June 25, 2014

Attitude to maintain during consultation…

… consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion… 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk; ‘The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912’; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, Consultation)

June 22, 2014

The meaning of terms such as "devil" or Satan" used in sacred books

Every human being has a spiritual nature and also a material nature; his purpose is to subdue the material nature, which inclines him to evil, and, with the aid of Divine Teachings, to develop his spiritual nature so that he can manifest praiseworthy attributes. An individual who chooses to surrender to the promptings of his material nature can sink to levels of depravity and bestiality which are abhorrent to the discerning eye, and which are totally unworthy of the human station. The Baha'i Teachings inform us that there is no independent force of evil in creation, but terms such as "devil" or Satan" are used in sacred books as symbols of the promptings of the lower nature of man. 
(From a letter dated 9 September 1992 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

June 15, 2014

Baha’i attitude towards celebration of Christmas – clarification by the Universal House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice has received your email of 23 November 2002, and referred it to our Department for reply. You have explained that as a result of an email discussion group there is a differing of opinions whether Baha’is are permitted to celebrate Christmas, and you have expressed your understanding that while there is no harm in sharing the festivities with friends, the " Baha’is themselves should not be putting up Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, etc."

As one member of your discussion group pointed out, a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice has indeed indicated in the past that although most of the cultural or religious festivals of other religions or communities have no doubt stemmed from religious rituals in bygone ages, the believers should not be deterred from participating in those in which, over the course of time, the religious meaning has given way to purely culturally oriented practices.

In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, Baha’is must guard against two extremes. The one is to disassociate themselves needlessly from harmless cultural observances and thus alienate themselves from their non-Baha'i families and friends; the other is to continue the practice of abrogated observances of previous dispensations and thus undermine the independence of the Baha'i Faith and create undesirable distinctions between themselves and their fellow Bahai'is. In this connection there is a difference between what  Baha’is do among themselves and what they do in companionship with their non-Baha'i friends and relations. We provide below a question posed to Shoghi Effendi by a believer, followed by the response written on his behalf taken from a letter dated 19 March 1938, with which you are familiar. It is important to note, in the response to the question, the phrase "in their relation to each other".

June 10, 2014

The “trail-breakers of the New Day”

The heroes whose deeds shine upon the record of this fierce spiritual contest, involving at once people, clergy, monarch and government, were the Báb’s chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, and their companions, the trail-breakers of the New Day, who to so much intrigue, ignorance, depravity, cruelty, superstition and cowardice opposed a spirit exalted, unquenchable and awe-inspiring, a knowledge surprisingly profound, an eloquence sweeping in its force, a piety unexcelled in fervor, a courage leonine in its fierceness, a self-abnegation saintly in its purity, a resolve granite-like in its firmness, a vision stupendous in its range, a veneration for the Prophet and His Imáms disconcerting to their adversaries, a power of persuasion alarming to their antagonists, a standard of faith and a code of conduct that challenged and revolutionized the lives of their countrymen. 
(Shoghi Effendi, ‘God Passes By’)

June 4, 2014

A new model of operation: “action, reflection, consultation and study”

A sample of chronological excerpts from the messages of the Universal House of Justice and a message of the International Teaching center:

Throughout the endeavour, periodic meetings of consultation in the area need to reflect on issues, consider adjustments, and maintain enthusiasm and unity of thought. (UHJ, Jan. 9, 2001)

Meetings of consultation held at the cluster level serve to raise awareness of possibilities and generate enthusiasm. Here, free from the demands of formal decision-making, participants reflect on experience gained, share insights, explore approaches and acquire a better understanding of how each can contribute to achieving the aim of the Plan. (UHJ, Jan. 17, 2003)

As the National Teaching Committee strengthens in this way its capacity to systematize the lessons being learned through the action and reflection of the friends in communities scattered across the country, it will be able to offer the knowledge gained to the institutions at all levels and lend further impetus to the movement of clusters nationwide. (UHJ, 19 Oct. 2005)

As they strive to apply through a process of action, reflection and consultation the insights thus gained, they see their capacity to serve the Cause rise to new levels. (UHJ, Ridvan 2008)

And let them rejoice at having learned through consistent, systematic action how
to establish a rhythm of growth that pays due attention to the essential elements of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning. (UHJ, 20 October 2008)