Reply to Comment on the Covenant

I noticed recently that there was a comment added to my article about the covenant and I wanted to reply to it. I have to explain that this comment was a result of a contribution I made to a thread regarding the covenant on LiveJournal’s Baha’i community website. I guess Dave saw my post there and decided to comment.I wanted to respond to a few things which Dave Howden says. First:

“Second, Shoghi Effendi did not /need/ any scriptural evidence to move this authority from the Hands of the Cause to the Guardian.”

Well, as much as we all love the Guardian, there must be scriptural grounds for such a bold move. And lets remember that Abdu’l-Baha laid out the way the Baha’i administration would function, with the roles of the different institutions and such. All I’m saying is that the authority of declaring covenant breakers was given – by Abdu’l-Baha, mind you! – to the Hands. He didn’t give it to the Guardian. That’s a fact. But we do know that the Guardian changed this and took this authority for himself. All I’m asking is, on what grounds?

Surely you are not suggesting that since he was the Guardian he could just do whatever he wanted. That would be absurd, as well as a mockery and an insult to the Master. So if we then are talking about this from the principle that for everything there must be good reasons and grounds, then my question stands.

Second, Dave says:

“It is a natural step for the UHJ to assume this role, because it is the head of the Baha’i Community of the World.”

Again, lets go back to what Abdu’l-Baha said. The Universal House of Justice and the Guardian of the Faith are the head of the Baha’i world community. Not the House by itself. If we can agree on this fact (hopefully all it takes is a reading of the Will and Testament of the Master) then we can agree that there is nothing ‘natural’ about this step.

I’ll say it again just to be clear:

Abdu’l-Baha gave the authority of declaring covenant breakers to the Hands of the Cause of God (which were to be appointed by the Guardian).

He did not give it to the Guardian.
He could have.
But he didn’t.

He did not give it to the Universal House of Justice.
He could have.
But he didn’t.

And finally, regarding the comments on shunning. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already written. I know that we are instructed to avoid covenant breakers. I also know that this was written for a time and I believe we are past that time. I also know that Abdu’l-Baha defined faithfulness to the covenant as being so spiritual that entering into a city is enough for people to say, This is a Baha’i. And He says until you attain this station, you aren’t faithful to the covenant.

I dare say there should be a lot of shunning going on because I know that I’m definitely not there. I also know that 99.999% of the Baha’is out there aren’t there.

Paul’s Story

In my previous rant on Code Reds I mentioned that I would talk about a specific case that I found out about recently. To be honest with you, I’ve had a difficult time in deciding whether to write about this or not. The reason is that I do not want to use the real name of the people involved and I know that right off the bat this will make it suspect to many. I suppose its about trust. Many of you may think that I’m making this up or exaggerating. But I finally decided to just tell it and let you decide.The deciding factor for me was that by telling this story, I knew it would bring to your attention the reality that many Baha’is around the world do experience Code Reds but because they decide to simply withdraw into themselves and leave the community, or to forgive and forget the transgression, you never hear about it. The cases that the Baha’i internet world is familiar with are just those who decided to make a public stand against such bullying and call the Baha’i administration to account. But I think for every one of those, there are maybe 5 or more of the non-public type. Their hurt is real and their stories are real too. But we just never hear about them.

Paul is a man who has not met a meal he didn’t like in a while. He’s not as round as he is tall, but he’s working on it. His face is well worn with wrinkles, probably because he likes to really enunciate when he talks and probably because he can’t help but smile all the time. And don’t be surprised if he grabs your shoulder or nudges you when he talks. Its those times that he’s trying to impress upon you an important point he’s making.

Paul and his family have been Baha’is for more than 40 years now. In fact, you could say that he was one of the original pillars of his community. In those early years, he might tell you, it was glorious. There were so many teaching opportunities, so many challenges. So much to do. And teach he did. In fact, the vast majority of the Baha’is who later came into their community were either as a result of direct contact with Paul and his family or through teaching projects that he organized.

His family is now quite large. His kids have grown up and have kids of their own. This makes Paul very happy. To have a few generations around him and to see them embrace the Baha’i Faith, that is what really matters to him.

