November 18, 2010

The World Center of the Faith: Its Supreme Administrative Importance -- Address of Hand of the Cause Paul Haney on April 30, 1963 at the World Congress in London, England

In many of his glorious messages to the Baha'i world the beloved Guardian described for us the twin spiritual and administrative World Centers existing and fixed permanently in the Holy Land, "constituting the midmost heart of the entire planet," the source of spiritual power and the object of adoration of all Baha'is. He also drew for us a clear and inspiring picture of those sacred and divinely-ordained institutions which comprise the heart and the nerve center of our Faith in the twin holy cities of 'Akka and Haifa.
Our Guardian explained to us that there are three divinely revealed charters which have set in motion three distinct processes in the unfoldment of the World Order of Baha'u'llah.

(1) The Tablet of Carmel, revealed by Baha'u'llah Himself, which is the charter for the development of the institutions of the Faith at its World Center, including the establishment of the supreme edifice of the Universal House of Justice.

(2) The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, the charter for the establishment of the Administrative Order throughout the world; and --

(3) The Tablets of the Divine Plan, constituting the charter for the propagation of the Faith and the spiritual conquest of the planet.

It was the Tablet of Carmel which generated the spiritual impulse for the rise and establishment of the Baha'i international institutions in the Holy Land, a process the beginnings of which, Shoghi Effendi told us, "may be traced as far back as the concluding years of the Heroic Age of the Faith," and which will attain its final consummation in the Golden Age, "through the raising of the standard of the Most Great Peace and the emergence in the plenitude of its power and glory of the focal center of the agencies constituting the World Order of Baha'u'llah. The final establishment of this seat of the future Baha'i World Commonwealth will," he told us, "signalize at once the proclamation of the sovereignty of the Founder of our Faith and the advent of the Kingdom of the Father . . ."

Profound Significance of the Institutions

As long ago as 1939, at the time of the transfer of the sacred remains of the Holy Mother and the Purest Branch to Mt. Carmel and their interment in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Greatest Holy Leaf, the beloved Guardian, in a stirring message to the American Baha'is, began to reveal the profound importance and administrative significance of the institutions which in the future would be established within the shadow of the Shrine of the Bab on God's Holy Mountain.

In commenting on the reburial of these holy souls, he told us that: "The transfer of the sacred remains of the brother and mother of our Lord and Master 'Abdu'l-Baha to Mt. Carmel and their final interment within the hallowed precincts of the Shrine of the Bab, and in the immediate neighborhood of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf, constitute, apart from their historic associations and the tender sentiments they arouse. events of such capital institutional significance as only future happenings, steadily and mysteriously unfolding at the World Center of our Faith, can adequately demonstrate."

In that same message he referred to the Tablet of Carmel, quoting from its various passages, such as:

"Haste thee, O Carmel, for lo, the light of the countenance of God, the Ruler of the Kingdom of Names and Fashioner of the heavens, hath been lifted upon thee." "Rejoice, for God hath in this Day established upon thee His throne, hath made thee the dawning-place of His signs and the day-spring of His Revelation."

He also stated that: "It must be clearly understood, nor can it be sufficiently emphasized, that the conjunction of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf with those of her brother and mother incalculably reinforces the spiritual potencies of that consecrated spot which, under the wings of the Bab's over-shadowing Sepulcher, and in the vicinity of the future Mashriqu'l-Akhkar, which will be reared on its flank, is destined to evolve into the focal center of those world-shaking, world-embracing, world-directing administrative institutions, ordained by Baha'u'llah and anticipated by 'Abdu'l-Baha . . . "

"To attempt to visualize, even in its barest outline, the glory that must envelop these institutions, to essay even a tentative and partial description of their character or the manner of their operation, or to trace however inadequately the course of events leading to their rise and eventual establishment is far beyond my own capacity and power. Suffice it to say that at this troubled stage in world history the association of these three incomparably precious souls who, next to the three Central Figures of our Faith, tower in rank above the vast multitude of the heroes, Letters, martyrs, Hands, teachers and administrators of the Cause of Baha'u'llah, in such a potentially powerful spiritual and administrative Center, is in itself an event which will release forces that are bound to hasten the emergence in a land which, geographically, spiritually and administratively, constitutes the heart of the entire planet, of some of the brightest gems of that World Order now shaping in the womb of this travailing age."

