Sydney, AustraliaThis afternoon I want to take this opportunity to speak to you on the subject which was mentioned in the very first message published by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand. A message which was written in 1923, the 22nd of Dec 1923.
If you look in the book of the messages of The Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, present publication of the one of the Shoghi Effendi, you find that in the very first message from Shoghi Effendi newly appointed as (a word?) as the Guardian of the Cause to the Bahá'ís of this region, here, he included within it a first important and first serious warning; let me read from His words; Shoghi Effendi said to the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand as well as to other countries ..... so often we seem to forget the clear and repeated warning of our beloved Master in particular in the concluding years of His mission on Earth made stress on; the Guardian quoting "severe mental tests, severe mental tests that inevitably would sweep His loved ones of the west. Tests that would purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life".
In 1923, in one of the first published messages to the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand, Shoghi Effendi reminded the friends of this country (who were just a handful of course in those days), that Abdu'l-Bahá had prophesied the friends in the West would inevitably, and he uses the word inevitably experience what the Guardian has translated as severe mental tests and these tests would purify the friends and prepare them for their mission in life, which is a sign to the followers of Bahá'u'lláh. That was 1923, seventy two year ago, at that time the Faith was in the condition of obscurity, then you are familiar with the various places, in the Advent of Divine Justice, God Passes By and other areas, where, Shoghi Effendi refers to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh as going through successive stages in its development and the first stage is the stage of obscurity. and then He says unmitigated obscurity and we are well familiar with that and most of us come from that period of obscurity in our Faith.
In 1986, The Universal House of Justice and I think it was January of 1986 in a message send to the Bahá'í World announcing that, at last the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh was emerging from obscurity and is entering into the second stage of the seven stages, characterised and shown by the Guardian. What is the second stage? Shoghi Effendi tells us that the second stage of the seven stages is that of persecution and repression.
It is on the bases of this and other statements in the writings that, I have come to personally, to the conclusion and I only speaking personally and not of the institution that I am a member of. I have come personally to the conclusion that we Bahá'ís living in the Western World are now, not in the future, not in some distant time, not at some period of remote possibility but here and now at 1995, we are experiencing some of the severe of the mental tests of which Abdu'l-Bahá spoke and of which Shoghi Effendi foreshadowed in His messages to Australia and New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Germany and other areas. But (must?) in addition to reference to severe mental tests in the West said in another place and is quoted by The Guardian as saying the tests of the Cause and persecutions of The Cause in West would be intellectual, rather than physical.
We as you know are well experience with physical tests. One of the sources of the strength of the Australian Bahá'í community at the present time and is a strong community in the fact that it has been the recipient of the dear friends from Iran, from the Cradle of the Faith, in many instances as a consequence of the persecutions, the physical persecutions that had occurred in that land. As a International World wide Bahá'í Community, we know a lot about physical persecutions. For a hundred and fifty years, we are well committed, it has been almost a constant companion, we had to table it in various ways. So don't ask us about physical persecutions, we know about it. But, we are relatively inexperienced about mental tests. This is new to us. We would learn, because we are emerged from obscurity. We have entered the second of the seventh stages which was spoken by The Guardian and that second stage is that of persecution or repugnant in that period of testing.
What can one say about mental tests? I think there are several characteristics, mental tests by virtue of their nature aim for erosion of Faith and Belief and consequently at disunity in the Bahá'í Community. A physical test aims to kill you, to chap your head, of putting you in a prison, name you or some thing like that and ultimately aiming to persuade you to recount your Faith. A mental test is different. It aims fairly and squarely at the erosion of the weak and the committed. Another characteristic of a mental test is that one may be blinded to its danger by the standards of a non-Bahá'í materialistic society, one may look at it through false eyes and not through the true eyes. Because of the standards of a society around us in which, we are almost spending every day of our lives. It is very rare, and I am told that Janet and I are probably very few who spend most of our lives in contact with Bahá'ís rather than non-Bahá'ís. Most of us, most of the Bahá'ís in this room, if not all of them spend a large proportion of their daily human relationship and activities with people who are not Bahá'ís, people whom you are and have been in work, people whom you are and have been at school, people whom you have talked in stores or in the streets or in various other ways or only across the back fence.
