The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of France was the only National Assembly to recognize and accept the second Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith in May of 1960. Why had this been so? To adequately understand the reasons for this decision it is essential for the reader to be familiar, to some extent, at least, with the fact that all Bahá'í's believe that the Bahá'í Administrative Order, is based on the divinely-conceived Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Son of the Founder of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, a Document which Shoghi Effendi, the first Guardian of the Faith, has described as "the Heir of both the Originator [Bahá'u'lláh] and the Interpreter ['Abdu'l-Bahá] of the Law of God", having been conceived, as he has stated, through the "mystic intercourse between Him Who communicated The generating influence of His divine Purpose and the One Who was its vehicle and chosen recipient" and therefore the sacred and immortal "Child of the Covenant" a Covenant made by Bahá'u'lláh with those who had embraced His Cause to regard 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as Shoghi Effendi has written: "first and foremost as the Center and Pivot of Bahá'u'lláh's peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word . . . " and as stated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá:
"a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like."
All Bahá'ís recognize 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the "perfect Architect" of a divinely-conceived Bahá'í Administrative Order delineated in His Will and Testament, a Document described by Shoghi Effendi as a part of the explicit Holy Text. In writing about this divine Order bequeathed to us by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi has pointed out that the "mighty Administrative Structure"delineated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament is supported by "twin pillars" the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice," which are to be considered "inseparable institutions" and "two fundamental organs" of His Will, "divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose."
Under the terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the Guardian of the Faith is designated as the "Center of the Cause," the sole interpreter of the Word of God as revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and the "sacred head" of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme legislative institution of the Administrative Order. Shoghi Effendi in writing about the Guardian's function as the "sacred head" of this institution has stressed the fact that the Guardian, in this capacity, is not a figurehead but provides "the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives" and in his capacity as the sole interpreter of the Word of God as revealed by Bahá'u'lláh "is bound to insist upon a reconsideration by them of any enactment he conscientiously believes to conflict with the meaning and to depart from the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's revealed utterances." The terms of the Will also call for an unbroken line of Guardians each to be appointed by his predecessor "in his own life-time" (that is, not by testamentary document).
During the last seven years of his thirty-six year ministry that had commenced in 1921 with the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi decided that the situation at the World Center of the Faith had become favorable and the development of the Faith had reached the stage where he could "at long last" erect the International Institutions of the Faith taking into consideration the significant factor, among others, of "the present adequate maturity of nine vigorously functioning national administrative institutions throughout the Bahá'í World." The first "embryonic International Institution" that he brought into existence was the Universal House of Justice which he established by appointment in January 1951 and titled in this initial embryonic stage, the International Bahá'í Council. He appointed Mason Remey, an American Bahá'í the President of this Council, a believer whose services to the Faith following his acceptance of the Faith as a young man at the turn of the Century remained unparalleled, having included his world-wide teaching efforts in many countries on behalf of the Faith, his authorship of several of the earliest books written on the Faith and his notable architectural achievements for the Faith, as the architect of three Bahá'í Temples already constructed, and two yet to be built (chosen architect by 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the one to be built on Mount Carmel and chosen by Shoghi Effendi for the one to be built in Tihran) and the magnificent International Archives Building built on Mount Carmel. He had been repeatedly eulogized by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Tablets (appearing in publications of the Star of the West)for the purity of his motives and exemplary fidelity to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, and had been uniquely promised by Him in one of His Tablet that "Ere long thy Lord shall make thee a sign of guidance among mankind."
As an indication of the historical importance and significance of the establishment of the International Bahá'í Council at the World Center of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi issued the one and only Proclamation of his ministry on 9 January 1951 (in cablegram form). He employed unprecedented superlative and laudatory terms in proclaiming "this historic decision marking the most significant milestone in the evolution of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the course of the last thirty years." (i.e. since the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the inception of the Administrative Order and his assumption of the Guardianship). Further emphasis was given to the tremendous importance of the formation of the International Council when he stated: in his Proclamation: "Hail with thankful, joyous heart at long last the constitution of the International Council which history will acclaim as the greatest event shedding lustre upon the second epoch of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation unsurpassed by any enterprize undertaken since the inception of the Administrative Order of the Faith on the morrow of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Ascension, ranking second only to the glorious immortal events associated with the Ministries of the Three Central Figures of the Faith . . ."
