USBN #188 October 1946 pp2-3
You can well imagine that much of his thoughts are now centered on the work of the new Seven Year Plan. Its tremendous importance cannot be over emphasized, for on its success hangs the success or failure of the future work which ‘Abdu’l- Bahá in His wisdom apportioned to the Baha’is of North America. The Guardian, however, having had now for 25 years the experience of working with the American believers, no longer has any doubts as to their capacity for work, their devotion, their loyalty and their determination to never fail their Faith! It is therefore with a mind at rest and a confident heart that he has entrusted to them the great tasks of the next seven years.
As regards the whole question of the Temple and services held in it:
He wishes to emphasize that he is very anxious, now that this first and greatest Temple of the West has been built, and will, within a few years, be used for worship and regular services by the Baha’is, that no forms, no rituals, no set customs be introduced over and above the bare minimum outlined in the teachings. The nature of these gatherings is for prayer, meditation and the reading of writings from the Sacred Scriptures of our Faith and other Faiths; there can be one or a number of readers; any Báhá’í chosen, or even, non-Bahá’í, may read. The gatherings should be simple, dignified, and designed to uplift the soul and educate it through hearing the creative word. No speeches may be made, no extraneous matter introduced.
The use Of pulpits is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh; if, in order to be more clearly heard, the person reading stands on a low platform, there is no objection, but this should not be incorporated as an architectural feature of the building.
As he already informed you by cable, he thinks that the best seating arrangement from every standpoint is that the section of the audience in the center of the auditorium, beneath the dome, should face towards Akká, and all the other seats around this central space should be placed in the form of a circle so that the seats face inwards towards the center of the Temple. In other words a central mass facing ‘Akká-wards, surrounded by circular rows of seats facing inwards.
The reader should stand where he or she will be best seen and heard by all. All minor details regarding this matter are left to the discretion of your Assembly to decide after receiving the advice of experts. As he already informed you, he suggests using fixed rather than movable seats.
Vocal music alone may be used and the position of the singers or singer is also a matter for your Assembly to decide; but again, there should be no fixed point, no architectural details marking a special spot. Acoustics should certainly be the main consideration in placing the singers.
The Guardian feels that the Temple, if divided into an auditorium and eight or nine small rooms, would have a far too circumscribed seating capacity for a National House of Worship and that also the small rooms would serve no useful purpose whatever. In view of this he instructed you to do away entirely with these superfluous rooms; the whole main floor of the building should form one vast auditorium with no dividing walls at all. What provision for keeping the cold out, and what entrances you wish to make constant use of, are matters for your Assembly to decide after receiving expert advice.
Color may be used in the interior— and, indeed, it was Mr. Bourgeois’ intention to use it, as the original cross-section showing the interior, which now hangs here in the archives, shows: (The photographic plate and reproduction of this drawing you already received.) The Guardian feels very strongly that you should adhere as much as possible to the architect’s own design for the interior—otherwise the homogeneity of the building will be destroyed, which would be a fatal mistake. Any modifications should be in the nature of eliminating or simplifying—and only when absolutely necessary— Bourgeois’s designs, and such changes should only be made by an experienced architect and decorator, and not be left to the discrimination of mere laymen.
He approves of lighting being employed as part of the decorative scheme, but suggests you avoid anything in the nature of producing a gloomy or bizarre effect.
As he cabled you, he approves of opaque white glass being used wherever recommended on the ground floor in order to provide the interior with the necessary privacy.
Very careful consideration should be given to the acoustics of the auditorium, and wood or any other material may be used in the interior in order to facilitate this.
The use of all nine or only a certain number of entrances is left to you to decide in consultation with your advisers.
He need not tell you how very important the decisions are which you will now be called upon to make in connection with completing the Temple interior. He urges you, at all times, to receive the very best technical advice, and to bear in mind that the main thing is that the meetings in the Temple should be conducted in a beautiful and peaceful setting, in comfort and with dignity and simplicity, and that the audience should be able to hear perfectly and the tone values be pleasant to the ear.
