Friday, December 24, 2010

The Covenant, Bahá'u'lláh's "Supreme Gift", Protects The Bahá'í Faith From Schism



Summary

Each of the great divine Revelators has come to the earth to unify the hearts of humankind.  Each has come to unify a greater segment of society; and each has promised that a Promised One would come to earth to permanently establish the unity of all humanity.  Bahá'ís believe that Day has come--that Bahá'u'lláh is that Promised One, and that He has endowed the Bahá'í community with the tools to establish the unity of all of humanity. 

In order to establish the unity of all humanity, the Bahá'í community must protect its own internal unity. Just as Jesus said "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" In like manner, how can the Bahá'í community unify humanity, if it is itself divided?  Bahá'ís are enjoined repeatedly to associate with all peoples; but are emphatically warned to not associate with those few who seek division for selfish reasons, who violate Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant that is the primary instrument to maintain the unity of the Bahá'ís themselves.

In the past, every divine Revelation has faced the forces of opposition from without, and division from within, and these have sundered these faith communities. Bahá'u'lláh promises that these forces will not divide His Faith, but will only cause its light of concord and integrity to burn more brightly.  He established a written Covenant, appointing His eldest son `Abdu'l-Bahá as His Successor, and directing all of the Bahá’ís to turn to Him.  He also provided for the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice to protect its unity, and this was confirmed in `Abdu'l-Bahá's Covenant--His Will and Testament. The explicit assurance of these twin Covenants is that the Bahá’í Faith will never break into sects, that it is divinely protected from schism.  This Covenant is unique in the spiritual history of humanity and is one of the most wonderful features of the Bahá’í Faith.



‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Center of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and Author of one of the "twin Covenants" of the Bahá'í Faith
Copyright © 2010 Bahá'í National Archives, Wilmette, Used With Permission

The Twin Covenants of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, operating through the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, safeguard the Bahá’í Faith from disunity and schism. By "schism," Shoghi Effendi, the Authorized Interpreter and Head of the Bahá’í Faith after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, meant a permanent and broad breach in the community, such as has sundered Christianity and Islam from their beginnings down to the present day.  There have been many attempts to foment division within the Bahá’í community, but all have failed.  Some people claim that the Bahá’í Faith does have “sects,” and post lists of so-called splinter groups, stating that their existence disproves the protecting power of the Bahá’í Covenant.

Yet, Shoghi Effendi predicted such groups would arise, notably in a letter he wrote in 1941 to the American Bahá’ís, following the attempt of one such individual to subvert the authority conferred upon the Bahá’í institutions, and to turn the Bahá’ís to himself.

Shoghi Effendi said that it would be delusion to believe that the Bahá’í Faith would suffer no such attempts by ambitious individuals to create divisions. Rather, he said, the Bahá’í Faith will continue to experience attempts to undermine its unity, but that all such efforts to split the community and to establish sects will ultimately fail. He explained that these efforts to divide the Bahá’í community are brought about by individuals seeking influence and leadership.  These attempts to weaken the community precipitate crises that instead generate a greater revelation of the divine power resident in the Faith.

These crises prove themselves to be a process of purification from unworthy elements within the Bahá’í community, and demonstrate the resilient and mysterious power of the Twin Covenants. Most of these so-called "groups" have disappeared altogether, or are hardly more than the individual who started them or a family remnant.  Rather than proving that the Bahá’í Covenant does not protect the Faith from schism, these groups are actually proof that the Covenant effectively protects the Faith from schism. Nothing can prevent individuals from making such claims and starting such groups, but they do not grow, they do not divide the Bahá’í community, and they do not last. They start up, but they never take root, and never amount to a schism.  In this 1941 letter, Shoghi Effendi wrote that we should recognize opposition as a source of energy to advance the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh and galvanize the believers.  Far from weakening the
Bahá’í Faith such efforts instead provide a fresh release of divine power within it.

