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.

  • Sigmund Effendi

    Baquia,

    Thank you for posting the link to “Creating a New Mind”. I find it very, very interesting. Was this first put out in 1999? Does anyone here know?

    I do find some sections full of blank pages. The section on the “The Individual” for example. There are others. I downloaded it a second time just to re-check. Same problem. I hope it is not a bug in my Acrobat Reader 6.0! Has anyone else had this same problem?

    I am studying it very closely. I would say Mr. Lample has set forth the thinking of the overall ITC approach to the Faith very clearly and has done us all a big favor as to clearly setting forth what will most likely be the thinking from Haifa for the forseeable future.

    Has this book been discussed much in cyber space since it was first published? Again, I find the viewpoints in it most revealing. This was a lot of work and effort to write. I am studying it very, very closely. It is quite long and this will take considerable time and effort to grasp. I find it of considerable import as to how the future just might play out. It is fascinating!

    Thanks again for providing this valuable link! I

    think everyone should eventually start studying this work and bringing it into full and open discussion in cyber space.

    Especially since Mr. Lample is now a member of the UHJ. I find it very clearly written.

    Best regards,

    Sigmund

  • Sigmund Effendi

    Baquia,

    Thank you for posting the link to “Creating a New Mind”. I find it very, very interesting. Was this first put out in 1999? Does anyone here know?

    I do find some sections full of blank pages. The section on the “The Individual” for example. There are others. I downloaded it a second time just to re-check. Same problem. I hope it is not a bug in my Acrobat Reader 6.0! Has anyone else had this same problem?

    I am studying it very closely. I would say Mr. Lample has set forth the thinking of the overall ITC approach to the Faith very clearly and has done us all a big favor as to clearly setting forth what will most likely be the thinking from Haifa for the forseeable future.

    Has this book been discussed much in cyber space since it was first published? Again, I find the viewpoints in it most revealing. This was a lot of work and effort to write. I am studying it very, very closely. It is quite long and this will take considerable time and effort to grasp. I find it of considerable import as to how the future just might play out. It is fascinating!

    Thanks again for providing this valuable link! I

    think everyone should eventually start studying this work and bringing it into full and open discussion in cyber space.

    Especially since Mr. Lample is now a member of the UHJ. I find it very clearly written.

    Best regards,

    Sigmund

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    Well Sigmund, I’ve only skimmed the book but from this cursory glance, it seems to be just a regurgitation of quotes.

    If you find anything which is a conclusion or an opinion expressed by Lample. Let me know.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    Well Sigmund, I’ve only skimmed the book but from this cursory glance, it seems to be just a regurgitation of quotes.

    If you find anything which is a conclusion or an opinion expressed by Lample. Let me know.

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  • Albert Matthews Rodrigo

    [quote comment=""][...] as unity. For unity allows diversity of thought, action and methods. Instead, through the trend of ITC members being elected to the UHJ, and then turning around and appointing ITC members… we have now a situation where there are many individuals at the highest levels of office who [...][/quote]

    This article is logically interesting however, and I hope you post this comment about it, I would like to suggest that ultimately there is a certain degree of “academic” going on here. At least in terms of the United States, the Faith itself is rapidly aging and will, in 15 to 20 years, be pretty much extinct due to a severe lack of Baha’i youth or even young adults. I myself am 36 and I see this every day in the Kansas City Community and in all fairness, the only thing that has come along in a very long time which seems able to inject new blood and younger into this Beloved Faith is the Ruhi Institute. After 2 decades of effective non-growth – I say again, 20 years of no growth – we finally have new numbers coming into the Faith who are also young enough to actually be serving still in 10 to 15 years. This fact alone makes me believe that there is something fundamentally good about the Ruhi courses. “By their fruits shall ye know them…”

    All I can say is without the Ruhi Institute the Kansas City Missouri Bahai’ Community would be half it’s present size within 15 years due to simple aging and death; another 15 years past that and it would effectively be gone. Now, at least there is hope. To further clarify, we have added new believers before but all have been almost or fully senior citizens, not a young adult to be found. I hope you see and understand this perspective. Getting all the senior citizen age new believers you can makes you grow but in 15 years you are, well, dead. That is not sustainable.

  • Albert Matthews Rodrigo

    [quote comment=""][...] as unity. For unity allows diversity of thought, action and methods. Instead, through the trend of ITC members being elected to the UHJ, and then turning around and appointing ITC members… we have now a situation where there are many individuals at the highest levels of office who [...][/quote]

    This article is logically interesting however, and I hope you post this comment about it, I would like to suggest that ultimately there is a certain degree of “academic” going on here. At least in terms of the United States, the Faith itself is rapidly aging and will, in 15 to 20 years, be pretty much extinct due to a severe lack of Baha’i youth or even young adults. I myself am 36 and I see this every day in the Kansas City Community and in all fairness, the only thing that has come along in a very long time which seems able to inject new blood and younger into this Beloved Faith is the Ruhi Institute. After 2 decades of effective non-growth – I say again, 20 years of no growth – we finally have new numbers coming into the Faith who are also young enough to actually be serving still in 10 to 15 years. This fact alone makes me believe that there is something fundamentally good about the Ruhi courses. “By their fruits shall ye know them…”

    All I can say is without the Ruhi Institute the Kansas City Missouri Bahai’ Community would be half it’s present size within 15 years due to simple aging and death; another 15 years past that and it would effectively be gone. Now, at least there is hope. To further clarify, we have added new believers before but all have been almost or fully senior citizens, not a young adult to be found. I hope you see and understand this perspective. Getting all the senior citizen age new believers you can makes you grow but in 15 years you are, well, dead. That is not sustainable.

