Principles of Bahá'í Administration

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Principles of Bahá'í Administration

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This etext is based on:
"Principles of Bahá'í Administration"

Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London
Copyright (c) 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom
All Rights Reserved

1976 Edition (Fourth edition)
SBN 900125 13 6

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[Preface omitted]

INTRODUCTION

Teaching and Administration.

The Administrative Order is fundamentally different from anything that any Prophet has previously established, inasmuch as Bahá'u'lláh has Himself revealed its principles, established its institutions, appointed the person to interpret His Word, and conferred the necessary authority on the body designed to supplement and apply His legislative ordinances. Therein lies the secret of its strength, its fundamental distinction, and the guarantee against disintegration and schism.

The Bahá'í Administrative Order, as it expands and consolidates itself, will come to be regarded not only as the nucleus but as the very pattern of the New World Order, destined to embrace, in the fullness of time, the whole of mankind. It is the sole framework of the Bahá'í commonwealth of the future which will be at once the instrument and the guardian of the Most Great Peace announced by its Author.

Should we build up the Administrative World Order to a point of absolute perfection but at the same time allow it to be hampered or disconnected from the channels within, through which channels the Holy Spirit of the Cause pours forth, we would have nothing more than a perfected body out of touch with and cut off from the finer promptings of the soul or spirit. If, on the other hand, the influxes and goings forth of the spirit are scattered, diffused, and subjected wholly to the more or less imperfect guidance and interpretation of individual believers, lacking both the wisdom secured through consultation and also the lights of real unity which shine through consultative action and obedience thereto - a disordered and disorganized activity would be witnessed, which would but dimly reflect the divine purpose for this age, which is no less than the establishment of the reign of divine love, justice, and wisdom in the world, under and in conformity to the Divine Law.

In the body of a man, which is the true divine example or parallel, the spirit, when in ideal control of all the lesser parts of the organism, finds the utmost harmony throughout the whole body - each part is in perfect reciprocity with the other parts. The commands and impulses of the spirit are obeyed by the body and the body in turn in its actions and functions identifies and determines the expression the spiritual impulses shall take. This is divine unity - and this law, being universal and found in every created object in the universe, has full application to the universal Bahá'í organism made up of believers everywhere, which has been established by the Manifestation of God. (Shoghi Effendi)

Real Use of Administrative Machinery.

Now that they (the believers) have erected the administrative machinery of the Cause they must put it to its real use - serving only as an instrument to facilitate the flow of the spirit of the Faith out into the world. Just as the muscles enable the body to carry out the will of the individual, all Assemblies and Committees must enable the believers to carry forth the Message of God to the waiting public, the love of Bahá'u'lláh and the healing laws and principles of the Faith to all men. (Shoghi Effendi)

Purpose of Bahá'í Administration.

As the administrative work of the Cause steadily expands, as its various branches grow in importance and number, it is absolutely necessary that we bear in mind this fundamental fact that all these administrative activities, however harmoniously and efficiently conducted, are but means to an end, and should be regarded as direct instruments for the propagation of the Bahá'í Faith. Let us take heed lest in our great concern for the perfection of the administrative machinery of the Cause, we lose sight of the Divine Purpose for which it has been created. Let us be on our guard lest the growing demand for specialization in the administrative functions of the Cause detain us from joining the ranks of those who in the forefront of battle are gloriously engaged in summoning the multitude to this New Day of God. This indeed should be our primary concern; this is our sacred obligation, our vital and urgent need. Let this cardinal principle be ever borne in mind, for it is the mainspring of all future activities, the remover of every embarrassing obstacle, the fulfilment of our Master's dearest wish. (Shoghi Effendi)

Teachers and Administrators.

