Ahmad Sohrab, who was Abdul-Baha's secretary for eight years, accompanying him on his speaking tours through Europe, England, and the United States, mistakenly chose to support an organizational structure under a "guardian," though he was well aware that, as he subtly acknowledged, "Abdul Baha had never in speech or writing given the slightest indication that there would be a successor to himself. On the contrary, a number of addresses delivered by him on various occasions had made the opposite impression." The Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha (61).
Many of Sohrab's comments and books should be read in the light of his attempting to make tactical amends with, or influence, Shoghi Effendi, who "excommunicated" him, as Shoghi Effendi had done with his own entire family. Ruth White and Dr. C. Ainsworth Mitchell went much deeper into what had gone wrong after Abdul-Baha's death, but Sohrab throws light upon various Bahai problems of the time, such as freedom of religious conscience, of which many such problems continue today for other Bahai denominations based upon the fraudulent will and testament of 1921. It is not clear what Sohrab's real motivation was.
Given subsequent Bahai history, it is clear Sohrab also failed to understand the wisdom and very profound change in religious form and conduct that Abdul-Baha taught when he repeatedly stated the Bahai Movement could not be organized. Abdul-Baha's Teaching runs entirely contrary to what people usually think of as "religion," and is still today a profoundly challenging paradox for many seekers and Bahais.
Scholarship worthy of the name cannot be done without confronting the Bahai history to which Ruth White, Julie Chanler, and Mirza Ahmad Sohrab testify.
Further excerpts from Sohrab's books below. There is a bibliography of his works at the very bottom of this web page.
Excerpts from Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha, An Analysis.
New York: Universal Publishing, 1944.
"In *Section 3*, Abdul Baha enjoins his followers to implicitly obey Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause, and, to all intents and purposes, to accept him as an infallible leader. The matter of obedience is accentuated to such a degree that it apparently reduces the status of the believers to the level of intellectual and spiritual serfdom. If one takes Abdul Baha's injunctions literally (and the present-day Bahais are super-literalists), agreeing that to obey Shoghi Effendi is to obey God and to oppose him is to oppose God, there is no escaping the conclusion that the Master asks of us the surrender of our wills, minds and reason to the Guardian--a surrender which is fraught with far-reaching consequences for it implies a betrayal of the very Bahai ideals which the Master himself spent his life sharing with the world. Doubtless, the deepest and the most searching desire of every enlightened Bahai is to obey God and Abdul Baha; but are we really honest with ourselves, are we sincere in our faith in Abdul Baha, if we believe and teach that he deliberately wished to divest us of all our reasoning faculties and turn us into a community of fawning, cringing, snivelling, mealy-mouthed sycophants, flatterers and flunkies before the awesome throne of the Guardian? To interpret this section of the Will in such a literal sense, is, to say the least, utterly short-sighted and a complete subversion of all the glorious teachings of the Bahai Cause"(53).
"Now, it is to be hoped that we understand Abdul Baha's purpose when he enjoins us in his Will to obey the Guardian at all times, and at all costs. I know that he did not mean us to divest ourselves of the rights and prerogatives of our God-given reason. I am certain that he did not desire us to turn into abject creatures in order that the sadistically-minded might enjoy the sight of our mental misery and spiritual poverty. I am confident that it was not his intention that we look upon the Guardian as the incarnation of an infallible God; and I naturally would expect that the Guradian himself would be the very last person to impose on his followers such inhuman servitude. It would seem clear that he is much more in need of wide-awake, independent and resourceful cooperators than of timorous serfs, deprived of self-respect and of the respect of their fellows.
It is my considered opinion, arrived at in all sincerity, that Abdul Baha wished the Bahais to gather, most loyally and devotedly, around Shoghi Effendi to serve the Cause of Baha'u'llah as he himself had served it; and although there is apparent contradiction between this section of the Will and his lifelong teachings, we would, if we could but master the prophetic nomenclature and phraseology, realize that they are the two aspects of the same questions, worded differently, but to be understood in the one spirit (56).
Loyalty to the Group or Loyalty to God. Besides, a very important point is this one: The appointment of Shoghi Effendi to the guardianship automatically cancelled the provision for succession as specified by Baha'u'llah in his Will. The situation was extraordinary; therefore, extraordinary and unequivocal terms must have seemed necessary in order that, after the Master's departure, the believers should not be left in a state of uncertainty which might lead to their breaking into two camps.
