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“Without reference to particular individuals”

Posted by Sen on March 23, 2013

Pope-Benedict-XVI From the moment Pope Benedict announced his retirement, the names of possible successors were being discussed, along with ideas about the right kind of Pope to lead the Church in the years to come. A South American? An African? … It all makes for good press. Bahai elections, even the forthcoming election of the Universal House of Justice, are not so newsworthy.

The Bahai community has no clergy, in the sense of qualified religious experts who lead a religious community. Its affairs are administered by elected local and national “spiritual assemblies.” The members of the National Spiritual Assemblies administer the affairs of the community in their countries, and every five years they cast their votes for the members of the Universal (or International) House of Justice, which administers the global affairs of the Bahai community. They will do so again in April, 2013, at an international convention in Haifa, Israel.

At the local, national and international levels, the elections are conducted without candidates, or even any reference to particular individuals. The qualifications for electability in all these elections are well known:

… it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider … the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience…
(Shoghi Effendi, letter of June 3, 1925, printed in Directives from the Guardian, p. 24)

On the face of it, we can tell the Press to move along, there’s nothing to see here. No personalities to dissect, nothing to discuss. If it was really that dull, I wouldn’t be writing about it either. But there’s more to the story. Shoghi Effendi has also said that, prior to an election to a Bahai institution, the friends should “discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals.” (Letter to the Spiritual Assembly of Akron, Ohio, dated May 14, 1927).

But we know the qualifications for membership don’t we? And we are not to make references to particular individuals, who may or may not meet those requirements. So why does Shoghi Effendi call all the Bahais (not just the convention delegates) to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership? Could he have forgotten that he had told us the qualifications, just two years earlier? That would be uncharacteristic, for he was systematic and meticulous by nature.

The answer I think is that, while he has told us the general qualifications which electors should always look for, in any situation, (unquestioned loyalty, selfless devotion, a well-trained mind, recognized ability and mature experience…), he was also aware that every national community has particular needs, and that the needs of one year may not be those of the following year, or of ten years later. What Shoghi Effendi asks us all to discuss must be the requirements of the hour.

The House of Justice has given similar guidance (March 25, 2007):

While there should be no mention of personalities in connection with Bahá’í elections, it is quite appropriate for believers to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership in the institution to be elected. … Among the “necessary qualities” specified by the Guardian are those “of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience”. With a heightened awareness of the functions to be performed by the elected body, the believer can properly assess those for whom a vote should be cast. From among the pool of those whom the elector believes to be qualified to serve, selection should be made with due consideration given to such other factors as age distribution, diversity, and gender. The elector should make his choice after careful thought over an extended period before the actual election.

In my opinion, one requirement for membership which the delegates to the international Bahai convention should weigh very heavily is the desirability that the members of the next Universal House of Justice should have long and fruitful experience as members of National Spiritual Assemblies. In any Bahai election, proven effectiveness on an Assembly is one important sign by which a person’s maturity and wisdom may be known. In the case of the forthcoming election of the Universal House of Justice, four other factors make experience on a National Spiritual Assembly especially important.

one black If the membership of the Universal House of Justice were to be drawn largely from experienced members of the National Spiritual Assemblies, this would strengthen the relationship between the National and International bodies, whose tasks after all lie in the same sphere of the Bahai Administration;

two-black It would provide the Universal House of Justice with members who have experience in implementing, in national communities with diverse patterns of development, the plans and policies which the Universal House of Justice enacts, and that would help to making those plans more relevant and practicable;

three black It would signal a fresh start, in comparison to the present situation in which members of the Universal House of Justice are drawn from the International Teaching Centre rather than from the ranks of national administrative bodies; and