Although it is essential for the believers to maintain always a clear distinction between teaching and administrative duties and functions, yet they should be careful not to be led to think that these two types of Bahá'í activity are mutually exclusive in their nature, and as such cannot be exercised by one and the same person. As a matter of fact, the friends should be encouraged to serve in both the teaching and the administrative fields of Bahá'í service. But as there are always some who are more specially gifted along one of these two lines of activity it would seem more desirable that they should concentrate their efforts in acquiring the full training for that type of work for which they are best suited by nature. Such a specialization has the advantage of saving time, and of leading to greater efficiency, particularly at this early stage of our development. The great danger, however, lies in that by so doing the friends may tend to develop a sort of class consciousness which is fundamentally contrary to both the spirit and actual teachings of the Faith. It is precisely in order to overcome such a danger that the Guardian thinks it advisable that the friends should be encouraged to serve from time to time in both the teaching and the administrative spheres of Bahá'í work, but only whenever they feel fit to do so. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

PART I

The Individual

_______________________________________________________________________________

Qualifications of a True Believer

REGARDING the very delicate and complex question of ascertaining the qualifications of a true believer, I cannot in this connection emphasize too strongly the supreme necessity for the exercise of the utmost discretion, caution, and tact, whether it be in deciding for ourselves as to who may be regarded a true believer or in disclosing to the outside world such considerations as may serve as a basis for such a decision. I would only venture to state very briefly and as adequately as present circumstances permit, the principal factors that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether a person may be regarded a true believer or not. Full recognition of the station of the Forerunner, the Author, and the True Exemplar of the Bahá'í Cause, as set forth in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of our Beloved's sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as well as the form of the present-day Bahá'í administration throughout the world - these I conceive to be the fundamental and primary considerations that must be fairly, discreetly, and thoughtfully ascertained before reaching such a vital decision. Any attempt at further analysis and elucidation will, I fear, land us in barren discussions and even grave controversies that would prove not only futile but even detrimental to the best interests of a growing Cause. I would therefore strongly urge those who are called upon to make such a decision to approach this highly involved and ever-recurring problem with the spirit of humble prayer, and earnest consultation, and to refrain from drawing rigidly the line of demarcation except on such occasions when the interests of the Cause absolutely demand it. (Shoghi Effendi)

(A) Spiritual and Personal Obligations

The Book of God.

"Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as
are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance
established amongst men. In this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples
and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure
of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did
ye but know it". (Bahá'u'lláh)

Regarding the vital character and importance of the Divine ordinances and laws, and the necessity of complete obedience to them by the believers, we thus read in the Gleanings, p. 175:

"Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof
are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the
Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize
this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible
standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to
strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth,
that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation
which the revelation of this law provoke in men's hearts should indeed
be likened to the cries of the sucking babe weaned from his
mother's milk, if ye be of them that perceive..." (Bahá'u'lláh)

Laws of the Aqdas.

He feels it his duty to explain that the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the Aqdas are, whenever practicable and not in direct conflict with the Civil Laws of the land, absolutely binding on every believer or Bahá'í institution whether in the East or in the West. Certain laws, such as fasting, obligatory prayers, the consent of the parents before marriage, avoidance of alcoholic drinks, monogamy, should be regarded by all believers as universally and vitally applicable at the present time. Others have been formulated in anticipation of a state of society, destined to emerge from the chaotic conditions that prevail today. When the Aqdas is published this matter will be further explained and elucidated. What has not been formulated in the Aqdas, in addition to matters of detail and of secondary importance arising out of the application of the laws already formulated by Bahá'u'lláh, will have to be enacted by the Universal House of Justice. This body can supplement but never invalidate or modify in the least degree what has already been formulated by Bahá'u'lláh. Nor has the Guardian any right whatsoever to lessen the binding effect, much less to abrogate the provisions of so fundamental and sacred a Book. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Daily Obligatory Prayer.

The daily obligatory prayers are three in number. The shortest one consists of a single verse which has to be recited once in every twenty-four hours at midday. The medium [prayer] has to be recited three times a day, in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. The long prayer which is the most elaborate of the three has to be recited once in every twenty-four hours, and at any time one feels inclined to do so.

The believer is entirely free to choose any one of those three prayers, but is under the obligation of reciting either one of them, and in accordance with any specific directions with which they may be accompanied.

These daily obligatory prayers, together with a few other specific ones, such as the Healing Prayer, the Tablet of Ahmad, have been invested by Bahá'u'lláh with a special potency and significance, and should therefore be accepted as such and be recited by the believers with unquestioned faith and confidence, that through them they may enter into a much closer communion with God, and identify themselves more fully with His laws and precepts. (Shoghi Effendi) 

The hour of noon should, of course, be observed in accordance with the position of the sun, not in accordance with local time-standards. The short obligatory prayer may be said at any time between noon and sunset. (From a letter from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles)

Congregational Prayer.

