|chapter 3||start page||single page|
His Literary Gifts
GIFTS! Shoghi Effendi possessed many, and it is difficult to state which was the most remarkable, but one of his greatest talents is seen in his use of both the English and the Persian languages in his writings and translations. His untiring efforts, and the difficulty of his task in enlightening the masses of the believers, both in East and West, can only be fully realized by the conscientious observer who will, carefully and painstakingly, undertake the spiritual adventure of reading the vast and impressive collection of his letters, his translations from the Holy Writings of the Faith and his immortal, chronological history of the Faith known by its title God Passes By - all of which establish a notable epoch in English literature. To know Shoghi Effendi's literary work is to know and love him, to penetrate deeply into the discovery of his personality and the world of reality in which he lived.
As I stated at the beginning of this appreciation, I first met Shoghi Effendi in the greatness of his spiritual stature through his letters, which came to my attention towards the end of 1924, long before I met him personally in my visit to the Holy Land. In early youth I studied English, and for reasons yet unknown to me, I was so attracted by the freedom of expression which this language offers that the entire course of my life was influenced. When I was in my early teens, in Italy, one of my English teachers for whom I had great admiration and affection urged me to read Shakespeare, Byron and Shelley; my partiality for the English language was inflamed.
When I first read some of Shoghi Effendi's early messages to the American Bahá'ís, I was struck by a high sense of purpose, a sublimity of intention and a feeling of chastity (in the wide meaning of the word). It is difficult now to convey an idea of the emotions aroused by their beauty and the impact of their vision which, like sudden showers in the desert, enrich the arid nature of man with something rewarding, refreshing and precious. Later on, when it became feasible, I searched also in his earlier writings, when he wrote for 'Abdu'l-Bahá or translated His Tablets to the Western Bahá'ís, most of which were published in the Star of the West.[*]
Before proceeding it may be well to consider the titanic task which confronted Shoghi Effendi when he assumed the function of Guardian of the Faith at the beginning of 1922. To organize the affairs of the Cause, scattered over the continents of the globe, with the purpose of erecting on unassailable foundations the Administrative Order of the Faith - the forerunner and pattern of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh - Shoghi Effendi had to provide instruments for the use of those (few they were at that time) who would carry out his instructions. This he did mainly through patient, inspiring and illuminating letters of guidance, letters which unfold to a sceptic, unbelieving and slumbering humanity the majestic and almost incredible plan of redemption for the whole of mankind. These letters, like liquid fire running from his pen, express the fullness of his feelings and emotions with a sense of assurance and inevitability. This fire permeated all his writings until his very last messages. The way he always expressed himself with dignity, care and refinement touched the hearts of the readers as would the harmonious notes of a musical composition. After a few years he undertook the translation into English of the major Writings of the Faith, a difficult task which must be considered one of his greatest gifts to present and future generations of Bahá'ís.
In addition to his translations, his voluminous correspondence by mail and cable with National Institutions of the Faith, as well as with individual believers, absorbed much of his precious time, limiting considerably his rest and relaxation.
Furthermore, we must remember the friendly relations he maintained in brilliantly conceived letters to the authorities of the British Mandate in Palestine and, after 1948, of the State of Israel, activities which greatly enhanced the prestige of the Faith, as did his communications with outstanding leaders and personalities in various countries of Europe.
I have no doubt that what he accomplished during his thirty-six years of Guardianship was the systematic unfoldment of a well conceived, broad plan which he must have envisioned at the very beginning of his ministry; he was also confronted early in 1922 with the necessity of making known his interpretation of the Holy Writings. His communications thus became the best fruits, the pure gems, of his spiritual and creative work. This one facet of his immense activity fills one's heart with great joy and will act as a stimulus and an inspiration to yet unborn generations of believers.
As a writer Shoghi Effendi achieved a degree of brilliancy that cannot be equalled. He dealt with an intangible subject in a way no other writer can ever approach, for lack of the spiritual stature which he possessed. His pen penetrated the most remote by-ways of human feelings, bringing tears to the eyes and gripping the heart with a variety of new emotions. Moreover, in his translations, his use of the English language reached the highest form of epic. Because his life had been interwoven with sacrifice, suffering and renunciation, his mind became a pure channel for the spirit; he could translate in ample rhythms, in masterly phrases, the mysteries of the subconscious in a flow of inspiration which poured forth from divine sources.
