Baha’i Administrative Bureaucracy

It is fun to look at the Baha’i administration through the prism lens of organizational studies. It is rather difficult for a Baha’i to have such knowledge and not indulge. So allow me the indulgence.

Recently Steve featured an article which tried to depict the Baha’i administration as inhabiting the ‘sweet spot’ inside a theoretical framework of organizational behavior. The theory, in this case, is that organizations are either “spiders” or “starfish”. Which is just a cute twist on the old top-down and bottom-up notation most people use. The analogy being that a starfish would survive if you cut a limb off (decentralized) whereas a spider is centralized. Obviously the analogy is a false one since cutting off a spider’s leg won’t kill it.

bahai-spider.pngIn case, if you’re not familiar with these concepts, very simply put, a top-down organization is one in which decisions, policy, culture and pretty much everything that matters is decided at the top and then forced down the line to the last subordinate. The article argues, rather weakly, that the Baha’i organizational structure, has both these elements. While I can empathize with the author as he tries so hard to show the Baha’i administration to be “decentralized” I can’t help but notice that he fails rather dramatically. Simply asserting a thing, is not proving it.

This sort of mistake is a conceptual fallacy. Where we start out with the premise that we want to arrive at and then mercilessly torture the data and facts until they fit, mangled and distorted, into the right cubby hole. The scientific approach, is instead, to start with a neutral stance, without any conclusions, and then to look at all the facts and infer from them. Allowing them to lead us to whatever conclusion they may.

bahai-starfish.pngIf we do look at the facts, we see an almost exclusive top down bureacracy. One that hands down X-year plans, forces the community to take mind-numbing regurgitation classes (Ruhi), appoints and directs all aspects of Baha’i administration, and one which micromanages to a neurotic degree.

A great example of this happened just recently. You remember the surprisingly frank admission of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, right? Well, it would seem that that did not sit right with the House of Justice. So they sent a representative, Ms. Penelope Walker, from the (you guessed it) International Teaching Center to the National Convention to set them right.

She kindly informed the delegates that rather than being interested in something as “old world” and impractical as listening to the grass roots and finding out what is really going on (things like facts), the ITC and the House were more interested in them understanding that nothing is wrong with the plans or guidance given. That they must keep on keeping on. Do Ruhi. And if in doubt, do more Ruhi.

If that doesn’t result in anything positive for the community, then it is your fault. You must have done something wrong, or maybe you didn’t take Ruhi enough times. Did you do all books? how about in a second language? did you try doing them standing on your head? Aha! You lazy, no good bum!! You’re the reason why the enrollments have been shrinking for the past 5 years!

Heaven forbid that the delegates at the National Convention have a discussion of what is truly going on in their communities and gasp! tell it like it is. I mean, whoever suggests that the National Convention is a place for that? Or that the National Assembly would want to listen to their own members rather than a guest flying in from another continent. Obviously the guest has a more intimate knowledge of how the United States Baha’i community is doing than the very Baha’is in that community. Right?

How tenderly and carefully the grassroots are attended to. It is simply breathtaking!

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

It must be noted that the Baha’i administration as we see it today, would not be recognized by its architect, Abdu’l-Baha. In His Will & Testament, the administration is laid out to function with two parallel but separate pillars: the elected institution (Universal House of Justice) and the appointed institution (Guardianship). But that is not what we have today:

bahai-administration-structure-two-pillars.png

The arrows going to and from the House of Justice and the International Teaching Center are meant to illustrate the fact that since the early 1980’s all new House of Justice members have just happened to be current members of the ITC. This revolving door has lead to group think and a drastic narrowing of leadership perspective.

Which reminds me that it’s been a good while that I promised part II of the look at Baha’i elections and how we can improve them. I’ll be writing about that very soon. Probably tomorrow. Rather apropos as it coincides with the ongoing National Conventions.

  • Sercxu

    It must be noted that the Baha’i administration as we see it today, would not be recognized by its architect, Abdu’l-Baha. In His Will & Testament, the administration is laid out to function with two parallel but separate pillars: the elected institution (Universal House of Justice) and the appointed institution (Guardianship). But that is not what we have today:

    Given that it bears almost no relationship to Abdu’l-Baha’s intended structure, how much longer can anyone pretend that it is divinely inspired?

  • Sercxu

    It must be noted that the Baha’i administration as we see it today, would not be recognized by its architect, Abdu’l-Baha. In His Will & Testament, the administration is laid out to function with two parallel but separate pillars: the elected institution (Universal House of Justice) and the appointed institution (Guardianship). But that is not what we have today:

    Given that it bears almost no relationship to Abdu’l-Baha’s intended structure, how much longer can anyone pretend that it is divinely inspired?

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Sercxu,
    some Baha’is would answer that the divine nature of the institutions does not depend on the continuation of the Guardianship and that the House of Justice is fully authorized to create and manage any ancilliary institutions it wishes.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Sercxu,
    some Baha’is would answer that the divine nature of the institutions does not depend on the continuation of the Guardianship and that the House of Justice is fully authorized to create and manage any ancilliary institutions it wishes.

  • David

    Granted the whole starfish and spider analogy is meant to be catchy jargon for a non-academic audience, I think you misunderstand it. The analogy is not that if you cut off a spider’s leg it would die. The idea is that starfish and spiders are outwardly similar structurally, but differ greatly in terms of inner structure. Starfish are ‘decentralized’ and if you cut off a leg it would grow back, and a whole new starfish could even be produced from it. Spiders are ‘centralized’ and if you cut off their *head* you kill them (ie., the head represents the centralization). The arguement is that neither is ideal, that you want some combination the marries the reach and exploratory capacity of the ‘starfish’ shape and the common purpose and vision provided by ‘spider’ shapes. While its jargony pop-science, its not too far from serious academic work in org studies that talks about the benefits of heterarchy, ‘network’ and ‘m-shape’ organizations that have these type of hybrid formats.

    First, the AO is clearly not a ‘starfish’, and the author of the article wasn’t arguing it is. As laid out in the Writings the AO is hierarchical in very important ways – the House has jurisdiction over NSAs, who have jurisdication over LSAs. That being said, the distinction between centralized and decentralized organizational forms is *not* the same thing as ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ (which, by the way, is not a particularly serious organizational theory distinction. It has currency in common discourse, but its far too crude of a distinction to have much actual analytic power). Hierachies can be bottom-up, as when members vote on the actions to be undertaken by those at the top of the hierarchy. Conversely, decentralized organizations can be ‘top-down.’ Think of al-queda here. It is a decentralized, networked organization but is top-down in that final decisions about what attacks to make are made only by leaders.

    The types of organizations touted in the book – ones like GE and Toyota – aren’t actually ‘starfish’. They still have CEOs and boards of directors and clear lines of authority and all kinds of traditional hierarchy. What they do do, though, is creat a company wide vision and allow for flexibility in its implementation. In that sense it is very ‘top-down.’ Its an interesting analogy, but, as is typical in such pop-science books, they vastly overstate their case. So while there are certainly important hierarchical aspects of the AO, it is very different from a traditional hierarchy in that decisions are made only by people elected by members. In that sense it is much like what is sometimes referred to as a ‘bottom-up hierarchy’

    I think, however, the author of the article is right that the core activities of the Five Year Plan bare a very strong resemblence to the qualities of ‘starfish’ organizations. People are trained to do them at the grassroots and then implement them on their own without any need for leaders or authority to direct them. You don’t need permission to undertake the core activities and while numbers are usually collected you don’t actually report to anyone. There are no right and wrong devotional gatherings.

    Two things need to be distinguished – decentralization in ‘plan making’ and ‘plan implementation.’ The arguement in the book isn’t that ‘starfish’ organizations are decentralized in their ‘plan making’ – rather, its the common plan or ideology that hold them together sans traditional lines of authority. Instead, the flexibility exists in ‘plan implementation.’ (Of course, though, the ‘plan’ is not overdetermined and is itself adjusted during implementation, which is a key part of the arguement). In that sense, and especially at the local level, the ‘starfish’ analogy holds well for the Baha’i community and the Five Year Plan. When I tutor a Ruhi book I do so as part of a both global and local plan, but almost every aspect of how I do it is up to me and the people in the study circle. There is no ‘head’ that, if cut, would impact *how* I do study circles or devotions because while the AO encourages us to do them, it has very little to say about *how* we do them. I might file a report when I finish saying who completed the book, but no one is supervising me and no one is evaluating me.

    From an organizational perspective, I think its worth thinking about the similarity between the core activities (Ruhi especially) and the incredible boom in church small groups as well as house worship and prayer groups. Despite much of that activity being encouraged by church leaders at both the local and national levels as parts of collective plans, researchers describe them as being decentralized and cell-like in nature because while leadership sets a vision, it is itself little concerned with the actual implementation which is entirely left up to lay members. I think that academic line of arguementation holds for the core activities as well.

  • David

    Granted the whole starfish and spider analogy is meant to be catchy jargon for a non-academic audience, I think you misunderstand it. The analogy is not that if you cut off a spider’s leg it would die. The idea is that starfish and spiders are outwardly similar structurally, but differ greatly in terms of inner structure. Starfish are ‘decentralized’ and if you cut off a leg it would grow back, and a whole new starfish could even be produced from it. Spiders are ‘centralized’ and if you cut off their *head* you kill them (ie., the head represents the centralization). The arguement is that neither is ideal, that you want some combination the marries the reach and exploratory capacity of the ‘starfish’ shape and the common purpose and vision provided by ‘spider’ shapes. While its jargony pop-science, its not too far from serious academic work in org studies that talks about the benefits of heterarchy, ‘network’ and ‘m-shape’ organizations that have these type of hybrid formats.

