Recollections of Pilgrimage:
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.
One's experience on pilgrimage is really of inestimable benefit only to the one who makes that journey, and mine also would have been very commonplace, if it were not for one salient fact – and that is that I was able to make the pilgrimage during the Ministry of the beloved Guardian, during the final year of his blessed life, in fact. And for that reason – and that reason alone – I am moved to share with you some brief memories of that very special time when I was granted the unforgettable bounty and privilege of meeting with the Beloved of all hearts.
Pilgrimage in those days was very different to what one experiences now – not better, but simply different, as pilgrimage will always be a special bounty for any soul, whenever the journey is made. But it was different because the Faith itself was different. At that time there were probably no more than 300 Bahá'ís in the whole of Australia and the population of Bahá'ís worldwide was similarly small – hence the numbers wishing and able to go on pilgrimage was correspondingly small.
There were not the groups of several hundred at a time, as we have now – although the House of Justice, in its inestimable kindness, does arrange for those making the pilgrimage to do so in small groups, and so retain something of that intimacy that is so precious. But in those days, one went as the guest of Shoghi Effendi, arriving on the precise day he had indicated, and leaving on the day he directs – usually it was nine days, or rather ‘nine nights' so if you arrived in Haifa in the early morning and left in the evening, you had almost ten days. But, except for a few whose special service was needed, that was one's allotted time in Paradise. So a small handful of pilgrims would come for their nine days, independently of each other – though you were ‘on pilgrimage' with others, a few others, and that was also precious in its own way. (I understand some of the Iranian pilgrims there at the same time had stayed much longer – it was really up to the beloved Guardian, but the normal stay was nine days).
I remember that when I arrived in Haifa (1 January 1957) there were four other Western Bahá'ís there; a few more came during the period, and some who had arrived before I did, on completing their ‘nine days' had departed. There were also about a dozen ‘Eastern' Bahá'ís – believers from Iran – whose pilgrimage followed a slightly different path from those from ‘Western' lands, and this arrangement had been consciously implemented by the Guardian for good reason – customs differ, and the believers from these two different backgrounds had much less opportunity then to mingle, as we do now, and in exceeding kindness, the Guardian did not wish for anyone's experience of pilgrimage to be blemished by some simple clash of culture.
All were personal guests of the Guardian, but those of ‘Western' background stayed in what was known as the Western Pilgrim House, a stately, solid stone building on Haparsim (Persian) Street, opposite the House of the Master, where the Guardian and Rúhíyyih Khánum lived. The design for this building had been approved by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in 1919 and building commenced with funds offered by an American pilgrim, William H. Randall, and construction was completed with a generous contribution from Amelia Collins who was on pilgrimage with her husband in 1923. In 1951 the building became the office for the International Bahá'í Council; from 1963 it was used as the temporary seat of the Universal House of Justice; and later by the International Teaching Centre as office and residence, when the permanent Seat of the Universal House of Justice was completed in 1982.
The Iranian pilgrims stayed at what was then known as the Eastern Pilgrim House – the building adjacent to the entrance to the Shrine of the Báb, which was used in more recent years as a gathering and resting place for all pilgrims, but not for sleeping. The ‘Western' pilgrims – both women and men - had the great bounty of meeting with the Guardian over the dinner table, for seven of the nights that one was there, as two of the nine nights were spent at the Mansion in Bahji; for the Iranian pilgrims, the men met with the Guardian each afternoon in the Shrine gardens, where the Guardian would speak with them, answer questions, and share with them prayers in the Shrines of the Báb and the Master – a privilege too precious for words – while the women pilgrims would meet with Rúhíyyih Khánum and other women at the World Centre who, I guess, represented the ladies of the Holy Family in earlier days (there were the Revell sisters, Jessie and Ethel; Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins and Sylvia Ioas). I understand that the Iranian ladies only met with the Guardian in a formal gathering on the final day of their pilgrimage, which was in keeping with eastern custom.
Perhaps this seeming discrimination can be better understood if I share with you a story that Rúhíyyih Khánum told us one evening. She spoke of an earlier time when some American pilgrims were there, and she was sitting with a group of women on the front steps of the Pilgrim House, enjoying the sunshine and chatting – when, to their surprise, she suddenly jumped to her feet and hurriedly bid them to do likewise. She had spied a couple of elderly, Arab ladies, who were somehow part of the household there, walking down the road towards them and, as they passed the gate, they stared inquisitively at the group inside and nodded their heads in greeting. As they moved on, Rúhíyyih Khánum explained to the startled ladies that had they – and she – been seen sitting casually on the steps of the house, a reasonable and acceptable action in our western culture but highly disrespectful, and even disgraceful, in the eyes of one from an eastern background, there would have been ‘hell to play" and a great embarrassment for the Guardian, in allowing his wife to do such a thing! That was the sort of cultural background that the Guardian and others at the World Centre had to deal with in those days.
As I say, when I arrived in Haifa there were four other Western pilgrim, all part-way through their nine days of pilgrimage. One was an elderly lady from Canada, one of the early believers of the community in Hamilton, Ontario – Amy Putnam; another, a young Italian girl, Caterina Bosio, from Florence, Italy, daughter of a long-time Bahá'í family there; also an English lady, ‘Bobbie' Leedham, who later spent time in the Pacific, pioneering in Fiji; and another had arrived a couple of days before, a very elderly gentleman from South Africa, Reginald Turvey – a painter of some renown, who had been for many years the lone believer in South Africa, until the arrival of pioneers in 1952-53, and had been named by the Guardian as "the spiritual father of South Africa". He was one of an illustrious trio of artists: Marc Tobey, the American painter; Bernard Leach, the potter and himself. Both he and Bernard Leach - whom he had known since studying together in the Slade School of Art, England, during the first decade of the 1900's - had learned of the Faith from Marc Tobey in 1933 while they were working together in the Dartington art community, and had accepted the Faith in 1936. From that time on he had been an isolated believer in South Africa, living mainly in Johannesburg, and it was in his home that Hand of the Cause Bill Sears and his family first lived when they pioneered to South Africa in 1953.
Reg had arrived in Haifa in some distress – well, not he but the airport officials were in disarray, as he had arrived without a passport, and did not understand what all the fuss was about. After all, as he told us, his father and he had travelled around the world in the latter part of the 1800's without having any passports or visas, and it was no problem – what were they fussing about? The passport turned up a few days later, found tucked into a seat on the plane that Reg had come on – obviously it had slipped out of his pocket during the flight – so all was well. Had he not been a Bahá'í, it may not have been so easy for him. During our pilgrimage we spent a lot of time together, in Haifa and in Bahji, even though he was old enough to be my grandfather.
Of the Iranian pilgrims at that time the most notable was Habib Sabet, one of the few millionaires in the Faith – and certainly the only one I've ever met. From street peddling in his teens, with a tray of buttons, thread and needles, and later working in a bicycle repair shop, he had built up a business complex that embraced some 40 major companies, including the franchise for manufacturing Pepsi Cola in the Middle East, a television monopoly in Tehran, Volkswagen Iran and was a director on the boards of a number of banks. He told us then that the secret of his business success was to employ only Bahá'ís, because they were to be trusted, and in this way he had provided a living for so many Bahá'ís who were otherwise unable to gain employment. It was during this pilgrimage – his 20th visit to the Holy Land – that the Guardian, in tribute to the great assistance he had been able to render many in the Iranian community, had given him the title of "Nasíri'd-Dín" (Defender of the Faith). I remember that he was so excited that he wanted to cable many of his friends to tell them the good news, and his wife (a strong and beautiful lady) was teasing him, telling him not to be so boastful, they would find out in due course. He was a very successful business magnate and entrepreneur but, at the same time, like a schoolboy who had won a precious award. It was really very touching.
Perhaps his greatest service to the Faith was acquiring the site of the Siyáh-Chál in Tehran, preserving this most holy site for the Faith – and I feel I was very privileged to have heard the story of this from his own lips. In his message to the first Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi, India in October 1953 which launched the Ten Year Crusade, the Guardian had named the purchase of the Siyáh-Chál as one of the goals of the Crusade. When this was announced, Mr Sabet rose and declared that he would buy the Siyáh-Chál, at whatever the cost. Returning to Tehran after the conference, he learned – because the actual site of the dungeon was not precisely known – that as the business centre of Tehran had grown and developed, the Siyáh-Chál was now partly under a block of office buildings, including one of the banks in the central business area of Tehran. Knowing that any attempt to purchase the actual site of the dungeon would stir serious opposition from the clergy, he negotiated to buy the properties of the whole city block – quite a reasonable action for a businessman of his stature - at a cost of a quarter of a million pound sterling (£125,000), which was a huge amount of money in those days. He then proceeded to sell off individual properties, until he was left with the land he needed to protect the site of the Siyáh-Chál, the ownership of which was then transferred to his wife, and then to Shoghi Effendi. I never understood the reason for the double transfer, but that is how it happened – and that was the story from Mr Sabet himself, and I later heard the story from friends in Karachi how he had eventually made a profit, gaining more from the piecemeal sale of the properties than the original cost of the city block.
Another of the Iranian pilgrims I didn't actually remember from that time but met up with later in Japan – that was Mr G.V. Tehrani. He was on pilgrimage at the time following the death of his wife and had sought guidance from the Guardian, who advised him to pioneer to Japan. During my first trip to Japan, following the usual tradition of marriage we had visited the north island of Hokkaido, and I had in my pocket the name and address of an Iranian pioneer there. We located him in Sapporo, in a small office from where he was selling brief cases and other luggage items, and found that he recognised me as a fellow pilgrim. His was a face I barely remembered – meeting so many Iranians on pilgrimage at that time – but he recognised me, embraced us and spoke lovingly of our previous meeting. After that, we came to know Mr Tehrani very well and loved him dearly.
One more pilgrim I well remember was a Persian gentleman I had met in Rome – Fereydoun Khazrai, who had been instructed by Dr Giachery to look after me. But perhaps I need to digress a little here to explain why I was in Rome.
The reason for this was the persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran which had broken out during the mid-1950's which would make it difficult, even dangerous, to be travelling through Iran and meeting up with the Bahá'í friends, some of whom were Frank's in-laws, as his sister Lillian had married an Iranian boy, Suhayl ‘Ala'i. For Frank, this was the end of all planning for the trip; for me – and this indicates the poor understanding I had of the Faith at that time – it was certainly the end of the Haifa leg of the trip, but not the rest. I was all for going ahead, without Iran and Haifa. But not Frank; he proceeded to look for some other goal of the Ten Year Crusade, and chose the unopened goal of Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Most of the island goals of the Plan had been filled during 1953-54 but a few of the more difficult ones remained unopened. Cocos was one of them. A bit browned off, I was thinking, "There must be an island for me" and at that time I had also met Shapoor Soheili, a young Iranian Bahá'í from Bombay, India, who was in Sydney en route for New Caledonia, from where he would try to enter the Loyalty Islands, another of the difficult and unopened goals. So it seemed the logical thing to go with him – one island was as good as another, for me – I just needed to be doing something "Bahá'í " and it was a time when going to some remote island goal was the thing to do, for any Bahá'í.
Once in Noumea it became obvious why the Loyalty Islands had been such a difficult goal: the islands, lying to the north-east of New Caledonia, were a "native reserve" and only people of French nationality were permitted to enter – which effectively excluded both Shapoor and me. (We did eventually open the goal with the arrival in Noumea of a French Bahá'í, Daniel Haumont, who was permitted to go there, briefly – but that is another story.) While we were trying to find some way to enter Loyalty Islands, Frank (by then, out of Cocos Islands, which he had succeeded in opening but could not stay) received another cable from the Guardian, indicating a date in January 1956 when we could make the pilgrimage. Frank went but I declined, cabling the Guardian that I was: "too busy, trying to get into Loyalty Islands". When I think back, in light of future events, really my heart sinks at the thought of ‘turning down' a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of meeting the Guardian but my feeling that this was the right thing to do, in terms of priority, was later confirmed in a letter from the secretary of the International Bahá'í Council, Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas, who was also acting as secretary for the Guardian at that time.
Six months later, when my visa for New Caledonia expired and was not renewed, I returned to Australia and following another cable to the Guardian, received permission to make the pilgrimage in January 1957. Initially I had planned to take a Greek steamer to Piraeus, and fly from Athens to Israel, and had actually boarded the vessel in Melbourne – an old tramp steamer carrying a few passengers – when news came through that Israel had blown up the Suez Canal in what was later known as the Six-Days War. That was the route the boat planned to take and the only thing the shipping company could offer was to drop us off at some distant port, if the canal was not re-opened in time. This seemed not such a good option and, as the response to another cable to the Guardian confirmed the date of pilgrimage, hurried arrangements were made to book on a Lloyd-Triestino ship which had already left Melbourne but I could catch up with in Perth by taking a bus to Adelaide and overland express to Perth. This unplanned diversion was also fortuitous, as it enabled me to see the first Russian satellite (Sputnik) flying overhead on a roadside stop during the night bus drive to Adelaide, and also catch up with the Featherstone family in Adelaide. They had both been on pilgrimage following the conference in New Delhi in October 1953 that launched the Ten Year Crusade and the stories they told were a wonderful preparation for my own pilgrimage.
The boat journey to Italy was long and uneventful, calling in only at Cape Town (where I missed out on meeting Lowell and Edith Johnson, American pioneers there – while I was looking for them, they were looking for me on the boat, alerted to my coming by a letter from Jessie Revell, who looked after the needs of the Western pilgrims in Haifa. I did, however, keep in touch with Lowell over the years by letter and eventually caught up with him in Johannesburg in 1999) and Dakar in Senegal, and disembarking me one evening in Naples, from where I was able to catch a late train to Rome. I had planned to sleep the rest of the night at the rail station but the cold was so intense that I had to resort to a hotel opposite the station and in the morning set out to find Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery, whose address had been given to me by Collis Featherstone, with the instruction that I "had to see Dr Giachery" while I was in Rome. It was, however, an old address, in a relatively new block of apartments belonging to the Vatican and adjacent to St. Peter's Square (which, incidentally, is round) where I dodged the peddlers selling their ‘genuine holy relics' by buying a small figure of St Christopher for my Catholic sister-in-law.
