A new version of the Bahá’í Reference Library is now available. This ‘old version’ of the Bahá’í Reference Library will be replaced at a later date.

The new version of the Bahá’i Reference Library can be accessed here »

Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
Go to printed page GO
Pages 131-132

No Professional Priesthood

One other feature of the Bahá’í organization must be specially mentioned, and that is the absence of a professional priesthood. Voluntary contributions toward the expenses of teachers are permitted and many devote their whole time to work for the Cause, but all Bahá’ís are expected to share in the work of teaching, et cetera, according to their opportunity and ability, and there is no special class distinguished from their fellow believers by the exclusive exercise of priestly functions and prerogatives.
In former ages priesthoods were necessary, because people were illiterate and uneducated and were dependent on priests for their religious instruction, for the conduct of religious rites and ceremonies, for the administration of justice, et cetera. Now, however, times have changed. Education is fast becoming universal, and if the commands of Bahá’u’lláh are carried out, every boy and girl in the world will receive a sound education. Each individual will then be able to study the Scriptures for himself, to draw the Water of Life for himself, direct from the Fountainhead. Elaborate rites and ceremonies, requiring the services of a special profession or caste, have no place in the Bahá’í system; and the administration of justice is entrusted to the authorities instituted for that purpose.
For a child a teacher is necessary, but the aim of the true teacher is to fit his pupil to do without a teacher; to see things with his own eyes, hear with his own ears, and understand with 132 his own mind. Just so, in the childhood of the race, the priest is necessary, but his real work is to enable men to do without him: to see things divine with their own eyes, hear them with their own ears and understand them with their own minds. Now the priest’s work is all but accomplished, and the aim of the Bahá’í teaching is to complete that work, to make men independent of all save God, so that they can turn directly to Him, that is, to His Manifestation. When all turn to one Center, then there can be no cross-purposes or confusion and the nearer all draw to the Center, the nearer they will draw to each other.