A Pilgrim's Notes on Teaching and AdministrationBahá'í News, 262, pages 5-7
The statements made by Mrs. Beatrice Ashton to the National Spiritual Assembly after her return from pilgrimage to Haifa were so interesting and helpful that the members requested her to write them out for the information of the friends.The great privilege of making the pilgrimage to Haifa and 'Akka carries with it the responsibility of bringing back to as many as possible the inspiration of visiting the Holy Shrines and praying at the Holy Thresholds, of meeting the beloved Guardian and hearing him speak, and of visiting the Holy Places of the Faith.
The Guardian usually meets the pilgrims from the West at table during and after dinner in the Western Pilgrim House. One evening he spoke at some length about the "Twin Pillars." Everything that the Guardian says is uttered with the greatest clarity. One does not wish to miss a single word, for every word, every expression, conveys just the right meaning and is deeply engraved on one's heart and mind- References made here, however, to what the Guardian said on this occasion must be considered in the category of "pilgrim notes," and only his published words are here given in quotation marks.
That evening at the table he said that up to this time we had been erecting only one of the twin pillars, the one which is to culminate in the Universal House of Justice—that he had not yet been able to establish the Universal House of Justice but he had appointed the International Bahá'í Council as an intermediary stage. Now, he explained, he had begun to erect the pillar of the Guardianship by the appointment of the Hands of the Cause. Just as the other pillar had its institutions—the local and national assemblies, each with its own subsidiary institutions (the committees and the funds)—so the Hands of the Cause would also have their own institutions revolving about them.
In the "Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh", it will be recalled, the Guardian explains briefly, in the section on the Administrative Order, "the character and functions of the twin pillars that support this mighty Administrative Structure—the institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice." He writes: "it should be stated, at the very outset, in clear and unambiguous language, that these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose." (W.O.B., pp. 147-148.)
In his explanation at the table the Guardian stated that the sole purpose of the administrative pillar (i.e., the pillar culminating in the Universal House of Justice) is to support and carry out the Divine Plan; that the function of the Guardian and the Hands is the promulgation of the Teachings and preservation of the integrity of the Cause. Then he said that the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'1-Baha is the charter for the administrative institutions, and the Tablet of Carmel is the charter for the institution of the Guardianship. (The Tablet of Carmel is found on pages 14-17 of Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.)
When we contemplate the Guardian's explanations of these twin pillars—the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice—that support the Administrative Structure of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, we can envision the perfect reciprocal and complementary function of teaching and administration. Before the local and national assemblies were established, teaching was done on an individual basis and was incoordinate. With the coming of the assemblies, the teaching work became more unified and the new Bahá'ís were brought into the family of the Bahá'í Community. It was not, however, until our beloved Guardian began to unfold to us the steps under which we were to carry out the Divine Plan of 'Abdu’l-Baha, and encouraged us to launch forth on the First Seven Year Plan, that our teaching work took on the purposeful direction which brought effective results both within and without the confines of our own land.
The Guardian promulgated the teaching work, that is, he issued the instructions by which the believers, through their national and local assemblies and committees, supported and carried out the unfoldment of the Divine Plan—a preview of the complementary functioning of the "twin pillars."
With the succeeding years every country where a national spiritual assembly is established has had its Plan, given or encouraged by the Guardian and carried out and supported by the committees and assemblies through which the believers work. The teaching projects in the new countries opened to the Faith have for their first objective the establishment of local, then of national, assemblies, thus erecting, painfully slowly it seems, but surely, the support for the crowning unit of the administrative pillar, the Universal House of Justice.
The Second Seven Year Plan of the Bahá'ís of the United States will come to its conclusion in April, 1953. Within the period of that Plan four new national spiritual assemblies will have been established-Canada, South America, Central America and Italy-Switzerland. The supplementary Plans of varying length of the British Isles, of Germany and Austria, of Iran, of India, Pakistan and Burma, of 'Iraq, of Egypt and Sudan, of Australia and New Zealand, of Canada are all culminating in 1953, within the Holy Year.
The Third Plan, a "Global Crusade," begins immediately on the conclusion of the Second Seven Year Plan and will culminate in 1963. It represents "the third concluding phase of initial epoch (in) execution of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan." Thus, it is well to remember, we are still working in the "initial epoch of the Formative Age," the transitional period of the Faith.
To inaugurate this third phase, the concluding phase of the initial epoch, the Guardian in his cable gram of November 30, 1951, summons the "entire Bahá'í world through eleven National Assemblies already functioning East and West bestir itself, arise during sixteen months ahead" and prepare four "intercontinental Bahá'í teaching conferences to be held successively (in) course (of) historic year (on) continents (of) Africa, America, Europe, Asia."
The Guardian summons the Bahá'ís to support and carry out this further, intercontinental extension of the Divine Plan through their national assemblies. The pattern is repeated, and ever enlarged, of promulgation on the one hand and of support and carrying out, on the other.