I am fully conscious of the fact that what I have here written is pure and unadulterated blasphemy in the eyes of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada, which has abrogated all the universal teachings of the Cause and placed in their stead blind and unquestioned obedience to Shoghi Effendi and, through his authority, to themselves. This attitude of subservience and servility among the believers has been studiously cultivated by Mr. Horace Holley who, in an article . . . writes: *The individual conscience must be subordinated to the decisions of a duly elected Spiritual Assembly*. Now, it happens that Abdul Baha thought otherwise, as can be seen in *A Traveller's Narrative*, written as far back as 1874. After referring to a number of historical cases in which organized groups, official and non-official, have tried in the past to interfere with *the conscience of man*, he writes:
'These are effectual and sufficient proofs that the conscience of man is sacred and to be respected; and that liberty thereof produces widening of ideas, amendment of morals, improvement of conduct, disclosure of the secrets of creation, and manifestation of the hidden verities of the contingent world. Moreover, if interrogation of conscience, which is one of the private possessions of the heart and the soul, take place in this world, what further recompense remains for man in the court of divine justice at the day of general resurrection? Convictions and ideas are within the scope of the comprehension of the King of kings, not of kings; and soul and conscience are between the fingers of control of the Lord of hearts, not of [His] servants.' --A Traveler's Narrative, 91.
With this divine exposition before them, which states that the *soul and conscience are between the fingers of control of the Lord of hearts, not of His servants*, how do the members of the National Spiritual Assembly in general and Mr. Horace Holley in particular dare to *subordinate* conscience to *the decisions* of *any* Spiritual Assembly, elected or otherwise? do they think that the public is willing to overlook the teachings of the Master? Abdul Baha's words remain in black and white, and neither the Administration nor its followers can tear these pages from the volumes of immortal literature.
I myself hold to the individual conscience. I believe that it is the *still, small voice* which has been placed in our hearts to guide us aright. I consider that the crimes of the nations and religions are perpetrated because of the fact that the people place loyalty to the *group* above loyalty to God; and I know that Baha'u'llah came to awaken the individual, and through him to save the world. Therefore, I do not propose to condone injustice, wherever it appears; nor to appease, nor to stand aside and let affairs take their course. I am a Bahai, responsible to my Maker and to Abdul Baha, and I do not yield one jot nor one jota of my love and reverence for my Master in studying out his Will to the best of my ability and in drawing my sincere conclusions" (56-58).
The bewilderment which I feel on this subject was at first experienced by many of the older Bahais when the contents of the will became known. This temporary mental disturbance and confusion was not on account of the appointment of Shoghi Effendi as Guardian, but because of the fact that Abdul Baha had never in speech or writing given the slightest indication that there would be a successor to himself. On the contrary, a number of addresses delivered by him on various occasions had made the opposite impression. Consequently , it took several years before a section of the Bahais could adjust themselves to the new situation (61).
"In earnestly investigating these issues with mind and conscience, even as Bahais are commanded to investigate all things, I can arrive at no plausible answer, except it be that the plan of Abdul Baha was a draft made on broad lines to be carried out with the elasticity required by the times. I explain some of the knotty points as follows:--
Should the Bahai Cause be actually operated along universal lines, as was intended by the Founders, it is logical that it should spread to all parts and inspire the leaders in every department of practical thought and action. Abdul Baha said that a man who lives his life according to the teachings of Baha-O-Llah is already a Bahai; he did not say that a man who writes his name on the dotted line, prepared by the Bahai organization, is a Bahai. According to this concept, the plans of Baha-O-Llah and Abdul Baha in regard to the election of the members of the House of Justice by *universal suffrage*, or by *universal suffrage, that is by the believers*, merge into one.
Again: according to Abdul Baha, the members of the House of Justice *are under the unerring guidance of God*, and themselves are freed from error; while the Guardian (to whom he ascribes a yet higher station) is simply *under the unerring guidance of God*--even as we all are, for the word unerring, applies in this instance to God, not to the Guardian. Then, how can a member of the House of Justice who is *freed from error* be considered unfit and expelled by the Guardian, concerning whom no such claim has been made?
This cannot be explained; therefore, I believe that Abdul Baha was giving an ideal picture of the Members, showing what they should be; and, by the same token, in exalting the Guardian, he was depicting the type of guardian that he so much desired and hoped for.
Meanwhile, much depends upon the *first* Guardian of the Cause. Should he use his position to act as a servant of humanity, even as the Master did, striving ever to maintain the democracy in the Bahai movement that is its fundamental principle..." (98-99).
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha, An Analysis. New York: Universal Publishing, 1944. Entire book may be downloaded in one click.
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Broken Silence. The Story of Today's Struggle for Religious Freedom. New York: Universal Publishing, 1942. Entire Book PDF
Pages 83, 85, 131, and 206 were originally suppressed from the scanned H-Net version of Broken Silence. See below or they are included in the pdf file.