Another thing you will notice when you meet Paul is that he is a very outspoken person. If he’s thinking it, he’ll probably tell you about it. Maybe that’s why he was such a great teacher of the Cause. He loves Baha’u’llah and often carries a book or two to read by Him in those short moments when there’s nothing else to do. And he loves to quote stuff.

A few years ago Paul got into mounting trouble with the Baha’i administration. Why? I guess it was his outspoken nature. When he would see something wrong, he would bring it to the attention of the assembly and suggest they do something about it. He had been a long time member of the institution himself and couldn’t understand why they didn’t see the same things that he plainly saw.

And what did he see that bothered him? That the community was not growing (and in fact shrinking); that the LSA’s authority had been superceded by ABM and other members of the appointed arm; that Ruhi wasn’t really helping the community to grow; that the vitality which was in the community not long ago had evaporated.

As Paul kept bringing these issues up, the LSA and the ABMs became more and more uncomfortable. They just didn’t want to talk about these things. They tried to tell him to just let it go. But Paul loved the Faith too much, he loved Baha’u’llah too much. He couldn’t just let it go after 40 years and after seeing his community bloom and grow from just a few Baha’is (and now decline). Paul couldn’t understand why they were seeing him as a ‘troublemaker’. All he was concerned about was how to help his community and Faith. Just like he had done from the first day he became a Baha’i.

So he didn’t let up.

One day, not long after, he was invited to have a sit down meeting with the ABM of the area. The ABM was a young Persian man (in his late 20s) and he was sitting down in front of Paul. In that meeting the ABM explained to Paul that his pattern of behaviour and speech had been brought to his attention and that he was worried about Paul’s spiritual health. He explained that Paul was walking a very fine line. That if he insisted on continuing this way there was really no other choice than to inform the Counsellors and the ITC, who would not look too kindly on the whole matter. The ABM told Paul that his conduct and speech were a sign that he was covenantally weak. And he recommended that Paul deepen about the covenant and the necessity of Baha’is to obey the institutions.

Paul was asked for the unity of the Faith and his own wellbeing to stop saying those things. To stop criticising Ruhi and questioning why the whole community should be taking the courses. And he should stop burdening the LSA with his other suggestions and ideas. The LSA knew what was best for the community and they, in consultation with the ABM would fulfil their responsabilities.

In this meeting Paul asked to see a copy of the Ruhi books. The ABM declined saying ‘We know that all you want to do is to further criticise and attack the Ruhi courses. That’s why I’ve instructed everyone to not give you or sell you any Ruhi books.’ Needless to say, Paul exited that meeting quite shaken.

When he went home and told his family they had a rough time believing him. The result was that Paul’s loving wife decided to withdraw from the Baha’i community and to not participate in any activities or functions. His children likewise. Only Paul himself and some of his grandchildren still come to Baha’i functions and events.

The news of this meeting quickly made its round in the community. It was all everyone could talk about. On one hand they all knew Paul and who he was, on the other hand, they also heard that the decision of the ABM was very clear. Pretty soon, people began to whisper and talk whenever Paul would raise his hand to make a suggestion at feast.

Looking into Paul’s eyes, you can see the sadness this whole mess has caused him. But remarkably, you also see that he hasn’t lost the twinkle that was there before. He’s still in love with Baha’u’llah and he is still devoted to the Faith. He brushes aside any comments for appeal or seeking justice. He only says, these things are not important.

The Circle is Complete

The House of Justice has lost no time in appointing two new members of the ITC to replace those which were elected to serve on the UHJ. Ahh. . . the circle is now complete. ITC members move up to the UHJ, and then turn around and appoint new members of the ITC, who will in the near future move to the UHJ, and round and round we go!

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
Bah??’?­ World Centre â€? P.O. Box 155 â€? 31 001 Haifa, Israel
Tel: 972 (4) 835 8358 � Fax: 972 (4) 835 8280 � Email: secretariat@bwc.org

Transmitted by email
TO: All National Spiritual Assemblies
DATE: 24 March 2005

MESSAGE:
With joyful hearts we announce the appointment of Gustavo Correa and Stephen Hall as Counsellor members of the International Teaching Centre.