four black It would highlight the natural and fruitful relationship between the elected and appointed arms of the Bahai Administrative Order, a relationship which is obscured if all the members of the Universal House of Justice are drawn from the International Teaching Centre. The ITC then appears to resemble a line up of the papabile cardinals.

~~~

These considerations might also weigh in the minds of the Counsellors, and especially the members of the International Teaching Centre. Would it not be better for the development of the Bahai Administrative Order, if they were to ask the convention delegates not to elect them to the Universal House of Justice? There are good precedents for such a request. The first is the example of the Hands of the Cause, who by asking the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies not to vote for them (Ministry of the Custodians, p. 20) gave concrete expression to the separation of the spheres of authority and administration on the one hand, and of guidance and wisdom on the other hand. The separation of these two spheres was outlined by Shoghi Effendi in The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah as follows:

… these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Baha’u’llah should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. … Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with … instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. … Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

This separation of the spheres of the Guardianship and the House of Justice — and between their attendant institutions — requires a distinction between their personnel, where this is possible. A letter on behalf of the the Guardian states:

… the Guardian states that the Hands of the Cause are eligible to administrative offices except those permanently residing in Haifa and helping the Guardian in the administrative work. Whenever the time comes when the Hands should give up their administrative offices in order to be more free to serve under his direction, he will inform the friends.
(Letter of May 30, 1952, on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, published in The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 182)

As is sometimes the case with letters written on behalf of the Guardian, the wording is unhandy, as ‘administrative’ is used in two different senses. What must be meant is that the Hands residing in the Holy Land and assisting the Guardian with his work, cannot be elected to an administrative office, and that in the future this rule will be extended to the other Hands.

Similarly, the Universal House of Justice has decided that Counsellors, during their terms of office, are not “eligible for membership on national or local administrative bodies… ” (Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 141-142) and it has asked the members of the Auxiliary Boards to suggest to delegates at national convention, that it would not be desirable to elect them to the National Spiritual Assembly:

National Assemblies in whose areas of jurisdiction Board Members reside, should point out to the delegates at Convention that whilst teaching and administrative duties are not mutually exclusive, it is desirable that Auxiliary Board Members, whether for teaching or protection, be left free to concentrate on the work allotted to them… The following extract from the Guardian’s letter, written through his secretary, could be shared with the delegates for their guidance when casting their votes:

“Teachers of the Cause can surely become members of any Assembly or Committee. There should be no incapacity attached to them. But, Shoghi Effendi would just prefer to see them devote all their time to teaching and leave the administrative function for those who cannot serve as teachers. (Bahai News, October, 1932)

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, November 25, 1963)

It would therefore be both permissible and laudable if the members of the International Teaching Centre were to tell the delegates that it would be preferable to leave them to devote themselves to their own functions, in their own sphere of action.

~~~~~

What do you think?

Without reference to particular individuals, post a comment about what you think are the requirements and qualifications for membership of the Universal House of Justice, in view of the needs of the community today. What House of Justice would you like to see emerge from the International Convention?

Edited April 20, 2013: added the reference the Universal House of Justice’s letter of March 25, 2007, and the letter on behalf of the Guardian stating that Hands residing in the Holy Land to assist the Guardian were not to be elected to administrative offices.

Postscript, May 27: See also Arash Abizadeh, ‘How Bahá’í Voters Should Vote,’ Journal of Bahá’í Studies 18. 1/4. 2008, online here.

Short link: http://wp.me/pcgF5-2el

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23 Responses to ““Without reference to particular individuals””

  1. cdndame said

    Thank you for your timely and thorough research. I had been missing your imput recently and am delighted to find notification of this piece in my mailbox.

  2. An important qualification imo is to have a well trained mind that is ‘free’ in making decisions and capable of connecting to the Source within so they can discern Truth and have the ‘Courage’ to truthfully stand by Truth at all times, for without Truthfulness there is no progress. Truth will lead to the quality of ‘Justice’ which will be based on ‘Equality’, Thus the male gendered physical apparatus will not be a quality that the electors will have to look for in a candidate.

  3. cdndame said

    As a female I am of the opinion that I have things that need doing with longer range consequences than those of a successful candidate.

  4. Sen said

    CDN: if you mean that motherhood is a higher priority than serving on the institutions, I agree. As a father (when the children were younger), I put fatherhood ahead of serving on the institutions.

    However in Bahai elections, we do not have “successful candidates.” People are elected, and have the right not to accept, although one would hope that this is for valid reasons such as incapacity or a higher priority work that cannot be delegated (such as parenthood).