So one of the features of the mental test is that our defence against it may be weakened by the fact that we are unconsciously peak up the standards of a society which is not Bahá'í. And the final characteristic, the general characteristic of mental test, in which, I referred is that we may not become aware of these tests until it is too late. That is a radical difference between a mental test and a physical test. With a physical test, you know exactly who is doing what. We have people who put you in to prison. These are people who want to shoot you, or hang you, or something like that. A physical test is generally crystal clear. It is its purpose and character. Mental test is precisely the opposite. It is not clear, it is subtle, it is veiled, it is hidden and one might not become aware of it until it is too late, in the sense that the test has succeeded. Faith and belief has been eroded and disunity has come into being, and one has sunk into the condition of those who are part of the society in decline.
My argument this afternoon is centred around my personal perception that they are three areas in which, we as Bahá'í are now subjected to what I regard as severe mental tests foreshadowed by Abdu'l-Bahá. Who is to say whether I am right or wrong what I would like to do is to offer my argument to you and leave it to you to decide to what extent is in flaw. The three areas which, I believe are the areas in which, we Bahá'ís are experiencing these mental tests are the following; let me mention them one aft er the other and after that let me develop each of them in a bit of detail.
The first mental test, I think we face is that which arises from the challenge of trying to develop spirituality in a materialistic environment. The mental test is associated with the fact that we are trying to swim against the tide. We are tested in our strength and our commitment to the development of spirituality. The second mental test arises in our efforts to manifest an adequate level of commitment to the betterment of spirituality. The test is that we are in society which is increasingly selfish and self centred. Where, people are increasingly, are concerned with personal welfare and well being and have lost (hope?) and commitment to well being of the world and commitment to betterment of the world, which was the characteristic of the society even as little as two hundred decades ago. So, the test is that of commitment to higher ideals or wider aim. The third mental test and perhaps it could be argued as the most dangerous is the test of acquiring a new attitude towards social organisation.
We are tested by the fact that we live in a world, where the institutions of organisation, such as governments and alike are subject to suspicion, to corruption, to abuse and are test in that of avoiding transferring those attitudes from a non-Bahá'í society to the Bahá'í administrative order. So, this is the direction in which, I want to proceed this afternoon. I want to take each of these three items and develop them some what further to give us (straight?).
As you can see, these three areas are in the realm of (....?), in which commitment and attitude (....?). They fall in the realm of mental tests. Mental attitude, spiritual condition is (....?) an approach to the world and in our activity within it. The first of the three is that, we are tested by our efforts to develop a spiritual orientation in a materialistic world. Let us not under estimate how difficult this is. Let us not be complacent about the Challenge which has been for each and every believer in Bahá'u'lláh. The challenge to be taken a transformation in his or her life. To adopt different values, different attitudes and different allocation of time, and different level of sacrifice, different from that of almost every body with who m he or she come to be in daily contact.
We are told that our duty as Bahá'ís is to develop ourselves spiritually. Our religion is not only a religion of unity, of harmony of glory and of enlightenment. Ours is a religion, is a religion of beauty and responsibility. We are people of (greetings?), we are people of responsibility. If we are to fail in our duties. If we are to fail in our responsibilities, God is not harmed, The Cause of God does not fail, the purpose of God is not diverted, that we ourselves are cast aside by the forces of change in the evolution of the society. We are called upon as Bahá'ís to fulfil our duties and our responsibilities and we are told by our religion as an article of Faith that therein lies happiness and fulfilment.
We are told this in direct opposition to every word we mean. We renew faith in this, that we see on television or from commentators of the news, and other areas of advising information, as we think they have been on us. Those sources tell us generally t he precise opposite, they would not tell us that duty and responsibility and scarifies are the key to happiness and fulfilment. Rather than tell us that, they tell us self satisfaction and freedom from restraint consideration only of one's own being and one's own narrow interest that there lies happiness and fulfilment. I believe that our religion tells us the precise opposite, that our religion tells us that through the process of spiritual development, we will increase our powers and capacity through a remarkable extent.
I was particularly pleased that councillor Sanders opened this meeting with those (....?) references to Mr. and Mrs. Dunn. Because, I think, there in, one sees and therefore the things I which spoke. This frail couple lacking material resources, in afternoon, if not in the evening of their lives increased their power and capacity by their spiritual commitments as pioneers of the Cause in this call, and as many of us here today, are the direct result of that.
