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qualified they may be, whether as teachers or administrators, and however high their intellectual and spiritual merits, should never be looked upon as a standard whereby to evaluate and measure the divine authority and mission of the Faith. It is to the Teachings themselves, and to the lives of the Founders of the Cause that the believers should look for their guidance and inspiration, and only by keeping strictly to such true attitude can they hope to establish their loyalty to Bahá'u'lláh upon an enduring and unassailable basis. You should take heart, therefore, and with unrelaxing vigilance and unremitting effort endeavour to play your full share in the gradual unfoldment of this Divine World Order."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 23, 1939: Living the Life, p. 7)
276. Two Principles to Follow: Doctrinal and Administrative Unity
"There are two main principles which the Guardian wishes the friends to always bear in mind and to conscientiously and faithfully follow. First is the principle of unqualified and wholehearted loyalty to the revealed Word. The believers should be careful not to deviate, even a hair-breadth, from the Teachings. Their supreme consideration should be to safeguard the purity of the principles, tenets and laws of the Faith. It is only by this means that they can hope to maintain the organic unity of the Cause. There can and should be no liberal or conservatives, no moderates or extremes in the Cause. For they are all subject to the one and the same law which is the Law of God. This Law transcends all differences, all personal or local tendencies, moods and aspirations.
"Next is the principle of complete and immediate obedience to the Assemblies, both Local and National. It is the responsibility of these Bahá'í administrative bodies to enable the community to acquire, and increasingly deepen in, the knowledge and understanding of the Cause. Doctrinal unity and administrative unity, these are the two chief pillars that sustain the edifice of the Cause, and protect it from the storms of opposition which so severely rage against it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma, September 5, 1936: Dawn of a New Day, p. 61)
277. Bahá'í Administration--Instrument of Spirit of the Faith
"The friends must never mistake the Bahá'í administration for an end in itself. It is merely the instrument of the spirit of the Faith. This Cause is a Cause which God has revealed to humanity as a whole. It is designed to benefit the entire human race, and the only way it can do this is to reform the community life of mankind, as well as seeking to regenerate the individual. The Bahá'í administration is only the first shaping of what in future will come to be the social life and laws of community living. As yet the believers are only first beginning to grasp and practice it properly. So we must have patience if at times it seems a little self conscious and rigid in its workings. It is because we are learning something very difficult but very wonderful--how to live together as a community of Bahá'ís, according to the glorious teachings."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 14, 1941: The Local Spiritual Assembly, pp. 28-29)
278. Bahá'í World Community Develops New Cells, New Organs
"In the human body, every cell, every organ, every nerve has its part to play.Page 80
When all do so the body is healthy, vigorous, radiant, ready for every call made upon it. No cell, however humble, lives apart from the body, whether in serving it or receiving from it. This is true of the body of mankind in which God 'has endowed each humble being with ability and talent', and is supremely true of the body of the Bahá'í World Community, for this body is already an organism, united in its aspirations, unified in its methods, seeking assistance and confirmation from the same Source, and illumined with the conscious knowledge of its unity... The Bahá'í World Community, growing like a healthy new body, develops new cells, new organs, new functions and powers as it presses on to its maturity, when every soul, living for the Cause of God, will receive from that Cause, health, assurance, and the overflowing bounties of Bahá'u'lláh which are diffused through His divinely ordained Order."
(Message from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, September 1964: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 37-38)
279. Believers Should Turn to Assemblies for Advice and Help
"The believers should learn to turn more often to their Assemblies for advice and help and at an earlier date, and the Assemblies, on the other hand, should act with more vigilance and a greater sense of community responsibility towards every situation that may damage the prestige of the Faith in the eyes of the public. When decisions have been reached by the Assembly, they must be carried out loyally and willingly, by all concerned."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 13, 1944: The Local Spiritual Assembly, p. 26)
280. Mission of Bahá'u'lláh, Friends Are Trustees of
"The friends have a great duty, first towards the Cause and then towards society at large. Bahá'u'lláh has come to the world with a divine Message and devoted all His life and withstood all forms of persecution in the hope of establishing it firmly. We are now the trustees of that Mission. It is for us to bring that task begun by Bahá'u'lláh to a final consummation. Should we fail, we have been untrue to our Lord and also remained deaf to the cry of humanity seeking salvation."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 15, 1931: Bahá'í News, No. 71, p. 2, February 1933)281. Believers Should Have Confidence in Assembly
"The believers should have confidence in the directions and orders of their Assembly, even though they may not be convinced of their justice or right. Once the Assembly, through a majority vote of its members, comes to a decision the friends should readily obey it. Specially those dissenting members within the Assembly whose opinion is contrary to that of the majority of their fellow-members should set a good example before the community by sacrificing their personal views for the sake of obeying the principle of majority vote that underlies the functioning of all Bahá'í Assemblies."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 28, 1935: The Local Spiritual Assembly, p. 26)
282. If Assembly Makes Ill-Advised Decision It Must Be Upheld
"One of the fundamentals involved in our Administrative Order, which we mustPage 81
remember will become the pattern for our World Order, is that even if an Assembly makes an ill-advised decision it must be upheld in order to preserve the unity of the community. Appeal can be made from the Local Assembly's decision to the National Assembly... But the principle of authority invested in our elected bodies must be upheld. This is not something which can be learned without trial and test...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany and Austria, June 30, 1949: Ibid.)
283. If Assembly Makes a Mistake--God Will Right the Wrongs Done
"The Assembly may make a mistake, but, as the Master pointed out, if the Community does not abide by its decisions, or the individual Bahá'í, the result is worse, as it undermines the very institution which must be strengthened in order to uphold the principles and laws of the Faith. He tells us God will right the wrongs done. We must have confidence in this and obey our Assemblies. He therefore strongly urges you to work directly under your Bahá'í Assembly, to accept your responsibilities as a voting member, and do your utmost to create harmony within the community."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer in 1949: Ibid., p. 27)284. Obedience, Patience and Restraint
"The friends should therefore not feel discouraged at the differences of opinion that may prevail among the members of an Assembly for these, as experience has shown, and as the Master's words attest, fulfil a valuable function in all Assembly deliberations. But once the opinion of the majority has been ascertained, all the members should automatically and unreservedly obey it, and faithfully carry it out. Patience and restraint, however, should at all times characterize the discussions and deliberations of the elected representatives of the local community, and no fruitless and hair-splitting discussions indulged in, under any circumstances."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 18, 1939: Ibid., pp. 18-19)
285. Criticism to Assemblies--Bahá'ís Can Freely Air Their Views
"The Bahá'ís are fully entitled to address criticisms to their Assemblies; they can freely air their views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the Assembly, Local or National, but then they must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the Assembly, according to the principles already laid down for such matters in Bahá'í administration."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, May 13, 1945: Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)
286. No Protection for Faith Unless Friends Submit to Administrative Bodies
"...There can be no protection for the Faith unless the friends are willing to submit to their administrative bodies, especially when these are acting in good faith; the individual believers are not in a position to judge their National Body. If any wrong has been done, we must leave it in the hands of God, knowing, asPage 82
Abdu'l-Bahá said, that He will right it, and in the meantime not disrupt the Cause of God by constantly harping on these matters."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 3, 1957: The National Spiritual Assembly, p. 37)287. If Bahá'ís Undermine Leaders
"The Guardian believes that a great deal of the difficulties from which the believers ... feel themselves to be suffering are caused by their neither correctly understanding nor putting into practice the administration. They seem--many of them--to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their Assemblies. If the Bahá'ís undermine the very leaders which are, however immaturely, seeking to coordinate Bahá'í activities and administer Bahá'í affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith's development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves!"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 26, 1943: Ibid., pp. 34-35)
288. Believers Have the Right to Express Their Criticism Action of Assembly, But Not in a Way to Undermine Its Authority
"...with reference to your ... letter in which you ... asked whether the believers have the right to openly express their criticism of any Assembly action or policy: It is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the Community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community, and it is the duty of the Assembly also to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them by any one of the believers. The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast which, besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfils various administrative needs and requirements of the Community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá'í Community.
"But again it should be stressed that all criticism and discussions of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the Assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the Community."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 13, 1939)
289. Obedience to the Decisions of the Local Assembly Should Be Unqualified and Whole-Hearted
"The most vital matter on which the Guardian wishes you to fully concentrate is that of consolidating the foundations of the Administration. Not until your group learns to work efficiently through obedience to the Local Assembly and under its guidance can there be any hope for future expansion. The friends must all realize the necessity of internal discipline and order which only a properly elected and efficiently functioning body such as the Local Assembly can effectively maintain. Obedience to the decisions of the Local Assembly should be unqualified andPage 83
whole-hearted, as by this means alone can the community work as a united body and achieve something constructive and enduring."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of Vienna, April 5, 1936)
290. Local Assembly Should Not Criticize Policy of National Assembly
"As to the problem which has arisen in connection with the Newsletter published and circulated by the ... Assembly, the Guardian has already written about it to your National Spiritual Assembly, expressing the view that under no circumstances should any Local Assembly be given the right to criticize, and much less oppose, the policy duly adopted and approved by the National Spiritual Assembly. It is his hope that henceforth the problem of the relationship between the National Spiritual Assembly and the Local Spiritual Assemblies in matters of this nature will, in the light of his instructions, be carefully understood by individuals and Assemblies alike."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, May 19, 1934)291. Only One Remedy--Study the Administration
"There is only one remedy for this: To study the administration, to obey the Assemblies, and each believer seek to perfect his own character as a Bahá'í. We can never exert the influence over others which we can exert over ourselves. If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength. The Bahá'ís everywhere, when the administration is first established, find it very difficult to adjust themselves. They have to learn to obey, even when the Assembly may be wrong, for the sake of unity. They have to sacrifice their personalities, to a certain extent, in order that the Community life may grow and develop as a whole. These things are difficult, but we must realize that they will lead us to a very much greater, more perfect way of life when the Faith is properly established according to the administration."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 26, 1943: The National Spiritual Assembly, p. 35)
292. On Individual Believer Depends Fate of Community
"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. Without his support, at once whole-hearted, continuous and generous, every measure adopted, and every plan formulated, by the body which acts as the national representative of the community to which he belongs, is foredoomed to failure. The World Center of the Faith itself is paralyzed if such a support on the part of the rank and file of the community is denied it. The Author of the Divine Plan Himself is impeded in His purpose if the proper instruments for the execution of His design are lacking. The sustaining strength of Bahá'u'lláhPage 84
Himself, the Founder of the Faith, will be withheld from every and each individual, who fails in the long run to arise and play his part."(Shoghi Effendi: Citadel of Faith, pp. 130-131)
293. Voting List, Names Should Not Be Removed from
"Your Assembly should not remove the names of Bahá'ís from the voting list just because they do not attend meetings or just because their addresses are unknown. It is hard to make Bahá'ís; and you must try and help them and reactivate them, and find those whose addresses are unknown if you can."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Assembly of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, September 26, 1957)294. Removal of Names from Voting List
"People who for years have ceased to either attend meetings or show the slightest interest in the Cause can be dropped from the voting list; but any who are unable to attend meetings, but still consider themselves to be Bahá'ís and are desirous of keeping up their contact with the Faith, should naturally be kept on the voting list."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, May 29, 1946)
295. Inactive and Unresponsive Believers Often Need Encouragement
"He feels that people who are inactive should not automatically be removed from the voting list; each individual, in such matters, must be considered as an individual case. He is constantly trying to avoid the needless multiplication of rules and procedures, and that is why he urges the friends, and responsible bodies, to use patience, good judgement, and tact in handling such cases, and not just start a new rule of thumb to solve the question en masse.
"When accepting new believers we must certainly not hold their past against them, but hope that the faith they have in Bahá'u'lláh will help them to change their characters and ways of living--as we know so often happens. We must not add any conditions for Bahá'í membership beyond those already outlined by the Guardian himself as absolutely necessary.
"It is very discouraging to find inactive and unresponsive believers; on the other hand we must always realize that some souls are weak and immature and not capable of carrying on an active administrative burden. They need encouragement, the love of their fellow Bahá'ís, and assistance. To blame them for not doing more for the Cause is useless, and they may actually have a very firm belief in Bahá'u'lláh which with care could be fanned into flame.
"If some of these isolated and inactive people gradually turn to other work than the Cause we should not always blame them--they probably needed more help, more stimulating, more teaching and Bahá'í comradeship than they received."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 25, 1947)
296. Inactive Believers--Names Removed Only When Clearly Stated No Longer Believe in Bahá'u'lláh
"Further guidance might be welcome and we share portions of a letter written byPage 85
the Universal House of Justice to another National Spiritual Assembly on 4 September 1966: '...Whilst it is embarrassing to leave names of inactive believers on a membership list, inactivity and lack of attendance at Bahá'í meetings are not the bases for removing names of believers from the membership roster. A name should be removed only when the person clearly states that he no longer believes in Bahá'u'lláh and wishes his name to be removed from Bahá'í membership. If the believer's whereabouts are unknown, his name should still not be removed from membership, but kept in a special list of believers whose addresses are unknown, and who obviously are not counted in determining the allocation of delegates.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, September 25, 1973: Malaysian Bahá'í News, Vol. 9, Nos. 2 3, June/November 1973)297. Reasons for Inactivity Should Be Ascertained
"Concerning your question about inactive believers, the Universal House of Justice feels that it would be somewhat abrupt to drop them from the roster simply because they have been absent from meetings or otherwise inactive. They should be approached and the reasons for their absence or inactivity ascertained, and only when such investigation leads you to the conclusion that the believer concerned no longer believes in Bahá'u'lláh should this definitely be recognized. Every case of inactivity should be investigated and the believers lovingly encouraged to become active. A distinction is to be made between those who are interested in the Faith but remain inactive and those whose inactivity indicates complete lack of interest in the Faith to the extent that they have in fact ceased to be Bahá'ís. In this latter instance removal from the list is simply recognition of this fact."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the North West Pacific Ocean, December 18, 1974)
298. Meetings Should Be Made So Interesting as to Attract the Old Believers
"You mentioned in one of your letters that some of the old believers who for many years had kept away are now coming back and attending the meetings. How wonderful it would be if all such persons together with all those who met the Master and whose life was changed through His influence would come along and help us in spreading these divine teachings! Perhaps the friends should take the initiative and make their meetings so inspiring and their activities so interesting and far reaching in importance that they would of their own accord come forward and lend us their help. Anyhow they would be a large army!"