On July 7, 1950, in announcing to the Baha'i world the completion of the initial stage of the building of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab, the beloved Guardian referred to "the process set in motion sixty years ago by Baha'u'llah's visit to Mt: Carmel," and after reviewing the contribution to its unfoldment made by the successive stages in the construction of the Shrine, stated that this process would attain its consummation "through the emergence of the institutions of the World Administrative Center of the Faith in the vicinity of its World Spiritual Center, signalizing the sailing of the Divine Ark on God's Mountain, prophesied in the Tablet of Carmel."

The First International Council

On January 9, 1951, the beloved Guardian announced the formation of the first International Baha'i Council and characterized it as the "forerunner of (the) supreme administrative institution destined to emerge in (the) fullness of time within (the) precincts and beneath the shadow of (the) World Spiritual Center of the Faith already established in the twin cities of 'Akka and Haifa."

During the Ridvan period of the same year (1951), Shoghi Effendi, in opening the door to direct contributions to the International Fund in the Holy Land by individual believers throughout the world, as well as by national and local assemblies, referred to the establishment of the International Baha'i Council and the construction of the superstructure of the Bab's Sepulcher as constituting "the initial major evidences of the rise and consolidation of the Administrative Center of the World Faith of Baha'u'llah." In that same message he told the believers that upon their response to the needs which he described would "depend the nature and rapidity of the evolution of the World Administrative Center designed to culminate in the erection of the last unit crowning the structure of the embryonic World Order of Baha'u'llah," this of course being a reference to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice.

More than three years later, after completion of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab, the Guardian, in announcing the acquisition of a thirteen hundred meter plot located in "a central position amidst the extensive Baha'i domains in the heart of God's Holy Mountain," indicated that the ownership of this plot would permit the location of the site, the excavation of the foundations and the erection of the structure of the International Baha'i Archives, constituting one of the foremost objectives of the Ten-Year Plan.

In this historic message he also disclosed that the raising of the edifice of an International Archives would "in turn herald the construction, in the course of successive epochs of the Formative Age of the Faith, of several other structures" designed to serve as the administrative seat of the various divinely-appointed institutions of the Faith, including the Universal House of Justice. These edifices, he explained, will be in the shape of a far-flung arc surrounding the resting-places of the Greatest Holy Leaf, the Purest Branch and the Holy Mother. "The ultimate completion of this stupendous undertaking," he told us, "will mark the culmination of the development of a world-wide divinely appointed Administrative Order."

Progress Reflected in the Guardian's Messages

In each of his last three annual Ridvan Messages our beloved Guardian shared with the friends throughout the world additional news reflecting the rapid progress of construction of the International Archives Building and the expansion of the ownership of properties on Mt. Carmel, safeguarding the future development of the Baha'i spiritual and administrative institutions.

In April 1955 announcement was made of steps "being taken for the purchase of several properties . . . the acquisition of which is essential for the safeguarding of the area in the dose vicinity of the Bab's Sepulcher, as well as for the future expansion of the arc around which the edifices destined to serve as the seat of the future Baha'i World Commonwealth are to be erected."

A year later, in his Ridvan Message for 1956, Shoghi Effendi informed the Baha'i world that: "In the Holy Land, the center and pivot round which the divinely appointed, fast multiplying institutions of a world-encircling, resistlessly marching Faith revolve, the double process, so noticeable in recent years, involving a rapid decline in the fortunes of the breakers of Baha'u'llah's Covenant and proclaiming the rise of the institutions of its World Administrative Center, in the shadow of His Shrine, has been accelerated on the one hand, through the death, in miserable circumstances, of the treacherous and malignant Majdi-d-Din, the last survivor of the principal instigators of the rebellion against the Will of the Founder of our Faith, and on the other, through the laying of the foundation, and the erection of some of the pillars, of the facade and of the northern side of the International Baha'i Archives - the first of the major edifices destined to constitute the seat of the World Baha'i Administrative Center to be established on Mt. Carmel."

And finally, in his last Ridvan Message in April 1957, the beloved Guardian was able to share with the friends the following joyful announcement: "In the Holy Land, the Qiblih of a world community, the heart from which the energizing influences of a vivifying Faith continually stream, and the seat and center around which the diversified activities of a divinely appointed Administrative Order revolve -- following upon the termination of the construction of the Bab's Holy Sepulcher, marking the closing of the first chapter in the history of the evolution of the central institutions of a world Faith, a marked progress in the rise and establishment of these institutions has been clearly noticeable. The remaining twenty-two pillars of the International Baha'i Archives – the initial edifice heralding the establishment of the Baha'i World Administrative Center on Mt. Carmel have been erected. The last half of the nine hundred tons of stone, ordered in Italy for its construction, have reached their destination, enabling the exterior of the building to be completed, while the forty-four tons of glazed green tiles, manufactured in Utrecht, to cover the five hundred square meters of roof, have been placed in position, the whole contributing to an unprecedented degree through its colorfulness, its classic style and graceful proportions, and in conjunction with the stately golden-crowned Mausoleum rising beyond it, to the unfolding glory of the central institutions of a World Faith, nestling in the heart of God's Holy Mountain.”

