Friday, November 30, 2012

The Petition of some Persian Baha'is in 1867

In Heritage of Light, The Spiritual Destiny of America, Janet A. Khan places the little-known piece of history below in context.

[Not to be overlooked in her book is Chapter 2, 'The Role of the Martyr,' which includes the following subheadings: 'Characteristics of the Martyr,' 'Distinction between Martyrdom and Suicide Terrorism,' 'Baha'i Conceptions of Martyrdom,' and 'Dawn-Breakers of the Heroic Age.' Her exposition there in Chapter 2, in but some eighteen pages, could  prove useful as the Baha'i Faith comes under increasing scrutiny and attacks.]


'From the earliest days of the Baha'i Faith, the Persian Baha'is sought the protection and and intervention of the American government. Prior to the revelation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and almost a quarter of a century before the introduction of the Baha'i Faith to North America, on 16 March 1867, a group of fifty-three Baha'is in the small city of Shushtar affixed their personal seals on a petition addressed to the United States Congress, and requested its assistance in alleviating the imprisonment and exile of Baha'u'llah. In the latter part of the twentieth century, the historic document was located in the United States government archives. The petition, which was written in Arabic, was apparently entrusted to a German traveler in Baghdad. The traveler sent the document to Beirut where it found its way into the hands of the American Consul, who forwarded it along with an English translation to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. in July 1867. The petition informs the representatives of the government about the advent of "a perfect man and a learned sage," summarizes His teachings, describes the opposition to which His Faith has been subjected, mentions His exiles, and invites Congress to send "a judicious representative" to inquire into the case with a view to finding a way "to bring that oppressed person relief from tyranny and oppression."* While there does not appear to be any clear evidence that the United States government took steps to respond to the petition, the fact that the appeal was made illustrates the remarkable confidence placed in the American nation by the less fortunate and needy peoples of the world. It also foreshadows the actions undertaken in later years by the American Baha'is in their attempts to alleviate the persecutions that continue, intermittently, to be inflicted on them.'

(Janet A. Khan, Heritage of Light, The Spiritual Destiny of America, p. 280 and

*Reference note, p. 363): 'For a description of the document and the available historical information pertaining to it refer to an article entitled "Persecution and Protection: Documents about Baha'is, 1867, 1897, and 1902" in World Order, 2006, volume 37, no.3, pp. 31-38. Quotations appear on pp. 32-33."

 [In the year following the petition, Baha'u'llah, accompanied by some of His family and followers, was banished yet again. After successive exiles from Tehran to Baghdad, to Constantinople, to Adrianople, this time He was sent to prison in Akka, Palestine. On 31 August 1868, they were brought ashore near ‘Akká's sea gate — one of only two entrances to the fortress city.]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More on the Tablet of Ahmad

In the paragraph immediately preceding the penultimate paragraph of the Tablet of Ahmad, we read: 'Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days... God hath ordained for the one who chants it...' and in the penultimate paragraph, we read: 'Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet...'. In the paragraph before the penultimate one, Bahá'u'lláh twice exhorts Ahmad to 'chant' the Tablet, whereas in the penultimate paragraph, the exhortation is to 'read' the Tablet. For the average Persian or Arabic reader, the two 'chants' and the final 'read' are all derivatives of the root 'to read'. However, Shoghi Effendi as Interpreter chose to translate the first occurrences of this derivative as an act of chanting. It is interesting that the two 'chants' occur in the paragraph where reference is made to the 'reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds', whereas the word 'read' is in connection with someone who is in affliction or grief. Could it be that chanting calls for a form of ecstatic transport and an inner sense of rapture, which would be closer to the state of surrendering our will to the Will of God?

    ('Ali Nakhjavani, Shoghi Effendi - The Range and Power of His Pen, p. 72)

Q. Could you please elaborate on the significance of the word 'chant' used in the Tablet of Ahmad? Does this mean that we should always try to chant the Tablet, even if we are reading it in a language other than Arabic or Persian?

A. The word 'chant' that Shoghi Effendi has used here is, in my opinion, an expression of ecstasy, of rapture, of spiritual upliftment and exhilaration. This is my understanding. It does not necessarily mean that if you are reading it in a language other than Arabic you should burst into singing it. Far from it! I think there is an inner meaning. When we read this Tablet, it should be with a sense of spiritual excitement, ecstasy, rapture, happiness and joy. All the martyrs, when they went to their field of martyrdom, did so with great joy. They did it for the sake of Bahá'u'lláh, as an act of love. This is the point, not that you should suddenly burst into singing that particular paragraph or that you should chant the entire Tablet. Basically, when we read it we should be in that condition of spiritual attunement to the music of the Kingdom. This is when you surrender your will to the Will of God. When you read the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh about the meaning of martyrdom, He says that there are two types of martyrdom, physical martyrdom and spiritual martyrdom. Physical martyrdom is very clear. Spiritual martyrdom, He says, is when you submit, surrender, and you subordinate your will to the Will of God. This attitude of detachment -- from your own wishes, from your own will, from your own preferences, in favour of the Will of God, whatever may be His good-pleasure, is what represents true spiritual martyrdom. If you are able to surrender your will to the Will of God, you have attained the condition of supreme martyrdom. You are then detached and you are happy about your detachment. You are freeing your soul from the attachments of this world and you are happy.

    ('Ali Nakhjavani, Shoghi Effendi - The Range and Power of His Pen, p. 82)

The Meaning of Angels

There may always remain mysteries for us mortals in attempting to understand the numerous references to angels found in the various scriptures of the world's religions. This includes of course the many, many such references to angels found in the Baha'i sacred Writings.

However, the passages here from a few primary Baha'i sources provide us with food for thought on this subject as we advance through this worldly life.

Emphasis added below for this compilation.

My God, the Object of my adoration, the Goal of my desire, the All-Bountiful, the Most Compassionate! All life is of Thee and all power lieth within the grasp of Thine omnipotence. Whosoever Thou exaltest is raised above the angels, and attaineth the station: "Verily, We uplifted him to a place on high!"; and whosoever Thou dost abase is made lower than dust, nay, less than nothing.

