Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A selection of quotations from the Baha'i Writings on unity and diversity

"We stand for unity through diversity
and we hold in contempt
every attempt at uniformity. . ."

". . . a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units." (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 43)

"Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá'u'lláh. . . It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity such as Abdu'l-Baha Himself has explained:

'Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.'"

(The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 41)

"They must be neither provocative nor supine, neither fanatical nor excessively liberal, in their exposition of the fundamental and distinguishing features of their Faith." (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 25)

"There are two main principles which the Guardian wishes the friends to always bear in mind and to conscientiously and faithfully follow. First is the principle of unqualified and wholehearted loyalty to the revealed Word. The believers should be careful not to deviate, even a hair-breadth, from the Teachings. Their supreme consideration should be to safeguard the purity of the principles, tenets and laws of the Faith. It is only by this means that they can hope to maintain the organic unity of the Cause. There can and should be no liberals or conservatives, no moderates or extremes in the Cause. For they are all subject to the one and the same law which is the Law of God. This law transcends all differences, all personal or local tendencies, moods and aspirations. [...] Doctrinal unity and administrative unity, these are the two chief pillars that sustain the edifice of the Cause, and protect it from the storms of opposition which so severely rage against it."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated September 5, 1936; Dawn of a New Day, p. 61)

"The Guardian is striving to build up uniformity in essentials all over the Bahá'í World, and this frequently involves a small measure of delay in achieving our various goals set locally."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated Dec. 30, 1948, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 73) (the subject is the constitution of an Assembly)

"He does not object if there be any differences in these secondary matters, but he feels that he should insist on uniformity in essentials. Diversity in unity -- which is so vital and basic a principle of the Movement -- would thereby be maintained."
(Shoghi Effendi dated Dec. 27, 1934, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 101) (the subject is the constitution of an Assembly)

"Shoghi Effendi believes that, although the friends may have different methods of teaching the Cause, yet they should not let such diversity lead to a consciousness of division among them. To safeguard the unity of the Faith is the sacred obligation of every loyal Baha'i. We should, therefore, avoid creating any misunderstandings which might develop into actual division. We stand for unity through diversity and we hold in contempt every attempt at uniformity or at complete separateness."
From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated 3 June 1933, Compilation "Cultural Diversity in the Age of Maturity," Compilation of Compilations, Volume III, p. 125 #204)

"The second principle is that of detachment in consultation.  The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancour.  They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another. Baha'i consultation is not an easy process.  It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility.  Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member's statements." (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, August 26, 1965; Lights of Guidance pp. 179-180)

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