    None of this is very relevant to service on the House of Justice, except perhaps that parenthood is one valuable kind of “mature experience.”

  5. Sen said

    [Sen posting on behalf of Mahdad]

    As I understand it Sen makes two points. First, that the electors should go beyond the general qualification statement by the Guardian and discuss specific qualifications needed at any given time (based on the requirement of the specific time) and second that the NSA members’ qualifications, as potential candidates, match what the needs of the future House members are more so than the ITC members.

    About 4-5 years ago the NSA of US when sending out the election package to the delegates included a paper written by Arash Abizadeh (an academic in Canada) regarding the first point Sen raised. The gist off the paper, as I now recall without going back to it, is in confirmation of Sen’s point; at least I think it is. This was a surprising material in the official election package and one that I understood was approved or initiated by the House. I found it refreshing and very helpful and my hope was that it would lead to some change to the way delegates went about their responsibilities.

    The second point relates to self exclusion of a group of individuals from being considered for election to the House, namely members of ITC. I think this point is more problematic because it presupposes that the members of the ITC come to the position with no experience in the elected wing of the administration. That is often not necessarily true, although I find Sen’s expression that the ITC members should disqualify themselves (whether they could or not is another question) in line with the spirit of the House elections shown to us by the Hands, whose example is truly compelling.

    What I took from the research paper I mentioned previously and the possible reasons that the House would wish the US delegates to read it, as well as subsequent letters that have occasionally sent out by the research department prior to each Ridvan, is the desire to have the electorate be truly informed and educated about the responsibility of whom to elect, and it would not be sufficient to just read a couple of general passages from the Guardian prior to casting a vote. Much more work, including detailed consultation with others, is required.

    My last observation is that even though such detailed consultation regarding the specific qualifications may be needed by the electorate, such consultation should be limited to and kept to those who actually cast a vote otherwise we get into the corruption of the political systems we see around where self appointed pressure groups decide what qualifications should be relevant and with the help of publicizing those thoughts we are back into electioneering.

    Dear Sen, I hope I have not mangled the intent of your article.
    Regards,
    Mahdad

  6. Xyz said

    When Shoghi Effendi says we must “discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals” he is refering to the requirements and qualifications he has given i.e. “unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience”. We must discuss what these qualities mean and not the “requirements of the hour” as you suggest.

    I still feel the Hands were wrong in asking the delegates not to elect them in the UHJ. I see no writings to support this. The letter you quote from World Order of Baha’u’llah p 148 describes the separate sphere of jurisdiction of the UHJ and the Guardian. It does not apply to the Hands. Infact the same letter says teachers can become members of Assemblies. Its just that Shoghi
    Effendi prefers them to concentrate on teaching. I think if a teacher does get elected to an Assembly then he/she must decide which rank to accept and which one to decline.

  7. Xyz said

    If I am correct some Hands were members of NSA too. Is that correct? If so then why can’t a Hand be a member of the UHJ?

  8. Sen said

    The Guardian’s explanation about the separate spheres of the Guardianship and the House of Justice does apply to their attendant institutions:

    Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

    The Hands were an “attendant institution” to the Guardian, so they worked in a sphere that is separate from, and complementary to, that of the House of Justice. I think the Hands’ request that they not be elected to the Universal House of Justice was correct, and in line with the Guardian’s wish that, at lower levels, “the administrative function” should be left “for those who cannot serve as teachers.” (Bahai News, October, 1932) This is not only a visible sign of the principle of the separation of the spheres of the Guardianship and the House of Justice, of doctrine and administration, it’s also common sense. A good counsellor is already a good counsellor. Whether he or she will make a good administrator is still to be seen, and in any case, a good administrator bought at the cost of a good counsellor is a bad bargain. Let’s hope the international delegates this time round have the wisdom to vote primarily for people with long experience on an NSA, and to leave our experienced Counsellors doing their own work.