This subject is crucial, because it impacts on the oneness of humanity itself.  While
Bahá’ís are urged towards openness to the ideas of others, and each according to his ability is to engage even with those who are ardent opponents of the Bahá’í Faith; the command to leave Covenant-breakers to themselves, isolating this virus rather than exposing others to it by association, has succeeded in maintaining the unbroken unity of the Bahá’í community since its inception.

~ ~ ~ ~

As Shoghi Effendi wrote,
God has sent every divine Revelation to promote the principle of unity, in an ever-widening embrace:

"Just as the organic evolution of mankind has been slow and gradual, and involved successively the unification of the family, the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, so has the light vouchsafed by the Revelation of God, at various stages in the evolution of religion, and reflected in the successive Dispensations of the past, been slow and progressive. Indeed the measure of Divine Revelation, in every age, has been adapted to, and commensurate with, the degree of social progress achieved in that age by a constantly evolving humanity."
And, as Shoghi Effendi wrote, these Revelations are all part of one process of progressive divine revelation:
"The successive Founders of all past Religions ... from time immemorial, have shed, with ever-increasing intensity, the splendor of one common Revelation at the various stages which have marked the advance of mankind towards maturity..."
This principle is embodied in the ornamentation on the pillars of the Bahá'í House of Worship:





Detail of the exterior of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.A
Copyright © 2006 Bahá'í International Community Used with Permission

Please note, in ascending order, the hooked cross, the symbol of the divine revelations in South Asia; the 6-pointed star of the Jewish revelation; the cross of the Christian Revelation; the crescent and star of the Islamic revelation; and the nine-pointed rosette, a stylized 9-pointed star, symbol of the Bahá'í revelation

The Bahá'í Teachings expressly state that there is no "inherent superiority" in any of the divine Revelations.  Each of them is a reflection of "the progressive capacity, the ever-increasing spiritual receptiveness, which mankind, in its progress towards maturity, has invariably manifested."  That maturity is seen, in this day, in the Bahá'í teaching of the oneness of humanity.  Bahá'ís believe that the Bahá'í community is the primary instrument of this stage of unity.  Bahá'ís go to great lengths to ensure that this instrument is never itself divided.  Among these steps, is the protection of the community from those who would mislead it.  The authority to lead the Bahá'í community is embodied in its Scriptures--in documents that establish a Covenant between the Founders of the Faith and the Bahá'ís--a Covenant promising that the proper Successors are divinely-guided, and taking from the Bahá'ís a promise to turn to them. 

Today, that Successor is the Universal House of Justice.  Those who become Bahá'ís, and become parties to this Covenant, and who later falsely claim to be the rightful leaders of the Bahá'í Faith and seek to divert it to their own ends, are termed "Covenant-breakers," and to reduce their influence, Bahá'ís are forbidden to contact them.

In general, the Bahá'í Teachings are replete with admonitions to unity--unity with all people.  As Bahá’u’lláh wrote:

"They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations."
Shunning people of a different race, or religion, or economic group is contrary to the spirit of the Bahá'í Teachings. One might ask, then, would it not be better to associate with Covenant-breakers, and try to change their ways?  However, this is not the approach set forth in the Bahá'í Writings.  Bahá'ís are strictly enjoined from any contact whatever, with those individuals who have been declared Covenant-breakers, and their few followers. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence: In the nearly 150 years of the history of the Bahá'í Faith, only a few hundred people have been in this category. On this theme, Bahá’u’lláh wrote,
"Such exhortations to union and concord as are inscribed in the Books of the Prophets by the Pen of the Most High bear reference unto specific matters; not a union that would lead to disunity or a concord which would create discord. This is the station where measures are set unto everything..."
Likewise, when `Abdu'l-Bahá was in Chicago in 1912, He set forth the posture Bahá'ís should have towards those who would so fundamentally disrupt the oneness of the human family:

“Therefore, you must read the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh. You must read the Tablet of the Branch and regard that which He has so clearly stated. Beware! Beware! lest anyone should speak from the authority of his own thoughts or create a new thing out of himself. Beware! Beware! According to the explicit Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh you should care nothing at all for such a person.  Bahá’u’lláh shuns such souls. I have expounded these things for you, for the conservation and protection of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, in order that you may be informed, lest any souls shall deceive you and lest any souls shall cause suspicion among you. You must love all people, and yet if any souls put you in doubt, you must know that Bahá’u’lláh is severed from them.”


