Critique of ITC study of Guardianship & UHJ – Part One

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: book analysis | Tags: |

This is part One of a Critique by Hand of Cause of God David Maxwell of A Study for Auxiliary Board Members of the Guardianship & The Universal House of Justice Prepared by the International Teaching Centre (of the heterodox Bahá’ís).  Click here to read: Part 2 | Part 3| Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6

HOW DARE THEY ALTER THE MEANINGS OF PASSAGES IN BAHÁ’Í BOOKS THAT WERE COMPILED PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE FIRST GUARDIAN

Part One of a Critique by Hand of Cause of God David Maxwell of A Study for Auxiliary Board Members of the Guardianship & The Universal House of Justice Prepared by the International Teaching Centre (of the heterodox Bahá’ís).

Preface

The Third Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Joel. B. Marangella, asked me as Hand of the Cause of God to review this document prepared in March 2006 by the International Teaching Centre of the sans-guardian Bahá’ís in Haifa. He suggested that I comment on various of the statements and arguments contained in the study. In doing so I used the statements of the ITC, and have differentiated their passages from my own critique by the use of either — ITC Position or —Critique as a preface throughout, in order to separate my comments from theirs. The study was prepared by the International Teaching Centre for the use of Auxiliary Board Members and has no doubt been used extensively for their justification of not including a living guardian in their administrative order, even though Bahá’í Holy Writ ensures a continuous line of living guardians enduring the entire span of the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh, lasting at least 1,000 years.

A red flag, an enormous red flag appears at the very outset of this enterprise when one considers that this document was prepared for Auxiliary Board Members. Pray tell why a teaching center has to tell ABMs what to believe and discuss about the most basic of the foundational elements of the Faith. Is it that complicated? No, it is not. Did the Three Central Figures use a means of explaining things that required extra direction? No, they did not. In all due respects, should not anyone who is an ABM be well-enough versed in the original writings to understand for herself the information that she acquired while involved in the independent investigation of truth before she became a Bahá’í?
However, along with countless other changes in the Faith since the death of the First Guardian, it appears that independent investigation of truth has been downplayed, particularly after one signs a declaration card, as if independent investigation of truth applies only to the initial seeker, and immediately ceases upon declaration. A recent visitor to the Temple in Wilmette noted that the independent investigation of truth is no longer listed among the primary elements in the study of the Teachings.

Now I agree that an International Teaching Center is a necessary focal point within the structure of any world-wide religious organization. But would it not be more timely and productive to emphasize such matters pertaining to the spiritual growth of its followers through their independent investigation rather than recreating the wheel as regards the basics of the Faith? Basics that the Three Central Figures and the First Guardian precisely defined? Seems to me that was their job, and that the ITC should believe every word and utterance they espoused, and go on from there.
Shoghi Effendi did a magnificent job of transferring the original Writings into very clear and authoritative English language. In hind-sight, that was one of his primary functions as First Guardian and he excelled at it. In my view, the utterances of the bogus UHJ and its ITC dilute and neutralize the power of the original Writings. It appears to me that the further we get from the history of the 1950s, a less-potent output of information is available for the mainstream Baha’is.

Another key issue for Baha’is is that a contributing factor to the neutralizing of the Faith by the bogus UHJ is their pattern of not only ignoring the original Writings in their activities, but actually changing key passage in many of the Bahá’í books. It should be understood by all Bahá’ís that its Publishing Trust has published books that contains text modified from the original of some of the books available from them since the passing of the First Guardian. Additionally, when perusing the listing of references immediately following the ITC study, many of those references cite the writings of the present Universal House of Justice for the justification of their existence. The reason for them doing so comes into question when in every instance they could have used topical Writings penned by the Three Central Figures of the Faith, Writings that are considered Holy Writ and the very foundational elements of the Bahá’í Faith. As a result, Orthodox Baha’is, and others who are concerned with authenticity should rely only on those books copyrighted and printed prior to 1957. In all cases of such modification, the author’s original intent has been compromised. I will cite one such example of modification from “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era,” by J.E. Esslemont, a book that Shoghi Effendi said was one of the three most important for teaching the Bahá’í seeker.

My reference is a paperback copy of that book, copyright 1980. Text under the heading Bahá’í Covenant has been modified. The next to last paragraph of the bogus UHJ version, page 129, in reference to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, contains capitalized letters in each instance (Him, His, etc.) whereas an earlier edition does not. This change appears to appropriately correct an oversight by Esslemont. However, in reading the next paragraph on that page, a major, major modification provides erroneous information.

