Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

end of the world

To: EE, unenrolledbahai@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Warning of End Times near.
Date sent: Fri, 31 Oct 2008
_________________

Dear E,

there is no truth in these stories. Some have come about through bad
translations and misunderstandings, others have been generated by the
pilgrim-note industry, just as false hadiths were generated in the
early days of Islam, and for the same two reasons — by individuals
seeking to bolster their own point of view, and to obtain status in
the community.

Shoghi Effendi writes:

“I am at a loss to explain that strange mentality that inclines to
uphold as the sole criterion of the truth of the Bahá’í Teachings
what is admittedly only an obscure and unauthenticated translation
of an oral statement made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in defiance and total
disregard of the available text of all of His universally
recognized writings. I truly deplore the unfortunate distortions
that have resulted in days past from the incapacity of the
interpreter to grasp the meaning of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and from his
incompetence to render adequately such truths as have been
revealed to him by the Master’s statements. Much of the confusion
that has obscured the understanding of the believers should be
attributed to this double error involved in the inexact rendering
of an only partially understood statement. Not infrequently has
the interpreter even failed to convey the exact purport of the
inquirer’s specific questions, and, by his deficiency of
understanding and expression in conveying the answer of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been responsible for reports wholly at variance
with the true spirit and purpose of the Cause. It was chiefly in
view of the misleading nature of the reports of the informal
conversations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with visiting pilgrims, that I have
insistently urged the believers of the West to regard such
statements as merely personal impressions of the sayings of their
Master, and to quote and consider as authentic only such
translations as are based upon the authenticated text of His
recorded utterances in the original tongue (Shoghi Effendi, The
World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 4)

There is no ‘end times’ hysteria in the authentic Bahai writings.
There is a rational programme for the gradual betterment of the world,
based on the unity of humanity, finding its political expression in a
gradually evolving world commonwealth of nations, of which the Master
wrote:

“For example, the question of universal peace, about which
Bahá’u’lláh says that the Supreme Tribunal must be established:
although the League of Nations has been brought into existence,
yet it is incapable of establishing universal peace. But the
Supreme Tribunal which Bahá’u’lláh has described will fulfil this
sacred task with the utmost might and power. And His plan is this:
that the national assemblies of each country and nation — that is
to say parliaments — should elect two or three persons who are
the choicest men of that nation, and are well informed concerning
international laws and the relations between governments and aware
of the essential needs of the world of humanity in this day.
(Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 305; Tablet to
the Hague)

“…the True One hath loudly proclaimed that this Most Great
Revelation hath appeared for the betterment of the world and the
exaltation of the nations.” (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is
Come, p. 18)

the “end times” would rather get in the way of this process, don’t you
think? The purpose is the exaltation of the nations, rather than their
destruction (although it may take a “fiery ordeal” or two to convince
them of their own best interests). Baha’u’llah has explained in the
Iqan that the end-times language of the Bible is to be understood
allegorically: the “calamaties” could never come to pass literally:

Were this “oppression” (which literally meaneth pressure) to be
interpreted that the earth is to become contracted, or were men’s
idle fancy to conceive similar calamities to befall mankind, it is
clear and manifest that no such happenings can ever come to pass.
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 31)

The end times have already happened – in the coming of a new
Manifestation and a new world order. What we face is not the deluge,
but the trials and errors of a learning process, as the world adapts
to its new circumstances

Sen

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5 Responses to “end of the world”

  1. RAINBOW MAN said

    Why did Guardian write the letter “American Bahai’s in Time of World Peril” ??

  2. Sen said

    The titles of the letters and sections are added by an editor, in this case Paul Haney. This was customary. In the introduction to The World Order of Baha’u’llah, this is stated: “The title and subtitles were not part of the original text, but have been added with Shoghi Effendi’s approval for the convenience of the reader.” Since Citadel of Faith was edited in 1965, Shoghi Effendi did not approve these titles. Having said that, it’s not a bad title, although a stickler might notice that the “peril” phrase actually refers to the USA: “The American nation,… stands, indeed, from whichever angle one observes its immediate fortunes, in grave peril. (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 126), and within that, the “American Bahá’í Community…. beset by the same anxieties and perils by which the nation of which it forms a part finds itself.” (p. 129)

    The letter was written on July 28, 1954, when the world was indeed in peril, under threat of a third world war, which “the increasing destructive power of armaments” could make very terrible (but not, in 1954, the end of life on earth, which was a possibility a decade later), and under the less apocalyptic but real threats of materialism, nationalism, communism and racism, and ungodliness and moral laxity.
    However the purpose of the letter was not to tell the Bahais that the end is nigh! Rather, Shoghi Effendi summons them to constructive action, in a Spiritual Crusade, to supply the funds, to send out pioneers, to form and incorporate Spiritual Assemblies, to complete the work on the temple site, and various other goals.

