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Religion Library: Baha'i


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The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.

Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.

Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation.

Such matters should be determined through consultation, and whatever emergeth from the consultation of those chosen, that indeed is the command of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

In all things it is necessary to consult. This matter should be forcibly stressed by thee, so that consultation may be observed by all. The intent of what hath been revealed from the Pen of the Most High is that consultation may be fully carried out among the friends, inasmuch as it is and will always be a cause of awareness and of awakening and a source of good and well-being.

One notable aspect of the functioning of the Baha'i community is that a deliberate attempt is being made to separate power from authority. The Baha'i elected institutions have the authority in the Baha'i community to direct the community and to lay out their plans. They also have powers at the extremes if Baha'is misbehave (as described above). But they have very little power over individual Baha'is under normal circumstances. Each Baha'i has the freedom to implement the plans of their local and national institutions or not, as they wish, with no sanctions being applied if they do not. Thus while authority lies with the elected institutions, the power to carry out the plans lies with the individual Baha'i. Another aspect of the functioning of the Baha'i community is that the Baha'i institutions do not regard past practices and decisions as setting a binding precedent; each major issue facing the community should be thought out afresh based only on the principles to be found in the authoritative Baha'i texts and not on traditional practices.

Study Questions:
     1.    Why do Baha’is not have a clergy or priesthood?
     2.    What are the privileges and duties of those elected to Baha'i institutions?
     3.    How are the pastoral functions of the clergy and their role in giving spiritual guidance fulfilled in the Baha'i community?
     4.    What is the difference between “authority” and “power” and how is this difference manifested in the Baha'i community?


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