M E M O R A N D U M
To: The Universal House of Justice
From: The Research Department
CHANGES MADE TO "BAHA'U'LLAH AND THE NEW ERA" REGARDING THE EXPLANATION OF
Francis Beckwith includes in his booklet, "Bahá'í", a chapter entitled "Bahá'í
Watergate: A False Prophecy and its Cover-Up", which raises two accusations
against the Bahá'ís:
1. `Abdu'l-Bahá is a false prophet as He predicted that world peace would be
established by 1957;
2. The Bahá'ís attempted to conceal the fact that His prophecy was not
fulfilled by revising "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" after the fact.
In "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" (Chapter 14, Prophecies of Bahá'u'lláh and
`Abdu'l-Bahá), Dr. J. E. Esslemont referred to the prophecy in Daniel 12:12 --
"Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand, three hundred and
thirty-five days." On page 212 of the first edition, which was published in
1923 by Allen & Unwin in London ... and Brentano's in New York, he
In a table-talk at which the writer was present, `Abdu'l-Bahá said:--
"These 1,335 days mean 1,335 solar years from the Hijrat."
of Muhammad from Medina to Mecca, marking the beginning of the Muhammadan
Dr. Esslemont then calculates the date when the prophecy will be fulfilled and
quotes a second utterance of `Abdu'l-Bahá:
As the Hijrat occurred in 622 A.D., the date referred to is,
therefore, 1957 (i.e. 622 + 1,335) A.D. Asked: "What shall we see at the end of
the 1,335 days?" he replied:--
"Universal Peace will be firmly established, a Universal language promoted.
Misunderstandings will pass away. The Bahá'í Cause will be promulgated in all
parts and the oneness of mankind established. It will be most
This passage appears somewhat differently in Mr. Beckwith's booklet, in which
the distinction between `Abdu'l-Bahá's words and Dr. Esslement's comments is
obscured. However, the important point is that this entire passage constitutes
a pilgrim's note. As explained by Shoghi Effendi in his letter of 27 February
1929 addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United
States and Canada ("The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters"
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1982), pp. 4-5):
I truly deplore the unfortunate distortions that have
days past from the incapacity of the interpreter to grasp the meaning of
`Abdu'l-Bahá, and from his incompetence to render adequately such truths as
have been revealed to him by the Master's statements. Much of the confusion
that has obscured the understanding of the believers should be attributed to
this double error involved in the inexact rendering of an only partially
understood statement. Not infrequently has the interpreter even failed to
convey the exact purport of the inquirer's specific questions, and, by his
deficiency of understanding and expression in conveying the answer of
`Abdu'l-Bahá, has been responsible for reports wholly at variance with the true
spirit and purpose of the Cause. It was chiefly in view of the misleading
nature of the reports of the informal conversations of `Abdu'l-Bahá with
visiting pilgrims, that I have insistently urged the believers of the West to
regard such statements as merely personal impressions of the sayings of their
Master, and to quote and consider as authentic only such translations as are
based upon the authenticated text of His recorded utterances in the original
This statement by Shoghi Effendi is entirely in accordance with the principle
upheld by `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself in one of His Tablets:
Thou hast written concerning the pilgrims and pilgrim's
narrative that is not authenticated by a Text should not be trusted.
Narratives, even if true, cause confusion. For the people of Baha, the Text,
and only the Text, is authentic.
Any doubts as to the intention of the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá as reported by Dr.
Esslemont are to be resolved, therefore, by reference to clear texts from the
pen of `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, which is exactly what the Bahá'í institutions have
undertaken, as will be seen from the next section of this memorandum. It then
becomes clear that Daniel's prophecy of the 1,335 days does not give the date
of the establishment of world peace, but relates to the world-wide
establishment of the Bahá'í Faith. The words of `Abdu'l-Bahá which Dr.
Esslemont quotes are very similar to words appearing in many of `Abdu'l-Bahá's
writings referring to the processes which will take place during the period of
the Lesser Peace, culminating in the Most Great Peace. In other words, they
describe the working out of the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation in world
Mr. Beckwith's second accusation, that the Bahá'ís are attempting a
"cover-up", is unfounded. He implies that the prophecy was changed after the
year 1957 passed without the establishment of universal peace. In reality, a
"Note on Revisions" had been added to the 1946 edition, stating:
P. 303: "the end of the 1,335 days." The Guardian has
in the Bahá'í teachings themselves there is nothing to indicate that any
definite degree of world peace will be established by 1957, nor by 1963, the
one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. The Bahá'ís
understand that the process of spiritual regeneration and social order is
evolutionary, and that no human powers can prevent the final consummation of
the divine promise. (J. E. Esslemont, "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era", (Wilmette:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1946), p. ix)
What Mr. Beckwith describes as a cover-up is actually the process of
maintaining the purity of the Bahá'í teachings from man-made additions.
A letter dated 4 May 1946 written on behalf of the beloved Guardian to a group
of believers points out:
As regards the statement in Esslemont: we cannot be
certain of what the Master said because it is not in a Tablet; He did state,
however, in 2 Tablets, that this date will see the triumph of the Cause.
Reference is made to these Tablets in "The Passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá", and the
Master's words quoted.
An extract from one of these Tablets, which as "Text" is authentic for the
Bahá'ís, was substituted for the paraphrase of the Master's "table-talk" in the
third revised edition of "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" from which Mr. Beckwith