(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 252)


And now, concerning His words [in the Qur'an]: "And He shall send His angels...." By "angels" is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim... And now, inasmuch as these holy beings have sanctified themselves from every human limitation, have become endowed with the attributes of the spiritual, and have been adorned with the noble traits of the blessed, they therefore have been designated as "angels."

    (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 78)

Look ye not upon the fewness of thy numbers, rather, seek ye out hearts that are pure. One consecrated soul is preferable to a thousand other souls. If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. The nature of that band of people, the words they speak, the deeds they do, will unleash the bestowals of Heaven, and provide a foretaste of eternal bliss. The hosts of the Company on high will defend them, and the angels of the Abha Paradise, in continuous succession, will come down to their aid.

The meaning of 'angels' is the confirmations of God and His celestial powers. Likewise angels are blessed beings who have severed all ties with this nether world, have been released from the chains of self and the desires of the flesh, and anchored their hearts to the heavenly realms of the Lord. These are of the Kingdom, heavenly; these are of God, spiritual; these are revealers of God's abounding grace; these are dawning-points of His spiritual bestowals.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 80)

O Divine Providence! This assemblage is composed of Thy friends who are attracted to Thy beauty and are set ablaze by the fire of Thy love. Turn these souls into heavenly angels, resuscitate them through the breath of Thy Holy Spirit, grant them eloquent tongues and resolute hearts, bestow upon them heavenly power and merciful susceptibilities, cause them to become the promulgators of the oneness of mankind and the cause of love and concord in the world of humanity, so that the perilous darkness of ignorant prejudice may vanish through the light of the Sun of Truth, this dreary world may become illumined, this material realm may absorb the rays of the world of spirit, these different colours may merge into one colour and the melody of praise may rise to the kingdom of Thy sanctity.

Verily, Thou art the Omnipotent and the Almighty!

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 105)

O my Lord! Lift Thou the veil from before his sight. Rain down Thy plenteous bounties upon him, intoxicate him with the wine of love for Thee, make him one of Thy angels whose feet walk upon this earth even as their souls are soaring through the high heavens. Cause him to become a brilliant lamp, shining out with the light of Thy wisdom in the midst of Thy people.

Verily Thou art the Precious, the Ever-Bestowing, the Open of Hand.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 121)

If, in this momentous task ["the education and training of children"], a mighty effort be exerted, the world of humanity will shine out with other adornings, and shed the fairest light. Then will this darksome place grow luminous, and this abode of earth turn into Heaven. The very demons will change to angels then, and wolves to shepherds of the flock, and the wild-dog pack to gazelles that pasture on the plains of oneness, and ravening beasts to peaceful herds, and birds of prey, with talons sharp as knives, to songsters warbling their sweet native notes.

For the inner reality of man is a demarcation line between the shadow and the light, a place where the two seas meet; it is the lowest point on the arc of descent, and therefore is it capable of gaining all the grades above. With education it can achieve all excellence; devoid of education it will stay on, at the lowest point of imperfection.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 129)

The meaning of the passage [verses of the twenty-first chapter of Saint John the Divine's Revelation] is that this heavenly Jerusalem hath twelve gates, through which the blessed enter into the City of God. These gates are souls who are as guiding stars, as portals of knowledge and grace; and within these gates there stand twelve angels. By 'angel' is meant the power of the confirmations of God -- that the candle of God's confirming power shineth out from the lamp-niche of those souls -- meaning that every one of those beings will be granted the most vehement confirming support.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 165)

In brief, my hope is that from the bounties of Bahá'u'lláh, thou mayest daily advance in the Kingdom, that thou mayest become a heavenly angel, confirmed by the breaths of the Holy Spirit, and mayest erect a structure that shall eternally remain firm and unshakeable....

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 198)

Never is it the wish of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to see any being hurt, nor will He make anyone to grieve; for man can receive no greater gift than this, that he rejoice another's heart. I beg of God that ye will be bringers of joy, even as are the angels in Heaven.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 203)

...consider how the cause of the welfare, happiness, joy and comfort of humankind are amity and union, whereas dissension and discord are most conducive to hardship, humiliation, agitation and failure.

But a thousand times alas, that man is negligent and unaware of these facts, and daily doth he strut abroad with the characteristics of a wild beast. Lo! At one moment he turneth into a ferocious tiger; at the next he becometh a creeping, venomous viper! But the sublime achievements of man reside in those qualities and attributes that exclusively pertain to the angels of the Supreme Concourse. Therefore, when praiseworthy qualities and high morals emanate from man, he becometh a heavenly being, an angel of the Kingdom, a divine reality and a celestial effulgence. On the other hand, when he engageth in warfare, quarrelling and bloodshed, he becometh viler than the most fierce of savage creatures, for if a bloodthirsty wolf devoureth a lamb in a single night, man slaughtereth a hundred thousand in the field of battle, strewing the ground with their corpses and kneading the earth with their blood.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 286)

Can any power withstand the penetrative influence of the Word of God? Nay, by God! The proof is clear and the evidence is complete! If anyone looketh with the eyes of justice he shall be struck with wonder and amazement and will testify that all the peoples, sects and races of the world should be glad, content and grateful for the teachings and admonitions of Bahá'u'lláh. For these divine injunctions tame every ferocious beast, transform the creeping insect into a soaring bird, cause human souls to become angels of the Kingdom, and make the human world a focus for the qualities of mercy.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 292)

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Hollow Reed

There are beautiful songs and poems from Baha’is that use the ancient symbol of a hollow reed. (One example is the ravishing “Hollow Reed” written, played and sung by the Baha’i science fiction author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. It is not the words of a prayer that was mistakenly attributed to Abdu'l-Baha.) This important image of a hollow reed is used in numerous authorized Baha’i Writings and texts. Please see below.

