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Stages of World Order development

To: Irfan list, Tue, 22 Jul 1997

Gordian Knot (2c)

I am still working though the quotes your provided regarding the stages of development. However most seem not to be to the point if the question is, “would a Baha’i State ultimately be ruled by the Baha’i Administrative Order? Would a Baha’i world ultimately be ruled by the Universal House of Justice?” Or in short, “Is it the Baha’i aim to establish a theocracy?” The passages you have found speak of the establishment of Baha’i states, as a stage beyond the recognition of the Faith as a state religion, but they do not say anything one way or the other about the administration of a Baha’i State. I would argue that a Baha’i state would by definition be ruled by the mechanisms which are provided and approved in the Baha’i Writings for the administration of a state, that is, by ‘kings’ and collective expressions of ‘kingship’ such as parliaments (“Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight.” – Baha’u’llah, Lawh-i-Salman I, cited by Shoghi Effendi in The Promised Day is Come p. 70).

You quote a passage from Messages to the Baha’i World 155-6, of which I will cite just enough to identify it:

This present Crusade … will … contribute to … yet another process … which will carry the … Faith of Baha’u’llah through its present stages of obscurity, of repression, of emancipation and of recognition … to the stage of establishment .. the emergence of the Baha’i state itself, … the establishment of the World Baha’i Commonwealth, [which] will, in turn, prove to be the signal for the birth of a world civilization, incomparable in its range, its character and potency, in the history of mankind.

Then you say:

> there is no sign here in his model of evolutionary unfoldment of
> the New World Order of Baha’u’llah, a world legislature, world
> tribunal, world executive. I would argue that if there was validity to a
> contemporaneous or rapprochement model then Shoghi Effendi might have
> hinted at it. All the evidence appears to point to a sequential series
> of world order states, driven by two separate processes, rather than a
> ‘once and for all’ terminal state of world order development conflating
> the Lesser and the Most Great Peace as I think you have done.

But XX, first of all you are arguing from a negative, which can hardly prove a positive position, and second, you seem not to have noticed that there is also no mention of the Universal House of Justice or the Baha’i Administrative Order here. If it were permissible to argue from negatives, one would have to conclude that **both** kinds of order have withered away, in good Marxist fashion. But that is not a good argument. Neither order is mentioned here because Shoghi Effendi is arguing that the world-wide establishment of the Administrative Order beginning in the 10-year crusade (this was just before the passage I extracted above) is a necessary element in a bigger picture, and he is trying to raise our eyes to that big picture. A religion is more than its administration, and a civilization is much more than its state structures. Shoghi Effendi is talking here about the quality of the civilization which is our ultimate goal, not about its mechanisms. He is trying to generate a broader vision among the friends (“the long-awaited advent of the Christ-promised Kingdom of God on earth – the Kingdom of Baha’u’llah – mirroring however faintly upon this humble handful of dust the glories of the Abha Kingdom”), a vision that will sustain them through the grind of establishing spiritual assemblies.

And I have *never* argued for a once for all state of development!! God forbid. You are putting words in my mouth, and I think unfairly. I never even implied such a thing. There are institutions which *Shoghi Effendi* says are to be established “once for all”, and I have argued that, since there is no Guardian or anyone else with authority to over-rule Shoghi Effendi, we will have to understand that “once for all” as extending at least until the next Manifestation. That does not mean that the development of those institutions should become frozen at some stage, and Shoghi Effendi clearly envisages qualitative developments, for instance the movement from a state which recognizes the Faith as (one of) its established religions to a state which considers *itself* to be Baha’i. This seems to be a very important change, in Shoghi Effendi’s model, but it doesn’t involve any change in the institutional structure – hence Shoghi Effendi can on the one hand talk about structures which are ‘once for all’ and on the other hand present models of continual evolution.

What I *am* arguing is that there are basic Baha’i principles which were the same in the lifetime of Baha’u’llah as in the Golden Age. The principles which are the same, but that does not mean that development stops at some point. The principle which governs the relations between the world government and the Universal House of Justice in the Golden age is the same as the principle that governed Baha’u’llah’s relationship with the kings, whose authority he recognized and upheld while at the same time calling on them to govern justly and establish the Most Great Peace by an agreement among themselves. It is the same principle as was operating when he told the Pope to surrender his kingdom (the Papal States). It is the same principle that underlies ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s treatise on politics and The Secret of Divine Civilization, and his numerous letters concerning the progress of the constitutional revolution in Iran (1905-6). It is the same principle which is expressed in countless policy statements and teaching pamphlets as ‘non-involvement in politics’. This is the principle:

THE one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the kings and rulers of the earth. From the beginning that hath no beginning the ensign proclaiming the words `He doeth whatsoever He willeth’ hath been unfurled in all its splendour before His Manifestation. What mankind needeth in this day is obedience unto them that are in authority, and a faithful adherence to the cord of wisdom. The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree….
(Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 13-14).