    First, the AO is clearly not a ‘starfish’, and the author of the article wasn’t arguing it is. As laid out in the Writings the AO is hierarchical in very important ways – the House has jurisdiction over NSAs, who have jurisdication over LSAs. That being said, the distinction between centralized and decentralized organizational forms is *not* the same thing as ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ (which, by the way, is not a particularly serious organizational theory distinction. It has currency in common discourse, but its far too crude of a distinction to have much actual analytic power). Hierachies can be bottom-up, as when members vote on the actions to be undertaken by those at the top of the hierarchy. Conversely, decentralized organizations can be ‘top-down.’ Think of al-queda here. It is a decentralized, networked organization but is top-down in that final decisions about what attacks to make are made only by leaders.

    The types of organizations touted in the book – ones like GE and Toyota – aren’t actually ‘starfish’. They still have CEOs and boards of directors and clear lines of authority and all kinds of traditional hierarchy. What they do do, though, is creat a company wide vision and allow for flexibility in its implementation. In that sense it is very ‘top-down.’ Its an interesting analogy, but, as is typical in such pop-science books, they vastly overstate their case. So while there are certainly important hierarchical aspects of the AO, it is very different from a traditional hierarchy in that decisions are made only by people elected by members. In that sense it is much like what is sometimes referred to as a ‘bottom-up hierarchy’

    I think, however, the author of the article is right that the core activities of the Five Year Plan bare a very strong resemblence to the qualities of ‘starfish’ organizations. People are trained to do them at the grassroots and then implement them on their own without any need for leaders or authority to direct them. You don’t need permission to undertake the core activities and while numbers are usually collected you don’t actually report to anyone. There are no right and wrong devotional gatherings.

    Two things need to be distinguished – decentralization in ‘plan making’ and ‘plan implementation.’ The arguement in the book isn’t that ‘starfish’ organizations are decentralized in their ‘plan making’ – rather, its the common plan or ideology that hold them together sans traditional lines of authority. Instead, the flexibility exists in ‘plan implementation.’ (Of course, though, the ‘plan’ is not overdetermined and is itself adjusted during implementation, which is a key part of the arguement). In that sense, and especially at the local level, the ‘starfish’ analogy holds well for the Baha’i community and the Five Year Plan. When I tutor a Ruhi book I do so as part of a both global and local plan, but almost every aspect of how I do it is up to me and the people in the study circle. There is no ‘head’ that, if cut, would impact *how* I do study circles or devotions because while the AO encourages us to do them, it has very little to say about *how* we do them. I might file a report when I finish saying who completed the book, but no one is supervising me and no one is evaluating me.

    From an organizational perspective, I think its worth thinking about the similarity between the core activities (Ruhi especially) and the incredible boom in church small groups as well as house worship and prayer groups. Despite much of that activity being encouraged by church leaders at both the local and national levels as parts of collective plans, researchers describe them as being decentralized and cell-like in nature because while leadership sets a vision, it is itself little concerned with the actual implementation which is entirely left up to lay members. I think that academic line of arguementation holds for the core activities as well.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    When I tutor a Ruhi book I do so as part of a both global and local plan, but almost every aspect of how I do it is up to me and the people in the study circle.

    Ruhi has a very rigid structure from which you can not deviate. This reminds me of Henry Ford’s famous quote, ‘you can have any color, as long as its black’. lol

    There is no ?head’ that, if cut, would impact *how* I do study circles or devotions because while the AO encourages us to do them, it has very little to say about *how* we do them.

    Again, this is simply wrong. Everything about Ruhi is controlled. That, in a twisted way, is why some in the institutions see it as a positive. The ‘head’ is the ITC/UHJ (Correa, Lample, Arbab, etc.) who have a vested interest in Ruhi and who are the reasons why it has been deemed as the activity that all Baha’is have to do. They even outline that no other can take its place!

    Yup! Lots of freedom there. Any color, as long as its black.

    I might file a report when I finish saying who completed the book, but no one is supervising me and no one is evaluating me.

    Again, (laughably) wrong. If no one is supervising you nor evaluating you, why would you have to file a report in the first place? And if there is no supervisory structure, who are these good folks that go by titles like “Area Coordinators” and “National Coordinators”?

    If you really want to see how free you are to do as you with Ruhi, try teaching the next one by pointing out all the errors, circling them with red ink, pointing out that many questions simply do not have a black or white answer, that sitting and reading a mind numbing regurgitation book is insulting to Baha’is when Baha’u’llah forbade taqlid.

    Do those things Dave, in your next Ruhi class, and then come back and tell me you weren’t “evaluated” nor “supervised”. Deal?

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    When I tutor a Ruhi book I do so as part of a both global and local plan, but almost every aspect of how I do it is up to me and the people in the study circle.

    Ruhi has a very rigid structure from which you can not deviate. This reminds me of Henry Ford’s famous quote, ‘you can have any color, as long as its black’. lol

    There is no ?head’ that, if cut, would impact *how* I do study circles or devotions because while the AO encourages us to do them, it has very little to say about *how* we do them.

    Again, this is simply wrong. Everything about Ruhi is controlled. That, in a twisted way, is why some in the institutions see it as a positive. The ‘head’ is the ITC/UHJ (Correa, Lample, Arbab, etc.) who have a vested interest in Ruhi and who are the reasons why it has been deemed as the activity that all Baha’is have to do. They even outline that no other can take its place!

    Yup! Lots of freedom there. Any color, as long as its black.

    I might file a report when I finish saying who completed the book, but no one is supervising me and no one is evaluating me.

    Again, (laughably) wrong. If no one is supervising you nor evaluating you, why would you have to file a report in the first place? And if there is no supervisory structure, who are these good folks that go by titles like “Area Coordinators” and “National Coordinators”?

    If you really want to see how free you are to do as you with Ruhi, try teaching the next one by pointing out all the errors, circling them with red ink, pointing out that many questions simply do not have a black or white answer, that sitting and reading a mind numbing regurgitation book is insulting to Baha’is when Baha’u’llah forbade taqlid.

    Do those things Dave, in your next Ruhi class, and then come back and tell me you weren’t “evaluated” nor “supervised”. Deal?

  • David

    Baquia,

    Perhaps if you specifically laid out some of the ways in which you think Ruhi is rigid in structure it would be helpful to me in understanding your perspective. I’m not sure if we just see what ‘rigid’ is differently or have had different experiences.

    As far as the rather patronizing tone of the rest of the email (the ‘lol’s and such), I wish you’d instead chosen to give examples or exand on your perspective. Just saying something is ‘laughable’ makes it hard for me to keep the discourse going since I don’t know why exactly you think that.

    As far as your challenge:
    I have never been in involved in a Ruhi circle, as tutor or member, in which there was not ongoing discussion about disagreement with the way the authors’ framed certain things. I personally always make it clear I think the Ruhi books themselvs are just a tool, useful but imperfect, written by imperfect people.

    That I would have to prompt people to think there were not black and white answers to all questions implies most questions are framed as such. Empirically that just isn’t so – especially as one gets further into the sequence the questions become more open-ended and engendering of personal reflection. I think when Ruhi first came to North America there was definitely a fair amount of poor tutoring that discouraged discussion, but that was more an issue of tutors than curriculum. I know my first experience was like that and it turned me off for a while. I’m sure it still happens, but I haven’t personally seen it in a few years. The best tutors I know actively encourage difficult conversations and gain good reputations because of it.

    As for the rest, I of course wouldn’t say them because I don’t believe them. Again, for me the books are tools. Improperly used, like any curriculum, they can be boring but in my experience that’s an issue of how they’re used. In the last few circles I’ve been involved in (both as participant and tutor) the members frequently talked about much they looked forward to the day we men, and they ended with real sadness and a desire from most members to move forward in the books together. That’s not always the case, of course, but it does happen all the time. I’ve done the same book with different tutors and had very different experiences – that’s where the real variabilty lies.

    As far as the taqlid criticism, its one I’ve never really understood. It’s never been clear to me which aspects people think are ‘unthinking imitation’ since I’ve never personally experienced anything that felt like that.

    Best,
    David

    Best,
    David

  • David

    Baquia,

    Perhaps if you specifically laid out some of the ways in which you think Ruhi is rigid in structure it would be helpful to me in understanding your perspective. I’m not sure if we just see what ‘rigid’ is differently or have had different experiences.

    As far as the rather patronizing tone of the rest of the email (the ‘lol’s and such), I wish you’d instead chosen to give examples or exand on your perspective. Just saying something is ‘laughable’ makes it hard for me to keep the discourse going since I don’t know why exactly you think that.

    As far as your challenge:
    I have never been in involved in a Ruhi circle, as tutor or member, in which there was not ongoing discussion about disagreement with the way the authors’ framed certain things. I personally always make it clear I think the Ruhi books themselvs are just a tool, useful but imperfect, written by imperfect people.

    That I would have to prompt people to think there were not black and white answers to all questions implies most questions are framed as such. Empirically that just isn’t so – especially as one gets further into the sequence the questions become more open-ended and engendering of personal reflection. I think when Ruhi first came to North America there was definitely a fair amount of poor tutoring that discouraged discussion, but that was more an issue of tutors than curriculum. I know my first experience was like that and it turned me off for a while. I’m sure it still happens, but I haven’t personally seen it in a few years. The best tutors I know actively encourage difficult conversations and gain good reputations because of it.

    As for the rest, I of course wouldn’t say them because I don’t believe them. Again, for me the books are tools. Improperly used, like any curriculum, they can be boring but in my experience that’s an issue of how they’re used. In the last few circles I’ve been involved in (both as participant and tutor) the members frequently talked about much they looked forward to the day we men, and they ended with real sadness and a desire from most members to move forward in the books together. That’s not always the case, of course, but it does happen all the time. I’ve done the same book with different tutors and had very different experiences – that’s where the real variabilty lies.