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  • http://twitter.com/igneous1 Dan Jensen

    I've just heard a rumor that His Eminence Mr. Lample has been de-emphasizing Ruhi of late, suggesting that it was a good learning experience, but that it's time to move on to a new approach. Can anyone confirm this?

  • fubar

    Dan,

    I can't confirm it on a factual basis, but there is a long pattern of bureaucratic reinvention in bahai administration that strongly predicts it.

    What that means is that one unreasonable top-down plan is born, is hyped, eventually is noticed to have accomplishes little, is “deemphasized” (along with huge lies/distortions about the extent of accomplishments), then another plan is announced, and the cycle continues.

    There is little or no “real” accountability, or soul-searching, as to why the bureaucrats accomplish little or nothing with their plans (or other forms of top-down groupthink).

    Jurgen Habermas (postmodern philosopher) refers to this as “colonization of lifeworld by systems”. Bureaucracy = systems.

    Colonization of course is not “spiritual” in the usual sense because it violates ethical frameworks in the modern world that prohibit exclusion, oppression, enslavement, etc. (where such prohibition enacts enlightenment, compassion and altruism at a new “level” of social evolution).

    Ultimately the pattern of bureaucratic lies deepens and turns to disillusion, and then the people that dare to state the truth are attacked for being “non-conformists”, or “dissidents”, or “critics”. (they become scapegoats in a “shadow dance” of psychological projection/transference.)

    Eventually the whole mess becomes deeply dehumanizing, which of course doesn't phase the true bureaucrat-to-the-bitter-end (who most likely has sociopathic tendencies) in the least.

    The need to “convert” people plays a specific role by perpetuating the myth that something is being accomplished (transformation).

    There is a vast absence of “authenticity” to the phenomena, it is psychologically and spiritually “empty” (devoid of the usual, natural human tenency to self-organize in small groups to create “meaning”).

    As Bernie Neville (Latrobe Univ.) says, Hermes was both the god of transformation, and the god of lies and deception.

    Its ironic that the greek “pagan” philosophers 3,000 years ago could so clearly see things about human nature that “infallible” bahai bureaucrats can not see now.

    adios muchacho!

  • fubar

    Also almost forgot to mention:

    at one of the Bosch talisman mysticism conferences (late 1990s?) where Terry Culhane talked about the divine feminine, there was also a group of SED practitioners holding meetings about the early implementation of Ruhi. I overheard a conversation between some people that had been very involved in SED work that was “parasitized” to form part of the basis of Ruhi. they were going on and on and on about how the BWC wasn't “really” limiting what kinds of “community building” were “allowed”, Ruhi was just the “preferred” path out of various “diverse” possibilities. These people were obviously the working visionaries doing the dirty work, whose real accomplishments were never recognized by the inept bureaucrats that took all the credit.

    The SED practitioners seemed to be resigned to the fact that bahai administration,like all dysfunctional bureaucracies, rarely “does the right thing”, rather, it operates out of a broken incentive system that primarily serves to perpetuate the bureaucracy, rather than actually accomplish the lofty goals used to “sucker in” converts.

  • Farnoush azami bonabi

    After the election of first UJH in 1963 which has been remaining almost the same for 20 years the house began to bring in,already known and tested personalities to avoid discord on the tope which could be very dangerous. Every president in the USA or prime minister in UK has the right to bring in his cabinet only his like-minded friends to work in unity and preace.Farnoush Azami Bonabi Ghol kollon min endallah.

  • Craig

    All very true! And because of this common state of “lock step group think” look where BOTH systems now sit on the edge of the abyss completely out of true insight regarding their situations. “I cried because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no soul.” It is all completely tragic beyond words.

  • Farnoush azami bonabi

    It has been the same or worse but surely not better through the centuries Now you see worldwide afflictions:poverty,wars,diseases,crimes, drug addiction,corrupyion,illeteracy ignorance,racism,sexism….What can
    both systems or individuals do?Everybody can do only a little bit for the betterment of the life. If you change the systems as you wish nothing will change faster than now.It will take time.

  • fubar

    re: What is wrong with bahai is far deeper than growth patterns, and has existed for far longer than Ruhi.

    I saw two promising “mass teaching” projects fail, one in the 80s, one in the 90s. I was involved on the periphery of the biggest bahai mass conversion project in USA, South Carolina in the 70s, and knew a controversial bahai leader that was directly involved.

    The failures follow a predictable pattern caused by dysfunctional bahai culture, dysfunctional psychological archetypes, and dysfunctional bahai administration.

    SED/Ruhi were attempts to reverse that, but did not work because the “solution” lacked depth, truth and authenticity, and could not match the problem.

    Core bahai beliefs are simply not good enough to solve real problems of human behavior and organization.

    I also saw one attempt to organize a completely bottom-up grass roots mysticism movement destroyed by bahai administration, and knew people involved in a similar, independent grass roots movement involving some of the ideas in the human potential movement (transformative practice) in the 80s snuffed out by bahai leadership elites who felt threatened by the competition.

    What is wrong with bahai is far deeper than growth patterns, and has existed for far longer than Ruhi.

    Ruhi does little to address the deep problems, and thus will also ultimately fail.

    (ex-bahai, 30+ years)

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