[ Emphasis added below.]

"Be thou of the people of hell-fire,
but be not a hypocrite.

Be thou an unbeliever,
but be not a plotter.

Make thy home in taverns,
but tread not the path
of the mischief-maker.

Fear thou God,
but not the priest.

Give to the executioner thy head,
but not thy heart.

Let thine abode be under the stone,
but seek not the shelter of the cleric.

"Thus doth the Holy Reed intone its melodies, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its song, so that He may infuse life eternal into the mortal frames of men, impart to the temples of dust the essence of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Light, and draw the transient world, through the potency of a single word, unto the Everlasting Kingdom."

(Baha’u’llah, “Trustworthiness: A Cardinal Baha’i Virtue,” January 1987 Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 337)


[Baha’u’llah used the symbol of the hollow reed in other places in His Writings, including in Rashh-i-'Amá and extensively in Mathnaviyí-i Mubárak. However, these works have not yet been published in authorized English translations.]

'In Revelation [of St. John] 11:1-2 it is said:

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months."

'By this reed is meant a Perfect Man, and the reason for His being likened to a reed is that when the latter is entirely freed and emptied of its pith, it becomes capable of producing wondrous melodies. Moreover, these songs and airs proceed not from the reed itself but from the player who blows into it. In the same way, the sanctified heart of that blessed Being is free and empty of all save God, is averse to and exempt from attachment to every selfish inclination, and is intimately acquainted with the breath of the Divine Spirit. That which He utters proceeds not from Himself but from the ideal Player and from divine revelation. Hence He is likened to a reed, and that reed is like a rod; that is, it is the succour of the weak and the support of every mortal soul. It is the rod of the True Shepherd by which He guards His flock and leads it about in the pastures of the Kingdom.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 11.1-2, pp. 52-3)


'When Bahá'u'lláh departed from Baghdad, and traveled to Rumelia, the friends remained behind. The inhabitants of Baghdad then rose up against those helpless believers, sending them away as captives to Mosul. Ustad [Ustad Isma'il] was old and feeble, but he left on foot, with no provisions for his journey, crossed over mountains and deserts, valleys and hills, and in the end arrived at the Most Great Prison. At one time, Bahá'u'lláh had written down an ode of Rumi's for him, and had told him to turn his face toward the Báb and sing the words, set to a melody. And so as he wandered through the long dark nights, Ustad would sing these lines:

"I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed,

Love's fool am I, in all the earth.

They call me first among the crazed,

Though I once came first for wit and worth.

O Love, who sellest me this wine,

O Love, for whom I burn and bleed,

Love, for whom I cry and pine  --

Thou the Piper, I the reed.

If Thou wishest me to live,

Through me blow Thy holy breath.

The touch of Jesus Thou wilt give

To me, who've lain an age in death.

Thou, both End and Origin,

Thou without and Thou within  --

From every eye Thou hidest well,

And yet in every eye dost dwell."

'He was like a bird with broken wings but he had the song and it kept him going onward to his one true Love.'

(Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 30-32)


Sunday, June 30, 1912 [New York]

'In the morning, after His obligatory prayer and supplications, the Master invited us into His presence and served us tea with His own hand. He spoke of the blessings and confirmations of the Ancient Beauty, the Greatest Name:

“This help and assistance are from Him and these confirmations are through His bounty and favor; otherwise, we are nothing but weak servants. We are as reeds and all these melodies are from Him. We are ants and this dignity of Solomon is from Him. We are servants and this heavenly dominion is from Him. We must, therefore, offer our constant gratitude to Him for His favors and must join heart and soul to praise Him for His blessings."'

(Attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Mahmud's Diary, The Diary of Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani Chronicling 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Journey to America, pp.153-54)


"What is needed to achieve success in the teaching field is a complete dedication on the part of the individual, consecration to the glorious task of spreading the Faith, and the living of the Bahá'í life, because that creates the magnet for the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit which quickens the new soul. Thus the individual should be as a reed, through which the Holy Spirit may flow, to give new life to the seeking soul.

"One should search out those who are receptive to the Faith, and then concentrate on these persons in their teaching."

(From a letter dated 18 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
(From a letter dated 19 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to two individual believers)

[The passage above is found in two different compilations assembled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice: “Guidelines for Teaching” and “The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call.” It appears that it was conveyed from the Guardian on two successive days.]

"Consecration, dedication and enthusiastic service is the Keynote to successful teaching. One must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit descends to reach the student of the Faith.

"We give the Message, and explain the Teachings, but it is the Holy Spirit that quickens and confirms."

(From a letter dated 16 February 1955 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)


'Never must they let a day pass without teaching some soul, trusting to Bahá'u'lláh that the seed will grow. The friends should seek pure souls, gain their confidence, and then teach that person carefully until he becomes a Bahá'í, and then nurture him until he becomes a firm and active supporter of the Faith.

'Everyone must remember that it is the "Holy Spirit that quickens" and therefore the teacher must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit may reach the seeking soul.

'The beloved Guardian has stressed over and over again, that to effectively teach the Faith, the individual must study deeply, the Divine Word, imbibe Its life-giving waters, and feast upon Its glorious teachings. He should then meditate on the import of the Word, and finding its spiritual depths, pray for guidance and assistance. But most important, after prayer is action. After one has prayed and meditated, he must arise, relying fully on the guidance and confirmation of Bahá'u'lláh, to teach His Faith. Perseverance in action is essential, just as wisdom and audacity are necessary for effective teaching. The individual must sacrifice all things to this great goal, and then the victories will be won.'

(From a letter dated 30 May 1956 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Hands of the Cause in the United States)


"He hopes you will be guided and confirmed in your work, so many souls may find eternal life, through your selfless services. It is important that you make contact with pure hearted individuals, gain their confidence, they gain confidence in you, and then gradually teach them. It is better to concentrate on a few, rather than attempt to teach too many at a time. Consecration, devotion, dedication, humility are essential, that the Holy Spirit may use you as a reed for the diffusion of Its creative rays."

