few), and commonwealth (government by the many). The hereditary institution of the Guardianship represents the element of a hereditary monarchy in the Baha'i system. Shoghi Effendi is stating in this passage of the Dispensation that if Baha'u'llah had not established the Guardianship, although the hereditary element is “invariably” a part of every Divine Dispensation, the Baha'i System would have been “permanently deprived” of this element.

This statement also shows that in Paragraph A Shoghi Effendi is speaking at the level of principle and not at the level of functioning—he states that this would deprive Baha'u'llah's World order of the “hereditary principle.”


_______________

Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered.
This is entirely consistent with this passage from the Master's Will and Testament: “The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the Guardian of the Cause of God.” (The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 11)


However, maintenance of the integrity and stability of the Faith is no less a function of the Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi wrote that the “institutions” (plural) established in the Most Holy Book safeguard the integrity of the Faith (God Passes By, p. 213). He also states that the common object of both the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice is “to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings.” (Paragraph F). Shoghi Effendi protected the integrity and stability of the Faith for 36 years without the Universal House of Justice; and now the Universal House of Justice does so without the Guardian, and it uses his writings in exercising that function. However, the point of this statement in Paragraph A is that Baha'u'llah did establish both of these institutions, and that therefore His world order was not “without” the Guardianship.

An example of how Shoghi Effendi took effective measures to protect its integrity is, as he himself wrote, that he issued these World Order letters—and they and his other writings continue to protect the integrity of the Faith today:
“I feel impelled, at the present stage of the evolution of the Bahá'í Revelation, to state candidly and without any reservation, whatever I regard may tend to insure the preservation of the integrity of the nascent institutions of the Faith.” (Shoghi Effendi, “The World Order of Baha'u'llah—Further Considerations,” WOB 16) Again, Shoghi Effendi's purpose in Paragraph A is to state that if there had never been provision for the institution of the Guardianship the stability of the fabric of the Faith would be gravely endangered.

“This challenge, so severe and insistent, and yet so glorious, faces no doubt primarily the individual believer on whom, in the last resort, depends the fate of the entire community. He it is who constitutes the warp and woof on which the quality and pattern of the whole fabric must depend. He it is who acts as one of the countless links in the mighty chain that now girdles the globe. He it is who serves as one of the multitude of bricks which support the structure and insure the stability of the administrative edifice now being raised in every part of the world.” (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 130)

_____________

Without such an institution . . . Its prestige would suffer
Obviously the Guardianship, representing an “organic connection” to the Manifestation of God, (Messages to America, p. 8) “enhances the prestige of that exalted Assembly.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 7).
In like manner, Shoghi Effendi was well aware that the prestige of the Faith would be enhanced by bringing the Universal House of Justice into being to join him in conducting the affairs of the Faith:

“In these days the things that are regarded as the most imperative of all and upon which will depend the development of the Cause of God, the enhancement of its position and prestige and the promulgation of the laws of His Faith, are but two momentous tasks: first, to expedite preparations for the formation of the divinely ordained, the Supreme House of Justice; second, to complete the construction of the Temple in the United States.”
(From a letter dated 27 November 1929 to the Bahá'ís of Persia, translated from the Persian; Compilation on Establishment of the Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 333)

As he wrote, these institutions “supplement each other's authority and functions.” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 148)

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Without such an institution . . . the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking

Shoghi Effendi may here be referring to the power of the Guardianship which he demonstrated when he described the great trends of the Faith, both in the past and in the future—to read both its history and the broad sweep of its future course, in the light of the Baha'i Scriptures. Shoghi Effendi exercised this function in a number of his writings. His history of the Faith's first century, God Passes By, as well as his letter “The Promised Day is Come” place in historical perspective the impact of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah on the first generations living during the Baha'i Era. His World Order letters, on the other hand, such as “The Goal of a New World Order,” provide a glimpse of the pattern of future society, the broad outlines of the stages the Faith will pass through, to establish the future Commonwealth of Baha'u'llah. Shoghi Effendi states (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 33 and p. 35) that these predictions are based upon his interpretations of the Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. If Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had not created the institution of the Guardianship, we would not have such sweeping vistas of the steps that future generations must pass through, as these writings of the Guardian provide.