Music, as one of the arts, is a natural cultural development, and the Guardian does not feel that there should be any cultivation of “Bahá’í Music” any more than we are trying to develop a Bahá’í school of painting or writing. The believers are free to paint, write and compose as their talents guide them. If music is written, incorporating’ the sacred writings, the friends are free to make use of it, but it should never be considered a requirement at Bahá’i meetings to have such music. The further away the friends keep from any set forms, the better, for they must realize that the Cause is ' absolutely universal, and what might seem a beautiful addition to their mode of celebrating a Feast, etc., would perhaps fall on the ears of people of another country as unpleasant sounds—and vice versa. As long as they have music for its own sake it is all right, but they should not consider it Baha’i music.
Any blatant acts of immorality on the part of the Bahá’ís should be strongly censored; the friends should be urged to abandon such relationships immediately, straighten out their affairs, and conduct themselves as Bahá’ís; if they refuse to do this, in spite of the warnings of the Assembly, they should be punished through being deprived of their voting rights. The N.S.A. is empowered to settle such cases of flagrant immorality without referring them to the Guardian.
As he already informed you by cable, the West Indies, Mexico and Panama are considered part of Central America, and will be under the jurisdiction of the Central American N. S. A. The Canal Zone and Puerto Rico also are part of this area and under its jurisdiction. Two N. S. A.’s will be formed; one for Central and one for South America. They will adopt their own constitutions after election, which should follow as closely as possible that of your own body. This new constitution — for obviously these two new N. S. A.’s will not seek for Latin America to have two different ones — will be in Spanish, and will be published in the Bahá’í World, there to join its sister constitutions in English, German, Arabic and Persian. The Canadian constitution should, likewise, be patterned on and closely follow your own.
Your Assembly must determine the number of delegates, and call the first Conventions of these three new national bodies, and they must receive a certain amount of supervision and guidance from you until the end of the present Seven Year Plan, when they will pass directly under the supervision of the Guardian. Your Assembly is, so to speak, their sponsor, and they will become independent at the end of this present plan.
There is no objection whatsoever to non-Bahá’ís being present when the long prayer for the dead is read, as long as they respect our manner of reading it by rising and standing as the Bahá’ís do on this occasion. Nor, indeed, is there any objection to non-Bahá’ís being present during the reading of any Bahá’í prayer for the departed.
An official Bahá’í funeral service should only be given for a believer, but there is no objection to the reading of Bahá’í prayers, or indeed to a Bahá’í conducting the funeral service of a non-Bahá’í, if this has been requested.
In reporting Bahá’í marriages it is much better to mention that the ceremony was performed by the Assembly, as this is the proper thing to do, and an individual only acts for the Assembly on this occasion. As a funeral is not a legal ceremony more latitude can be allowed, especially as the family of the deceased may want some particular Bahá’í friend to officiate.
Concerning the question of the Philippines, they are not under your Assembly’s jurisdiction, but you can. being such a sturdy and prosperous community, lend them a helping hand and advise them. The Guardian urges great caution, however, in handling the situation there; this is a new community which has never had any close contact with Baha’is from other countries, and well organized and recognized administrative bodies — such as existed in Germany, Austria and Burma before the war. You should ascertain if the people requesting help really need it, and are really Bahá’ís. He would not recommend that anything more than food parcels, clothes, and Bahá’í literature be sent them at present, and he hopes the way will open for a competent Bahá’í teacher to visit them, and help them organize their affairs on a true Bahá’í basis.
He feels that sufficient relief funds have now been accumulated in Tihrán, and that, except for any parcels of food and gifts individual believers may still wish to send, any sums on hand for this purpose should be directed into the European teaching and publishing work.
The Guardian approves in principle of a radio station, and sees no objection to its being in the Temple; but he considers the cost you quote too much of a burden at the present time for the Fund to bear, in view of the multiple expenses of the new- Seven Year Plan. If there is any way it can be done for a price you feel the Fund could pay, and which would be more reasonable, he approves of your doing it.
20 July 1946