Shoghi Effendi’s Oxford presentation on The Bahai Movement

Sen McGlinn

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In February 1921, soon after he became a student in Balliol College, Oxford, Shoghi Effendi, who was soon to be appointed Head of the Bahai Community, gave a presentation on “The Bahai Movement’ to the Oxford University Asiatic Society. I have prepared a text version from Volume 1 of The Dawn, a monthly Bahai Journal of Burma (1923-1924). The essay is also published in Prelude to the Guardianship by Riaz Khadem, but I noticed some minor errors there so I decided to go back to The Dawn for making an internet version.

I have the text on my Bahai Studies blog, with some commentary
 
In February 1921, soon after he became a student in Balliol College, Oxford, Shoghi Effendi, who was soon to be appointed Head of the Bahai Community, gave a presentation on “The Bahai Movement’ ...
For my line of research, the interesting part relates to church and state. He writes:

"Another express provision in the teachings of the Movement is the institution of the House of Justice called the ‘Baytu’l-Adl.[’] Although the details touching its structure and operation have not yet been fully laid down yet the broad principles guiding its future activities has [sic] been established. Its duties are religious, educational, economic and political. Its different spheres of activity will be departmental, national and international. It is broadly speaking the nucleus of the Bahai State. Church and State thus far from being divorced from one another are harmonized, their interests are reconciled, are brought to co-operate for the same end, yet for each is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity."

1) that shows that the way he described the relationship between the Guardian and the House of Justice, in his commentaries on the Will and Testament, was already in his mind before he had read the Will and Testament. Two separate spheres, mutually supporting, each sovereign in its own sphere, is the way he thinks.
2) he uses the word political, in his early period, to mean "adapting to the needs of the day" rather than "the competition for government authority." I have other examples of this.
3) "departmental" shows a French influence on his English: the Département is the regional level of administration, equivalent to the County.
4) it shows what he means by a Bahai State, because he says at once that church and state are separate, each having a definite sphere of activity, and that the House of Justice (national, presumably) is the nucleus. Note that "nucleus" in Shoghi Effendi's language is usually a biological metaphor, it is the seed that will grow into something. He is not a physicist, for whom the nucleus is the thing that other things revolve around. Example: "May the assembled believers -- now but a tiny nucleus of the Bahá'í Commonwealth of the future -- so exemplify that spirit of universal love and fellowship as to evoke in the minds of their associates the vision of that future City of God ..." (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 131)
 
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