Re: Brett only begs the question

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on August 19, 2002 at 12:10:38:

In Reply to: Brett only begs the question posted by Stuart on August 19, 2002 at 08:11:29:

Dear Stuart,

The Administration of the Faith does indeed manifest the Spirit of the Prophet, and there are plenty of examples to be found such as you seek.

I believe the wonderful guidance the Universal House of Justice is so abundant and obvious, that you really only have to look at one document to find such proof. Needless to say, I am not going to repeat all of their elaborations, applications of law, resolution of conflicts and difficult questions here, as they are readily available elsewhere on this site. I myself believe I would have been impotent to apply many teachings to my life without their great guidance (e.g., their encouragement for making plans in each important area of life, their elucidation of the 6 essential prerequisites for spiritual growth, and so on and so on).

However, I should say that, in my belief, one should not make the mistake of believing that the Administration can replace or makes the claim of evincing the same effusiveness of the Spirit as did the Manifestation of God--nor do the institutions following Baha'u'llah at all make such a claim. The Creative Word still lies solely in the Writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, not in the Writings even of 'Abdu'l-Baha. And since the potency of the Revelation is most evident in the Word, I would argue that it is to this to which we must first turn, whether we are seekers investigating the truth of the Baha'i Faith or Baha'is in need of confirmation of our Faith (or wishing to verify that our institutions are indeed ordained by the Holy Writings and assured of divine protection from error, as they are).

And if we wish for example, the most meaningful example we have of the potency of the Covenant, was how it was manifested in 'Abdu'l-Baha, our only perfect Exemplar. We can witness in His personal life (as we cannot do for institutions, however great they may be, since as in the case of the Universal House of Justice do not have a personal life) as well as in His Writings, the truth of the Cause.

This is not to say that we cannot find sufficient testimony in witnessing the wisdom of the institutions (even the fallible ones such as the local or national Assemblies), nor even in the example of individual Baha'is and communities. The Universal House of Justice directs our attention to the Baha'is of Iran, not only of the past but of today for such personal models to inspire. Moreover, the unity Baha'u'llah has brought, as well as its requisite transformation of character, is apparent throughout Baha'is living around the world--as well as its impact even on non-Baha'is and non-Baha'i thought.

> And, finally, if the administration is so perfect, how come there
> has not been a significant increase of Baha'i numbers in the
> last ten years? (I guess your answer will be, as usual, "what is,
> is perfect," "cannot by doctrine be wrong or fallible"

"It is the bounden duty of every American believer... to initiate, promote, and consolidate, within the limits fixed by the administrative principles of the Faith, any activity he or she deems fit to undertake for the furtherance of the Plan...Let him not wait for any directions, or expect any special encouragement, from the elected representatives of his community..." (The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 50)

As this quote above (which is one among many) shows, the Baha'i Writings have never made the claim that the institutions were responsible for carrying out Baha'i teaching, nor were they (or even the individuals, upon whom everything is to depend, according to the Writings, including especially teaching) to be held accountable for the receptivity of the population at a given time. The quotation in the section following about the Faith not being dependent on "fixed patterns" should amplify this point.

The beloved Guardian, in God Passes By, draws our attention to the many apparent setbacks faced in the history of the Cause--some even seeming hopelessly destructive--but which were followed by greater victories.

> and it is up to us to figure out why the administration has been
> forced to cut back volunteers due to a decrease in donations.

I believe the following should answer your point here:

"It is good for the Baha'is to learn that being a Baha'i is essentially an inner thing, or way of life, and not dependent on fixed patterns. Important as our organized Institutions are, they are not the Faith itself. The strength of the Cause grows no matter how much disrupted its activities may temporarily be. This we see over and over again, in lands where the Faith has been temporarily banned; at times when the believers are persecuted and even killed; where they are serving all alone or scattered and isolated. So it has been a stimulating experience for the American believers to be without their schools for a few years, rather than a depressing one."
(Shoghi Effendi: Directives of the Guardian, Page: 10)

Of course, this does not mean that a drop in the "life-blood" of the Cause (i.e., the Fund) will not have its negative impact. Just as individuals are given free will, so too does the community as a whole--however moved along by the promptings of the Holy Spirit--have its own domain of free will. Effort is required to galvanize the Baha'i community where there any short-falls in this or other areas, both in the response of individual Baha'is, and in the efforts of those serving on institutions (whether elected or the learned) seeking to stimulate the community to greater action.

"This challenge, so severe and insistent, and yet so glorious, faces no doubt primarily the individual believer on whom, in the last resort, depends the fate of the entire community....Without his support, at once whole-hearted, continuous and generous, every measure adopted, and every plan formulated, by the body which acts as the national representative of the community to which he belongs, is foredoomed to failure. The World Center of the Faith itself is paralyzed if such a support on the part of the rank and file of the community is denied it. The Author of the Divine Plan Himself is impeded in His purpose if the proper instruments for the execution of His design are lacking. The sustaining strength of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, the Founder of the Faith, will be withheld from every and each individual who fails in the long run to arise and play his part." (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.130-131)

Any shortfalls are in no way a reflection on the infallibility or continuing inspiration of the Universal House of Justice.

> (These "normal, trivial, mundane" questions are normal
> questions of an ordinary person, not of a fundamentalist
> Baha'i. I respect that, but I also respect my right to question,
> with respect and logic, as science allows.)

Everyone has questions. All individuals may at times rigidly be afraid to address them even intellectually, while others express them without consideration for tone, timing, etc., but it is not justified, I believe, to introduce false distinctions between believers such as "fundamentalist Baha'i" or on the contrary "liberal Baha'i". The Universal House of Justice indicates that such terms are contrary to the spirit of the Faith in that we are all of one family. We can also all reflect different tendencies at different times and err in being either too rigid or too loose (although the "Straight Path" of following the Writings fully in their intent has no such limitations). The fact that the integrity of the Baha'i community has been preserved from such permanent fragmentation and that the overwhelming number of believers maintain their allegiance to its divinely ordained institutions, despite the many attempts, whether plotted or accidental, by individuals to make such breaches between believers and between the believers and their institutions, should be one more proof that the Spirit of Baha'u'llah continues to be manifest through the institutions and His community.

best wishes to you,

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