Regarding the practice of congregational prayer, the Guardian wishes you to know that this form of prayer has been enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh only for the dead. In all other circumstances there is no obligation whatever imposed upon the believers. When the Aqdas is published the form of congregational prayer prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh will be made clear to all the believers. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Prayers to be Read as Revealed.

Also concerning your question about the prayers and changing the pronoun: this cannot be done, even in the long Obligatory Prayer or the Healing Prayers. Either we must square this mere detail or say a prayer that applies to our sex or number. (Shoghi Effendi)

Child's Prayers.

The Guardian feels that it would be better for either the mothers of Bahá'í children - or some Committee your Assembly might delegate the task to - to choose excerpts from the Sacred Words to be used by the child rather than just something made up. Of course, prayer can be purely spontaneous but many of the sentences and thoughts combined in Bahá'í writings of a devotional nature are easy to grasp, and the revealed word is endowed with a power of its own. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

The Ordinance of Fasting.

As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with the obligatory prayers, the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, strengthen, revive, and purify it, and thus insure its steady development.

The ordinance of fasting is, as is the case with these three prayers, a spiritual and vital obligation enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh upon every believer who has attained the age of fifteen. In the Aqdas He thus writes:

"We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of
maturity; this is ordained by God, your Lord and the Lord of your
forefathers. He has exempted from this those who are weak from illness or
age, as a bounty from His Presence, and He is the Forgiving, the
Generous." And in another passage He says: "We have enjoined upon you
fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you
Naw-Ruz as a feast...The traveller, the ailing, those who are with child
or giving suck, are not bound by the fast...Abstain from food and
drink, from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of
this grace that is appointed in the Book."

Also in the "Questions and Answers" that form an appendix to the Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh reveals the following:

"Verily, I say that God has appointed a great station for
fasting and prayer. But during good health its benefit is evident, and
when one is ill, it is not permissible to fulfil them."

Concerning the age of maturity, He reveals in the appendix of that same book:

"The age of maturity is in the fifteenth year [1] women and men
are alike in this respect."
[1 Fifteenth birthday.]

The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days, starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purposes are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.

Regarding your question concerning the Fast: Travellers are exempt from fasting, but if they want to fast while they are travelling, they are free to do so. You are exempt the whole period of your travel, not just the hours you are in a train or car, etc. If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident. The age limit is seventy years, but if one desires to fast after the age limit is passed, and is strong enough to, one is free to do so. If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the Fast period is over, he can start to fast again and continue until the end. Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose. (Shoghi Effendi)

Spiritual Experiences.

There is a fundamental difference between Divine Revelation as vouchsafed by God to His prophets, and the spiritual experiences and visions which individuals may have. The latter should, under no circumstances, be construed as constituting an infallible source of guidance, even for the person experiencing them. (Shoghi Effendi)

Guidance, Meditation, and Teaching Methods.

The questions you ask in your letter about individual guidance have two aspects, one might say. It is good that people should turn to God and beseech His aid in solving their problems and guiding their acts, indeed every day of their lives, if they feel the desire to do so. But they cannot possibly impose what they feel to be their guidance on anyone else, let alone on Assemblies or Committees, as Bahá'u'lláh has expressly laid down the law of consultation and never indicated that anything else superseded it.

As to meditation: This also is a field in which the individual is free. There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan as such, for inner development. The Friends are urged - nay enjoined - to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual.

The same thing is true of teaching methods; no system for teachers to practise exists. But obviously the more people know about the teachings and the Cause, the better they will be able to present the subject. If some people find that prayer and placing all their trust in God releases in them a flood of inspiration, they should be left free to pursue this method if it is productive of results.

The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so.

We cannot clearly distinguish between personal desire and guidance, but if the way opens, when we have sought guidance, then we may presume God is helping us. (Shoghi Effendi)

Deepening in the Cause.

