Posted by: samandal | November 26, 2009

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, III

Day of the Covenant

“The prophet’s gift might well be called a curse, for prophets are doomed to failure. Possessed of a vision not shared by other men, they must speak of it relentlessly, with an extraordinary sense of urgency, for it is essential to their being that they try to bring others into the world of their perceptions. They are defined by their mission; and their mission inevitably fails, for the fact is that other men, not being prophets, cannot share the prophetic vision. To them, the prophet seems to be speaking of some other world: as indeed he is, with the difference that to the prophet this other world, the world of potential fulfilled, is the real one, while to ordinary men it appears to be illusion. All prophets from Moses onward have had to accommodate themselves to failure.”                                                                                                   (Jeffrey Meyers: D. H. Lawrence and Tradition, page 93)

Although most Bahá’ís accepted the appointment by Bahá’u’lláh of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be the interpreter of his Word, the perfect exemplar of his Faith, and the center of his Covenant, members of his extended family, led by the dispossessed Muhammad-‘Alí, sought unsuccessfully to gain the leadership of the Bahá’í community. This campaign led to recurrent conflicts with the Turkish authorities and entailed the reimposition of confinement in ‘Akká and the appointment of two commissions of enquiry. This broad opposition led ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to place enormous emphasis on the mimetic character of the Covenant.

“Oddly enough, the paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions, while uniformity of meaning is a sign of weakness. Hence, a religion becomes inwardly impoverished when it loses or waters down its paradoxes; but their multiplication enriches because only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided, and thus, not suited to express the incomprehensible.”                                                           (Carl Jung: Psychology and Alchemy, page 18)

There are two forms of covenant recognized within the Faith: the Greater Covenant between Bahá’u’lláh and his followers, vis-à-vis the promise of the next Manifestation; and the Lesser Covenant, synonymous with the line of succession described in the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd. Bahá’u’lláh appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá appointed Shoghí Effendí; those who rejected their spiritual authority broke the Lesser Covenant and were denounced as Covenant-breakers once they were so declared by the Guardian, and were subsequently excommunicated. The legislative authority of the Faith is thus inseparable from the institution of the Guardianship.