Having considered this matter for a day or two, I think I have a clue. In every religious setting, there is a dichotomy – The Law versus the Spirit. Some people prefer to focus on The Law, whereas others concentrate on The Spirit.
In those early days, there hardly were any institutions, so the stress naturally was on The Spirit of the Faith. Those people who had lived close to the Master had a great advantage: they understood many things thanks to His example. They could hear Him talk about the need to renounce the world, at the same time observing how He cried aloud at night over the misfortunes that befell Him and the believers. They could hear Him talk about the need to strengthen and spread the Faith, at the same time observing how His care and love was extended to friend and foe, to believer and unbeliever alike. They could see Him take remarkable measures to alleviate the famine of the last years of WWI. Therefore, they understood the balance between The Law and The Spirit.
When Shoghi Effendi took over, his (oh, how much I’d like to write ”His” with a capital, but he would have none of that) task was to build up the administration. He was not the Examplar, although he very much could serve as an example of an entirely devoted person.
Now we have an administration, but as I see it, we still don’t have much of a clue as to its merits. I have noticed surprising tendencies. There are those who believe that many of the Writings on spiritual qualities actually concern the institutions; that it is the task of the institutions, not of the individuals, to defend the weak and downtrodden, etc.
To my mind, that is a harmful view. The institutions cannot be better than the individuals who constitute them. I believe that we are still awaiting a kind of awakening, where believers in great numbers start to follow the Master’s example, at the same time participating in the administration. In that light, I believe that we should regard The Law. A quote from Bahá’u’lláh, that has become kind of a guiding line to me, is the following:
”Love is a light, that cannot dwell in a heart possessed by fear”
I think that quote provides us with guidance for understanding the dichotomy of The Law and The Spirit. The Law should be obeyed out of love, not out of fear. There is much fear in the world. That fear also inspires many of us. We might be afraid of doing the wrong thing, of misinterpreting the texts, of not appearing as good Bahá’ís. But in the light of love, it’s so much easier. In the light of love, we realize that most laws and texts are not absolutes, but guiding lines, set out in order to assist us to become better people, necessary scaffolds for our individual tasks to develop our souls.
And, above all, the Master’s example shows us that our love should not be limited to Bahá’ís, but encompass all people. And still, we have to take caution, not to allow ourselves to be used by others, who take advantage of that love. And we have to take caution, not to allow ourselves to disregard The Law, thinking that our love is so great and valuable that we need no laws.
The dichotomy of The Law and The Spirit, over and over again…
gnat: The Law should be obeyed out of love, not out of fear.
Fear is good, too. Remember the fear of God. Shoghi Effendi said this:
"You have asked the exact meaning of the term 'Fear of God' mentioned in Bahá'í Sacred Writings; it often means awe, but has also other connotations such as reverence, terror and fear."
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)
I also do not see what Tony sees... I remember the 1970s too... what has happened to the Baha’is since then?
What I see in the world today, and I do not mean the Baha’is, are people who are completely lost....
Admittedly, I do not get out much, I only see people at work and on forums, but what I see is people who are attached to the material world and most are completely aloof from God... Some are concerned about the problems in the world but they think that politics is going to fix those problems.
I spend almost all of my waking hours when not at work on forums... The nonbelievers I post to are completely lost as far as having any idea who God is or how God communicates... Among the Christians and Jews I post to constantly, I see people who are mired in the past scriptures and waiting for their respective Messiahs to come and fix everything that is wrong in the world... It is very disheartening but I keep proclaiming that Baha’u’llah has come and trying to explain what we can know about God and His message for this day.
I have given up waiting for any Entry by Troops but at least I will be ready if it happens in my lifetime.