During this initial embryonic stage in the development of the International Council, Shoghi Effendi assigned specific important functions to the Council but these were restricted to functions affecting relationships of the Faith with the "authorities of the newly emerged State" of Israel. Significantly, however, as pointed out in Mason Remey's writings, Shoghi Effendi never issued instructions to him to convene the Councilthis "Nascent Institution"as a functioning body during the remaining years of his ministry. In stead, Shoghi Effendi chose to assign tasks to individual members of the Council to carry out. Furthermore, he designated Rúhíyyih Khánum (also a member of the Council) as the "chosen liaison" between himself and the Council to preclude any semblance of the assumption of the Presidency of the Council himself. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it should be stressed that no one, including Mason Remey himself, at the time, perceived the significance of his appointment as the President of this embryonic Universal House of Justice, an appointment which held the key to the continuance of the Guardianship, for under the terms of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will, only the Guardian of the Faith presides as the "sacred head" of this Institution. Therefore, had it been activated and become a functioning body while Shoghi Effendi was still living, he would have had to depose Mason Remey as the President and assume the Presidency, himself. The inquirer may well ask why Shoghi Effendi chose to appoint his successor "in his own life-time" in such an indirect way that, as it turned out, it obscured this appointment from the believers both at the time and after his passing? The answer, not perceived by anyone at the time nor subsequent to his passing, and then only obvious after the receipt of Mason Remey's Proclamation, lay in the fact that in appointing Mason Remey, President of the International Council, a man twenty-three years older than himself and who upon its activation as a functioning body, would automatically assume the Guardianship of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, then 54 years of age, had thereby clearly indicated that his own ministry would be soon coming to an end as he foresaw his own early demise that was actually destined to take place seven years later, a prospect, which if had been realized, would have devastated the Bahá'í world community and inevitably paralyzed and interfered with the accomplishment of the formidable goals that had been set for the believers by Shoghi Effendi in their prosecution of Ten Year Global Crusade.
Shoghi Effendi completed the erection of the major international institutions of the Administrative Order almost a year following the creation of the International Council when he appointed the first contingent of twelve living Hands of the Cause in December 1951, with subsequent contingents totalling twenty-seven being appointed later. These Hands, who, according to the terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, are "under the direction of the Guardian of the Cause of God" and whose "obligations". . . are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions sanctified and detached from earthly things" therefore have no executive authority whatsoever. Shoghi Effendi then confirmed the completion of his task to erect these highest institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order in a cablegram, dated 30 June 1952, with the following words:
"At the World Center of the Faith, where, at long last the machinery of its highest institutions has been erected, and around whose most holy shrines the supreme organs of its unfolding Order, are in their embryonic form, unfolding; . . ."
As his ministry drew to a close it remained for Shoghi Effendi to launch a Ten Year Global Crusade commencing in 1953 in which he assigned specific goals to every Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly in the world to be achieved no later than the anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration of His Station in 1963 in the Garden of Ridván at Baghdad. This Crusade, had as its objective the implementation of the "Tablets of the Divine Plan" penned years earlier by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in which He had called for the believers to plant the Banner of the Faith in every corner of the world.
At midpoint of this Crusade, in November of 1957, this Crusade had already achieved marked success with signal victories registered in all the continents of the globe when the Bahá'í World was shaken to its very foundations upon receiving the terrible and shocking news of Shoghi Effendi's completely unexpected and sudden passing while on a visit to London, England. Although the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá required the Guardian of the Faith to appoint his successor "in his own life-time" the Bahá'ís throughout the world were universally unaware that he had done so, for they, as well as the Hands of the Cause, had lost sight of this provision of the Will and Testament as would be clearly evidenced in a startling announcement that the Hands of the Cause were soon to announce to the Bahá'í World. In the consternation and grief that engulfed the believers following Shoghi Effendi's passing and in the apparent absence of an announced successor to whom the believers could immediately turn to for leadership, they may perhaps be excused for looking to the widow of Shoghi Effendi, Rúhíyyih Khánum who had served as his very capable secretary for many years and who had been named a Hand of the Cause and to the twenty-six other Hands of the Cause, the last contingent of whom (eight Hands) had been named by Shoghi Effendi only a month before his passing. As Shoghi Effendi had referred to the Hands in his last cablegram to the Bahá'í World (dated October 1957) before his passing as the "Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth" they seized upon this appellation and construed its meaning to confer upon them supreme power in the Faith and a designation that had endowed them with an authority that was not theirs to exercise under the terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and contradictory to the functions outlined by Shoghi Effendi, in this same cablegram in which he had called their attention to their role as "Chief Stewards" in specific and quite different terms, citing the functions assigned to them by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, when he stated that they "have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Center of His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security and of insuring the propagation, of His Father's Faith."
