There's a posting about this on my blog, under the title 'For the Betterment of the World'.http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2008/09/26/for-the-betterment-of-the-world/
The betterment of the world requires an engaged, committed stance to the issues of the day. And in a democracy, according to Abdu'l-Baha, this requires "that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic." "no excuse from it is possible" he says. It's very emphatic language (these are and other quotes and their sources are on my blog). The reason why political involvement is a duty in a democracy, but not under an absolute monarchy, is simply that under an absolute monarchy political mobilisation is subversive, whereas in a democracy all citizens are given permission
O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Serve ye the sovereigns of the world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 15)
Keyvan wrote:... we should be geared towards bringing the triumph of our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, - not promoting those of the current old world.
In all seriousness, Keyvan, I would ask you not to write and circulate such ideas on a public forum. They are not just a misunderstanding of the Writings, they could put the Bahais and the Bahai institutions in danger in many countries of the world. Governments are quite rightly jealous of potential alternative governments in their territory ! By all means study the matter, and form your own understanding of it, but do not put things in writing in public that would endanger your fellow-believers.
What you are suggesting is against one of the most emphatic and often repeated teachings of the Faith. Here's just a small selection of quotes
Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country's constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 65)
... this sect have no worldly object nor any concern with political matters. The fulcrum of their motion and rest and the pivot of their cast and conduct is restricted to spiritual things and confined to matters of conscience; it has nothing to do with the affairs of government nor any concern with the powers of the throne; its principles are the withdrawal of veils, the verification of signs, the education of souls, the reformation of characters, the purification of hearts, and illumination with the gleams of enlightenment.
(Abdu'l-Baha, A Traveller's Narrative, p. 85)
The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term "House of Justice" that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs.
Hereafter, enemies will be many. They would use this subject as a cause for disturbing the mind of the government and confusing the thoughts of the public. The intention was to make known that by the term Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality), that Gathering has not the least connection with material matters, and that its whole aim and consultation is confined to matters connected with spiritual affairs.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v1, p. 5)
The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes, is, it should be noted in this connection, essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political,
(Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement - 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine)
Should we become intoxicated with this cup, the sovereignty of this globe of earth will become lower in our estimation than children's play. Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.
To attain to this supreme station is, however, dependent on the realization of certain conditions: The first condition is firmness in the Covenant of God. For the power of the Covenant will protect the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh from the doubts of the people of error.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 50)
Bahá'u'lláh, Who Himself was an active figure in those days and was regarded one of the leading exponents of the Faith of the Báb, states clearly His views in the Íqán that His conception of the sovereignty of the Promised Qá'im was purely a spiritual one, and not a material or political one...
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 425)
Were sovereignty to mean earthly sovereignty and worldly dominion, were it to imply the subjection and external allegiance of all the peoples and kindreds of the earth -- whereby His loved ones should be exalted and be made to live in peace, and His enemies be abased and tormented -- such form of sovereignty would not be true of God Himself, ...
Know, therefore, O questioning seeker, that earthly sovereignty is of no worth, nor will it ever be, in the eyes of God and His chosen Ones....
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 124)
CII. Give a hearing ear, O people, to that which I, in truth, say unto you. The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth. From the beginning that hath no beginning the ensign proclaiming the words "He doeth whatsoever He willeth" hath been unfurled in all its splendor before His Manifestation.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 206)
83: By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened.
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 49)
God hath committed into your hands [ie, the Kings and Ruler's hands] the reins of the government of the people, that ye may rule with justice over them, safeguard the rights of the down-trodden, and punish the wrong-doers.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 247)
If you refer to history, you would find countless examples of this [negative] sort, all based on the involvement of religious leaders in political matters. These souls are the fountainhead of the interpretation of God’s commandments (tashri-`
), not of implementation (tanfi-dh
). That is, when the government requests an explanation concerning the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances ... they must explain what has been deduced of the commands of God, and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom, the improvement of procedures and codes of law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy?
Abdu'l-Baha, Sermon on the Art of Governance,
This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body (tashri-`) must reinforce the executive (tanfi-dh), the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 14)
One of their many calumnies was that this servant had raised aloft a banner in this city, had summoned the people together under it, had established a new sovereignty for himself, had erected upon Mount Carmel a mighty stronghold, had rallied around him all the peoples of the land and made them obedient to him, had caused disruption in the Faith of Islam, had covenanted with the following of Christ and, God forbid, had purposed to cause the gravest breach in the mighty power of the Crown. May the Lord protect us from such atrocious falsehoods!
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 7)
The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone. ... Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) -- may peace be upon Him -- was asked: "O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" And He made reply: "Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." He forbade it not. These two sayings are, in the estimation of men of insight, one and the same, for if that which belonged to Caesar had not come from God, He would have forbidden it.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)
In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." And further: "For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 90)
I could go on and on -- this is clearly a matter that was very important to Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, because they mention it often and the language is often vehement. This is partly because they were in fact being accused up setting up a potential alternative form of government. But back to what you wrote:
... our own potential systems of governments - of the Baha'i' Commonwealth, -
We have seen that Shoghi Effendi says that we must never "under any circumstances" allow the machinery of the Bahai administration to supersede the government, not even if we are asked very nicely. "Should they place in the arena the crown of the government ...undoubtedly we shall ... refuse to accept it," says Abdu'l-Baha. That rather rules out the Bahai administration as a potential system of government, doesn't it. But Shoghi Effendi does talk about the commonwealth of nations, the Bahai Commonwealth and the World Order of Baha'u'llah, and it is important to sort out what these mean to him.
One passage that's particularly illuminating is in Citadel of Faith p. 32:
... the great republic of the West, government and people alike, is itself .... unwittingly and irresistibly advancing towards the goal destined for it by both Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha? Indeed if we ... appraise correctly the significances of contemporaneous events that are impelling forward both the American Baha’i Community and the nation of which it forms a part on the road leading them to their ultimate destiny, we cannot fail to perceive the workings of two simultaneous processes ... each clearly defined, each distinctly separate, yet closely related and destined to culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation.
One of these processes is associated with the mission of the American Baha’i Community, the other with the destiny of the American nation. The one serves directly the interests of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha’u’llah, the other promotes indirectly the institutions that are to be associated with the establishment of His World Order
The World Order, as Shoghi Effendi uses the term, is something that develops out of the process already at work in what you call "the current old world," and it is "distinctly separate" from the Administrative Order of the Faith.
Hoeever the Bahai Commonwealth develops out of the process within the Bahai community:
The first process dates back to the ... Tablets ... of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan. ... It will be consummated through the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth in the Golden Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 32)
The other process dates back to the outbreak of the first World War ... It received its initial impetus through the formulation of President Wilson's Fourteen Points,... It acquired added momentum through the outbreak of the second World War, .... It was further reinforced through the declaration embodied in the Atlantic Charter, ....It assumed a definite outline through the birth of the United Nations ... It must, however long and tortuous the way, lead, through a series of victories and reverses, to the political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, to the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace, as foretold by Bahá'u'lláh and foreshadowed by the Prophet Isaiah. It must, in the end, culminate in the unfurling of the banner of the Most Great Peace, in the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 32)
The second (secular) process leads to the establishment of ...
The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, [u]creeds
the future Commonwealth of all the nations of the world? Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, Such a state will have to include within its orbit an international executive ... a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal...
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 40)
and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members
and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, ... A world executive, backed by an international Force, ... A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 203)
In this world commonwealth of nations, there is no mention of the Universal House of Justice. But the Universal House of Justice is "the supreme legislative body of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth," (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World - 1950-1957, p. 148).
There is no mention of the Hands of the Cause, who are the "Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth" (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World - 1950-1957, p. 127). And so on: the functions, memberships, electoral methods of the institutions of the Bahai Commonwealth are all different to those of the commonwealth of nations, and they are intended to function side by side and support one another. The house of justice, for example, are elected by the Bahais, the world parliament by all the peoples of the world, for the commonwealth of nations embraces all creeds, the Bahai Administrative Order is for Bahais.
Once that distinction is sorted out, the Bahai teachings about "systems of governments" and about "Baha'i' Commonwealth" can each be understood. It is supposing that these are the same thing that makes the issue appear complicated, even contradictory. In fact, it is quite straightforward if the basic two-fold architecture is sorted out