To deepen in the Cause means to read the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master so thoroughly as to be able to give it to others in its pure form. There are many who have some superficial idea of what the Cause stands for. They, therefore, present it together with all sorts of ideas that are their own. As the Cause is still in its early days we must be most careful lest we fall into this error and injure the Movement we so much adore. There is no limit to the study of the Cause. The more we read the Writings, the more truths we can find in Them, the more we will see that our previous notions were erroneous. (Shoghi Effendi)

The Regenerating Power.

But let us all remember, in this connection, that prior to every conceivable measure destined to raise the efficiency of our administrative activities, more vital than any scheme which the most resourceful among us can devise, far above the most elaborate structure which the concerted efforts of organized Assemblies can hope to raise, is the realization down in the innermost heart of every true believer of the regenerating power, the supreme necessity, the unfailing efficacy of the Message he bears. I assure you, dear friends, that nothing short of such an immovable conviction could have, in days past, enabled our beloved Cause to weather the blackest storms in its history. Naught else can today vitalize the manifold activities in which unnumbered disciples of the Faith are engaged; naught else can provide that driving force and sustaining power that are both so essential to the success of vast and enduring achievements. It is this spirit that above all else we should sedulously guard, and strive with all our might to fortify and exemplify in all our undertakings. (Shoghi Effendi)

MATTERS OF PERSONAL STATUS

Age of Maturity.

Regarding the age of fifteen fixed by Bahá'u'lláh: this relates only to purely spiritual functions and obligations and is not related to the degree of administrative capacity and fitness which is a totally different thing, and is, for the present, fixed at twenty-one. (Shoghi Effendi)

Obligation to Work.

With reference to Bahá'u'lláh's command concerning the engagement of the believers in some sort of profession: the Teachings are most emphatic on this matter, particularly the statement in the Aqdas to this effect which makes it quite clear that idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order. As a corollary of this principle, Bahá'u'lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, specially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá'u'lláh a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work.

As to the question of retirement from work for individuals who have reached a certain age, this is a matter on which the International House of Justice will have to legislate as there are no provisions in the Aqdas concerning it. (Shoghi Effendi)

Marriage.

"Enter into Wedlock, O people, That ye may bring forth one who
will make mention of Me." (Bahá'u'lláh)

Nature of Bahá'í Marriage.

In regard to your question concerning the nature and character of Bahá'í marriage. As you have rightly stated, such a marriage is conditioned upon the full approval of all four parents. Also your statement to the effect that the principle of the oneness of mankind prevents any true Bahá'í from regarding race itself as a bar to union is in complete accord with the Teachings of the Faith on this point. For both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá never disapproved of the idea of inter-racial marriage, nor discouraged it. The Bahá'í Teachings, indeed, by their very nature transcend all limitations imposed by race, and as such can and should never be identified with any particular school of racial philosophy. (Shoghi Effendi)

Consent of Parents for Marriage.

Regarding the question whether it is necessary to obtain the consent of the parents of a non-Bahá'í participant in a marriage with a Bahá'í; as Bahá'u'lláh has stated that the consent of the parents of both parties is required in order to promote unity and avoid friction, and as the Aqdas does not specify any exceptions to this rule, the Guardian feels that under all circumstances the consent of the parents of both parties is required. The ceremony itself must be very simple.

With reference to the matter of the consent of the parents to a Bahá'í marriage; as this is a vital binding obligation, it is the duty of the Assemblies to ascertain, before giving their sanction, that the consent obtained has been given freely by the parents themselves. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Bahá'í Marriage Ceremony.

Bahá'í marriage should at present not be pressed into any kind of a uniform mould. What is absolutely essential is what Bahá'u'lláh stipulated in the Aqdas: the friends can add to these selected writings if they please - but the so-called "Marriage Tablet" (revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá) is not a necessary part of every Bahá'í marriage. In The Bahá'í World is a prayer for marriage incorporated in either the Arabic or Persian text: he suggests Marzieh Gail translate this, and it can be made available to the friends, so that they can use it if they wish to. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

The Use of Ringstones and Burial Stones.

In regard to the use of ringstones and burial stones, the Guardian leaves this matter at present entirely to the discretion of the believers, and has no objection if your Assembly provides facilities for their purchase by the friends. When the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is published the necessary instructions will be given regarding this matter. (Shoghi Effendi)

Bahá'í Funeral Service.

Regarding the Bahá'í funeral service: it is extremely simple, as it consists only of a congregational prayer to be read before burial! This prayer will be made available to the friends when the Aqdas is translated and published. In the meantime, your N.S.A. should take great care lest any uniform procedure or ritual in this matter be adopted or imposed upon the friends. The danger in this, as in some other cases regarding Bahá'í worship, is that a definite system of rigid rituals and practices be developed among the believers. The utmost simplicity and flexibility should be observed, and a selection from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings would serve the purpose at the present time, provided this selection is not rigidly and uniformly adopted on all such occasions. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Cremation.

He feels that, in view of what 'Abdu'l-Bahá has said against cremation, the believers should be strongly urged, as an act of faith, to make provisions against their remains being cremated. Bahá'u'lláh has laid down as a law, in the Aqdas, the manner of Bahá'í burial, and it is so beautiful, befitting, and dignified, that no believer should deprive himself of it. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Suicide.

Regarding the "In Memoriam" section of Bahá'í News: although suicide is so strongly condemned in the teachings, it does not mean that a person has ceased to be a Bahá'í because he killed himself; he should, therefore, be mentioned, the same as other believers, in this section. (Shoghi Effendi)

(B) Relations with Other Bahá'ís

Our Most Vital Obligation.

In their relations amongst themselves as fellow-believers, let them not be content with the mere exchange of cold and empty formalities often connected with the organizing of banquets, receptions, consultative assemblies, and lecture-halls. Let them rather, as equal co-sharers in the spiritual benefits conferred upon them by Bahá'u'lláh, arise and, with the aid and counsel of their local and national representatives, supplement these official functions with those opportunities which only a close and intimate social intercourse can adequately provide. In their homes, in their hours of relaxation and leisure, in the daily contact of business transactions, in the association of their children, whether in their study-classes, their playgrounds, and club-rooms, in short, under all possible circumstances, however insignificant they appear, the community of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh should satisfy themselves that in the eyes of the world at large and in the sight of their vigilant Master they are the living witnesses of those truths which He fondly cherished and tirelessly championed to the very end of His days. If we relax in our purpose, if we falter in our faith, if we neglect the varied opportunities given us from time to time by an all-wise and gracious Master, we are not merely failing in what is our most vital and conspicuous obligation, but are thereby insensibly retarding the flow of those quickening energies which can alone insure the vigorous and speedy development of God's struggling Faith. (Shoghi Effendi)

Spiritual Ties are Far Deeper.

Deep as are family ties, we must always remember that the spiritual ties are far deeper; they are everlasting and survive death, whereas physical ties, unless supported by spiritual bond, are confined to this life. You should do all in your power, through prayer and example, to open the eyes of your family to the Bahá'í Faith, but do not grieve too much over their actions. Turn to your Bahá'í brothers and sisters who are living with you in the light of the Kingdom. (Shoghi Effendi)

Indeed, the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other's strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to draw fully on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith. (Shoghi Effendi)

Use of Allah-u-Abha.

The use of "Allah-u-Abha" in the East is, generally speaking, confined to a greeting. It is not said at the end of prayers and the Guardian feels that the less it is used freely in public by the Bahá'ís in the West (before strangers) the better, as it gives a very peculiar impression of us, and makes us seem like some strange Oriental sect. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Bahá'í Dates.

It is advisable to use both the Bahá'í dates, according to the Bahá'í Calendar, and the usual Gregorian dates as well. The Friends at present are free to do as they please. (Shoghi Effendi)

The Nineteen Day Feast.

"This Feast was established by His Holiness the Báb, to occur
once in nineteen days. Likewise, the Blessed Perfection hath
commanded, encouraged, and reiterated it. Therefore, it hath the utmost
importance. Undoubtedly you must give the greatest attention to its
establishment and raise it to the highest point of importance, so that it may
become continual and constant. The believers of God must assemble and
associate with each other in the utmost love, joy, and fragrance. They
must conduct themselves (in these Feasts) with the greatest dignity
and consideration, chant divine verses, peruse instructive articles,
read the Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, encourage and inspire each other
with love for the whole human race, invoke God with perfect joy and
fragrance, sing the verses, glorifications, and praises of the
Self-Subsistent Lord, and deliver eloquent speeches. The owner of the house must
personally serve the beloved ones. He must seek after the comfort of all,
and with the utmost humility he must show forth kindness to every
one. If the Feast is arranged in this manner and in the way
mentioned, that supper is the "Lord's Supper", for the result is the same
result and the effect is the same effect". ('Abdu'l-Bahá)

Consultation Between National Assembly and Believers.