Another rather tortuous taxi ride took me to Dr Giachery's current residence in via Antonio Stoppani, just off one of the main thoroughfares of Rome, where I was warmly greeted by Dr Giachery and his wife Angeline. His first question to me was, "Where is you passport". On being told that it was in my suitcase which was still in the hotel, he immediately dispatched me with another person to fetch it – saying, "Don't ever leave your passport anywhere, even in the home of Dr Giachery". Rome was that sort of place in those days, with desperate people everywhere. His apartment seemed to be full of people and in between questions about the friends in Australia, especially how Mr Featherstone was taking his recent appointment, he introduced me to Fereydoun Khazrai who was also leaving that night for Israel, going on pilgrimage on the same plane, and instructed him to "Take care of this young man" – into which I could read: "Don't let him out of your sight; he is young and inexperienced, and too foolish to be wandering about on his own". That was probably correct. So when I left the warm hospitality of Dr Giachery that evening I spent some time with Mr Khazrai, as he shopped around for last-minute gifts. Actually I was rather surprised, as he was looking mainly for different kinds of perfumes, and seemed to know exactly what he was doing – I was not aware at that time that, in full compliance with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Iranian men were much accustomed to using perfumes.
So by the time we reached Haifa, there was at least one Iranian pilgrim whom I had already met and was to see more of, as my routine quickly settled into having breakfast with the Iranian pilgrims – I seemed to be drawn to the Shrine of the Báb at first light, which was not that early as it was mid-winter by then, and I started each day in Haifa with an early morning visit to the Shrine and then breakfast of nuts, dried fruits and the hottest of hot tea. The men said that "if you could drink very hot tea, your wife would remain faithful to you". I didn't like tea, either hot or lukewarm, but I remember I drank it happily and without fuss, and really enjoyed this contact with another culture of the Faith. And also learned a great deal from the stories they exchanged about outstanding Bahá'ís and the early days of the Faith in Iran
Sorry to be long digressing with all this introduction but I feel it is a necessary prelude to the story I wish to tell you about pilgrimage in days when it was so very different.
When I arrived in Israel I was carrying some rather strange ‘gifts'. Knowing Rúhíyyih Khánum's keen interest in indigenous peoples, a passion that remained undiminished during her travels through so many different countries in later years – and I witnessed this some years later when I was privileged to help in arranging a barbecue and other gatherings in Darwin for Rúhíyyih Khánum and Jessie Revell to meet with some aboriginal peoples on their way home after the dedication of the Sydney Temple in 1961 – Frank Wyss had insisted I take some gifts to her of Australian aboriginal artefacts: a boomerang, a bull-roarer (a small, carved piece of wood tied to the end of a cord woven from some native grasses which was traditionally used to alert the womenfolk that the men were gathering for a corroboree which the women were forbidden to watch) and a woomera – the spear throwing stick. The woomera had been too big to squeeze into the suitcase and was strapped to the outside.
There was also a package of eucalyptus tree seeds which Frank had asked me to take to the Guardian who, he said, was always in need of more trees for the gardens, and the eucalypt had proved its ability to flourish in the climate and soil of Israel. Although the seeds had been obtained from the Forestry nursery in Canberra and had been certified free of disease, I was aware that plants and seeds are usually forbidden import in many countries and I was not sure how they would pass through customs. Dr Giachery had told me, before leaving his home in Rome, that I must tell the airport officials at Tel Aviv that I was visiting "His Eminence Shoghi Rabbani"; he insisted several times that I should do this, so it was my ‘opener' to any discussion with these serious-looking officials. And I was really amazed at how this statement opened all doors. From that point on they were smiling and very helpful; the seeds were no worry and all the odd-looking things I carried raised no comment.
It seemed to be enough that I was visiting the Guardian, and it suddenly struck me how much serious ‘external affairs' work the Guardian had done since the creation of the state of Israel some nine years before, and with the Palestinian Mandate authorities for many years before that. Patiently and persistently he had laboured long to establish such a relationship with the government officials that everyone knew of him, respected him highly, and along with that went a high respect for the Faith itself. Anyone who was connected in any way with Shoghi Rabbani was automatically welcome and trusted – and this was at a time when the State of Israel was still at war with Egypt and was threatened by all the surrounding Arab states. Finding some camera accessories, extension lens and so on, in my luggage, the officials even wrote on my passport the serial numbers of all this photographic gear, certifying that it had been brought into the country – not purchased locally - which would ensure that I would have no difficulty with whoever was on duty when I left.
Arriving at the Pilgrim House later that day, I passed on Frank's greetings and gifts to Rúhíyyih Khánum, who insisted that they were things not only to be looked at but to be used. Following a brief explanation of the purpose of the bull-roarer, she was swinging it around in the foyer at the entrance to the Pilgrim House in dangerously close proximity to the beautiful crystal chandelier suspended in the centre of the foyer. Jessie Revell came to see what the noise was all about and, with a look of pure dismay on her face, chased us out into the garden. Here Rúhíyyih Khánum insisted on testing the boomerang and, before I could alert her to any possible danger, the boomerang was whizzing its way over a large hedge bordering the road and footpath. A moment later a very surprised Arab gentleman peeked over the hedge with the boomerang clutched in his hand – it had nearly decapitated him.
That was my introduction to Rúhíyyih Khánum, the wife of the Guardian, and I must say that it removed any trepidation I was feeling. She was so natural and so relaxed that it took away any tension and really made you feel at home. With the passage of time and her own passing in January 2001, I realized that this was probably the same garden beside the Pilgrim House where she was interred. It is fortunate that the Abhá Kingdom is a realm of the spirit and not physical things; I can well imagine the damage her ever-youthful enthusiasm could have done there.
Shoghi Effendi had told pilgrims - and had stressed this many times – that the essence of pilgrimage was to visit the holy Shrines of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb; this was the purpose of pilgrimage. Yet our hearts are still attracted and attached to the' personal' – to the person of the Manifestation, to the person of those who came after Him – and the beloved Guardian was the last remnant of Bahá'u'lláh's family, His great-grandson, the scion of the Manifestation, and to that our hearts were still attached. So for many pilgrims during the time of the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi was himself the real focus of pilgrimage, and I guess this was so for me too. Pilgrimage was all about the Guardian: what did he say? What did he look like? Was he in good health? How was he?
In those days I was still a very new Bahá'í, inexperienced and lacking in any deep understanding. True – I had been ‘pioneering', but that was the thing to do! It meant little as a measure of real understanding of what the Faith was all about. Frank Wyss, who had been the year before, had primed me well. Drawing on his own experience, he had kindly told me all I needed to know. At his prompting, I had learned by heart the Tablet of Carmel, because he said that I would need to be able to chant it in the Shrine of the Báb. That never happened, but it was still in my memory for many years. He also told me I needed to read God Passes By – and this I did along the way, on the long sea voyage – because every question he had asked the Guardian received a kindly response, and then the comment and question: "I answered this in ‘God Passes By': haven't you read ‘God Passes By'?" It was good advice and I benefitted much from reading that precious book, but that never happened to me – perhaps because I never asked the Guardian any questions. But every pilgrimage is individual and different. The only thing that was common for all pilgrims of that time was, perhaps, the focus on ‘meeting with the Guardian'.
I was aware that each pilgrim, on their first evening in Haifa, would enter the dining room first - and alone - to be greeted by the Guardian. I was well prepared for this but, when the time came, felt a ‘rush' of anxiety and trepidation – unsure, I guess, of how I would feel, being alone with the one person whom all Bahá'ís longed to meet. As I entered the dining room and saw, for the first time, the short but stocky figure of the Guardian, standing beside the dining table, dressed in a camel-coloured overcoat (it was mid-winter and he has just come in from the cold), with the Turkish fez which he habitually wore at an angle on his head. But it was the smile and the eyes that entranced me – and as he embraced me, Persian style, which I was still unaccustomed to, I found I had to reach down to respond to his embrace and I realized how short in stature the Guardian was. I knew from my reading at that time that Bahá'u'lláh was small in stature – and all pilgrims became aware of that when viewing the couches He slept on in the various rooms He occupied in 'Akká and Bahji, but had not been aware that the Guardian was also so short. I learned later that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was the tallest of the three, that Bahá'u'lláh was very short in stature, and the Guardian was only a little taller – between the two in height. Initially it was quite a shock but, after that first moment, the Guardian always seemed so tall, whether standing or sitting (which was how the Western pilgrims usually saw him) – the impact of his person was such that physical height did not matter, did not even register, as one was overwhelmed by his spiritual stature which seemed to tower above all else.
The person who greeted me is very clearly depicted in Rúhíyyih Khánum's book about the Guardian, The Priceless Pearl – itself a priceless record (the photo opposite page 377, which shows the Guardian preparing for the funeral of an old believer of 'Akká – a funeral which I probably attended during my pilgrimage.) That is how I remember the Guardian, physically.
But beyond that, there was something much more powerful in that first meeting. The Guardian's greeting expressed a welcome that is hard, even now, to express in words; it conveyed the feeling of a warm and welcoming embrace such as no other host could have done – it was truly a message that "this is your home". At that instant a feeling swept over me that I had truly "come home"; not the ‘home' that one grows up in or lives in, but a ‘spiritual home' – a ‘home' where one has always been, where one ‘belongs'. It was a strange feeling, and a feeling that persisted throughout the pilgrimage – a feeling that wherever I might be, this was my real ‘home'
Perhaps this is the essential memory that one carries through life after the experience of pilgrimage, that the World Centre is one's true home, and going on pilgrimage simply reminds one of this. I have heard other pilgrims over the years express similar feelings – that they felt strangely ‘at home' during their pilgrimage. Perhaps it is the close proximity that one attains to the mortal remains of the Manifestation – of two Manifestations, the Forerunner and the Supreme Manifestation of God – in Their Shrines that creates this feeling. One is as close as one can approach, in this physical realm, the spiritual world that is our true habitation, the ‘home' where our soul belongs, where it came from and where it must return. There is some reminder of this feeling in that most puzzling of the Persian Hidden Words No. 19, where Bahá'u'lláh says: "Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise?
Of that first evening, I remember very little. The Guardian indicated to me where I was to sit and the others filed in and took their places. I think that on that occasion and other evenings later, I sat at the table on the other side to where the Guardian sat, because I can remember watching him eating, speaking – watching his every movement. He was fascinating to watch as he spoke much with his hands, as the French do – and I remembered hearing before that he was fluent in French (some of his early schooling had been in French) as well as Persian, Arabic and Turkish. Others at the table asked some questions, and much of the conversation was between the Guardian and Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas, who was at that time Secretary-General of the International Bahá'í Council, and much of what they were talking about were issues that I was not familiar with and it all went over my head. It was rather overwhelming.
And this was another thing that I soon realized: not only were the pilgrims welcomed as though it was their own home and favoured with the experience of sharing the evening meal with the ‘Beloved of all hearts' but they were privy to the consultation process of the first truly international institution in the world, the forerunner of the Universal House of Justice. No doubt due to the pressure of time and the intensity of the work they were involved in, the evening meal time when the Guardian and the members of the International Bahá'í Council were together became a de facto meeting of the council, a time when the Guardian received reports of what council members were doing and they received his instructions. And the pilgrims fortunate enough to be there at the time, being part of the ‘family', were privy to all this consultation – and sometimes it covered issues that were still very confidential. But more of that later.
The International Bahá'í Council had been formed some six years earlier, in 1951 – though the creation of such a body had been in the mind of the Guardian since 1926 and steps to create the institution had been taken by him late in 1950 when he cabled a number of individual believers, inviting them to join him in Haifa to assist with his ever-increasing work. Those so invited had been Dr Lotfullah Hakim, a Persian believer who had been pioneering for many years in England (he had been there when the Guardian was studying at Oxford, prior to the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá); Jessie and Ethel Revell, two sisters whose mother had been one of the early believers in America and whose home in Philadelphia ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had visited during His travels in North America; Amelia Collins, a generous supporter of the work of the Guardian for many years; and Mason Remey, who had joined the Faith in Paris during the time of the Master and was then living in Florence, Italy. To this group, along with two others - Gladys and Ben Weeden, who were already there assisting the Guardian in his work - he announced his intention of constituting, with them, a council to assist him with the international work of the Cause, and this intention he announced to the Bahá'í world on 9 January 1951.
During that year Gladys and Ben Weeden were forced to leave Haifa, due to poor health, and Leroy Ioas, long-serving member of the American community and corporate executive with a major American rail-road company, offered his services to the Guardian through a message sent with Amelia Collins, an offer that was eagerly accepted by the Guardian. The appointment of the council was announced in a cable on 8 March 1952, with a membership of Rúhíyyih Khánum, liaison between the council and the Guardian; Mason Remey (President); Amelia Collins (Vice-President); Ugo Giachery (member-at-large); Leroy Ioas (Secretary-General) – these four had very recently been appointed also as Hands of the Cause, as Rúhíyyih Khánum was some days later, on 26 March, following the death of her father – Jessie Revell (Treasurer); Ethel Revell and Lotfullah Hakim (Western and Eastern Assistant Secretary). Membership of the council was increased in May 1955 with the appointment of Sylvia Ioas. All members lived at the Western Pilgrim House, with the exception of Amelia Collins, who had a room in the House of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Lotfullah Hakim, and Ugo Giachery who remained domiciled in Rome, Italy, from where he was able to assist the Guardian immensely with the purchase and shipping of marble for the construction of the Shrine of the Báb and the International Archives building.
The council operated informally, with infrequent meetings as all members were busy with tasks allotted them by the Guardian. As Rúhíyyih Khánum explains in her book The Priceless Pearl: "… its members received their instructions from him individually, in the informal atmosphere of the dinners at the Pilgrim House table, and not formally as a body …" And that is precisely what I witnessed and experienced, and the pilgrims were all privy to this consultation between the Guardian and his council, and some of it was truly momentous.
During the nine days that were to come, some of the pilgrims who were there when I arrived completed their allotted period and had left, while others had arrived – no doubt each one experiencing the same first-day feelings as I had, although for one of these I'm sure the experience was different. That was a pilgrim who had arrived while I was in Bahji for two days – so I did not personally experience his arrival but rely on the story as told by Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas at a later time. But I include it here because it was part of my pilgrimage ‘experience', and I feel it speaks volumes for at least one aspect of the Guardian's multi-faceted personality.