    As far as the taqlid criticism, its one I’ve never really understood. It’s never been clear to me which aspects people think are ‘unthinking imitation’ since I’ve never personally experienced anything that felt like that.

    Best,
    David

    Best,
    David

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  • Charles Manteghi

    Why not ask yourself:
    How can I help finding solutions to the increasingly growing problems in the world?
    Becoming an example of a true human to those who do not know the way?
    Take my share of responsibility and help those who have already committed their lives to do God's work?
    It is easy to be critical of what you may think you know more about, but it would be better to apply your energy to join in and help to make things better.

  • pey

    The way I see it, the Universal House of Justice can legislate on anything that is outside of the laws (not letters of secretaries written on behalf of anyone, but actual LAWS). Since there is absolutely no prediction in the Writings about what to do if the Guardianship ends, then that is something outside of the Writings. But as far as I know, the UHJ has not legislated a new system where they clearly state a Guardian is no longer part of the system. Instead they are still trying to sell themselves as within the plan of Abdu'l-Baha with the guidance of non-existant Guardian. It's really not working.

  • pey

    And why may I ask do you believe that Baquia is not helping make things better? Do you know how many people (like myself) have taken solace in knowing that there is at least ONE Bahai active in the community who is willing to question. Question Charles- the thing that Bahaullah has asked his followers in addition to being loyal and obedient. So please next time you get a letter from your NSA telling you that the community is not doing enough, giving enough, sacrificing enough… please ask yourself wouldn't there energy be better spent in becoming better leaders and allowing the Faith to grow at the grass roots level? Questions….

  • pey

    So David. If I decided to do Ruhi Book on the covenant (book 8 I believe which has not been released), and I discover during the study that there is no mention of the Guardianship as part of the future system where it is the head of the UHJ, would I be allowed to openly discuss what this means to everyone? Would I be able to give my two cents worth about how the system today is not as described in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, and then actually go to the source and read that document? OR would that be considered digressing from the Ruhi course?

  • fubar

    I was a bahai for 30 years, and I saw many such attempts “to make things better” derailed and attacked by power hungry people in the AO/ bahai aristocracy.

    One of the more horrible examples illustrates how even the most mundane and normal attempts by people to simply do something well (bahai devotional music recordings in the “early days” of the 1960s before any such thing was attempted at even the most minimal commercial level), in spite of dictatorial administrative nepotism, can result in someone being “labeled” a CB for decades, and only “unlabeled” posthumously.

    the fact is that when a relative of a bahai in power wants to be seen as an “important person” by being a “bahai recording star”, and someone else with more talent and classical music training “gets in the way”, the person in power can use all sorts of corrupt methods of networking to screw the “competitor” over.

    in this example, the “method” was to lie to the NSA and convince them that only one person could “officially” be the “bahai singer” of an entire country, then charge anyone else attempting to commercially record “bahai music” with “disobeying the national assembly', and when unrepentant (for the sake of providing devotional music to inspire people to “teach”, etc.), and continuing to do something perfectly normal in the entire rest of the society – compete for best quality – then the person is accused of “breaking the covenant” for disobeying the corupt, fascist pr*cks at the USBNC.

    bahai isn't any kind of solution to the problems of the world, it is the problem.

    bahai has absorbed the worst of what the world has to offer, and ruthlessly rid itself of anything “good” that could lead to real solutions:

    1) independent, critical thought
    2) honesty
    3) caring about people
    4) willingness to experiment, and learn from failures
    5) etc.

    one interesting branch of organizational theory is the study of “pattern languages”.

    “pattern languages” are similar to the “archetypes” that are found in neoplantonism, sufism, bahai and other related mystical writings, and so forth.

    part of the study of “pattern languages” is the classification of “anti-patterns” – so called “intuitive” solutions that are actually non-solutions that invariably backfire and produce the opposite effect of the intended/sought “solution”.

    you can google “management anti-pattern”, and find plenty of material that largely explains what is wrong with bahai culture and organizational dynamics.

    in so reading, you will also find that the “anti-patterns” that plague bahai (and other backward cultures) are usually so deeply ingrained that only major, external forces can change them.

    every possible manner in which “reforms” are supposed to be advanced in the bahai system have been “colonized” (blocked) by dysfunctional people, institutions, processes, methods, and “enacted regressive paradigms”. it is actually amazing how many clever people have spent so many years sealing off any possible method of change.

    bahai is premised on a slave mentality (followers) and dictatorial, abusive authority (aristocracy). it is a backward, corrupt, dystopian religion.

  • fubar

    There are all sorts of outside-the-AO, “competent”, “loyal” bahai professionals (international aid workers/administrators, doctors, therapists, business consultants, social workers, technicians, and so on – gasp even a few professors!!!) that have spent many years wracking their brains about how to “reform” bahai – or otherwise make the bahai system more effective.

    I spent years listening to the greater and lesser frustrations that many of those types of people had with groups like MDS and Rabbani Trust. Even when the “better ideas” rise up within MDS (e.g., the “100 Top Trainers” seminars), it is not unusual for the NSA types to simply ignore the more sophisticated, better trained, more “seasoned” professionals that have “real world” experience, and starve “reform” projects of the needed resources, or the opportunity to “compete” for support by using the official “approved” methods of communication. the limited AO resources are usually only used to reinforce existing paradigms.

    the reality is that the current “stasist” form of bahai administrative culture is highly risk-averse, and there are a multitude of disincentives for national assemblies to promote “innovative” projects that might not gain momentum and popular support. this is a giant “structural” quandry that exists within bahai culture. I personally think that even the best reforms actually have little chance for success because bahai culture has become so “comfortable” with familiar anti-patterns and dysfunctional memes. most bahai simply do not have the time or energy anymore to invest in “deep change”. there is no incentive for most people to invest in “change” within bahai: they are averse to the emotional trauma that they expect they will have to experience if they support a reform that “crashes”.

    all of the people in power have heard all these arguments/perspectives for decades, and they do not care anymore. their “game” is all about “being in denial”:

    they are just too cowardly and afraid to do anything different.

    so, instead they attempt to superficially “reinvent” the failed bahai bureaucracy over and over in ways that are certain to keep going wrong.

    Why the maddness?: to “save face”. the persian/shiia stuff.

    (keep the illusion going that their incomptent relatives/friends, and “important people” that run the AO are doing something “right”.)

  • Keyvan

    FIRST of all, the current Administrative Order is legitimately within the provisions of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l Baha. In 1907, when Shoghi Effendi was a mere 9 or 10 years old, and Abdu'l Baha was in an Ottoman prison, feeling he may be soon killed, He wrote the 2nd part of the Will and Testament. This 2nd part has no mention of a Guardian, only the Universal House of Justice, and reasserted the Infallibility of the Institution. He sent this to Haji Mirza Taqi Afnan, calling for the Hands of the Cause and Afnan to gather and work together to immediately establish the Universal House of Justice – no Guardian. A contingency provision, just as Infallible, but well within the bounds of the Will and Testament.

    SECOND, Auxiliary Board Members and their Assistants were ordained by Shoghi Effendi himself, to be an extension under Hands of the Cause of God.

    THIRD, the Counselors are legitimately within the provisions of the Covenant.

    In the Kitab-i-'Ahd (the Book of His Covenant) Bah??'u'll??h wrote “Blessed are the rulers and the learned in Al-Baha,” and referring to this very passage the beloved Guardian wrote on 4 November 1931:

    In this holy cycle the “learned” are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God, and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His teachings who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent position in the teaching work. As to the “rulers” they refer to the members of the Local, National and International Houses of Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in the future. (Translated from the Persian).
    (http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file=uhj_eluc…)

    FOURTH, you cannot possibly claim to know every dynamic of the Will and Testament. Shoghi Effendi wrote, “The contents of the Will of the Master are far too much for the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed.”- (UHJM1963-1986, p.161) “We stand indeed too close to so monumental a document to claim for ourselves a complete understanding of all its implications, or to presume to have grasped the manifold mysteries it undoubtedly contains. Only future generations can comprehend the value and the significance attached to this Divine Masterpiece, which the hand of the Master-builder of the world has designed for the unification and the triumph of the world-wide Faith of Bah??'u'll??h.”- (WOB p.8)

  • Craig Parke

    Keyvan,

    I don't think anyone here disputes any passage you reference at all. I certainly don't. This is precisely the point. What I question is WHO had the authority and on WHAT GROUNDS in 1983 to change the election process of how the UHJ is to be elected by the Baha'is of the entire world? Where is the scriptural authority for establishing a completely closed candidate list set up by the sitting UHJ themselves in a nice inner circle process ideological litmus test system? I don't buy it precisely because of the quotes you reference. With no on-going living Guardian to perform a very important function as stated in the Writings of Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian – WHO is to ask the UHJ to “reconsider” something that may very well be against the Spirit of the Teachings of Baha'u'llah? Answer this question: WHO can ask them to RECONSIDER a decision that might be WRONG as it is completely AGAINST the Divine Teachings of Baha'u'llah for this World Age? If they can NEVER make a decision that might be completely spiritually WRONG (which seems to be the current indoctrinated view) then WHY did Shoghi Effendi set forth a situation where they just might be wrong and there would be a mechanism to deal with it! Please explain? Let's hear it.

    If the UHJ is NOW not duly constituted in BOTH the letter and spirit of the W&T of Abdu'l-Baha at all, then it will receive no Divine Assistance and will go to utter mind bending Divine Judgment and catastrophic ruin as foretold in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner.

    So explain to me how they are duly constituted after this fundamental change to the electoral process? The UHJ is supposed to be elected by all the peoples of the world. To my mind this new mechanism violates that Spirit. Explain to me how the Faith has not been hijacked by a clique of very spiritually dangerous people who will now bring down Divine Judgment upon themselves in how the Cosmos actually works in carrying out Divine Archetypal Judgment from World Age to World Age? If my thoughts on this are wrong, explain to me why. I am a reasonable man. I will change my viewpoint if you can convince me everything is just peachy in the Administrative Order of the Baha'i Faith with it's system of “President for Life” lifetime incumbency by a tiny clique of people running the ITC on their own private personal Mt. Olympus Club.