Shoghi Effendi's passing had taken place on November 4th. On November 25th, the Hands of the Cause issued a Proclamation informing the believers throughout the world that; "Nine days had not yet elapsed after the internment" of Shoghi Effendi "when the Hands of the Cause to the number of twenty-six assembled at the World Center of the Faith in our capacity as Chief Stewards of the Embryonic World Commonwealth of Bahá'u'lláh to consult together on the most tragic situation facing the Bahá'ís since the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá." They went on to report that on November 18th in this first conclave of the Hands of the Cause that nine of their number had made careful examination of the contents of Shoghi Effendi's previously sealed safe and desk and :"certified that Shoghi Effendi had left no heir," a conclusion which in the light of the provisions of the Will and Testament, cited above, was certainly, to say the least, a hasty and unwarranted one. Had they taken the time to first review the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and rediscover the passage, previously cited, that they had obviously forgotten, which requires the Guardian to appoint his successor "in is own life-time" they would not have undertaken such a search in anticipation of finding a will executed by Shoghi Effendi appointing a successor and would have realized that the fact that a will was not found certainly constituted no basis on which to conclude that he had been unable to appoint a successor as they stated, in the Proclamation they subsequently issued to the Bahá'í World in the words quoted above. They then amazingly felt it necessary to justify the fact that Shoghi Effendi had left no will by stating: "no successor to Shoghi Effendi could have been appointed by him" because "The Aghsán (branches) one and all are either dead or have been declared violators of the Covenant by the Guardian" falsely interpreting thereby the terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which places no restriction on the Guardian's choice of a successor to the Aghsán (whom Shoghi Effendi has defined as only the sons of Bahá'u'lláh and not a term designating His other male relatives) as this immutable Document states that should the first-born son of the guardian "not inherit of the spiritual within him . . . then must he, (the guardian of the Cause of God) choose another branch to succeed him."
Having hastily concluded on the basis, outlined above, that Shoghi Effendi had appointed no successor and completely ignoring the many statements that were to be found in his writings and cablegrams to the Bahá'í world that promised the continued existence of the institution of the Guardianship down through the centuries to come of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, and the emphasis he had placed on the essentiality of this Institution to the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, the Hands of the Cause unmindful of the fact, too, that Shoghi Effendi had already established the embryonic Universal House of Justice that was awaiting activation as the supreme legislative institution of the Faith at which time it would rightfully exercise administrative jurisdiction over subordinate national administrative institutions (i.e. initially National Spiritual Assemblies and ultimately in reaching its final stage of development over National Houses of Justice) decided to substitute an organization of their own making in place of the divinely-conceived institutions delineated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament. Difficult as it may be to believe, they then appointed a body of nine Hands from their own number outside the provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá upon which they bestowed the title of "Custodians of the Bahá'í Faith" ( subsequently easing future referral to them as "the Custodian Hands") which would have its seat in Haifa and, according to a declaration issued by the Hands "shall be deemed to succeed the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith" and as such, in their own words, exercise "the functions, rights and powers in succession to the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith."
As Mason Remey had been asked by Shoghi Effendi to move to Haifa in 1950 and make it his permanent home and occupy himself, among other things, in designing the magnificent International Archives Building erected on Mount Carmel and as he had been appointed by Shoghi Effendi in 1951 the President of the International Bahá'í Council with its seat in Haifa, he was naturally included in the body of nine Custodians of the Bahá'í Faith appointed by the Hands. However, he never accepted the view held by his fellow-Hands that the Guardianship had forever ended as evidenced in his diary titled "Daily Observations" in which he records his exhortations to them almost on a daily basis that they reconsider their stand on the abandonment of the Guardianship. He certainly made it clear to them that the Hands, in declaring the institution of the Guardianship ended, they had, in effect, repudiated the major provision of the sacred Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and had, as well, repudiated almost everything that Shoghi Effendi had written concerning the divine genesis of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.
As these efforts had proved fruitless and as he felt that the continued refusal of the Hands to entertain any consideration of the continuance of the Guardianship was nothing less than a blatant violation of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh he decided to leave Haifa and return to his former home in the United States for the reasons outlined in the following statement contained in his writings:
"I hope to leave Haifa, and through a most confidential and private correspondence with the Hands of the Faith here in the Holy Land exhort them to reconsider their action of trying to administer the Baháí Faith without a Guardian, begging them to re-study the Will and Testament and the words and teachings of the beloved first Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, and see from all of these sources, each for himself, that the Guardianship must be continued.
In one of his written appeals to is fellow-Hands Mason Remey records the following plea that he made at the second conclave of the Hands in Haifa in 1958 which reflects the keen frustration and disappointment that he felt as a result of his fruitless efforts to persuade the Hands to reconsider their obstinate stand against any consideration of the continuance of the Guardianship:
"You will remember the plea that I made before you one and all who were assembled in the second Bahji Conclave of the Hands of the Faith in November 1958my plea that for the safety and the protection of our Faith that the office of the Guardian ship of our Faith be wanted by us Hands of the Faith as much as possiblefor the protection of or Faith. This suggestion urged by me and by me alone before that conclave was turned down unitedly by the twenty-four of the twenty-five of us present standing firmly against considering the suggestions that I urged."
The believers have criticized Mason Remey for waiting until Ridván 1960 (April 21st to May 2nd) to issue his Proclamation as the second Guardian of the Faith. What they have failed to realize is that it was only shortly before the issuance of his Proclamation while on the way back to the United States aboard ship that for the first time he perceived the significance and connection between the Presidency the International Bahá'í Council and the Guardianship. For it was only then that he perceived that as the appointed head of this Councilthe embryonic Universal House of Justicea body that had been retained in an inactive state since its creation and during the remaining years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry awaiting birth into life as an actively functioning institution following his passing and over which only the Guardian presides as its "sacred head"he had been, as the embryonic head of this institution, the second Guardian-to-be, simultaneously awaiting birth, as it were, into the station of the Guardianship. Having realized this now for the first time, himself and the only one to do so, this was the reason he had not previously proclaimed himself as the second Guardian of the Faith, either to his fellow-Hands in person while a member of the body of the Custodian Hands in Haifa or to the entire body of the Hands during their conclaves, much less to the believers at large.
During the intervening period between the passing of Shoghi Effendi and the issuance of Mason Remey's Proclamation the Custodian Hands in Haifa who had been blindly accepted by the world-wide Bahá'í community as the "supreme body in the Cause," a wholly unwarranted designation, to say the least, for this transient body that had no authority to exist under the terms of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá had become strongly entrenched in an ill-gotten and illegitimate authority and power that remained unquestioned, although their reign as Custodians would only be short-lived according to the announced plans of the of the entire body of Hands, that called for the demise of this body in less than six years time coincident with the premature election of their sans-Guardian and hence an illegitimate Universal House of Justice at Ridván 1963. Irrespective of the fact that without the Guardian presiding as its head it would be an incomplete and fallible body, its establishment in 1963 would be extremely premature and not in accordance with the several stages that had been traced for its development in Shoghi Effendi's Proclamation of 1951, for their plans called for the second stage of its development as an International Court to be disregarded completely although stated by Shoghi Effendi to be an "essential prelude to the institution of the Universal House of Justice" while it would be permitted to function in its third stage of development for such a brief period as to be inconsequential before its election in 1963 as the UHJ (obviously, for the reasons outlined above, not one of the goals of the Ten Year Global Crusade that had been set by Shoghi Effendi).
This was situation in the Faith that faced Mason Remey when he dispatched his Proclamation to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States during Ridván 1960 with the hopeful expectation that this administrative body would not only recognize him as the second rightful Guardian of the Faith but, in accordance with his request, distribute his Proclamation, in turn, to the other National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world. The National Spiritual Assembly had at the same time received from the Custodian Hands in Haifa a highly denunciatory cable that this body had also sent to all other Assemblies throughout the world in which they stated that Mason Remey was making a "preposterous claim" that he was the Guardian of the Faith and in which they called "upon the believers everywhere to join the Hands in complete repudiation" of what they referred to as "his misguided action."
Not surprisingly, in view of this cable received from the Custodian Hands, the National Spiritual Assembly did not give Mason Remey's Proclamation the unbiased consideration it deserved and rejected him out of hand as Shoghi Effendi's successor. Consequently his Proclamation was never distributed to the believers in the United States much less to the other Bahá'í National Assemblies in the world with the result that these National Assemblies, with a notable exception, as well as the members of their respective national communities, remained in ignorance of the contents of this Proclamation which, if they had been given the opportunity to read for themselves, without outside influence from either their own Assembly or especially that of the Custodian Hands, would have, on the basis of the clear explanations presented therein, furnishing incontestable proof of his accession to the Guardianship, undoubtedly enabled them to perceive and rejoice in the knowledge that Shoghi Effendi had, in faithful compliance with the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, appointed his successor. Fortunately, the National Spiritual Assembly of France became an exception as it had been sent a copy of his Proclamation directly by Mason Remey. and, as outlined in the comprehensive report that follows made by its secretary, Bernard Fillon, had remained undeterred and uninfluenced by the dictum to reject him, also received by them from the Custodian Hands, and gave Mason Remey's Proclamation the careful and unbiased consideration and study it deserved. As a consequence, it became the only National Spiritual Assembly in the Bahá'í World to recognize and joyfully embrace Mason Remey as the second Guardian of the Faith. Bernard Fillon's detailed account further relates the sad history of the highly reprehensible actions taken and instructions issued by the Custodian Hands, without any authority to do so under the terms of 'Abdu'l-Bahá´s Will, upon their receipt of the information that this Assembly had recognized Mason Remey as the second Guardian of the Faith which led to the forced dissolution of this Assembly and the election of an illegitimate body in its place.
Joel Bray Marangella
Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith
21 November 2000
Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith