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The Advent of Divine Justice

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990 first pocket-size edition
  • Pages:
  • 91
Go to printed page GO
Pages 43-72

“Dearly beloved friends! I have attempted, in the beginning …”

Dearly beloved friends! I have attempted, in the beginning of these pages, to convey an idea of the glorious opportunities as well as the tremendous responsibilities which, as a result of the persecution of the far-flung Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, now face the community of the American believers, at so critical a stage in the Formative Period of their Faith, and in so crucial an epoch in the world’s history. I have dwelt sufficiently upon the character of the mission which in a not too distant future that community must, through the impelling force of circumstances, arise and carry out. I have uttered the warning which I felt would be necessary to a clearer understanding, and a better discharge, of the tasks lying ahead of it. I have set forth, and stressed as far as it was in my power, those exalted and dynamic virtues, those lofty standards, which, difficult as they are to attain, constitute nonetheless the essential requirements for the success of those tasks. A word, I believe, should now be said in connection with the material aspect of their immediate task, upon the termination of which, at its appointed time, must depend not only the unfoldment of the subsequent stages in the Divine Plan envisaged by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but also the acquisition 44 of those capacities which will qualify them to discharge, in the fullness of time, the duties and responsibilities demanded by that greater mission which it is their privilege to perform.
The Seven Year Plan, with its twofold aspects of Temple ornamentation and extension of teaching activity, embracing both the Northern and Southern American continents, is now well advanced into its second year, and offers to anyone who has observed its progress in recent months signs that are extremely heartening and which augur well for the attainment of its objectives within the allotted time. The successive steps designed to facilitate, and covering the entire field of, the work to be achieved in connection with the exterior ornamentation of the Temple have for the most part been taken. The final phase which is to mark the triumphant conclusion of a thirty-year old enterprise has at long last been entered. The initial contract connected with the first and main story of that historic edifice has been signed. The Fund associated with the beloved name of the Greatest Holy Leaf has been launched. The uninterrupted continuation to its very end of so laudable an enterprise is now assured. The poignant memories of one whose heart so greatly rejoiced at the rearing of the superstructure of this sacred House will so energize the final exertions required to complete it as to dissipate any doubt that may yet linger in any mind as to the capacity of its builders to worthily consummate their task.
The teaching aspect of the Plan must now be pondered. Its challenge must be met, and its requirements studied, weighed, and fulfilled. Superb and irresistible as is the beauty of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the West, majestic as are its dimensions, unique as is its architecture, and priceless as are the ideals and the aspirations which it symbolizes, it should be regarded, at the present time, as no more than an instrument for a more effective propagation of the Cause and a wider diffusion of its teachings. In this respect it should be viewed in the same light as the administrative 45 institutions of the Faith which are designed as vehicles for the proper dissemination of its ideals, its tenets, and its verities.
It is, therefore, to the teaching requirements of the Seven Year Plan that the community of the American believers must henceforth direct their careful and sustained attention. The entire community must, as one man, arise to fulfill them. To teach the Cause of God, to proclaim its truths, to defend its interests, to demonstrate, by words as well as by deeds, its indispensability, its potency, and universality, should at no time be regarded as the exclusive concern or sole privilege of Bahá’í administrative institutions, be they Assemblies, or committees. All must participate, however humble their origin, however limited their experience, however restricted their means, however deficient their education, however pressing their cares and preoccupations, however unfavorable the environment in which they live. “God,” Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, has unmistakably revealed, “hath prescribed unto everyone the duty of teaching His Cause.” “Say,” He further has written, “Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Bahá, for God hath prescribed unto everyone the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds.”
A high and exalted position in the ranks of the community, conferring as it does on its holder certain privileges and prerogatives, no doubt invests him with a responsibility that he cannot honorably shirk in his duty to teach and promote the Faith of God. It may, at times, though not invariably, create greater opportunities and furnish better facilities to spread the knowledge of that Faith, and to win supporters to its institutions. It does not, however, under any circumstances, necessarily carry with it the power of exercising greater influence on the minds and hearts of those to whom that Faith is presented. How often—and the early history of the Faith in the land of its birth offers many a striking testimony—have the lowliest adherents of the Faith, unschooled and utterly inexperienced, and with no standing 46 whatever, and in some cases devoid of intelligence, been capable of winning victories for their Cause, before which the most brilliant achievements of the learned, the wise, and the experienced have paled.
“Peter,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has testified, “according to the history of the Church, was also incapable of keeping count of the days of the week. Whenever he decided to go fishing, he would tie up his weekly food into seven parcels, and every day he would eat one of them, and when he had reached the seventh, he would know that the Sabbath had arrived, and thereupon would observe it.” If the Son of Man was capable of infusing into apparently so crude and helpless an instrument such potency as to cause, in the words of Bahá’u’lláh, “the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth,” and to exalt him above the rest of His disciples, and render him fit to become His successor and the founder of His Church, how much more can the Father, Who is Bahá’u’lláh, empower the most puny and insignificant among His followers to achieve, for the execution of His purpose, such wonders as would dwarf the mightiest achievements of even the first apostle of Jesus Christ!
“The Báb,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, moreover, has written, “hath said: ‘Should a tiny ant desire, in this day, to be possessed of such power as to be able to unravel the abstrusest and most bewildering passages of the Qur’án, its wish will no doubt be fulfilled, inasmuch as the mystery of eternal might vibrates within the innermost being of all created things.’ If so helpless a creature can be endowed with so subtle a capacity, how much more efficacious must be the power released through the liberal effusions of the grace of Bahá’u’lláh!”
