The Same Dust ?

One of the ideals of the Baha’i Faith which I adore is that each and every human being is equal in the sight of God and that we are really made from the “same dust”. As Baha’u’llah beautifully writes in the Arabic Hidden Words:

O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your heart how ye were created.

In the Baha’i Faith we do not have levels or any other sort of category for spirituality; no clergy: no bishops; no cardinals, etc. We are regard each other as, as fingers of one hand, leaves of one tree and drops of one ocean. That’s why I have a very tough time with the following cable from Shoghi Effendi, in which he tells the Baha’is that his brother has recently married a Christian woman:

Faithless brother Hussein, already abased through dishonorable conduct over period of years followed by association with Covenant-breakers in Holy Land and efforts to undermine Guardian’s position, recently further demeaned himself through marriage under obscure circumstances with lowborn Christian girl in Europe. This disgraceful alliance, following four successive marriages by sisters and cousins with three sons of Covenant-breaker denounced repeatedly by â€?Abdu’l-Bah?? as His enemy, and daughter of notorious political agitator, brands them with infamy greater than any associated with marriages contracted by old Covenant-breakers whether belonging to family of Muhammad-â€?Al?­ or Bad?­â€™u’ll??h.

The choice of the words “lowborn” certainly got my attention! As you probably know, Shoghi Effendi was a serious student (some would argue, master) of the English language. He used words as tools and was considered an inspired composer and translator. So, I wonder, why did he choose such loaded words?

I guess I wasn’t the only Baha’i who wondered that. Apparently after receiving the cable, the Baha’is of England wrote to the Guardian and inquired what he meant by it. On the surface, the expression “lowborn” seems in contrast with Baha’i values and teachings. It is, however, congruent with the then classist mentality that permeated upper-class English society. Could it be that Shoghi Effendi picked up a little of that from his years at Baliol?

Anyway, in response, the Guardian’s secretary writes back:

Regarding his cable concerning Hussein: he has been very surprised to note that the terms â€?low-born Christian girlâ€? and â€?disgraceful allianceâ€? should arouse any question: it seems to him that the friends should realise it is not befitting for the Guardian’s own brother, the grandchild of the Master, an Afn??n and Aghs??n mentioned in the Will and Testament of the Master, and of whom so much was expected because of his relation to the Family of the Prophet, to marry an unknown girl, according to goodness knows what rite, who is not a believer at all. Surely, every Bah??’?­ must realise that the terms low-born and Christian are definitions of a situation and in no way imply any condemnation of a person’s birth or the religion they belong to as such. We have no snobbery and no religious prejudice in our Faith. But the members of the Master’s family have contracted marriages which cannot be considered in any other light than disgraceful, in view of what â€?Abdu’l-Bah?? wished for them.

I’m even more baffled by this hodge-podge answer, in which the Guardian’s secretary seems to dig a deeper hole.

The secretary writes that Shoghi Effendi is “surprised” that the terms he used gave rise to any concerns. This was before political correctness, but why would any Baha’i not question something which appears so contradictory to the teachings and spirit of the Faith? what does ‘lowborn’ mean anyway? and is it used, as opposed to ‘highborn’? was May Maxwell (Shoghi Effendi’s wife) ‘highborn’?

In any case, the secretary goes on to cite the station of the descendants of Baha’ullah and the Bab. Which, again, totally misses the point. Abdul’Baha, in fact, as the exemplar of the Faith, used the title ‘servant of Baha’ and considered Himself as an equal to any other person. He helped the poor, fed the hungry, healed the sick. He never considered himself above another person, for any reason. Certainly not because He was the son of Baha’u’llah and Center of the Covenant.

How can we then deduce that His descendants (even farther away from the Blessed Beauty) should in any way believe themselves to be superior to others because of their DNA?