I have already said that there seems to be some reason for thinking that this principle is ‘preserved from annulment’ in the future, that is, that it is one of those essential spiritual principles like the Golden Rule, prayer and fasting, which are re-revealed in every dispensation, even if the exact forms change. In this passage Baha’u’llah seems to be saying that this has always been a principle in the revealed religions. For most religions this is self-evident. In Christianity one thinks immediately of the passage from Romans 13 that Baha’u’llah cites in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (91-2):

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. … For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.

Likewise in Hebrew history we see divine sanction (with reservations?) for the kings, but also the appointment of the Levites as a priesthood and the raising up of prophets to criticise both. Zoroastrianism had an explicit church-&-state structure, with both the King and the Priesthood being under the shadow of Ahura Mazda. And a distinction between one’s duties as a believer and as citizen of the ‘state’ (not a nation-state at this stage) underlies the Bhagavad-Gita, in fact the story is intended to teach just this truth.

The odd man out among the revealed religions we know about is Islam, where there has been a continual argument about whether Islam recognizes the separate existence of the state, as distinct from the community of believers. I won’t try to solve that argument here, but it does seem to me suggestive that the role of Muhammad in the Constitution of Medinah, as the political head and adjudicator of a confederacy of Muslim and non-muslim peoples, is quite different to his simultaneous role as Revealer of God’s laws and Leader of the community of believers that we see in the Qu’ran. It looks as if the roles were still distinct, but were filled temporarily by the same person because of the circumstances of the time. Even within the community of Moslems, Muhammad seems to have taken advice from others on matters such where to draw up the battle lines (in front of the well, not behind it!) and how to protect Medinah during the seige. He doesn’t take advice on how to write the Qu’ran or determine whether a jihad is justified or not, so it looks as if there is a distinction even within his role as Leader of the community between His function as Revealer and what Baha’u’llah calls “the instruments which are essential to … immediate protection … security and assurance.”

So I think there is plenty of evidence to show that the differentiation of the religious and state orders is, as Baha’u’llah says above, something that has ‘always’ been ordained by God, and will always be so. (‘Always’ meaning in the history of religions with a written revelation which is accessible to us: not all tribal religions recognize this distinction, but it becomes more clear and definite as religious history proceeds.) I don’t think that that means that there is a “‘once and for all’ terminal state of world order development”. If it did, we would still be at the stage of the Bhagavad-Gita or the kings of Israel.

Sen
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2 Responses to “Stages of World Order development”

  1. Crazyhorse said

    Interesting-The Devine right of kings??? Is this were it comes from..

  2. Sen said

    As I understand it, Baha’u’llah’s root principle for government is not the divine right of kings, but rather the divine approval of the separation of church and state. That includes a religious justification for human governance as such, as well as a ban on religious leaders interfering with it. We can see that it is the separation of church and state, and not the divine right of kings, that is the core principle because Baha’u’llah not only says that God endorses the powers of kings and rulers, but also (according to Abdu’l-Baha’s interpretation) endorses constitutional government:

    The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree…. .” (Gleanings, CII 206-7)

    … The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. … He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) — may peace be upon Him — was asked: “O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” And He made reply: “Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
    (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)

    … your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, …. The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, ….
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 303)

    In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. … “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
    (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 91)

    The Constitutional Government, according to the irrefutable text of the Religion of God, is the cause of the glory and prosperity of the nation and the civilization and freedom of the people. (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, 492)

    There’s also a pilgrim’s note in which Abdu’l-Baha says that a parliament should be able to unseat an unsuitable king, and replace him with another. It’s in Baha’u’llah and the New Era (1923), where Esslemont reports a conversation between himself and Abdu’l-Baha:

    In discussing the subject [of government] on one occasion, when the writer was present, ‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke, in substance, as follows:
    Despotic government is bad. A republican form of government, as in the United States, is good, but a constitutional form of monarchy is better, because it combines the virtues of both republic and kingdom. A king has a distinction that a president, elected for a period of years, has not. The kingship should pass from father to son. This gives a continuity and stability to the government that is lacking in a republic. When the head of the government is elected every few years, the whole country at the time of the presidential election becomes immersed in political contests and agitation. When the country is in such a state justice will not prevail.
    Q. – If the king proves unworthy will the parliament have power to dethrone him?
    A. – The parliament can dethrone him certainly, and can appoint a new one. In a constitutional monarchy the king has no legislative power. All affairs are settled by the cabinet and the parliament.
    Q. – If there is a hereditary monarchy should there be a hereditary nobility, too?
    A. – One who serves his country well should be rewarded by fitting honours, but no one should be able to claim that he must be honoured because his father was, for example, a great general. A person who does not serve the nation will have no distinction conferred upon him. He may be respected because of his father’s services but, so far as offices are concerned, he will have no preference.

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