"The love of religious liberty is a stronger sentiment than an attachment to civil or political freedom. That freedom which the conscience demands and which men feel bound by their hopes of salvation to contend for, can hardly fail to be attained. Conscience in the cause of religion, and the worship of Deity, prepares the mind to act and suffer beyond almost all other causes.... History instructs us that this love of religious liberty, a compound sentiment in the breast of men, made up of the dearest sense of right and the highest conviction of duty, is able to look the sternest despotism in the face" (12). --Daniel Webster
Praise be to God! You are living upon the great continent of the West enjoying perfect liberty, security and peace of this just government . . . for in this human world there is no greater blessing than liberty. You do not know. I who for forty years have been a prisoner, do know. I do know the value and blessing of liberty. For you have been and are now living in freedom and you have no fear of anybody. Is there a greater blessing than this? Freedom! Liberty! Security! These are the great bestowals of God. Therefore praise ye God! —Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. I, page 49. Address before the Metropolitan African Methodist Church, Washington, D.C. April 23, 1912.
"Here, I wish to affirm my conviction that the Will of Abdul Baha is valid and that his appointment of Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Bahai Cause is unchallengeable. Nevertheless, I take exception to certain policies and methods initiated by Shoghi Effendi and the Bahai Administration established under his leadership" (26).
"The teachings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha are liberal to the nth degree, and broad beyond the outposts of human thought. It was the intention of the Founders to establish an unorganized movement, so all-inclusive and free as to be immune to the natural proclivities of men to restrict and limit. The fact that restriction and limitation have already set in and are fast gaining ground, at this date, only twenty years after the removal from our midst of Abdul Baha, is a matter of profound concern to all those who, labels apart, believe in promoting Universal Religion" (26-27).
"The Bahai Cause, as founded by Baha'u'llah nearly a century ago and as interpreted by his son Abdul Baha, was and still is a UNIVERSAL RELIGION. Its principles were intended to safeguard the conscience of man from interference by any hierarchical organization; to spiritualize society and to socialize religion; to unify the fundamental ideals of the World Faiths; to bestow upon every child of God the precious gift of liberty and to harmonize the conflicting interests of nations, races and peoples of the earth with the power of spirit. However, the present day Bahai Administration under the title of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada has, through its dogmas and creeds, frustrated the aims of the Founders of the Bahai Faith."
"The authenticity of this document is beyond the shadow of doubt" (47).
An Old Accusation
"Practically, from the departure of the Master from this life until today, it has been charged against me by the Bahai Organization and by the members of the Community that I deny the Will of Abdul Baha and refuse to accept Shoghi Effendi as Guardian. Therefore, I take this opportunity to make a plain and unequivocal statement: Never in thought, word or writing have I questioned the authenticity of the Will, nor denied the validity of the appointment of Shoghi Effendi. Let us now hope that, once and for all time, this fact has been make clear and manifest" (49).
"After the ascension of Abdul Baha in 1921, certain reactionary and dogmatic forces began to make their appearance in the Cause. Almost unnoticeable at first, they, little by little, gained ground until at present, this movement, which was the most universal and liberal of all movements, past and present, has been reduced to a sect, while its spirit is all but extinguished. The principles of Baha'u'llah are forgotten and in their stead we see nothing but a mass of rules and regulations that duplicate, to say the least, the ecclesiastical paraphernalia of previous organized religions" (51).
"If, in the course of my writing, I have occasionally disagreed with the policies of Shoghi Effendi, it is not because I, in the least, contest the genuineness of the Will of Abdul Baha or question the appointment of Shoghi Effendi to the Guardianship, but because, as a Bahai, I maintain my freedom of conscience and hold to the injunction of Baha'u'llah: *Independent investigation of Truth.* Citizens of the United States feel themselves at liberty to freely discuss, to agree or disagree with the policies of the President. This does not imply that they question his right to occupy the White House, nor that they are planning to overthrow the government. On the contrary, it is an expression of their love for this country and of their desire to contribute toward its safety and betterment" (52-53).
"I will show from the writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha that the Cause that they envisaged and for which they suffered is quite different and totally at variance with the one that is being taught today. One is divine revelation, the other is human authority; one is universal and all-inclusive, the other is restricted and separative; one is dignity and freedom of conscience, the other is subserviency and blind loyalty; one is wings outstretched, the other is feet enchained" (53).
"I do not claim to be a leader. I do not seek followers. I have no wish that my name should be even remembered. I am simply a voice in the wilderness. Lastly, farthest of all from my thoughts is the idea of being destructive, for my aim is to re-discover the original spiritual teachings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha, which were and are for the establishment of a divine civilization" (54).
"The Local Assembly of this city wished to supervise our activities. I, on the other hand, owing to long experience with the Assemblies, was convinced that such supervision implied a complete domination and would lead to the total destruction of the work itself. We looked upon The New History Society as an independent effort to teach the principles of the Cause, and we needed freedom in so doing. Afterwards, when the initial interest had been created, we were ready to guide our new found friends to the Center, to arrange classes under the direction of its own Bahai teachers and to strive in every way toward the co-operation of the two groups" (75).