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 9, 1932)
299. Must Aid Those with Unbecoming Conduct to Mend Their Ways
"As to certain of your voting members who have long been inactive, and whose conduct you disapprove of, he suggests you make an effort to find out if they still believe in the Faith, and if they do, and wish to be members of it, then they should be helped to mend their ways. If this patient and loving method does notPage 86
prove successful and they refuse to identify themselves with the Faith, they should be removed from the voting list."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, May 8, 1947)
300. If Person Does Not Wish to be Considered Member
"...If a person makes it quite clear that they do not wish to be considered an active member of the Bahá'í Community and be affiliated with it and exert their voting right, then their name should be removed from the voting list; but if a person considers himself or herself a Bahá'í, and for various reasons is not able to be active in the affairs of the Community, then they should certainly not be removed from our voting list...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany and Austria, March 2, 1951: The Nineteen Day Feast, p. 8)
301. The Personal Situation of a Bahá'í May Preclude Activity
"The House of Justice has asked us to point out that normally once a person has declared his belief in Bahá'u'lláh and this declaration has been accepted by the Assembly it should be assumed that he continues to be a Bahá'í until he states the contrary. If believers become inactive it is naturally desirable that the Local Spiritual Assemblies attempt to maintain contact with them and encourage them to become active unless, of course, it is obvious that their personal situation precludes such activity. For example, a Bahá'í who is married to a non-Bahá'í may well have to limit his activities to some degree in order to maintain the unity of his family. If during this process of encouragement it becomes apparent that the Bahá'í in question has in fact ceased to believe in Bahá'u'lláh and wishes not to be a member of the Bahá'í community, the Assembly would be fully justified in accepting his withdrawal."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Spain, May 7, 1975)
302. Those Who No Longer Believe in Bahá'u'lláh...
"Basically it is for your National Spiritual Assembly to decide who should be retained on the voting lists, but guidelines have been given by the beloved Guardian and by the Universal House of Justice. Obviously, people who do not believe in Bahá'u'lláh and those who have become inactive to the extent that they do not show the slightest interest in the Faith can be dropped from the voting list. On the other hand, people who are inactive should not automatically be removed from that list. Each case should be considered on its own merits. In some cases a spark of faith may be found which with care may be fanned into flame. Patience and good judgement are called for."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 10, 1975)303. Believers Whose Whereabouts Are Unknown
"Where a believer has been sought and his whereabouts and address are not known, the believer's name can be held in a suspended file against possible reappearance in another community, and need not be counted in delegatePage 87
assignments. You are correct in acknowledging that such believers retain their full administrative rights. However, a category can be added to the voting list for those individuals whose addresses are unknown. While this category need not be included in allocation of delegates, it can be included in such lists as total number of believers, semi-annual reports, etc."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, April 22, 1982)Page 88
II. BACKBITING, CRITICISM, FAULT-FINDING, GOSSIP, LIES, SLANDER, ETC.304. The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh
"Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness."(Bahá'u'lláh: The Hidden Words, Arabic No. 27)
"As regards backbiting, i.e., discussing the faults of others in their absence, the teachings are very emphatic. In a Tablet to an American friend the Master wrote: 'The worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting, more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting were shut eternally and each one of the believers unsealed his lips in praise of others, then the teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh would spread, the hearts be illumined, the spirits glorified, and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.' (Quoted in Star of West, Vol. IV. p. 192) Bahá'u'lláh says in the Hidden Words: 'Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command ACCURSED ART THOU.' The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language than in these passages, and it is obviously one of the foremost obligations for Bahá'ís to set their faces against this practice. Even if what is said against another person be true, the mentioning of his faults to others still comes under the category of backbiting, and is forbidden."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)306. Abstain from Fault-Finding and Backbiting
"On no subject are the Bahá'í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.
"If we profess loyalty to Bahá'u'lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 12, 1925: Living the Life, p. 3)
307. Jealousy or Petty Attitudes Can Only Be Overcome by Love and Tact
"...he suggests you write the National Spiritual Assembly in a loving spirit, andPage 89
point out to them how it distresses you to think that, after so many years of service, statements about you which you consider unjustified should be preserved. But even if these are not taken from the records it still does not make them either true or false. Many things are preserved in records as matters of opinion; no one has given a verdict on this matter!
"The only way jealousy or petty attitudes can be overcome is by the love and tact of the teacher; these are not things that can be solved by a 'ruling'."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 30, 1946)
308. Dealing with Bahá'ís Who Act in Ways Detrimental to the Cause
"The question of dealing with those who call themselves Bahá'ís but who act in ways which we believe to be detrimental to the interests of the Cause is a very difficult one. If we think we can help matters by a frank and friendly talk with the individual concerned, refraining from judging or condemning, but pointing out in as kind a manner as possible the way in which, as it seems to us, the sort of conduct in question is harmful to the Cause or of a nature forbidden by the teachings, then it seems well to try that method before resorting to the more formidable method of bringing the matter before the Spiritual Assembly. But if that fails or if we feel that it is hopeless to try and deal with the matter in that way, while at the same time the case is so serious that the interests of the Cause require that it should be firmly dealt with, then the proper course is to bring the matter before the Spiritual Assembly ... and have it frankly and fully discussed, calling such evidence as is necessary for the elucidation of the matter. After full consideration, the Spiritual Assembly should take such action as it deems advisable, and it is incumbent upon all members of the group to be loyal to whatever decision is arrived at by the Spiritual Assembly. There is, of course the right of appeal from the Local to the National Assembly, and from that to Shoghi Effendi,+F1 but the matter ought to be dealt with, in the first instance, by the Local Spiritual Assembly.
"...When a difficulty is brought out into the daylight and freely discussed by a duly authorised and responsible group of people who are sincerely desirous of finding the best solution and are free from prejudice or personal motive, then there is a good chance of overcoming it, but discussion of the faults of others behind their backs by unauthorised people who have no authority to take action in the matter, is surely one of the most fertile causes--probably THE most fertile cause--of disunity, and the importance of putting an end to this practice should be impressed on all Bahá'ís."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, followed by an extract from the Guardian's postscript, February 11, 1925)
309. Learning Not to Concern Ourselves with the Faults of Others
"As to backbiting, the House of Justice points out that learning not to concern oneself with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for people to master, and that failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Bahá'ís as it is among men and women in general. In 'Star of the West', Volume 8, No. 10, on page 138, there is a record of a reply given by Abdu'l-Bahá in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked 'How shall I overcome seeing the faults of others--recognizing the wrong in others?', and He replied:___________________
'I will tell you. Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections?--and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others...'
"You are quite correct in your understanding of the importance of avoiding backbiting; such conduct strikes at the very unity of the Bahá'í community. In a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the Guardian it is stated:
'If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980)
310. The Believers Need More Peace-Makers Circulating Among Them--A Function of the Older and the More Mature Bahá'ís
"What the believers need is not only, as you state, to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá'ís, are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation. It is one of the functions of the older and the more mature Bahá'ís to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers!"
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 11, 1950)
311. To Be Forbearing, Patient, Merciful, Rather Than Succumbing to Backbiting and Criticism
"You ask in your letter for guidance on the implications of the prohibition on backbiting and more specifically whether, in moments of anger or depression, the believer is permitted to turn to his friends to unburden his soul and discuss his problem in human relations. Normally, it is possible to describe the situation surrounding a problem and seek help and advice in resolving it, without necessarily mentioning names. The individual believer should seek to do this, whether he is consulting a friend, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í, or whether the friend is consulting him.
"Abdu'l-Bahá does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause. If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned.
"You also ask what one should do to 'handle depression and anger with someone' one feels 'very positively about'. The Universal House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our Writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others, to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthyPage 91
ones, and endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful. Such passages as the following extract from one of the letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary will also be helpful:
'Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being "perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect" and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy.... On no subject are the Bahá'í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding and backbiting, while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)312. Backbiting--The Most Great Sin
"...Thou hast written regarding aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh (Bahá'u'lláh) would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.
"I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.
"It is related that His Holiness Christ--May my life be a sacrifice to Him!--one day, accompanied by His apostles, passed by the corpse of a dead animal. One of them said: 'How putrid has this animal become!' The other exclaimed: 'How it is deformed!' A third cried out: 'What a stench! How cadaverous looking!' But His Holiness Christ said: 'Look at its teeth! How white they are!' Consider, that He did not look at all at the defects of that animal; nay, rather, He searched well until He found the beautiful white teeth. He observed only the whiteness of the teeth and overlooked entirely the deformity of the body, the dissolution of its organs and the bad odour.
"This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and the manner of the real Bahais (Bahá'ís). I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablet to Dr. M. G. Skinner, August 12, 1913: Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)
313. Backbiting "Quencheth the Light of the Heart"
"...Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul."(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 193)
"...Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá'u'lláh, i.e., the Administrative Order--and lack of obedience to Him--for He has forbidden it! If the Bahá'ís would follow the Bahá'í laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decisions, all this waste of strength through criticising others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1949: Bahá'í News, No. 233, p. 2, July 1950)
315. Suppress Every Critical Thought and Every Harsh Word
"When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow-Bahá'ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 16, 1951: Living the Life, p. 17)316. An Unwise Act or Statement
"...an unwise act or statement by a Bahá'í in one country could result in a grave set-back for the Faith there or elsewhere--and even loss of the lives of fellow believers."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 8, 1967: Wellspring of Guidance, p. 131)
317. Personal Differences and Petty Pre-Occupations
"He feels that you should do your utmost to call the attention of the friends to these large things, and real triumphs, and away from their personal differences and petty pre-occupations. Now is certainly not the time for any man to think of himself, or busy himself with the weaknesses of his brother; but, rather each and every Bahá'í must concentrate on the tasks ahead and be reborn in the service of Bahá'u'lláh."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the Area National Teaching Committee (U.S.A.), July 17, 1950: Bahá'í News, October 1970, p. 3)318. Like Ploughmen Each Has His Team to Manage
"...Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being 'perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect' and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticise their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 12, 1925: Living the Life, pp. 2-3)Page 93
"One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 169)320. Bahá'ís Must Be Distinguished
"I desire distinction for you. The Bahá'ís must be distinguished from others of humanity. But this distinction must not depend upon wealth--that they should become more affluent than other people. I do not desire for you financial distinction. It is not an ordinary distinction I desire: not scientific, commercial, industrial distinction. For you I desire spiritual distinction; that is, you must become eminent and distinguished in morals. In the love of God you must become distinguished from all else. You must become distinguished for loving humanity; for unity and accord; for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world; for faithfulness and steadfastness; for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world; for love toward every human being; for unity and accord with all people; for removing prejudices and promoting international peace. Finally, you must become distinguished for heavenly illumination and acquiring the bestowals of God. I desire this distinction for you. This must be the point of distinction among you."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 190)321. Believers Should Draw on Each Other's Love
"Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other's love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to draw fully on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 8, 1942: Living the Life, p. 8)322. Worst Enemies of the Cause Are in the Cause
"The worst enemies of the Cause are in the Cause and mention the Name of God. We need not fear the enemies on the outside for such can be easily dealt with. But the enemies who call themselves friends and who persistently violate every fundamental law of love and unity, are difficult to be dealt with in this day, for the mercy of God is still great. But ere long this merciful door will be closed and such enemies will be attacked with a madness...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá answers questions asked by Dr. E. C. Getsinger in the Holy Land: Star of the West, Vol. VI, No. 6, p. 45)323. Backbiting is Divisive
"...If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect:Page 94
would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 230-31)324. When Criticism and Harsh Words Arise
"When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá'í community, there is no remedy except to put the past behind one, and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and for the sake of God and His Faith refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 16, 1951: Living the Life, p. 12)325. If We Listen, We Are Guilty of Complicity
"It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbiting. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)Page 95
326. Bahá'u'lláh Admonishes Care in Preservation of the Tablets
"...The people of God should do all that lieth within their power to protect and preserve the Tablets. In the Land of Ta whatever there was in the homes of the friends was taken and fell into the hands of the heedless. We have commanded all to safeguard that which hath proceeded from the Pen of the Most High. We ask God to aid them to act in accordance with His wish and desire, and to draw them nigh to Him. He, verily, is the Almighty, the Powerful."
"We have commanded all to observe wisdom, but from the friends we see heedlessness and negligence. They should guard the Tablets as they guard their eyes, nay with greater vigilance, if they be of them that comprehend."
"Truly, none must be careless in the matter of safeguarding the divine Tablets. In former times, when plans were laid to seize some of the friends, before all else it was the writings that fell into the hands of the enemy. This is not permissible. The friends should designate a strong, secure place for storing the divine verses so that they may not be exposed to the touch of unworthy hands, even though these verses are, and shall always be, such as 'none shall touch but the purified'+F1"
(Bahá'u'lláh: From three previously unpublished Tablets, The Importance of Collecting and Safeguarding the Bahá'í Writings, p. 1, October 1986)
327. Tablets and Verses to be Gathered into the Archives
"In one of the Tablets, the Pen of the Most High, referring to this foundation,+F2 which provides the best and surest, the soundest and most perfect means of collecting, safeguarding and classifying the scattered, but growing body, of Sacred Writings and relics, states: 'It is the concern of the True One to reveal, and the concern of men to spread what hath been revealed. He will, verily, promulgate His Cause by the hands of His scattering and well-favoured angels. Spiritual souls will assuredly emerge from behind the veil of divine protection who will gather together the tokens and verses of God and put them into the most excellent order. This is His sure and irrevocable decree.'"
(Shoghi Effendi's 1954 Naw-Ruz Message to the Bahá'ís of the East, translated from the Persian: Ibid., p. 2)328. Bahá'í Archives, Institution of
"The importance of the institution of Bahá'í Archives is not due only to the___________________
many teaching facilities it procures, but is essentially to be found in the vast amount of historical data and information it offers both to the present day administrators of the Cause, and to the Bahá'í historians of the future. The institution of Bahá'í Archives is indeed a most valuable storehouse of information regarding all aspects of the Faith, historical, administrative as well as doctrinal."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, September 25, 1936)329. Future Generations Will Appreciate Archives
"...Future generations of believers will be surely in a better position than we are to truly and adequately appreciate the many advantages and facilities which the institution of the Archives offers to individual believers and also to the community at large."(Ibid.)
330. All Assembly Members Should Have Access to the Files--Certain Items Can Be Listed as "Confidential"
"In reply to your letter of May 13th, 1976 the Universal House of Justice instructs us to say that all members of the Spiritual Assembly are equal and should have access to the files and minutes of the Assembly of which they are members. It is, however, within the discretion of any Spiritual Assembly to so organize its files and records that certain items could be listed as 'confidential' and access to those so classified could only be had by a specific decision of the Assembly itself."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Assembly of Ireland, June 8, 1976)
331. Every Believer Has Responsibility to Assist with Preservation of Sacred Relics
"...has suggested to the Guardian that he should ask your N.S.A. to address an appeal to the ... believers urging them to co-operate with the National and Local Bahá'í Archives ... in their efforts for the collection of Bahá'í sacred relics, and specially the Tablets, and their safe preservation.