`Abdu'l-Bahá in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1912
Copyright © 2009 Bahá'í National Archives, Wilmette, Used With Permission

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian and Authorized Interpreter of the Bahá'í Teachings, explained through his secretary that this step is necessary for the maintenance of the health of the body of the Bahá'í Faith:

"Also, it has nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism. On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison."
`Abdu'l-Bahá elucidates this same teaching of Bahá'u'lláh, and also relates it to statements of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. This has nothing to do with the posture towards people who disagree with Bahá'ís, or who oppose the Bahá'í Faith, nor does it have anything to do with the posture towards Bahá'ís who violate the laws or moral standards of the Bahá'í Faith.  Bahá'ís are quite free to associate with all of them. This shunning is strictly related to those Bahá'ís who renounce the Covenant they once accepted, and who put themselves in the position of leadership, as explained here and further commented on elsewhere on this website.

1. Some ignore Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to seek unity and instead sacrifice it in the pursuit of their selfish desires.

Bahá'u'lláh urges us, "Consort with all men, O people of Baha, in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." And yet, there are those who oppose His Faith, which He describes as the "instrument of union" in the world, and seek its division. In one of His Meditations, Bahá'u'lláh vividly portrays the divine protection that has maintained the integrity of His Faith in the face of so many challenges:

"I know not, O my God, what the Fire is with which Thou didst light the Lamp of Thy Cause, or what the Glass wherewith Thou didst preserve it from Thine enemies. By Thy might! I marvel at the wonders of Thy Revelation, and at the tokens of Thy glory. I recognize, O Thou Who art my heart's Desire, that were fire to be touched by water it would instantly be extinguished, whereas the Fire which Thou didst kindle can never go out, though all the seas of the earth be poured upon it. Should water at any time touch it, the hands of Thy power would, as decreed in Thy Tablets, transmute that water into a fuel that would feed its flame.
      "I, likewise, recognize, O my God, that every lamp, when exposed to the fury of the winds, must cease from burning. As to Thy Lamp, however, O Beloved of the worlds, I cannot think what power except Thy power could have kept it safe for so many years from the tempests that have continually been directed upon it by the rebellious among Thy creatures."

2. All efforts to create a schism instead enhance the coherence of the Bahá'í Faith


As Bahá'u'lláh above describes, the energy of opposition is transformed by God into a "fuel" that becomes the motive-power of its growth.  This is also one of the themes of a highly significant letter Shoghi Effendi addressed to the American Bahá'í community on August 12, 1941 on the protecting power of the Covenant. (Throughout this article I will refer to this as his "Unconquerable Power" letter). In this letter, Shoghi Effendi wrote that, seen correctly, such opposition is a "cleansing agency" and a process of "purification":

"The schism which their foolish leaders had contrived so sedulously to produce within the Faith, will soon, to their utter amazement, come to be regarded as a process of purification, a cleansing agency, which, far from decimating the ranks of its of its followers, reinforces its indestructible unity, and proclaims anew to a world, skeptical or indifferent, the cohesive strength of the institutions of that Faith, the incorruptibility of its purposes and principles, and the recuperative powers inherent in its community life."
Designed to weaken the Faith, such opposition causes the release of a what Shoghi Effendi describes as a "Divine and inexhaustible energy" inherent in it:

"As opposition to the Faith, from whatever source it may spring, whatever form it may assume, however violent its outbursts, is admittedly the motive-power that galvanizes on the one hand, the souls of its valiant defenders, and taps for them, on the other, fresh springs of that Divine and inexhaustible Energy."