(From a letter dated 15 July 1956 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)


"One should remember it is not the individual who confirms another, but the Holy Spirit which confirms. Thus the individual must become as a reed, through which the spirit may descend, and quicken souls. Thus the best way to develop capacity in teaching the Faith, is to teach. As one teaches, he gains more knowledge himself, he relies more on the guidance of the spirit, and expands his own character. This is why Bahá'u'lláh made it incumbent on all to teach the Faith."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 24, 1956) 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Fourteen Newly-published Excerpts from Shoghi Effendi

Baha'is cherish the guidance that was given to us by the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi. Looking over again Forces of Our Time, The Dynamics of Light and Darkness, by Hooper C. Dunbar, a book that I have read and reread, it occurred to me that some members of the worldwide Baha'i community may not be aware that, among the many quotations from the Guardian included in Mr. Dunbar's book, some of them are shared there with the public for the first time.

So here they are, in the sequence that they are interspersed, along with many others, in that book:

  • "No true and faithful Baha'i should in this day remain idle or seek what would give him comfort or even inner satisfaction. We should be constantly assailing the forces of darkness that have enveloped the earth and hasten the dawn of the new day foretold by Baha'u'llah."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 19 April 1933.]

  •  "Strive therefore with heart and soul to drink deep from the spirit of self-sacrifice which the pioneers of the Cause have so gloriously displayed, and equip yourselves fully to fight the good fight against the dark forces that have encompassed the world."

    [From a letter of Shoghi Effendi, 30 December 1923.]

  • "We need never be disappointed with the smallness of our numbers or be discouraged at the reluctance of the majority of the people to accept the Teachings, but rather we must endeavour all the more, confident that Truth shall ultimately prevail, and that the dark forces of the world shall in time be vanquished."

    [From a letter of Shoghi Effendi, 26 February 1926.]

  • "Shoghi Effendi's earnest hope and plea is, therefore, that we who have been chosen to act as the dawn-breakers of a new era may not sit idly and leave the world enveloped in its social and spiritual darkness; that we may arise, and, lifting high the torch of guidance, bring light and hope to the heart of a perishing humanity."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 29 March 1932.]

  • "...the rapid progress of the Faith means the hastening of the final victory of goodness over the dark forces of evil that are at present threatening the world."

    [From a letter of Shoghi Effendi, 7 April 1933.]

  • "May the Beloved speedily and completely release you from the dark forces which have assailed you and enable you to triumph over all obstacles and thus serve effectively His Faith."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 22 July 1933.]

  • "He wishes you to persevere in your efforts and not be disheartened by the forces of darkness assailing you on every side. By the power of action and prayer, he feels certain, you will be able to overcome them all."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 16 February 1934.]

  • "He wishes me to urge you not to feel disturbed by the dreams you have had, but rather to make every effort to resist and overcome the forces of darkness that assail your mind."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 7 July 1938.]

  • "The Guardian too will specially and earnestly pray on your behalf, that your heart may be comforted and cheered, and may be set free from the forces of darkness that so strongly assail it."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 26 October 1938.]

  • "The assurance that in this gloomy hour when the whole world is being shaken by the forces of darkness, and humanity at large is beginning to experience the fire of that ordeal foretold by Baha'u'llah, the friends are more than ever closely united with him in true bonds of spiritual fellowship is indeed the source of deepest comfort to him..."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 22 October 1939.]

  • "You should never allow the many dark thoughts and dark forces in the world today to weigh on your mind or depress you. The world is very black at present, and humanity in a very degraded condition spiritually. We must accept this fact, but not allow it to influence us. Our life is in the Cause of God, and we draw our strength from it, and the world of the Cause is the world of light."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 24 July 1943.]

  • "There are dark forces in the world today of despair and hatred and suspicion; the believers must, as the Master said, turn their backs on these and their faces to Him, confident of His help and protection."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 9 August 1944.]
  • "The dark forces in the world, of disbelief and materialism, seem to certainly be engulfing humanity more and more--but of course, to our eyes, guided by the light of Baha'u'llah, it signifies the speeding up of a process of deterioration which alone can pave the way for the emergence of the new world He has ordained."

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to individuals, 20 April 1948.]

  • "We have been told over and over again in the Teachings that the forces of darkness attack Baha'is; and it is these forces which are seeking to disrupt your national body.

    [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual, 11 February,1952

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Musings on the Tablet of Ahmad

Reflections from Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, referring to the "Tablet of Ahmad:"

"...We cannot ignore prisons in this Dispensation. Whether they belong to the category of the 'Most Great', which suggests life as well as Akka, or the various prisons of self in which the soul is trapped, we find walls and barred gates throughout the Sacred Writings. As metaphors, too, they remind us that words contain their own deep pits in which the croaking of the raven is heard, for we can become as bound by names and attributes as by any other material chains.

Photo © Baha’i International Community
 The bridge at Büyükçekmece, Turkey, which Bahá’u’lláh and His companions crossed on their way from Constantinople to Adrianople in December 1863.

 "Above all, we have as an example Baha'u'llah's own lifetime of exile and imprisonment. 'Remember My days during thy days,' He quietly admonishes, 'and my distress and banishment in this remote prison.' This too was surely part of His message to our generation. How many times do we find warnings that we should not allow ourselves to be 'debarred' from His Presence, that we should not permit veils to come between our hearts and His Truth? Veils taken to their logical conclusion transform to walls. Over and over again we find Baha'u'llah bewailing the condition of the human race suffocating within its self-constructed prisons, abandoned in its deepest dungeons..."

(Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four on an Island, p. 105)

"...We need a collective breakthrough, a kind of creative revolution on a global scale, in response to the principles of the Baha'i Faith in order for its effects to permeate society. This perhaps is one of the themes of the Tablet of Ahmad, and a close study of certain passages from this extraordinary prayer might serve to conclude these thoughts.