"As this is undoubtedly one of the most urgent tasks facing the believers at present, he strongly feels it advisable that your N.S.A. should once more impress upon the friends the necessity of their giving full and continued support to the truly valuable work which the National as well as the Local Archives Committees are accomplishing for our beloved Faith...
"Now that the Cause is rapidly passing through so many different phases of its evolution is the time for the friends to exert their utmost in order to preserve as much as they can of the sacred relics and various other precious objects that are associated with the lives of the Founders of the Faith, and particularly the Tablets They have revealed.
"Every believer should realize that he has a definite responsibility to shoulder in this matter, and to help, to whatever extent he can, in rendering successfulPage 97
the valuable work which National and Local Bahá'í Archives Committees are so devotedly accomplishing for the Faith in...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 25 September 1936: The Importance of Collecting and Safeguarding the Bahá'í Writings, A Compilation, p. 4)
332. Bahá'í Archives to be Established in Each Bahá'í Administrative Centre
"Another necessary and highly commendable undertaking is the founding of a Bahá'í Archives in each of the Bahá'í provincial administrative centres. ...Anyone who, spontaneously and of his own free will, donates material to the Archives of his National Spiritual Assembly--whether this be Tablets, books, pictures, objects or the like--and especially if his inheritors are not accounted of the people of Baha, or are not considered by him as trustworthy or reliable, will have performed a highly meritorious act in the sight of God, and his name will be perpetuated in the records of the Spiritual Assemblies and his memory enshrined in the Archives for ever."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of the East, July 1925, translated from the Persian: Ibid., p. 2)
333. Documents of Historical Value Should Not Be Destroyed
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 13th November, 1975 asking about the policy to be followed for keeping correspondence and we have been asked to reply as follows:
"While it is within the jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly to decide which papers in its files are not of long-term value and to have them destroyed you should always bear in mind the historical value of your files. Letters which at this time seem to be of little value could prove to be of great interest to future historians of the development of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in the... We suggest that when your secretary has sorted out from among your files the papers which she feels could be destroyed, you should appoint a committee composed of members of your National Assembly to go over them with their historical value in mind and submit a recommendation to your National Assembly. Obviously, those records or letters needed for legal purposes should be retained."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, November 26, 1975)B. Bahá'í Arts and Drama+F1
"...the Faith can certainly be dramatized, but two things must be remembered: no personal presentation of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh or the Master, only Their words can be used, but no figure must represent Them; great dignity must be the keynote."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, August 19, 1951)335. Dramatic Works
"With reference to your question whether the Figures of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh should be made to appear as characters in dramatic works written by the believers,___________________
Shoghi Effendi's opinion is that such an attempt to dramatize the Manifestations would be highly disrespectful, and hence should be avoided by the friends, even in the case of the Master. Besides it would be practically impossible to carry out such a plan faithfully, and in a dignified and befitting manner."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, January 27, 1935)336. Dancers Must Be Decently Clad
"Dancers may appear, but great care should be used that they are not indecently clad or the dances vulgar in any way. Naturally, there should be no dancers at regular Bahá'í meetings. Vocal soloists, of course, may appear."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 19, 1951)
337. The Artistic Presentation of the Faith Will Attract a Certain Type of Individual
"Lighting, sound, floral decorations, etc.; the House of Worship, too, may all be used, but the point to remember is that real beauty and dignity must be achieved, and all impression of our being in any remote sense a cult, or a group of 'artistes' be avoided.
"It is always good to remember that this more artistic presentation of the Cause will attract only a certain type--and, fortunately, a type hitherto ignored in our approach to the public--of person; other methods must also be used to attract other types, such as the intellectual and more reserved type."(Ibid.)
"Shoghi Effendi was very much interested to learn of the success of the 'Pageant of Nations' you reproduced...
"It is through such presentations that we can arouse the interest of the greatest number of peoples in the spirit of the Cause. That day will the Cause spread like wild fire when its spirit and teachings will be presented on the stage or in art and literature as a whole. Art can better awaken such noble sentiments than cold rationalizing especially among the mass of the people.
"We have to wait only a few years to see how the spirit breathed by Bahá'u'lláh will find expression in the work of the artists. What you and some other Bahá'ís are attempting are only faint rays that precede the effulgent light of a glorious morn. We cannot yet value the part the Cause is destined to play in the life of society. We have to give it time. The material this spirit has to mould is too crude and unworthy, but it will at last give way and the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh will reveal itself in its full splendour."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 10, 1932)339. Taking Part in Dramas--Dancing
"In the teachings there is nothing against dancing, but the friends should remember that the standard of Bahá'u'lláh is modesty and chastity. The atmosphere of modern dance halls, where so much smoking and drinking and promiscuity goes on, is very bad, but decent dances are not harmful in themselves. There is certainly no harm in classical dancing or learning dancing in school. There is also no harm in taking part in dramas. Likewise in cinema acting. The harmful thing, nowadays, is notPage 99
the art itself but the unfortunate corruption which often surrounds these arts. As Bahá'ís we need to avoid none of the arts, but acts and the atmosphere that sometimes go with these professions we should avoid."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, June 30, 1952: Dawn of a New Day, p. 153)340. Film Companies
"With regard to your question relative to the advisability of having Bahá'ís join film companies. Although on principle there is no objection if any believer wishes to become a cinema actor, yet in view of the excessive corruption that now prevails along such a line of occupation, the Guardian would not advise any believer to choose this kind of profession, unless he finds this to be the only means of earning his livelihood."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, September 4, 1935)341. Movies
"With reference to ... question whether it is permissible for the Bahá'ís to see pictures: There is nothing in the Teachings that would forbid such a practice."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, December 14, 1940: Dawn of a New Day, p. 85)342. Dramatizing Historic Episodes of the Faith
"As to your question concerning the advisability of dramatizing Bahá'í historic episodes: The Guardian would certainly approve, and even encourage that the friends should engage in such literary pursuits which, no doubt, can be of an immense teaching value. What he wishes the believers to avoid is to dramatize the Personages of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, that is to say to treat Them as dramatic figures, as characters appearing on the stage. This, as already pointed out, he feels would be quite disrespectful. The mere fact that They appear on the scene constitutes an act of discourtesy which can in no way be reconciled with Their highly exalted station. Their message, or actual Words, should be preferably reported and conveyed by Their disciples appearing on the stage."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 25, 1936)
343. If Light Suggests Personification of the Manifestation, It Should Not Be Used
"The use of light, either of great intensity or in different colours, needs your careful consideration. If the use of light in any way at all suggests a personification of the Manifestation of God it should not be used, but if it can be done without in any way giving the impression that the Prophet is being represented or personified then there is no objection to its use."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 12, 1975)
344. Prohibition on Representing Manifestations of God in Paintings or Drawings Applies to All Manifestations
"The prohibition on representing the Manifestation of God in paintings and drawings or in dramatic presentations applies to all the Manifestations of God. There are, of course, great and wonderful works of art of past Dispensations, many of which portrayed the Manifestations of God in a spirit of reverence and love. In thisPage 100
Dispensation however the greater maturity of mankind and the greater awareness of the relationship between the Supreme Manifestation and His servants enable us to realize the impossibility of representing, in any human form, whether pictorially, in sculpture or in dramatic representation, the Person of God's Manifestations. In stating the Bahá'í prohibition, the beloved Guardian pointed out this impossibility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 9, 1977)
345. Need for Skill to Produce an Effective Film about History of the Faith
"As you are no doubt aware, it is not permissible to portray the Manifestations of God in dramatic works and it can be understood that great skill will be needed to produce an effective film about the history of the Faith in which neither the Báb nor Bahá'u'lláh could actually appear. Because of the overwhelming significance of the Bahá'í message and the Bahá'í Revelation, any such film produced under the aegis of the Bahá'í community would have to be of the very highest quality in all respects."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 24, 1978)C. Bahá'í Authors/Writers
346. Bahá'í Authors Should Write in Such Manner as to Attract the Souls
"...Whatever is written should not transgress the bounds of tact and wisdom, and in the words used there should lie hid the property of milk, so that the children of the world may be nurtured therewith, and attain maturity. We have said in the past that one word hath the influence of spring and causeth hearts to become fresh and verdant, while another is like unto blight which causeth the blossoms and flowers to wither. God grant that authors among the friends will write in such a way as would be acceptable to fair-minded souls, and not lead to cavilling by the people."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on the Subject of Writers and Writing, A Compilation, p. 3, July 1980)
347. Bahá'í Writers Should Have Their Works Approved for Publication by National Assembly of Country Where Published
"It is not the practice of the World Centre to review the writings of individual Bahá'ís intended for publication. As you know, Bahá'í authors, writing about the Faith, are requested to have their work approved for publication by the National Spiritual Assembly of the country where such work is published. There is no objection whatever, to your submitting your manuscript to a non-Bahá'í firm, provided that the approval of the manuscript by the National Assembly is first obtained."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 10, 1981)
348. Bahá'í Authors/Writers Should Welcome Review of Their Works
"Bahá'í authors should welcome review of their works, and can greatly assistPage 101
promptness in review by supplying a sufficient number of copies of the manuscript for each member of the Reviewing Committee to have one.
"Bahá'í authors may submit their works for review to any National Spiritual Assembly, and may send their works, once approved, to any publisher they like, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í, at home or abroad. It should be remembered, however, that the approval should be given by the National Spiritual Assembly of the country where the work is to be first published. And in the case of a non-Bahá'í publisher the author should insist on use of the system of transliteration at present used by the Faith for languages employing the Roman alphabet.
"It is hoped that Bahá'í authors will provide a constant stream of new works. Introductory books, commentaries, dissertations on various aspects of the Revelation, text books, histories, reviews, audio-visual material are all needed to stimulate study of the Faith and to promote the vital teaching work."
(The Universal House of Justice: from Memorandum on Bahá'í Publishing, Ridvan 1971)
349. Review of Magazine Articles Written by Individual Believers
"In the Feb. 'Bahá'í News', page 3, it mentions that magazine articles about the Cause ... 'written by individual believers as their personal understanding of the teachings' ... need not be reviewed officially. He feels this is unwise, in view of the Master's own instructions that articles about the Cause should not be published by individuals without proper approval of some responsible body.
"The Guardian says the Local Assemblies can pass upon such articles; it is not necessary to refer them to a National Committee.
"So often persons can be carried away by their enthusiasm and express something detrimental to the Faith. Therefore they must either refer their articles to their Local Spiritual Assembly or the National Reviewing Committee."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, April 13, 1946)350. The Reviewing Committee
"It is recommended that Reviewing Committees be small, composed of two or three believers with adequate education and knowledge of the Cause. It is essential that works submitted be dealt with promptly. The standards to be upheld by reviewers are the following: (a) conformity with the Teachings, (b) accuracy, (c) dignity in presentation. The Spiritual Assembly, on the basis of its Reviewing Committee's report, gives or withholds approval of the work.
"...In general the function of a reviewing committee is to say whether the work submitted gives an acceptable presentation of the Cause or not. Reviewers may win the gratitude and good will of authors by calling attention to such things as occasional grammatical or spelling errors, but approval should not be refused on such grounds; all such details are editorial matters for agreement between author and publisher."
(The Universal House of Justice: Memorandum on Bahá'í Publishing, Ridvan 1971, March 28, 1971 to the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'í world, pp. 1-2)
351. Obligation of Bahá'ís to Present the Faith in Dignified Manner
"We approve your action in writing to the Public Information Department and in publishing a statement instructing Bahá'ís who are authors not to attempt or be persuaded to write articles on the Faith for unsavoury publications.Page 102
"It is an obligation of all Bahá'ís to present the Faith in a dignified manner and therefore when writing articles about the Faith they should take into consideration the type of magazine or other publication in which the article is to appear. Should there be any question about its character they should consult with the National Spiritual Assembly. In addition, all authors should bear in mind that anything written about the Faith for publication is subject to review before submission to the publishers."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 15, 1968)352. The Function and Purpose of Reviewing
"The function of reviewing is, essentially, to check the Author's exposition of the Bahá'í Faith and its teachings, which may include verification of any quotations from Bahá'í writings. This function should not be confused with evaluation of the literary merit of a work or of its value as a publication, which are normally the prerogative of the publisher...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, March 11, 1965)353. Purpose of Review
"...The purpose of review is to protect the Faith against misrepresentation by its own followers at this early stage of its existence when comparatively few people have any knowledge of it. An erroneous presentation of the Teachings by a Bahá'í who is accounted a scholar, in a scholarly journal, would by that very fact, do far more harm than an erroneous presentation made by an obscure Bahá'í author with no pretensions to scholarship."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 8, 1980)
354. No Objection to Bahá'ís Writing Novels Portraying Historical Events
"There is no objection to Bahá'ís writing novels portraying historical events and figures of the Faith. However, in view of the impossibility of ever portraying adequately the Manifestation of God as a character in a novel, and of the disrespect implicit in such an attempt, the House of Justice feels that no such portrayal should be attempted. Of course, His sayings and the events of His life may be recounted, but in this case care should be taken to quote His exact words as we have them in authorized translations, and events in Bahá'í history should not be distorted.
"Generally speaking, works of fiction which the writers hope will help to promote knowledge of the Cause of God will fulfill this purpose better if they are set against the background of particular events or developing processes in the Cause of God, and not used to portray the actual historical events themselves and the figures taking part in them. The reality of the actual events and the actual personages is so much more convincing than any fictional account. In this connection the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:
'He would not recommend fiction as a means of teaching; the condition of the world is too acute to permit of delay in giving them the direct teachings associated with the name of Bahá'u'lláh. But any suitablePage 103
approach to the Faith, which appeals to this or that group, is certainly worthy of effort, as we wish to bring the Cause to all men, in all walks of life, of all mentalities.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1980)355. Journalists
"There is no objection to your being a journalist as long as you try to keep off political issues; especially the big East-West issues. You have a talent for writing, and it might be of help to you financially and in making contacts for the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 30, 1950)
356. Sciences that Begin and End with Words--Bahá'u'lláh Never Meant to Include Story Writing Under this Category
"What Bahá'u'lláh meant primarily with 'sciences that begin and end in words' are those theological treatises and commentaries that encumber the human mind rather than help it to attain the truth. The students would devote their life to their study but still attain no where. Bahá'u'lláh surely never meant to include story writing under such a category; and shorthand and typewriting are both most useful talents very necessary in our present social and economic life.
