Posted by Brett Zamir (22.214.171.124) on August 17, 2002 at 19:52:14:
Though I prefer that their posts be deleted (should Jonah have the energy and be in agreement) for the sake of those weak ones listening in not being affected by their misrepresentations, and that real discussion can take place, I have no fears that they can effect any permanent harm to the inviolable Covenant.
The pettiness of their responses should prove to every fair-minded observer the greatness of this Cause and its Covenant. These same objections have also been put with great audacity directly to the Holy Prophets Themselves.
I request my fellow-believers here not to respond directly in kind to those who are obviously trying to agitate, as we are encouraged to avoid all contact with those evincing the spirit of Covenant-breaking (not only those so officialy declared, but also Baha'is or even non-Baha'is inclined not merely to raise honest questions, but to attempt to quench the flame of faith in others' hearts), and while praying for them, leaving them as children to play.
For those who wish to genuinely ask for rationales from the Writings on specific topics, including the Covenant, how (seeming) contradictions can exist, etc., this is of course very different, and should be welcomed. I do not intend to lump everyone asking questiong or making comments about this subject as being in such a category.
But, from several cases, we can readily see how vicious the light-haters become when they are exposed to the Sun of the Writings.
The Baha'i Writings themselves foretell that such attacks and Covenant-breaking or Covenant-breaking-like actions would increase--perhaps accelerating particularly in this period before the end of the current series of plans of the Universal House of Justice (to end in 2021):
"The contents of the Will of the Master is far too much for the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed. How can we at this stage and with our limited understanding denounce its spirit and purport."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 25, 1930)
A reading of the Writings should provide ample proof to the faithful that the Prophets--while not immune from feeling pain--were nevertheless infallibly guided in their character--despite whatever malicious rumors were spread by the evil-intended and faithless.
The Central Figures in many places including Baha'u'llah indicate that the Prophets both in words and actions are free from error (and even equate this with the central meaning of the oneness of God).
"The essence of belief in Divine unity consisteth in regarding Him Who is the Manifestation of God and Him Who is the invisible, the inaccessible, the unknowable Essence as one and the same. By this is meant that whatever pertaineth to the former, all His acts and doings, whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth, should be considered, in all their aspects, and under all circumstances, and without any reservation, as identical with the Will of God Himself. This is the loftiest station to which a true believer in the unity of God can ever hope to attain. Blessed is the man that reacheth this station, and is of them that are steadfast in their belief." (Gleanings, section LXXXIV)
"How often the Prophets of God and His supreme Manifestations in Their prayers confess Their sins and faults! This is only to teach other men, to encourage and incite them to humility and meekness, and to induce them to confess their sins and faults. For these Holy Souls are pure from every sin and sanctified from faults." (Some Answered Questions, Chapter 44)
In fact, it could not be otherwise:
"These Holy Beings are lights, and light does not unite itself with darkness. They are life, and life and death are not confounded. They are for guidance, and guidance and error cannot be together. They are the essence of obedience, and obedience cannot exist with rebellion." (Some Answered Questions, Chapter 44)
"Therefore, the Universal Educator must be at the same time a physical, human and spiritual educator; and He must possess a supernatural power, so that He may hold the position of a divine teacher. If He does not show forth such a holy power, He will not be able to educate, for if He be imperfect, how can He give a perfect education? If He be ignorant, how can He make others wise? If He be unjust, how can He make others just? If He be earthly, how can He make others heavenly?" (Some Answered Questions, Chapter 3)
'Abdu'l-Baha, though not a Prophet, was also guided from error in His actions as well as words--as conveyed upon Him by Baha'u'llah in His Will and in other Tablets (and Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice are infallibly guided according to 'Abdu'l-Baha's own Will):
"Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha)
"To epitomize: essential infallibility belongs especially to the supreme Manifestations, and acquired infallibility is granted to every holy soul. For instance, the Universal House of Justice, [The House of Justice (Baytu'l-Adl) is an institution created by Bahá'u'lláh. He refers to two levels of this institution: the Local Houses of Justice, responsible for each town or village, and the Universal House of Justice. `Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, added an intermediate level, the Secondary Houses of Justice. It is only on the Universal House of Justice that infallibility has been conferred."
"If some people do not understand the hidden secret of one of His commands and actions, they ought not to oppose it, for the supreme Manifestation does what He wishes. How often it has occurred, when an act has been performed by a wise, perfect, intelligent man, that others incapable of comprehending its wisdom have objected to it and been amazed that this wise man could say or do such a thing." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions)
Assassinations on Shoghi Effendi's character are certainly most unjustified, not only by any faithful believer, but by any rational-minded outside observer.
It should be fairly obvious from the context that my sympathizing with his plight was not condescendion.