The first half of the original paragraph, which discusses successive guardians, is no longer there; the last paragraph on that page begins:

“…Bahá’u’lláh further arranged that an International House of Justice, representative of all the Bahá’ís throughout the world, should be elected to take charge of the affairs of the Cause, control and coordinate all its activities, prevent divisions and schisms, elucidate obscure matters, and preserve the teachings from corruption and misrepresentation…”

The bogus UHJ statement makes no mention that it was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s chosen successor, who provided specific instructions for the election and functions of the Universal House of Justice within the pages of His Will and Testament. Bahá’u’lláh left no specific instructions for that activity. `Abdu’l-Bahá‘s Will clearly defined the role of a living guardian at the head of any Universal House of Justice. The bogus UHJ version has the audacity to refer to Shoghi Effendi as the guardian, as if he were still with us. It further admonishes the believers to follow the words of Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, the guardian, and the decisions of the International House of Justice. It concludes with “…Anyone contravening these (UHJ) injunctions is considered a Covenant-Breaker.”

Following are Esslemont‘s original words, words that Shoghi Effendi was well aware of:

“The spiritual or Providential character of the Faith, furthermore, is further exemplified in the continuance, after `Abdu’l-Bahá, of the office of interpreter of the Sacred Writings in the person of the successive Guardians provided in `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament. The Faith, therefore, throughout its era will never suffer the disintegrating influence of schisms resulting from differences of interpretation, nor the deterioration which follows when generally prevalent materialism substitutes lower values for those revealed by the Founder. In relation to the needs of social progress, Bahá’u’lláh provided for the formation of an international House of Justice, whose election and functions are more specifically revealed in the Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The fact that this supreme administrative body, the chairman of which will be the successive Guardians, can not only initiate legislation on all matters not defined in the Book, but also annul its own enactments when new conditions require different measures, assures for the Faith the vital continuity of a living organism. Established on universal truths, it is endowed with capacity to adapt to the conditions and requirements of each generation and age.”

“Since acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh involves acceptance of the social teachings and the social institutions He revealed and provided, or which have been instituted by `Abdu’l-Bahá, no Bahá’í can found a separate school or sect, nor justify any other basis for schism. The essential purpose of this Dispensation is to gather the races, peoples and nations into one Faith and one order.”

J.E. Esslemont, “Baha’u’llah and the New Era,” 1956 edition, pages 160-161

The bogus UHJ‘s elimination of the Institution of the Guardianship from that topical discussion, and the installation of themselves as successor to the guardian, speaks for itself and permeates the overall theme of the International Teaching Center‘s document.

David Maxwell

***********************************************************************************************

Following begins the presentation of the International Teaching Centre

INTRODUCTION (TO THE INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER PAPER)

The Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship are the twin Successors to Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá. Shoghi Effendi wrote that Bahá’u’lláh and the Master have “in unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their chosen Successors.”

(1) In His Will and Testament, `Abdu’l-Bahá perpetuated the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh by appointing the Guardian of the Cause and confirmed the authority of the Universal House of Justice, promising that they will be infallibly guided by the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

He promised blessings to those who turn to them, and warned those who would turnagainst them. This brief two-part study, structured in the form of questions and answers, explores passages in the Writings that establish the authority and functions of theinstitutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, and reviews their relationship.

Critique:

One has to wonder whether the implication of the above two paragraphs is to allude that Bahá’u’lláh was succeeded by The Universal House of Justice, and that `Abdu’l-Bahá was succeeded by the Guardianship. This concept would help them to rationalize that since Shoghi Effendi “could not appoint a successor” that the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá are no longer potent, and would justify a position that since the guardianship is ended, that `Abdu’l-Bahá no longer needs to be as prominent in the structure of their organization. Among other things, this counters the concept that God reveals His knowledge to humans through progressively unfolding Truth. In the Bahá’í Revelation that concept is magnified and clearly delineated, describing the spiritually charged hereditary lineage of the Covenant of God through but one individual at a time.

Bahá’u’lláh appointed His successor, `Abdu’l-Bahá. In turn, `Abdu’l-Bahá appointed His successor to be the Institution of the (living) Guardianship. It should be kept in mind that `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament was a collaborative effort of both He and Bahá’u’lláh, and that every Sacred Clause of the Will and Testament will ultimately be fulfilled.

ITC Position:

THE INSTITUTION OF THE GUARDIANSHIP
What is the source of authority for the institution of the Guardianship? Shoghi Effendiwrites that certain verses in Bahá’u’lláh’s Most Holy Book by implication “clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship.” (2) But it was `Abdu’l-Bahá who explicitly established the institution of the Guardianship, naming Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause of God, and directing the friends to turn towards him. He wrote: After the passing away of this wronged one . . . turn unto Shoghi Effendi . . . as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsán, the Afnán, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God . . . (3)

Critique:

While it is true that `Abdu’l-Bahá asked the believers to turn unto Shoghi Effendi, the authors of this document stress that fact rather than the more important part of the command that `Abdu’l-Bahá actually appointed the Institution of the Guardianship as His successor, and that secondarily, Shoghi Effendi was the First Guardian.

ITC Position:

The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. (4)

What is the difference between authoritative and personal interpretation?
In light of Shoghi Effendi’s function as the authorised interpreter of the Bahá’í Teachings, one might ask if there is any room for personal understanding by individuals.