3. `Abdu'l-Bahá promises that the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh makes it impossible for anyone to create a sect of the Bahá'í Faith


The Bahá'í Writings are replete with extraordinary praises of the Covenant.  `Abdu'l-Bahá referred to it as "a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like."   During the course of an address in the City of the Covenant, He further described this Covenant as "the most great characteristic" of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, and made the highly significant promise that the Covenant makes it "impossible for anyone to create a new sect or faction of belief."




`Abdu'l-Bahá in the City of the Covenant with the Kinney Family, 1912
Copyright © 2009 Bahá'í National Archives, Wilmette, Used With Permission


4. Shoghi Effendi characterized the Bahá'í Covenant as a guarantee against schism


Shoghi Effendi wrote of this Covenant as "the distinguishing feature" of the Bahá'í Faith, as its "hall-mark", as “a Covenant unique in the spiritual annals of mankind, as Bahá'u'lláh's
“peerless and all-enfolding Covenant,” and as "a Covenant of world importance, pre-existent, peerless and unique in the history of all religions." In his "Unconquerable Power" letter, Shoghi Effendi refers to it as a Covenant designed by Bahá'u'lláh as "the sole refuge against schism, disruption and anarchy” and as “the supreme gift conferred by Him Who is the Lord of Revelation upon the present and future generations.”


5. The Bahá'í Writings repeatedly assert that this protection from schism is a unique feature of the Bahá’í Faith


Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the
Bahá’í Faith, wrote through his secretary:

"The schisms that have afflicted the religions preceding the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh establish its distinction from all previous Revelations, and single it out among all other Dispensations, as stated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá."
(Lights of Guidance, p. 496 #1665)
and again:

"The fundamental difference, however, between this Dispensation and all previous ones is this, that in this Revelation the possibility of permanent schism between the followers of the Prophet has been prevented through the direct and explicit instructions providing for the necessary instruments designed to maintain the organic unity of the body of the Faithful."
These "necessary instruments" preventing "permanent" schism undoubtedly include the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice.

6. The Protecting Power of the Twin Successors

In addition to Bahá'u'lláh's appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá as His Successor, Bahá'u'lláh anticipates the institution of the Guardianship and establishes the institution of the Universal House of Justice, to safeguard the integrity and unity of His Faith. In His Will, `Abdu'l-Bahá makes this provision explicit, directing all to turn to the Guardian of the Cause and the Universal House of Justice. 

Shoghi Effendi states that Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá have, "in unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their chosen Successors."


That is, the Universal House of Justice is no less a Successor to Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá, than is the Guardian of the Cause. 

7. Shoghi Effendi wrote that the Twin Covenants of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá will protect the Bahá'í Faith from schism

While he generally wrote about “The Covenant,” Shoghi Effendi also wrote of “the twin Covenants of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abdu'l-Bahá.”   The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh includes the Covenant of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and it may be helpful to think of the Bahá'í Covenant in the way Shoghi Effendi here states it.  This is symbolized by the way that both of these documents--the Covenant of
Bahá'u'lláh and the Covenant of `Abdu'l-Bahá--were enclosed one inside the other, in an envelope addressed to Shoghi Effendi, as explained in this letter
The "Kitáb-i-`Ahd" is, as you know, Bahá'u'lláh's "Book of Covenant". It is entirely written in His own handwriting... It was shown to the believers, and was read in their presence nine days after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension. The manuscript was in the possession of `Abdu'l-Bahá all through His ministry, and after His passing it was found enclosed in His own will. These two precious documents, namely the book of Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá have both been carefully preserved and are now in the possession of the Guardian....
Indeed, Shoghi Effendi referred to these documents as one Will.

Through his secretary, Shoghi Effendi stated that these two Covenants are "the spiritual foundation upon which the whole Cause of God rests," and further wrote that the institutions they establish "must and will, in a manner unparalleled in any previous religion, safeguard from schism the Faith..."