The Universal House of Justice
cc: The Hand of the Cause Dr. â€?Al?­-Mu.ammad Varq??
International Teaching Centre
Continental Boards of Counsellors Counsellors

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

Stephan Hall was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia for a long time. And then around 2004 became a Counsellor for Australia-Asia. Basically, a career beaurocrat.

New ITC Counsellor – & future UHJ member – Gustavo Correa.

Gustavo Correa – along with fellow Baha’is, Bushrui, Poostchi and Lyberth – is a Creative Member of the Club of Budapest – an organization founded by Ervin Laszlo (akin to the Club of Rome). But his day job is (or rather, was) the Director of FUNDAEC in Columbia. Oh and he’s also married to Arbab’s daughter.

This is the third person (after Arbab, and Lample) who moves from the closely knit circle of Baha’is from Columbia/FUNDAEC/The Ruhi Foundation into a position of power within the Baha’i world community. Just another one of those coincidences, I guess. It has nothing to do with the group-think which has got a strangle hold on current Baha’i administration. Nothing whatsoever.

Just move along now.

LA Study Class Newsletter [#18]

My Notes:

I just have three quick comments about this newsletter. First, the main topic is a fascinating one because it challenges the assumption that most Baha’is have about the nature of revelation in the Baha’i Faith. I dare say its something which most have not really thought about. But that isn’t to say that most will agree with the ideas presented below. I guess some Baha’is may argue that such mortal interference, intervention or participation isn’t necessarily proof of an external force acting on revelation; but that that itself was brought on by the Will of the Manifestation of God and in a sense was all part of the grand design. Whether you agree or disagree, it is a very interesting topic and one that doesn’t get to see much light of day.

The other comment I have is about the mention, in the newsletter, of LSA and NSA by-laws which were written by average, ordinary (American) Baha’is and approved by the Guardian. So although there did not originate from the pen of Shoghi Effendi, they did become official and binding from 1927 and onwards. Most Baha’is don’t know (is this a little known fact? hmmm…) that these by-laws were changed in a special resolution of the NSA of the US in 1994. And after this change, the by-law change applied to all LSAs and NSAs around the world. I’ll leave it at that for now. In reality, this is an important topic as it has consequences which are far reaching for the Baha’i worldwide community. Hopefully, I’ll find some time in the near future to write about it and explain further what I mean.

Finally, my last comment is about Greg Dahl’s opinion that the calamity may be an economic collapse brought on by the protectionist stance of governments around the world (the restriction of trade). Maybe it is almost 30 years of hindsight which allows us to see the error of such an opinion, or maybe it is the fact that, as Dahl himself mentions, Baha’u’llah praised and encouraged free-trade. Dahl’s opinion reflects what I mentioned in my commentary of the calamity; that it is easy to be cought up in the zietgeist of your time and lose perspective. We see that this has claimed another victim as the economic malaise of the 1970s affects his view and causes him to make such predictions (notice how he implies a comparison to the Depression). Today, we know that the world – unwittingly – heeded Baha’u’llah’s wishes and we also see the economic wealth that it created as a result. Shoghi Effendi might disagree with me, but I think Baha’u’llah would feel right at home with the Austrians.

If this is your first newsletter, you might also want to read the introduction to the LA study class, here.

On with the 70’s class . . .

[START DOCUMENT]

July 30, 1977 — Vol. II, No. 13

[Ed. personal home address]
City Motto: “Nihil Movetur Et Curat Nemo.”

To most Baha’is, the Abha revelation has taken the form of a monologue, from the Manifestation to the masses. In the popular conception, the Prophet’s method was to reveal the Will of God, while the body of believers was to listen and render, the the Baha’i phrase, “instant, exact and complete obedience.”

That view of how Baha’i teachings came into being was challenged in our July 30 study class by Tony Lee. Lee argued the developement of Baha’i doctrine and the tenents of the Faith came as a result of a dialogue — indeed, a collaboration — between the central figures of our religion and individual believers. He said his study of the issue led him to conclude the development of the Baha’i Faith was never a one-way street in which edicts were handed down from on high to be unquestioningly obeyed. Rather, Lee asserted, individual Baha’is took an active role in developing the Cause an deven went so far as to introduce doctrine which subsequently became part and parce of Baha’i dogma. However active the believers were in helping formulate the Faith, anything htey did had to subsequently be ratified or approved by a central figure to be valid, he noted. That veto privilege, however, in no way intimidated Baha’is from taking initiative and introducing some of our most basic concepts and practices.

Lee’s presentation was somewhat off-the-cuff, the result of being an eleventh-0hour substitution for Ruth Campbell’s paper on the role of women in the Faith. Ms. Campbell was unable to complete her research in time for our class. Since Tony’s presentation was a fill in, he had no time to compose a paper, but spoke from notes. Therefore, there is no formal report that our readers may send away for, so this summary will have to do. Lee cited examples of his collaborative revelation thesis in each of the major epochs of Baha’i history. Following that outline, here, in condensed form, is what he said:

BABI DISPENSATION: The most dramatic examples of interaction between central figure and believers take place in this era. A careful reading of Nabil’s Narrative, “The Dawnbreakers”, makes it clear that the declaration of the Bab was a dialogue between the Bab and Mulla Husayn [Ed. also spelled Mullah Husayn]. Baha’is celebrate the Declaration of the Bab at about two hours and 11 minutes after sunset on the evening of May 23. However, Nabil makes it clear that the Bab declared Himself to Mulla Husayn before that exact time. Briefly, here is the story, Mulla Husayn, whose search of the Promised Qa’im has taken him to the city of Shiraz, is met just outside the city gate by the Bab. The Bab takes Mulla Husayn home with Him and, together, as the sun sets, they say their evening prayers. Afterwards, they begin conversing about Mulla Husayn’s quest for the Promised One. The Bab asks Mulla Husayn how he will know who this is. The Mulla then reels off a list of qualifications, including a sketchy physical description. At that point, the Bab, according to Nabil’s Narrative, tells Mulla Husayn, “Behold, all these things are manifest in Me!” At that point, the Bab has formally declared Himself to be the Promised One Mulla Husayn is in search of. That is the Declaration of the Bab. That is not, however, the moment we Baha’is celebrate.

Mulla Husayn is surprised by this statement and refused, at first, to accept it. He asks the Bab to prove Himself, first by explaining some of the hidden, abstruse teachings of the Shaykhi sect, and second, by writing — unbidden — a commentary on the Surih of Joseph in the Qur’an.

The Bab complies with both requests and, it is important to note here, we have a dialogue in which Mulla Husayn, who is to become the first Babi, is directly affecting and shaping the Babi Revelation. Once the Bab has completed His commentary on the Surih of Joseph, it begins to dawn on Mulla Husayn that his quest is over, he has found the Qa’im. Stunned by the growing realization fot his knowledge, Mulla Husayn glances at the nearby clock and sees the time as two hours and 11 minutes past sunset. He rises to leave, but is restrained by the Bab, Who tells him, “If you leave in such a state, whoever sees you will assuredly say: ‘This poor youth has lost his mind.'”

It is one of history’s little ironies that the moment we Baha’is celebrate as the Declaration of the Bab is a time when the Bab has told Mulla Husayn, “Don’t go outside, people will think you’re nuts.” But as amusing as this small quirk may be, it has some far-reaching implications. We do not, in fact, celebrate the actual Declaration of the Bab. That event occurred early in the evening. What we celebrate as the beginning of the Babi dispensation is the acceptance by Mulla Husayn of that declaration. In other words, a Babi, the first Babi, has played a direct and bital role in the revelation.