Leroy Ioas told the story at the Intercontinental Conference in Djakarta in 1958, one of a series of conferences planned by the Guardian to mark the midway point of the Ten Year Crusade. As it turned out, with his untimely passing in November 1957, these conferences became tributes to his memory – each one attended by his own appointed representative who spoke lovingly of their experiences with the beloved Guardian. The conferences were held in Kampala, Sydney, Chicago, Frankfurt, and the fifth was planned for Djakarta but, as the political situation in Indonesia at that time was such that many believers from other Asian communities were not permitted to attend, the conference was held in two locations – Djakarta and Singapore. Leroy Ioas's talk about the beloved Guardian was given at Djakarta, which a number of Australian believers were able to attend.
Mr Ioas related the story of a pilgrim who arrived on the steps of the Western Pilgrim House and, as Mr Ioas himself said, appeared so shabbily dressed that he was about to send him around to the side entrance where the poor were often provided with food, when he announced himself as a pilgrim. His name was Charles Dunning. Mr Ioas led him to the room where he was to sleep, but felt deeply disturbed that anyone would come on pilgrimage in such shabby clothing. So he asked the newcomer whether he was aware that on pilgrimage he would be meeting with the Guardian of the Cause, and said he hoped he had brought clothes suitable for such an occasion. Charles beamed and said, "Yes, I have," indicating the old and worn suit he was wearing. Mr Ioas said he left him then without a further word, but still felt terribly concerned.
That evening Mr Dunning was ushered in first, as was the custom, and the members of the household including Mr Ioas followed. When they entered the room, Shoghi Effendi was standing beside Charles still embracing him, with his arm around his shoulder and, looking straight at Mr Ioas, said: "This man is a Knight of Bahá'u'lláh. He will sit on my right." – and led the still beaming Charles to his seat of honour beside him. Mr Ioas said that he felt as small as a 5 cent piece and had learned a signal lesson from it: that the Guardian did not judge people as our society does; he always judged people not by what they were or how they looked, but by what service they had rendered Bahá'u'lláh. That was the all-important thing.
As I say, I did not experience that evening but on our return from Bahji, I did sit at the dining table for two more nights, and watched Charles Dunning tell the Guardian virtually how to run the Faith, and the Guardian loved him so much, and encouraged him. Charles was a Yorkshireman, with that delightful brogue, elderly – he must have been in his early seventies – but full of spirit. He had joined the Faith in Manchester in 1948, recognising instantly the truth of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, and within a fortnight of declaring had offered to pioneer to Belfast, in Ireland, one of the most difficult goals of the teaching plan of the time. Here, in an atmosphere of "terrifying bitterness" as he later described it, he learned what it needs to be a pioneer, and with the launch of the Ten Year Crusade in 1953, he offered himself for another most difficult goal of Orkney, the island group north of Scotland, and settled in Kirkwall. Here again he met with deep-seated prejudice and direct opposition, but he persevered – with the qualities he had, of tenacity, devotion and sacrifice – and laid the foundation for the Faith to be established in those remote islands. He was, indeed, a true Knight of Bahá'u'lláh, and it was these qualities which the Guardian could see in him, as well as the service he had rendered the Cause, that endeared him so much. So, again, that was another side of the Guardian that was revealed during my pilgrimage: he valued humour – he had a great sense of humour himself – and highly valued the down- to-earth qualities that Charles possessed.
Some years later in England I heard another story about Charles' pilgrimage – or, rather, I was asked to confirm whether it had happened at all, and the story was that the Guardian had commented that some certain task may be too difficult for the British Bahá'ís, and Charles had instantly responded: "Bunkum (that's rubbish), Guardian, bunkum. They will do whatever you ask of them." I could not confirm it, as it did not happen while I was with him, but I assured the person that it was well in keeping with what I had heard from Charles, and I could see him saying just that.
Speaking of the Guardian's sense of humour, it was very subtle and one incidence I remember was when he was speaking of the goals that had been opened and how some of the pioneers had been forced to leave their pioneering posts after a very short period, and he commented that this was a case of a goal "regaining its virginity – something that was not usually possible, it could only happen in the Faith" – and he said it so quickly and moved on, that it seemed to have gone past the others at the table, though I could see a glimmer of a smile on his face as he said it – and later that evening it came up in discussion, as others had caught it and felt the same way, and Rúhíyyih Khánum assured us that it was typical of his humour.
In those days there was no organised ‘pilgrimage program' as we have today. Each day's activities were directed by the Guardian, usually conveyed at the dinner table the previous evening when the Guardian would tell each pilgrim that on the following day they would do this or that. The Guardian encouraged each of the pilgrims to spend as much time as they wished visiting the Shrines, as these were, he said, the purpose and heart of our pilgrimage – an instruction that I am sure each of the pilgrims readily took to heart. But apart from that, we seemed to be free to participate in whatever was happening at the World Centre. I am sure the Guardian knew the needs of each one of us, and his suggestions to each individual were in line with what they spiritually needed at that time. But generally we were free to do as we wished.
I remember that one day was spent repainting the walls in a room of the Eastern Pilgrim house when I went with Rúhíyyih Khánum and Jessie Revell, with brush and can of whitewash in hand, to do some maintenance work. My clearest memory of that day was Rúhíyyih Khánum wielding the brush, clad in overalls, and her concern for a ‘resident' gecko that kept getting in the way of her brush and had to be caught and carefully placed on another wall for safety. Her concern for all living things was obvious.
Another day the pilgrims who were there were invited to attend the funeral of an old believers who lived in 'Akká, and I can recall being driven there by Leroy Ioas, in a large black American sedan (a Dodge or Buick, I'm not sure, but something like that – one of those large sedans from the 1950's) that had been provided for the Guardian, for more formal occasions, by an American pilgrim of some earlier time. In 'Akká we joined with a large group of resident Bahá'ís and others, and followed the coffin, walking through the narrow lanes and almost-covered alleyways of old 'Akká at a slow pace – obviously passing homes where the deceased was known, by the solemn greetings we received along the way, to the Bahá'í cemetery just beyond the walls of the old city of 'Akká, where the funeral ceremony was held. It was almost a full day but a very precious experience that gave me a much closer feeling of the city in which Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned and spent a fair period of His life.
Another day was spent viewing the archives of the Faith. At that time the Archives building was still under construction, the work supervised by Mr Ioas who, understandably, declined to be photographed in his working overalls, as he said it was not really appropriate for a Hand of the Cause to be recorded for posterity in such a manner. I accepted his wishes, with regret, but later realised that one of the workmen on the roof of the building, in a photograph taken from a distance, was indeed Mr Ioas – but I had not been able to identify him at the time. And no one looking at the photo now would recognise him, so … The superstructure of the building was virtually completed and work was continuing on the roof; on one day the roof was seen to be partly black, as they laid insulation material; the next day it was partly green, as the tiles were being laid. Photos I have record these final stages. But the building was not yet fitted out inside nor occupied. In fact it was the purchase of internal fittings and furnishings for the Archives building that had taken the Guardian and Rúhíyyih Khánum to London later that same year, when the sun ceased to shine for all those who had known the beloved Guardian intimately – a sentiment that many of the Hands of the Cause expressed in the years that followed.
At that time the archives were stored in a couple of locations: items that formed what was known as the ‘major archives' were in the three additional rooms built by the Guardian on the back of the original shrine erected by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá as the resting place for the mortal remains of the Báb, now covered by the Shrine itself – these were archival items belonging to or relating to the Central Figures of the Faith; all other items were stored separately in a small stone building adjacent to the Monument Garden, near to the Tomb of the Greatest Holy Leaf.
Our inspection of the archives was made together with the Iranian pilgrims, which added quite an extra dimension to the experience, as many of the items which might have been of no special importance to a Bahá'í from the West had a special significant to the Iranians, and we were able to share in and gain a great deal from their reaction. The items were not on display, as such – there was little room for that – but more a storage of items from which Dr Hakim, who was showing us the archives, would extract some special item and speak about it – in Persian to the Iranian friends and breaking into English for us others.
Amongst so many items, perhaps the one that had the most impact on me was the copy of the Qur'an that the Báb had carried with him on pilgrimage to Mecca. For what reason, I do not know, but that had an immense impact on me, to think that this small book – a thing so personal – had been carried to Mecca by the Báb and used by Him, and was now here for us to see and touch. It brought the history of our Faith so very close. There were also the manuscripts of tablets: the Kitáb-i-Íqán in the handwriting of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá; some even in the hand of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, with the shaky script the background of which Dr Hakim explained for us; the original of the Persian Bayán, transcribed by the Báb's faithful amenuensis; the Arabic Hidden Words in Bahá'u'lláh's exquisite penmanship; and the tablets of the Báb to His Letters of the Living. The few brief decades between us and the time these Tablets were actually being revealed, and were being read by those for whom they were revealed, disappeared in a flash and we were brought so close to the actual time of their Revelation. We were also shown the small painting of the Báb and those of Bahá'u'lláh, also His photograph – perhaps the most precious of all the relics – but of these I have no clear memory at all; nothing more could register on a mind so full of wonders.
Of the many items in the ‘minor' archives the one I clearly remember was the sword used by Mullá Husayn at the defence of the Fort at Shaykh Tabarsi. The weight of the sword was obvious, and for this to have been wielded by a slight-built scholar, as I had always pictured Mullá Husayn, seemed incredible.
Another day I remember helping with the guiding at the Shrine of the Báb. The Shrine was open to the public from 9 in the morning until noon, and those living at the World Centre all shared in the task of guiding. And as we were welcomed as ‘one of the family' it was also made clear quite early on that we could also share in the work that needed to be done; we were not there for a holiday, and each pilgrim played some role in the work of the World Centre while they were there. I recall that Frank Wyss, on pilgrimage the previous year, had helped Rúhíyyih Khánum build a garden at the rear of the House of the Master, where she and the Guardian lived – and I took some photos of this to show Frank how the finished garden looked. So on a couple of mornings each of the pilgrims had the great privilege of taking visitors through the surrounding gardens and to the Shrine of the Báb.
One group of visitors I remember was a party of young soldiers – both boys and girls – most around my age (at that time) and some much younger, and a couple of older ones who seemed to be in charge. On entering the Shrine gardens, they piled their weapons against a fence alongside the Pilgrim House, each standing on its butt making an ‘Indian wigwam' – they were mostly heavy, automatic rifles, meant for serious business; Israel was then at war with the surrounding Arab states and we were reminded of this every day, though the spirit of the people was generally very light-hearted. I was amazed to see them leaving their firearms in this way: it demonstrated very clearly that they felt under no danger around the Shrine, it was safe to leave their weapons behind; it also showed a real trust in the Bahá'ís – we were people who could be trusted to watch over their precious firearms. It spoke much for the relationship the Guardian had established with the authorities and the people of Israel.
Walking down the pathway, they all visited the Shrine, taking off their boots to enter the Shrine, and all looked very subdued on the way out. Their work was ‘war'; the Shrine spoke to them of ‘peace' – it must have puzzled them, but they all seemed happy to have been there.
Another large group came one day – a bus load, typical of tourists in any land - and as they filed out of the Shrine, I could see the impact of it on their faces, quite different from when they had come. Many were wiping their eyes and they all looked very subdued. I took a photo of the group before they left – at their request, seeing the camera slung on my shoulder – and later sent a photo to an address they had given me.
Another time a middle-aged lady came; she seemed very interested and asked me many questions but our conversation was very limited as she spoke only Hebrew, of which I could understand not a word. Perhaps it was better that way, because we knew of the embargo on teaching the Faith in Israel, which had come down from the time of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, and the Guardian had followed His lead. And we understood the need for and the wisdom in this. The lady entered the Shrine with obvious reverence, while I waited outside by the door. When she came out the tears were streaming down her face; I did not know what she understood, but her feeling was obvious. The Shrine itself had touched her deeply, in some mysterious way.
Another day I spent some time helping Rúhíyyih Khánum load into the car some gifts that the friends had sent to the Guardian, mostly from Iran it seemed. Rúhíyyih Khánum told us that so many of the friends, pilgrims and others who were unable to come, sent gifts to the Guardian as an expression of their devotion. There were large silver platters, vases and other ornaments of craft work; many carpets were also sent as gifts and these the Guardian would place in one of the Shrines – they were already knee-deep in luxurious Persian rugs and carpets of considerable value. But the other gifts, they could not use; not only did they not fit the lifestyle of those at the World Centre but many of them were quite valuable, and the Faith needed money. For every new project he called for, the Guardian would add his own contribution – to kick-start some new fund or meet a need in an area where there were little funds available. This was the great need of the time, and the Guardian had no hesitation in selling these gifts. They had found a reputable dealer in Haifa who paid a fair price, and every few weeks or so Rúhíyyih Khánum would take a load of these to him. I understand the Guardian would later advise the donor of what he had done and where their gift had immeasurably assisted in the teaching work of the Cause.
Rúhíyyih Khánum also told us that the Guardian was extremely careful with the moneys he spent – on his own needs or those of the Faith. Every little expenditure would be recorded in a small book he kept – a record of how the funds of the Faith were spent. No item, however small, went unlisted. I recalled my father, who had originally opposed the idea of my spending so much on this ‘crazy' pilgrimage, had said just before I left, that he was happy that I was going. "You'll meet the chief and see who is raking off the profit in this religion." Indeed I did – such as the ‘profit' was. All I experienced on pilgrimage confirmed my deep feeling that this was a religion like no other.
Other days were spent wandering around and photographing the Shrine, the Archives building and the surrounding gardens. Of course, the gardens were very different then, and so much smaller. The gardens around the Shrine of the Báb were fully established but were confined by the upper roadway and the wall above the first downward terrace. It was interesting to learn that the terraces below the Shrine had actually be laid out and made by the Guardian but, because of the dangerous slope they were on and the difficulty of maintaining them in a safe condition, they had been allowed to deteriorate and were not open to the pilgrims. One recent pilgrim, a pioneer to Greenland whose arrival in Thule had been set in history by the Guardian in one of his Ridván messages, had wanted to climb to the Shrine from the roadway below and had actually made his ascent to the fence immediately beneath the Shrine gardens. Finding his way barred there by a securely locked gate, he was forced to retrace his steps down the mountain and forego his desire to ascend to the Shrine, as the kings of the future would, in humility before the One Who was the Forerunner of the Supreme Manifestation. He had been made quite despondent by this experience, feeling he was unworthy to approach the Shrine in this way, and in telling us the story Rúhíyyih Khánum said she had to plead with him not to take such things too seriously, nor to draw spiritual conclusions from some quite innocent physical occurrence.
