formatted for the web by Jonah Winters 06/02
published in The Vision of Shoghi Effendi
Ottawa: Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1993
"The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of
this most great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been
revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System - the
like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed...."
"Say: This is the infallible Balance which the Hand of God is holding, in
which all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth are weighed, and
their fate determined,..."(i)
- Bahá'u'lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the
"Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in
its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
"I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency
of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from
His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized, and all that are in the
heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that
Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated,
scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and
the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen
realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou
didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation
and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause." (iii)
- Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers & Meditations
What are the implications of the fact that Bahá'u'lláh has "shaken,
divided, separated, [and] scattered" the realities of all created things, and
"combined and reunited" them, disclosing "entities of a new creation"? What is
this new and "wondrous System" with a new "equilibrium" and "Balance" which has
revolutionized humankind's ordered life?
The claims made by Bahá'u'lláh regarding the fundamentally new and unique
Order which came into being with the "First Word" from his mouth are
staggering. Staggering, likewise, must be the spiritual, mental, and physical
implications of this reordering of "the realities of all created things." His
Order has permeated the reality of all things, yet, can we say that we are
consciously manifesting the full potency of its effect in our individual and
community lives? If we are fully to appreciate the significance of the
internal and external revolution brought about by Bahá'u'lláh, we must gain an
understanding and comprehension of the implications of the philosophical
structure of this Order.
One might ask, "What is philosophy? And how would knowledge of the
philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh assist us in our work?"
The English word "philosophy" comes from the combination of two Greek
words: "philos," which means "love," and "sophos," which means "wisdom."
Philosophy, in this broad definition, is a love of wisdom or knowledge.
'Abdu'l-Bahá says that, "philosophy consists in comprehending the reality of
things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power of man." (1) The
reality of things as they exist is what came into being when Bahá'u'lláh
"caused every soul to expire" and "called into being a new creation,..." (2)
Philosophy consists in the intellectual comprehension of the general nature of
A formal definition for philosophy, according to Alfred North Whitehead,
one of the preeminent philosophers of our century, is "the endeavour to frame a
coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every
element of our experience can be interpreted." (3)
In The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh,
(4) Shoghi Effendi states that
Bahá'u'lláh has "enunciated certain universal principles" and "propounded a
particular philosophy," which is "potent, sound and universal." (5) The Order
of Bahá'u'lláh is our all-embracing reality. The "particular philosophy" given
to us by Bahá'u'lláh is that set of universally operative, generalized
principles that describe the systemic nature of that Order. But Bahá'u'lláh
has not presented this philosophy to us systematically - this is a task which
is up to his followers.
Comprehension of the systemic principles of the philosophy underlying this
Order would assist the entire worldwide community of Bahá'ís in the systematic
application of the principles of the Faith - both in the erection of the
Administrative institutions, and in the application of these principles to the
practical aspects of life, an arena that the Universal House of Justice has
recently called upon the community to enter.
If Bahá'ís gained a comprehension of the Faith in terms of a system of
general ideas, our actions - both as individuals and as members of institutions
- would be provided with a more consistent organizational structure. If this
generalized understanding were to be based on the whole Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh and set out systematically according to appropriate logic,
rationality, and the "capacity and the power of man," we would all have the
same generalized understanding of the Faith and its purposes and processes.
With such agreement and collective understanding our priorities, goals, plans,
programs, and methods could become more harmoniously integrated and continually
focused upon the most important tasks in our path.
The elaboration of the philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh has received very little
systematic attention up to this point; this will be a monumental task, and one
which will continue into the future for centuries to come. At this time, we
can do little more than scratch the surface of what Shoghi Effendi has
described as "a tremendous work which scholars in the future can undertake" -
the task of "correlating philosophy with the Bahá'í teachings."(6)
Where does one begin with such a task? We must begin, I feel, with a study
of the nature of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, for through a comprehensive study of
the Faith we will be able increasingly to unfold to our consciousness the
fundamental philosophy underlying this Order. As this Order permeates the
reality of all things we can observe its manifestations everywhere. Let's
explore where we might look for expressions of this Order that are systemically
Bahá'u'lláh has given us at least four arenas wherein this Order has been
given perfect expression: (1) the world of Nature, where "upon the inmost
reality of...every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His
names..."; (7) (2) The human soul, which has the capacity to reflect all of
the names and attributes of God (8); (3) The Revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh; and
(4) The elucidation of the principles of the Administrative Order by Shoghi
Effendi, Expounder of the Words of God.
This paper will be primarily concerned with the investigation and discovery
of Bahá'u'lláh's philosophy from the perspective of Shoghi Effendi's
elucidation of the principles of the Administrative Order. We will look at the
broad outlines of the administrative principles, identify their fundamental
nature, and attempt to comprehend something of their systemic structure. Taken
as a whole, these principles constitute the structure of the Order of
Bahá'u'lláh, and are the only example we have of a systematic, infallible
expression of this Order from a human mind.
As we contemplate the structure of the Administrative Order, we will also
search the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá for indications of the
"balance" and "equilibrium" of "this wondrous System" which Shoghi Effendi must
have pondered in setting forth the principles of the Administrative Order. We
should expect to discover that because this is a new creation, this Order is
dramatically different from the conceptions of the order of reality inherited
from the past. We must also understand that for us to move into Bahá'u'lláh's
reality will require a fundamental shift in our philosophical orientation
somewhat comparable in structure to the revolutions in science brought about by
comprehension of new and fundamentally different (yet more explanatory)
conceptualizations of the nature of reality.
To state it more concisely, this paper will attempt: (1) to move us a step
closer toward the systematization of the underlying principles of the natural,
organic philosophy that lies enshrined in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh by
reviewing the principles of the Administrative Order broadly outlined by Shoghi
Effendi as a specific instance, or expression, of that universal philosophy;
(2) to relate these various principles to overarching indications of the nature
of the contingent world that are found in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and
'Abdu'l-Bahá; and (3) to indicate some of the systemically inherent problems we
will face as a community and as individuals in making such a fundamental
philosophical shift of worldviews as we move more fully into the Order of
What is the relationship of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh to the Administrative
Order as elaborated by Shoghi Effendi? In his marvelous history of the first
century of the Bahá'í Faith Shoghi Effendi has indicated that there are several
different levels of expression for this new Order.
"It should be noted, in this connection, that in the third Vahid of this
Book [the Persian Bayan
] there occurs a passage which, alike in
its explicit reference to the name of the Promised One, and in its anticipation
of the Order which, in a later age, was to be identified with His Revelation,
deserves to rank as one of the most significant statements recorded in any of
the Bab's writings. 'Well is it with him,' is His prophetic announcement, 'who
fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his
Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably
ordained it in the Bayan.' It is with that self-same Order that the Founder of
the promised Revelation, twenty years later - incorporating that same term in
His Kitab-i-Aqdas - identified the System envisaged in that Book, affirming
that 'this most great Order' had deranged the world's equilibrium, and
revolutionized mankind's ordered life. It is the features of that self-same
Order which, at a later stage in the evolution of the Faith, the Center of
Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the appointed Interpreter of His teachings,
delineated through the provisions of His Will and Testament. It is the
structural basis of that self-same Order which in the Formative Age of that
same Faith, the stewards of that same Covenant, the elected representatives of
the world-wide Bahá'í community, are now laboriously and unitedly establishing.
It is the superstructure of that self-same Order, attaining its full stature
through the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth - the Kingdom of God on
earth - which the Golden Age of that same Dispensation must, in the fullness of
time, ultimately witness." (9)
This passage refers to several different levels, generalizations, or
abstractions of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Each is identified, on a level one
step further removed, with the "self-same Order" of which the Bab spoke. There
is the Order itself, which has deranged the world's equilibrium; there are the
features of the Order which were delineated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá; there is the
structural basis of the Order which is the Administrative Order of the Bahá'í
Faith; and finally there is the superstructure of the Order which is the Bahá'í
In a certain sense, each of the stages of the elaboration of the Order
brings the Order of Bahá'u'lláh more and more into the realm of the visible.
The Word is spoken and the underlying realities are changed. As reality is
reality, we have nothing against which to contrast it, no way to perceive a
difference except through spiritual intuition. The features of this reality
are delineated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in his Will and Testament
, (10) a
document we also know as the Charter of the New World Order. (11) The
Administrative Order, the structural basis of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, was
developed and elaborated by Shoghi Effendi from the Will and Testament
and The Kitab-i-Aqdas
.. The institutions of the Faith are the
visible manifestation of this aspect of the Order. These institutions will
serve as the nucleus and very pattern of the superstructure - the Bahá'í World
Commonwealth - which will manifest an entirely new culture and civilization as
an expression of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
In defining our task as it relates to the "structural basis" of this Order,
Shoghi Effendi has called the American believers, "the champion-builders of the
organic structure of the Cause." (12) This task, which will be an ongoing task
throughout the Formative Age of the Faith, is none other than the erection of
the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh - the
"supreme,...infallible Organ for the accomplishment of a Divine Purpose."
But the efficacy of the Administrative Order, which the friends around the
world are constructing, must depend upon the degree to which we as individuals
understand, and pattern in our own spiritual lives, the character and nature of
Bahá'u'lláh's Order. In the words of Shoghi Effendi:
"...upon our present-day efforts, and above all upon the extent to which we
strive to remodel our lives after the pattern of sublime heroism associated
with those gone before us, must depend the efficacy of the instruments we now
fashion - instruments that must erect the structure of that blissful
Commonwealth which must signalize the Golden Age of our Faith." (14)
"The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is...fundamentally
mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and
society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers....Laws and
institutions,...can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life
has been perfected and transformed." (15)
Efficacy also depends on an understanding of our relationship to the
Administrative Order and its institutions and practice of the
"divinely-ordained administrative principles" (16) revealed by Bahá'u'lláh.
The Universal House of Justice has stated:
"As the Bahá'í Administrative Order rapidly expands throughout the world it
behooves everyone associated with it to familiarize himself with its
principles, to understand its import and to put its precepts into practice.
Only as individual members of local Spiritual Assemblies deepen themselves in
the fundamental verities of the Faith and in the proper application of the
principles governing the operation of the Assembly will this institution grow
and develop toward its full potential." (17)
As we strive in our communities to promote the healthy growth of the
institutions, we each carry with us a personal conceptualization of the nature
of our task, and the system of laws and principles which serve as the basis of
the work we are performing. It is the nature of life in this contingent world
that we all operate from within a cognitive, conceptual framework which is the
product of our individual capacities taken together with our environment. We
must gain an intellectual honesty and humility in discharging our tasks. These
attitudes constantly inform us that Bahá'u'lláh's Order is something different
from what we could ever imagine - especially at this early stage in the
development of the Faith - and that our first obligation is continually to
strive to deepen our understanding of the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's
Shoghi Effendi has encouraged the friends to unite through a "thorough
understanding...of the basic laws and principles of Bahá'í Administration,"
encouraging and instructing Bahá'ís to "deepen their knowledge, through both
study and practice, of all the administrative teachings of the Faith...." (19)
This study and practice is very necessary because we are dealing with a new
system, based on the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, which has no precedent in the past.
Both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, in establishing and elaborating the broad
outlines of the "guiding principles underlying the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh,"
(20) have conformed this system to the principles of that universal philosophy
The Guardian has comprehensively defined the broad outlines and the
essential theory (21) of the Administrative Order and has presented to us its
fundamental principles in his many letters, which he has scattered through out
the Bahá'í world. Its essential nature is that it is organic in character.
The philosophical principles upon which the theory of the Administrative Order
is based are the same philosophical principles underlying the Order of
The Universal House of Justice, in its letter of 20 October 1983, has
encouraged the worldwide Bahá'í community to apply "more systematically the
principles of the Faith." The House of Justice has indicated in that same
letter the necessity of "ordering human affairs in such a way as to bring into
being a world unified in all the essential aspects of its life,...[through] the
achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical
requirements of life on earth." (22)
A greater awareness of this larger System - this Order and its systemic
principles that lie at the base of our Administrative Order, and that, of
necessity, must also underlie every aspect of the created world, e.g., science,
philosophy, our individual souls - will enhance every aspect of our lives as
Bahá'ís. Such an awareness will improve the quality of our consultation,
increase our understanding of the implications of the statement that the Faith
is "scientific in its method," (23) uplift the quality of our spiritual lives
and give us the comprehensive understanding we need in order to expand our
spiritual and practical capacities to serve humankind, both as individuals and
as members of institutions within the Administrative Order. An understanding
of this universal philosophy underlying the Order of Bahá'u'lláh will
contribute to the efficacious discharge of every task we face as Bahá'ís - and
most especially that which we face in the construction of the Administrative
Through the systematic study and ordering of these "divinely-ordained
administrative principles," (24) we may plunge to a greater depth of awareness
and bring to bear a more comprehensive and whole understanding of the character
and functioning of the Administrative Order, which it is our duty and privilege
to unfold as the "champion-builders of the organic structure of the Cause."
The following is a wonderful passage recently released to the
English-speaking world in the compilation, The Importance of Deepening our
Knowledge and Understanding of the Faith,
wherein Shoghi Effendi stated
what we might expect to occur in our lives if we were to deduce the natural
philosophy from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh:
"Praise be to God that the spirit of the Holy Writings and Tablets which
have been revealed in this wondrous Dispensation concerning matters of major or
minor importance, whether essential or otherwise, related to the sciences and
the arts, to natural philosophy, literature, politics or economics, have so
permeated the world that since the inception of the world in the course of past
Dispensations and bygone ages nothing like it has ever been seen or heard.
Indeed if an avowed follower of Bahá'u'lláh were to immerse himself in, and
fathom the depths of, the ocean of these heavenly teachings, and with utmost
care and attention deduce from each of them the subtle mysteries and consummate
wisdom that lie enshrined therein, such a person's life, materially,
intellectually and spiritually, will be safe from toil and trouble, and
unaffected by setbacks and perils, or any sadness or despondency." (25)
Through the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, we have been presented a grand new
system that affects every aspect of our lives. Our sciences, our religions,
our philosophical systems, our cultures, and even our individual thoughts and
habits have been conditioned and previously limited by the constraints of an
old order, an order which has had its day and passed on - rolled up through the
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh - but whose residual pattern remains, a skeletal
structure decaying into oblivion yet still casting its shadow and limiting our
vision of the new Order whose structure even now permeates the essence of the
The changing of the Order at the dawn of the Bahá'í Dispensation occurred,
and none of us witnessed this change, yet each of us has been struck in a
certain sense with a perception of the difference in orders, or we would not
have accepted the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.. But recognition at that spiritual
level, which was sealed by our declaration of faith, does not necessarily imply
that we have recognized that the Order has changed for all other realms. Nor
does it guarantee our total comprehension of the systemic nature of the Order
as it applies to those realms - realms such as: philosophy, science, culture,
and individual thought and habit.
Of course, the philosophy of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh also bears upon the
mystical and spiritual worlds; the focus here, however, is on the contingent
world because this is where the organization of our collective, institutional
work must be accomplished. I feel that not only is it possible for us to
deduce the principles of the philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh but that it is necessary
if we are to apply "systematically the principles of the Faith" to the
spiritual and practical requirements of life.
We live and operate in this contingent world and are subject to its
conditions and limitations; the Administrative Order is to be constructed in
this contingent world, our sciences and philosophies operate in the contingent
world; and though we are all recipients of Divine bestowals, though our
religion is fundamentally mystic in character, in our collective work we must
honor the limitations imposed by the contingent world. Examples of these
limitations are: the constraints imposed by science (if we are truly to become
scientific in our method); the "knowledge of things which men universally have,
[which] is gained by reflection or by evidence,..." as distinct from purely
intuitive, subjective knowledge (26) and, the attributes and characteristics of
contingency spoken of by Bahá'u'lláh, such as: "distinction, differentiation,
temporal limitations, characteristics and standards." (27)
The reason we must honor these limitations is that the Faith is a
collective entity; it is focused on the spiritual and organic unification of
humankind. Its chief instrument is the Administrative Order, which is
concerned "primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must
bind all the states and nations as members of one human family."(28) The
authority within the Order is concentrated "in the hands of the elected" (29)
whose method of working toward this organic unity is consultation; and, as
Shoghi Effendi says, the Faith must be "scientific in its method." Each of our
institutional entities must operate in the contingent world; thus each must
find the justification of its actions in that "knowledge of things which men
universally have," and through consultation. Essentially, they are subject to
the discipline of science, intellectual understanding, comprehension,
rationality, and "verification." (30)
But the principles of the science we apply must be according to
Bahá'u'lláh's Order and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's elucidations - and this is not
necessarily the same science as was found in the old order. Aspects of its
method may be similar, but we must remain open to the possibility, and even the
inevitability, that its primary features will be different inasmuch as these
features also reflect the changes in the fundamental structure of reality
brought about by the revelation of this new Order. The scientific world has
accepted Einstein's theories of relativity as being a fundamental change in the
perception of the structure of the universe - a truth that the Bahá'í Faith
insists upon, (31) but the truth of relativity has yet to permeate individual
thought and society to the extent that we act completely with this fundamental
reality as our basis.
Decrying the gap separating scientists and their empirically based
conception of reality from the everyday thought, habit, and implicit perception
of reality held by the majority of the people, the eminent scientist and
philosopher Jacob Bronowski says:
"...The long success of the rigid model of nature has made it part of the
vernacular. We think by habit of nature as a causal, continuous, and
independent mechanism, which thumps along inexorably while we peck or goggle at
it....This is no longer the scientist's picture;...The new thought in science
is based on new facts. These critical facts will not fit a framework which
insists that natural laws must be causal, continuous, and independent of us.
And it is useless to insist on habit and metaphysic in the face of the facts.
We must learn a more delicate conception of the laws of nature....Science is
not the imposition of our logic on nature, but the arduous understanding of her
Science is essentially the employment of our intellectual capacity as a
mirror for reflecting upon creation, but this mirror is structured by our
conception of the nature of reality, i.e., our philosophy or worldview. As we
use the capacities of our souls to imagine different conceptualizations of
reality, we discover that a new and different framework often allows us to see
new facts. As these new conceptualizations are tested against empirical
reality our comprehension of a greater part of the system of reality follows.
Applied scientists then bring these principles into manifestation on the
physical plane, and the philosophers and basic scientists move on to try to
comprehend other mysteries of the nature of the contingent world. (33) In
"Science may be likened to a mirror wherein the images of the mysteries of
outer phenomena are reflected....The philosophical conclusions of bygone
centuries, the teachings of the Prophets and wisdom of former sages are
crystallized and reproduced in the scientific advancement of today." (34)
The realities with which scientists are now dealing - the new facts of
science - are not the apparent facts of everyday life; they are facts which are
most apparent at the atomic and subatomic levels, or on the level of galaxies
and universes. Yet they serve as part of the underpinning for the structure of
the entire creation - including the biological level where our perceptual
senses inform us about reality. These new facts, which force a new conception
of the structure of the world, imply the necessity for us to conceptualize the
reality of creation through a new set of lenses. They indicate that we should
"inform" reality according to concepts such as unity, relativity, information,
wholeness, and process, rather than only in terms of energy, stasis, and
"things." But since we don't "see" processes, but rather "things" or the
product of processes, we naturally tend to regard our reality as a noun rather
than as a verb, i.e., an active, dynamic process. Even the subject / predicate
structure of the English language reinforces this misconception of reality.
'Abdu'l-Bahá has indicated that we must make what may be regarded as
intellectual adjustments, or corrections, to the concept of the structure of
reality we gain as a product of our perceptual systems so that our conception
will conform more closely to the essential reality:
"...insight (or mental perception) seeth that which sight (or physical
perception) seeth not, and apprehendeth that which the body perceiveth not,
...But the insight correcteth the mistake of the sight and apprehendeth the
Discoveries of empirical fact during this past century, which must
necessarily affect our entire philosophical orientation to the contingent
world, are commonly known to many scientists who have taken the time to look
beyond their specialized realms. And the Bahá'í scholar who studies the
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and keeps current in the general scientific literature
sees a fresh marvel of correspondence and relationship unfold nearly every
Bearing in mind the general and pervasive character of Bahá'u'lláh's
Revelation, Bahá'ís must set about the work of deducing "the subtle mysteries
and consummate wisdom" from his teachings and discover the principles by which
we may order our scientific, philosophical, political, and economic life. The
principles are all there in broad outline in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and
the interpretations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, but Shoghi Effendi
could not do all the work of elaborating these systems by himself so it is left
to us to carry on.
In this connection, one of the things that Shoghi Effendi has left to us is
the task of exhaustive analysis of the relationships between the institutions
of the Faith, as well as their connection to Bahá'u'lláh and his Teachings. In
The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh,
in explaining the character and
functions of the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of
Justice, Shoghi Effendi limits his intention to the elaboration of "certain
salient features of this scheme which,...are already so clearly defined that we
find it inexcusable to either misconceive or ignore," and bequeathes to "future
generations" these other tasks:
"To define with accuracy and minuteness the features, and to analyze
exhaustively the nature of the relationships which, on the one hand, bind
together these two fundamental organs of the Will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and connect,
on the other, each of them to the Author of the Faith and the Center of His
This paper aims towards the process of furthering the exhaustive analysis
of the nature of these relationships and the connection of these organs (as
well as other aspects of the Administrative Order) to the "particular,"
"sound," and "universal" philosophy of the Author of the Faith and the Center
of his Covenant. It will begin this process by listing some of the fundamental
administrative principles of this organic order. (37)
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER
One of Shoghi Effendi's great legacies to the Bahá'í world, and to the
world in general, is that he has, through the divine bestowals of Bahá'u'lláh,
the Bab, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and in his station as the Expounder of the Cause,
drawn the outline and elucidated the fundamental structure of that System - the
Order of Bahá'u'lláh - as it applies to the Administrative Order of the Faith.
He defines the fundamental character of that Order as organic. In various
references he identifies it as "a living organism" (38), calls it the
"infallible Organ for the accomplishment of a Divine Purpose" (39), identifies
the Administrative Order as the "organic structure of the Cause" (40), speaks
of the supreme mission of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh as being the
achievement of the "organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations"
(41), and calls the Universal House of Justice "the supreme organ of the Bahá'í
Perhaps the Guardian's most completely elaborated analogy of the
Administrative Order as an organism is the passage that appeared in the 1948
printing of the European Teaching Committee Manual and was reprinted at the
beginning of Principles of Bahá'í Administration
Shoghi Effendi speaks of the necessity of the interplay between the
"perfected body" (i.e., "the Administrative World Order" built up to "a point
of absolute perfection") and "the Holy Spirit of the Cause" pouring forth "from
the channels within." The "Spirit" of the Cause is analogous to the "finer
promptings of the soul or spirit," which are structured by perfect guidance and
authorized interpretation; while the "perfected body" - the institutions and
laws of the Administrative Order - is seen as the ordered and organized channel
through which "wisdom" and the "lights of real unity" will shine "through
consultative action and obedience thereto." He links that Order to 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." (44)
The Guardian carries this example even further, calling the "body of a
man...the true divine example or parallel" to the Administrative Order,
"...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
This entire passage is fraught with implications that will be unfolded to
the Bahá'í World as our institutions demonstrate their capacity to achieve this
divine unity through their consultative action and as scholars and scientists
of the future learn more concerning the control and communication processes of
the "true divine example" - "the body of a man."
A word should be said at this point concerning Shoghi Effendi's choice for
a parallel to the organic functioning of the Administrative Order. In
identifying the human body as the true divine example, he has removed the
possibility that we could, through mistaken apprehension of the processes of
the Cause, reduce our concept of the nature of its functioning to a lower
kingdom, such as the animal or vegetable worlds. Just as the human body is
endowed with certain capacities that are lacking in the lower kingdoms -
capacities such as will, spiritual receptivity, rationality, and intellect -
the Administrative Order, through processes inscrutable to us at present, is
endowed with similar capacities. The collective of human hearts and minds
which we call a "spiritual assembly," is in reality one entity, with one heart
and one mind, when it functions in the utmost unity. One can see the central
place of the human body in several aspects of the Bahá'í Revelation: from the
little known fact that the five-pointed star, which symbolizes the human
temple, is the symbol of the Bahá'í Faith (46); to the potential for reflection
of all of the names and attributes of God in the human soul; to the writing of
some of the most important Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in the form of a pentacle,
(47) again as a symbol of the human temple; to the appearance of the
five-pointed star on the ring stone symbol, which symbolizes the Manifestation,
or God, in human form.
It would serve us well to meditate upon the significance of this statement
from the Guardian and not to allow ourselves to be lulled into a conception of
the Administrative Order as a lifeless mechanical entity set in a determined,
unchangeable course. The central metaphor of the Administrative Order is the
human body because of the centrality of the metaphor of the human body for the
philosophy of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
In his writings Shoghi Effendi mentions the principles, characteristics,
functions, attributes, and qualities that define the nature of this organic
Order. For the sake of making the whole more understandable, these attributes
will be set out within three particular categories: UNITY, DYNAMISM, and
SYSTEM. This is only one of many possible ways of ordering the whole, and
scholars in the future will undoubtedly find many other ways. It is important
to keep in mind, however, that we are dealing with an organic whole that
expresses its vitality largely as a function of the unity of all of these
attributes. Breaking it apart for analysis is only one small, though
necessary, part of understanding its function, structure, and purpose. Viewing
the Administrative Order in its wholeness both before and after analysis of its
discrete attributes is most essential to the entire process.
In categorizing the principles of the Administrative Order, I have placed
them into particular groupings where these principles seem to be consonant with
broad categories of principles gleaned from the theory of the biological and
organismic sciences. These categories are few in number but have profound
implications for the organization of our thoughts concerning the nature of the
organic instruments we are constructing.
The first category is unity, which, in the words of Shoghi Effendi, relates
to the "cornerstone of Bahá'u'lláh's world-embracing dominion,..." (48) The
second category concerns the dynamic, developmental, ever-changing nature of
organisms in general, while the third category considers the systemic, orderly
nature of organisms.
The Guardian speaks of the "law" of "divine unity" (49); "the organic and
spiritual unity of the whole body of nations" as the supreme mission of the
Faith (50); the Administrative Order as "the channel, the instrument, [and] the
embodiment" of the spirit (51); and "the concentration of authority in the
hands of the elected." (52) He quotes 'Abdu'l-Bahá naming the Guardian the
"Interpreter of the Word of God" (53); identifies a function of the Guardian as
being the preserver of the identity of Bahá'u'lláh's Faith and the integrity of
Bahá'u'lláh's law (54); calls the House of Justice the "supreme organ" (55);
and speaks of the bond that links the "two fundamental organs," and the
connection of each of them to the "Author of the Faith and the Center of His
Covenant." (56) He further indicates that the "lights of real unity" shine
through consultation (57); reiterates 'Abdu'l-Bahá's "preference for unanimity
in decision" of the elected representatives (58); describes in dynamic terms
the unity in "perfect reciprocity" when the parts of the "body" are animated
and controlled by the "spirit" (59); proclaims the necessity for "uniformity
...in all Bahá'í National Constitutions" (60); and speaks of the Faith's
"cohesive strength" and "integrating power." (61) In conclusion, he proclaims
that the basis of the Administrative Order rests on "a particular philosophy"
which is "potent, sound and universal" (62); assures us that the "nature,"
"origin," and "validity" of the institutions" (63) has derived from the
"identity of purpose and method" of the Most Holy Book and the Will and
Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (64); and indicates that "no abiding benefit can be
conferred upon the component parts if the general interests of the entity
itself are ignored or neglected." (65)
The second category is concerned with the dynamic, developmental,
ever-changing nature of the organism of the Administrative Order. Shoghi
Effendi speaks of the "elasticity which characterizes the functions of [the]
appointed ministers" that enables the Faith, "even as a living organism, to
expand and adapt itself to the needs and requirements of an ever-changing
society" (66); indicates that the "machinery...has been so fashioned, that
whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the
forefront of all progressive movements, can...be safely embodied therein" (67);
quotes 'Abdu'l-Bahá as saying, "The House of Justice is both the initiator and
the abrogator of its own laws" (68); and describes the Faith's processes as a
"slow and unobtrusive" development into maturity. (69) He also indicated that
social progress is impelled by the same process of "mystic, all-pervasive, yet
indefinable change" associated with the development of the fruit (70);
proclaims that we live in "a world subject to the immutable law of change"
(71); speaks of the vitality of the organic institutions, the "vibrant body of
the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh" (72), and the "reciprocity" existing among its parts
(73); and, lastly, indicates that "change [in membership of a spiritual
assembly] is good and brings a fresh outlook into the discussions of any
The third category of consideration is the systemic, orderly nature of the
organic body of the Administrative Order. The Guardian identifies this
organism with the "Order" and "System" foretold by the Bab in the Persian
and revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in his Most Holy Book (75); calls it the
"Divine Polity" (76), a "world-enfolding System" (77), a "world-embracing,
divinely-appointed Order" (78), and the "infallible Organ for the
accomplishment of a Divine Purpose" (79); asks us to "meditate upon the supreme
grandeur of the System unfolded by the hand of Bahá'u'lláh" (80); indicated
that the philosophy at its base is "potent" and "sound" (81), that "religious
truth is not absolute but relative" (82), and that the Faith "concerns itself
primarily with the fundamental relationships that bind...the family of man."
(83) Moreover, he extols the capacity of the Faith to be purged, purified,
stirred, galvanized, pruned, and have its unity cemented (84); identifies as
"dead leaves" the "lukewarm and faint-hearted" which wither away (85); and says
that "assemblies,...committees and conventions...rise or fall according to
their capacity to...embody the ideals and execute the purpose of the Bahá'í
Faith." (86) He indicated that "the apostles of Bahá'u'lláh in every
land,...have before them in clear, in unequivocal and emphatic language, all
the laws, the regulations, the principles, the institutions, the guidance, they
require for the prosecution and consummation of their task" (87); says the Law
of Bahá'u'lláh "insists upon the subordination of national...interests to the
imperative claims of a unified world,...repudiates excessive
centralization,...disclaims all attempts at uniformity" (88); and calls its
watchword "unity in diversity." (89) He asks us to sweep away and relegate to
the "limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines" "institutions,...social
assumptions and religious formulae" which have "ceased to promote the welfare
of the generality of mankind" (90); extols the infinite "diversity of the
national characteristics of [the future world's] federated units" (91);
identifies the "method" of the Faith as "scientific" (92); and indicated that
the law of consultation is "the bedrock of this unique order." (93)
As stated earlier, the purpose of this paper is to assist in the discovery
and understanding of the principles of the Order that underlie the
Administrative Order; and this is being done for two primary reasons: first, it
will help us better understand the nature of the instruments that have been
placed in our hands; and, second, if we see the Administrative Order in its
systemic wholeness we will have before us the Guardian's infallible expression
of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, by which we may infer aspects of the path to take
in discovering the principles of that more general Order. By constantly
checking back to Shoghi Effendi's particular expression of the Order of
Bahá'u'lláh we should be able to determine if we are on the right course in
systematizing the principles of the larger Order.
The following constitutes a tentative summary of the general systemic
characteristics of the Administrative Order from which we may be able to infer
some of the principles of the nature of the underlying structure. This
offering is tentative because of the limited scope of the present study and
because of the feeling that a more comprehensive and ordered system should come
from a collaborative effort of a multidisciplinary group of Bahá'í scholars,
biologists, and general scientists.
SUMMARY OF THE GENERAL SYSTEM OF THE BAHA'I ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER:
- The Bahá'í system is one of an integrated set of laws and institutions that
will provide the basic structure for the entire Dispensation - a structure,
which also allows for new legislation to meet the exigencies of the times.
- This set of Laws and principles provides for an orderly process of
evolution and development of all aspects, and at all levels of the
Administrative Order - from the individual and family, to the nation and
- The Administrative Order is stratified into a hierarchy where each
institution possesses the same general purposes, yet each expresses the process
according to its specific limitations and to the conditions of its environment.
The supreme organ - the Universal House of Justice - provides overall
direction, legislates to fill the gaps in the law, and resolves questions where
difference occurs on the lower levels.
- Each stratification of the Administrative Order, while being involved in
the general unity of the entity, manifests an autonomy and unity in and of
itself. Each subsystem has all the information it needs for the prosecution
and consummation of its tasks in erecting the Administrative Order.
- A stabilizing relationship of negative (or self-correcting) feedback exists
between the institutions of the learned and the institutions of the rulers.
The mandating of the law of consultation as the method of the elected, with
unanimity as their goal, gives yet another level of self-correcting feedback as
well as providing the method for the determination of the direction of the
organism at all levels.
In looking at Shoghi Effendi's particular expression of the Order of
Bahá'u'lláh, what can we infer about the nature of the Order itself? We see
first and foremost the guiding hand of divinity, of Supreme Intelligence. We
see the law of divine unity and the principle of relationship through
communication; we can see dynamic change: birth, growth and development, decay
and death. We see constant evolution focused upon a purpose, which is not so
much an end state as it is a stable state of being and becoming with all parts
and components in reciprocal balance. We see a system that is arranged in a
hierarchical order composed of subsystems and suprasystems, which reflect the
same pattern, yet where the integrity of rank and station is preserved. And
lastly, we see the capacity of the system to renew and regenerate itself at
stated periods as well as the capacity for the system essentially to re-create
itself in the event of catastrophic changes in its general environment.
These notes are made as an indication of the general character of what we
might be able to discover as we seek to uncover the nature of the "particular
philosophy" of Bahá'u'lláh (indeed, we shall see in the next section the
confirmation of some of these ideas). While it is beyond the scope of this
paper to analyze exhaustively and to systematize the essential relationships
that must obtain in the organic connections between and among the institutions
of the Administrative Order, (94) this must eventually be done, and such a
document should receive constant reference by anyone who seeks to systematize
Bahá'u'lláh's philosophy. We are attempting to comprehend a System, which is
highly complex, but comprehensible, yet made somewhat more difficult by our
close proximity to the embryonic nucleus. We may remain confident, however,
that the mystery will be increasingly unfolded as we apply these principles
with knowledge and understanding and see the visible result of the interaction
of the spirit of the age with the channel and instrument, which is in our
hands. Indeed, "the fruit, ere it is formed, lieth potentially within the
tree," and dissection or analysis at too early a stage will yield "no sign nor
any part of the fruit..." (95)
PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING THE CONTINGENT WORLD
Having looked at a brief yet fairly comprehensive summary of the various
Administrative principles in terms of three primary characteristics of
biological organisms, we need to see them now in terms of general principles
relating to the contingent world voiced by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The
purpose of this section is to identify a few of the general principles that
describe the nature of the contingent world according to the philosophy of
Shoghi Effendi says that in the "Tablet of Wisdom" Bahá'u'lláh "sets forth
the fundamentals of true philosophy." (96) This tablet, then, must be one of
our primary reference sources. Rather than setting forth a philosophy per se
in this tablet, Bahá'u'lláh points to the path one should take and indicates
criteria one should use in seeking to comprehend reality. He says, "The
beginning of Wisdom...is to acknowledge whatsoever God hath clearly set forth."
(97) If we search for the very clear principles and constantly check back to
Shoghi Effendi's elucidation of these principles in the construction of the
Administrative Order, I'm sure that gradually we will be able to lay a solid
foundation upon which a philosophy could be elaborated.
Philosophy, like science, is a continual process of discovery. Our
knowledge and understanding of these principles will be increasingly unfolded -
and most especially if we use them, and test them against reality as it
The following series of excerpts constitutes only a brief survey of some of
the most clearly stated principles concerning the nature of the contingent
world from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Inasmuch as we
ourselves are bound to the contingent world, yet have a spiritual capacity -
the powers of the human spirit and of the spirit of faith - a few of the
quotations will relate to the limitations of our capacity to perceive this
Order. Other aspects of these capacities and limitations will be covered in
the next sections, but none of this can claim to cover the subject as it must
be covered if we are to comprehend the full scope of parameters that both
empower and limit us in our exploration of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
Bahá'u'lláh indicates one source for our knowledge:
"Look at the world and ponder a while upon it. It unveileth the book of
its own self before thine eyes and revealeth that which the Pen of thy Lord,
the Fashioner, the All-Informed, hath inscribed therein. It will acquaint thee
with that which is within it and upon it and will give thee such clear
explanations as to make thee independent of every eloquent expounder." (98)
He also says,
"Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent
In these very first references we discover the essential character of the
"particular philosophy" of Bahá'u'lláh that Shoghi Effendi may have relied upon
in elaborating the principles of the Administrative Order - the organic
principles of the Administrative Order are based on an organic philosophy.
"...Every thing manifesteth the sign of His Unity..." (100)
"Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the
Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this
diversity there are signs for men of discernment." (101)
"Consider the signs of the revelation of God in their relation one to
"To transgress the limits of one's own rank and station is, in no wise,
permissible. The integrity of every rank and station must needs be preserved.
By this is meant that every created thing should be viewed in the light of the
station it hath been ordained to occupy."(103)
"Every thing must needs have an origin...the Word of God is the cause which
hath preceded the contingent world - a world which is adorned with the
splendours of the Ancient of Days, yet is being renewed and regenerated at all
"Those who have rejected God and firmly cling to Nature as it is in itself
are, verily, bereft of knowledge and wisdom...therefore their eyes were shut
and their thoughts differed,..." (105)
"Whatsoever in the contingent world can either be expressed or apprehended,
can never transgress the limits which, by its inherent nature, have been
imposed upon it." (106)
"Viewed in the light of [the Manifestation's] second station - the station
of distinction, differentiation, temporal limitations, characteristics and
standards, - they manifest absolute servitude, utter destitution and complete
self-effacement. Even as He saith: 'I am the servant of God. I am but a man
like you.'" (107)
"It is clear and evident, therefore, that any apparent variation in the
intensity of their light is not inherent in the light itself, but should rather
be attributed to the varying receptivity of an ever-changing world." (108)
"All...things are subject to this same principle of moderation." (109)
"The higher plane, however, understandeth the lower...notwithstanding the
fact that all these entities co-exist in the phenomenal world, even so, no
lower degree can ever comprehend a higher." (110)
"It is obvious that all created things are connected one to another by a
linkage complete and perfect,..." (111)
"...a universal power inevitably existeth, which encompasseth all,
directing and regulating all the parts of this infinite creation;..." (112)
"Furthermore, although all created things grow and develop, yet are they
subjected to influences from without....And likewise, those outside influences
are subjected to other influences in their turn....Thus each one of these
entities exerteth its influence and is likewise influenced in its turn.
Inescapably then, the process leadeth to One Who influenceth all, and yet is
influenced by none, thus severing the chain." (113)
"The existence of all things is based upon this principle [of composition
and decomposition]. But when the order is deranged, decomposition is produced
and disintegration setteth in,...the cohesive and attractive forces in all
things lead to the appearance of fruitful results and effects, while
estrangement and alienation of things lead to disturbance and annihilation."
"Every created thing in the contingent world is made up of many and varied
atoms, and its existence is dependent on the composition of these." (115)
"In other words, through the divine creative power a conjunction of simple
elements taketh place so that from this composition a distinct organism is
"According to an intrinsic law all phenomena of being attain to a summit
and degree of consummation, after which a new order and condition is
"...these elements became composed, and organized and combined in infinite
forms; or rather from the composition and combination of these elements
innumerable beings appeared.
"This composition and arrangement through the wisdom of God and His
preexistent might, were produced from one natural organisation, which was
composed and combined with the greatest strength, conformably to wisdom, and
according to a universal law."(118)
"In the same way the growth and development of all beings is gradual; this
is the universal divine organization, and the natural system...."
"...The organization of God is one: the evolution of existence is one: the
divine system is one. Whether they be small or great beings, all are subject
to one law and system."(119)
"Know that nothing which exists remains in a state of repose, that is to
say, all things are in motion. Everything is either growing or declining, all
things are either coming from non-existence into being, or going from existence
into non-existence...This state of motion is said to be essential - that is,
natural, it cannot be separated from beings because it is their essential
"The reality of man is the collective reality, the general reality, and is
the centre where the glory of all the perfections of God shine forth. That is
to say, for each name, each attribute, each perfection which we affirm of God,
there exists a sign in man; if it were otherwise, man could not imagine these
perfections, and could not understand them."(121)
Following is a summary of some key concepts in these references, which may
help us to adopt an "organic orientation" toward the construction of the
Administrative Order, as well as to provide a beginning basis for deriving the
philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh:
- Bahá'u'lláh sets forth the fundamental principle of relativity, and
indicates the necessity for considering the various entities of the contingent
world in relation to each other, as well as in relation to their own
- Everything is subject to one organization, one universal law, which extends
its influence through all levels and kingdoms of creation.
- Every created thing has distinct attributes and the capacity to influence
other beings. Each created thing is also subject to particular limitations as
a function of the kingdom it is within and its rank and station within that
- Every thing manifests the sign of unity; while being completely and
perfectly linked to everything else in a unified whole, it nevertheless is also
autonomous in a certain respect.
- The nature of life is ever-changing motion, renewal and regeneration.
There are no "things" - there are rather beings in the process of becoming
something closer to fulfilling their potentiality within the limitations of
their rank and station.
- Beings progress by the bounty of the universal influence of the Almighty.
This progress is gradual and developmental, and consists of stages of stages,
or orders of orders.
- Contingent beings all manifest the qualities of distinction,
differentiation, temporal limitations, characteristics, and standards.
- There is a network of mutual interactions among beings, their
manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and within this diversity
"there are signs for men of discernment."
While this cannot be regarded as anything but a halting beginning to what
must needs be a long, arduous, and continuing task, we, nevertheless, can see
in each of these passages glimmerings of some of the central principles that
may be seen as broad outlines of the Administrative Order.
From the fundamental principle that we should look to nature if we are to
discover the diverse but integrated manifestations of the Will of God derives
the essential character of the Administrative Order.
APPLICATION OF THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES
An examination of the framework of day-to-day Bahá'í Administrative life
shows how we might apply some of these systemic principles in an integrated
manner. I have been slowly working my way through a comprehensive study of
consultation for the past ten years, and since the law of consultation is the
"bedrock of this unique order," perhaps this would serve as a good example.
Bahá'u'lláh has not answered in advance every specific question that might
be posed. He has, instead, given us a method and a means whereby we ourselves
might be able to discern the truth of a matter. The means for each individual
is the gift of understanding through the power of the soul; and the method for
our collective institutions is consultation, the object of which, according to
'Abdu'l-Bahá, is "the investigation of truth." (122) But the concept of truth
is a philosophical consideration. For members of spiritual assemblies to come
to agreement upon what represents the truth they must all be proceeding from
the same general conception of reality. The Order of Bahá'u'lláh is our
all-embracing reality. The particular philosophy given to us by Bahá'u'lláh is
that set of universally operative, generalized principles that describe the
systemic nature of that Order. As more and more members of spiritual
assemblies come to comprehend this philosophy, our assemblies will function
with greatly increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Let's now look at consultation in the same terms in which we broke down the
principles of the Administrative Order: unity, dynamism, and system.
How many manifestations of "the sign of His Unity" can we find in a
consultative body such as a Local Spiritual Assembly? They are so numerous
that they could hardly be counted, but we can list the more obvious ones
- The Assembly;
- individuals' souls;
- their intellects;
- their knowledge;
- perceptual systems;
- the community they represent;
- the particular language used in the meeting;
- the particular language each person feels most comfortable with;
- the current global plan;
- the Divine Plan;
- the laws of the Faith;
- the principles of the Faith;
- the situation confronting the Assembly;
- and the process of consultation itself.
All of these manifest the sign of unity; they all exhibit an organizational
closure - they are all autonomous entities in certain respects. A great many
others could be listed, but the idea that each of these "entities" has a "rank
and station," that each is subject to "certain limitations," that they must
each be considered "in their relation one to another" as well as in relation to
"the station it hath been ordained to occupy," that each is a process itself
involved in the act of becoming and doing so gradually and progressively,
suggests the complex of things that must be considered by each individual on a
Looking at each of these entities, let's now see where the dynamic
qualities are manifested:
Each individual is in the process of spiritualizing his own self; the
Assembly becomes more spiritualized as each individual makes progress; the
unity manifested by the Assembly members dynamically affects the other members
of the community; the Language of Consultation becomes increasingly centered
around the Words of Bahá'u'lláh; the current global plan is moved farther
along, as is the Divine Plan, through the dynamic action of the individuals,
the Assembly, and the community; the process of consultation flows such that
every member is aware of the dynamic unity that has been created by their
increasing love for each other and their increasing love for Bahá'u'lláh and
for the Faith; the laws are applied with justice and equality; the highest
principles of the Faith are translated into Assembly decisions and community
action; the Assembly understands that consultation is not a step-wise method,
but rather a dynamic process dependent on many factors; the Assembly stays
dynamically engaged with each issue until it achieves unanimity; each
individual listens actively without looking for the opening to jump in; the
Assembly feels the dynamic link with 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Supreme Concourse.
Manifesting the "sign of His Unity" and being involved in a dynamic,
ever-changing process are two systemic attributes which have been considered
above. What are some of the other implications of being systemic?
Individual Assembly members knows that the Assembly's efficacy depends upon
their reciprocal interaction with the Word of God, their translation of "that
which hath been written into reality and action" (123), and their being focused
on the purpose of God for humanity in this day; each knows that the Assembly's
scientific quality depends on how he or she relates to the system, or order, of
laws and principles underlying reality; each is involved in a systematic
process of educating his or her own self: of stripping away veils and
allusions, of intellectually comprehending the systemic order, and of
intellectually adjusting physical perception so that it corresponds more
closely to reality; each understands the Administrative Order as an order,
where principles interact with each other in a dynamic relative balance focused
on the unity of humankind, and not as a mere listing of "do's and don'ts" to be
obeyed; each understands that the vitality of the organ depends on the
reactive, pruning effect of enforcing the laws, as well as on the proactive
application of principles which beckon the individual and the community to a
higher state of being; each Assembly understands the nature of policy and
principles and offers a coherent system of guidelines to its subsystems, (e.g.,
committees and individuals) when it asks them to assume responsibility within a
certain arena; each individual realizes that the goals of plans are a
continuous, ongoing series of benchmarks in the gradual process of becoming for
the community, and not some ultimate state where we can say, "We have
At all levels of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh we are guided and governed by a
single set of interrelated principles - a philosophy, the basic nature and
character of which is known only in its broad outlines. It is one, which is of
a qualitatively different nature than the order that permeated and governed the
world of humanity in the past but whose pattern lingers on in our habits,
thoughts, and conceptions of reality. The philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh is potent,
sound and universal; it informs the reality of every complexity, yet its
principles revolve around a single point.
THE SYSTEMIC PROBLEM
To get our assemblies and communities to manifest the ideal condition set
forward in the writings of the Faith, we must first, as individuals, manifest
these ideals in our own thoughts, actions, and habits. Without this sort of
individual endeavor the collective institutions are paralyzed. (124) This
section is concerned with the difficulty of gaining, on an individual level,
the knowledge of just what that ideal balance is.
Before proceeding, however, we must again call to mind the fact that it is
a new Order we are trying to perceive, and that it is Bahá'u'lláh's new
standard. This standard is not an abstract ideal, it's already an implicate
(lit. folded up within), prepotent reality. We are the ones who are going to
have to make the shift from our old frames of reference into the framework of
his new System.
But even an intellectual comprehension of this fact is not enough to
provide the foundation we need - we need a more enhanced context that provides
a specific and particular order. There are systemic reasons why it's difficult
for me to understand, let alone be able to convey to you, what I feel must be
understood in order for this matter to seem either believable or significant.
What is required here is a change in order comparable to the shift in
hierarchical distinction from the essential nature of the animal kingdom to
that of the human kingdom, or from that of the human kingdom to the spirit of
The systemic structure of order and the difficulty of effecting a change of
order has been the primary subjects of a number of scientific and philosophic
works of late. (125) Let me attempt to set the context from the writings of
the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh.
The Bab has alluded to the blindness from which we all suffer that makes
the problem so difficult to perceive:
"O Sun-like Mirrors! Look ye upon the Sun of Truth. Ye, verily, depend
upon it, were ye to perceive it. Ye are all as fishes, moving in the waters of
the sea, veiling yourselves therefrom, and yet asking what it is on which ye
depend....I complain unto thee, O Mirror of My generosity, against all the
other Mirrors. All look upon Me through their own colors." (126)
As the fish are to the sea, so we are to the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. We use
the capacities bestowed by that Order to come to know about various other
aspects of the Order - without having to understand and comprehend the full
nature of the Order itself. The Order both empowers and limits us - it colors
our vision so as to make us able to see, but we are not necessarily conscious
of the limitations placed on us by virtue of this coloring.
Bahá'u'lláh describes the veils and limitations in a similar fashion in the
Fourth Valley of The Seven Valleys when He cautions the wayfarer that the lamp
will color the light, but the light itself is unaffected, and that our true
goal is to "see nothing but the sun itself." (127) In fact, the whole of
The Seven Valleys
could be seen as an essay on the progressive
unfoldment and discovery of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
Bahá'u'lláh has presented the essential structure of the problem we face in
his Most Holy Book, The Kitab-i-Aqdas
"Say: O leaders of religion! 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."
Using the Book as the standard, we are to weigh all things. But we must
even weigh the Book with its own self! How can you take a scale and weigh it
with itself? Where do we mark the reference points? What is the context we
can use in order to find the reference points that inhere within the System?
Bahá'u'lláh has placed us into a paradoxical situation where it seems that
we have no context or standard for making any kind of judgement, and then told
us that if we are to weigh the Book we must use its own standard.
He has asked us to manifest a similar condition in The Kitab-i-Iqan
if we are to be true seekers. He says that after determining "to take the step
of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days,...[the
true seeker] must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate
may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate
repel him away from the truth." (129)
What we are doing is trying to jump into the framework of a new Order from
within the structure of the present order that limit us. We live in a world of
relativities. Our minds establish a relationship with what is set before them.
But what has been set before our minds in the past provides the context for,
and colors the perception of, possible relationships with anything new.
What is the context for the human realm? There are several contextual
systems within which every human being is raised, such as language, culture,
and perceptual systems. Each of these is a system itself with its own
necessary limits and powers. By and large we are unconscious of the limits
they impose upon us. Let's take a broad look at the structure of some of these
Bahá'u'lláh says the "power of vision [is] the chief instrument whereby
[human] understanding can function." (130). The process of image formation is
unconscious - we have no control over what the eye sees on the immediate level.