The field is indeed so immense, the period so critical, the Cause so great, the workers so few, the time so short, the privilege so priceless, that no follower of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, worthy to bear His name, can afford a moment’s hesitation. That God-born Force, irresistible in its sweeping power, incalculable in its potency, unpredictable in its course, mysterious in its workings, and awe-inspiring in its 47 manifestations—a Force which, as the Báb has written, “vibrates within the innermost being of all created things,” and which, according to Bahá’u’lláh, has through its “vibrating influence,” “upset the equilibrium of the world and revolutionized its ordered life”—such a Force, acting even as a two-edged sword, is, under our very eyes, sundering, on the one hand, the age-old ties which for centuries have held together the fabric of civilized society, and is unloosing, on the other, the bonds that still fetter the infant and as yet unemancipated Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. The undreamt-of opportunities offered through the operation of this Force—the American believers must now rise, and fully and courageously exploit them. “The holy realities of the Concourse on high,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “yearn, in this day, in the Most Exalted Paradise, to return unto this world, so that they may be aided to render some service to the threshold of the Abhá Beauty, and arise to demonstrate their servitude to His sacred Threshold.”
A world, dimmed by the steadily dying-out light of religion, heaving with the explosive forces of a blind and triumphant nationalism; scorched with the fires of pitiless persecution, whether racial or religious; deluded by the false theories and doctrines that threaten to supplant the worship of God and the sanctification of His laws; enervated by a rampant and brutal materialism; disintegrating through the corrosive influence of moral and spiritual decadence; and enmeshed in the coils of economic anarchy and strife—such is the spectacle presented to men’s eyes, as a result of the sweeping changes which this revolutionizing Force, as yet in the initial stage of its operation, is now producing in the life of the entire planet.
So sad and moving a spectacle, bewildering as it must be to every observer unaware of the purposes, the prophecies, and promises of Bahá’u’lláh, far from casting dismay into the hearts of His followers, or paralyzing their efforts, cannot but deepen their faith, and excite their enthusiastic eagerness to arise and display, in the vast field traced for them by the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, their capacity to play their 48 part in the work of universal redemption proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh. Every instrument in the administrative machinery which, in the course of several years, they have so laboriously erected must be fully utilized, and subordinated to the end for which it was created. The Temple, that proud embodiment of so rare a spirit of self-sacrifice, must likewise be made to play its part, and contribute its share to the teaching campaign designed to embrace the entire Western Hemisphere.
The opportunities which the turmoil of the present age presents, with all the sorrows which it evokes, the fears which it excites, the disillusionment which it produces, the perplexities which it creates, the indignation which it arouses, the revolt which it provokes, the grievances it engenders, the spirit of restless search which it awakens, must, in like manner, be exploited for the purpose of spreading far and wide the knowledge of the redemptive power of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and for enlisting fresh recruits in the ever-swelling army of His followers. So precious an opportunity, so rare a conjunction of favorable circumstances, may never again recur. Now is the time, the appointed time, for the American believers, the vanguard of the hosts of the Most Great Name, to proclaim, through the agencies and channels of a specially designed Administrative Order, their capacity and readiness to rescue a fallen and sore-tried generation that has rebelled against its God and ignored His warnings, and to offer it that complete security which only the strongholds of their Faith can provide.
The teaching campaign, inaugurated throughout the states of the North American Republic and the Dominion of Canada, acquires, therefore, an importance, and is invested with an urgency, that cannot be overestimated. Launched on its course through the creative energies released by the Will of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and sweeping across the Western Hemisphere through the propelling force which it is generating, it must, I feel, be carried out in conformity with certain 49 principles, designed to insure its efficient conduct, and to hasten the attainment of its objective.
Those who participate in such a campaign, whether in an organizing capacity, or as workers to whose care the execution of the task itself has been committed, must, as an essential preliminary to the discharge of their duties, thoroughly familiarize themselves with the various aspects of the history and teachings of their Faith. In their efforts to achieve this purpose they must study for themselves, conscientiously and painstakingly, the literature of their Faith, delve into its teachings, assimilate its laws and principles, ponder its admonitions, tenets and purposes, commit to memory certain of its exhortations and prayers, master the essentials of its administration, and keep abreast of its current affairs and latest developments. They must strive to obtain, from sources that are authoritative and unbiased, a sound knowledge of the history and tenets of Islám—the source and background of their Faith—and approach reverently and with a mind purged from preconceived ideas the study of the Qur’án which, apart from the sacred scriptures of the Bábí and Bahá’í Revelations, constitutes the only Book which can be regarded as an absolutely authenticated Repository of the Word of God. They must devote special attention to the investigation of those institutions and circumstances that are directly connected with the origin and birth of their Faith, with the station claimed by its Forerunner, and with the laws revealed by its Author.
Having acquired, in their essentials, these prerequisites of success in the teaching field, they must, whenever they contemplate undertaking any specific mission in the countries of Latin America, endeavor, whenever feasible, to acquire a certain proficiency in the languages spoken by the inhabitants of those countries, and a knowledge of their customs, habits, and outlook. “The teachers going to those parts,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, referring in one of the Tablets of the Divine Plan to the Central American Republics, has written, “must 50 also be familiar with the Spanish language.” “A party speaking their languages …,” He, in another Tablet, has written, “must turn their faces to and travel through the three great Island groups of the Pacific Ocean.” “The teachers traveling in different directions,” He further states, “must know the language of the country in which they will enter. For example, a person being proficient in the Japanese language may travel to Japan, or a person knowing the Chinese language may hasten to China, and so forth.”