    I say a Cosmic courtesy flush is coming on the Baha'i Faith but i would be quite happy to be convinced otherwise. So let's hear what you have to say.

  • farhan

    Craig wrote: What I question is WHO had the authority and on WHAT GROUNDS in 1983 to change the election process of how the UHJ is to be elected by the Baha'is of the entire world?

    Craig, the UHJ has always been elected every 5 years by the delegates who are the NSA members of the entire Baha'i world. What change are you referring to?

    As to the cosmic flush of tests the purpose of which is to consolidate the community by purifying the staunch from their ego and discouraging the ambitious from their personnal motives, Baha’u’llah explains in the Iqan p 3 the purpose of God in testing our belief:

    ?Moreover, what could have caused the nonfulfilment of the divine promise which led the seekers to reject that which they had accepted? Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth that from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. Even as He hath revealed: ?Do men think when they say ?We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?? (Qur’??n 29:2)

  • Craig Parke

    Farhan,

    I am referring to the official UHJ pre-approved and pre-vetted UHJ candidates list change made in 1983. Before that the NSA delegates could vote for any Baha'i on Earth to be elected to the Universal House of justice. Before this change people elected often came from the actual grass roots globally and culturally dispersed elected branches of the Faith like NSA Secretaries. These were people with real hands on grass roots experience in the Faith. These were people of operational deeds and not theorist pipe smoking words sitting around in ascots holding court on their intellectual clap trap and their parroted school teacher theories of breathless “education” experiments.

    In 1983 the UHJ stopped this free and open practice where people elected could come from across the entire free and open Baha'i World to a closed insider candidates list put forth by the sitting UHJ itself. These officially “organizationally” approved candidates have so far all come from the appointed branches of the Faith. Amazingly, worse still, they have all come from the International Teaching Center since this mechanism actually kicked in in 1988 . This means all officially approved candidates are essentially all vetted and pre-screened to be ideologically pure with the current sitting UHJ.

    It is, therefore, a completely top down closed system of nice buddy-buddy cronyism. Look at what “crony capitalism” just did to the financial markets of the United States! In any system of buddy-buddy cronyism there is never any accountability. It all becomes a nirvana of insider groupthink where no one ever feels personally responsible to anyone outside the bubble for any group decision that is made. Such a mechanism is the entire human history of organizations. Doesn'y anyone realize that all the world's religions were founded by INDIVIDUAL REFORMERS who told the hapless groupthink leaders of the “religious organizations” of Their Day that they were full of recently created human biological material! This mechanism of organizational derangement is well known to anyone who has studied systems of clergy, business monopoly trusts, monarchy, and Communist Party and Nazi Dictatorship States over the ages. Duh. Everything becomes a groupthink cult bubble because it all is a nice tidy closed system of intellectual butt buddies. Look at the clergy of Islam! Throw in no women allowed and you have got very real problems of a group of male “executive” souls being completely cut off from half of the energies of life on a daily basis in their closed thought Universe. Everything becomes a locker room of guys snapping towels at each other after essentially playing rounds of intellectual golf with each other day in and day out. Throw in that the electorate of lazy and cowardly automaton NSA member sheep in the closed candidate list system who never hold anyone personally accountable for their performance EVER and it only gets worse. Then throw in that the players at the top of this closed “executive” elite system think that they are the Infallible Voice of God on Earth accountable to no one for ANYTHING they decide EVER and it is like throwing matches around in a room standing in a foot of fresh gasoline. Then top it off with the cherry that the only skill in life these people seem to have is being able to do a string search on a CD in the writings of a man who died in 1957 and then make a decision to parrot his words in any situation coming up in 2009 and counting and you have put the entire administrative governance mechanism in the Baha'i faith in chains. Everything stagnates. No insightful analysis and decisions can be made in real time, every issue becomes a huge blocking force, the spiritual cutting edge advances in the world itself passes the whole system by, and everything falls further and further behind.

    Take one case in point: with the advances in technology you don't even need a Baha'i World center in Haifa! Duh. It is now for show only. Every administrative function can be completely decentralized worldwide with everyone sipping coffee at their kitchen table sitting in their underwear being a thousand times more effective in what they do. just do some conference calls on Skype once a week and everyone can then hold a real job doing something else in the world. Like running a business that really does something useful in the real world of humanity. Like doing something that does not begin in mere words and end in mere words. Like doing something more useful than conducting witch hunts and investigating any thought crimes among the rank and file anywhere on Earth in enforcing the NEWTHINK groupthink orgy. Heck, even throwing people out of the Faith can be fully automated. People can be interrogated by e-mail on a form, it graded by a modified resume scanning system looking for un-approved word patterns and thought groupings, and hard copy First Class snail mail termination letters laser printed ready to be picked up by DHL if they remain in business. The members of the UHJ or the ITC don't even half to live on the same continent. All they have to do is live on the same planet.

    So everything is passing the entire system by. Many of the powrs of the New World Age that truly once belonged to the Baha'i Faith are now being implemented by other communities of thought via the Internet. Everyone has stolen our thunder. In fact, stealing the thunder of the Baha'i faith is a major new growth industry.

    All because things went into a closed ideological litmus test loop after this change in 1983. Apparently everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. We got to it in record time after the start in 1963. It took just 20 years to hijack the Faith by a system of admin-o-centric clergy. It is the same old, same old.

    Now I do understand that there is some question as to the possibility of the NSA electors being able to completely ignore the pre-screened and pre-approved candidate list as being utter comedy and shredding it in person or using it for toilet paper and voting for any Baha'i on Earth instead. But i can't get a straight answer about this from anyone. But I will keep trying. Does anyone here know if that move is still an option? an elector of courage can ignore the pre-approved and pre-screened “UHJ candidates” list?

    But so far lock step groupthink by the hapless NSA electors seems to be what the actual record says. Personal courage does not appear to be in very big supply.

    So this is why I say the beautiful dedicated actions of your dear Mother and many other Baha'is from ALL ERAS have been completely betrayed as foretold by Baha'u'llah in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. As Baha'u'llah taught us in the Kitab-I-Iqan, all Divine Judgment is Archetypal from World Age to World Age. And so it is very safe to say that the entire Universe is going to fall on these clueless people who have gamed the electoral processes of the Baha'i Faith with total impunity so far. Their lifetime incumbency on UHJ's and NSA's will all become a badge of complete and total dishonor in the future. The tide will turn. And that tide will turn because of the rise of the Internet from the rank and file of the Earth. Adobe Flex 3 and the AJAX system of programming cannot be stopped just to name a few. Look how Baquia has just recently improved how this site works using the new DISQUS system. This stuff is pure, raw, un-chained Divine Judgment unleashed from hearts and minds across the globe. It will effect how governments, religions, businesses, and election processes are run. It will effect every human endeavor. Everywhere. And our current leadership is completely flat footed before the deluge. they will all be deer in the headlights and they are too unaware to discern what is coming upon them.

    The people of this time in the Baha'i Faith are going to look like total hacks in the future. Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. It is all about Divine Judgment upon the clueless self-appointed clergy archetype.

    It is all there in the Mystical Sufi Writings of Lord Baha'u'llah. Everyone, everywhere on Earth can now literally send their thoughts on Tidings of Light to every other person on Earth. meanwhile, the leadership of the Baha'i Faith are pushing fill in the blanks with pre-approved thoughts Ruhi workbooks. The scale of non-comprehension as to what is happening in the world is amazing.

    But nobody reads the Writings of Baha'u'llah directly anymore in the incredibly dumbed down groupthink Baha'i Faith.

    So the test has come and the courtesy flush is coming upon the hapless people at the top – not the rank and file.

    I hope I have answered your question about what happened in 1983.

  • farhan

    Craig wrote: I am referring to the official UHJ pre-approved and pre-vetted UHJ candidates list change made in 1983. Before that the NSA delegates could vote for any Baha'i on Earth to be elected to the Universal House of justice.

    Craig, I have never heard of anything like that. There is no pre-approved and pre-vetted candidates list for potential members of the House of Justice and delegates are still free to vote for whoever they like.

    It is true that service on the ITC seems to be a preparation for service on the UHJ, but that is certainly not the intent of the House of Justice. In fact I hear that the World Centre tries to keep ITC members in Haifa during a year when the House of Justice is to be re-elected, precisely to avoid giving them an unfair risk for them to be designed as volunteers to serve on the UHJ, but in a system without nominations, ITC members with global exposure are bound to have it anyhow. It is no doubt for this obvious reason that the Hands of God withdrew from being elected in 1963.

  • farhan

    Craig wrote: I am referring to the official UHJ pre-approved and pre-vetted UHJ candidates list change made in 1983. Before that the NSA delegates could vote for any Baha'i on Earth to be elected to the Universal House of justice.

    Craig, I have never heard of anything like that. There is no pre-approved and pre-vetted candidates list for potential members of the House of Justice and delegates are still free to vote for whoever they like.

    It is true that service on the ITC seems to be a preparation for service on the UHJ, but that is certainly not the intent of the House of Justice. In fact I hear that the World Centre tries to keep ITC members in Haifa during a year when the House of Justice is to be re-elected, precisely to avoid giving them an unfair risk for them to be designed as volunteers to serve on the UHJ, but in a system without nominations, ITC members with global exposure are bound to have it anyhow. It is no doubt for this obvious reason that the Hands of God withdrew from being elected in 1963.

  • ???? ???? ???

    Someone has to fund a project to purchase complete background reports on each and every member of the NSA and have it published online. I guarantee you will see it will put an immediate stop to the incumbency issue.