For example, in a letter dated August 12, 1941 Shoghi Effendi describes the potency of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah—how it has kept the Faith whole during the past, and that it would continue to do so through “present and future generations” up to the establishment of the Golden Age of the Faith. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, pp. 49-52)

In this passage from Paragraph A, Shoghi Effendi may also be referring to the fact that if elected members were not re-elected, the Guardian, being a lifetime member, would ensure that at least one member of the Universal House of Justice would serve a long term. As Shoghi Effendi wrote in his first World Order letter, the institution of the Guardianship “assures the continuity” of the work of the Universal House of Justice. (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 8)


Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, who served as a member of the Universal House of Justice from its inception in 1963 until his retirement in 2003 has written on this subject:

In the 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' Shoghi Effendi points out that one of his duties was to provide "the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its [the Faith's] elected representatives" (WOB 148). It is obvious that the reference here is to the elected members of Local Spiritual Assemblies, National Conventions, National Spiritual Assemblies, as well as of the Universal House of Justice. This function of the Guardianship was partly discharged when, under his guidance and direction, the Constitutions of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies were formulated and put into effect during his own ministry. What remained was to determine the boundaries of the work of the Universal House of Justice. The terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were superlative. He wrote: "Whatsoever they [the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice] decide is of God" (WT 11). He further added: "That which this body, [the elected members of the Universal House of Justice (WT 20)] whether unanimously or by a majority, doth carry, that is verily the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself" (WT 19). To complete his duty as Interpreter of these words in relation to the work of the Universal House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi wrote in his 'Dispensation' the following:

"The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá'u'lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other. Neither will seek to curtail the specific and undoubted authority with which both have been invested." (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 150)

It is highly significant that Shoghi Effendi, while defining his duty as Guardian to interpret what had been revealed, goes on to give the assurance to the Community, as well as to the world, that the Universal House of Justice, when elected, will never "infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain" of interpretation, which is the exclusive right of the Guardianship. This assurance was fully realized and permanently set in place when the Universal House of Justice, in its Constitution wrote:
"The provenance, the authority, the duties, the sphere of action of the Universal House of Justice all derive from the Revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh which, together with the interpretations and expositions of the Centre of the Covenant and the Guardian of the Cause… who, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, is the sole authority in the interpretation of Bahá'í Scripture…constitute the binding terms of reference of the Universal House of Justice and are its bedrock foundation". (Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, p. 4)
(Ali Nakhjavani, "Some Thoughts on the Ministry of the Universal House of Justice" p. 4)

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Without such an institution . . . the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn.

As the Universal House of Justice--the Body, as Shoghi Effendi wrote (Baha'i Administration, p. 47), "to which, according to the Master's explicit instructions, all important and fundamental questions must be referred"--
has explained, during his ministry Shoghi Effendi made a great number of such definitions:

However, quite apart from his function as a member and sacred head for life of the Universal House of Justice, the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, had the right and duty "to define the sphere of the legislative action" of the Universal House of Justice. In other words, he had the authority to state whether a matter was or was not already covered by the Sacred Texts and therefore whether it was within the authority of the Universal House of Justice to legislate upon it. No other person, apart from the Guardian, has the right or authority to make such definitions. The question therefore arises: In the absence of the Guardian, is the Universal House of Justice in danger of straying outside its proper sphere and thus falling into error? Here we must remember three things: First, Shoghi Effendi, during the thirty-six years of his Guardianship, has already made innumerable such definitions, supplementing those made by 'Abdu'l-Baha and by Baha'u'llah Himself. As already announced to the friends, a careful study of the Writings and interpretations on any subject on which the House of Justice proposes to legislate always precedes its act of legislation. Second, the Universal House of Justice, itself assured of divine guidance, is well aware of the absence of the Guardian and will approach all matters of legislation only when certain of its sphere of jurisdiction, a sphere which the Guardian has confidently described as "clearly defined." Third, we must not forget the Guardian's written statement about these two Institutions: "Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other." (Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, paragraph 35.6, p. 84)

Severed from the Universal House of Justice
The point is even easier to see in Paragraph H, which immediately follows Paragraph A:
“Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice this same System of the Will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá would be paralyzed in its action. . .” If “divorced” from the “institution of the Guardianship” is read to mean, “If there is ever not a living Guardian” then “severed” from the “institution of the Universal House of Justice” must be read the same way; and this is clearly an untenable reading, because the Universal House of Justice was not in existence when the Guardian wrote these words.

We can understand the Guardian's true intention when writing “divorced from the institution of the Guardianship” if we clearly grasp what he means by “severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice.” Since the Universal House of Justice was not in being when Shoghi Effendi wrote this, either the Cause was at that time “severed” from the House of Justice and “paralyzed,” or he was communicating something entirely different.


We can confirm with certainty that Shoghi Effendi did not view the World Order of Baha'u'llah as “severed” from the Universal House of Justice even though it had not yet come into being. In Paragraph A he states that one of the effects of the Universal House being “severed” is that the “System” established by Abdu'l-Baha would be “paralyzed in its action.” Near the end of the Dispensation letter Shoghi Effendi “contrasts” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 154) the “vitality” of the institutions of the “vibrant body of the Faith of Baha'u'llah” (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 155) with the “leaders” and “bewildered statesmen” of the nations who are “paralyzed in their action.”

No clearer statement could be made by Shoghi Effendi that the World Order of Baha'u'llah was not “paralyzed in its action,” and from this we know that he was not saying that the Cause was “severed” from the Universal House of Justice. Though he was functioning as the Head of the Faith without the other “twin pillar,” Shoghi Effendi describes the Baha'i System functioning without the “no less essential” institution of the Universal House of Justice as characterized by “vitality.” This should bring us great assurance about the intent of Shoghi Effendi in Paragraphs F, A and H.

Shoghi Effendi did not ever take the time to explain Paragraph H—never had to assure the friends that the Cause of God was not “severed” from the Universal House of Justice or “paralyzed in its action.” He did not do so because the point was clear; and we should understand Paragraph A in exactly the same way. The Cause was not then severed from the Universal House of Justice because Baha'u'llah had provided for it, and it is not now divorced from the institution of the Guardianship because Baha'u'llah provided for it.


Even though one of these twin pillars was entirely non-functioning throughout Shoghi Effendi's 36-year ministry, there was never hesitancy in his tone, never a sense that the World Order was in a weakened or impaired condition without the second source of divine guidance—the Universal House of Justice.
We now see the same vigor and confidence, rooted in the same divine promise of infallible guidance, exhibited in all of the writings of the Universal House of Justice:

“. .. Shoghi Effendi repeatedly stressed the inseparability of these two institutions. Whereas he obviously envisaged their functioning together, it cannot logically be deduced from this that one is unable to function in the absence of the other. During the whole thirty-six years of his Guardianship Shoghi Effendi functioned without the Universal House of Justice. Now the Universal House of Justice must function without the Guardian, but the principle of inseparability remains.”
(“The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice,” letter dated 27 May 1966; Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, paragraph 35.9, pp. 86)

The Baha'is must cling firmly to the knowledge that the Cause is safely in God's hands, that the Covenant of Baha'u'llah is incorruptible and that they can have complete confidence in the ability of the Universal House of Justice to function "under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One"....
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer dated 28 May 1975, included in the Compilation on the Covenant; The Compilation of Compilations Vol. I, p. 127)

The Universal House of Justice, which the Guardian said would be regarded by posterity as "the last refuge of a tottering civilization," is now, in the absence of the Guardian, the sole infallibly guided institution in the world to which all must turn, and on it rests the responsibility for ensuring the unity and progress of the Cause of God in accordance with the revealed Word.
(Ibid., paragraph 35.17, p. 89)