"Simultaneous with this striking development, the plan designed to insure the extension and completion of the arc serving as a base for the erection of future edifices constituting the World Baha'i Administrative Center, has been successfully carried out."

Last Unit of the Embryonic World Order

And now, in this Ridvan period, at the termination of the World Crusade of our beloved Guardian, coinciding with the end of the first epoch of the unfoldment of the Divine Plan of 'Abdu'l-Baha, that "last unit crowning the structure of the embryonic World Order of Baha'u'llah," the Universal House of Justice, has been established.

The election of this glorious institution which Shoghi Effendi said would be regarded by posterity as "the last refuge of a tottering civilization," brings to fruition at long last the ardent hopes of the Master and the Guardian, both of whom confidently anticipated the time when this august institution would come into being and fulfill its divinely-ordained function as "the Supreme Legislative Body of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha’u'llah."

The first foundations of this sacred edifice were reared in the days of the Master, Who devoted so much of His time and effort to raising up and training the local spiritual assemblies and committees in the countries where groups of Baha'is existed.

Then the beloved Guardian, acting under the infallible guidance and supreme authority conferred upon him in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, steadily expanded these foundations as he strove to educate and deepen the believers in their knowledge of the administration and its true purpose.

At length this process of preparation reached the point where our Guardian could assign definite plans with specific objectives to the various national communities, and, finally, a World Crusade for the spiritual conquest of the entire planet, making possible the erection of no less than fifty-six national and regional assemblies which now constitute the pillars of the supreme edifice of the Universal House of Justice.

The importance of this process and its glorious consummation were described by Shoghi Effendi in various communications, some written as early as 1923. In a letter written in December of that year he said:

"As to the order and management of the spiritual affairs of the friends, that which is very important now is the consolidation of the spiritual assemblies in every center, because on these fortified and unshakable foundations, God's Supreme House of Justice shall be erected and firmly established in the days to come. When this most great edifice shall be reared on such an immovable foundation, God's purpose, wisdom, universal truths, mysteries and realities of the Kingdom, which the mystic Revelation of Baha'u'llah has deposited within the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, shall gradually be revealed and made manifest."

And less than a year later, in October 1924, he told us that:

"These spiritual assemblies have been primarily constituted to carry out these affairs, and secondly to lay a perfect and strong foundation for the establishment of the divine and Universal House of Justice. When that central pivot of the people of Baha shall be effectively, majestically and firmly established, a new era will dawn, heavenly bounties and graces will pour out from that Source, and the all-encompassing promises will be fulfilled."

Importance of the Believers' Tasks

Then in a communication written a number of years preceding the inception of the Ten-Year Plan, he gave us another glimpse of the supreme future importance of the tasks which the believers were being called upon to perform:

"The purpose of so much perpetual and intensive emphasis on the support and consolidation of these spiritual assemblies is this . . . that the foundation of the Cause of God must become broader and stronger day by day, that no confusion ever enter the divine order, that new and strong ties be forged between East and West, that Baha'i unity be safeguarded and illumine the eyes of the people of the world with its resplendent beauty, so that upon these assemblies God's Houses of Justice may be firmly established and upon these secondary Houses of Justice the lofty edifice of the Universal House of Justice may, with complete order, perfection and glory, and with no delay, be raised up. When the Universal House of Justice shall have stepped forth from the realm of hope into that of visible fulfillment and its fame be established in every corner and clime of the world, then that august body, solidly grounded and founded on the firm and unshakable foundation of the entire Baha'i community of East and West, and the recipient of the bounties of God and His inspiration . . . will proceed to devise and carry out important undertakings, worldwide activities and the establishment of glorious institutions. By this means the renown of the Cause of God will become world-wide and its light will illumine the whole earth."

In one of his messages written in the period between the end of the second world war and the beginning of the World Crusade, the beloved Guardian promised us that the long process of building the foundations of the Administrative Order would eventually bring us to the time - "During this Formative Age of the Faith" . . . when the "last and crowning stage in the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah, the election of the Universal House of Justice," would take place.

Promises, Injunctions from the Will and Testament

Although every Baha'i is familiar with the spiritual authority conferred upon the Universal House of Justice by Baha’u'llah and the Center of His Covenant, it is appropriate at this historic moment to review some of the passages from the sacred Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha which set forth the divine promises and injunctions relating to this august institution.

"And now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. Its members must be manifestations of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and understanding, must be steadfast in God's faith and the well-wishers of all mankind. By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one. Unto this body all things must be referred. It enacteth all ordinances and regulations that are not to be found in the explicit Holy Text."

"The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God . . ."

"This is the foundation of the belief of the people of Baha (may my life be offered up for them). 'His Holiness, the Exalted One, (the Bab) is the Manifestation of the Unity and Oneness of God and the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty. His Holiness the Abha Beauty (may my life be a sacrifice for His steadfast friends) is the Supreme Manifestation of God and the Dayspring of His Most Divine Essence. All others are servants unto Him and do His bidding.' Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant."

"All must seek guidance and turn unto the Center of the Cause and the House of Justice. And he that turneth unto whatsoever else is indeed in grievous error.

"The Glory of Glories rest upon you!"

In many of his writings during the thirty-six year period of his ministry, the beloved Guardian explained the functions of the House of Justice and described the bounties which would descend upon the world following its establishment. He made it clear that Baha’u'llah's promise that "God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth" referred to the institution of the House of Justice acting as the consultative body having the "exclusive right and prerogative . . . to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Baha'u'llah has not expressly revealed."

In a message sent early in 1951 commenting on the participation of four national spiritual assemblies in the newly opened African teaching campaign which was to bring such joy to his heart, Shoghi Effendi gave an indication of the future role of the Universal House of Justice in linking the various national assemblies in world-wide undertakings.

"Fervently praying participation (of) British, American, Persian, (and) Egyptian National Assemblies (in) unique, epoch-making enterprise (in) African continent may prove prelude (to) convocation (of) first African Teaching Conference leading eventually (to) initiation (of) undertakings involving collaboration (among) all national assemblies of Baha’i world, thereby paving way (to) ultimate organic union (of) these assemblies through formation (of) International House of Justice destined (to) launch enterprises embracing (the) whole Baha'i world."

The Blessing Conferred Upon the World

In closing let us attempt to understand, through these majestic words of our beloved Guardian, the extent of the blessing now conferred upon the entire world through the establishment of Baha'u'llah's Universal House of Justice.

Referring to the first charter mentioned earlier, Shoghi Effendi, in one of his messages explained that:

"In this great Tablet (of Carmel) which unveils divine mysteries and heralds the establishment of two mighty, majestic and momentous undertakings . . . the Spiritual and Administrative World Centers of the Faith. . . Baha'u'llah refers to an 'Ark,' whose dwellers are the men of the Supreme House of Justice, which in conformity with the exact provisions of the Will and Testament of the Center of the Mighty Covenant is the body which should legislate on laws not explicitly revealed in the Text. In this dispensation these laws are destined to flow from this Holy Mountain, even as in the Mosaic Dispensation, the law of God was promulgated from Zion. The 'sailing of the Ark' of His laws is a reference to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice, which is indeed the House of Legislature, one of the branches of the World Administrative Center of the Baha'is on this Holy Mountain."

And in other messages referring to the time when this supreme institution would be established, he told us that:

"Through it the pillars of the Faith on this earth will be firmly established and its hidden powers be revealed, its signs shine forth, its banners be unfurled and its light be shed upon all peoples." . . . -"Then will all our cherished hopes and aspirations be realized, the tree of our endeavors bear fruit, the Will and Testament of our Master and our Beloved be fully and firmly established, and the hidden powers of the Cause of our Lord and God be fully manifested. Then will be unveiled before our eyes the inauguration of an era the like of which has never been witnessed in past ages." . . . "Then will the throne of Baha'u'llah's sovereignty be founded in the promised land and the scales of justice be raised on high. Then will the banner of the independence of the Faith be unfurled, and His Most Great Law be unveiled and rivers of laws and ordinances stream forth from this snow-white spot with all-conquering power and awe-inspiring majesty, the like of which past ages have never seen. Then will appear the truth of what was revealed by the Tongue of Grandeur; 'Call out to Zion, O Carmel, and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come. His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendor is revealed . . . O Carmel . .. . well is it with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy glory, and recounteth that which the bounty of the Lord, thy God, hath showered upon thee . . . ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee, and will manifest the people of Baha, who have been mentioned in the Book of Names.' " (Baha’i News July 1963)