"It was repeatedly required of me that I should appear before the Local Assembly of New York and the National Spiritual Assembly, but I looked on these bodies as Religious Tribunals . . . and believed that I would be trapped into making admissions, regarding my opinion of the organization, which would be used against me. Consequently, while I was at all times willing to discuss any and all matters with individual members of the Assemblies, I consistently refused to appear before their official groups (77).
"Now, Mrs. Chanler knew that *co-operation* meant supervision of our programs and of everything that was said on our platform. It implied endless discussions and certain interruptions of the work. We felt that we could not risk... (82). [83 missing]
"By this time, large numbers of the members of the Bahai organization had actually jointed The New History Society. This membership with us in no wise affected their loyalty to the Center, for all of us looked on the new movement as a sort of recruiting station, and we often termed it as such" (93).
"The New History Society, from time to time, opening its flood-gages and allowing a stream of immature Bahais to filter into the precincts of the Assembly. So far so good; but how about the voting season? Would it not be likely that these fresh, untrammeled minds would pick out some *new* officers to represent them, and that within a few years a large part of the administrative personnel would be changed? This supposition brings up a serious point, applying to both National and Local Assemblies, the former having been functioning since time out of mind with practically no change of officers" (95).
"I have to thank Ruhi Effendi for so concisely summing up my characteristics in the above statement. I could not have done it better myself. An almost religious belief in freedom for all men, and a dislike for the red tape that applies to organizations (especially supposedly spiritual ones) are strongly developed in my consciousness. On this basis, I have always functioned and always will" (114).
"For ourselves, we shall continue along the path that we have chosen so deliberately; we shall teach freedom of conscience, respect for the convictions of others and cooperation between men and women of all systems of thought tending toward a true comradeship of human beings, born and unborn. Then, shall we teach religious liberty? To ask the question is to answer it. The aspiration toward religious liberty has always existed in the consciousness of mankind. It lives in Hindu hearts, in Jewish hearts, in Christian hearts, in Islamic hearts and, after its long leap from the heart of *The Most Great Prisoner in Acca*, it lives in the hearts of people everywhere. This is a cardinal principle of the New World Order" (120).
"Let me state that during the last eleven years this body of men and women have set themselves to oppose the work of The New History Society, to attribute to its founders and members all sorts of unworthy motives; to publish in *Bahai News* articles of a most crude character and to countenance stories and rumors that have no foundation in fact and no relation to reality. In taking this attitude and in systematically following a course of enmity and persecution, the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada have been free and untrammeled; one may assert that they have used (or in my opinion have abused) their constitutional right of free press, free speech and free assembly (124-125).
"In 1939, The New History Society exhibited its works and literature in [the] Science and Education Building at the New York World's Fair, and during these months an idea came to the mind of Mrs. Frederick Allien, one of the first Bahais in this country, who had been called *Berthalin* by Abdul Baha and who has used this name ever since. The idea was that it would be a valuable service to the Cause if, after the closing of the Fair, our exhibit could be transported to the city. After some consultation, it was decided to take this step as a purely temporary activity, and on November 7th, 1939, *Bahai Bookshop* was opened at 828 Lexington Avenue, a lease having been signed for the duration of six months. I admit that we were fully conscious that, in all probability, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada would resent this further heralding of the Bahai name and teachings. However, we were prepared, as in the past, to meet opposition in silence (126).
"Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha lived in prison, suffered and gave their teachings *free* for the religious unification of mankind in order that, in 1928, these spiritual heavenly teachings be monopolized, and sold under trade-mark to an unsuspecting public as so much *goods*, similar to *Blue Sunoco, G. Washington coffee, Twenty Mule Team Boraxo* or *the new, blended with Havana, Whilte Owl Cigar* (it's milder)!" (132).
"The Bahai organization is not a religion, nor a spiritual renaissance, nor the spirit of the age, but is a full-fledged corporation which, while it engages itself in marketing the principles of Baha'u'llah for the establishment of Universal Peace, through its various branches in the United States, Canada and in other parts of the world, has protected these goods by taking out a trade-mark on the very name which more than twenty thousand Persian men and women claimed at the price of their lives" (133).
"I will point out one peculiar aspect of *Bahai News*. Every copy, in recent times [1940s], carries on its front page the inscription: *For Bahais Only.* Why for Bahais only, if the Bahai Cause is intended for the whole world? Why for Bahais only, if there is nothing to hide? Why for Bahais only, if this periodical is a credit to those who prepare it? Abdul Baha on many occasions said that in the Bahai Cause there is no secret doctrine, and that there should be no secret society nor secret meetings. He never thought of specifying the point that there should be no secret publication: *For men only, For members of the Klan only, For Bahais Only* (136).