This question has been answered by the House of Justice:
The interpretations of `Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian are divinely-guided statements ofwhat the Word of God means and as such these interpretations are binding on thefriends. However, the existence of authoritative interpretations in no way precludes the individual from engaging in his own study of the Teachings and thereby arriving at his own interpretation or understanding. Indeed, Bahá’u’lláh invites the believers to “immerse” themselves in the “ocean” of His “words”, that they “may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths…”

Critique:

The bogus UHJ encourages the friends to investigate the Teachings and arrive at their own conclusions, in spite of divinely-guided statements that are binding on the friends. I daresay that Bahá’u’lláh did not intend that the conclusions of independent study by the  friends would preclude any binding statements in the Holy Writings. Indeed, the above quote from Bahá’u’lláh asks the believers to immerse themselves in the ocean of His (Bahá’u’lláh’s) words, not to immerse themselves in the bogus UHJ’s interpretations of His words. This concept clearly is not being followed by the bogus UHJ as shown by their all-too-frequent passion to tell the believers what a particularly passage in the Writings means, when in most cases the Writings themselves are self-evident. They explain that a living guardian will be available throughout the entire 1,000 year Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh to interpret the meaning of the Writings, not to re-write them.

Holy Writ may never be changed. The position that the bogus UHJ now finds itself in is to have to continually justify or explain away why there is no living guardian in their camp, notwithstanding that a process for providing a living guardian is commanded in the Will, and Shoghi Effendi often made reference to a line of guardians.

Additionally, there was no option, none whatsoever, contained within the pages of the Will and Testament for there not being a successor living guardian at any time during this Dispensation. In addition to that, Shoghi Effendi never discussed, nor wrote about, there not being any guardians after him. Quite the contrary, the only option provided was that there would be additional guardians. So for the 29 year tenure of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the 36 year period of Shoghi Effendi, 65 years of intensive Holy Foundation building, the only avenue for the continuance of the Faith required the Institution of the Guardianship precisely in the manner explained by them both. Putting it that way, the only option for the Hands during their conclaves after the passing of Shoghi Effendi was to find the successor that the First Guardian had named.

A careful reading of the above sentence perhaps will allow the Hands a little slack for their erroneous ways, but not much. They were indeed looking for a successor named by Shoghi Effendi (the man), whereas in hind-sight we now know they should have been looking within the spiritual bounds of the Institution of the Guardianship. They should have realized that Shoghi Effendi could name his successor only when he was wearing his spiritual mantle, that of the First Guardian, and the appointment would have to be couched within some sort of spiritual vehicle or terms. And that is precisely what Shoghi Effendi did. He named his successor when he penned the only Proclamation he ever wrote during the 36 years he spent as the First Guardian.

I will digress here and re-emphasize that the Bahá’í Faith is about matters of the Spirit. Spirituality is the only reason for its being. Thus, humans are at this time in their history being forced from their comfortable zone of the materialism that has permeated their being for thousands of years. It is time for a spiritual maturity to pervade mankind in order that humans may evolve from the false glamour of materialism and begin to think within terms of the spirit. It simply has got to happen in order for the shackles of depravity to be released from their lives in order that the onset of the Kingdom of God may be allowed to accelerate and mitigate some of the damage that has been done by this corrupt society. The Hands apparently failed to see that, and little progress has been made in the intervening years. The spirit must become a catalyst for elimination of materialistic bounds in order that human existence may reach for the next level.

The resultant mess of the misdirection and misapplication of purpose we find ourselves in as a society becomes even more curious when one considers that the bogus UHJ requires “unity above all else” as their mantra for the believers, with no permissible deviation at all from their definition of unity, that of complete submission to their Universal House of Justice. Spiritual growth for humans will ultimately evolve from a unity within the Divine Principles that Bahá’u’lláh provided. But, sadly, the difference between unity and Divine Unity has not yet been perceived by the masses, nor the bogus Universal House of Justice. At the very least, a concept has to come about that every Sacred Clause of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament must be believed, promoted and then fervently upheld. Through that one activity, the beginnings of a Divine Unity wil evolve and humans will find themselves in a much more beautiful place than now. Quite clearly, the trail outlined in the Holy Writings passes from Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His Will and Testament, and then to the Institution of the Guardianship. If one believes the words of the Will and Testament, he must in this day look within the lineage of the first three guardians to find the continuation of the thread of Holiness, Bahá’u’lláh.

While the Will talks of a Universal House of Justice, its Holy Writ defining the UHJ contains the essential requirement of a living guardian as its head. When a living guardian resides in the residency and the presidency of the UHJ, those two Holy Institutions then comprise the elements necessary for Holy fulfillment of all the Words uttered by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and remain the only avenue to Holy efficacy in the deliberations of a Universal House of Justice.

This concludes Part One of the Critique.

This is part One of a Critique by Hand of Cause of God David Maxwell of A Study for Auxiliary Board Members of the Guardianship & The Universal House of Justice Prepared by the International Teaching Centre (of the heterodox Bahá’ís).  Click here to read: Part 2 | Part 3| Part 4 | Part 5| Part 6

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