The use of the words “unknown girl”, “goodness knows what rite” and “who is not a believer at all” is even more bizarre. Unknown to whom? I’m sure she is known to her acquaintances, family, friends and her new husband. To whom else should she be known to? She certainly seems unknown to Shoghi Effendi as he doesn’t even use her name (some would consider that in itself derogatory). Did the Guardian not even inquire who she was? And the melodramatic expression of “goodness knows…” is also silly. The couple would’ve probably married through Christian or Baha’i rites (or both). That Shoghi Effendi doesn’t know by which rite(s) his brother will be getting married alludes to just how little he knew or cared about his own brother’s wedding. And the last one (“who is not a believer…”) is probably the most shocking. If it is not to hold this against her, why even mention that she isn’t a Baha’i? Since Abdu’l-Baha actually encouraged Baha’is to marry both across racial and religious lines, why would his grandchild’s marriage to a Christian girl be “disgraceful”?

The secretary then goes on to say that the words “lowborn” and “Christian” are merely “definitions” of a situation. That’s debatable in and of itself because they are used as adjectives. But even if they are simply definitions, they are certainly not objective ones – rather they are used to evoke an emotion and seem to be seeping with bias. And finally the secretary goes out of his way to say that this is not snobbery, nor religious prejudice. A pschychiatrist would have a field day with such a blatant projection but I’ll leave that one alone.

All I can understand from this whole incident is that Shoghi Effendi did not personally approve of his brother’s choice. Which is fine. Really. But why not just come out and say so without all the convoluted and strained justifications?

Wouldn’t that have saved everyone a heap of trouble?

  • Craig Parke

    “A pschychiatrist would have a field day with such a blatant projection but I’ll leave that one alone.”

    Goodness knows a psychiatrist surely would. Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East have for millenia (ie. Joseph and his Brothers. Cain and Abel. Etc.) Goodness knows people surely would have been upset by the language of this cable. Goodness knows s o m e o n e was having m a j o r p r o b l e m s that day from getting up on the wrong side of the psychological bed. Goodness knows there were unresolved psychological self identity issues in play. Goodness knows someone should have sought family counseling in their lifetime. Goodness knows millions of human beings would suffer and die in World War II and the Baha’is would be sound asleep in their little self satisfied Baha’i World Club. Goodness knows the psychological basket cases in the Administrative Order addiction system over 86 years would eventually make Shoghi Effendi their psychological S u p r e m e M a n i f e s t a t i o n of G o d for t h i s W o r l d A g e. Goodness knows Baha’u’llah and what He wrote no longer counts in any way at all in the current apparatchik Baha’i Faith of 2008. Goodness knows things are not looking good. Goodness knows things are not looking good at all with over 2500 FORMAL WITHDRAWALS from the Baha’i Faith in the U.S. alone since 2001 by very deepened and long serving Baha’is totaling hundreds and even thousands of collective years of selfless service. Goodness knows everyone who ever served in the Administrative Order has got some spla’nin to do in the next world. G o o d n e s s k n o w s.

  • Craig Parke

    “A pschychiatrist would have a field day with such a blatant projection but I’ll leave that one alone.”

    Goodness knows a psychiatrist surely would. Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East have for millenia (ie. Joseph and his Brothers. Cain and Abel. Etc.) Goodness knows people surely would have been upset by the language of this cable. Goodness knows s o m e o n e was having m a j o r p r o b l e m s that day from getting up on the wrong side of the psychological bed. Goodness knows there were unresolved psychological self identity issues in play. Goodness knows someone should have sought family counseling in their lifetime. Goodness knows millions of human beings would suffer and die in World War II and the Baha’is would be sound asleep in their little self satisfied Baha’i World Club. Goodness knows the psychological basket cases in the Administrative Order addiction system over 86 years would eventually make Shoghi Effendi their psychological S u p r e m e M a n i f e s t a t i o n of G o d for t h i s W o r l d A g e. Goodness knows Baha’u’llah and what He wrote no longer counts in any way at all in the current apparatchik Baha’i Faith of 2008. Goodness knows things are not looking good. Goodness knows things are not looking good at all with over 2500 FORMAL WITHDRAWALS from the Baha’i Faith in the U.S. alone since 2001 by very deepened and long serving Baha’is totaling hundreds and even thousands of collective years of selfless service. Goodness knows everyone who ever served in the Administrative Order has got some spla’nin to do in the next world. G o o d n e s s k n o w s.