As the statement Century of Light, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, puts it:
"It was alone, therefore, that Shoghi Effendi set out on the task of propelling forward the vast enterprise entrusted to his hands. How completely alone he was is almost impossible for the present generation of Bahá'ís to grasp; to the extent one does grasp it, the realization is acutely painful."
Just because the Prophets and holy ones were infallible does not mean they were impregnable from feeling hurt, and even being restricted in the full effusiveness of Their power by the actions of the evil ones.
As Shoghi Effendi writes in a letter on his behalf:
"What the Master meant in the words you quote is simply that joy gives one more freedom to create; if the Prophets, the Master Himself, and the Guardian, had less problems and worries, They could give forth a great deal more creatively to the Cause. When He said that "grow to be as a fruitful tree" he meant that, by lifting burdens from the Guardian and trying as much as possible to do our share of the work of the Faith, we would help Shoghi Effendi to develop his full powers as Guardian and, through the Covenant, the Cause would spread its shadow over all men. This we have seen happen in the last 30 years, but that does not mean we must not try to our utmost to help him by our lives and our services." (Unfolding Destiny, p. 461)
"That this work of the intellect [of Shoghi Effendi] was carried out on a level far above the one on which the human mind customarily operates did not make the effort any the less real or stressful. Rather, given the insight into human nature and human motivation that was an inseparable feature of the institution Shoghi Effendi represented, the opposite was the case." (Century of Light)
We even have prayers for and encouraged to pray for the Manifestations of God (as in the Visitiation Tablet of Baha'u'llah) and for 'Abdu'l-Baha, etc.:
"O thou who art assuredly believing in God!
ăVerily, I read thy brilliant letter and thanked God for that He hath created a maid-servant for Baha', who prays for Abdul-Baha and beg the confirmation and assistance of God in his behalf, because I am earnestly fond of the prayer of the maid-servants of God in my behalf and of their asking the blessing of God for this servant!
ăI begged of God to ordain all good unto thee for thy praying for Abdul-Baha." (Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 113)
Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, the need for believers to be detached does not justify heaping on problems for our fellow believers either--given that we cannot but help be affected by our environment to some degree. Rather, their sacrifices are meant to show us how NOT to exacerbate others' suffering, but rather increase their comfort. As Shoghi Effendi as quoted by Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, eloquently put it:
'If, for example, the non-Bahá'ís should ask the friends, "What differentiates you from all the rest?", and if, to this, the friends answer, "In the pathway of our love for the Centre of our Faith, we would sacrifice our lives and possessions," those of the civilized world would never be content with such a reply. They would merely say: "Your love, your sacrifice for a single individual cannot possibly serve as a remedy for the chronic ills which plague society today." If the friends then answer: "Our religion provides principles and moral teachings whose value the wisest of the day cannot deny," this will be the response: "Noble principles and teachings will produce an effect on human character, and heal the mortal sicknesses which afflict society, only at such time when those who claim to believe in and support them are themselves the first to act upon them, and to demonstrate and incorporate the value and the benefits of them in their own everyday transactions and lives." Unless this comes about, there is nothing to distinguish the Bahá'ís from the rest.'"
Although Shoghi Effendi's character is not infallible--unlike 'Abdu'l-Baha Who was the "Perfect Exemplar" (though Shoghi Effendi's interpretations of the Writings were infallible), this does not mean Shoghi Effendi--particularly in his infallibly guided official capacity--was in any way, God forbid, prompted by fickle and petty motives.
As 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself related of his character:
"Verily that child [the one who would succeed 'Abdu'l-Baha (i.e., Shoghi Effendi)] is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou wilt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him." (quoted in Covenant of Baha'u'llah, p. 282)
And in a document on behalf of the Universal House of Justice:
"HOWEVER GREAT IS THE DISTANCE between the Guardianship and the unique station of the Centre of the Covenant, the role played by Shoghi Effendi after the Master's passing stands alone in the history of the Cause. It will continue to occupy this focal place in the life of the Faith throughout the coming centuries. In important respects Shoghi Effendi may be said to have extended by an additional, critical, thirty-six years the influence of the guiding hand of the Master in the building of the Administrative Order and the expansion and consolidation of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. One has only to make the fearful effort of imagining the fate of the infant Cause of God had it not been held firmly, during the period of its greatest vulnerability, in the grip of one who had been prepared for this purpose by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and who accepted to serve ÷ in the fullest sense of the word ÷ as its Guardian." (Century of Light, section VII)
As if the assurance of 'Abdu'l-Baha (Baha'u'llah's indisputably appointed Center) and the Universal House of Justice as to Shoghi Effendi's character, and the testimony of the faithful Baha'is around him were not enough, Shoghi Effendi--the infallible Guardian--himself alludes to his own restraint exercised before expelling some Covenant-breakers:
"Flagrant disloyalty Ruhi's family compels me disclose information so long patiently withheld American believers concerning his faiilure obtain my approval his second visit America. His subsequent conduct regarding his marriage which I refrained form revealing anyone except your Assembly, as well as Fu'ad's departure England without my knowledge, should now be made known believers. Confident unshakable steadfastness exemplary American Baha'i community." (quoted in Covenant of Bah'u'llah, pp. 359-360)
The machinations against him were explained by our infallible body, the Universal House of Justice, in the "Century of Light":
"For long years, the Guardian felt that the protection of the Cause required him to maintain silence about the deteriorating situation in the Holy Family. Only as opposition finally burst into acts of open defiance, eventually involving the family in shameful collaboration and even marriages with members of the very band of Covenant-breakers against whose treachery the Will and Testament of the Master had warned in vehement language, as well as with a local family deeply hostile to the Cause, did Shoghi Effendi eventually feel compelled to expose to the Bahá'í world the nature of the delinquencies with which he was having to deal."