"At the beginning of the Tablet of Ahmad, Baha'u'llah announces His Revelation to mankind, through the image of a Nightingale, that symbol of the full-throated Song of God in every Dispensation. As that Divine Bird sings out to us in the dark night of the soul, hidden by our folly and despised, its holy and sweet melodies are heard by four groups of listeners: the sincere ones, the believers in the Divine Unity, the severed ones and the lovers. Since we read from left to right, and have a tendency to move down the page from line to line, it is natural to assume that the four stations likewise move step by step from the first--sincerity--to the last--love. Before we can even listen to the Nightingale we must at least be sincere. Only then can we proceed to believe, which in turn leads us to severance and brings us finally to the station in which we recognize that the message of the Nightingale is one of love.

"However, as we follow Baha'u'llah's instructions, 'Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom', we cannot help noticing that enigmatic promise at its end: 'Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity,' asserts Baha'u'llah, 'God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.' Such a promise makes us retrace our steps to the beginning once more and start again, for we question our motives and wonder whether or not we were indeed sincere. So precious is the promise that we find sincerity itself to be our goal. The act of reading the first paragraph, therefore, and proceeding step by step through the four stations ironically enough separates us from the very goal of the prayer--sincerity. We must read forwards and simultaneously think backwards. Unless we love the idea of sincerity we cannot be detached or reach the seat of sanctity. Unless we are severed from earthly thoughts (the very preoccupations with sadness, difficulties and afflictions which may have sent us running to the prayer in the first place), we cannot comprehend the source of this sincerity to be from God 'the King the Glorious, the Peerless'. Until we understand the source we will not realize its central motivating impulse of unity: the purpose of the Revelation, as well as our own goal of sincerity, is for unity, for the fusion of hearts, for the recognition of providence within calamity, and the mingling of contraries. Until we get a glimpse of the meaning of 'Divine Unity' on every level how can we call ourselves sincere?

"There are many of us, whether or not we call ourselves Baha'is, who are lovers of this Faith, who pursue its aims under a myriad social and economic guises, who feel the throb of its message in the arteries of our travailing age. And many lovers have not yet attained severance. We may think these principles and ideas are our own; often as Baha'is we think we know more about them than anyone else. But once we have understood the source to be God, the motivation God, the very choice of our instrumental lives to lie in His acceptance, then our love and our detachment bring us to the shores of Divine Unity. We recognize that whether we want it or not we are being united; whether we accept each other or not our diversity is readily accepted by our Creator. Before His mercy seat, therefore, we begin to turn towards each other, with open arms; embracing the contradictions of our humanity, we begin the search of the sincere. We return to the prayer again, questioning our motives, humbled by our limitations, and read once more from the beginning in an attempt to arrive at the endless end.

"According to Baha'u'llah it is better to be sincere about our doubts than hypocritical about our faith. In one of His tablets He warns the believers in very forceful language against the dangers of insincerity. He says it is preferable to be an inmate of hell itself, than to be a hypocrite; better to be an unbeliever than one who plots and schemes. He even goes so far as to say He would rather men were drunk than malicious, that they were beheaded rather than heartless. He cautions humanity to fear God rather than their own 'priest-prompted superstitions', and concludes by stating that the purpose of His Revelation is to infuse eternal life into the mortal frames of living men.[*]

"It is surely the climax of divine irony, therefore, to discover at the end of the Tablet of Ahmad, that the prize awarded to the one who attained 'absolute sincerity' would be 'the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds'. Sincerity grants us a sense of purpose in this world and the next; it is the equivalent of that reward attained by a hundred martyrs. To endure death for the sake of the Cause is a kind of vivid living. It is a service in other worlds which intensifies our privilege of serving in this one..."

(Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four on an Island, pp. 120-123)

[*] Blogger's Note: Ms. Nakhjavani, writing in 1983, is describing a passage that has since appeared in an authorized English translation. See "Trustworthiness: A Cardinal Baha'i Virtue," January 1987, Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice. The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 337, #2050. Here is that passage from Baha'u'llah:

Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite.
Be thou an unbeliever, but be not a plotter.
Make thy home in taverns, but tread not the path of the mischief-maker.
Fear thou God, but not the priest.
Give to the executioner thy head, but not thy heart.
Let thine abode be under the stone, but seek not the shelter of the cleric.
Thus doth the Holy Reed intone its melodies, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its song, so that He may infuse life eternal into the mortal frames of men, impart to the temples of dust the essence of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Light, and draw the transient world, through the potency of a single word, unto the Everlasting Kingdom.

(From a Tablet - translated from the Persian)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Learn Well This Tablet

July 14, 2012: It gives me great joy to announce that a video of Richard Gurinsky speaking on the Tablet of Ahmad is now available online.  

The Story of Richard Gurinsky’s Book

H. Richard Gurinsky wrote only one book, which received little fanfare.  He didn’t live to see its publication.

Yet his book, with the unpretentious name, Learn Well This Tablet, is sure to garner increased recognition with the passage of time.  Consisting of a phrase-by-phrase study of the Tablet of Ahmad – one of the most widely used Writings of Bahá’u’lláh – Learn Well This Tablet offers a wealth of insights and practical relevance.

For Bahá’í readers in the West, the two primary sources of information on the Tablet of Ahmad have been ‘Abu’l-Qásim Faizí’s article, “A Flame of Fire,” first published in The Bahá’í News in 1967, and Adib Taherzadeh’s 1977 overview in The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume 2.

Richard Gurinsky drew on these two excellent sources and, moreover, decades of prayers, fact gathering, relentless cross-referencing with the Bahá’í sacred Writings and the Qur'an -- turning over ideas, asking questions, and discussing the translation, (from the original Arabic into English), of various words and concepts in the Tablet of Ahmad. The result is that Gurinsky has left us a work of transcendence that is more than a book of commentary.  With its constant interspersion of the Creative Word and its brief focused sections, could it not be used as a supplemental daybook for meditation?  With its fearless survey of covenantal fundamentals, factual integrity and broad vision, is it an inspired textbook?  Parts of the book are so taken with the story of the mystic relationship between the revealer of the Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’u’lláh, and its recipient, Mírzá Ahmad Yazdí, that it captivates the reader like a taut mystery thriller.

