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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Seven League Boots

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Seven-league boots are an element in European folklore. The boots allow the wearer to take great strides—seven leagues each step—resulting in great speed. The boots are often presented by a magical character to the protagonist to aid in the completion of a significant task. (A league is three miles, so seven leagues is 21 miles or just under 35 kilometres.)”

It is as if the following message was sent by the beloved Guardian this morning from his place on High:

He wishes you all every success in the discharge of your arduous duties, and is praying for a marked quickening in the pace of the Five Year Plan.

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 30 October, 1951, Messages to Canada, p. 24)

Recent announcements of developments in the Baha’i world, (Ridvan, 2012), such as the initiation of projects for seven more Mashriqu’l-Adhkars worldwide, and the increase of the number of Regional Baha’i Councils in the United States to ten, lead one to consider the pace at which individual, community, and institutional growth and development can and will continue to accelerate.

[Emphasis added in the quotes below.]

Our fervent desire, bolstered by witnessing your consecrated efforts during the past year, is that you will intensify your sure-footed application of the knowledge you are acquiring through experience. Now is not the time to hold back; too many remain unaware of the new dawn. Who but you can convey the divine message?

(The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2012, “To the Baha’is of the World,” paragraph four.)

At every moment he offereth a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One, at every step he throweth a thousand heads at the feet of the Beloved.
      (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 7)

These statements are made in the sphere of that which is relative, because of the limitations of men. Otherwise, those personages who in a single step have passed over the world of the relative and the limited, and dwelt on the fair plane of the Absolute, and pitched their tent in the worlds of authority and commandhave burned away these relativities with a single spark, and blotted out these words with a drop of dew. And they swim in the sea of the spirit, and soar in the holy air of light. Then what life have words, on such a plane, that "first" and "last" or other than these be seen or mentioned! In this realm, the first is the last itself, and the last is but the first.
      (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 27-28)

These journeys have no visible ending in the world of time, but the severed wayfarerif invisible confirmation descend upon him and the Guardian of the Cause assist himmay cross these seven stages in seven steps, nay rather in seven breaths, nay rather in a single breath, if God will and desire it. And this is of "His grace on such of His servants as He pleaseth."
      (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 40)

Thou art but one step away from the glorious heights above and from the celestial tree of love. Take thou one pace and with the next advance into the immortal realm and enter the pavilion of eternity. Give ear then to that which hath been revealed by the pen of glory.

(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words, No.6)

Be swift in the path of holiness, and enter the heaven of communion with Me. Cleanse thy heart with the burnish of the spirit, and hasten to the court of the Most High.
    (Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words, No.7)

Know, moreover, that should one who hath attained unto these stations and embarked upon these journeys fall prey to pride and vainglory, he would at that very moment come to naught and return to the first step without realizing it.
    (Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 74)

O my brother! Take thou the step of the spirit, so that, swift as the twinkling of an eye, thou mayest flash through the wilds of remoteness and bereavement, attain the Ridvan of everlasting reunion, and in one breath commune with the heavenly Spirits. For with human feet thou canst never hope to traverse these immeasurable distances, nor attain thy goal. Peace be upon him whom the light of truth guideth unto all truth, and who, in the name of God, standeth in the path of His Cause, upon the shore of true understanding.
      (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 43)

For instance, consider the substance of copper. Were it to be protected in its own mine from becoming solidified, it would, within the space of seventy years, attain to the state of gold. There are some, however, who maintain that copper itself is gold, which by becoming solidified is in a diseased condition, and hath not therefore reached its own state.

Be that as it may, the real elixir will, in one instant, cause the substance of copper to attain the state of gold, and will traverse the seventy-year stages in a single moment. Could this gold be called copper? Could it be claimed that it hath not attained the state of gold, whilst the touch-stone is at hand to assay it and distinguish it from copper?

Likewise, these souls, through the potency of the Divine Elixir, traverse, in the twinkling of an eye, the world of dust and advance into the realm of holiness; and with one step cover the earth of limitations and reach the domain of the Placeless. It behooveth thee to exert thine utmost to attain unto this Elixir which, in one fleeting breath, causeth the west of ignorance to reach the east of knowledge, illuminates the darkness of night with the resplendence of the morn, guideth the wanderer in the wilderness of doubt to the well-spring of the Divine Presence and Fount of certitude, and conferreth upon mortal souls the honour of acceptance into the Ridvan of immortality. Now, could this gold be thought to be copper, these people could likewise be thought to be the same as before they were endowed with faith.
      (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 157)

The foot and the step, for example, are connected to the ear and the eye; the eye must look ahead before the step is taken.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 48)

The Cause in England seems, in spite of financial handicaps, to be going forward in Seven League boots. He (the Guardian) is truly proud of the British believers, and this is more than he could say in the past, when the work for years seemed to be stagnating! Those days are now passed forever, he feels sure.

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 17 October 1948, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 452)

The Faith of God does not advance at one uniform pace. Sometimes it is like the advance of the sea when the tide is rising. Meeting a sandbank the water seems to be held back, but, with a new wave, it surges forward, flooding past the barrier which checked it for a little while. If the friends will but persist in their efforts, the cumulative effect of years of work will suddenly appear.

(The Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 27 July 1980,) (“Promoting Entry by Troops,” p. 11)

…There is a proverb among the Arabs that whoever wears King Solomon's ring, when he turns it everything in the twinkling of an eye will be changed. Some of the Arab workers used to say Shoghi Effendi had found King Solomon's ring!
    It is hard to understand why most people do things so slowly when Shoghi Effendi did them so fast. Just to twitter faithfully that he was "guided by God" does not seem to me a sufficient explanation. I believe great people see things in great dimensions…
 (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 87)