This is the final book in this sequence of exploration of how, during the physical stage of our eternal existence—what Bahá’u’lláh has portrayed in one of His revealed prayers as “the earliest days of my life” (Prayers and Meditations, 177)—we participate in, and are thereby educated by, our relationship to the community and society at large.
But rather than rehearsing the broader theological concepts of progressive revelation and the advent of Bahá’u’lláh as fulfilling the long-awaited “Day of Days” in which humankind will be redeemed and global peace and prosperity will at long last emerge on planet Earth, this book examines the specific details of how the plan of God as revealed by Bahá’u’lláh has been secured and, more pointedly, what plans are presently being instituted by the Universal House of Justice to lay the foundation for that future.
Written before Ruhi Book 8 was published (an excellent study of the links in the Covenant), the beginning portions of this book first rehearses something of the vision of the future as described in The Ascent of Society, but then focuses principally on the links that secure the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. Describing in detail those tests that were encountered at every point of transition—from Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the Guardian, and from the Guardian to the Universal House of Justice—the book examines those critical documents that were, and remain, crucial in establishing the now inviolable authority of the completed Bahá’í administrative order.
After discussing in detail each of these momentous points of transition and the dramatic events that tested the mettle of those documents—as well as the heroic efforts of those who defended them—I then turn to a study of exactly how the Bahá’í administrative order is structured and how it is continuing to evolve. I give particular attention to the “twin institutions” of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, after which I reflect on the specific functions of the two branches of the administrative order—the “learned” and the “rulers.”
The climax of this study has to do with the changes that occurred as additional institutional bodies were added to the administrative infrastructure by the Universal House of Justice during the past two decades. As the Bahá’í population increased, the need arose for refining and facilitating the connection between the individual and the global teaching plans. Among the most prominent additions to the administrative infrastructure in response to this need was the addition of the International Teaching Center, an institution which, in consultation with the Universal House of Justice, directs the Continental Counsellors—who, in turn, direct their Auxiliary Board members and their interaction with the local communities. But in 1996, beginning with the creation of Regional Councils, the creation of new institutions and agencies at the local level awakened the community at large to the transformation that had been going on in the successive teaching plans devised by the Universal House of Justice.
The reason some Bahá’ís—especially the more season believers—were taken aback by institutional change at the local level is, in retrospect, quite easy to understand and appreciate. The structure of the local community—focused on the creation and maturation of the Local Spiritual Assemblies—had remained more or less the same for more than a century, since their inception under the guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Now, for purposes of carrying out the sequence of teaching plans, national and territorial communities were divided into clusters, and within each cluster was a Core Committee for overseeing the teaching efforts, a group consisting of coordinators of the various “Core” activities designated by the Universal House of Justice: devotionals, children’s classes, junior youth animation programs, and study circles based on the Ruhi Institute program.
My discussion concludes by demonstrating, both verbally and with diagrams, how this structure has been designed to work, how the three levels of administrative bodies—the Local Spiritual Assemblies, the National Spiritual Assemblies, and the Universal House of Justice—carry out the bulk of governmental duties, while these newly created teaching institutions function to foster and oversee teaching in the community.
The obvious result of these changes has been the creation of a global skeletal framework—consisting of both Bahá’ís and the larger community—that is nurturing and sustaining the advancement of community life and the spiritual character of local communities worldwide through such fundamental activities as devotional gathering, children’s classes, Junior Youth Spiritual Animation programs, and a an extremely well-designed graduated program of study circles.
In addition to the existential benefit of providing these resources so desperately needed in an age when few are available elsewhere, this training and the exercising of these foundational spiritually based programs will greatly assist ushering in the transformation of society at large, as well as providing safe haven as archaic and moribund and rapidly diminishing social systems rapidly decline.