"This sad history is of importance to an understanding of the Cause in the twentieth century not only because of what the Guardian called the "havoc" it wreaked in the Holy Family, but because of the light it casts on the challenges the Bahá'í community will increasingly face in the years ahead, challenges predicted in explicit language by both the Master and the Guardian. Apart from the insincerity that marked all too many of them, the relatives of Shoghi Effendi demonstrated little or no awareness of the spiritual nature of the role conferred on him in the Will and Testament. That the Revelation of God to the age of humanity's maturity should have brought with it, as a central feature of its mission, an authority essential for the restructuring of social order represented a spiritual challenge they seemed unable, or perhaps never sought, to understand. Their abandonment of the Guardian is a lesson that will remain with posterity down through the centuries of the Bahá'í Dispensation. The fate of this most privileged but unworthy company of human beings underlines for all who read their story both the significance that the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh holds for the unification of humankind and the uncompromising demands it makes on those who seek its shelter."
We Baha'is are to avoid backbiting or even listen to backbiting -- how much more should this apply to those rumors spread by the malicious about the Central Figures. 'Abdu'l-Baha warned us, as did even Baha'u'llah, to avoid the whisperings of the violators of the Covenant and any who possessed their spirit.
It is not inherently blind to stick with faith to Writings one has accepted as divinely guided. 'Abdu'l-Baha gives the example of a patient accepting the treatments of a physician he has used his reason to determine is wise and trustworthy. Any reasonable scientist or anyone in life must operate on assumptions. For example, we go about our lives with the assumption or "faith" that there exists a real sun in the sky. Its existence could conceivably be a hoax, but no reasonable person will allow themselves to be consumed by questioning EVERYTHING. Of course, one can always remain open to new possibilities, but we will sure waste a lot of our lives, if we go around listening to the rumors of every quack and paranoid conspiracy theorist. Likewise, for Baha'is not heeding the stupid contentions of Covenant-breakers.
For those who don't believe and are not convinced of the divine authority of our Central Figures and Institutions, there is a revolving door out of the Faith. This voluntary organization does not permit its members to reserve the right to their own opinions over the ones of the Writings which they by the nature of their belief must consider divinely inspired (of course this is different than non-Baha'is on the outside who are not convinced of Baha'u'llah's infallibility or Baha'is who are simply ignorant of certain teachings):
"People who do not feel they can obey or accept the Teachings on a subject cannot be considered Baha'is, voting or otherwise. If a time comes when they feel ready to surrender their opinions to One we believe divinely guided, they should be joyously welcomed back into the Faith."
(Shoghi Effendi: Unfolding Destiny, pp. 443-444)
Although the reconciliation of many of the so-called contradictions is as obvious as the sun, fidelity to our Writings does require us to believe they can be resolved and meditate on how they are resolved--as they indeed so readily can be:
"In attempting to understand the Writings, therefore, one must first realise that there is and can be no real contradiction in them, and in light of this we can confidently seek the unity of meaning which they contain." (Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 7 December 1969, p. 38)
"We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between there are links uniting the two. That is what makes our Faith so flexible and well balanced." (19 March 1945 to an individual believer)
"Likewise he is constantly urging them [the Bahá'ís to really study the Bahá'í teachings more deeply. One may liken Bahá'u'lláh's teachings to a sphere; there are points poles apart, and in between the thoughts and doctrines that unite them. We believe in balance in all things; we believe in moderation in all things . . . (5 July 1949 to an individual believer)
This is not--God forbid--some kind of excuse. ANY kind of language requires a consideration of context and a reconciliation of apparent paradoxes. Life is full of them. We need to be just and merciful, righteous and tolerant, etc. Talk to an expert in linguistics, if you want to rely on a scientific authority instead (though your "faith" here will be in a fallible source). Those involved in the study of pragmatics will tell you that context is essential, that words can have multiple meanings, and that virtually any tract of speech or discourse will be able to be scrutinized in such a manner as to choose those meanings of the words which make a statement seem contradictory. Many lawyers make a living off of such possibilities. And so did and do the Pharisees.
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