Between the entrance gate at the main road and the Eastern Pilgrim House, along the crushed-tile pathway, was the cactus garden that Rúhíyyih Khánum had laid out and planted – a forerunner of gardens we may need to emulate in these days of little water – and across the main road, the Monument Garden where members of Bahá'u'lláh's family are buried – the Greatest Holy Leaf; the Purest Branch; His "consort in all the worlds" Navvab and the Holy Mother, Munírih Khánum - were embraced in well established gardens, which had been there since the 1940's. Above that, on the slope of the mountainside where the Seat of the House of Justice and other buildings are now established, was simply open garden, marked out by the pathway of the physical arc that the Guardian had laid out, leading from the entrance to the Archives building, across the steep slope of the mountain to the other side, where the Guardian had built up the natural slope of the mountain into the arc-shaped amphitheatre we know now. This garden was adorned by small figures of wrought iron eagles and urns on a low stone base, in the Italian style, brought together by paths and borders of drought resistant plants, geraniums and the like, and grass that had to be left dry in the rainless season, due to the shortage of water – even though the Guardian had established underground water cisterns to preserve as much of the rainwater as possible.
We were told that the far end of this arc, opposite the Archives building, had to be built up some 10 to 15 metres from the natural lay – to create the even arc that the Guardian wanted. On the mountainside in those days were a number of very mature olive trees, perhaps part of an old grove or perhaps growing naturally, that the Guardian dearly wanted to preserve. He consulted the gardening professionals and was told that it would be impossible to retain them with the up-building of soil the Guardian had planned; they would never survive. Undeterred, the Guardian clipped the trees back, choosing to leave one branch that rose the highest, built a circular wall of stone around the trunk, as the earth was brought in to raise the level of the mountainside, leaving only a few sprouting leaves above the new soil level. And despite the experts' advice, the trees not only survived but flourished. The mountainside was dotted with small but healthy olive trees that were actually the extreme top of the old trees that had been buried some 30 feet below. You don't tell the Guardian he can't do something!
High up on the mountainside, at the apex of the arc where the Seat of the House of Justice now stands, Fugita-san had his own little garden. Amongst the precious ‘archives' at the World Centre was the person of Saichiro Fugita. During the first decade of the 20th century, Fugita had gone to America, far away from his homeland of Japan, to seek better educational opportunities and through Mrs. Kathryn Frankland, who was then living in Oakland, California, in 1905 he became a Bahá'í, the second Japanese believer to declare. During ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to America in 1912 Fugita, then living in Cleveland, Ohio, took the opportunity of one of His visits to Chicago to travel to that city in the hope of seeing him. Finding himself in a huge crowd gathered at the railway station to greet the Master and unable to see above their heads, Fugita climbed a conveniently placed lamp post in order to get a glimpse of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. As the Master climbed into the car that was to take him to the home of Mrs Corinne True for a reception, He spotted Fugita on his high perch and called him to come down. Embracing him warmly, he invited Fugita to follow Him to Mrs True's home. As a result of this meeting, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá invited him to accompany their party to California and during that time Fugita expressed his great desire to devote the remainder of his life to serving Him. The Master accepted this offer and promised to send for him. The outbreak of war delayed this for some time, during which period he lived with Corinne True's family and was guided in his studies by frequent Tablets from ‘Abdu'l-Bahá,, who in 1919 called him to come to the Holy Land.
Except for one brief visit to his home in Japan during the 1930s, Fugita remained in the Holy Land, serving the Master and later Shoghi Effendi in many ways until in 1938, sensing the disruption of the coming world conflict, the Guardian sent him home to Japan for his own protection. With conditions settling after the war, Shoghi Effendi was able to arrange for his return to the Holy Land, with a party of pioneers coming from Japan on pilgrimage in 1955.
During my time there I saw much of Fugita-san, little realizing the connection that my life would make with Japan in later years. I remember once he asked me why Australian people did not like the Japanese, and I had to reassure him that this was not generally so, but the war had affected people in strange ways – and there was at least one person who really did like the Japanese, especially him. Your grandmother [Bill's wife Hiroko; see About these notes] also met him when she made the pilgrimage in 1975 – eighteen years on and that much older, he was missing his homeland so much that he really begged her to stay with him, just to be able to speak with someone in Japanese. He was a delightful person, full of humour and the joy of life. He had many talents: he had helped ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and later the Guardian with the installation and maintenance of much-needed electrical systems for the gardens, he maintained and drove the Master's automobile; worked in the gardens, assisting the Guardian with their designing with an artistry unique to the Japanese; he was a skilled chef, cooking for and serving the Master and later the Guardian, and the many pilgrims and other visiting dignitaries. I recall him serving the pilgrims at the Guardian's dinner table while I was there and can clearly picture him now – always there but unobtrusive. He knew what food the Guardian especially liked and I remember him once coming back a third time with the serving plate and waiting patiently beside the Guardian – it must have been one of the Guardian's favourite dishes. After a few moments, the Guardian took a little more, perhaps more to please Fugita-san, than because he was hungry. But I also remember that the Guardian seemed to have a good appetite and ate well, because the dinners were often prolonged, the Guardian giving the pilgrims ample opportunity to ask their questions and seek guidance. And then I recall since reading somewhere – it must have been in The Priceless Pearl – that this was the only proper meal the Guardian had each day.
I mentioned before Rúhíyyih Khánum's reference to the evening dinner serving as unofficial ‘meetings' of the International Bahá'í Council, and this was truly a remarkable thing. Not only were the pilgrims treated more as one of the family than guest, but they were embraced, as part of that family, in the business affairs of an institution that was to evolve into the Supreme House of Justice. While I was there two of those members were absent – Milly Collins and Mason Remey were not in Haifa – and Ugo Giachery, whom I had met in Rome, came to Haifa only when personal consultation with the Guardian was needed. But other members were there, and I soon realized that we pilgrims were also included in that – a truly rare experience. One evening the Guardian was speaking with Leroy Ioas about the new Mashriqu'l-Adhkár that was to be built in Sydney, and he must have noticed the surprise in my eyes, as this was the first I had ever heard of it. He looked directly at me, and said very kindly that this was a confidential matter which the friends generally in Australia knew nothing of, and I must not say anything about it when I returned to Australia. Rúhíyyih Khánum immediately broke in to say: "But, Shoghi Effendi, that is a very heavy thing to lay on a young person's shoulders." He nodded, smiled and said, simply: "He will learn. He will learn", and went on with his conversation with Leroy Ioas. I learned that this was a supplementary goal of the Ten Year Crusade to replace the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár planned for Tehran, which might not be feasible because of the political situation there; I learned that plans were well under way and that the design of Mason Remey's for the House of Worship in Australia was being modified and redrafted by a local architect who would supervise the construction, and that the National Spiritual Assembly had been working on this for some time, but the community had not yet been told.
I also learned to keep my mouth shut. Returning to Australia by air, my route went through Adelaide and I again spent a few days with the Featherstone family there. On the first night, just before I climbed into bed on the back porch, which served as a ‘guest room', Collis came out in his pyjamas and asked me if the Guardian had said anything and then told me not to speak about it. I said: "Yes, he did." Collis instantly stopped me with a raised hand, and said: "Then, don't tell me." I didn't. Mr Featherstone was then a member of the National Spiritual Assembly, as the Hands were still permitted to be, and was well aware of what I may have heard from the Guardian. I knew too that the Guardian was right; I did learn.
There were many other things they spoke about, some plans for developments in the Faith that I was vaguely aware of, and much that I did not know. As pilgrims we seemed to be included in all this, and trusted. It was in a way bewildering, and yet made me feel happy and proud: this was an ‘open' Faith; people trusted you, relied on you; there was no unnecessary secrecy. I learned many things, and after dinner each evening, the Guardian would leave – he obviously had a night's work before him – and we pilgrims, together with the others of the household, would move to a lounge room, upstairs from the dining room, and the conversation would go well into the night, exchanges of news between the pilgrims, between pilgrims and members of the household, clarification on something the Guardian may have said that night. And from these exchanges I also learned a great deal. Then when we retired to sleep, I made notes of all I could remember, because it was not permitted at that time – and reasonably enough – for the pilgrims to take notes at the dinner table. That was not the main purpose. But at the end of each day, I was able to make notes of all I could recall. And these notes got me into some trouble later on.
Some years later a story filtered back – I heard it first from Howard Harwood, who was one of the three Counsellors initially appointed for Australasia in 1968, and your grandmother [Bill's wife Hiroko; see About these notes] also heard it from Rúhíyyih Khánum in Tokyo, when they were both visiting Japan in 1979. The story was that a young Australian pilgrim was there and the Guardian had expressed some concern to Rúhíyyih Khánum one evening that perhaps this young pilgrim was not really "taking in anything". He had asked Rúhíyyih Khánum: "He seems so quiet. Do you think he understands anything at all." She assured him – "It's just that he is young and I'm sure he is listening to what you are saying." Then some weeks later the Guardian came to Rúhíyyih Khánum, waving a copy of the Australian Bahá'í Bulletin that had just been received. "He was listening" he said, "and listening well; he has ‘stolen' my Ridván message, he has told them all the news I am planning to put in my Ridván message this year".
And I'm sorry to say it was true. The notes I had taken were fairly full; I had been trained and worked as a journalist in earlier days, and one essential need of that work was the ability to make notes, and transcribe accurately what people had said. Each evening I had recalled much of what the Guardian had said and made notes which were later used to make a report on my pilgrimage. When I returned to Australia – and pilgrimage in those days was not so common as it is today – Eric Bowes had asked me to make some report for the Herald of the South, which he was editing at that time. I did as he asked, and this report found its way also into the Bulletin, where it was read by the Guardian. Many of the facts and statistics that he intended to use for that beautiful Ridván message in 1957, the last one he ever wrote for us, were already shared with the friends in that report. I felt so terrible about it, and even now I wish I could retract what had been done.
Two out of the nine days of pilgrimage were spent at Bahji, sleeping in the Mansion – and this was a truly moving experience: to spend the nights and as much time as you wished in the building where the Blessed Beauty spent His last days, so close to His own room. Reg and I went together and were accommodated in small rooms leading off the main hall of the Mansion, which reeked of the history of the Faith, models of temples in the centre of the hall and the walls adorned with historic photographs. The rooms where we slept were lined with books, several copies of each – it must have been the official collection of published material that goes to the World Centre, to the Guardian then and to the House of Justice now. Two others who had been there when I arrived – Amy Putnam and Caterina Bosio – were also with us in Bahji and 'Akká but were accommodated somewhere else.
Time was spent in the room where Bahá'u'lláh lived and slept – just soaking up the atmosphere of peace and sanctity; in the building that backs onto the Shrine which some of the Covenant-breakers had recently vacated; wandering around the gardens, then but a fraction of what is there now, with only one quarter of the circle spread with grass and garden borders – the recently completed Milly Collins gate standing out on its own. We wandered in the grove of pine trees standing to one side – true Lebanon cedars, we were told – and inspected the small stone building nearby, out on its own, not far from the Collins Gate, from where the Guardian planned the gardens – and no doubt many other things. It was painted a stark white with blue door and windows – typical Mediterranean colours, and we were told that the Guardian often sat – and slept when it was warm – on its roof, from where he could view the whole property.
But most precious of all was the time spent around and in the Most Holy Shrine, kneeling on the threshold to the Tomb itself – trying to remember a prayer and wondering why the mind was so blank. All thought was gone, out of reach; the mind was filled with ‘feeling' – no thought, just ‘feeling'. One felt overwhelmed by the presence in the Shrine, something almost palpable but quite out of reach when you tried to think about it. So you just knelt and enjoyed it, waves of pure emotion swept over you, and you just knelt there. I was asked on my return home what it was like to be in the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, and I remember saying that each of the Shrines was different – the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh was infused with a feeling of peace – perhaps a foretaste of the Most Great Peace which He had come to bring to mankind; perhaps something much simpler than that, the peace of a soul that ‘knows' it has ‘come home'.
It was quite different to the feeling I experienced in the Shrines of the Báb and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, where I spent perhaps more time: the Shrine of the Báb was, to me – and this is very much a personal thing – somehow filled with sadness, yet triumph. They had tried to put Him down, and here He was now, on the side of the Holy Mountain of Carmel, in the heart of what his persecutors and many others regard as the Holy Land. The Shrine of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was, on the other hand, filled with happiness, a feeling of joy that tribulations had been overcome and were no more. But it is all a personal thing.
From Bahji we also visited 'Akká; walked along the sea wall; visited the Prison and saw the room in which Bahá'u'lláh and His immediate family had spent some two years; looked through the tiny barred windows at the view that had been His for that long period, all He could see of the outside world, and you fully understood why He was yearning to see some green fields, some vegetation of nature. One also marvelled at the stories of the early pilgrims walking the distance from Iran, only to see His hand waving at one of these small windows, and then returning with their hearts satisfied, to the teaching field or to martyrdom. The room itself was in the process of being renovated, with care to ensure that it remained as it was in the days when Bahá'u'lláh was there, but the rest of the building seemed very dilapidated.
We also visited the House of ‘Abbúd, and saw the room where the Kitáb-i-Aqdas had been revealed, the outer porch where Bahá'u'lláh might have paced while He was revealing Tablets, and the chambers where the Master and his bride, Munírih Khánum, had been married – and marvelled at the smallness of it all. We could then appreciate why the merchant ‘Abbúd had offered his home to be joined with that of Údí Khammár to make their prison quarters more liveable. We were also told that much of the furnishing and decoration in these rooms had been the work of the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahíyyih Khánum, who was able to arrange the rooms as they had been when they were occupied.
We walked through the caravanserai where many of those early believers, who were fortunate to be able to enter 'Akká, had stayed until other quarters could be found. We saw the sea-gate through which Bahá'u'lláh had entered the city on His arrival and walked through alleyways where we felt strongly the presence of the Master and others who had been able to walk more freely in those days. At that time no other Holy Places were open to pilgrims.