Richard Gurinsky’s story is fascinating in its own right. He grew up suffering from a rare disorder that impaired his vision, hearing, and kidney function.  Being born to a Jewish family and raised on Long Island, New York, he attended Hebrew school on weekends, learning prayers and songs in Hebrew.  He went on to attend Swarthmore College and Northwestern University.  In 1970 he became a Christian. The following year, in the precincts of the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, he discovered and enrolled in the Bahá’í Faith and promptly began teaching the Faith. 

In 1972 he attained his Master’s degree in Materials Science, (applied physics), at the age of 27.  Later that same year he married Margaret Loring Giebitz, and he and his bride, who had been a Bahá’í just four months, left New York to homefront pioneer on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in New Mexico.

Lacking permanent employment and responding to the need there, Richard went back to college to gain his teaching credential. He garnered the title “Education Specialist” from New Mexico State University in 1974 and began teaching at the Mescalero Elementary School.  Also around this time, he and Margaret assumed care of an Indian baby with fetal alcohol syndrome, (they later legally adopted this little boy), who had been brought to their dwelling “for the weekend” by a social worker.

During the ten years they lived on the reservation, Margaret gave birth to two of the three children born to them, with the two oldest of the four children going on to start school there.

Life on the reservation was difficult, but from his earliest days as a Bahá’í, Richard had developed a deep reliance upon prayer and an attachment to the Tablet of Ahmad in particular.  The couple was also sustained by their activity and travels as members of the District Teaching Committee and streams of loving encouragement that flowed from cohorts Richard and Pauline Hoff and Bobby and Annie Mitchell.

After Richard Gurinsky and his family moved to nearby Alamogordo in 1982, they continued with the Indian teaching work and Bahá’í service.  Meanwhile, in 1984 Richard began working at New Mexico State University—Alamogordo, where he became an assistant professor of physics and mathematics.  In 1989 the students elected Richard to the school’s highest faculty honor for his teaching excellence.

In the early 1990’s, Richard was thrilled to take part in summer teaching trips to Russia for three consecutive years as a member of the Marion Jack Teaching Project.

In 1993 Richard and Margaret separated and, in the next year, were divorced.

At Bahá’í Unit Convention in 1996 he met Linda Kehoe and subsequently remarried.  By this time, his fragile health had deteriorated and he required peritoneal dialysis multiple times daily.  Using special equipment for the visually impaired, he was able to perform this procedure independently at home.

Through all of these changes he continued to study, research and meditate on the Tablet of Ahmad.  His first version of a book on the subject was strictly a compilation of quotations from the Bahá’í Writings.  However, Brent Poirier, a trusted friend, pointed out that readers would require help in connecting the quotations with understanding the Tablet of Ahmad.  Once Richard was reconciled to the distinction between offering insights and information for consideration, as opposed to presenting one’s own thoughts as authoritative, the book began to assume its current form.

For the last two years of his life Richard was legally blind.  However, with the help of Linda, who read the drafts aloud to him, he continued with increased urgency to press on with his work on Learn Well This Tablet.  When the New Mexico Commission for the Blind was able to provide voice recognition software, it enabled him to work independently and was a tremendous boost toward completing the project.

On April 5, 1999, Richard sent his manuscript – the product of hours and hours of consultation and innumerable rewrites – to the publisher for the third and final time.  The following day, he received a phone call informing him that, at last, he was to travel to Dallas, Texas for a kidney transplant. He received the transplant the next day, on April 7th.  While still in the hospital, he was able to sign the book contract with George Ronald, Publisher.  He returned home to New Mexico on May 25.  Richard Gurinsky died a month later on June 24, 1999Learn Well This Tablet was published the following year.

Among the speakers at his funeral was a longtime friend, Meredith Begay, a Mescalero Apache who was the first of her tribe to embrace the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.  In a gesture of the highest respect, she presented a beautiful Indian blanket that was draped over Richard’s coffin and buried with him.


When we hold Richard Gurinsky’s book in our hands, it is obvious that such a book should have been written.  What is not obvious – in common patterns of mortal thought – is that a mathematician of Russian Jewish descent from New York with physical disabilities, already living a life of service in the desert, should make the sacrifice for which the writing of a worthy study of the Tablet of Ahmad called.  Richard didn’t consider it a sacrifice.  

It is here that we turn to the overarching universality and power of the Tablet of Ahmad itself.  The original Tablet, written in small fine Arabic script in Bahá’u’lláh’s own hand, is on a rectangle of thick, now discolored, paper of less than 4 x 6 inches, with a slight ink smear on it.  It is about the size of a medium-large postcard we would send nowadays.  Yet, the world will come to recognize it as among the single most potent and precious messages in religious history.

The excerpt below from Learn Well This Tablet, which follows an account of Ahmad’s life in Chapter 1 and a meditation on the meaning of Ahmad’s heroic life in Chapter 2, constitutes half of the third chapter of Learn Well This Tablet.   This is one of many passages that refer to the effect the Tablet of Ahmad had on its initial recipient:

Several features of Ahmad’s story merit our attention.  Foremost among them is Ahmad’s obedience to the teaching mission Bahá’u’lláh entrusted to him.  Ahmad tells us he studied his Tablet until he discovered its purpose and once he found out what Bahá’u’lláh was calling him to do, he immediately arose to carry out the bidding of his Lord. This is even more significant considering that Ahmad could no longer bear being separated from Bahá’u’lláh at the time he received this Tablet.  Ahmad’s decision to give up his intention to visit Bahá’u’lláh and [instead] return to Persia to teach suggests that within this Tablet Bahá’u’lláh placed a great power.  Such was this power that it also enabled Ahmad to carry out his arduous teaching mission for the rest of his long life.