8.  Shoghi Effendi characterized the defection of various individuals and their subsequent expulsion as a process of “purification”

The promise of the Covenant is not that such groups will not arise.  Shoghi Effendi promised that they will arise--but that they have no root, that they all will fail, and, in a passage quoted above in Section 2, that they ultimately purify and strengthen the Cause.  His wife Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum wrote that

"Shoghi Effendi pointed out that those who are inimical to the Faith always seize upon evidences of this purification process as a symptom of oncoming schism which they hopefully anticipate will bring about its downfall. But which never has." (The Priceless Pearl, p. 123)

9. Examples of failed schisms in Bahá'í history

There are many examples of attempted schisms in the history of our Faith.

M
írzá Muhammad-`Alí

During the days of `Abdu'l-Bahá, his half-brother,
Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí, who was mentioned in the Book of the Covenant, stood in extreme opposition to the Covenant.  At one time he counted as supporters a number of highly influential believers: Most members of the Holy Family; Ibrahim Khayrullah, the founder of the American Bahá'í community; Mírzá Aqa Jan, Bahá'u'lláh's amenuensis; and Siyyid Mihdi Dahaji and Jamal-i-Burujirdi, among the foremost teachers of the Faith in Persia. At the height of his brother's influence, `Abdu'l-Bahá reportedly told Dr. Youness Afroukteh Khan that although "a trace" of the violators of the Covenant of the Báb, the Azalis, would remain on earth, the following of Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí would entirely vanish from the face of the earth. ("Memories of Nine Years in Akka," pp. 261 and 381)  This promise has been all but fulfilled.  His followers are gone, and only a lingering remnant of Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí’s family remains to this day.

Ibrahim Khayrullah


Ibrahim Khayrullah was the founder of the American Bahá'í Community who taught such early believers as Lua Getsinger and Thornton Chase. Jealous of His authority, he broke away from `Abdu'l-Bahá.  As explained here, at one point his following in America was as large as those within the Covenant.  Those who trusted `Abdu'l-Bahá's promise that such a secession would not prevail confidently pressed on in their labors, securing the promised triumph.  For many decades since Khayrullah's death not a single follower of his has existed; his group has long since entirely disappeared.

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab

Another example is that of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab.  Having considerable talent as a translator, he accompanied `Abdu'l-Bahá throughout America in 1912.  During the First World War he was given the extraordinary honor of being the secretary to record the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to translate them, and to send them by post to the United States.  Each of these is in his handwriting, and bears the original signature of `Abdu'l-Bahá; an example is shown here.  After the War ended he was sent by `Abdu'l-Bahá with beautiful calligraphic renderings of these fourteen Tablets to promote the divine mandate given in them. For a full week, at the National Convention in 1919, he read each of these tablets and commented on them.  Sohrab enjoyed great prestige in the American Bahá'í community during the last decade of `Abdu'l-Bahá's life.  Yet, following the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Sohrab was jealous of the authority given to the institutions of the Faith--the Guardianship, and the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies--and he refused to submit to them.  He later started his own organization, which he naturally asserted was the true Bahá'í Faith, and he called it "The New History Society," which spread to many cities. He also started an international organization called the Caravan of East and West. Shoghi Effendi stated confidently  that Sohrab's group would disappear:

"There can be no schism in the Bahá'í Faith because the Guardianship is established on an unassailable foundation, supported by a signed, sealed document -- the Will. Schism can only flourish where there is ambiguity or no specific proof. The New History Society is like a branch that has no roots, and will soon dry up and wither. It has not caused, nor can it cause, a breach among the believers." 
It might have been difficult for some people, knowing of Sohrab's connections with notable figures gained through his association with `Abdu'l-Bahá' throughout His 1912 journey, and knowing of his fame in the American Bahá'í community, to see that Sohrab's groups would dry up and wither; but those who trusted to the guidance of Shoghi Effendi had this confidence. 

Despite the fact that Sohrab's groups have disappeared from the face of the earth without a single trace, they are cited today as evidence of schism by opponents of the Bahá'í Faith--opponents who unwittingly are actually demonstrating the protecting power of the Covenant.

