Sen McGlinn's blog

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The Virgin Birth, twin houses and twin shrines

This is a posting to Talisman on 22 February 1996, with the title, “Virgin, symbol, houses & 4-body problem.” Although it contains no research of significance and has been superseded by later research, it is included in the email archive because it has been selectively mis-quoted to make it appear that, back then, I was (in the words of one of my detractors) “promoting a formation of a clergy within the Baha’i Faith which would operate in conjunction with the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar which he envisioned as overshadowing the elected institutions.” (Dec. 15, 2005) I post it here so that readers can get some idea of what was really going on.


What strikes me about the House’s message, so far as it deals with the virgin birth, is not the way it deals with history and science/reason but rather its failure to engage with the dimension of mythopoeic reasoning or “spiritual logic”. A treatment of the virgin birth which does not engage with the world of symbols in which this story makes sense would be a distortion even if it did treat the historical facts regarding the way in which the gospel account evolved. The Iqan teaches that interpreting religious texts without oneself entering the symbol world produces nonsense (look at how often Baha’u’llah’s arguments are of the reductio ad absurdum type).

What follows may be (probably is) an unfounded extrapolation from my experience of Baha’i communities at local and national level to a far higher level, but I wonder … could it be that the Universal House of Justice is missing (lonely for?) its House of Worship? Maybe this relates to AA’s question about the completion of the Arc, which does interest me very much as setting the capstone on a certain phase in the development of the administrative institutions, whereas ‘building the mashriq’ is in one sense timeless and in another sense the remedy for the needs of the day, both within the Baha’i community and in the western world. Maybe the next project at the world centre will be to build the Mashriq there, in the concrete sense. I understand that this is dependant on peace with Syria, since the site is so prominent it is of strategic importance. When it is built, and there are two Houses on God’s Holy Mountain, the House of Justice will be literally under the shadow of the House of Worship, as in Shoghi Effendi’s vision:

From the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, ordained as a house of worship by Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the representatives of Baha’i communities, both local and national, together with the members of their respective committees, will, as they gather daily within its walls at the hour of dawn, derive the necessary inspiration that will enable them to discharge, in the course of their day-to-day exertions in the Haziratu’l-Quds – the scene of their administrative activities – their duties and responsibilities as befits the chosen stewards of His Faith.

Already on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the outskirts of the first Baha’i center established in the American continent and under the *shadow* of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of the West; … initial steps have been taken which must eventually culminate in the establishment, in all their splendor and power, of the national administrative seats of the Baha’i communities established in these countries. (God Passes By, page 340)

That those who have boldly carried so weighty a resolution may without pause or respite continue to labor and build up, as circumstances permit, around this administrative nucleus such accessories as the machinery of a fast evolving administrative order, **functioning under the shadow of, and in such close proximity to, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar,** must demand, is the object of my incessant and fervent prayer. (Messages to America, page 24)

Well, as I said the analogy doesn’t apply entirely. Whereas the local community is a two-body problem, with the House of Worship and the House of Justice revolving around one-another (dance in the sacred space!), Mt. Carmel is itself sacred space, and the House of Justice is already under the shadow of the Shrine of the Bab, which is most emphatically sacred space but is not an institution and thus not in that sense the partner for the Universal House of Justice. But as physicists know, even a three-body problem is very complicated, so how this eventually works out, with the twin Shrines and the twin Houses together as one organism in the Carmel/Bahji area, is quite beyond me. But I will be watching the Syrian-Israeli peace process with interest.


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More of my postings from 1996 that have been misrepresented by selective quotations are Scholars in the Bahai Community 1 and Scholars in the Bahai Community 2, in this archive.

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