At this point, when the teaching work is about to launch forth into an intercontinental unfoldment of the Divine Plan, the beloved Guardian has appointed the first Hands of the Cause of God, institutions of the pillar of the Guardianship. As the Guardian states in his cablegram of December 24, 1951, he has taken this step at this time, after local and national institutions on five continents of the globe have been established, after the First Seven Year Plan had inaugurated the first epoch in the execution of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan ("unavoidably held (in) abeyance over two decades pending creation divinely appointed administrative agencies designed by its Author for its effective prosecution"), and now that the institutions at the World Center of the Faith are gradually emerging.
With the appointment of the Hands of the Cause, who are "under the direction of the guardian of the Cause of God" (Will and Testament), the promulgation of the Teachings is extended. Prior to this time the Guardian, alone, has given us our directions in the various Plans, to be carried out and supported through the institutions of the assemblies and committees. Every Bahá'í is enjoined by 'Abdu'1-Baha to teach, every Bahá'í, including the Hands, including the members of assemblies and every member of every Bahá'í community. But in order that the teaching work of all may be effective and that unity (without which no teaching can be effective) may be preserved, the carrying out of the work is channelized through the administrative institutions (see W.O.B., p. 18). A river without a channel loses its force and dissipates its purpose, in fact it evaporates. A channel without the river is equally useless. The purpose of each is fulfilled in the other—they are "complementary."
So it is with teaching and administration. Without the Spirit of Bahá'u'lláh which flows through His Teachings, within His Covenant, each individual Bahá'í accomplishes nothing. We do not teach, we do not find and reach the hearts of people. Bahá'u'lláh accomplishes all this, by His Radiance reflected on the mirrors of our hearts which shines through our words and actions. And unless this River of the Spirit, this River of Light, which finds Its reflection in the believers, flows through the channel of Bahá'u'lláh's own laws, of His Covenant, of the institutions provided by that Covenant through the Will and Testament of His appointed Interpreter, Its effect is dissipated. We do not know the full effectiveness of teaching work unless and until both the river and the channel function together. To emphasize teaching as something distinct from administration is to disregard the very institutions set up by Bahá'u'lláh through His Covenant for the purpose of supporting and carrying out the teaching work. To emphasize the administration as important in itself is to deny the purpose of its existence, which is to be the channel for the spirit.
Teaching of the administration has necessarily been increasingly emphasized during the past thirty years in order to build the strong supporting structure for the Universal House of Justice resting on the institutions provided in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'1-Baha. With the coming of the Guardianship, the Cause had entered a new historical period. During the Heroic Age, just preceding, the teaching work had been done largely on an individual basis. It was necessary that its real objective be more widely understood, that it be oriented away from an individual basis toward the establishment of the community of believers—local, national and world-wide—made up of Bahá'ís each of whom is living and working in accordance with the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Center of His Covenant, now under the guidance of our beloved Guardian, in a coordinated effort unified through the administrative institutions.
Teaching of the administration as an integral part of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is as necessary in preparing an inquirer for entering into the community of believers as is the teaching of the "fundamental verities" of the Faith. Otherwise the new believer is unable either to understand the continuing Covenant which provides and preserves the unity of the Cause or to become a mature member of the Bahá'í community. The Guardian has written; "Without the study and application of the Administration the teaching of the Cause becomes hot only meaningless but loses in effectiveness and scope." (Bahá'í News, No. 105. p. 1.)
Thus, while every Bahá'í is enjoined to teach, the teaching efforts of each Bahá'í, however limited or however extensive, whether in his own community or in a new country, are all part of the great teaching work of the Cause. Each component part is effective to the degree that it is related to the whole, for it then receives the flow of strength from the whole. The connection of the individual with the whole comes through active participation in the Bahá'í community, through the Nineteen Day Feasts and through the uniting of all teaching efforts within the local, regional and national units. Then teaching and administration function as one whole. Only thus can the teaching which every believer longs to do become fully effective, for its purpose is not a personal victory but has for its objective the healing of the world, through "the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith." (Gl., p. 255.)
Now that the Guardian is entrusting us with the responsibility of a mature community, that of participating in the carrying out of a Global Crusade, it is important that we envision the whole, that we understand and practice the complementary function of teaching and administration. Neither is complete without the other, and both functioning together are necessary to bring into outer reality the World Order of Baha-'u'llah, the Kingdom of God on earth.
"We shall continuously, throughout the initial and the succeeding epochs, receive the direction of the teaching work through the "pillar" of the Guardianship. It is the no less continuous responsibility, and privilege, of every Bahá'í to carry out and support the teaching work, however arduous it may be, through the institutions of the pillar which is, in due time, to culminate in the Universal House of Justice. Only thus can we fulfill the great tasks which our beloved Guardian, from his overburdened heart, is calling us to do. Only through our whole-hearted, enthusiastic response to the Guardian's calls can the coming of the Kingdom be hastened.