No participator in this inter-American campaign of teaching must feel that the initiative for any particular activity connected with this work must rest solely with those agencies, whether Assemblies or committees, whose special concern is to promote and facilitate the attainment of this vital objective of the Seven Year Plan. It is the bounden duty of every American believer, as the faithful trustee of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan, to initiate, promote, and consolidate, within the limits fixed by the administrative principles of the Faith, any activity he or she deems fit to undertake for the furtherance of the Plan. Neither the threatening world situation, nor any consideration of lack of material resources, of mental equipment, of knowledge, or of experience—desirable as they are—should deter any prospective pioneer teacher from arising independently, and from setting in motion the forces which, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has repeatedly assured us, will, once released, attract even as a magnet the promised and infallible aid of Bahá’u’lláh. Let him not wait for any directions, or expect any special encouragement, from the elected representatives of his community, nor be deterred by any obstacles which his relatives, or fellow-citizens may be inclined to place in his path, nor mind the censure of his critics or enemies. “Be unrestrained as the wind,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s counsel to every would-be teacher of His Cause, “while carrying the Message of Him Who hath caused the dawn of Divine Guidance to break. Consider how the wind, faithful to that which God hath ordained, bloweth upon all regions of the earth, be they inhabited or desolate. Neither the sight of desolation, nor the evidences of prosperity, can either pain or please it. It 51 bloweth in every direction, as bidden by its Creator.” “And when he determineth to leave his home, for the sake of the Cause of his Lord,” Bahá’u’lláh, in another passage, referring to such a teacher, has revealed, “let him put his whole trust in God, as the best provision for his journey, and array himself with the robe of virtue…. If he be kindled with the fire of His love, if he forgoeth all created things, the words he uttereth shall set on fire them that hear him.”
Having on his own initiative, and undaunted by any hindrances with which either friend or foe may, unwittingly or deliberately, obstruct his path, resolved to arise and respond to the call of teaching, let him carefully consider every avenue of approach which he might utilize in his personal attempts to capture the attention, maintain the interest, and deepen the faith, of those whom he seeks to bring into the fold of his Faith. Let him survey the possibilities which the particular circumstances in which he lives offer him, evaluate their advantages, and proceed intelligently and systematically to utilize them for the achievement of the object he has in mind. Let him also attempt to devise such methods as association with clubs, exhibitions, and societies, lectures on subjects akin to the teachings and ideals of his Cause such as temperance, morality, social welfare, religious and racial tolerance, economic cooperation, Islám, and Comparative Religion, or participation in social, cultural, humanitarian, charitable, and educational organizations and enterprises which, while safeguarding the integrity of his Faith, will open up to him a multitude of ways and means whereby he can enlist successively the sympathy, the support, and ultimately the allegiance of those with whom he comes in contact. Let him, while such contacts are being made, bear in mind the claims which his Faith is constantly making upon him to preserve its dignity, and station, to safeguard the integrity of its laws and principles, to demonstrate its comprehensiveness and universality, and to defend fearlessly its manifold and vital interests. Let him consider the degree of his hearer’s receptivity, and decide for himself 52 the suitability of either the direct or indirect method of teaching, whereby he can impress upon the seeker the vital importance of the Divine Message, and persuade him to throw in his lot with those who have already embraced it. Let him remember the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and His constant admonition to shower such kindness upon the seeker, and exemplify to such a degree the spirit of the teachings he hopes to instill into him, that the recipient will be spontaneously impelled to identify himself with the Cause embodying such teachings. Let him refrain, at the outset, from insisting on such laws and observances as might impose too severe a strain on the seeker’s newly awakened faith, and endeavor to nurse him, patiently, tactfully, and yet determinedly, into full maturity, and aid him to proclaim his unqualified acceptance of whatever has been ordained by Bahá’u’lláh. Let him, as soon as that stage has been attained, introduce him to the body of his fellow-believers, and seek, through constant fellowship and active participation in the local activities of his community, to enable him to contribute his share to the enrichment of its life, the furtherance of its tasks, the consolidations of its interests, and the coordination of its activities with those of its sister communities. Let him not be content until he has infused into his spiritual child so deep a longing as to impel him to arise independently, in his turn, and devote his energies to the quickening of other souls, and the upholding of the laws and principles laid down by his newly adopted Faith.
Let every participator in the continent-wide campaign initiated by the American believers, and particularly those engaged in pioneer work in virgin territories, bear in mind the necessity of keeping in close and constant touch with those responsible agencies designed to direct, coordinate, and facilitate the teaching activities of the entire community. Whether it be the body of their elected national representatives, or its chief auxiliary institution, the National Teaching Committee, or its subsidiary organs, the regional 53 teaching committees, or the local Spiritual Assemblies and their respective teaching committees, they who labor for the spread of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh should, through constant interchange of ideas, through letters, circulars, reports, bulletins and other means of communication with these established instruments designed for the propagation of the Faith, insure the smooth and speedy functioning of the teaching machinery of their Administrative Order. Confusion, delay, duplication of efforts, dissipation of energy will, thereby, be completely avoided, and the mighty flood of the grace of Bahá’u’lláh, flowing abundantly and without the least obstruction through these essential channels will so inundate the hearts and souls of men as to enable them to bring forth the harvest repeatedly predicted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Upon every participator in this concerted effort, unprecedented in the annals of the American Bahá’í community, rests the spiritual obligation to make of the mandate of teaching, so vitally binding upon all, the all-pervading concern of his life. In his daily activities and contacts, in all his journeys, whether for business or otherwise, on his holidays and outings, and on any mission he may be called upon to undertake, every bearer of the Message of Bahá’u’lláh should consider it not only an obligation but a privilege to scatter far and wide the seeds of His Faith, and to rest content in the abiding knowledge that whatever be the immediate response to that Message, and however inadequate the vehicle that conveyed it, the power of its Author will, as He sees fit, enable those seeds to germinate, and in circumstances which no one can foresee enrich the harvest which the labor of His followers will gather. If he be member of any Spiritual Assembly let him encourage his Assembly to consecrate a certain part of its time, at each of its sessions, to the earnest and prayerful consideration of such ways and means as may foster the campaign of teaching, or may furnish whatever resources are available for its progress, extension, and consolidation. If he attends his summer school—and everyone without exception is urged to take advantage 54 of attending it—let him consider such an occasion as a welcome and precious opportunity so to enrich, through lectures, study, and discussion, his knowledge of the fundamentals of his Faith as to be able to transmit, with greater confidence and effectiveness, the Message that has been entrusted to his care. Let him, moreover, seek, whenever feasible, through intercommunity visits to stimulate the zeal for teaching, and to demonstrate to outsiders the zest and alertness of the promoters of his Cause and the organic unity of its institutions.
Let anyone who feels the urge among the participators in this crusade, which embraces all the races, all the republics, classes and denominations of the entire Western Hemisphere, arise, and, circumstances permitting, direct in particular the attention, and win eventually the unqualified adherence, of the Negro, the Indian, the Eskimo, and Jewish races to his Faith. No more laudable and meritorious service can be rendered the Cause of God, at the present hour, than a successful effort to enhance the diversity of the members of the American Bahá’í community by swelling the ranks of the Faith through the enrollment of the members of these races. A blending of these highly differentiated elements of the human race, harmoniously interwoven into the fabric of an all-embracing Bahá’í fraternity, and assimilated through the dynamic processes of a divinely appointed Administrative Order, and contributing each its share to the enrichment and glory of Bahá’í community life, is surely an achievement the contemplation of which must warm and thrill every Bahá’í heart. “Consider the flowers of a garden,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written, “though differing in kind, color, form, and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm, and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape, enricheth and adorneth the garden, and 55 heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas, and convictions of the children of men.” “I hope,” is the wish expressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “that ye may cause that downtrodden race [Negro] to become glorious, and to be joined with the white race to serve the world of man with the utmost sincerity, faithfulness, love and purity.” “One of the important questions,” He also has written, “which affect the unity and the solidarity of mankind is the fellowship and equality of the white and colored races.” “You must attach great importance,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, “to the Indians, the original inhabitants of America. For these souls may be likened unto the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, who, prior to the Revelation of Muḥammad, were like savages. When the Muḥammadan Light shone forth in their midst, they became so enkindled that they shed illumination upon the world. Likewise, should these Indians be educated and properly guided, there can be no doubt that through the Divine teachings they will become so enlightened that the whole earth will be illumined.” “If it is possible,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has also written, “send ye teachers to other portions of Canada; likewise, dispatch ye teachers to Greenland and the home of the Eskimos.” “God willing,” He further has written in those same Tablets, “the call of the Kingdom may reach the ears of the Eskimos…. Should you display an effort, so that the fragrances of God may be diffused among the Eskimos, its effect will be very great and far-reaching.” “Praise be to God,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “that whatsoever hath been announced in the Blessed Tablets unto the Israelites, and the things explicitly written in the letters of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are all being fulfilled. Some have come to pass; others will be revealed in the future. The Ancient Beauty hath in His sacred Tablets explicitly written that the day of their abasement is over. His bounty will overshadow them, and this race will day by 56 day progress, and be delivered from its age-long obscurity and degradation.”
Let those who are holding administrative positions in their capacity as members of either the National Spiritual Assembly, or of the national, the regional, or local teaching committees, continually bear in mind the vital and urgent necessity of insuring, within as short a time as possible, the formation, in the few remaining states of the North American Republic and the provinces of the Dominion of Canada, of groups, however small and rudimentary, and of providing every facility within their power to enable these newly formed nuclei to evolve, swiftly and along sound lines, into properly functioning, self-sufficient, and recognized Assemblies. To the laying of such foundations, the erection of such outposts—a work admittedly arduous, yet sorely needed and highly inspiring—the individual members of the American Bahá’í community must lend their unstinted, continual, and enthusiastic support. Wise as may be the measures which their elected representatives may devise, however practical and well conceived the plans they formulate, such measures and plans can never yield any satisfactory results unless a sufficient number of pioneers have determined to make the necessary sacrifices, and to volunteer to carry these projects into effect. To implant, once and for all, the banner of Bahá’u’lláh in the heart of these virgin territories, to erect the structural basis of His Administrative Order in their cities and villages, and to establish a firm and permanent anchorage for its institutions in the minds and hearts of their inhabitants, constitute, I firmly believe, the first and most significant step in the successive stages through which the teaching campaign, inaugurated under the Seven Year Plan, must pass. Whereas the external ornamentation of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, under this same Plan, has now entered the final phase in its development, the teaching campaign is still in its initial stages, and is far from having extended effectively its ramifications to either these virgin territories, or to those Republics that are situated in the South American 57 continent. The effort required is prodigious, the conditions under which these preliminary establishments are to be made are often unattractive and unfavorable, the workers who are in a position to undertake such tasks limited, and the resources they can command meager and inadequate. And yet, how often has the pen of Bahá’u’lláh assured us that “should a man, all alone, arise in the name of Bahá, and put on the armor of His love, him will the Almighty cause to be victorious, though the forces of earth and heaven be arrayed against him.” Has He not written: “By God, besides Whom is none other God! Should anyone arise for the triumph of our Cause, him will God render victorious though tens of thousands of enemies be leagued against him. And if his love for me wax stronger, God will establish his ascendancy over all the powers of earth and heaven.” “Consider the work of former generations,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written; “During the lifetime of Jesus Christ the believing, firm souls were few and numbered, but the heavenly blessings descended so plentifully that in a number of years countless souls entered beneath the shadow of the Gospel. God has said in the Qur’án: ‘One grain will bring forth seven sheaves, and every sheaf shall contain one hundred grains.’ In other words, one grain will become seven hundred; and if God so wills He will double these also. It has often happened that one blessed soul has become the cause of the guidance of a nation. Now we must not consider our ability and capacity, nay rather we must fix our gaze upon the favors and bounties of God, in these days, Who has made of the drop a sea, and of the atom a sun.” Let those who resolve to be the first to hoist the standard of such a Cause, under such conditions, and in such territories, nourish their souls with the sustaining power of these words, and, “putting on the armor of His love,” a love which must “wax stronger” as they persevere in their lonesome task, arise to adorn with the tale of their deeds the most brilliant pages ever written in their country’s spiritual history.
“Although,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, has written, “in most of the states and cities of the United States, praise be to God, His fragrances are diffused, and souls unnumbered 58 are turning their faces and advancing toward the Kingdom of God, yet in some of the states the Standard of Unity is not yet upraised as it should be, nor are the mysteries of the Holy Books, such as the Bible, the Gospel, and the Qur’án, unraveled. Through the concerted efforts of all the friends the Standard of Unity must needs be unfurled in those states, and the Divine teachings promoted, so that these states may also receive their portion of the heavenly bestowals and a share of the Most Great Guidance.” “The future of the Dominion of Canada,” He, in another Tablet of the Divine Plan, has asserted, “is very great, and the events connected with it infinitely glorious. The eye of God’s loving-kindness will be turned towards it, and it shall become the manifestation of the favors of the All-Glorious.” “Again I repeat,” He, in that same Tablet reaffirms His previous statement, “that the future of Canada, whether from a material or a spiritual standpoint, is very great.”
No sooner is this initial step taken, involving as it does the formation of at least one nucleus in each of these virgin states and provinces in the North American continent, than the machinery for a tremendous intensification of Bahá’í concerted effort must be set in motion, the purpose of which should be the reinforcement of the noble exertions which only a few isolated believers are now making for the awakening of the nations of Latin America to the Call of Bahá’u’lláh. Not until this second phase of the teaching campaign, under the Seven Year Plan, has been entered can the campaign be regarded as fully launched, or the Plan itself as having attained the most decisive stage in its evolution. So powerful will be the effusions of Divine grace that will be poured forth upon a valiant community that has already in the administrative sphere erected, in all the glory of its exterior ornamentation, its chief Edifice, and in the teaching field raised aloft, in every state and province, in the North American continent the banner of its Faith—so great will be these effusions that its members will find themselves overpowered by the evidences of their regenerative power. 59
The Inter-America Committee must, at such a stage, nay even before it is entered, rise to the level of its opportunities, and display a vigor, a consecration, and enterprise as will be commensurate with the responsibilities it has shouldered. It should not, for a moment, be forgotten that Central and Southern America embrace no less than twenty independent nations, constituting approximately one-third of the entire number of the world’s sovereign states, and are destined to play an increasingly important part in the shaping of the world’s future destiny. With the world contracting into a neighborhood, and the fortunes of its races, nations and peoples becoming inextricably interwoven, the remoteness of these states of the Western Hemisphere is vanishing, and the latent possibilities in each of them are becoming increasingly apparent.
When this second stage in the progressive unfoldment of teaching activities and enterprises, under the Seven Year Plan, is reached, and the machinery required for its prosecution begins to operate, the American believers, the stout-hearted pioneers of this mighty movement, must, guided by the unfailing light of Bahá’u’lláh, and in strict accordance with the Plan laid out by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and acting under the direction of their National Spiritual Assembly, and assured of the aid of the Inter-America Committee, launch an offensive against the powers of darkness, of corruption, and of ignorance, an offensive that must extend to the uttermost end of the Southern continent, and embrace within its scope each of the twenty nations that compose it.
Let some, at this very moment, gird up the loins of their endeavor, flee their native towns, cities, and states, forsake their country, and, “putting their whole trust in God as the best provision for their journey,” set their faces, and direct their steps towards those distant climes, those virgin fields, those unsurrendered cities, and bend their energies to capture the citadels of men’s hearts—hearts, which, as Bahá’u’lláh has written, “the hosts of Revelation and of utterance can subdue.” 60 Let them not tarry until such time as their fellow-laborers will have passed the first stage in their campaign of teaching, but let them rather, from this very hour, arise to usher in the opening phase of what will come to be regarded as one of the most glorious chapters in the international history of their Faith. Let them, at the very outset, “teach their own selves, that their speech may attract the hearts of their hearers.” Let them regard the triumph of their Faith as their “supreme objective.” Let them not “consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle” that carries the measure of grace that God poureth forth in this age. Let them “disencumber themselves of all attachment to this world and the vanities thereof,” and, with that spirit of detachment which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá exemplified and wished them to emulate, bring these diversified peoples and countries to the remembrance of God and His supreme Manifestation. Let His love be a “storehouse of treasure for their souls,” on the day when “every pillar shall tremble, when the very skins of men shall creep, when all eyes shall stare up with terror.” Let their “souls be aglow with the flame of the undying Fire that burneth in the midmost heart of the world, in such wise that the waters of the universe shall be powerless to cool down its ardor.” Let them be “unrestrained as the wind” which “neither the sight of desolation nor the evidences of prosperity can either pain or please.” Let them “unloose their tongues and proclaim unceasingly His Cause.” Let them “proclaim that which the Most Great Spirit will inspire them to utter in the service of the Cause of their Lord.” Let them “beware lest they contend with anyone, nay strive to make him aware of the truth with kindly manner and most convincing exhortation.” Let them “wholly for the sake of God proclaim His Message, and with that same spirit accept whatever response their words may evoke in their hearers.” Let them not, for one moment, forget that the “Faithful Spirit shall strengthen them through its power,” and that “a company of His chosen angels shall go forth with them, as bidden by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise.” Let them ever bear in mind “how great is the blessedness that awaiteth them that have attained the honor of serving the Almighty,” and remember that “such a service 61 is indeed the prince of all goodly deeds, and the ornament of every goodly act.”
And, finally, let these soul-stirring words of Bahá’u’lláh, as they pursue their course throughout the length and breadth of the southern American continent, be ever ready on their lips, a solace to their hearts, a light on their path, a companion in their loneliness, and a daily sustenance in their journeys: “O wayfarer in the path of God! Take thou thy portion of the ocean of His grace, and deprive not thyself of the things that lie hidden in its depths…. A dewdrop out of this ocean would, if shed upon all that are in the heavens and on earth, suffice to enrich them with the bounty of God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. With the hands of renunciation draw forth from its life-giving waters, and sprinkle therewith all created things, that they may be cleansed from all man-made limitations, and may approach the mighty seat of God, this hallowed and resplendent Spot. Be not grieved if thou performest it thyself alone. Let God be all-sufficient for thee…. Proclaim the Cause of thy Lord unto all who are in the heavens and on the earth. Should any man respond to thy call, lay bare before him the pearls of the wisdom of the Lord, thy God, which His Spirit hath sent down upon thee, and be thou of them that truly believe. And should anyone reject thy offer, turn thou away from him, and put thy trust and confidence in the Lord of all worlds. By the righteousness of God! Whoso openeth his lips in this day, and maketh mention of the name of his Lord, the hosts of Divine inspiration shall descend upon him from the heaven of my name, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. On him shall also descend the Concourse on high, each bearing aloft a chalice of pure light. Thus hath it been foreordained in the realm of God’s Revelation, by the behest of Him Who is the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.”
Let these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, gleaned from the Tablets of the Divine Plan, ring likewise in their ears, as they go forth, assured and unafraid, on His mission: “O ye apostles of Bahá’u’lláh! May my life be sacrificed for you!… Behold the portals which Bahá’u’lláh hath opened before you! Consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to attain; how 62 unique the favors with which you have been endowed.” “My thoughts are turned towards you, and my heart leaps within me at your mention. Could ye know how my soul gloweth with your love, so great a happiness would flood your hearts as to cause you to become enamored with each other.” “The full measure of your success is as yet unrevealed, its significance still unapprehended. Erelong ye will, with your own eyes, witness how brilliantly every one of you, even as a shining star, will radiate in the firmament of your country the light of Divine Guidance, and will bestow upon its people the glory of an everlasting life.” “I fervently hope that in the near future the whole earth may be stirred and shaken by the results of your achievements.” “The Almighty will no doubt grant you the help of His grace, will invest you with the tokens of His might, and will endue your souls with the sustaining power of His holy Spirit.” “Be not concerned with the smallness of your numbers, neither be oppressed by the multitude of an unbelieving world…. Exert yourselves; your mission is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established.”
It should be remembered that the carrying out of the Seven Year Plan involves, insofar as the teaching work is concerned, no more than the formation of at least one center in each of the Central and South American Republics. The hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh should witness, if the Plan already launched is to meet with success, the laying, in each of these countries, of a foundation, however rudimentary, on which the rising generation of the American believers may, in the opening years of the second century of the Bahá’í era, be able to build. Theirs will be the task, in the course of successive decades, to extend and reinforce those foundations, and to supply the necessary guidance, assistance, and encouragement that will enable the widely scattered groups of believers in those countries to establish independent and properly constituted local Assemblies, and thereby erect the framework of the 63 Administrative Order of their Faith. The erection of such a framework is primarily the responsibility of those whom the community of the North American believers have converted to the Divine Message. It is a task which must involve, apart from the immediate obligation of enabling every group to evolve into a local Assembly, the setting up of the entire machinery of the Administrative Order in conformity with the spiritual and administrative principles governing the life and activities of every established Bahá’í community throughout the world. No departure from these cardinal and clearly enunciated principles, embodied and preserved in Bahá’í national and local constitutions, common to all Bahá’í communities, can under any circumstances be tolerated. This, however, is a task that concerns those who, at a later period, must arise to further a work which, to all intents and purposes, has not yet been effectively started.
To pave the way, in a more systematic manner, for the laying of the necessary foundation on which such permanent national and local institutions can be reared and securely established is a task that will very soon demand the concentrated attention of the prosecutors of the Seven Year Plan. No sooner has their immediate obligation in connection with the opening up of the few remaining territories in the United States and Canada been discharged, than a carefully laid-out plan should be conceived, aiming at the establishment of such a foundation. As already stated, the provision for these vast, preliminary undertakings, the scope of which must embrace the entire area occupied by the Central and South American Republics, constitutes the very core, and must ultimately decide the fate, of the teaching campaign conducted under the Seven Year Plan. Upon this campaign must depend not only the effectual discharge of the solemn obligations undertaken in connection with the present Plan, but also the progressive unfoldment of the subsequent stages essential to the realization of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s vision of the part the American believers are to play in the worldwide propagation of their Cause. 64
These undertakings, preliminary as they are to the strenuous and organized labors by which future generations of believers in the Latin countries must distinguish themselves, require, in turn, without a moment’s delay, on the part of the National Spiritual Assembly and of both the National Teaching and Inter-America Committees, painstaking investigations preparatory to the sending of settlers and itinerant teachers, whose privilege will be to raise the call of the New Day in a new continent.
I can only, in my desire to be of some service to those who are to assume such tremendous responsibilities, and to suffer such self-denial, attempt to offer a few helpful suggestions which, I trust, will facilitate the accomplishment of the great work to be achieved in the very near future. To this work, that must constitute an historical landmark of first-class importance when completed, the energies of the entire community must be resolutely consecrated. The number of Bahá’í teachers, be they settlers or travelers, must be substantially increased. The material resources to be placed at their disposal must be multiplied, and efficiently administered. The literature with which they should be equipped must be vastly augmented. The publicity that should aid them in the distribution of such literature should be extended, centrally organized, and vigorously conducted. The possibilities latent in these countries should be diligently exploited, and systematically developed. The various obstacles raised by the widely varying political and social conditions obtaining in these countries should be closely surveyed and determinedly surmounted. In a word, no opportunity should be neglected, and no effort spared, to lay as broad and solid a basis as possible for the progress and development of the greatest teaching enterprise ever launched by the American Bahá’í community.
The careful translation of such important Bahá’í writings as are related to the history, the teachings, or the Administrative Order of the Faith, and their wide and systematic dissemination, in vast quantities, and throughout as 65 many of these Republics as possible, and in languages that are most suitable and needed, would appear to be the chief and most urgent measure to be taken simultaneously with the arrival of the pioneer workers in those fields. “Books and pamphlets,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in one of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, “must be either translated or composed in the languages of these countries and islands, to be circulated in every part and in all directions.” In countries where no objections can be raised by the civil authorities or any influential circles, this measure should be reinforced by the publication, in various organs of the Press, of carefully worded articles and letters, designed to impress upon the general public certain features of the stirring history of the Faith, and the range and character of its teachings.
Every laborer in those fields, whether as traveling teacher or settler, should, I feel, make it his chief and constant concern to mix, in a friendly manner, with all sections of the population, irrespective of class, creed, nationality, or color, to familiarize himself with their ideas, tastes, and habits, to study the approach best suited to them, to concentrate, patiently and tactfully, on a few who have shown marked capacity and receptivity, and to endeavor, with extreme kindness, to implant such love, zeal, and devotion in their hearts as to enable them to become in turn self-sufficient and independent promoters of the Faith in their respective localities. “Consort with all men, O people of Bahá,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s admonition, “in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and goodwill. If it be accepted, if it fulfill its purpose, your object is attained. If anyone should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him. A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding.”
An effort, moreover, can and should be made, not only 66 by representative Bahá’í bodies, but also by prospective teachers, as well as by other individual believers, deprived of the privilege of visiting those shores or of settling on that continent, to seize every opportunity that presents itself to make the acquaintance, and awaken the genuine interest, of such people who are either citizens of these countries, or are in any way connected with them, whatever be their interests or profession. Through the kindness shown them, or any literature which may be given them, or any connection which they may establish with them, the American believers can thereby sow such seeds in their hearts as might, in future circumstances, germinate and yield the most unexpected results. Care, however, should, at all times, be exercised, lest in their eagerness to further the international interests of the Faith they frustrate their purpose, and turn away, through any act that might be misconstrued as an attempt to proselytize and bring undue pressure upon them, those whom they wish to win over to their Cause.
I would particularly direct my appeal to those American believers, sore-pressed as they are by the manifold, the urgent, and ever-increasing issues that confront them at the present hour, who may find it possible, whatever be their calling or employment, whether as businessmen, school teachers, lawyers, doctors, writers, office workers, and the like, to establish permanently their residence in such countries as may offer them a reasonable prospect of earning the means of livelihood. They will by their action be relieving the continually increasing pressure on their Teaching Fund, which in view of its restricted dimensions must provide, when not otherwise available, the traveling and other expenses to be incurred in connection with the development of this vast undertaking. Should they find it impossible to take advantage of so rare and sacred a privilege, let them, mindful of the words of Bahá’u’lláh, determine, each according to the means at his or her disposal, to appoint a deputy who, on that believer’s behalf, will arise and carry out so noble an enterprise. “Center your energies,” are Bahá’u’lláh’s 67 words, “in the propagation of the Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and promote it. Whoso is unable, it is his duty to appoint him who will, in his stead, proclaim this Revelation, whose power hath caused the foundations of the mightiest structures to quake, every mountain to be crushed into dust, and every soul to be dumbfounded.”
As to those who have been able to leave their homes and country, and to serve in those regions, whether temporarily or permanently, a special duty, which must continually be borne in mind, devolves upon them. It should be one of their chief aims to keep, on the one hand, in constant touch with the National Committee specifically entrusted with the promotion of their work, and to cooperate, on the other, by every possible means and in the utmost harmony, with their fellow-believers in those countries, whatever the field in which they labor, whatever their standing, ability, or experience. Through the performance of their first duty they will derive the necessary stimulus and obtain the necessary guidance that will enable them to prosecute effectively their mission, and will also, through their regular reports to that committee, be imparting to the general body of their fellow-believers the news of the latest developments in their activities. By fulfilling their other duty, they will insure the smooth efficiency, facilitate the progress, and avert any untoward incidents that might handicap the development of their common enterprise. The maintenance of close contact and harmonious relationships between the Inter-America Committee, entrusted with the immediate responsibility of organizing such a far-reaching enterprise, and the privileged pioneers who are actually executing that enterprise, and extending its ramifications far and wide, as well as among these pioneers themselves, would set, apart from its immediate advantages, a worthy and inspiring example to generations still yet to be born who are to carry on, with all its increasing complexities, the work which is being initiated at present.
It would, no doubt, be of exceptional importance and 68 value, particularly in these times when the various restrictions imposed in those countries make it difficult for a considerable number of Bahá’í pioneers to establish their residence and earn their livelihood in those states, if certain ones among the believers, whose income, however slender, provides them with the means of an independent existence, would so arrange their affairs as to be able to reside indefinitely in those countries. The sacrifices involved, the courage, faith, and perseverance it demands, are no doubt very great. Their value, however, can never be properly assessed at the present time, and the limitless reward which they who demonstrate them will receive can never be adequately depicted. “They that have forsaken their country,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s own testimony, “for the purpose of teaching Our Cause—these shall the Faithful Spirit strengthen through its power…. By My life! No act, however great, can compare with it, except such deeds as have been ordained by God, the All-Powerful, the Most Mighty. Such a service is indeed the prince of all goodly deeds, and the ornament of every goodly act.” Such a reward, it should be noted, is not to be regarded as purely an abstract blessing confined to the future life, but also as a tangible benefit which such courage, faith and perseverance can alone confer in this material world. The solid achievements, spiritual as well as administrative, which in the far-away continent of Australasia, and more recently in Bulgaria, representative believers from both Canada and the United States have accomplished, proclaim in terms unmistakable the nature of those prizes which, even in this world, such sterling heroism is bound to win. “Whoso,” Bahá’u’lláh, in a memorable passage, extolling those of His loved ones who have “journeyed through the countries in His Name and for His praise,” has written, “hath attained their presence will glory in their meeting, and all that dwell in every land will be illumined by their memory.”
I am moved, at this juncture, as I am reminded of the share which, ever since the inception of the Faith in the West, the handmaidens of Bahá’u’lláh, as distinguished from the men, have had in opening up, single-handed, so 69 many, such diversified, and widely scattered countries over the whole surface of the globe, not only to pay a tribute to such apostolic fervor as is truly reminiscent of those heroic men who were responsible for the birth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, but also to stress the significance of such a preponderating share which the women of the West have had and are having in the establishment of His Faith throughout the whole world. “Among the miracles,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has testified, “which distinguish this sacred Dispensation is this, that women have evinced a greater boldness than men when enlisted in the ranks of the Faith.” So great and splendid a testimony applies in particular to the West, and though it has received thus far abundant and convincing confirmation must, as the years roll away, be further reinforced, as the American believers usher in the most glorious phase of their teaching activities under the Seven Year Plan. The “boldness” which, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has characterized their accomplishments in the past must suffer no eclipse as they stand on the threshold of still greater and nobler accomplishments. Nay rather, it must, in the course of time and throughout the length and breadth of the vast and virgin territories of Latin America, be more convincingly demonstrated, and win for the beloved Cause victories more stirring than any it has as yet achieved.
To the Bahá’í youth of America, moreover, I feel a word should be addressed in particular, as I survey the possibilities which a campaign of such gigantic proportions has to offer to the eager and enterprising spirit that so powerfully animates them in the service of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. Though lacking in experience and faced with insufficient resources, yet the adventurous spirit which they possess, and the vigor, the alertness, and optimism they have thus far so consistently shown, qualify them to play an active part in arousing the interest, and in securing the allegiance, of their fellow youth in those countries. No greater demonstration can be given to the peoples of both continents of the youthful vitality and the vibrant power animating the life, and the 70 institutions of the nascent Faith of Bahá’u’lláh than an intelligent, persistent, and effective participation of the Bahá’í youth, of every race, nationality, and class, in both the teaching and administrative spheres of Bahá’í activity. Through such a participation the critics and enemies of the Faith, watching with varying degrees of skepticism and resentment, the evolutionary processes of the Cause of God and its institutions, can best be convinced of the indubitable truth that such a Cause is intensely alive, is sound to its very core, and its destinies in safe keeping. I hope, and indeed pray, that such a participation may not only redound to the glory, the power, and the prestige of the Faith, but may also react so powerfully on the spiritual lives, and galvanize to such an extent the energies of the youthful members of the Bahá’í community, as to empower them to display, in a fuller measure, their inherent capacities, and to unfold a further stage in their spiritual evolution under the shadow of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
Faithful to the provisions of the Charter laid down by the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I feel it my duty to draw the special attention of those to whom it has been entrusted to the urgent needs of, and the special position enjoyed by, the Republic of Panama, both in view of its relative proximity to the heart and center of the Faith in North America, and of its geographical position as the link between two continents. “All the above countries,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, referring to the Latin States in one of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, has written, “have importance, but especially the Republic of Panama, wherein the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans come together through the Panama Canal. It is a center for travel and passage from America to other continents of the world, and in the future it will gain most great importance.” “Likewise,” He again has written, “ye must give great attention to the Republic of Panama, for in that point the Occident and the Orient find each other united through the Panama Canal, and it is also situated between the two great oceans. That place will become very important in the future. The teachings, once established there, will unite the East and the West, 71 the North and the South.” So privileged a position surely demands the special and prompt attention of the American Bahá’í community. With the Republic of Mexico already opened up to the Faith, and with a Spiritual Assembly properly constituted in its capital city, the southward penetration of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh into a neighboring country is but a natural and logical step, and should, it is to be hoped, prove to be not a difficult one. No efforts should be spared, and no sacrifice be deemed too great, to establish even though it be a very small group in a Republic occupying, both spiritually and geographically, so strategic a position—a group which, in view of the potency with which the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have already endowed it, cannot but draw to itself, as soon as it is formed, the outpouring grace of the Abhá Kingdom, and evolve with such marvelous swiftness as to excite the wonder and the admiration of even those who have already witnessed such stirring evidences of the force and power of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. Preference, no doubt, should be given by all would-be pioneers, as well as by the members of the Inter-America Committee, to the spiritual needs of this privileged Republic, though every effort should, at the same time, be exerted to introduce the Faith, however tentatively, to the Republics of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica which would link it, in an unbroken chain, with its mother Assemblies in the North American continent. Obstacles, however formidable, should be surmounted, the resources of the Bahá’í treasury should be liberally expended on its behalf, and the ablest and most precious exertions should be consecrated to the cause of its awakening. The erection of yet another outpost of the Faith, in its heart, will constitute, I firmly believe, a landmark in the history of the Formative Period of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the New World. It will create limitless opportunities, galvanize the efforts, and reinvigorate the life, of those who will have accomplished this feat, and infuse immense courage and boundless joy into the hearts of the isolated groups and individuals in the neighboring 72 and distant Republics, and exert intangible yet powerful spiritual influences on the life and future development of its people.