On another day – I think we came by car from Haifa – we visited the Garden of Na'mayn (or Ridván Garden, as they called it) close by to 'Akká – a place of perfect quiet. It was a still day, after some cold and rainy weather, and the sun was a little warmer. We went to the tea-room, upstairs where they told us Bahá'u'lláh used to take tea and sometimes nap when He visited the garden. It was truly a refuge from the constant noise and dilapidated stone walls and narrow alleyways of 'Akká – one could imagine the relief it must have been for Bahá'u'lláh to have been able to see some verdure, trees and flowers – with the flowing water that is so precious to Iranians. We were told that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had created this little oasis of peace, where a small river divides around an island, separating as it flows through the gardens He had made. There we saw the blue and white wooden benches where Bahá'u'lláh used to sit, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the greenery that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had created for Him. There were old fruit trees; the elderly gardener picked some mandarins for us, but they seemed far too precious to eat.
The same day we also visited the Mansion of Mazra'ih, where Bahá'u'lláh had lived for two years, still a prisoner but with a relaxation of the severity of confinement He had experienced in 'Akká. He could at least look out over the plains of Sharon to the distant mountains, and the Mansion was surrounded by olive groves and cultivated land. At the head of the main stairs was a full-length painting of one who had been His guard, an Arab who had come to ‘Akká with the Egyptian army, fighting the Turks in the 1830s, and then settled there and, in his old age, serving as a guard of a Prisoner who was to be despised. But as it was with so many others in a similar situation, Bahá'u'lláh won his heart and his full allegiance. His name was Ahmad Jarráh; he came to love Bahá'u'lláh dearly and many of his family and their descendants were believers.
One of them we met at Bahji – Ahmad's great-nephew, Saláh Jarráh. Following Ahmad's acceptance of the Faith, two of his brothers – Khálid and Amín – also became Bahá'ís, and many of both families followed. Saláh was a grandson of both these brothers, through his mother and father, and was devoted to the Faith from an early age. He was actually given his name by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá whose advice the parents had sought at his birth; it derives from the Arabic word for ‘peace'. Saláh had a deep and abiding love for the Guardian, and had served him directly since 1942, and in 1948 – when the land of Palestine was in an upheaval with the formation of the State of Israel – he and his mother were appointed caretakers at Bahji.
Saláh's love for the Guardian was limitless. One evening the pilgrims were discussing the colour of the Guardian's eyes and Rúhíyyih Khánum recalled an earlier occasion when a similar discussion had arisen and one of the pilgrims turned to Saláh, saying: "You spend a lot of time with the Guardian, Saláh. You must know the colour of his eyes." Saláh looked at her in amazement and said: "Who would dare look in the eyes of the beloved Guardian?" For all the time he had been in close contact with the Guardian, he had never looked directly in his face; always when they were together, his eyes were lowered – a mark of deep respect in the Arab world.
Saláh told us another story which reflects both on his absolute devotion for the Guardian, and the way Shoghi Effendi worked. One day the Guardian had told him that he would need a large number of cypress trees, of a certain height, delivered to him in Haifa in a few days' time. Knowing full well that there were only a few cypress saplings in their nursery, Saláh spontaneously replied: "Yes, my Guardian" - he always called him "my Guardian" – even in later times when I met Saláh again. And if the Guardian needed something, the only possible answer was, "Yes". Then he started to think: "Wherever am I going to find that many trees?" He tried a number of places and eventually found them available at a nearby kibbutz – and they were free. To Saláh, if the Guardian wanted something – anything at all – he would find it.
Reflecting back on this story, I have since felt on many occasions that, as he had such absolute faith in Shoghi Effendi, knowing that whatever he asked for would be possible of achievement, we also should respond to whatever the House of Justice suggests may be done or even hints at as something we might be doing; we should respond with that "instant, exact and complete obedience" to whatever that wondrous and unique institution asks of us.
Saláh was a spiritual and truly beautiful soul, and I always remember him with a surge of love. He was the only person permitted to deal with the Covenant-breakers who still lived there; he really hated dealing with them but he would do anything for the Guardian. Such is the nature of justice in our Faith, and the Guardian's strict adherence to dispensing justice at all times, the Covenant-breakers were allowed to visit and enter the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh – they were, after all, Bahá'ís and, as such, it was their right to enter His Shrine, despite their opposition to the Guardian and whatever hurt and suffering they were causing him. And it was Saláh who carried the responsibility of dealing with them. He despised the task, but he did it because his Guardian had asked him to do so.
I learned afterwards that, heart-broken at the untimely passing of the Guardian and feeling unable to stay there, after assisting the Hands in the Holy Land with some unfinished projects, Saláh pioneered to Djibouti in Somaliland, Africa. Ten years later he was involved in a motor accident and was taken to France for medical treatment. In 1975 he returned to Haifa to serve the Universal House of Justice and, after a visit to England when he noted the poor condition of the gardens around the burial place of the Guardian, he begged the House of Justice to allow him to live in London and take care of the Guardian's resting place. Purchasing a small cottage nearby, he devoted his life from then on to caring lovingly for the place where his Guardian now lay. Despite having his residence nearby, the friends noticed that many a night, particularly during the summer months, he would doze all night on a stool near the resting place – just in case some visitors came during the night and needed help. The National Assembly of the British Isles then had a small but cosy shelter built for him on land just opposite the resting place, where he virtually lived – as close as he could be to his Guardian.
I had the great joy and privilege to visit the Resting Place of the Guardian while Saláh was there, and spent some more very precious time with him, catching up on his story since the time we had met at Bahji. Indicating a number of rather large and ostentatious grave stones which were by then surrounding the low walled burial plot, Saláh told me that many Iranian Bahá'ís had come to London when they felt their lives at an end and were buried as close as they could get to the Guardian's grave. "But they don't realize," Saláh speculated, "that when the aeroplane can fly fast enough, the House of Justice will take my Guardian back to Haifa, and they will be left here." Perhaps he will be proved right, only the future can tell. But I knew from his comment that his heart was still bound to his Guardian, and he would spend the rest of his days beside him. As it happened, Saláh is now buried in Haifa; he was visiting there when his own life came to an abrupt end in another motor accident in January 1989.
During those evening dinners with the Guardian, he spoke of many aspects of the Faith – opening up new vistas in our understanding of the Faith. Much of the conversation was directed by the Guardian himself as he shared with the pilgrims the news of the time – the progress of the Faith throughout the world, and it was this that really made him happy. Habib Sabet told us that out of his twenty or so visits to the Holy Land, he had never seen the Guardian as happy as he was this time. And the reason for this was clear – the Faith was making great strides ahead in many places: there was the beginning of mass enrolments in some countries – in Uganda, in Mentawai, on the fringe of Indonesia, and in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the heart of the Pacific (now Tuvalu and Kiribati). It was the time for the darker skinned peoples of the world, the Guardian said; first to accept the Faith had been the Caucasians, the white races; now it was the turn of the black and brown races – and the Faith should have a majority of dark-skinned peoples because the black and brown were the majority of the peoples of the world.
The numbers were relatively small: some 1,100 in Uganda; 500 in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands; and over 1,100 in Mentawai. Other areas, mainly in Africa and the Pacific, also had an increasing flow of new believers – and the names and numbers rolled off his tongue. It was truly a lesson in geography, as many were places the pilgrims had never even heard of but their names meant so much to the Guardian; he also knew who were there as pioneers and how much they had suffered for the Cause. He told us that some pioneers had been forced to leave their post, and he would have to cross them off in his book. He kept a small book in which he recorded all the statistics of the Faith; Rúhíyyih Khánum told us later that if news came through of more that two pioneers leaving their post at the one time, he would mark off one that day, and the others the following day. He could not bear to cross off all at once – so precious to him were these pioneers and what they were achieving.
Topics of conversation on some evenings were generated by questions from the pilgrims and the Guardian's response to them – and he gave the pilgrims ample opportunity to ask the questions that were closest to their hearts. On one evening Rúhíyyih Khánum, noticing my silence, asked if I had any questions for the Guardian. I did not, but it was an opportunity to ask a question on behalf of another believer who had asked me to do so. But I had no questions myself; I had hardly any mind at all, really. I remember thinking afterwards that I was like a small dog with a very large bone: sitting there, wagging the tail and wondering what to do with it. All thought of questions had completely gone from my mind; it was enough just to be there, listening to the Guardian and trying to soak up as much as possible of his words and the wondrous atmosphere.
The Guardian also seemed to direct his comments and the course of conversation to what each pilgrim might be interested in. If he sensed that someone had a particular interest in some aspect of the Faith, he would direct the discussion in that way. And he seemed to know this instinctively. As he made some statement, often one of the pilgrims would respond with keen interest and it became obvious that this was an issue they wanted to raise but were struggling with the words to phrase it. Rúhíyyih Khánum told us one evening that on an earlier occasion a lady had come on pilgrimage at a time when no other pilgrims were there and the Guardian had invited her non-Bahá'í husband to accompany her. And he had directed the conversation in channels completely away from the affairs of the Faith, discussing issues her husband had shown some interest in. Such was the natural courtesy and kindness of Shoghi Effendi; he ensured that people felt comfortable and ‘at home' while they were his guest.
He would often speak of the needs and progress of the Faith in the country where each pilgrim was from, asking some question about the progress of the Faith in that region. I remember that he spoke a great deal about Australia and the Pacific: he was very happy with the progress of the Faith in Australia, and said that it was especially commendable as the Australian community had done what they had without much assistance from outside, without outside pioneers except for the original two. He spoke of Mother Dunn in warmly endearing terms, of how much she and Father Dunn had suffered in the early days. He spoke of the great achievements of the Australian community in launching the Faith out into the Pacific in response to the call of the Ten Year Crusade. His comments often showed that he knew more about the Australian community than I did, and I felt this was the same for the others at the table.
He spoke much about the Australian aborigines and the Maoris of New Zealand, and how important it was that the Faith be taken to them as quickly as possible. At one stage he asked me where most of the aboriginal people of Australia lived, and I responded that there were some living all over but mostly in the far north and west of the country. He then asked me where most of the Bahá'ís were, and I told him the large communities were in the south-east, between Adelaide and Brisbane (there were at that time only a handful of elderly Bahá'ís in Perth – their single ‘youth' member was Ottalie Strempell, probably in her mid-forties – I knew this, because I had been there, to catch the boat to Italy). He smiled – in the way that only he could – and said no more. He did not need to; I had caught his point – and I guess that was why I eventually settled in Darwin.
But his interest in the indigenous peoples across the world was obvious. He made the point that it was amongst them that we would find truly spiritual people, not in the educated and affluent Western world. He was thrilled with the progress of the Faith in Africa and the Pacific, which at that time were just beginning to show their potential. Many times his comments would open up completely new vistas of thought for the pilgrims. I remember he was speaking of the potential of the Soviet Union which at that time was virtually sealed off, but he said there were Bahá'ís there, even in Siberia, where they had been sent to work in the gulags. And he spoke of this as though he had had recent news of them, not just that they ‘must be there' because they had gone several decades before. Then he said: "We must be very careful not to criticise communism or the communists, because we now have ‘communist' Bahá'ís, just as we have ‘democratic' Bahá'ís" – and this immediately opened up a new line of thought for me: that we are what we are much because we were born that way, not by choice, and the tags we put on people beyond the Faith were really meaningless. Believing and being a Bahá'í was the important thing, not what we were or where we had come from before. Our allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh took us far beyond all man-made divisions.
He spoke several times about the pending crises and suffering that humanity needed to pass through before people would respond to the Faith in large numbers; that humanity faced grave dangers if it did not shorten this time of suffering through its early recognition of Bahá'u'lláh. When asked about the nature of these calamities, he said they would come in many ways: both natural disasters and man-made calamities would combine to chastise a wayward humanity – this was part of God's Plan. He spoke of what he termed the Minor Plan of God and the Major Plan of God; both were from God but one would occur through the persistent efforts of mankind – this was our part in the plan, the Minor Plan, promoting the interests and growth of the Faith, and the response of humanity to those efforts – and the other more indirectly, through calamities of nature and other disasters caused by mankind's rejection of the solution that God had provided, all stemming from the rulers' rejection of the call of Bahá'u'lláh in His Tablets to the Kings.
Shoghi Effendi used very strong language in speaking of these dangers; he referred to a "blood-letting" to draw off the "bad blood" that had accumulated; he said that mankind needed this and, without it, we could not move forward as God had destined for us. His words were truly chilling, and then he would suddenly relax and say we should not think too much of these things, but move on with the work of the Faith, with teaching the Cause. This was the only real answer and this was within our hands. We should not ponder over and speculate on what or how this chastisement from God may come, but get on with our work. It was as if Shoghi Effendi wished to alert us to what was coming, but urged us not to dwell on it too much. I have reflected during the years since that what we had considered as great tragedies in the 1950s, natural disasters that would have then taken over the world's headlines, have now become such common and everyday occurrences, continually repeated in news broadcasts, that we have really become immune to their effect. Perhaps this is the mercy of God that will enable us to get through this time of testing unscathed.
Some of the comments made by the Guardian, some even on relatively minor issues, gave one much food for thought. At that time Pope Pius XII, who was elderly and had held the office for many years, had been in the news with a prolonged attack of hiccups that had the medical authorities quite baffled, and one of the pilgrims commented, half in jest, that perhaps this was caused by the close proximity of Ugo Giachery who had lived for some time in a block of apartments just outside the colonnaded square of St Peter, in a property belonging to the Vatican – this was the address I had first gone to, before finding Dr Giachery's new address. Rather than brushing off the comment, the Guardian had replied that this was quite possible. The Pope, he said, was a very spiritual person, and it was possible that having Dr Giachery offering his daily prayers so close to the Pope's residence could have adversely affected his health. He took it quite seriously. And I was also surprised at his comment on the Pope's spirituality; he viewed him as a person, quite apart from the office he held in the Catholic hierarchy. I was reminded of this by some comment – by Violette Nahkjavani, I think it was – that Rúhíyyih Khánum had never criticised or made any negative remarks about any of the missionaries they had met during their travels together, because they were all spiritual people, doing what they thought was best.
On my final evening there, the Guardian spoke a great deal about Australia – this was the evening he spoke so lovingly about Mother Dunn – and presented me with a small metal vial of attar of roses, to be used when greeting the friends on my return to Australia, so as to share with them something of the fragrance of pilgrimage. That evening Rúhíyyih Khánum told us the story of another pilgrim some months before who was pioneering amongst the Eskimos in northern Canada, and had asked the Guardian if, when translating the Hidden Words, we could substitute something for the word "rose" as the people she was teaching had no idea of what a rose was. He had replied that these were the words of Bahá'u'lláh and could not be changed. On her final evening he had given her the same vial of attar of roses, saying that she should share its fragrance with those whom she was teaching, so they would have some idea of the fragrance of the roses that Bahá'u'lláh had spoken of.
My return journey after pilgrimage had been planned by air, flying through Tehran where I intended to stay a while, looking forward to the opportunity of meeting with the Bahá'ís there. When the Guardian learned of this, he said one evening that it would not be wise for me to stop over in Iran: conditions were still more than a little uncertain for the friends there and, while it would not be dangerous for me, it might cause some trouble for the Bahá'ís whom I made contact with in Iran. The clergy there were still greatly opposed to the Faith and were always looking for some excuse to attack the Bahá'ís – a visit from a Westerner may provide just the excuse they were waiting for.
The next morning Jessie Revell took me down town, to a travel agent whom they used, to find an alternative route home, and the agent suggested flying through Istanbul, Bahrain Island, Karachi and onwards. It suddenly dawned on me that Bahrain was where Mr Faizi had pioneered and still lived, and this would be an unexpected chance to visit him. I confirmed the booking for that route with an unsuppressible feeling of excitement; Mr Faizi was the one who had brought me into the Faith. He had visited Australia with Hand of the Cause Alí-Akbar Furútan following the intercontinental conference in New Delhi that had launched the Ten Year Crusade – Mr Faizi was at that time Auxiliary Board member and skilled in languages, so he was to assist Mr Furútan who spoke very little English at that time.
They had visited Leeton where I lived because Mr Furútan had been instructed by the Guardian to meet with every Bahá'í in Australia, which was physically possible then, as the numbers were so small. It was planned that most of the Bahá'ís would attend summer school that year (the end of 1953) and the visitors would travel widely to meet up with those who would not be at summer school. There were two young Bahá'ís pioneering in Leeton at that time, Noel and Margaret Bluett, from whom I had borrowed some books that had aroused a keen interested in the new concepts of religion that the Faith offered, and when I learned that the two Bahá'í visitors were coming to meet with them, I too was eagerly looking forward to seeing them. They asked if I would pick them up from the airport and later drive them on to Wagga, which I was very happy to do and, when I met Mr Faizi (he had much more impact because he spoke English and everything Mr Furútan said, we received through Mr Faizi's translation), I was determined to attend that summer school. From this meeting onwards, my life changed completely; I felt that if this religion could produce a human being like Mr Faizi, it really had something – and it was something I dearly wanted.
So faced with the totally unexpected opportunity of meeting Mr Faizi again, I was really excited. That evening the Guardian was advised of the change of route and he approved – but said that conditions in Bahrain were also not too favourable for the friends, and I should keep my visit there short. When I later arrived in Bahrain and found Mr Faizi, the first thing he asked me was whether the Guardian had given any instructions about the visit. I told him, and he immediately – and firmly – said "Five days will be okay – no more" So five days it was, but that is a story for another day.
On my final evening in Haifa, the Guardian said to me: "You have experienced one pilgrimage in Haifa; you will now experience another pilgrimage with Mr Faizi in Bahrain Island." I felt that expressed the deep love and admiration he had for Mr Faizi. He called Mr Faizi the "Conqueror of Arabia" even though he had never been in Arabia, not on the mainland. But when I went to Bahrain I understood more fully what it meant – it was Mr Faizi who had prepared and sent many of the early pioneers into Arabia, one of the most difficult places in the world to be teaching the Faith.
It seemed to me, looking back on my experience of pilgrimage, that there were two separate entities: Shoghi Effendi, the warm and loving host who made sure his guests were comfortable and at ease, ensuring that each pilgrim found his or her heart's desire, and achieved all they had hoped for from their pilgrimage; and then there was another quite distinct entity of the Guardian, the Sign of God, that "most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl", the "Primal Branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree". Leroy Ioas, who probably knew the Guardian better than most, said to us once that on one hand Shoghi Effendi was so humble and self-effacing, and yet when he was representing the Faith or the Cause was being threatened in some way, he was "like a roaring lion" in its defence. I have referred here to both but in reality for most of the time it was Shoghi Effendi whom I saw and listened to, and only occasionally did I catch a glimpse of ‘the Guardian'.
One such time was when Leroy Ioas was explaining to the Shoghi Effendi how they were having difficulties with the purchase of land for the House of Worship in Germany. The National Assembly there had tried to acquire different plots of land but was constantly being hampered by other interests, mainly the church authorities who were determined to block the progress of the Cause there, and Leroy Ioas was detailing some of these difficulties that were delaying the achievement of the goal. Suddenly, with a raised hand, Shoghi Effendi interrupted him and, slowly bringing his hand down onto the table, palm downwards, he said in a quiet voice: "Leroy, we must have that land." But it was like a clap of thunder; there was such a power in his movement and voice. There was a brief moment of silence, and then Mr Ioas said, meekly: "Yes, beloved Guardian." No more, that was it - just a simple action and a brief comment, but it carried such a force that I felt a shock-wave go through me. I am not sure how the others felt, but for me it had such a tremendous impact. And in that moment I felt I had experienced the ‘Guardian', the authority of the Guardianship.
Bearing in mind that before coming to Haifa to assist the Guardian, Mr Ioas had been a senior executive with one of the major railroad companies in the United States; his responsibilities had been heavy and he was used to giving the orders – and others would jump. He was a large man, with a powerful aura that commanded respect. But in his relationship with the Guardian, there was nothing but meekness and absolute obedience.
Another time was when, in response to a question from one of the pilgrims, Shoghi Effendi was speaking about pilgrimage in the future, and how it would differ from pilgrimage in our day. His response was that it would be different; and for the pilgrim of the future the experience would be both lesser and greater. It would be ‘lesser' because, with the passing of time, the personal contact with the Head of the Faith, which was possible at that time, would gradually diminish; with the increase in the number of believers wishing to make the pilgrimage in the future it would not be possible for them to meet with the Guardian over the dinner table and experience such a direct and personal contact. On the other hand it would be ‘greater' because the power presently latent in the Holy Shrines would increase immensely.
Shoghi Effendi then said that pilgrims in the future will not be able to enter the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, as we do today, nor even approach it beyond the Haram-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Precinct), marked by the pathway that circles the shrine gardens. He must have meant this figuratively, not literally, as he went on to explain that with the vast increase in the number of believers in the future turning each day to the Qiblih, the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, for their prayers, a tremendous spiritual force would be channelled through the Shrine to the Abhá Kingdom. With that, the Guardian raised his hands together, above the table – those hands which the Greatest Holy Leaf had once held in hers and said: "These are the hands of my Father, these are the hands of Bahá'u'lláh" – while explaining that, as in the world of nature where for every physical force there is a counter-force, this would attract a tremendous flow of confirmation from the Kingdom on High which would flow down through the Shrine to humanity. And with that he suddenly lowered his hands, spreading them apart, and voiced a sound that I can only describe as ‘Whoosh' – and said: "The force of this will be such that the friends will not be able to bear it; they will not be able to enter or even approach the Shrine."
At that instant, too, I ‘saw' the Guardian, or felt I had experienced the full force of Shoghi Effendi in his station as Guardian of the Cause. They were both only moments, flashes that passed quickly, leaving that ever-present meekness and humility that so characterised Shoghi Effendi.
The beloved Guardian had become so much part of the Bahá'í fabric that it was extremely difficult to accept that the Faith must go on without him, and his completely unexpected passing later that year was an earth-shattering shock to the Bahá'ís all over the world. Having the experience of meeting with him so recently, I felt deeply the sudden loss and could not imagine what the future would bring. I guess it must have been so for all the believers at the time of the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá less than forty years before. We had grown so much accustomed to relying on the Guardian, referring questions to him, seeking his guidance and prayers. For long centuries man had relied on an individual leader, some one person to look up to, and we were now in the process of being ‘weaned' off this age-old custom and moving to an institutional leadership. Bahá'u'lláh had placed all future authority in the hands of divine institutions – the ‘Houses of Justice' – but it was going to take some time for mankind to adjust. We had turned first to Bahá'u'lláh Himself, then to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, and we had been given the Sign of God on earth, Shoghi Effendi, to lead us through what turned out to be a transition period.
I recall receiving a letter from Mr Featherstone a couple of weeks after his passing. I was by that time in Port Vila, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), experiencing the loss in isolation – and he mentioned the plans being made for him and Mother Dunn to meet with the other Hands of the Cause for the first of what became their annual ‘Conclave'. One comment he made in that letter indicated the state of mind of most of the Bahá'ís of that time; he wrote that "we will now find out who the next Guardian will be". Not having another Guardian was just not in the thinking of even the most experienced of believers.
But it seems to me that this was part of the Major Plan of God – leading us into a future that was quite beyond our comprehension. Following the Guardian's funeral, Rúhíyyih Khánum referred to some statement of Bahá'u'lláh – I guess to comfort the believers who felt so bereft – that nothing could happen to the Faith unless it was the will of God. And looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, it is much easier to see that now. In fact, it seems to have already there in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, but we could not see it at the time. The passage in His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, referring to the payment of Huqúqu'lláh in the future (section 42), points to this:
Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God, the Revealer of Signs. None hath the right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who is the Dawning-place of Revelation. [Bahá'u'lláh] After Him, this authority shall pass to the Aghsan, [plural: ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi] and after them to the House of Justice - should it be established in the world by then – ….
and this was the crucial phrase, indicating a possibility – not certainty but possibility – that the line of Aghsan would end before the Universal House of Justice came into being. And then the Hands of the Cause are referred to:
Otherwise, the endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet - lo, they are the champions of victory betwixt heaven and earth -
That brief ministry of the Hands of the Cause was something truly unique in human history but that, too, is a story for another day. The premature passing of the beloved Guardian was clearly indicated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself but we could not see it at the time. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas was not available in the West until recent years and, being revealed in Arabic, it was not readily available to most of the believers unless fluent in Arabic. It has taken the wisdom and guidance of the Universal House of Justice to show us this: that God's Faith is secure from all mishap, and whatever befalls it is indeed God's will.
I realized later how little I comprehended the true station of the beloved Guardian. On my return journey following pilgrimage, one stop-over was in Bombay (now Mumbai) where I met with an early believer, a very old man who had heard of my passing through and had come down from Quetta (in Afghanistan) just to meet someone who had "held the hand of the beloved Guardian". He embraced me and strongly expressed his feelings in Farsi – which I could not, of course, understand – and I was told that he had been a believer all his life, serving the Faith and pioneering, but had never felt himself worthy of meeting the Guardian. Yet I – inexperienced, and so new in the Faith – had had the temerity to seek that great honour. How fortunate I am that I did not fully realize at the time what a bounty I had been granted.
More detail of the lives and service of some of the believers mentioned here can be found in other publications:
by Violette Nakhjavání – Bahá'í Canada Pub./Nine Pines (2000)
Collis Featherstone - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XX, pp. 809-18
Ugo Giachery - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XX, pp. 777-84
Leroy Ioas - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIV, pp. 291-300
Leroy Ioas – Hand of the Cause of God, by Anita Ioas Chapman - George Ronald (1998)
Sylvia Ioas - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIX, pp. 611-13
Jessie Revell - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIV, pp, 300-303
Ethel Revell - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIX, pp. 626-633
Dr Lotfullah Hakim - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XV, pp. 430-34
Ben Weeden - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XV, pp. 478-9
Gladys Weeden - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVIII, pp. 692-6
Sachiro Fujita - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVII, pp. 406-08
Saláh Jarráh - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XX, pp. 931-33
Habib Sabet - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XX, pp. 961-3
Fereydoun Khazrai - The Bahá'í World, 1993-94, p. 321
Charles Dunning – The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIV, pp. 305-8
Reginald Turvey - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XIV, pp. 385-7
Marc Tobey - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVII, pp. 401-04
Bernard Leach - The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVIII, pp. 669-71
After completing these ‘recollections' which stirred in my mind some of the memories of that time, I have found and transcribed the original notes made each evening of points the Guardian had made during the general discussion over the dinner table. I attach these as an appendix, just to fill out the gaps.
The notes are not transcribed in chronological order, as the Guardian often referred to the same issue on several occasions, adding something new each time, so the notes are a collation of the Guardian's comments made over the seven evenings (two nights being spent at Bahji) – and they bear the same caution as applies to all such ‘Pilgrim Notes'.
It may also help you in reading these notes to understand something of the nature of the Guardianship, as I understand it. Shoghi Effendi was not omniscient, all-knowing, as were Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. His fore-knowledge, like the Universal House of Justice, embraced what he needed to know of the future to perform the functions passed on to him by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. Some of his forecast of future events in these notes did not come to pass, and the reason for that is that he was speaking of a potential which the future held; he was not ‘predicting'.
As an example – he spoke of Japan as being a country where the Faith would witness a sudden increase in the number of enrolments: "Japan will witness the next great flourish of the Faith." Looking back, we can say that this did not happen, but we did see the ‘beginning' of this in a sudden surge of declarations amongst the Ainu people in Hokkaido during the early 1960s. But it died down – and I believe the reason for this was our own failing (there was strong rivalry amongst the pioneers there at the time, and where true unity does not exist, we are promised there will be little result). The Guardian saw the potential for this, but we failed him. As you read the notes, keep in mind the ‘rider' to the comment that Mr Sabet made (on page 30) – "if we deserve it."
It might also be helpful if I share with you a story from Mr Featherstone's pilgrimage several years earlier. Following the New Delhi conference in 1953, the one that launched the Ten Year Crusade, Collis and Madge Featherstone made the pilgrimage, and one story they told of this experience bears strongly on this issue of the Guardian's fore-knowledge.
One evening during their pilgrimage, the Guardian had sent a message to the pilgrims to begin dinner and he would join them a little later. They did so and during the meal, the Guardian came in, sat down and, before commencing to eat, as though he could not hold back the news any longer, burst out with an announcement of a series of changes he was planning to make to the administration of the Faith, including an extension of the institution of the Hands of the Cause who would have ‘deputies' (the Auxiliary Board members) and other developments. Suddenly the Guardian paused, and Rúhíyyih Khánum said, "But, Shoghi Effendi, you didn't say anything about this before." Perhaps realising the impact these sudden and far-reaching announcements were having on the pilgrims and the others at the dinner table, the Guardian bowed his head and replied, very softly: "I did not know before this evening – I am under the guidance of Bahá'u'lláh." All these new developments had come into his mind as a ready-made plan, through the guidance he was promised by the Master. This seems to be the way the Guardian operated.