"The insidious adversaries are those who hold office in the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada. They are the ones who, through their legalistic verbiage, have stopped the circulation of the blood of life through the arteries of mankind; they are the ones who have banished love from their midst and enthroned the Veiled Hatred which is more dreadful than the unveiled one; they are the ones who have spread the pall of subtle fear and suspicion over the Bahai Community, exiling confidence and self-respect; they are the ones who, through political manipulations before and during annual Bahai Conventions, are re-elected to the same offices year after year--thus, keeping a stranglehold on the activities of the Cause and directing those activities according to their own good-pleasure" (137).
"The writer of the article in *Bahai News reaches the height of his slanderous vilification when he likens Mr. and Mrs. Chanler and their Bahai friends *to those enemies that preceded them: Subhi-Ezel, Mohamet Ali, Kheirella and their like" (138).
"The Bahai Movement is not an organization. You cannot organize the Bahai Movement. The Bahai Movement is the spirit of the age. It is the essence of all the highest ideals of this century. The Bahai Cause is an inclusive movement. The teachings of all religions and societies are found here. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mohammadans, Zoroastrians, Theosophists, Freemasons, Spiritualists, etc., find their highest aims in this Cause, Socialists and philosophers find their theories fully develped in this movement" —Abdul-Baha (141).
"Registered Aug. 7, 1928 Trade-Mark 254,271 United States Patent Office National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada of New York, N. Y. Application filed March 10, 1928. Serial No. 262,923. BAHA'I STATEMENT To the Commissioner of Patents: National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada, a common-law corporation, organized and operated under the declaration of trust and doing business at...
As we read and re-read the statement, we are lost in a sea of amazement. We rub our eyes, we fidget, we feel restless; we wonder whether all this is not a nightmare--impossible, incredible. We stagger, and search in our consciousness for an explanation; then, completely baffled, we look up into the face of Mr. Horace Holley. Maybe he will tell us what this means! He smiles, triumphantly pointing to the signature, and we read: National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada by Horace Holley, Secretary.... There is a stake on the *source* of the Bahai Cause and its owner-proprietor is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada. The *password* given to mankind by Baha'u'llah, to be used for the regeneration of nations, is in the possession of the Bahai administrators" (145-146).
"No one on the face of the earth can fathom the *mystery* latent in the name *Bahai* except these interpreters of the law, these esteemed members of the all-powerful Bahai hierarchy. The *jewel with many facets* is boxed and locked, and the key is in the velvet pocket of Mr. Horace Holley.... The *set of principles necessary for the peace of the world, for economic stability, for the true progress of sciences and arts are registered and trade-marked, and woe unto those who dare to speak or write on these subjects!" (147).
"The remedy given by the Great Physician for the healing of the sick body of the world has been made up into a patent medicine, and no one is allowed to avail himself of its restorative powers except by permission of these parochial pharmacologists. We, the members of the Bahai Organization, have a priority right on *the ideals of fellowship and service irrespective of race, creed, nationality and class,* and those who put these principles into practice are our *insidious enemies* (147).
"In the light of the above rules, it is not difficult to picture the kind of society that would be ours if the Bahai community becomes widespread under the aegis of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada. Any dictator who might arise in this country, of whatsoever political hue, red, brown, black or yellow, would take to his heart and cherish these deaf, dumb and blind subjects, utterly servile and subservient, who would never oppose him nor resist his most cruel laws or indeed his slightest whim. The citizenry of these proud United States would become a race of automata, a chain-gang; and our fair democracy would have been converted into a nightmare, more gruesome and frightful than could be imagined by any H. G. Wells in his most despondent mood" (156-157).
"My personal opinion is that if some effectual means be not presently adopted to disperse this sacrosanct hierarchy, to nullify its power and destroy its authority, it will ere long reduce the Bahai Cause to the status of a sect, seeing that it has now waxed so exceedingly puffed up with pride as to attack anyone who, before the face of his Maker, calls himself a Bahai. If a method be not devised to check the inordinate ambitions of these administrators of the Bahai Cause, they will, for the establishment of their own un-American, un-democractic ideology, so limit the spiritual potency of the words of Baha'u'llah that the effect of these words on the hearts of men will be reduced to a whisper" (157).
"If this group is left to continue in its course of every day devising a new lock, of forging a new chain, of fashioning a new whip for application of the fair body of the Cause, then, I swear by the Almighty that Baha'u'llah himself will arise in his Supreme Power and shatter these fetters to a thousand pieces, thus freeing his Message and setting it again to flow, like a tumultuous cyclone, through the wide avenues of life! (159).