    When Shoghi Effendi said that we should “discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership” he could hardly have been meaning just the general qualifications of “unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience.” How are you going to discuss those? John has a well-trained mind, Janet not so much. Janet’s mature experience is 15 years? If we are not to discuss personalities, there’s nothing to discuss here. Each voter has to consider whether these 5 standards apply to particular individuals, without discussion. But there are also the requirements to consider. We know that we are supposed to consider factors such as the desirable mix of membership in an Assembly, because if the voting for the ninth place is tied, and one of the persons tied is a member of a minority, the (outgoing) Spiritual Assembly should announce the election of that person. (See a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, April 13, 1975). A degree of turnover in membership is another requirement for the electors to consider:

    As elections are by secret ballot only the education of the electorate can bring about changes on assemblies which often stagnate from lack of fresh blood …..”
    (From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, March 31, 1945)

    It’s precisely that “education of the electorate” that this blog posting is about. It won’t be done just by me pointing out that it’s desirable for the next House of Justice to have people with experience on a National Spiritual Assembly. We need other opinions about what is required today, and we need to initiate an ongoing internal discussion of “the requirements and qualifications for such a membership” at national and international levels (and in large local communities). It should be a normal part of community life. Background, age, minority representation, “fresh blood,” geographical spread and skill sets are among the factors that come to mind. Leaving the Counsellors to do their counselling is another (the principle of the right person in the right place, and of the separation of the spheres of doctrine and administration).

    Naturally there can be cross-overs, by way of exception. When the number of believers meeting the basic qualifications was low (or there were such believers, whose loyalty and selfless devotion had not yet had a chance to be seen), Counsellors and Hands have served on local and national Assemblies. It is not desirable, but it’s a necessity where there is a paucity of suitable people. Looking at the National Spiritual Assemblies today, I don’t think there’s a shortage of people with administrative experience, loyalty, devotion and the abilities needed to guide the Bahai community today. It was not the case in 1963 either, which is why the Hands were quite right to make it clear that they should not be elected to the House of Justice.

  9. Xyz said

    “The Hands were an “attendant institution” to the Guardian, so they worked in a sphere that is separate from, and complementary to, that of the House of Justice.”

    Again the “sphere of jurisdiction” in WOB p 148 applies to the UHJ and the Guardian and not the Hands. The work or sphere of the Hands (protection and propagation) is not a separate sphere from that of the UHJ. The sphere of UHJ includes protection and propagation too. So the Hands can discharge their functions as Hands towards the Guardian and they can serve on the UHJ. If their boss (the Guardian himself) can serve as a member of the UHJ then why not the Hands?

  10. Sen said

    I have edited the posting, to add a reference to the Universal House of Justice’s letter of March 25, 2007. This makes it clearer that what the Bahais are to discuss among themselves is the additional requirements of membership, in a particular situation, in light of the desirable composition of membership in the institution concerned.

  11. Sen said

    The hands are an attendant institution to the Guardianship, Xyz. “The Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God …” (Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 12) The Cousellors serving at the World Centre are the present manifestation of the same functional requirement.

    The fact that the functions of protection and propagation are common to the two institutions does not diminish the separation between them, and between their attendant institutions, in Shoghi Effendi’s view, since he writes:

    Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties.
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

    While the institutions have many purposes in common, their responsibilities and duties in relation to those purposes differ. So does the desirable skill set for their members. A failure to grasp the two-part architecture of the Administrative Order has been a problem for the Bahais since the Will and Testament was read, and it affects all levels of Bahai life. As the Universal House of Justice writes:

    We were very pleased by the sense you conveyed of an ever-closer relationship between your Assembly and the Continental Counsellors, and we were even more deeply impressed by your eagerness to know how you might strengthen this relationship. A beginning towards achieving your desire would be for you to obtain an integrated understanding of the Counsellors’ responsibilities and sphere of action in relation to your own.