10. Shoghi Effendi's "Unconquerable Power" letter prepared the Bahá'ís for the defection of Mason Remey two decades later

Shoghi Effendi said that to believe that the Faith would suffer no such defections, no attempts by ambitious individuals to start their own groups, was not only "unreasonable," but "sheer delusion."  He had the prescience to inform us that such crises would inevitably arise, sometimes even from the highest ranks of believers.  As he wrote in his "Unconquerable Power" letter:

"From some of its most powerful and renowned votaries, at the hands of its once trusted and ablest propagators, champions, and administrators, from the ranks of its most revered and highly-placed trustees whether as companions, amanuenses or appointed lieutenants of the Herald of the Faith, of its Author, and of the Center of His Covenant, from even those who were numbered among the kindred of the Manifestation, not excluding the brother, the sons and daughters of Bahá'u'lláh, and the nominee of the Báb Himself."
Some two decades later Charles Mason Remey-- noted Bahá'í architect, President of the International Bahá'í Council, and Hand of the Cause of God--attempted to seize the reins of Bahá’í leadership and start a new organization under him.  The progressive decomposition of his following is described here.  His group, too, and those who make false claim to position through him, are doomed, sooner or later, to the same fate as the many failed groups that have preceded them.

"By 1996 Remey’s following had largely disintegrated. Death had removed five of the principal figures: Mason Remey in 1974, Reginald King in 1977, Remey’s appointed successor, Donald Harvey, in 1991, Giuseppe Pepe in 1994, and Leland Jensen in 1996. Public disgrace and ridicule had reduced Jensen’s influence to that of a cult figure for two or three isolated groups in the American Midwest; those left in the BUPC [so-called "Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant"] were divided by infighting. John Carré had drifted off into esoteric religious pursuits only tangentially related to Bahá’í subjects. Jacques Soghomonian has remained a largely isolated figure. Joel Marangella’s group, the so-called “Orthodox Bahá’ís”, had testified in a court proceeding in July 2007 to having only about forty members in the United States. Some others are scattered in locations in Australia and India.
     "For the past decade, those who uphold the absurd claim of Charles Mason Remey to be the successor to Shoghi Effendi have sought to revive their fading hopes by establishing a presence on the Internet. Veiling the small size of their membership, these insignificant groups attempt to create the illusion of being rightful followers of Bahá’u’lláh and legitimate alternatives to the worldwide Bahá’í community. Though lacking the capacity to arouse interest among the general public, the remnants of the Remey defection still compete among themselves to draw in loyal Bahá’ís under their corrupting influence."
All of these small and fleeting groups do not demonstrate that the Bahá'í Faith has been sundered by schism, but rather demonstrate the effectiveness of the protecting power of the twin Covenants.

11.
The Bahá'í Faith will not be divided by permanent schism, unlike Christianity and Islam

Shoghi Effendi describes as "permanent and catastrophic" the schisms which have "afflicted Christianity and Islam," schisms, he writes, "that persist until the present day." In contrast, in his "Unconquerable Power" letter, Shoghi Effendi stated that despite many efforts, reaching back through its entire history, the opponents of the Bahá'í Faith have failed to create a "permanent and irremediable breach" in the Bahá'í community. He also affirms that they will never create a "permanent cleavage in the vast body" of the adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.  It is clear, then, that by "schism" Shoghi Effendi does not mean these many movements that have temporarily appeared in the Bahá'í Faith, flickered for a time, then passed into oblivion. By "schism" he means a permanent breach, with a significant number of followers--and because of the protecting power of the twin Covenants, and the effectiveness of the practice of the
Bahá'ís shunning the Covenant-breakers, this has never occurred in the history of the Bahá'í Faith.  Since the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, this has been due to the protective influence of the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, the bearers, the wielders of the instruments, of the twin Covenants.

12. The institution of Guardianship prevents schism

Through his secretary Shoghi Effendi stated  that there is no possibility of a "permanent schism," due to the "instruments" which maintain the unity of the Bahá'í community, among which are surely the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice.  `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote of the protecting
influence of the institution of Guardianship:

The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the Guardian of the Cause of God.
`Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi on the Steps of the House of the Master, Haifa, Israel, Circa 1919
Copyright © 2010 Bahá'í National Archives, Wilmette, Used With Permission


Shoghi Effendi consummated the charge he had been given by `Abdu'l-Bahá. He raised up the Cause of God, and safely delivered it, intact and vibrant, into the hands of the Universal House of Justice, in complete fulfillment of his pledge to the Greatest Holy Leaf, the sister of
`Abdu'l-Bahá:

“Whatever betide us, however distressing the vicissitudes which the nascent Faith of God may yet experience, we pledge ourselves, before the mercy-seat of thy glorious Father, to hand on, unimpaired and undivided, to generations yet unborn, the glory of that tradition of which thou hast been its most brilliant exemplar.”


13. The Universal House of Justice is divinely guided to prevent schism

Bahá'u'lláh Himself, in the Most Holy Book, sets forth the protective function of the Universal House of Justice:

"O ye Men of Justice! Be ye, in the realm of God, shepherds unto His sheep and guard them from the ravening wolves that have appeared in disguise, even as ye would guard your own sons. Thus exhorteth you the Counsellor, the Faithful."
`Abdu'l-Bahá also wrote that the Universal House of Justice would protect the Faith from schism:

"Praise be to God, all such doors are closed in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh for a special authoritative Centre hath been appointed -- a Centre that solveth all difficulties and wardeth off all differences. The Universal House of Justice, likewise, wardeth off all differences and whatever it prescribeth must be accepted and he who transgresseth is rejected."

The Universal House of Justice
Copyright © 2008 Bahá'í International Community, Reproduced with permission

Shoghi Effendi also wrote that the Universal House of Justice would protect the
Bahá'í Faith from schism:
"He has brought all the assemblies together under the shadow of the one House of Justice, one divinely-appointed Centre, so that there would be only one Centre and all the rest integrated into a single body, revolving around one expressly-designated Pivot, thus making them all proof against schism and division."
We can derive assurance from these many divine promises, of divine protection of the integrity of the Cause of God.

14. Sooner or later these groups will all be consigned to oblivion

In his "Unconquerable Power" letter, Shoghi Effendi assured the American friends that these groups that start up "cannot but in the end" be defeated by "the unconquerable power of the Covenant," that "sooner or later" they will be routed, will "ultimately decline," will be completely eliminated, and "their complete oblivion" will become apparent. This is not religious triumphalism.  Rather, Bahá'ís take joy and reassurance from this maintenance of the integrity of the Bahá'í community, because it enables it to effectively carry out its mission of establishing the oneness and wholeness of the human family.

These groups, even at their peak, bear no fruit.  Contrast the life-giving forces released by Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice--their guidance to the nations, their inspiring letters, their selflessness, their vigor, the cohesion they inspire, their expansion of the Bahá'í community, their upbuilding of the Faith and commitment to social betterment--with the life work of the Covenant-breakers, who have only one tune--a paean to themselves.

As the Universal House of Justice wrote to the Bahá'í World Congress in 1992,

"This Covenant is the guarantee against schism; that is why those who occasionally attempt to create a cleavage in the community utterly fail in the long run."

15. Shoghi Effendi's characterizations of those who oppose the Covenant:
Bahá'u'lláh described His Faith as "this most exalted, this most holy, this mighty, and wondrous Revelation", and in his "Unconquerable Power" letter, Shoghi Effendi characterized the attempts to divide it as "ugly and abortive," as "treacherous" and "shameless," as "odious," and "contemptible."  Each is a "base betrayal" motivated by "envy," "vaulting ambition" and "self-seeking," as well as by "malice," "abject perfidy," and "blind hatred." 

