Mr. David Bowie,
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
To: The Universal House of Justice
Date: 17 June 2001
From: Research Department
Questions about Possible Misprints in Published Extracts
from Letters of Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice
The Research Department has studied the questions raised by Mr. David Bowie in two electronic mail messages, both dated 19 February 2001, addressed to the Universal House of Justice. Specifically, he enquires about the accuracy of certain words that appear in Bahá'í publications. We provide the following comment.
"Directive" or "Direction"?
Mr. Bowie cites the following passage from a letter dated 12 November 1973 from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia,(1) which is published in Lights of Guidance, A Bahá'í Reference File:(2)
"We urge you ever to bear in mind that the purpose of Bahá'í administration is primarily to lend strength and directive(3) to the teaching work and to promote the establishment of the Faith. It should never be regarded as an end in itself but purely as a means to canalize and make effective a spiritual vitality generated by the Word of God in the hearts of the believers."
Mr. Bowie expresses the view that the word "directive" appears to be out of place. He wonders whether it might be a misprint for the word "direction".
From a study of the issue it is apparent that a typographical error was introduced. The correct word is "direction", as Mr. Bowie suggests.
"Just" or "First"?
Reference is made to several Bahá'í publications, including the compilation on The Local Spiritual Assembly, Lights of Guidance and Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities,(4) all of which quote the following passage from a letter dated 14 October 1941, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Bahá'í couple:
"The Bahá'í Administration is only the first shaping of what in future will come to be the social life and laws of community living. As yet the believers are only just(5) beginning to grasp and practise it properly. So we must have patience if at times it seems a little self-conscious and rigid in its workings. It is because we are learning something very difficult but very wonderful—how to live together as a community of Bahá'ís according to the glorious teachings."
Mr. Bowie observes that in some instances the word "just" has been replaced by "first", which does not make grammatical sense. He wishes to know whether there was "a correction issued from the World Centre".
The correct word is "just". For Mr. Bowie's information, in the preparation of the compilation on The Local Spiritual Assembly, some of the extracts from letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi were apparently typed from hand-written copies of the letters. It appears that the word was mistakenly transcribed as "first". The Research Department has been unable to track precisely the history of the use of this extract. However, when the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Australia sought the permission of the Universal House of Justice to include various compilations in The Compilation of Compilations these compilations were reviewed and the Publishing Trust was provided with the revised versions. Volumes I and II of The Compilation of Compilations were published in 1991.(6) The compilation on The Local Spiritual Assembly appears in volume II, extract 1405.
1) The letter in question was actually written by the Universal House of Justice rather than on its behalf, as Mr. Bowie indicated.
2) Helen Hornby, compiler, "Lights of Guidance, a Bahá'í Reference File" (New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1988), p.2.
3) Emphasis added.
4) National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, "Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies (Wilmette: Office of Assembly Development, 1998) 1.3.
5) Emphasis added.
6) "The Compilation of Compilations (Maryborough, Victoria: Bahá'í Publications Australia, 1991)