I see one of the major challenges to the Bahá'ís in all parts of the world, East and as well as West, at this present stage of development of Cause. The challenge for the members of the Bahá'í community is to be transformed, and do not simply be adherents. But, to be transformed into true believers, so in rage we must challenge an arduous and difficult task of spiritual development. It is not enough for us to say yet I believe, ok, I am a Bahá'í. I accept Bahá'u'lláh. I sign the card. This is not enough, what is needed is the process of spiritual development and transformation of character, morals and conduct. This is needed as a mercy and benefit to the individual. It is also needed by The Cause of God, but The Cause of God will survive. If this is from God, it will care of itself.
These may be the means by which, we can find our own personal salvation and our own preferences, as well, it will fulfil the full expectation of our lives. When this has not occurred, when the responses to this commitment to spiritual transformation ( ?), one finds that the religion is reduced to a mere creed, a set of rituals, a set of practices without meaning. This has occurred and is occurring in many of the religious communities of the world. We have to be careful so it does not occur in the Bahá'í Community. We have to be careful that the Nineteen Day Feast is not reduced to rituals, but Local Spiritual Assembly meetings, participation in conferences, the recitation of The Obligatory Prayers and all the other elements of Bahá'í practices, we have to be careful that they are not reduced to rituals, such as the previous Catholic practice (what we call no meat on Friday?).
When we do not engage in this process of spiritual development and transformation, we find ourselves looking at present day world affairs and history from a secular perspective. If we are not Bahá'ís who are looking at society from this spiritual perspective we look at it with material perspective of the present day society and if you do that, and if you look very carefully, you would get very worried. Because the world is in an appalling mess, far worst than the average person realises. The prospects of destruction looms at every stage.
As I said so many times in the talks of this weekend. The counties are becoming ungovernable and societies are breaking down completely, the spread of terrorism and narcotics and the possibilities of tautological and chemical warfare, even I cite the proliferation of nuclear weapons. the world is in an appalling mess. If we Bahá'ís look at the world through a secular perspective of the people around us, we would become as depressed, as discouraged, as pessimistic, and as alienated as they are. we have to look at it through spiritual perspective so we see it as the first pang's of a new society, as the transition to world unity, and world civilisation at a period of definitely of birth and as a period of total destruction.
I have and I am sure you too gave a great amount of thought to the process of spiritual development. To try to determine what are the factors? How is it carried out? What are its basic parameters? I want to share with you the present state of my thinking on this subject. It seems to me that the process of spiritual development on which we are called upon to embark as followers of Bahá'u'lláh, has three dimensions to it. The first dimension, is as far as, I can tell is essentially new to the Bahá'í Faith. And the reason it is new, I think is that given the dispensations preceding the Birth of the Bahá'í Revelation, so during the Islamic Dispensation some thing very interesting happened to science. People discovered magnets, and magnets become common. little pieces of iron which you carry around and this piece of iron attracts another piece of iron, if they are held close enough. What is in the world that that has to do with spiritual development. It has a lot to do with spiritual development. Because a magnet is a useful symbol of the process of spiritual development. Why we are saying this so? Firstly, with a magnet you have action occurring at distance. (two pieces of iron .also two pieces at a distance totally survive and the manifestation of their actions are greater?). Secondly, there is nothing visible between them, but there is an attractive force. And thirdly the forces are so generated such that the arrangement of the little bits of pieces in magnet are dipole. This is an analogy for certain actions in the process of spiritual development.
As the first of the three dimensions, and I see it is associated to the spiritual development, is what I call the principle of magnetism. It is simply that. In This Dispensation, magnet is used as a means to convey a great and profound truth. The great and profound truth conveyed by the use of the analogy of the magnet is that if we take certain actions, physical actions, we attract a spiritual force. So if as we were making a magnet, we take little and bits of pieces and organise them in a right shape and form and they would attract a magnetic force to it. So we find curiously enough that the term magnet appeared again and again in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and Abdu'l-Bahá and The Guardian and as well as some statements of The Universal House of Justice. The term magnet appears again and again as a vehicle for conveying this profound truth. And if we would take certain actions prescribed by the Divine Law, a spiritual force is associated with us.