"What you could do, and should do, is to use your stories to become a source of inspiration and guidance for those who read them. With such a means at your disposal you can spread the spirit and teachings of the Cause; you can show the evils that exist in society, as well as the way they can be remedied. If you possess a real talent in writing you should consider it as given by God and exert your efforts to use it for the betterment of society."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 30, 1932: Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on the Subject of Writers and Writing, A Compilation, July 1980, p. 6)357. The Faith Needs Bahá'í Authors
"Regarding the advice you asked him for, he feels that to devote all one's studies with the object of becoming a Bahá'í author is rather risky. We need Bahá'í authors badly, but you have to be assured that you have the talent to earn your living in that field, and also serve the Faith in it.
"He feels that the best thing for you to do is to devote your studies to acquiring a sound education, if you like along literary lines, and then see what develops."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 14, 1957)358. Doctoral Theses and Similar Treatises
"It has been decided that doctoral theses and similar treatises submitted to institutions of learning for the obtaining of a degree are not subject to Bahá'í review unless they are to be published more widely than is required for the degree in question."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 11, 1982)Page 104
359. No Publisher Has the Right to Alter Author's Manuscript
"A publishing trust has the right to refuse publication of any particular title, and a National Assembly has the right to review any proposed Bahá'í publication for accuracy and propriety. But no publisher has the right to alter or change an author's manuscript without his knowledge and consent."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 28, 1966)
D. Bahá'í Publication, Translation, Review and Copyright
360. Bahá'í Newsletters and Bulletins--Why Circulation is Restricted to "Bahá'ís Only"
"In reply to your inquiry of 18th November 1982 about Bahá'í newsletters and bulletins being for Bahá'ís only, we are asked by the Universal House of Justice to quote below from letters written by the Universal House of Justice or at its instruction to other National Assemblies which have asked similar questions.
'With reference to your letter of October 31st asking why the circulation of Bahá'í News should be restricted to Bahá'ís we wish to point out that the same reasons that make it necessary to restrict the attendance at a Nineteen Day Feast to Bahá'ís only apply also to the circulation of Bahá'í Newsletters.
'A Bahá'í news bulletin assumes that the reader is a Bahá'í and it would therefore normally contain items which are purely of a domestic nature of no interest to the general public and which, in some cases, may give the wrong impression to those not familiar with the Bahá'í teachings. However, there is no objection to the friends showing their newsletters to non-Bahá'ís if they so wish or find it useful at times. Furthermore, if the words 'For Bahá'ís Only' which appear on some newsletters are found to be offensive to the non-Bahá'í, there is no requirement for these words to appear on every copy of the newsletter.
'In answer to your query concerning the policy of keeping "Bahá'í News" for Bahá'ís only, the House of Justice instructs us to explain that the circulation of Bahá'í Newsletters is restricted to Bahá'ís because they are vehicles of news that is primarily of internal interest to the friends and the Assembly should be able to write freely to the believers without having to so word the information that it would be easily understandable to a non-Bahá'í reader. In other words, a Bahá'í newsletter is not secret but is an internal journal intended for an informed readership.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, December 19, 1982)
361. Usage in Spanish Texts of Accents on Persian and Arabic Words
"The question as to whether or not the accents on the word Bahá'í (and indeed on other words transliterated from the Persian and Arabic) should be used when the word is printed entirely in capital letters is one that should be uniform in usage throughout the Spanish-speaking world unless usage varies significantly from country to country. It is suggested, therefore, that you refer this question to the two Bahá'í Publishing Trusts in Spain and Argentina for their comments. The guidingPage 105
consideration should not be the usage in relation to accents on Spanish words, but the usage in Spanish texts of accents on capital letters on foreign words appearing in Spanish texts, such as the German umlaut, etc. It should be borne in mind that, whereas the accent in Spanish indicates merely a presence of stress, in the transliteration of Persian words it indicates a difference in articulation of the vowel. For example, the words 'VAHID' and 'VAHID' are two words with different meanings and different pronunciations."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, July 22, 1984)
362. Publications from World Centre--No Restriction on Use of Quotations
"There is no restriction on Bahá'í authors, institutions and publishing agencies using quotations from the publications of the World Centre, and permission to do so need not be sought. This freedom to quote likewise applies to compilations of the World Centre which have been published.
"Permission to quote from publications of Publishing Trusts should be sought from the Trust concerned except in cases where the Trust has merely printed a compilation issued by the World Centre.
"Of course, Bahá'í authors should seek review of their works by the National Assembly of the country in which it will be printed."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, December 11, 1980)
363. Copyright Clearance on Sacred Writings Not Necessary for Assemblies and Bahá'í Believers
"The Universal House of Justice has been concerned of late to note an apparently growing impression among Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers in many parts of the world, that they must obtain copyright clearance before they may quote from the Sacred Texts of the Faith in any publication. It has now instructed us to make it clear that the Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers are free to quote in their publications from any of the Writings of the three Central Figures of the Faith or from the writings of the beloved Guardian, whether in the original language or in translation, without obtaining clearance from the copyright holder, unless the copyright holder in the case of a translation is an individual or is a non-Bahá'í institution. It is recognized that this ruling may endanger copyrights, but we feel that this is a risk that must be taken.
"The ruling is made to ensure that the Sacred Scriptures of our Faith and the writings of the beloved Guardian may be freely used by the believers; it does not change the existing requirements for individual believers to submit their works on the Faith for review before publication, neither does it relieve Spiritual Assemblies of their responsibility to protect the dignity of the Faith and uphold the proper standard of reverence in the use of its Sacred Scriptures. Thus, if any Assembly sees that one of the friends is making use of any of the Holy Texts in an unbefitting manner, it should remonstrate with him and, if necessary, require him to stop doing so."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 4, 1981)364. Capitalizing Pronouns in English
"The Guardian wishes your Committee to capitalize all pronouns when referringPage 106
to Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb and the Master, even though the newspapers do not use them."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í News Service Committee, February 5, 1938)
"In regard to your question about capitalizing the pronouns: The Guardian realizes this looks a little strange to non-Bahá'ís, but he feels we, being believers, and having the full sense of the Stations of the Central figures of our Faith, should do this as a sign of respect under all circumstances."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 22, 1949)365. Capitalizing Pronouns in Other Languages
"He is interested in accomplishing two things--he would like in the European languages to have as much uniformity with the English translations as possible; he does not wish the Bahá'í translations to be in any way a flagrant violation of the rules of the language into which our literature is being translated.
"Your Committee must conscientiously study this question, and then do the best you can to have the Bahá'í literature in French meet the high standards of the French language and grammar.
"If the possessive and demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in French are never capitalized where they stand for 'God', then this should not be done in the Bahá'í literature. If there is a precedent for doing so in the French language, however, they should be. The same is true of the attributes of God."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Translation and Publication Committee of France, February 15, 1957)
366. Quotation Marks--Must Uphold Rigid Standard Inculcated by the Cause
"Also the Guardian feels it is absolutely essential that in all releases issued by your Committee quotation marks be used when passages from Bahá'í Sacred Writings are quoted. The friends should be careful to uphold under all circumstances the rigid standard inculcated by the Cause, and not to compromise easily with the common and accepted standards of the time."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í News Service Committee, February 5, 1938)
367. National Spiritual Assembly Authorizes Translations Through a Committee of Bahá'í Translators--The Guardian's Method of Transliteration Should Be Used
"The National Spiritual Assembly which undertakes the translation, usually through a committee of Bahá'í translators, is the body which 'authorizes' the translation, if it is approved. In some instances, if there are no Bahá'í translators available, there is no objection, in principle, to employing non-Bahá'ís for this purpose. It is usual for the National Spiritual Assembly to appoint a Reviewing Committee, or establish some means of providing review of the completed translation. You will note from the enclosed memorandum that, with the exceptions enumerated therein, new translations of the Sacred Text into languages other than English must be made from the Guardian's English translation where it exists; and when no such translation exists, advice should be sought from the Universal House of Justice. In the case of Spanish, to avoidPage 107
duplication of effort and to achieve the highest standard of accuracy, the National Assembly concerned should feel free to consult EBILA and/or the National Spiritual Assembly of Spain, and indeed the House of Justice encourages the closest co-operation between all administrative bodies and publishing trusts responsible for the production of literature in Spanish.
"Regarding the transliteration of Persian and Arabic words the House of Justice requests that the method adopted by the beloved Guardian, and which is described in the various volumes of 'The Bahá'í World', be followed, as it permits all languages which use the Roman alphabet to transliterate such terms in the same way throughout the Bahá'í world."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, July 16, 1979)
368. Guidelines for the Translation of Bahá'í Sacred Writings
"Translations into languages other than those akin to Persian and Arabic should normally be made from approved English translations rather than from the original Persian and Arabic. In such cases it is an advantage if it is also possible for the translator(s) to check with the original.
"All new translations into English, and all revisions of earlier translations in that language must be checked at the World Centre and officially approved before publication.
"Any believer is free to translate for his own use anything he wishes, but dissemination or publication of such translation is dependent upon their approval by the appropriate National Spiritual Assembly or, in the case of translations into English, by the World Centre.
a) If an individual Bahá'í spontaneously makes his own translation of a passage he may willingly make it available to a Spiritual Assembly but he cannot be compelled to do so.
b) If a translation made spontaneously by an individual is approved and published, he retains the copyright of his translation unless, of course, he wishes to surrender it.
"When a Spiritual Assembly wishes to have a translation made it should, if possible have the task undertaken by a committee rather than by individuals, as is explained by Abdu'l-Bahá.
a) The members of such a committee need not all be Bahá'ís.
b) Translations made by a committee are the property of the Assembly appointing the committee, and not of the members of the committee.
c) Except for translations into English, a translation made by a committee does not have to be checked unless the Assembly deems it advisable.
d) In accordance with the instructions of Shoghi Effendi the name of the committee should appear in the book as the translator, but the names of the members must not so appear."
(Guidelines for the Translation of Bahá'í Sacred Writings attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Assembly of Panama, July 16, 1979)
369. An Individual Can Be Commissioned to Make Translations--Translations Become Property of the Assembly
"If it is not feasible to form a translation committee, translations must, perforce, be made by individuals.Page 108
a) When an individual is commissioned by an Assembly to make a translation for it the translation should become the property of the Assembly, not of the individual, even if the work is done without remuneration. It is advisable to have this and other matters agreed in writing before the work is undertaken so that there may be no ground for subsequent misunderstandings.
b) A translation made by an individual should be checked before being published, if possible, and such checking should be done by a committee rather than by an individual, if this is feasible.
c) When a translation made by an individual is published, his name may appear as translator if he so wishes.
"Normally credit for translation should appear on all complete works and compilations that are published, as well as on books that quote translated passages.
a) Credit for translation should not appear in the case of passages quoted in communications from Bahá'í institutions, even when these are published.
b) Credit for translation need not appear on published leaflets and pamphlets unless there is a legal requirement that it do so."(Ibid.)
370. Translation of Bahá'í Literature into Everyday Language-- Simplifications and Paraphrasing Not to be Published as Scripture
"The Universal House of Justice, in response to your letter of 20 April concerning translations into French or Creole using simpler words than the original text, has requested us to send the following three quotations. These make it clear that a quotation in English may be rendered into simple English in order to facilitate its translation into another language or dialect. However, it is not permissible to publish simplifications and paraphrased extracts of Bahá'í Writings as Bahá'í Scripture.
'We have noticed a tendency in a number of countries to attempt to translate Bahá'í literature into the current, easy, everyday language of the country. This, however, should not be an overriding consideration. Many of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá are in exalted and highly poetic language in the original Persian and Arabic and you will see, for example, that when translating Bahá'u'lláh's Writings into English the beloved Guardian did not use present-day colloquial English but evolved a highly poetic and beautiful style, using numbers of archaic expressions reminiscent of the translations of the Bible.' (From a letter dated 7 October 1973 written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
'Obviously teaching literature and books about the Faith can be written in simple English. However, we feel that when the Sacred Writings are published the standard English translation should be used, but there would be no objection to printing alongside it the translation into simple English which should be described as a paraphrase of the Holy Word. Thus, for the people of ... who have difficulty in comprehending standard English, the simple English version would be in the nature of an explanation of the Writings which they could understand. In the case of teaching literature in which quotations from the Writings appear,Page 109
these could either be paraphrased or a simple English version could be used with the standard version printed as a footnote. This method would also provide a means whereby the people of ... could improve their knowledge and understanding of the English language.' (From a letter dated 20 September 1973 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
'It is, of course, permissible to translate Bahá'í Writings into other languages and dialects of languages. It is also possible to simplify or paraphrase the Bahá'í Writings in order to facilitate their translation into languages and dialects having small vocabularies. However, it is not permissible to publish simplifications and paraphrases of Bahá'í Writings as Bahá'í Scripture.'" (From a letter dated 13 March 1969 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Spiritual Assembly of Guadeloupe, May 13, 1986)
371. Translators Should Utilize Most Recent Editions of Books
"The Universal House of Justice has requested us to advise you to base your translations on current editions of all the books referred to, if translation is involved. In each instance you should consult the original publisher and obtain a copy of the latest printing or edition to ensure that all approved corrections are embodied in your translation."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Taiwan, May 22, 1984)E. Miscellaneous Subjects
"Abdu'l-Bahá gives no reason whatever why Friday has been chosen as the day of rest in the Bahá'í calendar. He just affirms it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 10, 1939: Bahá'í News, No. 162, April 1943, p. 5)373. Use of Bahá'í Dates
"It is advisable to use both the Bahá'í dates, according to the Bahá'í Calendar, and the usual Gregorian dates as well. The friends at present are free to do as they please."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 24, 1943: Bahá'í News, No. 173, February 1945, p. 11)374. Bahá'í Faith, Designation of
"In reply to your letter of January 26th, we realize that there are occasions on which the use of the term 'Bahá'í World Faith' may be justified and useful. However, it is our hope that the friends will gradually lose the habit of using this term as widely as they do now. The designation 'The Bahá'í Faith' is more dignified and preferable. Any adjective added to this name tends to a diminution of its stature and might be taken to mean that there are other 'Bahá'í Faiths'."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 5, 1967: Copies to various National Spiritual Assemblies)Page 110
"...Strictly speaking the five-pointed star is the symbol of our Faith, as used by the Báb and explained by Him. But the Guardian does not feel it is wise or necessary to complicate our explanation of the Temple by adding this."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 28, 1949: U.S. Supplement to Bahá'í News, No. 50, p. 4, April 1962)Page 111
"The great thing is to 'Live the Life'--to have our lives so saturated with the Divine teachings and the Bahá'í Spirit that people cannot fail to see a joy, a power, a love, a purity, a radiance, an efficiency in our character and work that will distinguish us from worldly-minded people and make people wonder what is the secret of this new life in us. We must become entirely selfless and devoted to God so that every day and every moment we seek to do only what God would have us do and in the way He would have us do it. If we do this sincerely then we shall have perfect unity and harmony with each other. Where there is want of harmony there is lack of the true Bahá'í Spirit. Unless we can show this transformation in our lives, this new power, this mutual love and harmony, then the Bahá'í teachings are but a name to us."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 2, 1925)
377. If Health is Spent in Sensual Desires, Death Preferable to Such a Life
"If the health and well-being of the body be expended in the path of the Kingdom, this is very acceptable and praiseworthy; and if it be expended to the benefit of the human world in general--even though it be to their material (or bodily) benefit--and be a means of doing good, that is also acceptable. But if the health and welfare of man be spent in sensual desires, in a life on the animal plane, and in devilish pursuits--then disease were better than such health, nay, death itself were preferable to such a life. If thou art desirous of health, wish thou health for serving the Kingdom...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: From a Tablet to the Bahá'ís of Washington: Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, pp. 114-115)
378. To Attract the Hearts of Others It is Necessary to Live Up to the Teachings
"Indeed if the friends could seek, and exert themselves, to become 100 percent Bahá'ís they would see how greatly their influence over others would be increased, and how rapidly the Cause would spread. The world is seeking not a compromise but the embodiment of a high and shining ideal. The more the friends live up to our teachings in every aspect of their lives, in their homes, in business, in their social relationships, the greater will be the attraction they exercise over the hearts of others.