(131) We can, through long and intense training, teach the eye to see
differently, but most of us have never experienced this. The processes of
vision are structured, and they are largely structured in relation to our
hands. (Try performing some manipulative exercise with your hand by watching
your hand in a mirror - not seeing it directly - to see how unconscious you are
of that relationship!) Whatever we see is not the essential reality, but
rather a representation of some of its qualities; it is a coded representation
in our brain of the light reflected from a physical entity. The light, which
is reflected, is also structured, our receptors are structured, and our brain
selects from that image "facts" which have survival value for us. In other
words, we see what we select; and we select from structured representations
rather than from the "essence." We must, therefore, learn to select that which
has the closest correspondence to reality. (Curiously enough the fundamental
basis for all the perceptual systems is the awareness of "difference," or
"distinction," which, according to Bahá'u'lláh, is one of the most fundamental
characteristics of the contingent world.)
Anyone who knows two or more languages knows that translation is not
one-for-one; different languages structure different realities for us. The
subject / predicate structure of the English language - which provides us with
the context of "things-performing-action," rather than as dynamic systems
interacting with other dynamic systems - will, of necessity, exclude a lot of
process-thinking which will be required for comprehending an organic order.
Cultural blinds are the most pervasive limitations in the human
environment. Language, tradition, expectation, inconsistency in unconsciously
held values, superstition - all of these structures are imbibed unconsciously
from the culture within which we are raised. We are blind to their limits as a
fish is blind to the water that sustains its life.
Professionally, career education is largely a process of being trained to
see certain things in a certain way, and to think about them within a
particular context, almost to the exclusion of alternative perspectives.
These systemic limitations are not necessarily either internally
consistent, or mutually consistent with each other; nor are we necessarily
conscious of the particular and inherent limits of any of these systems. On
the contrary, it is a known fact in the social and psychological sciences that
we are definitely unconscious of the fact that we are limited in most of these
We know that Bahá'u'lláh has instilled a new Order into the System, that
this Order lies at the base of all creation, and that the philosophy of this
Order is potent, sound and universal. It is necessary for us, in all aspects
of our lives as Bahá'ís, to reflect the internal consistency of this Order if
we hope to understand ourselves or others, if we hope to comprehend the true
nature of the Administrative Order, and if we hope to attract a bewildered,
confused world which has lost its sense of direction.
The reality of the nature of the Bahá'í Faith as a new Order was
beautifully explained by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States
several years ago:
"...as a general policy subject to the Guardian's specific direction in special
cases, Bahá'ís and their administrative institutions should not feel obligated
to adopt a "Bahá'í" attitude or course of action on matters of civil
legislation. Our teachings and basic principles speak for themselves. These
we can always declare and set forth with all possible energy whenever occasions
arise. But a truth which is sundered from its sustaining spiritual Source,
lifted out of its organic relationship to the Bahá'í community, broken off from
the other truths, and made subject to the storm and stress of secular
controversy, is no longer a truth with which we can usefully have concern. It
has become an enactment to be carried out by institutions and groups committed
to other enactments, other aims and purposes and methods not in conformity with
the "Divine Polity" entrusted to those alone who give full loyalty to
Bahá'u'lláh. Far better for us to strive to mirror forth radiantly the
individual and community virtues of a new era than to hope others than
believers will achieve the holy mission of the Faith. We Bahá'ís have in
reality accepted a world order and not merely a new decalogue of truths or
At this point we could call to mind the quotations of The
that opened this essay. It is necessary that we discover
this new Balance and equilibrium permeating all creation. With all of the
inherent limitations of our senses, language, culture, and philosophy we have
such great obstacles as to seem almost insurmountable. But in The
, and even in the same passage where Bahá'u'lláh refers to the
new System and equilibrium, He gives us the method by which we can resolve this
dilemma. He says:
"Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its
secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths."
If we are to attempt to understand and comprehend his System, when we have
no encompassing framework with which to surround that System, the only
alternative is that we become totally immersed in the ocean of his Word and
grope for the significances. Our souls have within them the matrix of this
Order and the counterpart for all things in the created world. (134) If we
become sensitive to the pulsings of our souls as they are stimulated by the
Word of God and by reflection upon the manifestations of the world of nature
and the principles of the Administrative Order, we will increasingly recognize
that a resonance is being established, bringing us ever closer to comprehension
of the pattern and standard of the System of Bahá'u'lláh. A thorough and
comprehensive study of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh is our only hope. But we
may rest assured that when we discover the "secrets" and the "pearls of wisdom"
of this new System there is nothing that will not fall into place.
Let us pause and reflect for a moment - there is one universal law which
pervades all things. All things are a particular manifestation or expression
of that law. All things are united, yet there is a diversity of expressions
that, on a certain level, seems to us to be infinite. What are the common
elemental processes or expressions of that law that we all share? How am I
partaking of this process in the same way as the starfish, the giant sequoia,
the Eskimos of the Arctic, or the Administrative Order of the Faith of
Bahá'u'lláh? What is the pattern which connects you to each of these things,
and them to each other, and all of us to the roof over our heads?
Shoghi Effendi has provided an incredible contribution to the future
reorganization of the world in deducing from the philosophical principles of
Bahá'u'lláh the manner in which they could be comprehensively applied in a
particular application - namely, the construction of the Administrative Order
of the Bahá'í Faith, the nucleus of the organic unity of the entire planet.
Through studying the systemic structure and dynamic qualities of the
organic principles of the Administrative Order as they have been deduced from
the universal philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh, one can gain knowledge of the basic
systemic structure, function, and relationships underlying every other aspect
of creation. By discovering knowledge of these universal processes the
underlying foundation of any particular process - be it psychological,
sociological, biological, spiritual, educational, or scientific - will be laid
bare before the mind.
In following the path indicated by Bahá'u'lláh for searching out the
fundamentals of true philosophy, in systematizing the principles elaborated by
Shoghi Effendi for the Administrative Order, and in studying the extant
scientific and philosophical literature in light of these writings, Bahá'í
scholars will find themselves well down the road towards integrating and
unifying their philosophical approach to all aspects of life on this planet.
From the education of children through the reorganization of the curriculum
that 'Abdu'l-Bahá calls for in The Secret of Divine Civilization
to an understanding of the nature of spiritual growth and development; and from
an understanding of the fundamental and necessary relationships that bind
society on all different levels, to the application of appropriate methods of
science by the institutions of the Faith, the Bahá'í approach will be
If the work is done as a community, first in discovering and systematizing
the most essential principles of this philosophy, and then in systematically
translating them into reality and action, the Bahá'í community will realize
tremendous benefits from the application of these principles at all levels of
the System. Our educational systems will be unified, organized, and
coordinated around this single set of principles which must, of necessity,
permeate and underlie the reality of all things; the explanation and teaching
of the fundamental philosophy of the Administrative Order can be organized
around the model of a dynamic, unified system - the human body - which is
capable of being understood at many different levels, from the very simple, to
the highly complex. This model, which has an inherent integrity, can serve as
the central metaphor for a curriculum which is adaptable to the educational
level, rank, and station of the people or institutions being taught. And an
understanding of the principles of the philosophy which are expressed within
one institution or entity at one level, and in one instance, will be directly
transferable to the understanding of the principles for another institution,
science, culture, or individual, inasmuch as our understanding of all of these
entities will be principled in conformity with the same universal
All the Bahá'ís are so very busy doing the day-to-day work of building the
structure of the organic order - putting a nail in here and there, mixing a bit
of concrete, reinforcing a joint - that we often don't take the time to back
away from the work and contemplate the blueprint as a whole. I suggest that
this necessary and broad perspective will strengthen our vision and enhance the
efficacy of the work being done as we take a step back and "meditate upon the
supreme grandeur of the System unfolded by the hand of Bahá'u'lláh in this
- Bahá'u'lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of
the Kitab-i-Aqdas, tr. Shoghi Effendi, 1st ed. (Haifa: Bahá'í World Center,
1973), pp. 27-8.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, tr.
Shoghi Effendi, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1952), pg. 7.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, tr. Shoghi Effendi
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1938), pp. 295-6.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, tr. Laura Clifford Barney
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1964), pg. 257.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, ed. D. Griffin and D.
Sherburne, corrected ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1978), pg. 3.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, rev. ed.
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1955).
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, rev. ed.
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1955), pg. 19.
- Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny (London:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1981), pg. 445. Scholars without this volume may be
interested in other portions of this letter: "Philosophy, as you will study it
and later teach it, is certainly not one of the sciences that begins and ends
in words. Fruitless excursions into metaphysical hair-splitting is meant, not
a sound branch of learning like philosophy....As regards your own studies: he
would advise you not to devote too much of your time to the abstract side of
philosophy, but rather to approach it from a more historical angle. As to
correlating philosophy with the Bahá'í teachings; this is a tremendous work
which scholars in the future can undertake. We must remember that not only are
all the teachings not yet translated into English, but they are not even all
collected yet. Many important Tablets may still come to light which are at
present owned privately."
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust,
1970), pp. 25-6.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Wilmette: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1944).
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 144.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 52.
- ibid., pg. 89.
- ibid., pg. 98.
- Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Youth: A Compilation, comp. by NSA of the
U.S., (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1973), pg. 10.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 19.
- From a letter from the Universal House of Justice dated August 11, 1970
to all National Spiritual Assemblies.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 100.
- Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Deepening our Knowledge and
Understanding of the Faith, comp. by the Universal House of Justice
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1983), pg. 37.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 35.
- ibid., pg. 152.
- From a letter from the Universal House of Justice dated October 20, 1983
"To the Bahá'ís of the World."
- Shoghi Effendi, Selected Writings of Shoghi Effendi, Rev. ed.
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1975), pg. 1.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 19.
- Shoghi Effendi, Importance of Deepening our Knowledge and
Understanding of the Faith, pg. 20.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pg. 180.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude, tr. Shoghi
Effendi, 2nd ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1950), pg. 178.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 43.
- ibid., pg. 6.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í World Faith (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust, 1956), pg. 406.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg.
- J. Bronowski, A Sense of the Future, ed. P. Ariotti and R.
Bronowski, 1st ed. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977), pp. 39-41.
- This link, this relationship, and continual dance between science and
philosophy - i.e., that the philosophy of today becomes the manifestations of
scientific reality tomorrow, is the subject of a book which I would commend to
your attention. The book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by
Thomas S. Kuhn, is an essay on the systemic pattern of the changes involved in
a change of paradigms, or worldviews, for a scientific discipline. The
structure of these scientific revolutions are, on a smaller order, similar to
the changes necessary for us to make an increasingly complete shift into the
Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, comp. by Howard MacNutt, The Promulgation of Universal
Peace, 2nd ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1982), pg. 29.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í References on Education: Teachers Handbook, Vol.
1, comp. by Advisory Committee on Education, (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust, 1966), pp. 97-8.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 147.
- Since the initial presentation of this paper in November 1984, the author
has had the opportunity to study the new book by Eunice Braun, The March of
the Institutions: A Commentary on the Interdependence of Rulers and
Learned, (Oxford: George Ronald, 1984). This book focuses upon the
complementary relationship between the two chief pillars of the Administrative
Order. It is a direct response to the work that Shoghi Effendi has left to us
as the "future generations," and is highly recommended to members of all Bahá'í
institutions. (See The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 147.)
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 23.
- ibid., pg. 89.
- ibid., pg. 52.
- ibid., pg. 163.
- ibid., pg. 7.
- Shoghi Effendi, comp., Principles of Bahá'í Administration, 3rd
ed. (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1950).
- ibid., pp. 1-2.
- ibid., pp. 1-2.
- Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian
(New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust), pg. 48.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 212-13.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 36.
- Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá'í Administration, pg. 2.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 163.
- ibid., pg. 18.
- ibid., pg. 6.
- ibid., pg. 148.
- ibid., pg. 23.
- ibid., pg. 7.
- ibid., pg. 147.
- Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá'í Administration, pg. 1.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 6.
- Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá'í Administration, pg. 2.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 11.
- ibid., pg. 200.
- ibid., pg. 19.
- ibid., pg. 24.
- ibid., pg. 4.
- ibid., pg. 198.
- ibid., pp. 23.
- ibid., pg. 22-3.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The World Order, pg.
- ibid., pg. 195.
- ibid., pp. 163-4.
- ibid., pg. 42.
- ibid., pg. 155.
- Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá'í Administration, pg. 2.
- Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, The National Spiritual
Assembly, comp. by the Universal House of Justice (Wilmette, Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1972), pg. 18.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pg. 25-26.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 65.
- ibid., pg. 201.
- ibid., pg. 18.
- ibid., pg. 89.
- ibid., pg. 61.
- ibid., pg. 19.
- ibid., pg. 58.
- ibid., pg. 43.
- ibid., pp. 195-6.
- ibid., pg. 196.
- ibid., pg. 9.
- ibid., pg. 21.
- ibid., pg. 42.
- ibid., pg. 42.
- ibid., pg. 42.
- ibid., pg. 43.
- Shoghi Effendi, Selected Writings of Shoghi Effendi, pg. 1.
- Shoghi Effendi, Consultation: A Compilation, comp. Research
Department of the Bahá'í World Centre, (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust,
1980), pg. 15.
- On page 147 of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi
refers to several other institutions or aspects of the Administrative Order
that have been clearly or implicitly set forth in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh
or 'Abdu'l-Bahá, most of which have not even received mention in this work.
These, and others, include the institutions of the Hands of the Cause of God;
the local, national, and international Funds, the Huququ'llah, the district,
national and international conventions; the Mashriqu'l Adhkar and its
dependencies; and the very important aspects of authority and interpretation.
It's obvious that there is a great deal of work and analysis yet to do.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pg. 219.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the
Kitab-i-Aqdas, tr. Habib Taherzadeh, 1st ed. (Haifa: Bahá'í World Center,
1978), pg. 150.
- ibid., pp. 141-2.
- ibid., pg. 142.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 190.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 142.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg.
- ibid., pg. 188.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 141.
- ibid., pg. 143-4.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 151.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude, pg. 178.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg.
- ibid., pp. 343.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 1st
ed. (Haifa: Bahá'í World Center, 1978), pg. 47.
- ibid., pg. 48.
- ibid., pg. 48.
- ibid., pg. 49.
- ibid., pp. 289-90.
- ibid., pg. 289.
- ibid., pg. 289.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pg. 124.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pg. 210.
- ibid., pg. 231.
- ibid., pg. 270.
- ibid., pg. 228.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pg. 72.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 250.
- Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, pg. 148.
- Most notable for my studies has been the work of Gregory Bateson, natural
history epistemologist, cyberneticist, anthropologist, and zoologist. His
popular works, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, and Steps to an
Ecology of Mind contain the most comprehensive and practically oriented
essays on the necessary limits of our perception and conception of the natural
order. Francisco Varela's work, Principles of Biological Autonomy is
leading theoretical biologists in fundamentally new and more comprehensively
explanatory directions through a focus on two principles that Bahá'u'lláh
indicates are most basic to the contingent world - unity and distinction (or
differentiation, or diversity, if you will). Varela employs a new and elegant
calculus of distinction developed by G. Spencer Brown and elaborated in his
book, The Laws of Form.. Other scientists whose works have been
primarily concerned with the reorientation of our perception and conception of
the new reality are: David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order; Ilya
Prigogine, Order Out of Chaos; Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher,
Bach; Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality; Magorah Maruyama
and his writings on paradigmatology in Cybernetica; Thomas S. Kuhn,
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and The Essential
Tension; Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings; and Warren
McCulloch, Embodiments of Mind.. Stewart Brand, in his quarterly
publication, The Whole Earth Review, stays current with all of these
people and their ideas. I must also acknowledge the work of Chinese philosophy
from which I first received intimations of the fact that nature manifested one,
internally consistent organization. That book is The I Ching or Book of
Changes, translated by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes.
- The Bab, quoted in Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,
tr. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1953), pg. 160.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, tr. Ali-Kuli
Khan (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1952), pg. 21.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of
the Kitab-i-Aqdas, pg. 22.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude, pg. 192.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 154.
- Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, 1st ed. (New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1979), pp. 32-8.
- National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, The
Bahá'í World, Vol. 14 (Haifa: The Universal House of Justice, 1974), pg. 537.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of
the Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 27.
- Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh: Adrianople
1863-68, (Oxford: George Ronald, 1977) pg. 254.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pg. 105.
- Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pg. 61.
I would like to acknowledge the tremendous aid and assistance of the
following two reference works: Concordance to Gleanings from the Writings
of Bahá'u'lláh.. Compiled by Lee Nelson and Miriam G. Towfiq. Los Angeles:
Kalimat, 1983. Concordance to The Kitab-i-Iqan.. Compiled by Lee
Nelson and Miriam G. Nelson. Los Angeles: Kalimat, 1984. These concordances,
which were generated with the aid of a computer, contain a listing of every
occurrence of every word in these books and indicate the context of their