March 18, 2010

Understanding the station and functions of the Guardian – by Ruhiyyih Khanum

I doubt if there is a Baha'i living who has the proper concept of what the station and functions of our Guardian are. We are, for one type of mentality, too close to 'Abdu'l-Baha and for another type, not yet far enough from Him; sufficient historical perspective has not yet been gained, to see the true implications of the Guardianship. There are those who confuse the powers of the Guardian with those of the Manifestation of God, expecting him to be all-knowing. There are others who cannot reconcile themselves to the thought of all the power, the supreme power, vested in him. Those who endow him with an omnipresent knowledge are over-exaggerating, which is not rendering any service to one who seeks to properly grasp his function and position in the Baha'i Dispensation. On the other hand many people, preponderatingly in the West, where there is such an abnormal attitude towards personality, where there is such a jealousy and fear of leadership, greatly underrate the Guardianship's prerogatives which are in no way personal but rather functional. The first type demands that the Guardian pass on the correctness of a new astrophysical theory or foretell the date of the end of Indian-Pakistan troubles; the second type, reading the provisions of the Master's Will, seeing the unbelievable authority vested in the Guardianship, thinks of it in terms of a man, a leader, who will dispose of means, and endowed with functions no man has ever before had, and is consequently afraid of one human being exercising so much power and tries to minimize 'Abdu'l-Baha's statements. Both are utterly wrong. The Guardian is not the Manifestation of God who was the Heavenly Balance in which any knowledge could be weighed. Unless there is something in the Teachings to indicate an answer -- maybe something only a Guardian could detect or interpret, but something -- he will not pass on matters beyond his ken. Nor does he claim to know the end from the beginning. So much for those who exaggerate in one direction.

But those who exaggerate in the other direction do the Cause and themselves a much greater disservice. The Guardian of course is humanly a man, with his own particular personality, traits, preferences and likes. But this is beside the point. He is, as our Guardian, a function in a God-given system. If we should be told by a man that he registered in his solar plexus oncoming earthquakes we would laugh at him, but we would not laugh at the official seismograph recordings. It is time that those who are so afraid of personality should reform their mental concept and never think of a Guardian as a man reacting to something, but as a machine recording something. In other words, we voluntarily and semi-involuntarily react to situations, to inspiration, to the influence of God, but the Guardian reacts involuntarily, like a thing connected with a current, working automatically. This is why we must believe that in discharging all his functions and responsibilities in relation to the Faith, and us as its followers, he will never, can never, err. This is what divine guidance means, what it means to be invested by God with infallibility -- it is not a voluntary thing, it is an involuntary one, not an optional thing, but a functional thing, and if the objection to so radical an innovation in man's religious life is that it is something new -- why, so are radar, radio, television, jet propulsion and atomic energy. These advances and scientific revelations we accept -- then why not one on the spiritual plane?
(Excerpt from a message written by Ruhiyyih Khanum, dated March 18, 1949, published in Baha’i News no. 220, June 1949)