To be able to understand Shoghi Effendi's work, one must realize what animated him to accomplish the titanic task he did. The laws of genetics will perhaps prove that, as the great-grand son of Bahá'u'lláh, he had inherited many virtues and noble characteristics which made possible his grasp of far greater powers than are available to the average human being, as well as a discernment and spiritual penetration seldom encountered in the most brilliant writer or statesman.
But the true animating forces which permeated all his writings can be placed in three classes. The first was his great vision. With all his passion and zeal he projected himself into the far, far distant future, visualizing the blessings which the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would bring to mankind. Often we saw his dear face illumined by the glow of an inner consuming fire, reflecting the glory of this Order, while with a gentle and convincing voice he would tell of the five-hundred-thousand-year Cycle over which Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation would extend its shield and supremacy.
The second force was his unfaltering conviction of the ultimate triumph of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Shoghi Effendi's life was not an easy one, but not even for an infinitesimal instant did he ever hesitate or delay. 'If I should be influenced by the chaotic condition which exists in the world,' he said one evening at the dinner-table, 'I would remain passive and accomplish nothing.' It was at the crucial time of the post-war period when nearly all countries of the world were in want of statesmanship. this unbounded conviction made him a tower of strength, a haven of refuge, and provided him with the power to accomplish things which by human standards would be considered extremely difficult, even impossible.
The third animating force was his faith in the accomplishments of the Bahá'ís throughout the world. This was one of the most real and precious sources of power to him, almost a talisman, something to be found only in the Bahá'í Faith. Shoghi Effendi was a part of the great body of believers; he was like the lymph in the human body. He was well aware that the co-operation of the believers was essential to the unfoldment of Bahá'u'lláh's divine plan for mankind. Verbally and in his written messages he strongly conveyed his acknowledgement of this active partnership of the believers in whatever he did. It was deeply moving to hear him say: 'We have accomplished this'; 'We shall do that'.
There never was the least trace of personal pride in all his accomplishments. Happiness and joy filled his heart at a new victory, but all the credit and praise were given to the believers.
It must be said, however, that at times he was saddened by the actions of individuals, and he suffered deeply from the inertia which occasionally seemed to dampen the ardour of the Bahá'ís in one continent or another. But his faith in their obedience, devotion, activity, will and virtues, as a world-wide community, never diminished and afforded him much satisfaction, encouraging him to dare even more.
Many pilgrims will remember his saying at the dinner-table: 'I have told them to do this; now it is no longer in my power, it is in their hands, and they must accomplish it.' The things hidden in the future he keenly sensed, and all things he did or planned were far in advance of his time.
Perhaps it is worth while to examine one aspect of the whole question of holy and theological writings, in order to understand better the prodigious accomplishments of Shoghi Effendi in the field of man's religious evolution.
Until fairly recent times, Judaic and Christian scriptures have either remained unavailable in their original languages or have been translated into now dead languages accessible only to a few scholars and to part of the clergy. Latin, for example, has been the dominant language for nearly eighteen centuries and is still used almost exclusively in the liturgy of the largest Christian Church throughout the world. It is thus easy to realize that a tremendous vacuum has existed in the knowledge of the faithful concerning the tenets and practices of their religions.
Bahá'u'lláh's Writings were revealed partly in Persian and partly in Arabic. Shoghi Effendi, with his deep enlightenment and keen realization of the situation just described, initiated a new era in religious literature, for without delay, after 1922, but at great physical cost, he translated, within the very first century of his Great-Grandfather's Revelation, a large number of His Writings into English, a language now widely diffused and almost universally spoken. The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has spread rapidly to all parts of the world because Shoghi Effendi made the dissemination of Bahá'í literature an essential objective throughout the thirty-six years of his Guardianship, and contributed his matchless translations from the original texts, which in turn have been translated into hundreds of other languages. Abdu'l-Bahá had prepared him for this work by enabling him to master some European languages, English being his favourite.
Everything Shoghi Effendi did had but one purpose, which was the result of his far-sighted vision directed always to the future. He was aware of man's limited opportunities during the normal span of human life, but for him the establishment of a granitic foundation for the New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh was most vital and impelling. One can perceive, by studying his writings, that this glorious goal was ever present to his mind, as the sun would be to a celestial navigator. Shoghi Effendi laid this foundation by erecting, step by step, the Administrative Order of the Faith. It was like raising the steel framework of a mighty sky scraper almost single-handed; he encouraged, praised, welded, reinforced, consolidated, with the endurance of an untiring construction engineer. To him the body of the Faith was the mass of believers from every land, climate, culture, language heritage and background. The Administrative Order was the gigantic structure which bridged differences, bringing unity in diversity, harmonizing habits and alien cultures, cementing unbreakable links of amity, forging unprecedented, inconceivable and durable spiritual alliances.
If we ponder even briefly on the development of the Bahá'í Faith since 1922, we cannot but marvel at the swiftness of events and the strength of this mighty administrative structure that reaches into every continent of the earth. And if we look at the kiosks of irreligion today and the crises in which all major religious groups find themselves, we realize immediately that lack of a universal administrative order, such as is possessed by the Bahá'í Faith, has been a major factor in their deterioration. The flow of the dynamic spirit of any faith can be assured only by renewal of its vitality (as the coming of spring does for nature and for man), by the administrative process which the Bahá'ís so diligently and regularly observe, in the local, national and international elections of the governing bodies of the Faith.[*]
The early letters of Shoghi Effendi, written under the direction and instruction of the Beloved Master, immediately after the First World War,[*] are precious ones because they reveal his mature literary mind and his whole grasp of the delicate and vast implications of the spiritual influence he later was called upon to exercise on the entire body of the believers. The wealth of his literary vocabulary, the concise and expressive style, distinguished his writing again and again from that of the many other secretaries 'Abdu'l-Bahá had at different times. It is revealing to compare these early letters with the messages Shoghi Effendi sent as Guardian of the Cause in later years to the Bahá'í world, at an ever increasing tempo, and to note how the later blossoms had the same colours and fragrances as the early buds.
The whole body of Shoghi Effendi's interpretations, translations and literary works would be a real challenge even to a seasoned critic who wanted objectively to penetrate and describe the avenues illumined by the splendour of such a mind, in order to establish standards that could be compared to the characteristics of world-famous writers. It has been said that Shoghi Effendi's aspiration as a youth was to translate the Bahá'í Writings into English. At the same time he had a tremendous sense of history. Indeed, some of his analyses of events of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries so brilliantly presented in The Promised Day Is Come place him not only among the elite of the world's historians, but also in the front rank of men of Belles-lettres in this century. The culture he possessed, the refined education of his sensibilities, and his passion for reading and observing concurred in developing and perfecting his style, which acquired a structure and a particular physiognomy that became well know to Bahá'ís the world over.
In his translations of the Bahá'í Sacred Writings, Shoghi Effendi's style and form do not differ from those of his own free writing. They reach always the highest level of poetic prose, interwoven as they are with images, rhythm and lofty concepts. Generally speaking, some writers see and reproduce objective images of things; others express emotions produced in themselves by these images. Shoghi Effendi, however, having the most perfectly balanced temperament, could combine these two qualities and reproduce in his writings both images and emotions. In illustration it would suffice to consider his translation of Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, and his own historical narrative God Passes By, to evaluate the power of his style, the potency of his prose and the gripping pathos of his narration.
Much more could be said about his unique translations, such as those of the major Writings of Bahá'u'lláh: The Book of Certitude, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf; Prayers and Meditations, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and others.[*] To translate from one language to another is an art which requires knowledge, imagination and perfect mastery of both languages involved. For many years I struggled with translation into English from Italian, and vice versa, so that I well know the tremendous difficulties encountered in retaining the style, form and character of the original text - the hallmarks of the personality of the author-in the process of transferring these characteristics into another language that possesses a different grammatic structure and may, at times, lack the corresponding noun or adjective or verb used by the author. There are words in one language that cannot be translated into another because they actually do not exist. If we but consider therefore, from this point of view, Shoghi Effendi's translations into English from either Persian or Arabic - two flowery languages so rich in imagery and abundant in synonyms, the structure of which is so different from any modern European language - we can then better understand the immensity of his labour and the greatness of his accomplishment.
Classical English, as used by the luminaries of English literature, is quite different from the style evolved by Shoghi Effendi to convey the mystic and heavenly meanings of prayer, praise, adoration, aspiration, tranquillity, contentment, fulfilment, joy and the inevitability of God's will. His translation of the prayers and meditations revealed by Bahá'u'lláh is like the mystic chanting of the Orient with all the fragrance of the exotic land of their origin, moving as by a mysterious impulse on the capable wings of the versatile English idiom. It is the highest form of poetry instilled with the divine substance of exaltation and anguish, of sorrow and hope. My pen fails to render due homage to such creative work, which brings joy to the hearts of countless followers and friends of the Bahá'í Revelation.[*]
In Shoghi Effendi's own writings, the flowery language of his translations is transformed into a poignant prose containing a high note of urgency and finality. He makes use of long sentences as a means of penetrating into the depth of the reader's soul, and it becomes evident that the writer, being so attentive, so precise and so well informed, uses the long sentences not casually but with a definite artistic intent and to fulfil a specific expressive function. Long sentences are similar to monologues with oneself. They are full of passages and discourses, and are yet objective, detached and peculiar to the writer who plunges himself into and lives in his subject matter, thus giving it a life from within.
For instance, God Passes By is a flaming narrative. The character and qualities of the innumerable personages in it spring from the personages themselves and not from the author's fantasy. Like a precious and veritable gift from God, Shoghi Effendi's writing is an infinite, passionate cry from his innermost noble soul: the need to relate with great force and vehemence, without pause or rest, the greatest epic of the millennium. One can well sense that the underlying element of urgency is motivated by the inner impelling need to proclaim it, without delay, to all mankind.
The same standards of excellence appear in all Shoghi Effendi's writings, his messages, his letters - too many to mention here. Some one, some time, will diligently make a complete collation of whatever flowed from his great pen. Then from this opera omnia his personality will appear in all its perfection and beauty, as a figure carved from the purest marble by Phidias or Michelangelo.
I have already mentioned Shoghi Effendi's keen interest in history. It is befitting to his memory to illustrate further the fertility of his mind as it manifested itself in his interpretation of past world events and of man's wisdom and unwisdom manifested over the centuries. Night after night, at dinner, when pilgrims from many parts of the world partook of their evening meal at the Guardian's table, there flowed forth in his talks a succession of clear, accurate statements on facts and events ranging in time from the early days of biblical history to that very day. These revealed the depth of Shoghi Effendi's knowledge of the history of the world and of the alternate advances and reverses of mankind. They also revealed the adaptability of his views and deductions as related to demography, statistics, nations, races, creeds, traditions, arts, and aspirations of the peoples of the world. It was always a delightful surprise to hear him talk with such authority and exactness on historical matters which covered the whole earth. Having myself received a European education based mainly on the Greek and Roman cultures, I was astounded at the broad as well as profound wealth of information he possessed and used with such care and acumen in discussing crises and situations whose background went far back into the past. In both his writings and his table talks Shoghi Effendi felt the need to assert with assurance the signs of the new victories achieved through the spiritual flowering of a new Dispensation. Well he knew the causes of events. In the depths of his thoughts and with the keenness of his perception, he conceived them as a whole, and related the saga of inspiring and electrifying happenings in his poetic, concise and vigorous style.
His knowledge was by no means limited to the history of the great religions of the world, but included as well the circumstances of the rise and fall of all great civilizations since men started to record them, and, in particular, the situation of the world since the advent of the Bábi Dispensation. The crystal clarity of his grasp of the whole field of human endeavour was always evident in the way he related events of the past to problems and needs of the present and the future, and kept myself and those privileged to be in his presence spellbound and spiritually filled to capacity. Many nights I sat at the table eagerly anticipating the silver stream of eloquence that flowed from a seemingly fathomless spring, with a dazzling brilliancy. Much, very much indeed, I learned during those fleeting months. It was a daily experience that reinforced and consolidated my link with the one who was skilled in the use of all the instruments needed to heal the ills of the world. As a master of pragmatic history, he indicates in all his writings the way to correct mankind's errors of the past by applying Bahá'u'lláh's regenerating remedies, and he foretells the difficulties that would result from neglecting to apply these remedies.
I have already mentioned some of Shoghi Effendi's writings, but I would refer the reader to all of his works, to appraise in their fullness his foresight and wisdom, which illumined the occurrences of the past in the light of the present day's needs and aspirations.
Outstanding as an example of his historical perspective is the Introduction to the Dawn-Breakers. It contains a concise and brilliant history of Islam, to inform the reader concerning the forms and elements which concurred to set the stage on which the deeply moving drama of the Báb's Revelation was played. Many a time, during his table conversation, to illustrate some points, he would accurately quote from that particular book, or from God Passes By, or some other of his writings, often showing surprise or perplexity at the limited information, or lack of it, of some of his listeners. The footnotes of The Dawn-Breakers, some of which are in French, are another example of his talent in the field of historical research. To appreciate the tremendous background of knowledge he possessed at the time of his translation of that book, it suffices to glance at the titles and authors of the fifty-five books he consulted, as listed in the Appendix. In addition, one finds in his own handwriting the genealogy of the Báb, showing connection with Bahá'u'lláh's descendants, and presented on a fivefold sheet of paper twenty-six inches long.[*] The genealogy is prepared with scrupulous care, and shows the ramifications of the families, including names known to every Bahá'í as well as names unknown to the average believer, but which Shoghi Effendi brought to mind with great facility.[**] Always amazing was his inexhaustible memory and the ease with which he recalled episodes, placing personages in their proper positions, with all their particulars of names, backgrounds and degrees of relationship. It was like reliving the spellbound days of my childhood when my aged and learned tutor would narrate the legendary feats of Greek mythology, with gods and people brought alive by his fascinating word pictures.
** See Appendix IV. The genealogy of the Báb is also to be found in The Bahá'í World, vol. IV, facing p.234, and in vol. V, facing p. 203. An even greater labour, the genealogy of Bahá'u'lláh, also in Shoghi Effendi's handwriting, is included in The Bahá'í World, vol. V, facing p. 205. It is printed on a sheet of paper forty-six inches long, folded eight times.
In Europe it is customary to mention our ancestors with pride, as a means of establishing a social status befitting our heritage and, all too often, our ambitions. Shoghi Effendi, on the contrary, was reserved about his unique ancestry and, as far as I can remember, never made any reference to it, as if it were a precious possession to be jealously and secretly guarded, but unconnected with himself. The type of authority based on lineage and tradition, such as existed among the crowned heads of the past, and still exists among the few remaining rulers and heads of religion today, was quite alien to Shoghi Effendi's nature. He accepted the Guardianship, not as a mere hereditary right but as the most priceless trust any human being could receive. In this lay the substantial difference between himself and the disaffected members of his immediate family.
The accurate, scholarly arrangement of the genealogies of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, with their many details, and their precise transliteration implying a perfect command of Persian and Arabic, should suffice to convince any reader of the high merits and qualifications of Shoghi Effendi as a true historian.
We cannot leave this subject of Shoghi Effendi's writing without mentioning another of his activities which engaged him for long hours, greatly taxing his health and strength. I refer to the enormous correspondence he had to carry on with believers throughout the world who wrote to him directly on thousands of different and, alas, at times immaterial subjects. For years he carried on this correspondence alone, assisted by a member of the immediate family or others. After his marriage in 1937 his wife, Ruhiyyih Khanum, proved herself the most efficient helpmeet to him and assisted him in this onerous task. Every day, however, it claimed more and more of his energy.
All the letters he has written - and they may number many thousands - are the essence of equity, wisdom and spirituality and are, at the same time, literary gems.[*] His letters demonstrate that he was a true sovereign, the most noble person of the twentieth century. He never denied the light of his wisdom and of his warm rewarding love to anyone who wrote to him. Those pilgrims who visited the Holy Land during the later years of his ministry became familiar with the sight of one devoted believer who, early in the morning, would return from her first visit to the post office in Haifa with a large basketful of correspondence addressed to the Guardian.
When inquirers presented personal problems, Shoghi Effendi would answer in such an objective, kind and regal manner as to strengthen their faith and give them new hope. He would relate each problem to its wider aspect and thus lift it, and the inquirer, to a broader vision.
The thousands of questions put to him, either from the Institutions (the Administrative bodies) of the Faith or from individuals, were promptly and explicitly answered. On any given subject, concerning any aspect of the Teachings, of the Administration, or on personal problems, the answers, even at intervals of many years, were identical in concept. After the Guardian's passing, when I entered his room as one of the Hands of the Cause of God who went there to search for any directions he might have left, I was exceedingly surprised to find there was no master file or copies of letters, and to realize that the constancy of his answers was another of the unfathomable prodigies of the incredible mind and guidance of Shoghi Effendi. This constancy was and is proof of his vast, complete, orderly and deep knowledge of the Sacred Writings, of his steadfast adherence to the principles and laws of the Faith, and, above all, of that conferred infallibility inherent in his station of Guardianship.
This characteristic is not the singular trait of an ordinary man but is an exemplary firstness, in the realm of objectivity and justice, of a human being who received his strength and vision from the unexplorable world of the Spirit. He possessed principles and virtues that were sublime and memorable; his actions could not be limited by the indetermination that often springs from the happening itself, but must be considered a unique bounty from God the Almighty.
It should be emphasized again, that he bore this tremendous burden of carrying on correspondence with the whole world on all the affairs of the Cause single-handed and alone. His heroic individuality was epitomized by this great virtue. Moreover, in addition to answering the flood of correspondence directed to him, there are letters, messages and cablegrams addressed by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Faith throughout the world, as well as his equally voluminous correspondence carried on with the Institutions of the Faith and the friends in Persia. For the Orient he used a loftier, more deeply spiritual and mystical language which lifted the hearts of a people who, for centuries, had been downtrodden and oppressed. Today his supplications, which are of the highest and most perfect beauty, are chanted by the believers there. They represent the agony of his own soul for the long-suffering and unfortunate brethren of the land of his ancestors.[*]
Had we a thousand lives to live, we could never fully repay Shoghi Effendi with enough love and gratitude for the beauty, inspiration and perfection of his literary work.
The deep interest Shoghi Effendi had in geography and history has already been mentioned, as well as his vast knowledge of the world. Before his eyes he kept perpetually a wide vision of victories in the making and of victories he planned; like a strategist, he used maps of two hemispheres, singling out continents, nations, regions, islands and localities to be conquered with the blessings of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, the Faith which he so nobly represented. He possessed unrivalled ingenuity in making advantageous use of these maps that presented the whole globe at a glance and, with the deep insight of a true leader, he would make his plans on them, marking them with a variety of symbols and colours to reveal at sight the world situation of the Cause of God. Nothing escaped him. Everything was accurately recorded with the precision of a research scientist.[*]
The word ingenuity has been used, because Shoghi Effendi was richly endowed with the ability to devise ways of presenting his ideas with beauty, grandeur and prestige, as well as with durability and effectiveness. This talent will become more evident in all its magnitude when his monumental conception for beautifying the World Centre of the Faith in the twin cities of 'Akka and Haifa is considered.
Twice it was my good fortune to handle the reproduction of two maps which Shoghi Effendi made to show to the Bahá'í world the goals and progress of the Ten Year Crusade: the ten year international Bahá'í teaching and consolidation plan, 1953 1963, and the victories won during the first five years of this plan, 1953-1958. The original maps entrusted to me for reproduction were drawn by Shoghi Effendi's own hand. They represented the entire world, including the Arctic and Antarctic regions. By the ingenious and artistic use of well-conceived lines, colours, circles and other symbols, Shoghi Effendi presented on these maps (each one thirty-eight inches by twenty-two inches) the whole content of hundreds of pages of printing.
The first original was brought to me in Italy by a pilgrim returning from the Holy I and in the latter part of 1952. It had to be reproduced in time to be annexed to the booklet The Bahá'í Faith 1844 - 1952: Information Statistical and Comparative, to be published simultaneously in London and in Wilmette. It was also intended for the Intercontinental Teaching Conferences held in Kampala, Chicago, Stockholm and New Delhi in 1953, and for the twelve National Bahá'í Conventions held in April of that same year. Knowing the reluctance of the Italians in general to print anything of which the Church of Rome may disapprove, I had to move wisely and cautiously to find a printer in Italy who would undertake to carry out the project without fear or eventual regret. After some unsuccessful attempts, when I was turned down for incredible reasons, I was able to locate a firm which agreed to execute the work. Map printing is an art in itself. It requires special machinery which at that time was not readily available in a country that was slowly recovering from the ravages of a disastrous war. It is interesting to recall the curiosity of various men assigned to the work at the printing plant. They asked me veiled questions at every opportunity but were unable to understand either the importance or the future world significance of the contents of such a map. They felt they were working on something special and, although I had clearly explained the nature of the design, they always suspected that its scope was far beyond its simple and obvious purpose. There is a law in Italy which requires that three copies of anything printed in any manner or form be sent to the police. Thus the conscience of the workers was quite assuaged.
As soon as the first copies of the first map came off the press, a sample was sent to Shoghi Effendi. It was swiftly acknowledged with a cable of thanks and praise. Instructions for a second printing were received in the spring of 1953, thus necessitating my presence in Italy and preventing my taking part in the Intercontinental Conference held in the United States.
The second map was prepared by Shoghi Effendi during the summer months of 1957. It was his practice to gather information continuously, which he kept up to date in his copy of the statistical book already mentioned, interpolating new pages to keep the flow of additions in systematical order. Later, in November 1957, when I saw his book after his passing, it was double its original thickness. He had been so pleased at the development of the first four and a half years of the Ten Year Crusade that, in his message of October 1957 (which was to be his very last), he called for the holding of five Intercontinental Conferences in 1958. At this time the second map, depicting the victories with true originality and accuracy, was to be presented.
When, on 4 November 1957, the light of the world was dimmed by his passing, and I rushed to London at the request of Ruhiyyih Khanum, the map had just been finished. On entering his room, the day after his passing, I saw it lying on two small mahogany tables that had been drawn together to make the necessary wide space available. Coloured pencils, pens, penknife, eraser, rulers and a compass were lying to the right of the map, just as he had left them when, in the late afternoon of the previous day, turning to Ruhiyyih Khanum, he had said: 'The map is now finished'.
The next morning he winged his flight to the Kingdom on High, but the map was there, to testify to his love for mankind and to what he had created to bring about its unity.
With my eyes filled with tears and with agony in my heart I beheld the noble handiwork of the peacemaker, the healer of humanity, the mender of divisions, the architect of the immediate first steps that would usher in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh in all its glory. Rapidly, with the speed of light, my mind raced back into the recesses of time, to the divisive forces that had brought mankind to the present abyss of antagonisms, conflicts and despair. Christianity, which had come to the world as a light in the deep darkness of paganism, began its decline early in its history, when theological differences brought the first divisions.
Through the centuries the manipulations of men weakened the structure of that Holy Faith and its unity, culminating in further fragmentation brought on by the Reformation and the irreconcilability of the many sects of one original Revelation. No leader of Christianity, or of Islam, had ever made a definite and clear plan for the permanent unity of mankind based on love and understanding in the spirit of dedication to one God. But there, in that dimly-lighted room, was irrefutable proof that the first steps in a world-wide fusion of nations, races and creeds had been successful, and that Bahá'u'lláh's divine design of global unity had been at work under the directives of its able and dedicated leader and Guardian, Shoghi Effendi. Wherever men had become divided, separated, disunited or disconnected, the gentle healing hand of Shoghi Effendi had planted the seeds of unity, cooperation, harmony, hope, faith and virtue.
In the following months this second map was copied by hand, and taken to the various Intercontinental Conferences of 1958, where it was exhibited to the friends. Then it was again entrusted to me for printing in Italy, to be available in time for the Centenary Jubilee in London, 28 April to 2 May 1963, and to be annexed to the statistical book[*] compiled by the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land. This time it was an inventive and sympathetic printer who did the work with keen interest and swiftness.
The genius of Shoghi Effendi is evident when one looks at the infinite details, the variety of colours and symbols used to give at first glance the incredibly vast results of the first five years of the World Crusade.
In considering some of the world events which have taken place since Shoghi Effendi's passing, we cannot but marvel now at man-made plans and events which clearly appear to be the aftermath of his vision. These maps clearly show the practical unfoldment of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order, with all the manifold goals set for the spiritual rebirth of this globe. For many decades pioneers - a veritable army - have gone to far-away lands, leaving homes, families and interests, not with the mirage of glory or notoriety or sudden wealth before them, and often without the essentials even of a modest, simple way of life, because they have been set on fire by the love of God and want to bring comfort, solace and joy to all with whom they come in contact. Some of the places to which these pioneers have gone were not shown on the usual maps, but it seems that as soon as they appeared on Shoghi Effendi's map they suddenly flared into public news as regions needing the attention of the world.
As harbingers of a new social pattern these pioneers travelled to thousands of localities, forgetful of themselves, willing to contribute with heart, soul and body to the redemption of their fellow men suffering under political and social structures erected centuries ago, when men had little understanding of the ways and will of the Creator. For many centuries missionaries have gone into the wilderness to bring relief from sorcery, disease and ignorance, but their sacrifices - as proved by recent events in both Asia and Africa - have been vitiated to a large degree by the sectarianism of their denominations, by their intervention in political affairs and by their involvement in factional struggles.
Bahá'í pioneers, since the dawn of this new Revelation, and as deployed by Shoghi Effendi, have trodden every continent and island, to bring the light of unity among the children of man, by helping to tear down artificial and unnatural barriers erected by superstitions and prejudices and by reaching out friendly hands to the untouchable, the downtrodden, the afflicted, the illiterate, and to those discriminated against by reason of creed, race and colour. The Bahá'í pioneers are helping to raise these people to a new level of human dignity and are opening to them vast areas of better and enduring human relations.
Little did men know of, much less realize, the necessity envisaged by Shoghi Effendi, and indicated by him in his maps, to place ambassadors of goodwill wherever possible, as bearers of the divine Message of human sublimation! In the most recent years the United States of America, in creating the 'Peace Corps', has walked in the footsteps of the forerunner of universal solidarity, Shoghi Effendi. He knew that he had to reach the people of the world quickly, during the span of a few decades, and he himself set the example, because he dearly loved not only the followers of Bahá'u'lláh but all the members of the human family. He exposed himself to overwork, fatigue and hardship, and shortened his natural life-span to obtain for them what his heart had adopted as the goal of their happiness.
Most of the Bahá'ís never met Shoghi Effendi, but they knew he loved them more than he loved his own life. Many were inspired by his contagious enthusiasm and the sublimity of the objectives he set for those fleeting decades, scattered over the highways and by-ways of the world, to kindle anew the love for God as reflected upon man. Over and over again he demonstrated that he was living on faith, and faith alone. And after he placed on his last map the spiritual victories won during the last five years of his tormented and laborious earthly life, his noble heart was stilled forever in that hotel room in London.
The original maps, and other maps which Shoghi Effendi had drawn but never released to the Bahá'í world, were bound in a cover of linen cloth by a skilful bookbinder and are now in Haifa, in the International Bahá'í Archives, for safekeeping. They remind us, as well as future generations of Bahá'ís, of the spirit of enterprise and ingenuity and devotion of our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi.
|chapter 3||start page||single page|