Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Entry by troops when?

On Talisman9, one of the friends wrote:

> I think the concept of “entry by troops” is fundamental
> to Baha’i belief system and how Baha’is see their place in the world.

How strange that it is hardly mentioned in the Bahai Writings, if it is so
fundamental.

In Christian eschatology, we have “every eye shall see him, and they also
which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of
him.” (Revelation 1:7) In this picture, there are no ‘other religions’ or
even irreligion remaining; God intervenes, zap, and the righteous are
raised – not from the dead, but to positions of authority – and those that
opposed them wail. Islamic eschatology is not so different; the Day of
Judgement is a cosmic historic event that everyone participates in, and
all humanity is divided into two groups.

Baha’u’llah’s take on this is quite different: the Day of Judgement
is when the Manifestation comes – his being puts a question before
us, an issue, and we judge ourselves by our choices. Such days of
judgement recur, and each time they recur, the old religions continue to
live alongside the new one.

> The problem is this: Baha’u’llah declared Himself to be THE
> Manifestation of God for THIS Age. Unlike some other religions, His
> revelation never purported to run in parallel with Muhammed’s or Jesus’
> – it was intended to supercede it.

Not true, I think. See for example Baha’u’llah’s prayer for Islam, on my
blog [since removed] and
Abdu’l-Baha’s hopes and encouragement for the revitalisation and expansion
of Islam, in Secret of Divine Civilization, and Shoghi Effendi’s hope for
the revitalisation of Christianity (see ‘the future of religions‘)

The continuity and constructive contribution of religious communities and
of leaders of religions is part of the vision of society set out in the
Bahai Writings.

It is also true that the coming of the new gospel, the prioritisation of
unity, presents a challenge to each individual of whatever religion or
none, and that it is hoped for each person that he or she will respond to
the challenge, will “pass” the judgement:

Thank divine Providence that thou hast been assisted in service and
hast been the cause of the promulgation of the oneness of the world of
humanity, so that the darkness of differences among men may be
dissipated, and the pavilion of the unity of nations may cast its
shadow over all regions. Without such unity, rest and comfort, peace
and universal reconciliation are unachievable. This illumined century
needeth and calleth for its fulfilment. In every century a particular
and central theme is, in accordance with the requirements of that
century, confirmed by God. In this illumined age that which is
confirmed is the oneness of the world of humanity. Every soul who
serveth this oneness will undoubtedly be assisted and confirmed.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 113)

Note that a positive response to the teaching of unity does not
necessarily mean becoming a Bahai: “Every soul who serveth this
oneness will undoubtedly be assisted and confirmed.” And becoming a
Bahai (on paper) is not in itself acceptable – what is required is to
foster unity and dispel differences. But there is a Day of Judgement
here, for every person – we can cling to religious particularism, or
nationalism, or we can reform our thinking and action in the light of the
oneness of humanity and reform our world to match, and this means that
there is also a Day of Judgement for the world, and that we hope and trust
that the world too will “pass” that judgement – preferably without too
much of the Ordeal:

The principle of the Oneness of Mankind — the pivot round which all
the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve — is no mere outburst of
ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. …
Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns
itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that
must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family.
It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal, but stands
inseparably associated with an institution adequate to embody its
truth, demonstrate its validity, and perpetuate its influence. It
implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a
change such as the world has not yet experienced. It constitutes a
challenge, at once bold and universal, to outworn shibboleths of
national creeds — creeds that have had their day and which must, in
the ordinary course of events as shaped and controlled by Providence,
give way to a new gospel, fundamentally different from, and infinitely
superior to, what the world has already conceived. It calls for no
less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole
civilized world — a world organically unified in all the essential
aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual
aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet
infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its
federated units.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 42-3)

> Let’s suppose the mass of Baha’is woke up tomorrow and suddenly
> started to believe that entry by troops was never going to happen.
> What would be the result? I think it would be destabilising,
> disruptive and actually quite unhealthy. People would have to
> fundamentally rethink their understanding and approach to their entire
> faith.

Never is a long time – but yes, EBT is not going to happen now, the
continual expectation and dissappointment is bad for the community,
so a fundamental rethink is required. And a good thing too – what is at
most a minor note in the Bahai teachings has become an obsession, and this
comes from trying to put new wine in old wineskins: selectively
understanding the Bahai writings in terms of a literal reading of
eschatology which Baha’u’llah himself rejected. Are there any
(English-speaking) Bahais today who do not know what E.B.T. stands for? Would
Shoghi Effendi have ever guessed what it stands for, if he was presented
with the abbreviation?

In Abdu’l-Baha’s vision, entry by troops is associated with the
building of the Mashriqu’l-adhkar (not necessarily a “building”, just as
the House of Justice is not necessarily a House): in other words, it comes
out of people worshipping together. Not Bahais worshipping together, but
“the people” “the religionists” of the world:

Bahá’u’lláh has commanded that a place be built for all the
religionists of the world … all may meet under the dome of the
Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and adore the one God … for the ages of darkness
have passed away, and the century of light has arrived. (From a speech
by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reported in The Star of the West, Vol. III, No. 4, p.
7)

… a Mashrak-el-Azcar will soon be established in America. The
cries of supplication and invocation will be raised to the Highest
Kingdom therefrom and, verily, the people will enter into the religion
of God by troops with great enthusiasm and attraction. (Tablets of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, p. 681)

Shoghi Effendi has it the right way round I think: entry by troops
comes at the end of a two-fold process leading to the unification and the
spiritualisation of the entire human race (Citadel of Faith 149). In The
Promised Day is Come he writes:

Suffice it to say that this consummation will, by its very nature, be
a gradual process, and must, as Bahá’u’lláh has Himself
anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace
… involving the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the
universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness, [This]…will
bring in its wake the spiritualization of the masses, consequent to
the recognition of the character, and the acknowledgment of the
claims, of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh — the essential condition to that
ultimate fusion of all races, creeds, classes, and nations which must
signalize the emergence of His New World Order. (Shoghi Effendi, The
Promised Day is Come, p. 123)

NB: just as the New World Order does not require the extinction of
“the component nations” (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 203), the
fusion of races, classes and creeds does not mean that such entities must
cease to exist. On the contrary. Just as the sufferings of the Civil War
“welded the states [of the Union]… into a Nation” (The World Order of
Baha’u’llah, p. 45), but did not mean the end of South Carolina and North
Dakota, or the end of the differences between them), so the realisation of
a World Order, a ‘Nation’ of humanity, will “fuse and incorporate the
contending sects and factions … into a universal Fellowship.” (God
Passes By
, p. 100). It does not mean the end of the religions, but their
rebirth

Sen

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3 Responses to “Entry by troops when?”

  1. Stephen Kent Gray said

    Sen in a Bahai prayer book you will find categories of prayers. Among them is Triumph of the Cause. There is also a Divine Plan category which is more America and Canada specific. The interpretation is that those prayers are for the Bahaization of Amrica, Canada, and the world at large.

  2. Sen said

    There are two questions here Stephen: one is whether the central figures expected “entry by troops,” whether they thought it imminent, and whether they thought it important. The other is whether they expected the “triumph of the Cause” involving, among other things, the survival of the Bahai community and its expansion. The answer to the second question is an obvious yes. However “entry by Troops” is not the only way to get expansion: see “Stark Choices” on this blog. I would argue that the few cases in which a local mass-conversion event has happened in Bahai history show that it is at best an unimportant phenomenon, and generally unhealthy, and as I show in this posting, the authoritative Bahai texts do not show that entry by troops should be the centre of our plans and activities. The pattern of Bahai life requires people who have thoughtfully and individually made a sustained commitment. Rodney Stark has pointed out that mass conversion through the group dynamics that move a whole population is not the way Christianity became the dominant religion of Europe. A growth of a few percent a year through inter-personal connections, sustained over two and a half centuries, achieves the same effect. In short, entry by troops is not a necessary condition for the “triumph of the Cause.”

    To this I would add, that when one looks at the section “triumph of the Cause” in the 1954/1991 Bahai Prayers (US), it is striking how many of these prayers are revealed by the Bab. Did the Bab’s Cause triumph? A Bahai may say it did, in that it bore the fruit the Bab had anticipated, the Bahai revelation and the Bahai community. But a Babi might be rather disappointed in the meagre results of these prayers. In short, God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. What we have in mind when we pray for the Cause to prosper may not be what the Author had in mind, or what God delivers.

    O Lord, my God, my Well-Beloved! These are servants of Thine that have heard Thy Voice, given ear to Thy Word and hearkened to Thy Call. …. Make by them Thy Word triumphant, and strengthen the loins of Thy loved ones. Unloose their tongues to laud Thy Name, and inspire them to do Thy holy will and pleasure. Illumine their faces in Thy Kingdom of holiness, and perfect their joy by aiding them to arise for the triumph of Thy Cause.

    Lord! Feeble are we, strengthen us …”
    Abdu’l-Baha, in Baha’i Prayers, p. 201)

  3. Julie said

    “Entering . . . in troops” comes from the Qur’an, 110:2

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