Let me read some of these statements; Abdu'l-Bahá says: the commemoration of God attracts confirmation and assistance like unto a magnet. Praying to God attract confirmation and assistance like a magnet. Another place; (take?) the magnet which draws the confirmation of the Merciful One. Another place; service is the magnet which attracts heavenly spirits. Yet again, unity and harmony is the magnet that draws down the confirmations of God. And so, He goes on that teaching the Cause, making a soul think rightful, Abdu'l-Bahá tells us this is the magnetic power which attracts the confirmation of God. Another place, directing mankind to the right path is the magnet which will attract to us the help of God. And so he goes on, I can get a kind of weary if I talk about this in a great length. you find that it is every where.
Shoghi Effendi in a letter of 1953, said living the Bahá'í life creates a magnet for the Holy Spirit. Another place, to day as yet never before, Shoghi Effendi said: the magnet which attracts blessings for a Bahá'í is teaching the Faith of God. It is the most powerful and the most important analogy to describe a profound truth that we are called upon to carry out certain actions in accord with Bahá'í, with Divine Law, given by Bahá'u'lláh, with faith that those actions are necessary to attract great spiritual powers. Just as the magnet, because of its formation attracts magnetic powers.
The analogy is developed very fully in the writings and you will find, The Guardian in translations of Bahá'u'lláh's writings, in Gleanings and other places, in times uses the term Lode Stone; l-o-d-e, Lode Stone as a synonym for a magnet, and He says in one place, that the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh will act as the Lode Stone for all nations and kindred's of the Earth. You see the analogy of the revelation to be like a magnet, attracting the nations and kindred's of the Earth to it. And before I leave t he stand, you see yourselves upset with me trying to take (....?).
Abdu'l-Bahá in one place referred to Bahá'u'lláh and says that Bahá'u'lláh as He manifested, He said: Thy Lord hast manifested the magnet of the souls of hearts in the whole of existing world. In another words, in that analogy Abdu'l-Bahá describes Bahá'u'lláh as a magnet attracting the souls of truth. So, what are the dimensions, I see in the process of spiritual development, is that of the believers are called upon to carry out certain spiritual practices which attracts a spiritual power. Some of these practices are very inevitable, for example the practices of prayer, the practice of fasting, the practice of reading the creative writings, one might well guess, they are the source of attraction of spiritual powers, but some of them are less obvious. Why do we teach the Faith? It is not simply that we want more people around the place, so that we want more power and influence and more (....?), and the rest of it.
Obviously we think these are important, but one of the fundamental reason for teaching of the Faith, for the individual is that it is a magnet, it is a thing, by which an individual can attract spiritual powers. The same applies to contributions to the fund. Why do we contribute to the funds? It is not just that we need a lot of money to do all kinds of interesting things. It is much more than that. It is that (....?) devotional act by contributing to Local, National and International Fund for development. But with the act of contributing to these funds a spiritual practice which attracts spiritual powers to the individual.
The first of these three dimensions of which, I think to be the process of spiritual development is that of the principle of magnetism, actions attract this truth. The second of three dimensions (irons .....?), is that what I regard as the principle which I fill (.....?) is constructive interaction, let me illustrate this, if I have a certain level of spiritual development, I say prayers. By saying these prayers for me, form a degree of devotion. I attract spiritual powers. Having attracted those spiritual powers, I become more spiritual and so I say more prayers. Now that, I attracted more spiritual power, I will become even more spiritual and (read?) more prayers and so on, it could go on.
In other words, what I am saying is that the second of the three principles is that of constructive interaction. Constructive interaction between the acts one perform and the powers of attraction. We do some thing, we sort of take the currents in our hands and make a great effort and mention the Faith to some body else and through our friends at least a little bit and you find that that attracts powers to you, you fill good, you fill strong, you fill more courageous, you fill it has merits, you do it so me more, it attracts more powers, we do it some more (itself?). And of course the same goes with contributions to the funds, give a little and you realise that that greatly changes your spiritual perspective, and you become more sacrificial and give more, gain more sacrificial itself. So there is a level of constructive interaction.
This process of constructive interaction is illustrated very vividly by a strange remark made by Abdu'l-Bahá, He made that remark in 1912, when He was in Wilmette, United State of America, and He was called upon to lay the foundation stone of the House of Worship. They gathered around Him, with a mood of prayer, that I suspect, they had no idea of what they were embarked upon, and it will take another forty years to built it, and cost millions of dollars and all kinds of set backs, hardships and problem s. What is strange about this remark of Abdu'l-Bahá, He said and His words are recorded, He said, the temple is already built, there He was with His friends gathered on a little flat piece of ground found on lake Michigan, "the temple is already built". He clarified that remark by saying also, you have only to begin, every thing will be all right. I submit that, that was an example of this constructive interaction. "You only need to begin every thing will be all right, the temple is already built". In other words, what He was saying is that , look the very fact that you have made a start you small group of friends, more or less gathered at the edge of the lake Michigan laid the foundation stone, the very fact that you have made a start will attract spiritual powers to you. You will be reinforced and energised and you will do more, and that will attract more spiritual powers and it will be completed, the temple will be built.