    As you know, a distinguishing feature of the Administrative Order is the existence of elected institutions, on the one hand, which function corporately with vested legislative, executive and judicial powers, and of appointed, eminent and devoted believers, on the other hand, who function primarily as individuals for the specific purposes of protecting and propagating the Faith under the guidance of the Head of the Faith. The two sets of institutions collaborate in their functions so as to ensure the progress of the Cause. …
    The Continental Boards of Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies share in the functions of propagation and protection, but the Counsellors specialize in these functions from a different level and in a different manner. … An aspect of the difference in the manner of functioning of the Counsellors derives from the instructions given in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the Hands of the Cause of God, the extension into the future of whose functions of protection and propagation is the responsibility of the Counsellors. …
    (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA, paragraphs 12 to 15. The whole letter is worth a re-read in relation to this crucial relationship)

    The Guardian was not to be an elected member of the House of Justice: as Head of the Faith he was the life-time Head of the House of Justice. As the Guardian, he also appointed and directed the work of the Hands of the Cause. Counsellors today are neither Head of the Faith, nor the Guardian, so the analogy does not apply to them.

  12. Xyz said

    “The hands are an attendant institution to the Guardianship, Xyz”

    I never denied that. All I am saying is that the Baha’i teaching does not prohibit the Hands from serving in the UHJ.

    “The fact that the functions of protection and propagation are common to the two institutions does not diminish the separation between them, and between their attendant institutions…”

    The separation between the UHJ and the Guardianship does not include protection and propagation. How was Shoghi Effendi’s role in protecting and propagating the Faith different from the UHJ? They are not different. The role the Hands played during Shoghi Effendi’s time is now played by the Counsellors. This is precisely the reason the Hands fell under the UHJ once it was established as they had no Guardian to direct them. The UHJ could direct the affairs of the Hands because the sphere of the Hands lies within the sphere of the UHJ.

    “While the institutions have many purposes in common, their responsibilities and duties in relation to those purposes differ.”

    I will again ask you. How did the Hands in past differ in protecting and propagating the Faith from the Counsellors today? There is no difference.

  13. Sen said

    I never said that the function of the Hands (and of the Guardian, and of the House) in protection and propagation has changed. You are misreading me. What I said was that they share these purposes, but “their responsibilities and duties in relation to those purposes differ.”

    I agree that the Bahai’i teaching does not prohibit the Hands from serving on the UHJ: they asked the delegates not to elect them, just as delegates are asked not to elect ABM’s to a National Assembly, and so forth. It is something that is undesirable, not something forbidden. Only the Hands working in the Holy Land
    were explicitly barred from Administrative office:

    In this connection I should like to mention that the Guardian states that the Hands of the Cause are eligible to administrative offices except those permanently residing in Haifa and helping the Guardian in the administrative work. Whenever the time comes when the Hands should give up their administrative offices in order to be more free to serve under his direction, he will inform the friends.
    (Letter of May 30, 1952, on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, published in The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 182)

    Contrary to what you say, the sphere of the Hands does not lie within the sphere of the UHJ: their work is in the sphere of the Guardianship, as Abdu’l-Baha has explained:

    This body of the Hands of the Cause of God is under the direction of the guardian of the Cause of God. He must continually urge them to strive and endeavor to the utmost of their ability to diffuse the sweet savors of God, and to guide all the peoples of the world, …
    (trans. in Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 8)

    and Shoghi Effendi echoes that, saying that the Hands are:

    …closely associated in provisions of the same Will with Institution of the Guardianship, destined to assume in the fullness of time, under the aegis of the Guardian, the dual sacred responsibility for protection and propagation of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha’i World – 1950-1957, p. 58)

    They are separate and complementary, as Shoghi Effendi has explained:

    …Members august body [Hands of the Cause] invested in conformity with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament, twofold sacred function, the propagation and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and destined to assume individually in the course of time the direction of institutions paralleling those revolving around the Universal House of Justice … are now recruited from all five continents … (Messages to the Baha’i World – 1950-1957, p. 20)

    … these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. …Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutionsinstruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. … they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 147)

  14. Xyz said

    I know that the Hands are under the guidance of the Guardian. But in the event there is no Guardian it is under the guidance of the UHJ. This is precisely what happened. It happened because the sphere of the UHJ includes the sphere of the Hands. Otherwise how did the UHJ direct the affairs of the Hands?
    ===
    How does the responsibilities and duties of the Guardian differ from the UHJ in their common purpose of protecting and propagating the Faith? There is no difference. How does the responsibilities and duties of the Hands differ from the Counsellors in their common purpose of protecting and propagating the Faith? Again there is no difference.
    ===
    I never said that the Counsellors are the Head of the Faith or the Guardian. I don’t understand why you think I said that. Which analogy are you refering to? I was saying that the Guardian being the boss of the Hands does serve as a member of the UHJ and therefore it was possible for the Hands to serve on the UHJ too.

  15. Sen said

    I think you are understanding the Guardian’s terminology of the two spheres in terms of the jurisdictions we find in civil government, Xyz. Compare it instead to the medical corps embedded in an army brigade. When the Brigadier says “move out” the medics move too, but they answer to a senior medical officer, who answers to a medical office somewhere at army headquarters. From the point of view of the Brigadier, they are support for the military enterprise, who (irritatingly perhaps) take orders from outside his unit, and insist on things like the Hippocratic oath and medical ethics. From the point of view of the great medical enterprise, from its leading researchers to the GPs and public health officers and hospital nurses, the army medical corps is an outpost of the medical enterprise, in military territory. International medicine will adopt what is learned in the field hospital, and the medics there will use resources and knowledge provided by the whole medical enterprise, including the military enemy, to save lives, including enemy lives.

    In the introduction to my Church and State, and in Bahai meets globalisation I’ve described a model of organic unity which I think best explains the relationships of the organs within the Bahai community, and the organs within society. By “organ” here I don’t mean a body of (usually) men who meet in a room and make authoritative decisions, but rather organs such as the medical enterprise, the scientific enterprise, the military enterprise, the religious enterprise, or the government enterprise. Others have called these “human projects.” To quote myself:

    I would like to reclaim the metaphor of society as a body for a new purpose, in the first place by inviting the reader to conduct a thought experiment: let your brain instruct your heart to cease operations for a moment. The least reflection shows that the fascist interpretation of the ‘body politic’ is based on pure fiction. Our bodies function without one organ commanding. The brain may not know of, let alone understand and control, the operations of other organs. Our bodies, the very model of organic unity, consist of distinct organs, each functioning autonomously according to its own internal logic, each affecting the others, and each needing the others to be fully itself. The liver, for instance, cannot do its alchemy of purification without the flow of blood from the heart; the heart cannot pump unless the blood is both purified and oxygenated. The harmony of the parts cannot be attributed to the command of any one organ: it derives from a transcendent and indefinable property, ‘being a being,’ a quality that cannot be located, but cannot be denied. Reinterpreted in this way, the metaphor of organic unity becomes a model of the postmodern society. It can also be applied to the institutions which make up the Bahai religious community….

    Now, to turn back to the Hands and the House. Yes, when the House says “move out” — it makes a plan — the Hands, and Counsellors, and ABMs and their assistants, move too. If the Guardian had lived to see the election of the House, he too would have moved, bending his energies and directing his attendant institutions to achieve the goals of the plan. When the House legislates on some matter, the religious law it makes applies to everyone, up to and including the Guardian. Nevertheless, the Guardianship and its attendant institutions do not fall within the sphere of the House of Justice, and the House of Justice and National and Local assemblies do not fall within the sphere of the Guardianship / Counsellors / ABMs etc..

    As to the differences between them, the differences between Counsellors and Hands are a difference in rank, some particular roles assigned in the Will and Testament only to the nine Hands elected by their fellows, and other subtle differences that are beside the point here. You will be aware that the first Continental Boards of Counsellors were appointed by the Hands of the Cause. We can treat them as one organ, the Guardianship and its attendant institutions. The differences between them and the elected institutions are manifold: they work as individuals, rather than collectives; they are appointed not elected; they do not speak with authority as to what is to be done, but rather guide, encourage and enlighten. The House and its attendant institutions on the other hand legislate: they can say what is a religious obligation for the Bahais. The individual members have no status, whereas the individuals in the appointed arm of the Administrative Order do have a personal status, and should be shown respect.

    Since, as you say, the Counsellors are not the Guardian or the Head of the Faith, the fact that the Guardian was appointed by Abdu’l-Baha to be the irremovable chairman of the House of Justice does not imply that a Counsellor can be an elected member of the House of Justice. It also does not imply that a Counsellor cannot be elected. It is simply irrelevant. The Guardian or his appointed representative was to attend and officiate at House of Justice meetings, because he was the Head of the Faith. Now that the House of Justice is the Head of the Faith, its presence when the House of Justice meets is self-evident, and no 10th chair is needed.

  16. bill4148 said

    Thank you for this interesting and timely discussion. It does appear that a pattern has developed of new members of the UHJ being drawn from the International Teaching Centre, and that this pattern may have acquired an aura of correctness and inevitability. I am not sure that this is necessarily harmful to the Faith, but clearly the pattern is not likely to be changed unless delegates are advised by the UHJ not to vote for members of the ITC.

  17. Sen said

    All good bill4148, but personally, I put more faith in “the education of the electorate” than on direction from above. This is the time of the maturity of the world — it requires maturity in world-citizens too.

  18. Xyz said

    “the Guardianship and its attendant institutions do not fall within the sphere of the House of Justice, and the House of Justice and National and Local assemblies do not fall within the sphere of the Guardianship”

    Well, the Guardian did direct the affairs of the NSA and the LSA. Also only the Guardian can define the sphere of the legislative action of the NSA and LSA. So the NSA and the LSA do fall within the sphere of the Guardianship. Also the UHJ did direct the affairs of the Hands related to their functions of protection and propagation of the Faith in the absence of a Guardian.

    You still have not given any difference in responsiblities and duties between the Hands and the Counsellors in their common purpose of protecting and propagating the Faith. There is none. You have mentioned the difference between the elected and appointed bodies. Well, that was totally unrelated to our discussion.

    I still don’t understand your point in saying the Cousnsellors can or cannot be members of the UHJ. I never equated the Counsellors with the Guardians. So I am still confused why you keep making this point.

    Clearly you miss the point that the Guardianship and the UHJ share the functions of protecting and propagating the Faith and therefore either institution can direct the affairs of the attendant institutions of the other in the event of their absence.

  19. Sen said

    I agree that “the Guardianship and the UHJ share the functions of protecting and propagating the Faith and therefore either institution can direct the affairs of the attendant institutions of the other in the event of their absence.” That reinforces my point, that the “two spheres” the Guardian refers to, are not like civil jurisdictions.

    Yes, the Guardian did direct the affairs of the NSA and the LSA. But you say “only the Guardian can define the sphere of the legislative action of the NSA and LSA.” What Shoghi Effendi actually wrote is:

    Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship …the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

    So only the Guardian can define the sphere of the legislative action of all the elected institutions. You reason that the fact that Guardian could delimit the legislative action of the NSA and the LSA means that the NSA and LSA fall within the sphere of the Guardianship. By your logic then, the House of Justice falls within the sphere of the Guardianship. But it was after all Shoghi Effendi who came up with the term “sphere,” and he uses it to clarify the fact that the Guardianship and the UHJ have separate spheres.

    Clearly something is wrong with your reading or logic, since you end up contradicting the author you are trying to read. The solution is not to move the Hands or the Counsellors into the sphere of the UHJ, or the NSAs and LSAs into the sphere of the Guardian, or both, but rather to go back to Shoghi Effendi and see what he means by the “spheres,” without preconceptions. He is an intelligent and systematic thinker, and doesn’t contradict himself on fundamental points. He writes:

    My present intention is to elaborate certain salient features of this scheme which, however close we may stand to its colossal structure, are already so clearly defined that we find it inexcusable to either misconceive or ignore.  

    It should be stated, at the very outset, in clear and unambiguous language, that these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims.
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 147-8)

    You said, “You still have not given any difference in responsiblities and duties between the Hands and the Counsellors in their common purpose of protecting and propagating the Faith. There is none.” I agree, more or less. What I wrote to you was “the differences between Counsellors and Hands are a difference in rank, some particular roles assigned in the Will and Testament only to the nine Hands elected by their fellows, and other subtle differences that are beside the point here. You will be aware that the first Continental Boards of Counsellors were appointed by the Hands of the Cause. We can treat them as one organ, the Guardianship and its attendant institutions.”