"He is pleased to see you have naturally, with conviction and good will towards all, been mingling with and teaching the colored people. When thePage 112
Bahá'ís live up to their teachings as they should, although it may arouse the opposition of some it will arouse still more the admiration of fair-minded people."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 23, 1945)
379. Bahá'ís Must Cling to Their Faith and to Each Other
"In these days when the forces of inharmony and disunity are rampant throughout the world, the Bahá'ís must cling to their Faith and to each other and, in spite of every difficulty and suffering, protect the unity of the Cause. Often the first efforts at getting the administration of the Faith to work harmoniously are painful because the individual must learn to subject his will to the whole--but these are all minor details, and the friends must all concentrate on constructive work for the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a group of believers, May 7, 1941)
380. The Advertisements for the Faith Are Love, Hospitality, Understanding and the Will to Help
"He is very pleased to see with what love and devotion you have accepted our beloved Faith and long to serve it.
"Not all of us are capable of serving in the same way, but the one way every Bahá'í can spread the Faith is by example. This moves the hearts of people far more deeply than words ever can.
"The love we show others, the hospitality and understanding, the willingness to help them, these are the very best advertisements of the Faith. They will want to hear about it when they see these things in our lives.
"The Guardian will pray that Bahá'u'lláh will aid you and strengthen you to teach His Cause to many souls."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 14, 1943)381. How to Acquire Peace of Mind
"...Peace of mind is gained by the centering of the spiritual consciousness on the Prophet of God; therefore you should study the spiritual Teachings, and receive the Water of Life from the Holy Utterances. Then by translating these high ideals into action, your entire character will be changed, and your mind will not only find peace, but your entire being will find joy and enthusiasm."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 15, 1952)
382. One Should Not Give the Impression of Being Fanatic--Seek to be Many-Sided, Normal and Well-Balanced
"You ask about 'spiritual indigestion': Bahá'ís should seek to be many-sided, normal and well-balanced, mentally and spiritually. We must not give the impression of being fanatics but at the same time we must live up to our principles."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 12, 1946: Living the Life)Page 113
"If people only realized it, the inner life of the spirit is that which counts, but they are so blinded by desires and so misled that they have brought upon themselves all the suffering we see at present in the world. The Bahá'ís seek to lead people back to a knowledge of their true selves and the purpose for which they were created, and thus to their greatest happiness and highest good."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 24, 1943)
384. Through Deep Study and Living the Life to Become Like Firm Rocks
"He hopes that these receptive souls you have succeeded to attract into the movement will through deep study and living the life become like firm rocks upon which the Cause can build its future spiritual temple--the temple of the hearts. In one of His very beautiful and stirring poems written in the early days of His Mission Bahá'u'lláh bids us stay away and not become an encumbrance if we desire to live and have our well-being. In case, however, we are ready to sacrifice our all in the path of God then we should hasten to Him and follow His way.
"What the Cause needs is such ardent and self-sacrificing servants and not lukewarm followers who are ready to reap the fruit but unwilling to take a part in winning that victory. Shoghi Effendi, therefore, hopes that you will endeavour to make of your spiritual children of the type Bahá'u'lláh sought to have and create not passive admirers but active servants of the new world order."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 6, 1932)385. Evolution of the Soul
"Regarding your questions concerning the condition of the soul during illness. The passages in the 'Gleanings' make it quite clear that physical ailments, no matter how severe, cannot bring any change in the inherent condition of the soul. As Bahá'u'lláh says: 'The spirit is permanent and steadfast in its station'. The veil or hindrance that interposes between soul and body during physical disease is sickness itself. Sickness reveals a lack of balance in human organism, an absence of equilibrium in the forces essential for the normal functioning of the human body."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 8, 1936)B. Ego--Self
"Regarding the questions you asked: Self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings: one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as 'he hath known God who hath known himself etc.'. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.Page 114
"Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of ourselves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947)387. The Ego is the Animal Within Us
"The ego is the animal in us, the heritage of the flesh which is full of selfish desires. By obeying the laws of God, seeking to live the life laid down in our teachings, and prayer and struggle, we can subdue our egos. We call people 'saints' who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.
"There is no contradiction between Gleanings P 66 and P 262. In one place He says the mirror will never be free from dross, in the other He says it will be 'so cleansed as to be able' etc. It is a relative thing; perfection will never be reached, but great, and ever greater, progress can be made."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 8, 1949)
388. Life is a Constant Struggle Against Forces Around Us and Our Own "Egos"
"Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own 'ego'. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again. Many of those who drift away from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on developing. They became complacent, or indifferent, and consequently ceased to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should have. Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just do not meet, and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love. Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends' troubles are because they don't do the Bahá'í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives."(Ibid.)
389. The Prophets Are the Only Ones Free of the "Dross of Self"
"Regarding the questions you asked in your letter: The only people who are truly free of the 'dross of self' are the Prophets, for to be free of one's ego is a hall-mark of perfection. We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. However, we must constantly mount higher, seek to be more perfect."(Ibid.)
"Today the confirmations of the Kingdom of Abha are with those who renounce themselves, forget their own opinions, cast aside personalities and are thinking of the welfare of others... Whosoever is occupied with himself is wandering inPage 115
the desert of heedlessness and regret. The 'Master Key' to self-mastery is self-forgetting. The road to the palace of life is through the path of renunciation."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Star of the West, Vol. XVII, p. 348)
391. Through the Search for God, We Become Acquainted with Ourselves
"The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 18, 1954)
392. Becoming Conscious of Self is a Gradual Process
"You have asked as to what point in man's evolution he becomes conscious of self. This consciousness of self in man is a gradual process, and does not start at a definite point. It grows in him in this world and continues to do so in the future spiritual world.
"Man can certainly recall past experiences in his evolution, and even when his soul leaves this world it will still remember its past."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 20, 1937)
393. Man's Evolution is Both Individual and Collective
"Man's evolution is both individual and collective, because of his twofold relationship to himself and to the society in which he lives. Individual evolution starts with the early stages of one's existence. Consciousness too grows with this evolution."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 14, 1938)
394. The Cause Has the Spiritual Power to Re-Create Us
"The believers, as we all know, should endeavour to set such an example in their personal lives and conduct that others will feel impelled to embrace a Faith which reforms human character. However, unfortunately, not everyone achieves easily and rapidly the victory over self. What every believer, new or old, should realize is that the Cause has the spiritual power to re-create us if we make the effort to let that power influence us, and the greatest help in this respect is prayer. We must supplicate Bahá'u'lláh to assist us to overcome the failings in our own characters, and also exert our own will power in mastering ourselves.
"He will certainly pray for the work of the beloved Cause there and especially that new souls may be attracted and embrace the Faith. He will also pray that the believers may, for the sake of God, draw close to each other and not permit each other's short-comings to be a source of disunity and consequently a means of depriving thirsty souls of this life-giving Message! The world is full of evil and dark forces and the friends must not permit these forces to get hold of them by thinking and feeling negatively towards each other."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 27, 1945)Page 116
395. Our Thoughts Should Be Turned Determinedly, Intelligently and Unemotionally to God
"He was very sorry to hear of the condition of your dear sister. He would advise her to turn her thoughts determinedly and intelligently--by that I mean unemotionally--to God, realising that He is forgiving, that in one moment He can, through His blessed mercy, take away our sense of failure and help us to do better in the future--if we sincerely wish to; to turn to Him in prayer and seek to draw closer to Him; and to accept His Will and submit her own desires and opinions to His wish and plan for her.
"There is a tremendous darkness in the world today, the darkness caused by mankind's going against the Laws of God and giving way to the animal side of human nature. People must recognize this fact, and consciously struggle against pessimism and depression."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 14, 1945)
396. We Should Focus on the Glory of the Cause and Not on Our Failures
"Regarding your own condition: He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá'u'lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea! You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá'ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.
"There is, unfortunately, no way that one can force his own good upon a man. The elements of free will is there, and all we believers--and even the Manifestation of God Himself--can do is to offer the truth to mankind. If the people of the world persist, as they seem to be doing, in their blind materialism, they must bear the consequences in a prolongation of their present condition, and even a worsening of it. Our duty as Bahá'ís is to build up such a love and unity within our own ranks that the people will be attracted by this example to the Cause. We also must teach all we can and strengthen the Bahá'í Community in the administration. But more we cannot do to avert the great sufferings which seemingly still lie ahead of the world in its present evil state."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 13, 1947)
397. Do Not Dwell on Others' Thoughts and Attitudes
"We must never dwell too much on the attitudes and feelings of our fellow-believers towards us. What is most important is to foster love and harmony and ignore any rebuffs we may receive; in this way the weakness of human nature and the peculiarity or attitude of any particular person is not magnified, but pales into insignificance in comparison with our joint service to the Faith we all love."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 19, 1948)Page 117
398. Bahá'í Justified in Defending His Life in Emergency
"Regarding the question you raised: In an emergency, when there is no legal source at hand to appeal to, a Bahá'í is perfectly justified in defending his life."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 24, 1943)399. Self-Defense
"From the texts you already have available it is clear that Bahá'u'lláh has stated that it is preferable to be killed in the path of God's good-pleasure than to kill, and that organized religious attack against Bahá'ís should never turn into any kind of warfare, as this is strictly prohibited in our Writings.
"The House of Justice does not wish at the present time to go beyond the guidelines given in the above-mentioned statements. The question is basically a matter of conscience, and in each case the Bahá'í involved must use his judgment in determining when to stop in self-defense lest his action deteriorate into retaliation.
"Of course the above principles apply also in cases when a Bahá'í finds himself involved in situations of civil disorder. We have, however, advised the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States that under the present circumstances in that country it is preferable that Bahá'ís do not buy nor own arms for their protection or the protection of their families."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, May 26, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 26)
400. Pioneer Living in a Remote Area Lacking Protection: Circumstances Under which a Bahá'í is Justified in Defending Self
"We have your letter of March 2, 1972 asking if ... a pioneer couple living in a remote area lacking police protection may have a weapon in their possession for defending themselves as thieves have broken into their house twice and robbed them.
"A hitherto untranslated Tablet from Abdu'l-Bahá points out that in the case of attack by robbers and highwaymen, a Bahá'í should not surrender himself, but should try, as far as circumstances permit, to defend himself, and later on lodge a complaint with the government authorities. A statement in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian indicates that in an emergency when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to a Bahá'í is justified in defending his life. Although we have advised certain National Assemblies in countries facing increasing civil disorder that it is preferable that Bahá'ís do not buy or own arms for their protection or the protection of their families, we feel that in the circumstances you have outlined in your letter it would be permissible for the pioneer family to keep a weapon in the house, provided the law permits."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras, March 20, 1972)D. Self-Sacrifice and Service
"O maid-servant of God! The mystery of sacrifice is that man should sacrifice allPage 118
his conditions for the divine station of God. The station of God is mercy, kindness, forgiveness, sacrifice, favour, grace and giving-life to the spirits and lighting the fire of His love in the hearts and arteries. I asked God to make thee a sign of mercy, the banner of kindness among His maid-servants."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. I, p. 65)402. Self-Sacrifice, Meaning of
"Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of ourselves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947: Living the Life, p. 14)
403. To What Extent Should We Sacrifice Our Lives for the Interest of the Cause?
"The problem of to what extent we should sacrifice our time for the interest of the Cause depends for its solution upon individual means and circumstances. It is a personal problem that we ought to settle individually. One person may give all his time to teaching and rely upon small personal income and another may find himself more fitted to business and give his share of service in the form of financial assistance."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1930)404. Accepting to Suffer for Each Other's Sake
"With reference to your question as to whether individuals can help each other by accepting to suffer for each other's sake. Surely such sacrifice for our fellow-humans can have helpful results. This law of sacrifice operates in our own lives, as well as in the lives of the Divine Manifestations."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 31, 1938)405. Service as Magnet for Divine Confirmation
"...There is nothing that brings success in the Faith like service. Service is the magnet which draws the divine confirmations. Thus, when a person is active, they are blessed by the Holy Spirit. When they are inactive, the Holy Spirit cannot find a repository in their being, and thus they are deprived of its healing and quickening rays."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 12, 1952: Living the Life, p. 18)406. Assistance of Hosts of Divine Concourse
"...An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá'u'lláh. When this is done, the hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 6, 1954: Ibid., p. 19)Page 119
407. An Irresistible Urge to Serve--Do Not Look at Your Shortcomings
"...This irresistible urge to serve which you feel and which has prompted you to offer yourself for work in the teaching field is itself a clear indication that you are being guided by the Almighty to attain your highest and noblest goal in this life. For what a greater destiny can you hope to seek except that which Bahá'u'lláh has traced for every one of His loyal believers, namely to consecrate one's all to the service and glorification of His Faith! This assurance should indeed fortify your hopes, and enable you to banish every sense of dissatisfaction, and of unworthiness which may linger in your heart, and which may deter you from participating joyously and actively in serving the Cause. You should not look at your limitations, but derive full confidence at the thought that, however limited your resources and capacities may be, your efforts will be reinforced by Divine confirmations, provided you do your share and discharge your obligations as a believer, fully and conscientiously. Your perseverance will, even as a magnet, draw upon you the favours and blessings of Bahá'u'lláh. Do feel happy and confident, therefore, and fortified by such an assurance arise to contribute all that is in your power towards the furtherance and promulgation of our beloved Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 30, 1939)
408. There is No Rule or Standard Requiring a Believer to Serve in One Field at the Exclusion of Others
"Whatever the particular field of service you may choose, whether teaching or administrative, the essential is for you to persevere, and not to allow any consciousness of your limitations to dampen your zeal, much less to deter you from serving joyously and actively.