Another aspect of this story is Ahmad’s age and the very great distances he walked.  Ahmad was not a young man when he decided to leave Baghdád and visit Bahá’u’lláh.  Since Ahmad was born about 1805 and he received the Tablet in 1865 or thereabouts, we know that Ahmad was about 60 years old when Bahá’u’lláh sent the Tablet to him.  Ahmad had just walked the entire distance from Baghdád to Constantinople – more than 1100 miles or 1700 kilometres – when he received this Tablet.  Adrianople is another 160 miles, 260 kilometres, from Constantinople.  However, Ahmad did not choose this easier path.  Instead, he directed his steps to Persia.  From Constantinople, Ahmad walked another 1400 miles, 2240 kilometres, to reach his destination.  Such a feat is almost unimaginable today, although, of course, it was more common in the 19th century.  Yet once he arrived in Persia, Ahmad did not rest.  He continued walking around the country, teaching the Bábís.

Gurinsky goes on in Chapter 5 to enumerate twenty themes “that appear to be included in the Tablet of Ahmad.”  He states point blank: “To study this Tablet is to undertake a concise course in the fundamental verities of the Bahá’í Faith.”  He then confirms and illustrates this statement throughout the rest of the book.

Learn Well This Tablet is replete with scholarly analysis. (See especially the book’s extensive footnotes and the learned introduction by Todd Lawson, which include a survey of the Islamic roots of the Tablet of Ahmad.)  However, do not think that it lacks in warmth or practicality.  Consider this example of application for the individual from page 280:

In the Tablet of Ahmad Bahá’u’lláh assures us that ‘God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties, and remove his afflictions’.  In this verse He gives us three specific promises of divine assistance.  The order and sequence of these three promises may be particularly significant.  He may be suggesting that God leads us through a spiritual process, a series of steps in helping us overcome problems.  If this is so, then He says the initial step is for God to help us dispel our sadness.  Next He will help us solve our difficulties and finally He will assist us to remove our afflictions.  Bahá’u’lláh appears to be suggesting a specific approach to spiritual problem-solving.

This passage suggests that Bahá’u’lláh is telling us that we must first gain control over our own emotions and mental state.  This frees us to figure out what the real problem is and take appropriate action.

Here is a sample of the book’s personal tone, from its Epilogue:

A particular feature of this Tablet is its call to Ahmad.  ‘Ahmad’ derives from the Arabic verb ‘to praise’, ‘to exalt’ and is translated ‘most praiseworthy’.  So when Bahá’u’lláh calls out ‘O Ahmad!’ He is addressing Ahmad of Yazd, for whom the Tablet was revealed, and, at the same time, each one of us.

‘O Ahmad’ may be understood as an appeal to the person reading the Tablet, meaning “O thou who desires to be most praiseworthy in the sight of God’.  For example, when Bahá’u’lláh says ‘O Ahmad! Bear thou witness that he is God’, He may be telling us that if we desire to be most praiseworthy in the sight of God, then we must bear witness in our own lives to the fact that ‘there is no God but Him’.  Similarly, when He calls out ‘O Ahmad! Forget not my bounties while I am absent’, He may be telling us that if we truly want to be most praiseworthy in His sight, then we must never forget how much He loves us and cares for us.  We must also never forget His bounties to us and how He is ever ready and willing to pour His grace upon us.  And finally, when He counsels ‘Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad’, He may be counseling each one of us to read and study this Tablet regularly so that we, too, like Ahmad before us, may find out what our Lord desires of us.

In a very real sense each one of us is an Ahmad…

If Learn Well This Tablet: A Commentary on the Tablet of Ahmad, is reprinted, as it richly deserves to be, perhaps the following points will be considered for future editions:

  • The Introduction to the book needs some corrections – it currently does not correlate with the chapter numbers in the published version.  On page xvii Todd Lawson refers to a ‘discussion of the “path of God” in chapter 48 and “witness” in Chapter 46.’  However, the “path of God” is actually discussed in chapter 47.  The reference to “witness” may refer to the discussion in chapters 34, 35, and 36.  Page xix of the Introduction refers to a discussion of the Nightingale of Paradise in chapter 7.  However, this discussion takes place in chapter 8.
  •  On page 8 of the book, one finds the following passing reference: “In the final, untranslated, paragraph of this Tablet, Bahá’u’lláh intimates to Ahmad that he should return to Baghdád.”  An English translation of this passage of the Tablet of Ahmad, even a provisional one, would prove of interest.
  •  Many readers of the book have no doubt looked for the complete text of the Tablet of Ahmad in contiguous form, expecting it to be included within the covers of Learn Well This Tablet.    

These considerations aside, the excellence of Learn Well This Tablet reflects the caring and humility of Richard Gurinsky.  The opinions and exegesis he shares are invariably coupled with qualifying terms and expressions such as “this may be,”  “this appears to,” “this suggests,” “it is possible,” “it seems that,” “if this is so,” “in one sense,” “in another sense,” “on one level,” “on another level” “one way of looking at this…” As one of Richard’s friends interviewed for this article put it, he had “a loving tenderness with the Word.” 

Whether in independent study, study circles, or deepening classes, individuals around the world will continue for years to come to engage with the reverential exploration of the Tablet of Ahmad found in Learn Well This Tablet.  This ever-expanding readership will confirm the aptness of a line inscribed on the gravestone of Richard Gurinsky:


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Title for God Passes By

During a session at Bosch Baha’i School last year, one of the participants asked where Shoghi Effendi got the title for his book, God Passes By. The title for God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi’s historical overview of the first hundred years of the Baha’i dispensation—first published in 1944—was provided by George Townshend, one of the world’s great biblical scholars.

David Hofman’s biography of George Townshend briefly describes the sequence of events.