The single most striking example of the influence of believers on the course of religious revelation occurs at another point in the Babi dispensation. It is the conference of Badasht during which the Babis broke with their Islamic past and sent the Babi Movement on its own, separate course. Eighty-one Babis, including such prominent figures as Baha’u’llah, Quddus and Tahirih, met for 22 days in June and July 1848 and, acting on their own authority, abdogated the Shari’ah, the Muslim canonical law based on the Qur’an. They had absolutely no legitimate authority to do this. Yet that act, rightfully reserved for the Prophet, changed the entire course of religious history. It is also at this point that Tahirih declared the principle fo the equality of men and women. The Bab, held prisoner in the fortress of Chihriq, did not learn of these developments until later, but did not repudiate them, allowing the acts of His disciples to stand. Tahirih’s proclamation of the equality of men and women is of special interest in this regard. As far as we know, the Bab wrote little, if anything, about this concept. Even Baha’u’llah never made it a central point of His revelation, although perhaps this is because, by the time He declared His mission, the principle of sexual equality had become a fundamental part of Babi creed and He felt it unnevessary to affirm what was already accepted dogma.

BAHA’U’LLAH: The influence of the believers on the course of the revelation is almost as far reachign in the Baha’i Faith as it was in the Babi dispensation. Baha’u’llah revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, at the direct request of the believers as is evidenced by this passage from page three of the Introduction to the Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas[Ed. at the time of this newsletter only the Synopsis was available]:

“‘For a number of years,’ Baha’u’llah states in one of His Tablets, ‘petitions reached the Most Holy Presence from various lands, begging for the laws of God, but We held back the Pen ere the appointed time had come,'”

It is this same interaction, this same request for information that led Baha’u’llah to write the Kitab-i-Iqan, which Shoghi Effendi called “unequalled by any work in the entire range of Baha’i literature, except the Kitab-i-Aqdas.” The Iqan was written for an uncle of the Bab who asked Baha’u’llah to explain progressive revelation to him.

Even after “the appointed time had come,” Baha’is could still influence and coax more out of the Prophet. “Questions and Answers.” an explanatory appendix to the Aqdas, is the result of questions a Persian Baha’i submitted to Baha’u’llah, hoping for an explanation of some passages in the Aqdas. Again, it is another example of a Baha’i playing a direct role in the revelation.

ABDU’L-BAHA: While there are many stories illustrating instances where Baha’is influenced ‘Abdu’l-Baha (His journeys to Europe and America came at the request of early Western Baha’is), a couple of examples will suffice.

The idea of constructing a House of Worship in Wilmetter, Illinois, was not one Abdu’l-Baha suggested to the handful of American Baha’is. Rather, they heard about plans to erect a Temple in Ishqabad and wrote to Abdu’l-Baha requesting permission to follow suit in the United States.

The book Some Answered Questions, which almost singlehandedly defines the Baha’i attitude to Christianity and its doctrines, came as the result of a series of interviews Abdu’l-Baha granted to Laura Clifford Barney. There are amusing stories about Mrs. Barney pestering the Master with questions, but the fact remains that had she not done so, we might not have material we possess.

SHOGHI EFFENDI: There is evidence to suggest that much of the form of the Baha’i administrative order developed out of a dialogue between Shoghi Effendi and Horace Holley. Holley would write to the Guardian with questions and the replies laid the basis for our administrative machinery.

In a more direct example of believer influence, the by-laws for local and national Spiritual Assemblies were not, as is sometimes assumed, written by Shoghi Effendi, but a cadre of American Baha’is who sent them off to Haifa for his approval. The Guardian did not change one word of those suggested by-laws and, in fact, insisted that all local and national Assemblies in the world adopt them in uniformity.

Examples of individual influence persist even to the present. The correspondence from the Universal House of Justice in its letters about the Guardianship came in response to a detailed and direct request of an American Baha’i.

Summing up, Lee said all this history serves to point out that Baha’is are expected – even encouraged – to take an active role in the development of the Faith. The notion that we sit waiting for some higher authority to take the initiative always has been erroneous.

This unorthodox view went down with hardly a murmur of protest from class members who appeared to accept it as reasonable and accurate. One class member noted, however, that the initiative for individual action was more likely to exist when there was a vacuum of leadership. The Bab’s confinement in Mah-Ku and later Chihriq made Him unavailable to lead the infact Babi community. In that absence of leadership, various Babis, including Baha’u’llah, exercised authority. But once an authority figure, a Baha’u’llah, an Abdu’l-Baha or a Shoghi Effendi, was on the scene, individual Baha’is were not deciding doctrine.