"What Is the Bahai Cause? The Bahai Cause is a free spiritual Revelation. Baha'u'llah, as its Founder, prayed that all men may partake of the inestimable blessings of his Message. This Message, in its essence, belongs to humanity, and no individual, no group of individuals, no church, no state, no organization, no administration can lay an exclusive claim to it. It cannot be trade-marked, and it cannot be patented.... *The words of God are independent* of the sponsorship of a corporation" (159).
"The Complaint, served on April 25th; the Amended Complaint, presented on June 7th; the Supplemental Bill of Particulars, added on October 30th, and the final Memorandum, submitted to the Court on December 27, 1940 . . . display a shifting of attitude very perplexing to the student of these documents. The lawsuit started out on the basis of the trade-mark held on the word *Bahai*, but this definite claim was dropped in the *Amended* Complaint and in all subsequent Papers. The same process of elimination on other claims is followed, more or less regularly, in the series of briefs, showing that the plaintiffs were laboring under confusion of thought and purpose. Baseless assertions and fantastic allegations were advanced as facts; but no proofs were offered.... yet hundreds of New York's public, knowing the situation but slightly, would have been willing to go on record, stating that some of these charges were obviously not true. At any rate, according to the Court *no facts* were ever produced and no *good cause of action* was ever advanced" (171-172).
"As one studies these documents, one comes to the realization that the plaintiffs are obsessed with a single thought and purpose, namely: that Baha'u'llah came to earth to form an organization and that his teachings are to be monopolized by them. This line of argument, like the ominous undertone of a Greek tragedy, runs throughout all their demands. They believe that our *unlawful* public teaching of the Bahai Cause is *trespassing* upon their rights and privileges and works to their *damage and injury*; and they consider that, if we are permitted to *continue* in these *unlawful acts*, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada and the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the City of New York *will suffer irreparable injury*" (172).
"During the eleven years of the existence of The New History Society . . . Mr. and Mrs. Chanler have poured in their money freely, joyously, as grist to the mill of their endeavor. Small contributions to the work came in now and then, from our members, some books were sold and the proceeds added to the budget, but ninety-nine and three-quarters percent of the total expended on the maintenance of the work came from the one source--Mr. and Mrs. Chanler. Everybody knows this; and yet the plaintiffs *claim that we have made profits, and diverted to ourselves contributions to the Bahai Cause* which otherwise would have been received by them. All these allegations were under oath. Here, one cannot help wonder at the mental processes which make such claims and oaths possible.... So, the Court did not confer upon the plaintiffs a spiritual and material monopoly on the Bahai Teachings" (174-174).
"A most incomprehensible aspect of the design of the National Spiritual Assembly was utter confidence in the justice of its plan and complete assurance of victory. One reason for this apparent confidence was, I suspect, the small weight which its members placed on the guarantee of religious liberty in this country as set forth in the Bill of Rights, together with a minimizing of the effect which this law of tolerance had had on the consciousness of the American people" (175).
"The decision handed down in the Supreme Court of New York by Justice Louis A. Valente on April 1, 1941, is an epoch-making document for . . . its contents have universal application. Eloquently and definitely, Judge Valente has reaffirmed the validity of the Bill of Rights. In the case under review, he denies . . . a monopoly on the word *Bahai*, thus constituting, in the name of the latest revealed religion, a charter of freedom which shall stand as long as this nation retains the character conferred upon it by its founders. I think that will be *always*--in spite of the perils that menace liberty in these sad times. Thus, from now on, any sincere seeker after truth, who has realized his highest aspirations in the Bahai Cause, can term himself a follower of Baha'u'llah and use his name without let or hindrance. No one can molest him or try to undermine his service in the movement" (182).
"The Most Important Point. Justice Valente ruled that *the plaintiffs have no right to a monopoly of the name of a religion. The defendants, who purport to be members of the same religion, have an equal right to use the name of the religion in connection with their own meetings, lectures, classes and other activities. This is the most important point in question; for, henceforth the National Spiritual Assembly cannot claim, as it has up to this time, that it is the sole representative of all the Bahais in the land. There are now, and will be in increasing numbers, Bahais who would not think it appropriate to be represented by the National Spiritual Assembly, and whom the National Spiritual Assembly would not think it appropriate to represent. The laws of this nation will be the practical guarantee of such Bahais, who will turn their hearts to God in the service of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha, without benefit of clergy (187-188).