The choosing of the title for this ‘survey’, as all the Guardian’s correspondence called it, taxed George’s imaginative invention. Only after letters and two cables urging the point had been received did inspiration come to him. He cabled ‘God Passes By’ and received the instant reply ‘DELIGHTED TITLE EAGERLY AWAITING LETTER’.

(David Hofman, George Townshend, p. 69)

George Townshend, (who later, in 1951, was appointed a Hand of the Cause), was unquestionably familiar with the biblical passages below, which may well, even if only subconsciously, have inspired him with the title for Shoghi Effendi’s great book.

The first account, from the book of Exodus, describes an episode with Moses involving a cloudy pillar, the tabernacle, stone tablets, and a covenant…

The second account, from I Kings, relates an episode referring to Elijah and his cave on Mount Carmel. This took place in the area where Baha’u’llah, the Lord of Hosts, later physically walked and revealed the Tablet of Carmel and where now sits the Shrine of the Bab.

Within this Most Holy Land rises the Mountain of God of immemorial sanctity, the Vineyard of the Lord, the Retreat of Elijah, Whose return the Bab Himself symbolizes.

(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 95)

From Exodus:

33:17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

33:21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: 33:22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 33:23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen…
34:5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands…

(King James Bible, Exodus)[Emphasis added.]

From I Kings:

19:9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 19:10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

19:11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 19:14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

19:15 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness…

(King James Bible, I Kings) [Emphasis added.]

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Spiritual Axis

"Should they attempt to conceal His light on the continent, He will assuredly rear His head in the midmost heart of the ocean and, raising His voice, proclaim: 'I am the lifegiver of the world!'...

(Baha'u'llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 108)

At Ridvan 2012 the Universal House of Justice announced that two new national Mashriqu’l-Adhkars and five new local Houses of Worship are to be constructed by the Baha’is of the world. Of these seven new Temples, three are to be built in the Pacific region: a national Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Papua New Guinea, and local Mashriqu’l-Adhkars in both Battambang, Cambodia  and Tanna, Vanuatu. These will complement the already existing Temples of the Pacific region in Sydney, Australia and Apia, Western Samoa.

                         Photo © Baha’i International Community

This will bring to five the number of Mashriqu’l-Adhkars along what the beloved Guardian described in a 1957 missive as “a spiritual axis, extending from the Antipodes to the northern islands of the Pacific Ocean -- an axis whose northern and southern poles will act as powerful magnets, endowed with exceptional spiritual potency, and towards which younger and less experienced communities will tend for some time to gravitate.” [Emphasis added.]

In that same letter, addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, Shoghi Effendi had further explained:

...The emergence of a new Regional Spiritual Assembly in the North Pacific Area, with its seat fixed in the capital city of a country [at that time the Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia, with its seat in Tokyo, Japan] which by reason of its innate capacity and the spiritual receptivity it has acquired, in consequence of the severe and prolonged ordeal its entire population has providentially experienced, is destined to have a preponderating share in awakening the peoples and races inhabiting the entire Pacific area, to the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, and to act as the Vanguard of His hosts

A responsibility, at once weighty and inescapable, must rest on the communities which occupy so privileged a position in so vast and turbulent an area of the globe. However great the distance that separates them; however much they differ in race, language, custom, and religion; however active the political forces which tend to keep them apart and foster racial and political antagonisms, the close and continued association of these communities in their common, their peculiar and paramount task of raising up and of consolidating the embryonic World Order of Bahá'u'lláh in those regions of the globe, is a matter of vital and urgent importance, which should receive on the part of the elected representatives of their communities, a most earnest and prayerful consideration.

(Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 138) [Emphasis added.]

Earlier in the same communication, the Guardian had conveyed this regarding the outcome of the plans underway for the first Baha’i Temple in Australia:

The influence that this Mother Temple of the whole Pacific area will exert when constructed, is incalculable and mysterious.

(Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 135)

The Custodians of the Baha’i Faith—those Hands of the Cause acting as the interim Head of the Faith during the period of the Interregnum—echoed the Guardian’s emphasis on the significance of the spiritual axis:   

In Shoghi Effendi's last message  to the Australian National Spiritual Assembly [July 19, 1957] he unfolded before their eyes, in his own inimitable way, a vast panorama of future development in the entire Pacific area: he pointed out that Australia and Japan constitute the northern and southern poles of a mighty spiritual axis running through the Pacific region and that through this axis the current of a close collaboration in the execution of the Divine Plan throughout that entire region must flow. He emphasized that within this area embraced by New Zealand and Australia in the south and Japan in the north, "an area endowed" as he wrote "with unimaginable potentialities, and which, owing to its strategic position, is bound to feel the impact of world-shaking forces, and to shape to a marked degree through the experience gained by its peoples in the school of adversity, the destinies of mankind."

(Ministry of the Custodians, pp. 73-74) [Emphasis added.]

Under the divine infallible guidance of the Universal House of Justice the portents regarding the spiritual axis in the Pacific region are all being realized. In 1982 it wrote to the Baha’i International Conference in Canberra, Australia:
In Australasia the Mother Temple of the Antipodes, dedicated to the Glory of God just two decades ago, looks out across the vast Pacific Ocean in whose "midmost heart" still another Mashriqu'l-Adhkar is being built on the mountain slope above Apia in the country of the first reigning monarch to embrace the Faith of Baha'u'llah.*

*[The House of Worship in Australasia, outside of Sydney in Ingleside, was dedicated on 16 September 1961. The extract from the Writings of Baha'u'llah about the "midmost heart" of the ocean is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 108. The House of Worship in Apia is in Western Samoa, whose head of state, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, embraced the Baha'i Faith in 1968.]

(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 564)

And in the same message of 1982, the Universal House of Justice explained regarding Shoghi Effendi’s message of July 19, 1957:

These guidelines, penned a quarter of a century ago, are as valid today as when they were written, and can be taken to heart by all Baha'i communities on either side of the axis.

We are all privileged to witness the unfolding, the astonishing fulfillment, of the forecasts found in our sacred Writings and the communications of the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice.