62nd Anniversary of the Passing of Shoghi Effendi

Mar 2015
Bend area, Oregon
Today, November 4, 2019 is the 62nd anniversary of the passing of Shoghi Effendi, designated by `Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament as “the sign of God, the chosen branch, the guardian of the Cause of God . . . the expounder of the words of God”(Part 1, paragraph 16), as the irremovable “sacred head” of the Universal House of Justice (Part 1, paragraph 25), and as “the Center of the Cause” (Part 3, paragraph 12).

The occasion of Shoghi Effendi’s passing is not formally commemorated in the Bahá’í Faith, nor is this anniversary usually even brought to our attention, not even by the Universal House of Justice. Perhaps this is partly because Shoghi Effendi himself wrote in his ‘The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh’ treatise that “to commemorate any event associated with his (referring to "present and future the Guardians") life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are in enshrined within our beloved Faith.” (Letter dated February 8, 1934; The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 151) Shoghi Effendi also wrote in this same document that “. . . its (the Guardian’s) importance must, whatever the language of the Will (of `Abdu'l-Bahá), be in no wise over-emphasized.” (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 150) In the pilgrim notes of Keith Ransom-Kehler and Lorol Schopflocher (‘Notes at Haifa, May 12, 1932’), recorded almost 2 years prior to the ‘The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh’ treatise being made available, Ms. Schopflocher commented to the Guardian that “There are those who pray to you, Shoghi Effendi.” The Guardian reportedly responded, “This is absolutely heretical. Such things are not permissible. It is wrong to address me as Lord or Master, or Thee or Thine. I had to send a very abrupt cable to the friends in Bombay to prevent them from celebrating my birthday. If this starts now there will be no end to it. The first Guardian's birthday, the first Guardian's death, the tenth Guardian's accession. They would have 400 Guardian's celebrations in 365 days. Nor must they refer to me as His Holiness. These things have no place in our Faith, they savour of popishness. . . .”

In considering Shoghi Effendi’s words in ‘The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh’ treatise we might, at the same time, give consideration to the context in which they were written, and to their relevance, being that the position of the Guardianship can never be compared to the divine Station of Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God, or to the unique position held by `Abdu'l-Bahá as the Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh (page 151). Given that Shoghi Effendi stated that the importance of the Guardianship “be in no wise over-emphasized”, my intent here is not to violate his directive but I do believe it is appropriate on this occasion to recognize the oftentimes underemphasized significance of the position of the institution of the Guardianship in the Cause of God. In those same pages of that treatise, Shoghi Effendi also brought to the reader’s attention that, “Exalted as is the position and vital as is the function of the institution of the Guardianship in the Administrative Order of Baha’u’llah, and staggering as must be, the weight of responsibility which it carries . . . ” (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh p. 150) Shoghi Effendi is here emphasizing that within “the Administrative Order of Baha’u’llah” the Guardianship is a position that is “Exalted” and whose function is “vital”. In another letter it was stated, “He is the Guardian of the Cause in the very fullness of that term, and the appointed interpreter of its teachings, and is guided in his decisions to do that which protects it and fosters its growth and highest interests.” (Letter on behalf of the Guardian and approved him dated May 13, 1945) Again, in another letter written some 14 years after ‘The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh’ treatise, it was stated, “Many of the Bahá'ís, ... while loyal to the Cause and the Guardian, do not fully grasp the implications of the Master's Will and the full station of the Guardians of the Cause. They need to study more deeply the spiritual side of the Teachings and the Will itself. And this he has advised the ... to do." (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 5, 1949, Lights of Guidance, no. 617)

Giving further consideration to the “exalted” and “vital” position of the Guardian of the Cause of God, I will offer Hand of the Cause of God, George Townshend’s written words in his last book titled ‘Christ and Bahá'u'lláh’, completed on his death bed in March of 1957; “The effect of this appointment is to make the Guardian the source of continuing Divine guidance, and in such a way as to make it clear that although he would be the object of challenge, enmity and opposition, even of unassailable height of sure authority. The Guardian, in company with the Universal House of Justice, is under the express care and protection of Bahá'u'lláh and the unfailing guidance of the Báb. He thus must be taken as representing, while distinctly a human being, the nearest approach on earth to the Divine exaltation. . . .” (‘Christ and Bahá'u'lláh’, 1957 edition, p. 100; Chapter 15 titled ‘The Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá’)

In remembrance of Shoghi Effendi, “the sign of God, the chosen branch, the guardian of the Cause of God . . . the expounder of the words of God”; “the Center of the Cause”:

“Bless Thou, O Lord my God, the Divine Lote-Tree and its leaves, and its boughs, and its branches, and its stems, and its offshoots, as long as Thy most excellent titles will endure and Thy most august attributes will last. Protect it, then, from the mischief of the aggressor and the hosts of tyranny. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Visitation, paragraph 7)

“Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees . . . the Light that after my passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance--for behold! he is the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees. Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind.” (Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Part 1, paragraph 2)

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Oct 2014
Yes, it feels somewhat sad that we are not supposed to commemorate his passing. But that is the way he wanted it.