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Hi Craig,

    I agree with the message of your previous comment and appreciate your skillful use of language, too, in making your point. I did just want to say that when you write, “Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East have for millenia,” I certainly agree that THIS family seems disturbed. But I don’t think it’s fair to say “most families” from the middle east have more severe issues than any other group.

    Anyway, thanks for your post.
    Amanda

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Hi Craig,

    I agree with the message of your previous comment and appreciate your skillful use of language, too, in making your point. I did just want to say that when you write, “Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East have for millenia,” I certainly agree that THIS family seems disturbed. But I don’t think it’s fair to say “most families” from the middle east have more severe issues than any other group.

    Anyway, thanks for your post.
    Amanda

  • farhan

    Craig wrote:
    “Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East…”

    Craig, most families, in the East or the West, North and South have SEVERE issues, they do not publicly talk about; perhaps the worst would be in the South…. This is part of human life.

    Families with more problems are more challenging, offer more opportunities for progress and for fall. The bigger the stumbling block, the greater the stepping stone if we manage to overcome it.

    No one expected Shoghi Effendi to be a perfect person; He had to be a perfect interpretor of Baha’u’llah’s revelation. You dont expect a judge or a referee to be a perfect person; it has to be a person perfectly obeyed so that social life becomes possible ; we need to orgainse into an order, build a new structure.

    After going through May 1968 when it was “forbidden to forbid”, I finally realise now that our society needs to go through periods of disruption, disintegration, disorder (black-hole) and periods of integration, cohesion to live. There can be no progress outside this natural cycle.

    This is true for seasons, galaxies, concepts, social structures and religious dispensations. We do not have a linear progress in life, only in man made machines like clocks. Life is in progress: whether mineral, vegetal, animal, human, social or spiritual, and this progress is not on an automatic basis, but on our own volition ; a test.

    Perhaps ( ?) unlike the molecule in the compost, humans _choose_ to link with the root and rise to the flower or to stay in the compost.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Craig wrote:
    “Goodness knows this entire family had S E V E R E I S S U E S as most families from the psychologically disturbed Middle East…”

    Craig, most families, in the East or the West, North and South have SEVERE issues, they do not publicly talk about; perhaps the worst would be in the South…. This is part of human life.

    Families with more problems are more challenging, offer more opportunities for progress and for fall. The bigger the stumbling block, the greater the stepping stone if we manage to overcome it.

    No one expected Shoghi Effendi to be a perfect person; He had to be a perfect interpretor of Baha’u’llah’s revelation. You dont expect a judge or a referee to be a perfect person; it has to be a person perfectly obeyed so that social life becomes possible ; we need to orgainse into an order, build a new structure.

    After going through May 1968 when it was “forbidden to forbid”, I finally realise now that our society needs to go through periods of disruption, disintegration, disorder (black-hole) and periods of integration, cohesion to live. There can be no progress outside this natural cycle.

    This is true for seasons, galaxies, concepts, social structures and religious dispensations. We do not have a linear progress in life, only in man made machines like clocks. Life is in progress: whether mineral, vegetal, animal, human, social or spiritual, and this progress is not on an automatic basis, but on our own volition ; a test.

    Perhaps ( ?) unlike the molecule in the compost, humans _choose_ to link with the root and rise to the flower or to stay in the compost.

  • Dale Husband

    All this proves is that Shoghi Effendi was a hypocrite who did not live up to Baha’i standards and was too blind to see his own failings. No Baha’i should be loyal to him today.