It is in that sense, that I understand those statements of Abdu'l-Bahá, as an example. And, I often use this example, because the Bahá'ís today are about to perform some task, enormous task, behind our comprehension, so material perspective thinks that we are crazy, and that we should even dream about spiritual conquest of the planet. The transformation of the whole of human organisation. We embark upon these things because this principle of constructive interaction that we debate at it, that our spiritual powers are attracted to magnetism, and that reinforces our efforts. We make stronger efforts and so it goes on. Unfortunately there is third principle. And this is a complicating factor. If one would stop in here, it would be very nice and it would be very easy. Start off, do a little bit, get certain measure of the spirit, do a bit more, get certain measure of the spirit, makes you stronger, you do more and on it goes. How (....?) as a model like Abdu'l-Bahá.
The Third principle that (.....?) I see is this process of spiritual development. It is that of tests. That this process is never, as simple as I have described it. Because, there are tests too. It is over simplified to say, you just make an effort and attract the spirit, it makes you strong, you make bigger effort, and along it goes. It is that there are tests, there are challenges, there are diversions, there are the temptations to go in other directions and the writings tell us that these tests come, and that they are for our spiritual aspiration and stimulus, that they release inner spiritual forces. And they enable us to grow and develop. The problem with tests is that, one does not automatically pass. No matter what, no matter that one is a believer in Bahá'u'lláh, one doesn't automatically pass them. No matter, that one is a member of a Local Spiritual Assembly, no matter that one is a member of a National Spiritual Assembly. There is nothing in the writings, that indicates for example that members of the Universal House of Justice, such as myself are immune from tests, from our spiritual challenges. The institution itself is something different and the members such as myself are human beings and subject to spiritual challenges and testing which they have the potential to fail.
So, none of us are immune from testing, from the possibility of failure in our spiritual tests. Our challenge is the mental test of spiritual development. Our challenge is to take the stand for the practice of the Bahá'í teachings irrespective of what t he society is doing. We take a start for devotion, for a prayerful attitude, for adherence to the moral laws of The Cause, for the ethical conduct which was enjoyed by Shoghi Effendi in the Advent of Divine Justice and other books. We have to take a stand, for the things that are radically different from those, from those that are going on in our society, if we don't we would fail from the mental tests.
Let me move on, I mentioned that I see, the Bahá'í Community in the Western World, including this area, has been challenged by three mental tests. The first is the challenge to develop a spiritual perspective in a materialistic society. The second is th e challenge to develop more and more commitment to betterment of the world. Why do I see this as a test? There are several reasons. What I see in the world today, the Western World, is a decrease in sense of idealism, a sense of commitment to betterment of the society, which was the characteristic of people in the large until only a few years ago (.......[tape was being changed]......?). ..........) are not so committed, are becoming more apathetical and lethargic about commitment to the improvement of the condition of humanity.
Why are we surprised of this? Shoghi Effendi in a message some years ago referred to the spiritual development of the Western Counties, He referred at that time to the fact that apathy and lethargy would paralyse the spiritual faculties of the people of those nations. So I think this applies to the West. I see it all over the World, East and the West. Apathy and lethargy, as The Guardian has foreshadowed are paralysing the people around us, and our challenge as Bahá'ís is to avoid our own souls being infected with that apathy and lethargy. It is reflected in the lack of zeal, a lack of idealism, to ( view?) passion of challenging of the world. The loss of vision about the world and where the world is going. And if Bahá'ís fail this test, we to o will become apathetic, we too will become lethargic, we too stop caring, we too would adopt narrow vision of making through, to the end of the day and to see if we are paying our income tax, and paying our debts, and may be the next year it would be better . This is not what we are called upon to do as Bahá'ís. We are called upon to be the people of vision, to be the people that have a large understanding of the operation of the forces of history in the world. People who are the part of the cutting edge of the creation of World Unity and World Civilisation that has to occur.