Rúhíyyih Khánum once said – I think this, too, is in The Priceless Pearl – that the Guardian was like a finely-tuned radio. There are radio waves all around us, but we cannot hear them; it needs a properly tuned receiver to transform these waves into sound. Likewise, guidance from the Abhá Kingdom is all around us but we are insensitive, except on rare occasions when we pray intensely; but the Guardian was constantly ‘tuned' into this guidance – for that was promised by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament – promised for the Guardian and for the Universal House of Justice. And that, too, is how the Supreme Body makes its decision – decisions that are sometimes quite a surprise to the individual members.
The beloved Guardian spoke many times of God's Major Plan and of the Minor Plan which is our Administrative Order of the Faith. He pointed out that God's Major Plan may interrupt our own Minor Plan but this should be no cause for worry. God's Major Plan works in very mysterious ways – ways that we just cannot comprehend – and it uses upheavals, disasters and natural calamities as part of its means. We must not be upset if this Major Plan interferes with out own Minor Plan.
The mass acceptance of the Faith, which must come sooner or later, will be through the influence of this Major Plan, rather than as a result of the Minor Plan. God's Major Plan is not a thing to speculate upon because we just cannot comprehend it – we must go on striving to promote the Minor Plan of the Administrative Order and leave God's mysterious workings in His Own hands.
The most important phase of Bahá'í activity at present is the teaching of new believers. Bahá'ís have spread out over the whole world and have demonstrated the world-embracing scope of the Faith. Now the greatest importance must be placed on increasing the number of individual believers. The Faith's scope is universal but the number of believers is not satisfactory. Among those also are too many passive Bahá'ís – inactive and preoccupied. This is a great danger because many Bahá'ís have become blinded by their own preoccupation.
This matter of increasing the number of believers must be of prime importance to all the friends. The individual believers are the first step and are essential in the formation of Local Spiritual Assemblies. These assemblies then are the foundation of the Administrative Order and on these foundations will be created the pillars – the National Spiritual Assemblies. And on these ‘pillars' will rest the ‘dome' of the Administrative Order – the Universal House of Justice and the World Centre of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
We have erected the first stone of this ‘dome' now on Mount Carmel – the new Archives building is the first stone of this Dome. It will form part of the World Centre of the Administrative Order. Later the other institutions of the Administrative Centre will be erected as time warrants – the Universal House of Justice, office for the Guardianship, and office for the Hands of the Cause.
The Holy Shrine of the Báb will be between two mighty edifices on Mount Carmel. To the east, the Administrative Arc, circling on the tomb of the Greatest Holy Leaf – the new Archives building is on the western end of this Arc, which is a semicircular path through the gardens on Mount Carmel, its base running east-west above the Tomb gardens. To the west will be the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár and its dependencies on the cliff promontory of Mount Carmel. This will form the twin centres of the Bahá'í World Faith – the administrative and spiritual centres.
These dual centres will in time be duplicated in all cities and villages, in accordance with the population of each centre. Two institutions will be created – the administrative centre of the Hazíratu'l-Quds which will be particular in its influence, for the service of the local community, and the spiritual centre of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár with its dependencies which will be universal in its influence, for the service of all mankind.
The Guardian several times stressed the importance of these future temples, both as spiritual focal points to which the believers will turn, and as silent teachers for the Faith.
The Guardian spoke of great calamities which must very soon strike the world. The new countries – the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand – must particularly suffer. Large cities of the world are in great danger – the Holy Land is in great danger. Europe and America have been most difficult for the spread of the Faith in recent years and therefore will need to suffer. The continent of Africa has witnessed a great flourish in the growth of the Faith because it has already suffered much under colonization (see Guardian's cable read by Ruhíyyih Khánum at dedication of the Wilmette Temple re Africa).
The other continents must be purged by suffering, particularly America which has been named by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in His Divine Plan as the leader of the world, both materially and spiritually. The world must suffer before Justice can be achieved and this Most Great Justice must herald the Most Great Peace. [Some older statements about future "calamities" are best understood in light of the fact that Bahá'ís are urged to be well-wishers of their government and to work within, not against, the State system. -ed.]
The Lesser Peace will be achieved within this century – the 20th – and will be confirmed during the Formative Age by all the nations establishing a permanent agreement to abolish war and live in peace. This Lesser Peace will be established outside the orbit of the Faith's Administrative Order. Then the Most Great Peace will come during the Golden Age, towards the latter part of the thousand-year Bahá'í Dispensation, when the nations of the world, already united in the political sphere, will recognize and accept the Bahá'í Faith and come under the shadow of the World Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
[This scenario for the achievement of peace was confirmed later by Ruhíyyih Khánum. I had been relating the Guardian's comments about this to one of the old and experienced believers in Singapore on the return journey, and he had been adamant that the Lesser Peace was for 1963 and the Most Great Peace by the end of the century. Troubled by this, I had written to Ruhíyyih Khánum to seek clarification, and this is basically what she confirmed, slightly different from the notes I had taken.]
The beloved Guardian spoke of the rapid spread of the Faith and its achievements during the past four years of the Ten Year Plan. The Faith has now been established in over 4,000 centres throughout 250 countries, territories and islands. 1,500 of these centres are in America, and about 900 centres in Persia. The number of individual believers in Persia is far greater than America but those of the United States have dispersed their activities into more widely scattered centres.
About 120 of these territories had been named by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in His Divine Plan and 131 additional territories have been included in the Ten Year Plan. The Faith has spread to 102 islands, 40 of these being in the Pacific area and 70 of the total number opened during the past four years of the Crusade.
Of the 131 territories selected for opening under the Ten Year Plan, over 100 had been opened in the first year and now almost all the territories have been opened – with the exception of four islands: the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean, Hainan and Sakhalin in the Pacific, and others under communist rule and approximately half the Soviet territories. As a comparison of the areas opened to the Faith: from 1844-53, during the ministry of the Báb, 2 countries; from 1853-92, the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, 15 countries; from 1892-1921, ministry of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, 35 countries; up to 1944, under the Divine Plan, 78 countries; by 1952, 128 countries; in 1953, opening year of Crusade, 193 countries and by 1957, 250 countries.
The Faith has been carried by one pioneer to Thule, in Greenland, at a latitude of 77 degrees north and literature has been distributed amongst the Eskimos throughout Greenland. Literature has also been sent with a scientific expedition to McMurdo Island, approximately the same latitude south in Antarctica.
Bahá'í literature has now been translated into 220 languages, 60 of these in addition to those named as goals and comprising mainly Pacific Island, African and North American Indian languages. By 1870 the Christian Bible had been translated into 170 languages. Bahá'í literature is now in 220 languages in a little over 100 years. This stands silent proof that the world has now reached the stage when unity of mankind is possible and inevitable. Translations include the Kitáb-i-Íqán and the Dawnbreakers in Russian, already published.
The Faith now includes approximately 3,000 members of the black race, African negroes, and 2,000 members of the brown races, Polynesians from Gilbert and Ellice Islands and Indonesians from Mentawai Islands.
Achievements not named in the Ten Year Plan include the opening of four islands – Trinidad, in the Caribbean, off the South American coast, and Fernando Po, Corisco and Pemba, off the African coast. Additional temple sites have been purchased, Bahá'í burial grounds established and three regular Bahá'í schools established in Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Mentawai and the New Hebrides.
We have nearly completed the goals of the Ten Year Plan in the first four years, was the Guardian's summing up. Over 100 goals were opened in the first year. But this is only a start – the first plan; not the last. These nuclei must be firmly established and enlarged to assembly status – local assemblies and later national assemblies.
The Guardian said it was of greatest importance now to stress the universality of the Faith and its non-political character – particularly that it has no connection with communism. He warned that Bahá'ís must be careful not to criticise communism, but must stress that the Faith has absolutely no connection with communism. We must remember that we now have Bahá'ís in communist territories; 8 of the 16 Soviet satellite nations have now been opened to the Faith, as well as Tibet. These territories include Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and other satellites in the western zone of Soviet influence. The communist governments are well aware of the existence of these small groups of Bahá'ís but do not consider them of any importance or danger, sufficient to warrant action. We must be careful, therefore, not to arouse their antagonism, because of the great importance of having these nuclii centres established within the Soviet orb. Once these centres are enlarged, the Soviet authorities will oppose and persecute them, but not while they remain small centres. We must also be careful for our Temple in Ishqábád which has so far been left intact now for 40 years. The Bahá'í Faith has also been established in Siberia, where early believers were deported.
Under the Ten Year Plan the responsibility for opening all the Soviet territories has been placed in the hands of the United States, who will penetrate from the north-east through Alaska; Germany, who will enter from the west, and Persia from the south.
The Guardian spoke on two occasions about the prophecies of Daniel and stressed that Daniel and Isaiah were the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, for prophecy. Daniel had made five major prophecies – the date of the advent of Christ; two prophecies on the declaration of the Báb, the date of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration and the 100th anniversary of that declaration.
This last prophecy of Daniel has been explained by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in a tablet and refers to 1963, not 1957 as stated in Esslemont's book, or approximately that year as it is to be calculated on the lunar calendar and not the solar; and the two calendars do not coincide exactly on 1963. That year – 1963 – will witness the spread of the Faith over the entire world in its initial stage. The ascendency and triumph of the Bahá'í Faith will then be apparent.
The beloved Guardian spoke also of the lineage of Bahá'u'lláh. He was not only descended from the Semitic prophet, Abraham, but also – according to Abu'l-Fadl, who had made a thorough and intense study of this – from Zoroaster and the Sassanian dynasty of ancient Persia who were pure Aryans. Thus Bahá'u'lláh, in His person, unites the two major prophetic lines – the Semitic of Abraham, Moses, Christ and Muhammad and the Aryan of Krishna, Zoroaster and Buddha.
Very little is known of these Aryan religions of the older prophets. We have none of their authentic writings and most of their religious dogma has been man-created by their followers in ages since. One such dogma is the reincarnation of the Hindus and Buddhists. Neither Krishna nor Buddha taught this doctrine. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá has elucidated on this theme, explaining that the reincarnation referred to by the prophets of ages past is that of the spirit and attributes but not of the soul. Once the soul has left the cage of the human body, it does not return to another cage but continues to progress in the other worlds of God.
The centre of the Buddhist Faith is now in Tibet where the Bahá'í Faith has been established. The Chinese and Japanese peoples have a very corrupt version of Buddhism. The Bahá'í Faith will one day clash very violently with the Buddhist hierarchy of Tibet.
The Faith had first been persecuted by Shí'ih Islám and then Sunni Islám. It will soon face persecution from the Protestants and Catholics of Christianity. Later opposition will move to the east – the Hindus of India and then the Buddhists of Tibet, China and Japan. As soon as these established religious hierarchies oppose and persecute the Faith, they will be doomed to destruction as were Shí'ih and Sunni Islám. By opposing the Faith, they will be signing their own death warrants.
The Guardian also spoke about the inevitable downfall of the Catholic Papacy and communism. This will be effected as soon as they actually oppose and persecute the Faith.
The Guardian stressed that Australia's foremost task now is to concentrate on the Pacific Islands, particularly Cocos and the Loyalty Islands which have become vacant goals. The Australian believers must strive to resettle these goals and keep them settled.
The Guardian also repeatedly stressed the importance of racial minorities – the Eskimos, American Indians, the Maoris of New Zealand and the Aborigines of Australia. Because the Aborigines live mainly on mission stations, we must arouse the opposition of these missions. It will be good for the Faith to have the opposition of the missionaries – to upset them. We must do this. We should invite criticism from the clergy, particularly the missionaries who hold influence over the Aborigines. The Faith must be opposed by the church.
Japan and Australia are to be the spiritual leaders in the Pacific region. Australia has a great future – it is the southern magnetic pole of the Pacific; Japan is the northern magnetic pole. The Faith had been established in both Australia and Japan during the lifetime of the Master and, because of this, they will be spiritual leaders of the Pacific region. It is their destiny. To do this they must work in close harmony and cooperation, and relinquish all racial prejudice.
Japan will very soon witness a rapid growth of the Faith because they have suffered greatly. Japan will witness the next great flourish of the Faith. The last countries to be opened will be Russia and China. The Faith will then spread rapidly there because these countries will have suffered greatly.
The Guardian spoke often and very lovingly of Mother Dunn. She must be very proud of her spiritual children in Australia and New Zealand, and now in the Pacific Islands. Hyde and Mother Dunn had come out from America to establish the Faith in the time of the Master and were faced with many and great difficulties. Now Mother Dunn has many spiritual children and, despite her age, even now travels widely, even flying to New Zealand.
In response to a question I had asked the Guardian on behalf of one of the youth believers in Australia, the Guardian stressed that serving the Faith was most important; it was very worthy to acquire knowledge so long as it can be used in the service of the Faith. Consideration for serving the Faith must always take precedence. When our learning exceeds its usefulness to the Faith, then it becomes of secondary importance. It is very worthy but the Faith must always come first.
[Bearing on this same issue, I recall Rúhíyyih Khánum saying one evening, when the pilgrims were speaking about the pioneers who had gone out during the first year of the Ten Year Plan, many unskilled and unlearned, that there would be "no use for a degree in astrophysics in the next world".]
The Seven Candles of Unity referred to by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá are not to be achieved in the order quoted. This order has no significance and their achievement will not be effected in this order.
The sages of China are to be regarded only as reforming philosophers – Confucius, Mencius and so on.
No limit has been set for the size or population of cities in the future.
There are five characteristics which must be sought by the believers in the election of members to assemblies – local and national: unquestioned loyalty; selfless devotion; a well-trained mind; recognised ability; mature experience.
Bahá'ís should take administrative positions with the government, but not political.
The formation of national committees for Child Welfare and Education are now most important. This is one phase of the administration that should be attended to by the Australian believers, as well as in other areas where it has not already been carried out.
Words of the Báb, addressed to Bahá'u'lláh, are to be inscribed by experts in Kufic script on the panels of the colonnade of the Shrine of the Báb.