CALAMITY FOLLOW-UP: Greg Dahl of Washington D.C. pointed out one direct reference to the calamity we missed in our recent study class on that topic. Shoghi Effendi summarized his views of the calamity in Baha’i News, No.283 (September, 1954). It adds some interesting thoughts to what appeared in our notes. Also, some of the most interesting reactions to that class came from people who wanted to know why Greg Wahlstrom, who taught the session, had not used any pilgrim’s notes. Essentially, it was because Greg was presenting the on-the-record view. While interesting, pilgrim’s notes are unofficial and there is no way to validate their accuracy. However, as part of his paper on the contrast between Shoghi Effendi’s public statements and private views, Jon Hendershot plans to include pilgrim’s notes summaries of the Guardian’s thoughts on the calamity. Since pilgrim’s notes of this nature are not readily available, anyone having such documents is asked to contact Jon by writing to him at [Ed. personal home address and phone number follows].

In a cassette recording played for our class, Greg Dahl, who is an economist, also touched on the possibility of a calamity stemming from an economic collapse. The Baha’i Faith supports two economic principles that run counter to current economic practice in the world. The first of these views is that there must be free trade, that is, the unhindered movement of goods from nation to nation. Unfortunately, this position stands opposed to prevailing economics practice in which many nations, in an effort to protect their home-grown industries, erect stiff import barriers on imported goods. This sort of protectionism courts retaliation from other nations miffed that their goods should be so slighted. Dahl reported that protectionism was on of the factors aggravating the worldwide depression of the 1930s. The world’s economic health now depends on a high level fo trade, but the growing trend toward protectionism threatens global economic stability, Dahl warned. Relative to this, and equally threatened by the trend of events, is the Baha’i view of a world superstate in which a global currency will be established, linking national economies together as never before. Contrasting the trend of events to the Baha’i view, Dahl concluded his remarks by saying, “It’s a very unstable prosperity we are enjoying now.” For those interested in a fuller discussion of the Baha’i Faith and economics, read Dahl’s article “Economics and the Baha’i Teachings: An Overview” in the Fall 1975 issue of World Order magazine.

WHAT’S NEXT: We have two classes set for August. The first of these will present Bob Ballenger’s hysterical ravings on “Roles in Conflict: Baha’i Administration versus the Individual.” That laugh-loaded event will take place on Sunday, August 14, at 2 pm in the home of Jon and Chris Hendershot [Ed. personal home address and phone number follows]. If you can’t find it on the map (rumors that Manhattan Beach does not exist have been greatly exaggerated; the city is there, it’s just that few people care to admit it), call Jon and Chris for directions. Then, on Saturday, August 27, at 2 pm Bonnie Barnes’ paper, “A Baha’i Theory of Personality,” will be given in the home of Greg and Paula Wahlstrom [Ed. personal home address and phone number follows].

AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR: Dues for newsletter recipients are $12 a year, payable to Paula Wahlstrom, our esteemed treasurer. If you haven’t paid up, do it now. Mail your checks to her at [Ed. personal home address follows]. Back issues of this gozamba (that’s Yoruba for “trashy newsletter”) as well as photocopies of papers presented to the class also are available at a buck each from Mrs. Wahlstrom.

[END DOCUMENT]

Links:

The original scanned documents can be found here.

The Song Remains the Same

On March 21st, the Baha’i world community (via the NSAs) elected two individuals to take the place of Douglas Martin and Ian Semple as members of the Universal House of Justice. And just as many had predicted, the newly elected members of the House are both Counselors at the International Teaching Center: Mohajer and Lample.

Here are some biographical information about the members of the House of Justice. Dr. Payman Mohajer is directly related to (the Hand of the Cause of God) Dr. Mohajer – his nephew, I think – and Mr. Paul Lample was a Counselor running the SED efforts at the Baha’i World Centre. I don’t know much about Dr. Mohajer but to me the choice of Paul Lample is interesting.

Other than running the SED department, Lample’s other achievement was writing the self-published book, “Creating a New Mind”; a book which will no doubt become obligatory reading now. I say self-published by the way because Lample is behind Palabra Publications (palabra is the Spanish word for ‘word’); which just happens to be the organization which publishes his book as well as other books. Some of them go by a name you may know: the Ruhi books.