    The barrier inhibiting the America Bahais, Shoghi Effendi felt, was a loss of tempo attendant on increasing urbanisation and the formation of large Bahai communities which, man-for-man, were less productive than small Bahai communities. So he calls for “A veritable exodus from the large cities … where, owing to the tempo and the distractions of city life, the progress of the Faith has been retarded.” (p. 127) A little later he refers directly to the effects on the character of the Bahais: “It is therefore imperative for the individual American believer, and particularly for the affluent, the independent, the comfort-loving and those obsessed by material pursuits, to step forward, …” (p. 131).

    The purpose of the letter, it seems, was both to save the Bahais from themselves, and to summon the huge number of home front and international pioneers needed for the crusade, which in turn was needed to produce the national assemblies, which would be needed to elect the Universal House of Justice which, in the event the Guardian died without appointing a successor, would be very sorely needed. So he calls for those big communities to scatter, “were a bare fifteen adult Baha’is to be left in each of these cities, over which unsuspected dangers are hanging, it would still be regarded as adequate for the maintenance of their local spiritual assemblies.” (127) It’s that need to scatter the Bahais (for a reason which they themselves could not be aware of, but the Guardian was – that there was no plausible successor to the Guardian) that is the logical link between the talk of perils and the reference to the Second World War as a forestaste, on the one hand, and the goals of the Crusade on the other hand. He uses the threats hanging over the cities in particular as extra motivation for affluent, comfort-loving Bahais to go to places where their income and comfort would be considerably lower, but their success in teaching the Faith higher.

  3. RAINBOW MAN said

    What about the weapons from the air falling upon these same cities??Particularly NYC and Chicago—??

  4. Sen said

    As I said, Shoghi Effendi was using the real dangers at the time, as extra motivation to get the US Bahais of the time to get out of the larger Bahai communities to where they were most needed, to provide a sound basis for the forthcoming election of the UHJ. He referred to the “laxity in morals,” the materialism, “the darkening of the political horizon, as witnessed by the widening of the gulf separating the protagonists of two antagonistic schools of thought” (the soviet and western blocks in the Cold War) and “the multiplication, the diversity and the increasing destructive power of armaments to which both sides …are rapidly contributing.” That is a description of the situation in 1954, not a prophecy, a reading which is reinforced by the following reference to the budget deficit that had resulted.

    He continues with a reference to the failure to address racial equality:

    “…a situation which, if allowed to drift, will, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cause the streets of American cities to run with blood, aggravating thereby the havoc which the fearful weapons of destruction, raining from the air, and amassed by a ruthless, a vigilant, a powerful and inveterate enemy, will wreak upon those same cities.
    (Citadel of Faith, 126)

    These weapons were referred to in the previous paragraph: the “ruthless, a vigilant, a powerful and inveterate enemy,” must be the Soviet Union.

    We can be sure this is not about hijackers crashing aircraft into towers 50 years later,
    – from the immediate context
    – from the purpose of the letter: if Shoghi Effendi did foresee 9/11, it would not be a good motivation to get the US Bahais of 1954 to leave New York
    – from the fact that the Guardian did not have supernatural powers such as foreseeing the future. As he says himself:

    Though overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Baha’u’llah and of the Bab, and however much he may share with ‘Abdu’l-Baha the right and obligation to interpret the Baha’i teachings, he remains essentially human and cannot, if he wishes to remain faithful to his trust, arrogate to himself, under any pretense whatsoever, the rights, the privileges and prerogatives which Baha’u’llah has chosen to confer upon His Son.
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 150)

    In the event, the streets did not run with blood, and the Soviets did not attack. In fact, that threat evaporated with the Soviet Union. New threats have arisen. We need to analyse them on the basis of evidence and reason today, not project them back onto Shoghi Effendi’s words. We also have a different community with different needs. While in his day, he could tell observe that “the tempo and the distractions of city life” were retarding the progress of the Faith (p. 127), and conclude that more communities in smaller centres would be better, we cannot indefinitely accept a situation in which Bahai growth (in the West) stalls as Bahai communities reach a certain size. We have to subdivide the urban communities down to the neighbourhood level, each with its own feast and worship, aiming eventually to have neighbourhood communities in cities that are circumscribed by a walking radius, so that it is possible for people to attend morning worship before their work day begins.

    ~~ Sen

  5. RAINBOW MAN said

    There are even greater threats now then when this was written,and the social situation is far far worse.Guardians warning that US mainland could be attacked prior to WW-2 due to tnew technology was correct.There is a new book recently translated from German about Germany,and it’s plans to bomb US. “LUFTWAFEN OVER AMERICA” is the title.Everyone should have a read-especially in light of Guardians letter.

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