    There is a compilation prepared by the Bahai World Centre called “The Institution of the Counsellors.” This begins with the Guardian and the Hands of the Cause. In the introduction the House of Justice writes:

    The Administrative Order conceived by Bahá’u’lláh accomplishes its divinely ordained purpose through a system of institutions, each with its defined sphere of action. The central governing body of the Order is the Universal House of Justice, whose terms of reference are the revealed Word of Bahá’u’lláh together with the interpretations and expositions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian. Under its guidance, legislative, executive and judicial authority over the affairs of the Bahá’í community is exercised by Local and National Spiritual Assemblies …

    Freed from those administrative functions assigned to elected bodies, the Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members are able to concentrate their energies on the task of promoting adherence to principle on the part of individual Bahá’ís, Bahá’í institutions and Bahá’í communities. Their understanding of the Teachings, together with the wisdom that comes from the experience gained through intimate involvement in the many aspects of Bahá’í activity, especially qualifies them to offer advice that assists the work of elected bodies. …they play a vital part in encouraging the friends and in fostering individual initiative, diversity and freedom of action. In their endeavours they strive to follow in the footsteps of the Hands of the Cause, whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called on “to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men …”

    (The Universal House of Justice, The Institution of the Counsellors, p. 1)

    I have not said that Counsellors cannot be members of the UHJ. In my posting have given evidence of various kinds that it is undesirable for Bahai electors to elect Counsellors and ABM’s to Assemblies and the House of Justice, and I have shown that it is permissible and desirable for the Counsellors and ABM’s to point this out to the electors, for example at Convention. But as I commented to Bill4148, I put my faith mainly in the education of the electorate. If the electors understand Shoghi Effendi’s model of twin institutions with separate and complementary spheres, they will understand that it is important to show visibly that they are not interchangeable, and that the skill set for a Counsellor is not the same as that required for a National Assembly or UHJ member, or even for the local assembly of a large community. An exceptional individual might have have all the requirements for both, but even in that case, it makes no sense to deprive the appointed arm of a good counsellor, to fill an administrative position.

  20. Xyz said

    You are correct that only the Guardian can define the sphere of the legislatve action of the UHJ. So the UHJ does fall within the sphere of the Guardianship as far as its legislative function goes. Only the Guardian can direct the UHJ about matters it can or cannot legislate upon. The separate sphere of the UHJ comes into effect while legislating. The Guardian cannot legislate on his own and he cannot override the decision of the majority.

  21. Sen said

    That’s not how Shoghi Effendi describes it, Xyz. It is precisely in its legislative function that the UHJ acts in a separate sphere.

    … these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. … Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives.

    [which are, 1:] Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh would be mutilated and permanently deprived of that hereditary principle … Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn. …
    “He is the Interpreter of the Word of God,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, referring to the functions of the Guardian of the Faith, asserts, …

    [and, 2:]
    Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice this same System of the Will of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would be paralyzed in its action and would be powerless to fill in those gaps which the Author of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas has deliberately left in the body of His legislative and administrative ordinances. … “It is incumbent upon the members of the House of Justice,” … “to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

    I don’t see anything about the UHJ falling in the sphere of Guardianship here. They are “twin institutions.” Two organs in one body.

  22. Xyz said

    Are you saying the UHJ can define its own sphere of legislative action? It can’t. The way to see it is that Shoghi Effendi breaks down the legislative function of the UHJ into two parts. First is deciding whether a matter can or cannot be legislated by the UHJ. The second is the actual legislation on a matter that the UHJ can legislate on. The first belongs to the Guardian and the second to the UHJ. To give an analogy. The statement “I can drive a car” does not mean I have the key to a car. It means that once someone gives me the key to a car I can then drive a car. If no one gives me a key to a car I will not be driving a car.

  23. Sen said

    That’s a good analogy. Making and distributing car-keys is something quite different to driving.

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