16. Explosive, violent outbursts

Shoghi Effendi describes the energy of such opposition to the Faith, and if we study his warning we will not be surprised when these things occur.  He states that opposition will be "fierce and relentless," characterized by "misrepresentations," and that these assaults will be carried out "persistently" and "sedulously."  He tells us these will be "explosive outbursts," "violent outbursts," "tragic crises," "setbacks," "commotions," and a "calamity." 

17. Rhythmic pulsations

If we prayerfully reflect on Shoghi Effendi's guidance, when such events occur in the Cause, whether precipitated by its internal or external foes, we will be prepared for them, we can approach them with courage and with the confidence Shoghi Effendi expresses here:

"The resistless march of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, viewed in this light, and propelled by the stimulating influences which the unwisdom of its enemies and the force latent within itself, both engender, resolves itself into a series of rhythmic pulsations, precipitated, on the one hand, through the explosive outbursts of its foes, and the vibrations of Divine Power, on the other, which speed it, with ever-increasing momentum, along that predestined course traced for it by the Hand of the Almighty."
All such occurrences will result in purifying and renewing the spirit of the Faith.

18. The "supreme truth" that opposition advances the Bahá'í Faith

In his "Unconquerable Power" letter,  Shoghi Effendi expressed the supreme truth that

"with every fresh outbreak of hostility to the Faith, whether from within or from without, a corresponding measure of outpouring grace, sustaining its defenders and confounding its adversaries, has been providentially released, communicating a fresh impulse to the onward march of the Faith." 
In contrast to the hostility, the ugliness and hatred that characterize these assaults, Shoghi Effendi describes the resultant spirit released within the Bahá'í Faith as a "revelation of Divine Power"; as "vibrations of Divine Power" and as a "more glorious unfoldment of its inherent power"; as "outpouring grace" and as a "more abundant effusion of celestial grace"; as "Divine and inexhaustible Energy" and as the "gradual crystallization of those creative energies."

These, he writes, proclaim "the cohesive strength of the institutions of that Faith, the incorruptibility of its purposes and principles, and the recuperative powers inherent in its community life."





The Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel in Haifa Israel
Copyright © 1998, 2010 Vickie Hu Poirier

19. Alternating crises and triumphs

It is important for Bahá’ís to have complete faith in the truth of this penetrating observation by Shoghi Effendi in the closing words of God Passes By, his history of the first Bahá’í century:

"Despite the blows leveled at its nascent strength, whether by the wielders of temporal and spiritual authority from without, or by black-hearted foes from within, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had, far from breaking or bending, gone from strength to strength, from victory to victory. Indeed its history, if read aright, may be said to resolve itself into a series of pulsations, of alternating crises and triumphs, leading it ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny."

3 comments:

  1. Brent... Do you have this in doc or PDF format for downloading?

    Jim Harrison

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  2. The short answer is no.

    Here's the long answer: I wrote it in OpenOffice and saved it in Word. Then I saved it as a text file because if I move it directly from Word into html, Word adds some weird codes that the blog software rejects, which get stripped away if I first save as a text file. Then I looked up all of the references and generated all of the hypertext links, because with all of these references, and my not knowing how to generate footnotes using OpenOffice, I was going to need to add them all as parenthetical notes, which would have been very distracting.

    I have an earlier version in Word which not only does not have all of the references; it does not have all of the text, because even as I was moving the document from a text file into the blog, I was modifying the text.

    So I had to sacrifice having a separate complete text or PDF file, in order to have a more readable document on the Net; and sacrifice people being able to have a list of all of the references.

    As you know, you can copy-and-paste from the blog into Word or another kind of text file, and you will have all of the text -- but none of the footnotes. I do not know if there is software that will also incorporate those if you copy-and-paste.

    So this is the first time I have written such an article with the document really only designed with all of the footnotes set up only as hypertext links.

    Brent

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  3. Brent, I'm finally reading this on the first day of the Fast. Brilliant description. This will be useful for years to come for all of us and our growing family. Thank you for this good work.

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