About these notes
I never met Australian Baha’i Bill Washington while he was alive. In 2013 I think it was, he contacted me by email to tell how much he appreciated reading my study of the Guardian’s writings A Celestial Burning.
He told me that he had made the pilgrimage in 1957 when he was a young man and a fairly new Baha’i. Bill was a journalist by profession.
Our email contact was confined to a few exchanges. Then maybe six months ago, I received an email from Bill, informing me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and that he was on his way to the Abha Kingdom. “A free ticket,” he called it. He asked me if I would have his pilgrim’s notes posted on the internet, along with his impressions of the Hands of the Cause he had met. I promised him that I would, but that I would have to rely on Jonah Winters to execute the task since my internet skills are minimal. I am very happy to report that, thanks to Jonah, one of Bill's final wishes has now been fulfilled. Their electronic publication makes this set of pilgrim’s notes more widely available for the first time.
I found some of Bill’s verbal reports of what Shoghi Effendi said both intriguing and fascinating. You can read them for yourself, and if you do, you will discover that the Guardian’s explanation of why future pilgrims will be confined to the area beyond the Haram-i-Aqdas has nothing to do with the number of pilgrims — not at least in this account.
You will also find Shoghi Effendi’s explanation of the strange case of the prolonged hiccups of Pope Pius XII, whom the Guardian referred to as a very “spiritual” man. (It was his serious response to a joking remark made about it by another pilgrim.) We also get a glimpse of the informal meetings of the International Baha’i Council that took place in full view of the pilgrims. (The Guardian was very much a multi-tasker). You will also read — and this has been reported before — the marked distinction between the love and humility of the Shoghi Effendi who welcomed the pilgrims to his table and the strong authority of Shoghi Effendi as “Guardian.”
In any case, read them in the knowledge that in doing so you are participating in the fulfillment of the final wishes of a dedicated Baha’i who had the privilege of attaining the presence of the “Sign of God on earth” and who very much wanted his fellow Baha’is to share what they could of that same privilege.
The notes were originally intended to be read by Bill’s grandchildren. That is why you see occasional reference to “your grandmother” i.e. his Japanese wife, Hiroko, who is still living and who used to speak Japanese with Fujita on pilgrimage. It was my privilege, in turn, to make them more widely available to the friends.