How can we deal with these tests? What actions can we take as Bahá'ís to combat these mental tests? There are a number of things that we can do. First thing that, I think we need is for each one of us to acquire a deeper understanding of the role, the Faith has in the redevelopment of mankind. "A deeper understanding of the role, the Faith has in the redevelopment of mankind". This is not just another religion that has come to ultimately elbow its way into the community of religions. We are not simply adding another religion to the World Order of Religions of Mankind. We not simply seeking to become recognised as one of the major world religions and by this (.....................?) programs and alike. What we are dealing with is the fact that Bahá'u'lláh has come as the promised One of all Ages. It is the end of the Dispensations, but the end of a cycle. The end of a process of thousands of years of Human History. As a beginning of a vast spiritual process. It is a major turning point in the history of humanity. We (used?) a deeper understanding of these concepts of the magnitude of the claim of Bahá'u'lláh. The magnitude of the ends of the Faiths. And one finds that, this is in very very many places in the writings of The Guardian. And (teachings?) in His letters, and World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, the promised One Has Come and in Advent of Divine Justice. (As Barry smiling in there .... bookshop sales comment......).
Personally, I find myself and I have informal discussion with some of my colleagues in The Holy Land, thinking at times, about a pregnant phrase, about the Universal House of Justice. In the book "World Order of Bahá'u'lláh" Shoghi Effendi foreshadows that the Universal House of Justice would come to be a House which posterity would regard as the last refuge of a tottering civilisation. and I say to myself with certain invested self interest! What does this passage mean? What does it imply about the future of the humanity? If the Universal House of Justice this group of nine individuals, that I have become familiar with, after all these years, that this body to which we (called on.....?), that a group of nine individuals, that individuals become meaningless. It is the institution that was created by Bahá'u'lláh and endowed spiritual powers to it. What does it mean that it is a institution which are (.......representation?). What does it mean that it will come to be regarded by posterity as the l ast refuge of a tottering civilisation? What does it say about the evolution of humanity? What does it say about the future condition of society? What does it say about what is going to happen in the world in the decades to come? (But such a condition could occur.....?).
I often ( see?) simply in one example of a larger still issue of acquiring a deeper understanding of the role of the Faith in the redevelopment of the humanity rescued from (.......?) to fail. We also need and this is of course mentioned many many time s, we need a greater commitment of the Bahá'ís, in the process of teaching the Faith. This is a very familiar theme, difficult to state. There is no Bahá'í reading that this is not mentioned, something that we (draw?) upon a great deal, people are encouraged, inspired, encoded, cohorts, threatened, programmed, all kinds of ways to try to get them to teach the Faith. We do this not that we like to tell them what they should do. We do it because it is a desperate need. It is a desperate need to humanity to have the opportunity to hear Bahá'u'lláh, and it becomes more desperate as we have a lot of evidence that indicate, the people whom previously thought that they are (.....?), they are deeply worrying and are searching.
I am not going to divert my talk into a detailed discussion on the teaching of the Faith. But I do have two things that I want to say . Because there are two things that (need treatment?). I want to share with you a statement of the Guardian, where He set out the parameters of teaching the faith and be successful. He says that we should not be dependent on our occupation or how great our knowledge is, I think it is very important to let out our apathy. This depends on how much we study the teachings, to what degree we live the Bahá'í life. Because they will expect us, and how much we love to share this message with others, and that is the intriguing one. So it depends how much we study and not how much we know. There is a difference. To the extent which we live the life, but also how much we long to share the message with others. and I think, that is one of our difficulties. Because, in my own experience and I look back on myself and others that I talk to, is that some times one wants to teach the Faith but it is with a degree of apprehension about what will one do with the questions, or what kind of outcome will come about, or will you be able to handle it, or avoid making a terrible mess of it, or some thing like that. And I think, we may be at times lack that deep sense of longing to share the message with others.
The other point that I would like to make about teaching the Faith before I move along, is to draw your attention to a letter of The Guardian , which was addressed to the Friends in those days. Some one had said that we can't find anybody to teach. It sounds familiar (................................?). The Guardian wrote back and He said: make a special point of praying ardently, not only for the success in general, but that God may send you the souls that are ready. I find this fascinating. We are expected to read the prayers for teaching and there is a whole book full of them, and you can read them and that is fine. But what I get from this passage is that, we should also pray in a very concentrated manner, in a very systematic way to God to send to us the souls that are ready. Another words, tell us, the prayers, very precisely of such a problem. As part of our longing to share the message.
One of the difficulties that I see that the Bahá'í World is facing at the present time, is that of achieving the balance between expansion and consolidation. It is a and I think I have (..........................?) by saying this is a matter which is very high in the agenda of The Universal House of Justice at the present time. It is a matter that, teaching is concerned by the institution. That it is a necessity. You will find that it is reflected time and again in the messages of Rizvan, the messages of The Universal House of Justice, almost year after year, putting it in various shape and form and designs, because it would be boring to say the same words over and over again. And say to the friends that expansion and consolidation should go hand in hand. But, what is frustrating, is that people read it and they memorised it, they can quote it back to us, they say this is obviously a truth, a wonderful truth, I am glad that you said it. And then in the heat of the battle, they forget it. That we would be carried away, expansion and consolidation would not go hand in hand, and at the end, half of the masses, the people that have enrolled as Bahá'ís, what ever the process it entailed to bring that about. And, can't be found again, to have no idea what to join, who are (...............?) inactive. No body knows, they are totally missing. They can't find their way in any kind of way. And there is a whole process of frustration and (stagnation?) and looking for a scape goat, and disappointment and bur n out as a result.
What we are looking for, is that the development of the committed human beings the committed human beings are not simply human beings who sign on the dotted line in a piece of paper. These people who are transformed, and in order to acquire a greater committed man power, we need to solve the problem of expansion and consolidation, going hand in hand. I do not think that there is a country in the Bahá'í World which has done this successfully, and there are areas which we have done successfully, and areas which we have done disastrously badly. But it is something that is open to all Bahá'í communities, Australian included, to aspire the world. Finally, I come to the third of the faced, is the test of transforming to the Bahá'í and (in specific?) the institutions, the suspicion, the concern, the disgust, we the people in the world generally have about their governors, the central institutions. For example, The House of Justice wrote in a message recently, about characteristic that are conspicuous in the world around us. It referred to the inordinate scepticism, regarding of various nations show towards their government. incisive individual to the wider detriment of society.
We live in a world, where people are rapidly being turned off by those who seem to have authority, by those who previously were regarded as their leaders. They are suspicious of them, they wouldn't (............?) up. They question their motives. They feel they are all a waste of time, and they want hurriedly get ride of them, or change them, or kick them out of their life. We see this in many ways, we see as a fact that in those countries, where the voting is not compulsory, a smaller and smaller percentage of people vote, when an election is held in three, four or five years. We see it in alienation of the electorate from its government, in so very many counties. It is why the radical action taken, to over turn government, because these people despair of the normal democratic process. You see it in all the corruption that occurs in politics, in the police forces, and all areas of life. We forget that our society are acquiring unconsciously a deep and profound distress, scepticism, suspicion of t hos e who are suppose to be their leaders.
I mentioned this because, I think, we do begin to (offend....?) if we haven't more into it already. Where, we have to be very careful, that we don't transfer unconsciously those attitudes towards our Bahá'í Administrative Institutions. You might say that why we shouldn't, they are all human beings also. O!, but there is a difference, the difference is the covenant, the difference is the institutions of The Cause are ordained by Bahá'u'lláh and legislation to ensure that the system remains free in term s of its integrity and (unity?). Let me read to you a statement written by The Guardian on this subject. He wrote some years ago, of course, our present generation may lead due to corruption that has been identified in organisations seems to stand in occasions to bring into the institutions, the religious institution is denounced. Government as institution is denounced, even marriage as an institution is denounced. We Bahá'ís should not be divided by such prevalent notions. If it was of a case all the Divine Manifestations would have followed to appoint some one to succeed. Undoubtedly corruption did enter in those institutions, but not due to nature of the institutions , but to the lack of proper direction. What Bahá'u'lláh has done is not to eliminate corruption that caused the fall of the previous institutions.
What those safe guards are? Are those (............?) interesting to study and find out. And also most essential to know. Another words, we as Bahá'ís have to study the Administrative Order, to know why is that, we can have Faith and trust, and willing to cooperate with our institutions. It is not that because, they are nice people or they are Bahá'ís and things like that. It is because, Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá have developed an Administrative Order, where built into it a clear, careful and indeed water-tight safe guards for the avoidance of corruption. The institutions at Local and National levels are subject to error, they are also subject to the authority and supervision by The Universal House of Justice, which has the powers for it by the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá. So the system is basically, is a system which is self purifying, because is a system which is radically different from organisations and institutions in the world around us. And we need to adopt an entirely new approach to these institutions. It does not mean, we have to sit mute like dummies, and we count just like a passive church in a congregation.
We seek an active society as Bahá'ís, it does not mean that our institutions in Local and National level can't never be criticised. (As that is why we have the letter of 1986 for?), and that is, why we have unit conventions and national convention for to operate a constructive criticism and suggestions to our institutions. We should not be heading.............imitation?) and last so do it. But let us do it in a reasonable tone, in a tone that is not destructive but is constructive and will contribute t o further development, rather than a display of ego or greater intelligence or insult or anything like that. It got to be. We have to show to the society around us.
It is appalling to see what is happening around the world in parliaments at state and national level. The kind of language that is being used, the kind of threats that are being made, against each other, horrible things, it is not fit to recite in a gathering that there are reasonable people. There is a breath of degeneration, in the level of discourse in these institutions of the world around us. We have to avoid, that sense of abuse, that criticism and suspicion coming into our institutions. We have to do it in a entirely different way. I have been reminded of a passage in the writings of The Guardian, where he was asked today (say?) how can we bring a large number of people? He set out for the individual three requirements. He said in this passage and I think it is in the book Light of Guidance and (is numbered 1324 in the book......?). He said: with out spirit of Love for Bahá'u'lláh for His Faith and its institutions and the believers for each other, The Cause can not really bring in really a large number of people.
I found this startling. We all love Bahá'u'lláh, otherwise we would not want to become Bahá'ís, we love The Faith, because that is part of the fact. We are more or less love believers (.................?). But, what we are called upon is this to love t he institutions and that is a very new concept. We just can't find a lot of people that are going around, saying I love the federal government,( because .........?), or we can't find a lot of people that say I love the Dromoynd Council or Waverley Council or Sydney City Council (................?). This is very very rare. Lets say, this is a new concept in our society of love for institutions. We try to keep out of the way. They say we have ignored them (...........then one is set on a fight?). That is not the Bahá'í way. What The Guardian is calling for, is us to develop not only love for Bahá'u'lláh, for His Faith, the believers, but for the institutions.
It is easy to love the institutions of The Cause, like the Local Spiritual Assembly when they are functioning perfectly. Any idiot can do that. What we are called upon to do, is to love our institutions, when they will be in a process of growth and development. And they will be in a process of growth and development long after you and I have been buried, because this is a thousand year Dispensation, that in decades and centuries our institutions will gradually evolve and develop, will learn by trial and error, will have reverses and set backs. Those who will in a period of disunity get their act together, make a step forward, painfully and through a lot of suffering and sacrifice, so that they become the great institutions that The Cause had ordained and foreshadowed.
And our role is to love them just as parents love their children. If children always don't behave (................?), but expects us to love them, to nurture them, to help them in their (.............?). one thing I have heard and I travelled around the world and I am very careful not to identify the subject, which I heard in a lot of occasions. I was in a country (..................?), that a believer said to me you know, we are encouraged to contribute our money to the international fund and of course who am I to stand in their way. (.....................?) but he said we are not going to send a cent to the National fund because we don't like what they are doing. I was very surprised. I went home and I thought about that and I said to myself, how regrettable that this subject's attitude does exist. It is like a parent to say I did not like what this kid did today. I am not going to feed him. How is the child to develop, how is the child to manifest his potentials.
We are called upon to support our institutions, Local or National with love, because they are ordained by Bahá'u'lláh. We support our Local Fund which is needed for (LSA's activities?). And we pride in that, that they are going to make all the right decisions. We are called upon to support the National Fund even if we are not the members of it. And we think we are doing the right thing. We are called upon to trust and support, and be willing cooperatives of the institutions of our Cause, so that we can avoid this (..........?), this dangerous, this severe mental test in the world around us. The break down of civilisation, we see the coming of disorder in relations which is between them, the people of the world around us. We have to avoid that in the Bahá'í community. Well, I have spoken about it to an extra ordinary length, and tried to get your attention for so long. But I want to share these things with you and you can see I fill very strongly about them. I think it is a time that when we as Bahá'ís need to take stock, to take preventive and effective measures against the onset of these severe mental tests. I think they are already upon us, it is not to late, but is not to early.