Three doors to the rooms added to the original Shrine by the Guardian have been named by him: northern door – Sutherland Maxwell; western door – Ugo Giachery; eastern door – Hájí Mahmúd Qassabchí (a believer of Iraq who had assisted the Guardian with the erection of this extension to the Shrine of the Bab, and also in the protection and restoration of the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád.) An access door in the octagon has been named for Leroy Ioas, as tribute to his services.
The Hands of the Cause will evolve into an institution for ‘teaching'; the National Assemblies will be for ‘administration'.
The stages in the emergence of the Cause will be: 1. obscurity; 2. persecution; 3. emancipation; 4. recognition – by the authorities, as equal to other world religions; 5. the state religion; 6. it will then evolve into the Bahá'í State; 7. the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth – the Most Great Peace.
The Lesser Peace – the non-Bahá'í ‘peace' – will see the reconciliation of the nations of the world and their governments to the idea of peace.
The world super state and the Bahá'í World Faith will both exist during the Formative period.
The end of the Ten Year Plan will see the completion of one Epoch in the evolution of the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.
There are two processes in operation: one is for the unfoldment of the Faith (the Major Plan) and the other is the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. Coming world events may disrupt or interfere with the development of the Divine Plan.
The Shrine of the Báb embodies nine concentric circles:
1. The entire plant, the globe.
2. The Most Holy Land – the heart of the planet, the Nest of the Prophets,
3. Mount Carmel – the heart of the Holy Land and Mountain of God.
4. The gardens surrounding the Shrine, the Bahá'í endowments and properties in the precinct.
5. The Mausoleum – the heart of the gardens.
6. The Holy of Holies – in the heart of the six rooms built by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.
7. The vault of the tomb – within the Holy of Holies in the middle chamber, the crypt.
8. The marble sarcophagus that contains the remains of the Báb.
9. The Holy Dust itself – the dust of the Báb's remains
Bahá'u'lláh represents the return of Jesus Christ; the Báb the return of Elijah the Prophet.
There will be three distinct centres of pilgrimage on Mount Carmel:
1. the Shrine of the Báb – the focus for pilgrimage;
2. the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár – for worship; and
3. the Administrative Arc – for service.
The order of pilgrimage in time to come will be:
Haifa-'Akká - the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh; the Shrine of the Báb, the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár on Mount Carmel; and then the World Administrative Centre.
Iraq – the Most Holy House of Bahá'u'lláh and the Garden of Ridván, and the shrines of the Imáms, the true successors of the Prophet.
> Iran – the House of the Báb in Shíráz; the House of Bahá'u'lláh and the Siyáh-Chál in Tehran.
Rites of pilgrimage have been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas for the Most Holy House in Baghdád and the House of the Báb in Shíráz. The Guardian says the full glory of the pilgrimage will be revealed when pilgrims reach these holy places.
Bahá'u'lláh designated two places of pilgrimage: the Most Great House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád and the Báb's House in Shíráz; ‘Abdu'l-Bahá added the Qiblih (Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji-'Akká, which – along with Haifa – will form one metropolis in the future.
The ‘Arc' mentioned in the Tablet of Carmel is the Administrative Order, and the laws of the Faith. The ‘Ark' referred to in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner (Bahá'u'lláh) is the spiritual ark – the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh is the ‘captain' of the ark.
The Siyáh-Chál is regarded as the ‘lesser prison'; the Most Great Prison at 'Akká was so named because of the enemies without and within the Faith, and because the Message of Bahá'u'lláh had been definitely refused by the rulers; the Cause of God was ‘in prison'.
The components of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji are:
The Haram-i-Aqdas – the ‘outer' sanctuary, or the gardens surrounding the Shrine.
The sanctuary gardens – the "Most Great Precinct".
The inner gardens – the ‘inner sanctuary – the area under the glassed-in roof.
The entrance to the Tomb chamber – the "Most Holy Threshold".
The Tomb itself – the "Most Holy Shrine", the "Holy of Holies".
The 54th chapter of the book of Isaiah tells of the suffering of the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahíyyih Khánum, at the hands of the Covenant-breakers.
The Tomb of the Greatest Holy Leaf symbolises:
The circular base – the Local Spiritual Assemblies
The nine pillars – the National Spiritual Assemblies
The circular dome on top – the Universal House of Justice
Dr Lotfullah Hakim added a "fourth" in explaining the symbolism of the monument: the cap on the top of the dome represents the Guardian.
The Tomb of the Greatest Holy Leaf faces to 'Akká, and the nine pillars are so placed that one looking through them can see 'Akká.
With the statement that there will be no further Manifestation before the lapse of a full 1,000 years, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá has clarified that the 1,000-year period dates from the year 9 – the time of the revelation of His station to Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyáh-Chál.
Plans currently operating in the world –
God's Major Plan for the development of the Faith – of which we know so little.
The Minor Plan of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá – its charter is the Tablets of the Divine Plan, now in the third stage of the 1st Epoch:
The Second Epoch of the Divine Plan will commence in 1963
- First Seven Year Plan – 1937-44
- Second Seven Year Plan – 1946-53
- Ten Year Plan – 1953-63
Another Plan is for the development of the Faith at the World Centre – its charter is the Tablet of Carmel. The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá is the Charter for the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
The Guardian referred one night to the South African goals which had been settled very early and later vacated: "They have recovered their virginity. That is something only possible in the Bahá'í Faith. But we must not let our goals recover their virginity."
Rúhíyyih Khánum related one evening after dinner, in the lounge room of the Pilgrim House, that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had once told Shoghi Effendi – His favourite grandson and the one whom He must have then known would succeed Him as Guardian – to never touch a bite of food or a drop of drink in any house in 'Akká, either Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í.
Items in the Major Archives:
Pocket Qur'an of the Báb
Bloodstained shirt of the Báb
Original manuscript of the Kitáb-i-Íqán in ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's own handwriting, as dictated by Bahá'u'lláh
Original manuscript of the Persian Bayán, in the handwriting of the Báb's amenuensis
Original Tablets by the Báb to the Letters of the Living, and many other original Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá
Original manuscript of the Arabic Hidden Words in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh
Relics (hair, finger nails, etc), personal effect and clothing of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá
Pen cases and ring seals
One photograph and three small paintings of Bahá'u'lláh
One small painting of the Báb
Large photograph of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, taken at the Revell home in Philadelphia, U.S.
Painting of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, looking out over 'Akká, painted from a dream by a Polish painter of New York, and signed "A. Ivanenski"
The sword of Mullá Husayn, used at the siege of Fort Tabarsi.
Seals and original tablets of Quddús
Photographs and relics of the Holy Family and of early believers and martyrs of the Heroic Age
Opening of the islands of Trinidad, Pemba, Corisco and Fernando Po
60 additional languages (7 American Indian, 25 African, 28 Pacific and others)
Mashriqu'l-Adkhár for Sydney and Kampala (goal)
Temple sites purchase in London (England) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Hazíratu'l-Quds in Serecunda (West Africa)
Land for summer school in Chile and Baghdád (Iraq)
Bahá'í burial ground in Tripoli and Tanganyika
Transfer of the body of the Báb's son to a Bahá'í burial ground in Shíráz (Iran)
Establishment of historic sites in the Holy Land and Adrianople
Bahá'í schools in Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Mentawai and New Hebrides
The Guardian and Rúhíyyih Khánum were married about 1937, and Jessie Revell knew of no family (children) and feels that there could be none. Although Rúhíyyih Khánum was confined very closely to the home in the first three years, there were always some of the servants about. The feeling at the World Centre was that this will be provided for in the Guardian's Will and Testament.
All the Guardian's family, even his parents, had deserted him during the years after his appointment as Guardian (although his parents were never declared Covenant-breakers). This was the reason that Mason Remey, Amelia Collins, Leroy and Sylvia Ioas, and she and her sister Ethel (Revell) were called to Haifa to assist with the administrative work. At that time – around 1948-49 – he was alone at the World Centre with only Rúhíyyih Khánum and a few faithful servants.
For two or three years after the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and the appointment of the Guardian, and before Shoghi Effendi took over permanently in Haifa (he was studying at Oxford, England, and after the passing of the Master, he had been very ill), the progress of the Faith was directed by the Greatest Holy Leaf (Bahíyyih Khánum) who was the only close member of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's family to adhere to His Will and Testament and accept the Guardianship.
Shortly after the first year of the Ten Year Plan, when over 100 of the 131 goals had been settled, the Guardian had mentioned at dinner to Leroy Ioas that the progress of the Faith was well ahead of Daniel's prophecy concerning the year 1963.
"Daniel did not know what sort of a prophet Bahá'u'lláh was going to be," the Guardian had remarked, and Leroy Ioas had replied: "Yes, and Daniel did not know what sort of a Guardian we were going to have."
Following an offer made at the New Delhi Conference in 1953, Habib Sabet of Tehran had negotiated a private purchase of the site of the Siyáh-Chál dungeon in Tehran for US $430,000. Mr Sabet (who was on pilgrimage with Sabet Khánum) in January, passed on to the Guardian a manuscript account of the negotiations and purchase of the Siyáh-Chál. During his pilgrimage, the Guardian bestowed on Mr Sabet the title of Nasíri'd-Dín (Protector or Friend of the Faith) as it had been Nasíri'd-Dín Sháh who had imprisoned Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyáh-Chál.
Mr Sabet related briefly to his fellow pilgrims the negotiations as outlined in the account given to the Guardian:
Negotiations had proceeded for 14 months to purchase the site of the dungeon, over which buildings, including a bank, had been erected. In the spring of 1954, Sabet finalised the deal for an amount of $430,00 (U.S.) According to the Land Registry officer in Tehran, this was the largest cheque ever paid in Iran for a single property transaction. Also it was the largest single cheque every written in the Bahá'í community – the previous record was one for US $170,000 signed by Leroy Ioas on the Wilmette Temple project.
Mr Sabet was the legal owner of the prison site for 16 days; then the property was transferred to the name of Mrs Sabet for 2 days, and then transferred to the name of the Guardian. Mr Sabet now holds the keys to the dungeon.
Almost two-thirds of the original prison cell has been destroyed for the building of a warehouse but fortunately not the part that Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned in. The destroyed portion can be rebuilt from existing photographs.
Entrance to the dungeon is by a passage 35 metres long, 3 metres wide and 1 metre high. Only a few of the Hands of the Cause, Dr Lotfullah Hakim and Sabet himself have been in the dungeon. The purchase of the site is recorded in Bahá'í World Vol. XII.
[According to information received from Bahá'ís in Bombay, the property purchased by Sabet to secure the original site of the Siyáh-Chál was later subdivided; the land where the dungeon is had been transferred to the name of the Guardian and the rest of the unwanted property resold – for more than the original purchase price of the land.]
Mr Sabet has also been directing the negotiations to have 90 local Hazíratu'l-Quds in Iran handed back to the Bahá'ís, after they were seized during the persecutions in 1955-6 – and is now in the process of negotiations to have the National Hazíratu'l-Quds in Tehran – the last confiscated property – handed back to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran.
On leaving Haifa, Mr Sabet has been instructed by the Guardian to go to Germany (Frankfurt, and then Berlin) for two purposes: first that the German Bahá'ís settle the issue of the Frankfurt Temple site and, second, to organise the sending of pioneers from Germany into the Soviet Union and the satellite territories. Sabet has also been organising the pioneering work of the Iranian Bahá'ís going to nearby Soviet countries. The Guardian had told Sabet that the pioneers were only to establish themselves in Soviet territories and not to even mention Bahá'í at present.
Mr Sabet remarked one morning that in the 20 or so visits he had made to the Holy Land, he had never before seen the Guardian so happy. Jessie Revell also mentioned that the Guardian has been happy for quite a while now – because of the outstanding success of the Ten Year Plan. The Crusade had succeeded beyond the Guardian's expectations.
Mr Sabet also related a story of a conversation with Rúhíyyih Khánum at the Intercontinental Conference in Wilmette in 1953, at the commencement of the Ten Year Crusade. All those present had been saying what a gigantic task the Plan would be and many were worried that it was being pushed a little too fast. Sabet had told Rúhíyyih Khánum the story of the man who owed his neighbour $100 and lay awake night after night worrying, because he knew he could not pay the debt. Finally, late one night, his wife said, "Go over and tell him that you cannot pay. Let him do the worrying." The man did so and slept soundly, while his neighbour now lay awake worrying. He had passed on the worry to the neighbour. Sabet told Rúhíyyih Khánum to return to the Guardian and tell him that he had been working on the Ten Year Plan for so long. Now he should rest and let the others around the Bahá'í world do the worrying.
Leroy Ioas remarked to Sabet that marvellous things had happened to and for the Faith in the past few years, and would continue to happen. Sabet replied: "Yes, under his guidance" – (and after a long pause) – "if we deserve it."
Mr Sabet started out as a street vendor in Tehran, selling buttons, needles and thread. Now he is a millionaire businessman with interests in Iran and the United States. He holds a General Motors and Studebaker agency for Iran, the Pepsi Cola agency, a television monopoly in Tehran and hopes to get the same for the whole of Iran; office equipment agencies (he once presented the Shah with a gold-plated Hermes typewriter for some celebration). In the recent (1955) persecutions the rumour went around that Sabet's Pepsi Cola had a Bahá'í drug and was alcoholic; Sabet told us that as soon as the rumour was wide-spread, sales of Pepsi Cola doubled.
When Dr Mossedeq took over the government of Iran, and the Shah disappeared for a few days, Sabet went to the Shah's mother and pledged the support of himself and his business behind the Shah, on the basis that as a Bahá'í we must support the government and just monarchs. Previously the Shah's mother had had no sympathy for Sabet or the Bahá'ís but, by this action, Sabet won her confidence and gained great prestige for the Faith This in turn had assisted greatly in having the Hazíratu'l-Quds handed back to the Bahá'í communities.
Mr Sabet told us (the Iranian pilgrims, while I was present) one morning that the previous day he had asked the Guardian if it would be allowable for one man to finance a Temple project. The Guardian had replied that it would be preferable for several Bahá'ís to finance a Temple but, if necessary, one believer could do so. Sabet was very excited about this.
Mr Sabet had a keen sense of humour which was always just below the surface. One day, while speaking with the Iranian pilgrims of more serious matters, he suddenly broke off and asked. "If a man stands to do it and a woman sits, and a dog lifts one leg, what is the action?" Blank faces, but all thinking of one thing. Then he replied for us: "Shaking hands."