The members of the Universal House of Justice.
The members of the Universal House of Justice are, from left to right, Farzam Arbab, Kiser Barnes, Peter Khan, Hooper Dunbar, Firaydoun Javaheri, Paul Lample, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, and Gustavo Correa. They were elected by delegates to the 10th International Baha'i Convention in Haifa. Election results were announced on 30 April 2008.
Copyright 2008 Baha'i International Community, Reproduced with permission
Please click on photograph for larger image

It is this organic vitality of the Faith, so readily felt at the World Centre, whose exhilaration we wish every believer to share.
(Ridvan Message 1967, Messages From the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, paragraph 42.7, p. 101)

Above all, it must, with perfect faith in Bahá'u'lláh, proclaim His Cause and enforce His Law so that the Most Great Peace shall be firmly established in this world and the foundation of the Kingdom of God on earth shall be accomplished. (Ibid., paragraph 35.18, p. 89)

“. . . the vitality, the irresistible advance and socially creative power of the Cause of God, standing out in sharp contrast to the accelerating decline in the fortunes of the generality of mankind.”
(Ibid, paragraph 394.10, p. 624)

“. . . the House of Justice is in a position to do everything necessary to establish the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh on this earth.” (“Election and Infallibility of the Universal House of Justice, letter dated 9 March 1965; Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, paragraph 23.20, p. 56)

Conclusion

Paragraph A is not a statement of what we have lost. It is a statement that elaborates the “nature of the relationships” between the Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship, and between each of these institutions and Baha'u'llah and His World Order. Divorcing them from one another or from Baha'u'llah and His World Order is the subject of this paragraph. Paragraph A is also a list of the interconnections between the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. These explanations regarding the hereditary function of the Guardian, that he protects the integrity and stability of the Faith, enhances its prestige, provides for its continuity, and defines the legislative sphere of its elected representatives, are presented as demonstrations of the "principle of inseparability" introduced in the preceding paragraph of the Dispensation, Paragraph F. That is another way of saying that they cannot be divorced from one another. That is what that paragraph is about.


Without question, Paragraph A emphatically states the importance of the Guardianship. What it does not do is state that the Universal House of Justice cannot properly function without a living Guardian, nor state that the World Order would be "mutilated" without a living Guardian. What it does not do is to state that we are today "divorced" from the institution of the Guardianship.

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this greatly. The length of discussing and analysis is beautiful and vivid! Direct information from the Writings. Thank you for your time!

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  2. An eloquent illucidation! Worth rereading. As for me, my simple mind finds it helpful to think in terms of a metaphor: the three stage rocket that lifted the astronauts to the moon. The huge Saturn rocket could never attain orbit, massive as it was, yet its force was necessary to lift the second stage above the atmosphere. The second stage could not by itself have achieved orbit, but adding its thrust on top of the momentum achieved put the space craft into orbit; nor could it have reached the moon. The third stage, much much smaller than the first two stages, could never have reached the moon by itself; it depended on the speed achieved by the first and second stages. Each stage was "inseparable" from the others in achieving the final target, and each stage was specifically designed for its part of the flight. My point is not to suggest which stage of the Apollo rocket corresponds to which Central Figure, but rather to illustrate the point of "inseparability" of these stages, even though each carries out specific functions independantly and at different times.

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  3. Thank you, Brent, for this careful and close reading of the text. I think it is very helpful and clarifies matters well.

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  4. Hi Brent, I think the key proposition to understand what we lost for no having a living Guardian is the one that takes into account the TIME as a main factor, this one:

    "an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking,"

    "uninterrupted" and "series of generations" imply TIME, here is evident that the Guardian had in mind a serie of Guardians.

    So, what we need to identify is what is this "view", is it something the UHJ cannot have? is it the authoritative interpretation exclusive of the Guardian?

    In any case it seems the Covenant is strong enough to palliate this by other means.

    Do you agree with this?

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