Saints preserve us! What a totally innocent coincidence.

Yes well, this innocent coincidence means that Lample and Arbab are two peas in a pod. One is the creative force behind Ruhi and the other is the publisher. Its pretty safe to predict an intensification of the campaign to Ruhify the Baha’i Faith. In fact they both go way back to FUNDAEC, the foundation started by Arbab in the 70’s in Columbia. Here is a rare archival picture of a FUNDAEC class before its mandate was formalized:

farzam-arbab-fundaec.png
‘Dr. Arbab says, touch your head… Carlos, you’re out.’

But if you ask me, the most impressive achievement of Lample (as an ITC member) was coining the phrase that has taken the Baha’i world community by storm: “What does the pyramid look like in our cluster?” If you are one of the few who have not used this catch-phrase atleast 3 times in the last cluster meeting, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you insist on a source, fine (top of page 3).

The result of the election of Lample to the UHJ is that we have now one more person at the top who has a personal stake in Ruhi and who will find it extremely difficult to say ‘Hey, we screwed up. Sorry about that. Lets move on now.’ And that means that the Ruhi campaign is probably going to spiral out of control until it crashes and burns of its own volition.

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

The trend of electing ITC members to the UHJ was started in 1983. Before then, the majority of the House members were elected from the pool of NSA members. Why is such a change significant? It is an extremely important inflection point in the history of the Baha’i Faith because the UHJ appoints the members of the ITC. With the ‘candidate’ pool for the UHJ also being the ITC members, what we have is a closed loop.

The ITC is appointed by the UHJ, then the members of the UHJ are chosen from the ITC, then the UHJ appoints members of the ITC to replace those newly elected House members. And round and round we go.

Read this doc on Scribd: Membership of the UHJ

It is now obvious, even to the casual observer, that the leadership of the Baha’i Faith is coming from a smaller and smaller group of people with narrower and narrower viewpoints. Why does this matter? Aren’t the NSAs free to elect whomever they wish to elect? No one is forcing them to choose from the male pool of ITC, right?

Well, yes, of course. But the fact remains that they are doing just that. The facts and the trend are undeniable. All we can do is stand back in awe and wonder what is going on. Can it be just a coincidence that the 8 of the 9 members of the UHJ right now are ITC alumni? that 8 out of 9 have been appointees of the House itself? Can it just be coincidence that we have not had one non-ITC person elected the UHJ since 1982 (Mitchell – former member of the NSA of USA)?

For some Baha’is, the above is something they choose to shrug off. To some others, it is a little blinking red light. Something is very, very wrong here. From a strictly organizational behaviour point of view, what we have here is an organization that has stumbled upon a mechanism which is making it more and more internally-focused, insular and close-minded. And time is showing an acceleration of this trend. The Baha’i administration is being run by a group of people with a very narrow set of opinions and ideas. The deadly disease of group-think, the plague of so many other fine organizations in the past, has officially set in.

Getting back to the question of why this is happening, I can think of some ideas. One, the members of the ITC are very highly visible in the Baha’i world community. Especially at the level of national administration. They are given portfolios (much like the members of the House) and are responsible for geographic areas and countries. They travel often and are in touch with the NSA members of those countries under their watch. Which results in a very powerful, albeit, informal candidacy and implicit campaigning. I’m sure they don’t mean to do this but the results are the same nontheless. The various members of the NSAs around the world can’t help but see them, hear their speeches, read their letters (with the authority of the ITC) and be effected by their decision making authority.

The other reason is that the appointed arm of the Baha’i administration has, in the past 25 years, become more powerful than the elected arm. And what we have, in effect, are House members who were never elected for office but who have instead a career (some 20+ years) in the appointed arm as Counselors. In effect, the appointed arm of the Baha’i administration is running the whole show. That is not what was envisioned by Abdu’l-Baha when He created the twin institutions, and the two arms of the Baha’i administration.

All I know is if my clusters start to look like pyramids, its time to call a good proctologist.