"There is no general rule, or any particular standard requiring a believer to serve in one field at the exclusion of others. Every believer is to choose for himself any avenue of work in which he conscientiously feels he can render the greatest amount of service to the Cause. He can seek the advice of his Assembly, and of his fellow-believers before taking such a step, but there is no obligation requiring him to do so."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 6, 1939)Page 120
409. Begging is Forbidden--House of Justice to Provide for Disabled
"We have been asked to share with you the following extract from one of the Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject of begging:
'By the sacred verse: "Begging is forbidden, and it is also prohibited to dispense alms to a beggar" is meant that mendicancy is forbidden and that giving charity to people who take up begging as their profession is also prohibited. The object is to wipe out mendicancy altogether. However, if a person is disabled, striken by dire poverty or becomes helpless, then it is incumbent upon the rich or the trustees to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence. When the House of Justice comes into being it will set up homes for the incapacitated. Thus no one will be obliged to beg, even as the supplementary part of the blessed verse denotes: "It is enjoined upon everyone to earn his livelihood"; then He says: "As to those who are disabled, it devolveth upon the trustees and the rich to make adequate provision for them." By "trustees" is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.'
"The Universal House of Justice does not wish to go beyond the elucidation given by the Master in the above passage and wishes, for the time being, to leave any matter not entirely covered by this text to the conscience of individual believers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 13, 1974)
410. Beggars--Most Despised of Men in the Sight of God
"The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 26)B. Charity
"This Bahá'í teaching of human fellowship and kindness implies that we must be always ready to extend every assistance and help we can to those who are in distress and suffering. Bahá'í charity is of the very essence of the Teachings, and shouldPage 121
therefore be developed in every Bahá'í community. Charitable institutions such as orphanages, free schools and hospitals for the poor, constitute an indispensable part of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. It is the responsibility of every local Bahá'í community to insure the welfare of its poor and needy members, through whatever means possible.
"But, of course, this extension of assistance to the poor, in whatever form should under no circumstances be allowed to seriously interfere with the major collective interests of the Bahá'í Community, as distinguished from the purely personal interests of its members. The demands of the Cause transcend those of the individual, and should therefore be given precedence. But these two phases of Bahá'í social life, though not of equal importance, are by no means contradictory. Both of them are essential, and should be fostered, but each according to its own degree of importance. It is the responsibility of Bahá'í Assemblies to decide when individual interests should be subordinated to those affecting the collective welfare of the community. But, as already stated, the interest of the individual should always be safeguarded within certain limits, and provided they do not seriously affect the welfare of the group as a whole."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, June 26, 1936)
412. Contributions to Charity by Assemblies and Individuals
"First there is the principle that any believer may sell personal services or property to anyone and do with the proceeds as he wishes, including giving any or all of them to Bahá'í purposes. Thus if a Bahá'í concert artist gives a concert to which admission is charged, he is free, if he so wishes, to give the money so earned to the Fund or to any charity of his choice. In giving the concert, however, he should not represent to non-Bahá'ís that the concert is for the benefit of the Bahá'í Fund or is given on behalf of Bahá'ís for a charity, which brings us to the second principle: That it is improper for Bahá'ís to solicit funds from non-Bahá'ís in the name of the Faith for any purpose. If a non-Bahá'í insists on making a monetary contribution it may be accepted with the express understanding that it will be used only for charitable or philanthropic purposes, but such contributions should be discouraged, not encouraged.
"The third principle concerns contributions made to charity by Bahá'ís themselves. Spiritual Assemblies are, of course, permitted to make contributions to charity--indeed care of the poor and needy is one of the duties assigned to them in the Bahá'í Writings--but they must weigh their responsibilities very carefully and remember that in a highly organised country like the United Kingdom the poor are helped by a multitude of agencies, both governmental and private, whereas only the Bahá'ís can contribute towards the building of the Kingdom of God on earth. This, clearly, is a matter for wise moderation. Assemblies, moreover, should perform their charitable works with a pure motive, and not with the thought of propagandizing for the Faith.
"An individual Bahá'í is, of course, free to contribute to charity from his own resources if he wishes, but as a Bahá'í he should bear in mind the needs of the Bahá'í Fund, which only believers can support."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly, March 19, 1973)
413. Surest Way of Lifting Once and for All Burden of Hunger and Misery
"...in the first place every believer is free to follow the dictates of his ownPage 122
conscience as regards the manner in which to spend his own money. Secondly, we must always bear in mind that there are so few Bahá'ís in the world, relative to the world's population, and so many people in need, that even if all of us gave all we had, it would not alleviate more than an infinitesimal amount of suffering. This does not mean we must not help the needy, we should; but our contributions to the Faith are the surest way of lifting once and for all time the burden of hunger and misery from mankind, for it is only through the system of Bahá'u'lláh--Divine in origin--that the world can be gotten on its feet and want, fear, hunger, war, etc., be eliminated. Non-Bahá'ís cannot contribute to our work or do it for us; so really our first obligation is to support our own teaching work, as this will lead to the healing of the nations."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 8, 1947: Lifeblood of the Cause, 1970, London, pp. 12-13)
414. There Are Many Ways that Help Can Be Rendered to Suffering Fellow-Men
"It is understandable that Bahá'ís who witness the miserable conditions under which so many human beings have to live, or who hear of a sudden disaster that has struck a certain area of the world, are moved to do something practical to ameliorate those conditions and to help their suffering fellow-mortals.
"There are many ways in which help can be rendered. Every Bahá'í has the duty to acquire a trade or profession through which he will earn that wherewith he can support himself and his family; in the choice of such work he can seek those activities which are of benefit to his fellow-men and not merely those which promote his personal interests, still less those whose effects are actually harmful.
"There are also the situations in which an individual Bahá'í or a Spiritual Assembly is confronted with an urgent need which neither justice nor compassion could allow to go unheeded and unhelped. How many are the stories told of Abdu'l-Bahá in such situations, when He would even take off a garment He was wearing and give it to a shivering man in rags.
"But in our concern for such immediate obvious calls upon our succour we must not allow ourselves to forget the continuing, appalling burden of suffering under which millions of human beings are always groaning--a burden which they have bourne for century upon century and which it is the mission of Bahá'u'lláh to lift at last. The principal cause of this suffering, which one can witness wherever one turns, is the corrupton of human morals and the prevalence of prejudice, suspicion, hatred, untrustworthiness, selfishness and tyranny among men. It is not merely material well-being that people need. What they desperately need is to know how to live their lives--they need to know who they are, to what purpose they exist, and how they should act towards one another; and, once they know the answers to these questions they need to be helped to gradually apply these answers to every-day behaviour. It is to the solution of this basic problem of mankind that the greater part of all our energy and resources should be directed...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, November 19, 1974)
415. Bahá'ís Have the Divinely-Given Remedy for the Ills of Mankind
"...There are mighty agencies in this world, governments, foundations, institutions of many kinds with tremendous financial resources which are working toPage 123
improve the material lot of human beings. Anything we Bahá'ís could add to such resources in the way of special funds or contributions would be a negligible drop in the ocean. However, alone among men we have the divinely-given remedy for the real ills of mankind; no one else is doing or can do this most important work, and if we divert our energy and our funds into fields in which others are already doing more than we can hope to do, we shall be delaying the diffusion of the Divine Message which is the most important task of all.
"Because of such an attitude, as also because of our refusal to become involved in politics, Bahá'ís are often accused of holding aloof from the 'real problems' of their fellow-men. But when we hear this accusation let us not forget that those who make it are usually idealistic materialists to whom material good is the only 'real' good, whereas we know that the working of the material world is merely a reflection of spiritual conditions and until the spiritual conditions can be changed there can be no lasting change for the better in material affairs.
"We should also remember that most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combatting every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá'ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils--which are in essence negative--will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá'í, a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a divinely-created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole of human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustices which have so long bedevilled the world."(Ibid.)
416. When a Bahá'í Finds It Essential to Seek the Help of Others
"When a Bahá'í finds it essential to seek the help of others, and after his own efforts and those of his family and close friends have proved inadequate, he may certainly turn to his Local Spiritual Assembly, which will consult on his problem, extend a helping hand to him, if the conditions of the Local Fund permit, and even more importantly, will counsel and advise him on what opportunities are open to him, and what steps he might take to seek a solution to his problem. If the Local Assembly feels that the help or guidance of the National Assembly should be sought, it will no doubt refer the matter to the National Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 1, 1980: Giving to the Poor, A Compilation of the Universal House of Justice)
417. Local Spiritual Assembly Should Extend Helping Hand to the Poor
"They (Local Spiritual Assemblies) must do their utmost to extend at all times the helping hand to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the orphan, the widow, irrespective of colour, caste and creed.Page 124
"They must promote by every means in their power the material as well as the spiritual enlightenment of youth, the means for the education of children, institute, whenever possible, Bahá'í educational institutions, organize and supervise their work and provide the best means for their progress and development."(Shoghi Effendi: Bahá'í Administration, p. 38)
418. How a Bahá'í May Help His Fellow-Believer Through the Institutions
"In our dealings with the believers, however, apart from the need to give priority to the needs of the Faith, one has to bear in mind, as you point out in your letter, such considerations as wisdom as well as the importance of avoiding actions that may jeopardize our cordial relationships with the believers. If the individual believer is unable personally and prayerfully to resolve such a problem, he should, as each case may indicate, either himself refer to the Spiritual Assembly for guidance, or refer the believers to that institution. A Bahá'í who wishes to help his needy fellow-believer may do so by extending his assistance either personally, or impersonally through the Spiritual Assembly if he feels that this method will provide the means to objectively assess the real needs involved, or will maintain and preserve better relations between him and the believer concerned.
"This is just one more reason why we should endeavour to support, strengthen the foundations, and foster the development of Local Spiritual Assemblies so that they may become rallying points of the friends and the true shepherds of the divine flock."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 9, 1973)C. The Poor
419. Those Possessed of Riches Must Have the Utmost Regard for the Poor
"They who are possessed of riches, however, must have the utmost regard for the poor, for great is the honor destined by God for those poor who are steadfast in patience. By My Life! There is no honor, except what God may please to bestow, that can compare to this honor. Great is the blessedness awaiting the poor that endure patiently and conceal their sufferings, and well is it with the rich who bestow their riches on the needy and prefer them before themselves.
"Please God, the poor may exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood. This is a duty which, in this most great Revelation, hath been prescribed unto every one, and is accounted in the sight of God as a goodly deed. Whoso observeth this duty, the help of the invisible One shall most certainly aid him. He can enrich, through His grace, whomsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, hath power over all things...."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 202-203)420. The Greatest Gift We Can Give to the Poor
"Regarding your question concerning helping the poor: The Bahá'ís should not go so far as to refrain from extending charity to the needy, if they are able and willing to do so. However, in this, as in many other things, they should exert moderation. The greatest gift that we can give to the poor and the down-troddenPage 125
is to aid to build up the divine institutions inaugurated in this day by Bahá'u'lláh as these institutions, and this World Order when established, will eliminate the causes of poverty and the injustices which afflict the poor. We should, therefore, do both, support our Bahá'í Fund, and also be kind and generous to the needy."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 11, 1942)
421. Do Not Grieve for Being Poor--Some Great Souls Were of the Poorest in the World
"Do not grieve, dear brother, for being poor, for you are rich instead in faith and in spirit. This is a divine wealth for which the richest of the world will crave for in vain. True we must work hard, earn money and keep our family in happiness and prosperity, but we must always realize that our lives must be devoted to things higher and more sublime. We must remember what great souls, whose lives still inspire hundreds and thousands, were of the poorest in the world."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 18, 1927)Page 126
"The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned toward waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Wilmette, 1983, p. 118)
423. Powerful Forces Are Operating to Bring to a Climax this Portentous Century
"...Both within and without the Cause of God, powerful forces are operating to bring to a climax the twin tendencies of this portentous century. Among the many evidences which reveal this process may be cited, on the one hand, the continual increase of lawlessness, terrorism, economic confusion, immorality and the growing danger from the proliferation of weapons of destruction, and on the other, the world-wide, divinely propelled expansion, consolidation and rapid emergence into the limelight of world affairs of the Cause itself, a process crowned by the wonderful efflorescence of Mount Carmel, the mountain of God, whose Divine springtime is now so magnificently burgeoning."
(From a message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the world, Ridvan 1983)
424. The People of Baha Are Assured of Divine Guidance
"...the Pen of the Centre of the Covenant has repeatedly prophesied the intolerable calamities which must beset this wayward humanity ere it heeds the life-giving Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.
'Chaos and confusion are daily increasing in the world. They will attain such intensity as to render the frame of mankind unable to bear them. Then will men be awakened and become aware that religion is the impregnable stronghold and the manifest light of the world, and its laws, exhortations and teachings the source of life on earth.'
"Every discerning eye clearly sees that the early stages of this chaos have daily manifestations affecting the structure of human society; its destructive forces are uprooting time-honoured institutions which were a haven and refuge for the inhabitants of the earth in bygone days and centuries, and around which revolved all human affairs. The same destructive forces are also deranging the political, economic, scientific, literary, and moral equilibrium of the world and are destroying the fairest fruits of the present civilization. Political machinations of those in authority have placed the seal of obsolescence upon the root-principles of the world's order. Greed and passion, deceit, hypocrisy, tyranny, and pride are dominating features afflicting human relations. Discoveries and inventions, which are the fruit of scientific andPage 127
technological advancements, have become the means and tools of mass extermination and destruction and are in the hands of the ungodly. Even music, art, and literature, which are to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations and should be a source of comfort and tranquility for troubled souls, have strayed from the straight path and are now the mirrors of the soiled hearts of this confused, unprincipled and disordered age. Perversions such as these shall result in the ordeals which have been prophesied by the Blessed Beauty in the following words: 'Every day a new calamity will seize the earth and a fresh tormenting trial will appear'. 'The day is approaching when its (civilization's) flame will devour the cities.'
"In such an afflicted time, when mankind is bewildered and the wisest of men are perplexed as to the remedy, the people of Baha, who have confidence in His unfailing grace and divine guidance, are assured that each of these tormenting trials has a cause, a purpose, and a definite result, and all are essential instruments for the establishment of the immutable Will of God on earth. In other words, on the one hand humanity is struck by the scourge of His chastisement which will inevitably bring together the scattered and vanquished tribes of the earth; and on the other, the weak few whom He has nurtured under the protection of His loving guidance are, in this formative age and period of transition, continuing to build amidst these tumultuous waves an impregnable stronghold which will be the sole remaining refuge for those lost multitudes. Therefore, the dear friends of God who have such a broad and clear vision before them are not perturbed by such events, nor are they panic-stricken by such thundering sounds, nor will they face such convulsions with fear and trepidation, nor will they be deterred, even for a moment, from fulfilling their sacred responsibilities.
"One of their sacred responsibilities is to exemplify in their lives those attributes which are acceptable at His Sacred Threshold."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Iranian believers resident in various countries throughout the world, February 10, 1980)
425. If Bahá'ís Fail They Are Partly Responsible for Agony of Mankind
"There is so much suffering, such a great and desperate need for a true remedy and the Bahá'ís should realize their sacred obligation is to deliver the Message to their fellowmen at once, and on as large a scale as possible. If they fail to do so, they are really partly responsible for prolonging the agony of humanity."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1943)
426. The World Will Experience Travails and Testing as Never Before
"We are instructed to say that although there is every reason to expect that the world will experience travails and testing as never before, we do not know what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last. The Faith itself as it emerges from obscurity will suffer severe trials. Sensitive souls such as yourself are particularly aware of these impending developments. However, Bahá'u'lláh has given us the Administrative Order which is the channel through which the spirit and guidance flow to the Bahá'ís and to mankind. The beloved Guardian spent his entire lifetime unfolding and explaining the pattern, and it is this administrative machinery that we should seek to supportPage 128
and strengthen. As weak and fragile as it is in these formative years of the Faith, it is still the haven and protection of the Bahá'ís and of the world. You are therefore encouraged to expend your energies and your many-faceted talents in teaching and consolidating the Bahá'í communities under the direction of the National Spiritual Assembly and its agencies."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 19, 1981)
427. Calamities Will Continue Until Mankind is Chastened Sufficiently...
"You make reference to calamities and request specific answers if there are any as to when they may occur and with what magnitude. The House of Justice noted your comments that you have read what Bahá'u'lláh had to say about the collapse of the old world order and the coming of the new, and that in recent times friends returning from their pilgrimages spoke of meetings with Hands of the Cause and members of the House of Justice in which the coming of great world upheavals was related to a time 'around the end of the Five Year Plan and afterwards'. The House of Justice points out that calamities have been and are occurring and will continue to happen until mankind has been chastened sufficiently to accept the Manifestation for this day. Abdu'l-Bahá anticipated that the Lesser Peace could be established before the end of the twentieth century. However, Bahá'ís should not be diverted from the work of the Cause by the fear of catastrophes but should try to understand why they occur. The beloved Guardian, in innumerable places, has explained the reasons for these occurrences, and since they happen from time to time as explained above we should not be concerned as to when they occur."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 15, 1976)
428. Bahá'ís Should Not Waste Time Speculating on the Coming Calamity
"The House of Justice points out that Bahá'u'lláh in no uncertain terms has said: 'O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight.' Therefore it considers that it would be fruitless to attempt to foresee the time or the nature of a calamity which Bahá'u'lláh Himself said was 'unforeseen'. No doubt the remarkable progress being made in scientific endeavour holds true in the study by experts of geological upheavals. But we cannot be certain that predictions of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tidal waves caused by such phenomena can be identified as the cataclysmic events to which Bahá'u'lláh refers.
"In letters to other believers who have asked questions similar to yours, the House of Justice has emphasized that the friends should not waste their time and energies in fruitless speculations on this question. Rather, they should concentrate every ounce of energy on the winning of the goals of the Five Year Plan, which they have clearly before them, confident in the knowledge that whatever may happen in the world, however calamitous it may outwardly appear, will promote God's unalterable purpose for the unification of mankind."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, June 20, 1976)Page 129
429. It is Important that Bahá'ís Have Correct Attitude Regarding Pending Catastrophe
"The important aspect for the Bahá'ís is that their attitude and actions and response to the pending catastrophe be correct. We all know that the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is the world's only salvation, and that our duty is to actively teach receptive souls, and to do our utmost to help in the consolidation of the institutions of the Faith. Only in this way can we contribute our share of servitude at His Threshold, and we should then leave the rest to Him."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 18, 1980)
430. Should Bahá'ís Be Cut Off from World Centre or from One Another, They Will Be Guided by Spiritual Assemblies, Led by Counsellors, Auxiliary Board Members
"Every institution of this divinely created Order is one more refuge for a distraught populace; every soul illumined by the light of the sacred Message is one more link in the oneness of mankind, one more servant ministering to the needs of an ailing world. Even should the Bahá'í communities, in the years immediately ahead, be cut off from the World Centre or from one another--as some already have been--the Bahá'ís will neither halt nor hesitate; they will continue to pursue their objectives, guided by their Spiritual Assemblies and led by the Counsellors, the members of the Auxiliary Boards and their assistants...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the world, November 3, 1980)
431. Bahá'ís Can Help to Mitigate Suffering of Mankind
"No doubt to the degree we Bahá'ís the world over--strive to spread the Cause and live up to its teachings, there will be some mitigation to the suffering of the peoples of the world. But it seems apparent that the great failure to respond to Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, appeals and warnings issued in the 19th Century, has now sent the world along a path, and released forces, which must culminate in a still more violent upheaval and agony. The thing is out of hand, so to speak, and it is too late to avert catastrophic trials."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 8, 1949)
432. The People of Today Are Suffering for Their Own Sins of Omission and Commission
"You should not consider yourself unfeeling because you see in this world agony the birth of a new and better world. This is just what the Bahá'ís should believe and should teach to others. However much pity and sympathy we may have for humanity, we nevertheless realize that people today are suffering for their own sins of omission and commission. We must help them to see this and to turn their thoughts and acts into the channels divinely prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 14, 1943)
433. We Must Put the Faith First for Our Eternal Security and Happiness
"We do not know what form the immediate future will take, anywhere. Because the passions of mankind are so unregenerate, and it is so deaf to the voice of Bahá'u'lláh, no doubt great suffering will be experienced. What we do know, however, is thatPage 130
we are Bahá'ís and that our salvation lies in this God-sent Faith. As we give to God, as we serve Him and love Him, so will He vouchsafe to us His mercy, guidance and protection. We must, at all times, put the Faith first and our personal desires and comfort second. Having this Faith we have eternal security and happiness which nothing can take away from us ever, no matter what afflictions may befall a faithless world. The Cause of God is our security, and confidence in Bahá'u'lláh our protection."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 5, 1949)
434. We Do Not Know How Far-Reaching the Catastrophe Will Be
"Shoghi Effendi has never stated how far-reaching the effects of a future war will be, or what other catastrophes may accompany it or follow it. From our teachings we know humanity can and must be welded into some form of political unity--such as a World Federal State--through suffering as it seems only intense suffering is capable of rousing men to the spiritual efforts required. It seems clear to any thinking person that war will be the main cause of this degree of suffering."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 5, 1954)435. The Unification of Mankind
"...Whatever our shortcomings may be, and however formidable the forces of darkness which besiege us to-day, the unification of mankind as outlined and insured by the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh will in the fullness of time be firmly and permanently established. This is Bahá'u'lláh's promise, and no power on earth can in the long run prevent or even retard its adequate realization. The friends should, therefore, not lose hope, but fully conscious of their power and their role they should persevere in their mighty efforts for the extension and the consolidation of Bahá'u'lláh's universal dominion on earth."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 6, 1933)436. The Crisis is Serving a Great Purpose
"The crisis that exists in the world is not confined to the farmers. Its effects have reached every means of livelihood. The farmers are in a sense better off because they at least have food to eat. But on the whole the crisis is serving a great purpose. It is broadening the outlook of man, teaching him to think internationally, forcing him to take into consideration the welfare of his neighbours if he wishes to improve his own condition. In short it is forcing humanity to appreciate the significance and follow the precepts laid by Bahá'u'lláh. The present and perhaps the near future is dark, but we have the wonderful promises of the Master before us and they shall all become true...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 3, 1932)
437. The Guardian Does Not Think that God Will Permit Man to Annihilate Himself...
"In regard to your questions: The degree of rapidity with which human beings are to advance certainly depends on their own efforts; but he does not think God will permit man to annihilate himself. Too much evolution is behind him and too much before him for that! We should certainly not procrastinate for a moment. For almost a hundred years now the warnings of Bahá'u'lláh have been ringing in men's ears, and we have every reason to believe terrible things may still befall mankind, if theyPage 131
do not listen to the divine solution proposed by God's Manifestation for this day. In this connection he is constantly pointing out to the Bahá'ís that their direct Bahá'í work--teaching, perfecting the administration, propagating the Cause of God is their job and of immediate importance because, it is, so to speak, spiritually organic. What they are doing will release forces which will combat the terrible disintegration of society which we witness today in every field, political, economic or otherwise...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 5, 1947)
438. Hardship and Privation, Frustration and Despair Shall Encompass the People...
"Know thou that hardship and privation shall increase day by day, and the people shall thereby be afflicted. The doors of joy and happiness shall be closed on all sides, and terrible wars shall occur. Frustration and despair shall encompass the people until they are forced to turn to the One True God. Then will the light of most joyful tidings so illumine the horizons that the cry of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' will be raised from every direction. This shall come to pass."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: from a Tablet to Isabella D. Brittingham, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, p. 248, Wilmette 1980, corrected in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, January 16, 1984)439. Apocalyptic Upheaval
"He advises you to go ahead and plan your college education. We have no indication of exactly what nature the apocalyptic upheaval will be: it might be another war ... but as students of our Bahá'í writings it is clear that the longer the 'Divine Physician' (i.e., Bahá'u'lláh) is withheld from healing the ills of the world, the more severe will be the crises, and the more terrible the sufferings of the patient."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 21, 1949)
440. World Condition Bringing Many Issues to a Head
"...the condition that the world is in is bringing many issues to a head. It would be perhaps impossible to find a nation or people not in a state of crisis today. The materialism, the lack of true religion and the consequent baser forces in human nature which are being released, have brought the whole world to the brink of probably the greatest crisis it has ever faced or will have to face. The Bahá'ís are a part of the world. They too feel the great pressures which are brought to bear upon all people today, whoever and wherever they may be. On the other hand, the Divine Plan, which is the direct method of working toward the establishment of peace and World Order, has perforce reached an important and challenging point in its unfoldment; because of the desperate needs of the world, the Bahá'ís find themselves, even though so limited in numbers, in financial strength and in prestige, called upon to fulfill a great responsibility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 19, 1956: Bahá'í News, No. 307, September 1956, pp. 1-2)441. Calamities and Crises
"As humanity plunges deeper into that condition of which Bahá'u'lláh wrote, 'toPage 132
disclose it now would not be meet and seemly', so must the believers increasingly stand out as assured, oriented, and fundamentally happy beings, conforming to a standard which, in direct contrast to the ignoble and amoral attitudes of modern society, is the source of their honour, strength, and maturity. It is this marked contrast between the vigour, unity, and discipline of the Bahá'í community on the one hand, and the increasing confusion, despair, and feverish tempo of a doomed society on the other, which, during the turbulent years ahead, will draw the eyes of humanity to the sanctuary of Bahá'u'lláh's world-redeeming Faith."
(From a message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, Ridvan 1966: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 79-80)
442. Internal Disintegration and External Chaos Being Accelerated
"...Pregnant indeed are the years looming ahead of us all. The twin processes of internal disintegration and external chaos are being accelerated and every day are inexorably moving towards a climax. The rumblings that must precede the eruption of those forces that must cause 'the limbs of humanity to quake' can already be heard. 'The time of the end', 'the latter years', as foretold in the Scriptures, are at long last upon us. The Pen of Bahá'u'lláh, the voice of Abdu'l-Bahá, have time and again, insistently and in terms unmistakable, warned an unheeding humanity of impending disaster. The Community of the Most Great Name, the leaven that must leaven the lump, the chosen remnant that must survive the rolling up of the old, discredited, tottering order, and assist in the unfoldment of a new one in its stead, is standing ready, alert, clear-visioned, and resolute..."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, July 5, 1938: Messages to America, 1932-1946, pp. 13-14)
443. Worsening World Situation--Many Stand Aside and Wring Their Hands
"In the worsening world situation, fraught with pain of war, violence and the sudden uprooting of long-established institutions, can be seen the fulfillment of the prophecies of Bahá'u'lláh and the oft-repeated warnings of the Master and the beloved Guardian about the inevitable fate of a lamentably defective social system, an unenlightened leadership and a rebellious and unbelieving humanity. Governments and peoples of both the developed and developing nations, and other human institutions, secular and religious, finding themselves helpless to reverse the trend of the catastrophic events of the day, stand bewildered and overpowered by the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing them. At this fateful hour in human history many, unfortunately, seem content to stand aside and wring their hands in despair or else join in the babel of shouting and protestation which loudly objects, but offers no solution to the woes and afflictions plaguing our age.
"Nevertheless a greater and greater number of thoughtful and fair-minded men and women are recognizing in the clamour of contention, grief and destruction, now reaching such horrendous proportions, the evidences of Divine chastisement, and, turning their faces towards God, are becoming increasingly receptive to His Word. Doubtless the present circumstances, though tragic and awful in theirPage 133
immediate consequences, are serving to sharpen the focus on the indispensability of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh to the needs of the present age, and will provide many opportunities to reach countless waiting souls, hungry and thirsty for Divine guidance."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, November 16, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, pp. 33-34)444. A Yawning Gulf Threatens
"...Every system, short of the unification of the human race, has been tried, repeatedly tried, and been found wanting. Wars again and again have been fought, and conferences without number have met and deliberated. Treaties, pacts and covenants have been painstakingly negotiated, concluded and revised. Systems of government have been patiently tested, have been continually recast and superseded. Economic plans of reconstruction have been carefully devised, and meticulously executed. And yet crisis has succeeded crisis, and the rapidity with which a perilously unstable world is declining has been correspondingly accelerated. A yawning gulf threatens to involve in one common disaster both the satisfied and dissatisfied nations, democracies and dictatorships, capitalists and wage-earners, Europeans and Asiatics, Jew and Gentile, white and coloured. An angry Providence, the cynic might well observe, has abandoned a hapless planet to its fate, and fixed irrevocably its doom. Sore-tried and disillusioned, humanity has no doubt lost its orientation, and would seem to have lost as well its faith and hope. It is hovering, unshepherded and visionless, on the brink of disaster. A sense of fatality seems to pervade it. An ever-deepening gloom is settling on its fortunes as she recedes further and further from the outer fringes of the darkest zone of its agitated life and penetrates its very heart."
(Shoghi Effendi: The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 190)
445. Forces of a World Catastrophe--The Fire of Ordeal
"...That the forces of a world catastrophe can alone precipitate such a new phase of human thought is, alas, becoming increasingly apparent. That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity, can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present-day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate.
"...Nothing but a fiery ordeal, out of which humanity will emerge, chastened and prepared, can succeed in implanting that sense of responsibility which the leaders of a newborn age must arise to shoulder."(Ibid., p. 46)
446. When Crisis Sweeps Over the World, Bahá'ís Should Not Let Hardships Weaken Their Hope in the Future
"...When such a crisis sweeps over the world no person should hope to remain intact. We belong to an organic unit and when one part of the organism suffers all the rest of the body will feel its consequence. This is in fact the reason why Bahá'u'lláh calls our attention to the unity of mankind. But as Bahá'ís we should not let such hardship weaken our hope in the future...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Bahá'í family, April 14, 1932)Page 134
447. Stage of Purgation is Indispensable--Bahá'ís Should Not Hope to Remain Unaffected
"...You seem to complain about the calamities that have befallen humanity. In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light. Unless society learns to attribute more importance to spiritual matters, it would never be fit to enter the golden era foretold by Bahá'u'lláh. The present calamities are parts of this process of purgation, through them alone will man learn his lesson. They are to teach the nations, that they have to view things internationally, they are to make the individual attribute more importance to his moral than his material welfare.
"In such a process of purgation, when all humanity is in the throes of dire suffering, the Bahá'ís should not hope to remain unaffected. Should we consider the beam that is in our own eye, we would immediately find that these sufferings are also meant for ourselves, who claimed to have attained. Such world crisis is necessary to awaken us to the importance of our duty and the carrying on of our task. Suffering will increase our energy in setting before humanity the road to salvation, it will move us from our repose for we are far from doing our best in teaching the Cause and conveying the Message with which we have been entrusted...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer in reply to a letter dated October 14, 1931: Bahá'í News, No. 58, January 1932, p. 1)448. Dangers Facing America
"He has been told that some of the friends are disturbed over reports brought back by the pilgrims concerning the dangers facing America in the future whenever another world conflagration breaks out.
"He does not feel that the Bahá'ís should waste time dwelling on the dark side of things. Any intelligent person can understand from the experiences of the last world war, and keeping abreast of what modern science has developed in the way of weapons for any future war, that big cities all over the world are going to be in tremendous danger. This is what the Guardian has said to the pilgrims.
"Entirely aside from this, he has urged the Bahá'ís, for the sake of serving the Faith, to go out from these centers of intense materialism, where life nowadays is so hurried and grinding and, dispersing to towns and villages, carry the Message far and wide throughout the cities of the American Union. He strongly believes that the field outside the big cities is more fertile, that the Bahá'ís in the end will be happier for having made this move, and that, in case of an outbreak of war, it stands to reason they will be safer, just the way any other person living in the country, or away from the big industrial areas, is safer.
"It is remarks such as these that the pilgrims have carried back in their notes. He sees no cause for alarm, but he certainly believes that the Bahá'ís should weigh these thoughts, and take action for the sake of spreading the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and for their own ultimate happiness as well. Indeed the two things go together."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, June 20, 1954: Bahá'í News, No. 283, September 1954, p. 2)
449. Man's Outlook on Life Too Crude and Materialistic
"Indeed, the chief reason for the evils now rampant in society is the lack ofPage 135
spirituality. The materialistic civilization of our age has so much absorbed the energy and interest of mankind that people in general do no longer feel the necessity of raising themselves above the forces and conditions of their daily material existence. There is not sufficient demand for things that we should call spiritual to differentiate them from the needs and requirements of our physical existence.
"The universal crisis affecting mankind is, therefore, essentially spiritual in its causes. The spirit of the age, taken on the whole, is irreligious. Man's outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit.
"It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 8, 1935)
450. Mental Tests to be Suffered by Believers in the West
"And yet, how often we seem to forget the clear and repeated warnings of our beloved Master, who in particular during the concluding years of His mission on earth, laid stress on the severe mental tests that would inevitably sweep over His loved ones of the West ... tests that would purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life.
"Ours then is the duty and privilege to labour, by day, by night, amidst the storm and stress of these troublous days, that we may quicken the zeal of our fellow-man, rekindle their hopes, stimulate their interests, open their eyes to the true Faith of God and enlist their active support in the carrying out of our common task for the peace and regeneration of the world."
(From a letter written by Shoghi Effendi to the believers in Australia and New Zealand, December 2, 1923: Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, 1923-1957, pp. 1-2)451. A Civilization Torn by Strife
"In the midst of a civilization torn by strifes and enfeebled by materialism, the people of Baha are building a new world. We face at this time opportunities and responsibilities of vast magnitude and great urgency. Let each believer in his inmost heart resolve not to be seduced by the ephemeral allurements of the society around him, nor to be drawn into its feuds and short-lived enthusiasms, but instead to transfer all he can from the old world to that new one which is the vision of his longing and will be the fruit of his labours."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the East and West, December 18, 1963)
452. Fierce and Manifold Will Be Assaults Faith to Suffer
"...The generality of mankind, blind and enslaved, is wholly unaware of the healing power with which this community has been endowed, nor can it as yet suspect the role which this same community is destined to play in its redemption. Fierce and manifold will be the assaults with which governments, races, classes and religions, jealous of its rising prestige and fearful of its consolidating strength, will seek to silence its voice and sap its foundations. Unmoved by the relative obscurity that surrounds it at the present time, and undaunted by the forces that will be arrayed against it in the future, this community, I cannot but feel confident, will, no matter how afflictive the agonies of a travailing age, pursue its destiny, undeflected inPage 136
its course, undimmed in its serenity, unyielding in its resolve, unshaken in its convictions."(Shoghi Effendi: Messages to America, p. 14)
"...It is our duty to redeem as many of our fellow men as we possibly can, whose hearts are enlightened, before some great catastrophe overtakes them, in which they will either be hopelessly swallowed up or come out purified and strengthened, and ready to serve. The more believers there are to stand forth as beacons in the darkness whenever that time does come, the better; hence the supreme importance of the teaching work at this time...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of South and West Africa, July 9, 1957: Teaching the Masses, p. 11)
454. Bahá'ís Are the Leaven of God, the Chosen People of God
"...The Bahá'ís are the leaven of God, which must leaven the lump of their nation. In direct ratio to their success will be the protection vouchsafed, not only to them but to their country. These are the immutable laws of God, from which there is no escape: 'For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.'
"They cannot be the chosen people of God,--the ones who have received the bounty of accepting Him in His Day, the recipients of the Master's Divine Plan--and do nothing about it. The obligation to teach is the obligation of every Bahá'í, and particularly, the obligations of the American Bahá'ís towards humanity are great and inescapable. To the degree to which they discharge them will they be blessed and protected, happy and satisfied."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1957: Bahá'í News, November 1957)455. Eyes of the World Focussed on Us
"...The eyes of the people of the world are beginning to be focussed on us, and as humanity's plight goes from bad to worse, we will be watched ever more intently by non-Bahá'ís, to see whether we do uphold our own institutions wholeheartedly; whether we are the people of the new creation or not; whether we live up to our beliefs, principles and laws in deed as well as word. We cannot be too careful. We cannot be too exemplary."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, August 5, 1955: Canadian Bahá'í News, Special Section, March 1973, p. 6)
456. Bahá'ís Have Task of Cleansing Humanity by Precept and Example
"In many letters and on many occasions the beloved Guardian warned that the disintegrating process will penetrate deeper and deeper into the very core of human society and that much suffering is in store ere mankind is fused by the fires of universal affliction into one organic commonwealth. Even when universal suffrage and all other rights presently sought by civil rights movements are fully attained, there still remains for the Bahá'ís the unaccomplished task of cleansing humanity, by precept and example, of every trace of racial prejudice. Nothing but the Faith of God can accomplish this."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 30, 1965: United States Supplement to Bahá'í News, No. 90, August 1965, p. 2)Page 137
457. Chosen Ones of God Should Not Be Content with Relative Distinction and Excellence
"The chosen ones of God ... should not look at the depraved conditions of the society in which they live, nor at the evidences of moral degradation and frivolous conduct which the people around them display. They should not content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence. Rather they should fix their gaze upon nobler heights by setting the counsels and exhortations of the Pen of Glory as their supreme goal. Then it will be readily realized how numerous are the stages that still remain to be traversed and how far off the desired goal lies--a goal which is none other than exemplifying heavenly morals and virtues."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tihran, October 30, 1924: Living the Life, p. 2)458. Obstacles that Stand in the Path
"The gross materialism that engulfs the entire nation at the present hour; the attachment to worldly things that enshrouds the souls of men; the fear and anxieties that distract their minds; the pleasure and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties--these are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every would-be warrior in the service of Bahá'u'lláh, obstacles which he must battle against and surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen."(Shoghi Effendi: Citadel of Faith, p. 149)
459. Civilization Undergoing Severe and Unparalleled Tests
"Let us pray to God that in these days of world-encircling gloom, when the dark forces of nature, of hate, rebellion, anarchy and reaction are threatening the very stability of human society, when the most precious fruits of civilization are undergoing severe and unparalleled tests, we may all realize, more profoundly than ever, that though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God's grace, that our mission is most urgent and vital to the fate of humanity, and, fortified by these sentiments, arise to achieve God's holy purpose for mankind."(Shoghi Effendi: Bahá'í Administration, p. 35)
460. Not Accurate to State that Bahá'í Faith Has No Ceremonies
"It is not accurate to state that the Bahá'í Faith has no ceremonies. The marriage ceremony and the funeral service are examples of such observances in our teachings.
"It would be correct, however, to state that the Faith has certain basic laws and simple rites prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh and that its teachings warn against developing these into a system of uniform and rigid rituals by introducing into them man-made forms and practices. Rituals in other religions usually consist of elaborate ceremonial practices, such as those of the Catholic Church in the celebration of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments, which are performed by a member of the clergy.
"In carrying out the basic laws of our Faith the friends should always maintain a standard of utmost simplicity and observe flexibility in all matters of detail."
(From a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia from the Universal House of Justice, August 31, 1967)461. Naming Ceremonies
"We have your letter of August 22, 1966 inquiring whether 'naming ceremonies' for children should be encouraged as a community activity. In a letter to an individual believer, dated December 20, 1938, the beloved Guardian said:
'Regarding your question whether there is any special ceremony which the believers should perform when they wish to 'name' a baby: The Teachings do not provide for any ceremony whatever on such occasions. We have no 'baptismal service' in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices...'
"We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 7, 1966: American Bahá'í, December 1970, p. 10)462. Spiritual Baptism of Children
"Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefore; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweet-meat. This is spiritual baptism."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. I, pp. 149-150)463. Baptism of Child
"We have your letter of September 14th inquiring about the baptism of a child wherePage 139
one of the partners to the marriage is a Christian and the other is a Bahá'í.
"Obviously, if both parties are Bahá'ís they cannot baptize their child, however, in the case of a non-Bahá'í spouse insisting upon the baptism of the children, we said in a letter to the National Assembly of Spain on 18 February 1965:
'The Bahá'í parent may attend the ceremony with the understanding that he will not undertake any commitment or vow which is contrary to the principles of his Faith.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1966)
464. Bahá'ís May and Should Participate in Harmless Cultural, Traditional Observances
"In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, the Bahá'ís must guard against two extremes. The one is to disassociate themselves needlessly from harmless cultural observances and thus alienate themselves from their non-Bahá'í families and friends; the other is to continue the practice of abrogated observances of previous dispensations and thus undermine the independence of the Bahá'í Faith and create undesirable distinctions between themselves and their fellow-Bahá'ís...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, May 26, 1982)
465. There Are Some Religious Ceremonies in which Bahá'ís Should Not Participate
"There are some exclusive religious ceremonies in which Bahá'ís should not participate, in order to safeguard the independence of the Faith. In this regard, the beloved Guardian has given the following advice to another National Assembly: 'In these days the friends should, as much as possible, demonstrate through their deeds the independence of the Holy Faith of God, and its freedom from the customs, rituals and practices of a discredited and abrogated past.' In observing this principle, the House of Justice advises the Bahá'ís to maintain a balance between their adherence to the Cause and obedience to its laws on the one hand, and their role in society on the other. When an individual becomes a Bahá'í he acquires, as you are aware, a wider loyalty to the Manifestations of God. Having found this new way of life, he should be careful not to isolate himself from his family and his people, and he should show respect for his former religion. The Bahá'ís should, of course, avoid performing any acts which could be considered as implying their membership in another religion or which are contrary to Bahá'í principles. There is a clear distinction between participating in festive and cultural events, as opposed to performing religious ceremonies and rituals.
"It should also be remembered that the weaning away of the Bahá'ís from customs and traditions, which have been established among communities for centuries, takes time and is a gradual process. Therefore, while the National Assembly should avoid rigidity in these matters, it should also not compromise when the interests of the Faith and its integrity and independence are at stake."(Ibid.)
466. Bahá'í Parent May Attend Baptismal Ceremony, but Cannot Make Any Commitment or Vow
"In reply to your letter of 5 September 1984 saying that a ... believer will soon marry a member of the Roman Catholic Church and asking whether it is permissible for their children to be baptized, the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to convey its guidance.
"Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá'í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá'í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá'í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá'í teachings to her child."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, September 20, 1984)Page 141
467. "He that Bringeth Up His Son or the Son of Another..."
"...He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving-kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world."(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, K. 48, p. 37)
468. Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá Laud Those Who Adopt Children
"It was a pleasure to Shoghi Effendi to receive your letter of May 26th and to hear about your adopted children. This is a truly Bahá'í act especially as it was often lauded both by Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, and the Guardian trusts that they will grow to become Bahá'í workers, and thus repay your kind generosity."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, June 20, 1931)