Shoghi Effendi firmly believes that consultation must be maintained between the N.S.A. and the entire body of the believers, and that such consultation, while the Convention is not in session, can best be maintained through the agency of the local Assemblies, one of whose essential functions is to act as intermediaries between the local communities and their national representatives. The main purpose of the Nineteen Day Feasts is to enable individual believers to offer any suggestion to the local Assembly which in its turn will pass it to the N.S.A. The local Assembly is, therefore, the proper medium through which local Bahá'í communities can communicate with the body of the national representatives. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Bahá'í Youth on Committees.

The question of young Bahá'ís being able to serve on committees other than the Youth Committee has been raised in a number of letters recently, and in considering the matter he felt that Bahá'í young people under twenty-one should not be denied the privilege of committee work. Though they cannot be voting members of Bahá'í communities (or exercise the electoral vote until they reach that age) and though they cannot, likewise, be elected to Assemblies, there is no reason why they should not serve the Cause on various committees as all committees, national or local, are subordinate to Assemblies and their members not elected but appointed, and appointed by Assemblies. We have many devoted and talented young believers who can be of great assistance to the Cause even though not yet legally of age. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

The Voting Right.

I feel I must reaffirm the vital importance and necessity of the right of voting - a sacred responsibility of which no adult recognized believer should be deprived, unless he is associated with a community that has not as yet been in a position to establish a local Assembly. This distinguishing right which the believer possesses, however, does not carry with it nor does it imply an obligation to cast his vote, if he feels that the circumstances under which he lives do not justify or allow him to exercise that right intelligently and with understanding. This is a matter which should be left to the individual to decide himself according to his own conscience and discretion. (Shoghi Effendi)

Obligation to Serve.

I desire to remind believers of the necessity for unconditional acceptance of whatever position and duties may be assigned them by delegates and National Assembly. I deprecate all refusals of candidature. (Shoghi Effendi)

Assemblies, Not Individuals, Constitute the Bedrock.

Regarding the principle that the Cause must not be allowed to centre around any Bahá'í personality, the Guardian wishes to make it clear that it was never intended that well qualified individual teachers should not receive from local Assemblies every encouragement and facilities to address the public. What the Guardian meant was that the personality and popularity of such a speaker should never be allowed to eclipse the authority, or detract from the influence of the body of the elected representatives in every local community. Such an individual should not only seek the approval, advice, and assistance of the body that represents the Cause in his locality, but should strive to attribute any credit he may obtain to the collective wisdom and capacity of the Assembly under whose jurisdiction he performs his services. Assemblies and not individuals constitute the bedrock on which the Administration is built. Everything else must be subordinated to, and be made to serve and advance the best interests of, these elected custodians and promoters of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

No Believer Above Assembly Jurisdiction.

As to the specific question you have raised in connection with the view prevalent among some of the believers to the effect that certain believers have been given "spiritual stations" which make them immune to any action by a Bahá'í administrative body; the Guardian wishes me to definitely state that to no one of the believers such a station has been conferred, which can place him outside and above the jurisdiction of any Assembly. Such an attitude, as you rightly state, runs counter to the very spirit and purpose of the Administrative Order. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

General Interests Take Precedence.

As to material sacrifices towards the welfare of the Cause, he wishes you to understand that the general interests of the Cause take precedence over the  20  interests of the particular individuals. For instance, contributions to the welfare of individuals are secondary to contributions to the National and Local Funds. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Test of Faith.

Each and every believer, undaunted by the uncertainties, the perils, and the financial stringency afflicting the nation, must arise and insure, to the full measure of his or her capacity, that continuous and abundant flow of funds into the National Treasury, on which the successful prosecution of the Plan must chiefly depend.

We must be like the fountain or spring that is continually emptying itself of all that it has and is continually being refilled from an invisible source. To be continually giving out for the good of our fellows undeterred by the fear of poverty and reliant on the unfailing bounty of the Source of all wealth and all good - this is the secret of right living. (Shoghi Effendi)

Consultation on Personal Difficulties.

In all such matters as you mention in your letter, Shoghi Effendi wishes the Friends to take the Assemblies into their confidence and discuss it with them. Being on the spot they can judge better and take into consideration all the different aspects of the problem. We should always trust the Assemblies and go to them for advice. Our debts, however, should be considered as sacred and take precedence over any other thing [ i.e., payment of debts comes before contributions to the Cause] for upon this principle does the foundation of our economic life rest. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Association with Orientals.

The attitude of the Friends towards Orientals should be one of great caution, according to the Master's own often-repeated and explicit instructions and warnings. Any believer in good standing would not leave his home community without a letter of credentials, and certainly no Persians, claiming to be Bahá'ís, but lacking credentials, should be accepted until the Persian N.S.A. has clarified their status. They can, naturally, attend Public Meetings, but should not be permitted to come to the Nineteen Day Feast; the Friends may associate with them, but should be very cautious, bearing in mind that many Orientals, who scorned, or were even actively against the Cause while living in the East, now find it convenient to pass as believers or Friends of the Faith in a Western country where they are strangers.

I desire to reiterate the warning that no Persian, student or otherwise, must be admitted into the community under any circumstances unless provided with full credentials. Exception and compromise would be detrimental to the vital interests of the Faith at the present juncture. The utmost caution and vigilance are imperative. (Shoghi Effendi)

Warning About Orientals.

As to your question as to what races should be regarded as coming under the heading of "Orientals" in connection with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's warnings; there is no doubt. He was primarily thinking of the Near Eastern races of Islamic extraction, who have every reason to look upon the Faith either with contempt as a mere heresy within, or sect of Islam, or with hatred as a potential threat to the supremacy of their religion. Likewise, it is these Near Eastern Races, particularly the Persian, who have been most persistently exposed to the propaganda and bad example of the Covenant-breakers, old and new, and from whose ranks these very Covenant-breakers have sprung. These circumstances, combined with the fact that, like his Prophetic Forebears, Bahá'u'lláh appeared amongst the people most in need of enlightenment - and hence at their lowest ebb morally - are the reasons for not only 'Abdu'l-Bahá's and his own [ i.e., the Guardian's] repeated warnings concerning Orientals, but also for the conduct, so often demonstrated, unfortunately, by these same Orientals and which amply justifies our attitude of great precaution and wariness concerning receiving them in our midst and believing their declarations to be sincere. Shoghi Effendi also feels that the Moslems of India should likewise be included in this category, owing to their respective religious and racial background. (Shoghi Effendi through his Secretary)

Shun Entirely All Covenant-breakers.

Bahá'u'lláh and the Master in many places and very emphatically have told us to shun entirely all Covenant-breakers as they are afflicted with what we might try and define as a contagious spiritual disease; they have also told us, however, to pray for them. These souls are not lost forever. In the Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh says that God will forgive Mirza Yahya if he repents. It follows, therefore, that God will forgive any soul if he repents. Most of them don't want to repent, unfortunately. If the leaders can be forgiven it goes without saying that their followers can also be forgiven...

Also, it has nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life no one would suggest that for the sake of "unity" it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism! On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison. (Shoghi Effendi)

(C) Relations with Non-Bahá'ís and the World at Large

Demonstration by Deed and Word.

As material affairs go from bad to worse in the world, the confidence, optimism, love, and hope of the believers will, by force of contrast, shine out as an ever brighter beacon, leading the people to the Path of Truth, the way laid down by God, which alone can guide them to the promise of the future.

These, indeed, are the days when heroism is needed on the part of the believers. Self-sacrifice, courage, indomitable hope, and confidence are the characteristics they should show forth, because these very attributes cannot but fix the attention of the public and lead them to inquire what, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered, leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion. Increasingly, as time goes by, the characteristics of the Bahá'ís will be that which captures the attention of their fellow-citizens. They must show their aloofness from the hatreds and recriminations which are tearing at the hearts of humanity, and demonstrate by deed and word their profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race. (Shoghi Effendi)