Not a Religion
"In studying the Complaint, the Amended Complaint, the Bill of Particulars, the Supplemental Bill of Particulars and the final Memorandum, one comes to the conclusion that the plaintiffs are solely preoccupied with the consolidation of their privileges as a *corporation*. They are deeply concerned over the possible diversion from them of contributions and the making, by others, of profits which might have accrued to their budget. They enlarge on the subjects of unfair competition, pecuniary advantages and injury to business, and let loose shafts of accusation on charges of trespassing. It is clear the the Bahai Administration is not a religion, but a great corporation, having *more than one hundred* subsidiary corporations operating in various parts of the United States and Canada. Before the Court, it announces that it is the trustee and custodian of a variety of properties, including a temple under construction at Wilmette, Illinois, upon which more than a million dollars has been expended, to date. Likewise, there is a trust fund under its control as well as a publishing concern. All these material advantages are possessed by the Bahai Administration, and no competition shall be allowed in the Bahai name and teachings which are the source of its wealth! No, the Bahai Administration is not a religion. The Bahai Cause, from which it derives, was such; but that was long ago" (191).
"By no stretch of imagination can we invest the members of the National Spiritual Assembly with the same innocence.... Then, why did they allow themselves to perpetrate the unethical act of concealing from the Commissioner of the United States Patent Office the fact that the word Bahai was derived from the name *Baha*, and that *Baha* was a person, and more, that he was the founder of a Universal Religion? The answer is of course plain. In such a case, they would have been refused the trade-mark!" (211).
"Hence, the trade-mark on the symbol of the *MOST GREAT NAME*, the application for which was signed by Mr. Horace Holley, Secretary, constitutes the rock-bottom of infidelity in the annals of the Bahai Administration. No further act, however black, can rival this one" (218).
"The National Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada has two faces--liberal and orthodox; democratic and totalitarian; and these faces are mirrored on the pages of their twin publications, entitled *World Order* and *Bahai News*. The former, which is intended for the public, reflects broad modern ideas; the latter, published for *Bahais Only*, presents articles and news designed to bolster up and maintain a despotic and illogical system" (223). ["The American Baha'i" now serves the role of the latter.]
"Here we see that, while the National Spiritual Assembly asserts that religious controversy is not a quality of America, it allows itself the very un-American action of dragging its fellow-believers into the law-courts over nothing more nor less than a *religious controversy*. While it states that in this country a varied population has been assured freedom of conscience and the individual right to worship God according to any practice, it exerts itself to deprive the members of The New History Society and all liberal Bahais of this very *individual right to worship* God according to their convictions and beliefs. While it speaks of the *climate of tolerance*, it disseminates among its communities the poison of theological controversy and, without mercy or let-up, persecutes the liberal elements within its own ranks. But then, this piece of writing is for the public, while the actual doctrines of the Bahai Administration may be studied by the elect within the pages of the *Bahai News*" (224).
"It is true that the National Spiritual Assembly, once in a while before its own membership, pretends to value the assets conferred by these United States. In a letter dated February 15, 1941, and addressed to *Bahai Friends*, it questions mournfully: 'In our favored country we are still in possession of our freedom, our possessions, our liberty of thought--how long will they last?' Indeed, not long if this institution has its way! The present day Bahai organization is the model upon which an alleged world order is to be fashioned; and what a world order it will be, judging from the pattern! The individual is not allowed to use his conscience, but must adhere to the rulings of his superiors without regard to modern social issues or humanitarian inclinations; above all, without regard to the Bahai teachings. Under these conditions, the better elements in the group are forced to maintain a painful silence, leaving the conduct of affairs to those of less sensitive fibre. It is largely for this reason that the Bahais keep themselves aloof from current affairs. They function on a basis that is untenable; consequently, they cannot look the world eye to eye. I have heard more than one of their leaders speaking on public platforms in Geneva, Switzerland, at times when that city was the hub of advanced thought, and these outstanding Bahais could not bring themselves to the point of pronouncing the name of Baha'u'llah. Why this? Simply because the Bahai Administration has produced a complex among its advocates. The Guardian himself never ventures into the public" (225).
[The nsa regarding its lawsuit against Sohrab]: "The community of believers at any given time represents many different stages of development, and the hostility of the betrayer and the foe comes as a necessary and helpful test of the individual believer's understanding and firmness. That is all, except for the further consideration that the Faith acquires public influence and esteem through the dramatization of its vital principles under onslaught or denial" (227).
"My opinion is that, at whatsoever door the agitation may justly be laid, a law court is at no time a fit place for controversy among the followers of Abdul-Baha" (229).
"The outcome of this charge was the same as that of all the other charges: it fell to the ground because it was totally unsubstantiated. All this is funny, in a sense; and yet actually, it is not funny that those who signed this document should so lend themselves to deception and untruth" (242).
"Creeds and articles of faith were formulated by succeeding generations of theologians, men who had lost the vision of the Prophets and were wandering in the waste desert of metaphysical speculations. This is what happened to Christianity. It is happening to the Bahai Cause today--with only a difference of terminology: The Bahai theologians call themselves Administrators" (259).
Regarding the Apostle's Creed
"Precautions taken by the Founders. It was too much to expect that the Bahai Cause would be immune to this process of stratification, but both Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha did their very best to avoid such a calamity. Through continuous explanations, they made vivid this danger in order that the Bahai Movement might be fore-armed and protected from the errors of the previous religions. They were most emphatic on the points that this Cause is universal and all-inclusive; that it does not lead itself to the creation of an hierarchical order; that its fundamental basis is unity and not ecclesiastical distinctions; that it is essentially a spiritual fellowship and not a sectarian corporation with exclusive privileges; that its charter is freedom from worldly and material constitutions, and that its greatness depends upon non-crystallization and open portals.... The above shows the emphasis that Baha'u'llah placed on conduct, and on activity in the path of God. Morality and not creeds, deeds and not words; service and not articles of faith" (261).
"It took almost two centuries for Christian theologians to formulate *The Old Roman Creed* and thus insert in the pure Faith a yard-stick and a bludgeon. In this instance, however, it took only a few years for *Bahai theologians*, under the more modern title of *Bahai Administrators*, to set up *The Bahai Creed* which, reducing the Cause from spirit to matter, has already become more authoritative and binding than *all* the teachings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha" (263).
"Thus, within the narrow limits of less than six years after the departure of Abdul Baha, a few American Bahais wrote the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws, submitted them to Shoghi Effendi and received his sanction. In this manner, the young Cause, so lately deprived of its great Protector, was, without loss of time, shoved into an institution--a mere waif, the latest one to enter the dark edifice of Religious Organization" (263).
"The above articles of Bahai Creed and Confession demonstrate that, notwithstanding the warnings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha, their Cause is today as handicapped and circumscribed as are any of the institutionalized religions" (268-269).
"These articles of the Bahai Creed are the harbingers to an era of obscurantism in this glorious movement. They are compounded of bigotry in all its gruesome forms and pave the way to moral darkness. This desire for concentrated authority is in direct opposition to inquiry and enlightenment. It is a mediaevalizing tendency. In the Middle Ages we had dry scholasticism; in the Bahai Cause we have arid administrative legalism. The Bahai Administration is the progeny of religious intolerance, obviously injurious to spiritual freedom and ethical emancipation. The Articles of Creed as quoted are implements of torture in the hands of a Bahai Administrative Obscurantist. According to his standard, the Bahai Cause is to be run, not by the fresh springs of inspiration, but by the elixir distilled from the withered flowers of administrative theology" (270).
"The impulse to Bahai Obscurantism, or to any other form of obscurantism, arises from a deeply rooted, if not an inherent, tendency in human nature to distrust free inquiry. This tendency becomes aggravated when it operates in the sphere of religion. An uneasy suspicion of knowledge and its results; a dislike for a liberal and inquisitive mind, and a feeling of fear in regard to independent investigation of the truth as for something not wholly good for any one--these sentiments have contributed to the evolution of Bahai Obscurantism, which is the herald of professional or class exclusiveness in the Cause as exemplified by the National Spiritual Assembly, and the local assemblies" (271).
"One observes the distortion of truth on the part of the Bahai Obscurantists by their unwholesome preference for that which is secondary and derivative, as contrasted with that which is primary and fundamental; by their leanings toward the accretions and embellishments of administration, as contrasted with the sources of inspiration; toward the peculiarities of theories and creeds, as contrasted with the Bahai obligations which are universally binding.
The dislike of the sophisticated, intellectualized Americans, like some of the Bahai administrators, for those common, simple, universal realities of the Bahai Cause, which are the very soul of this movement, has taken practical effect in the substitution of mechanistic, legalistic, administrative and organized authority for the seeing eye and illumined heart--and the result has been a gradual diminishing of reliance on the spiritual teachings of the Cause and a total absence of enthusiasm on its behalf" (272).
"The Bahai message is a call to religious unity and not an invitation to a new religion, not a new path to immortality. God forbid! It is the ancient path cleared of the debris of imaginations and superstitions of men, of the debris of strife and misunderstanding, and is again made a clear path to the sincere seeker, that he may enter therein in assurance and find that the word of God is one word, though the speakers were many" (275).
"If we throw away the shell--organization--at the very core we shall find the kernel--Love--in all its splendor and simplicity--and that Love will make us free! Throughout his life, Abdul Baha was most emphatic on this subject: No organization, no ecclesiasticism and theology, no limitations and restrictions in the Bahai Cause. On this tree, all the birds are invited to build their nests and raise their broods. Toward this heaven, they all can soar and flood the earth with their golden songs. In order to engrave the vital principle of non-organization upon the minds of the Bahais, East and West, North and South, Abdul Baha often spoke on this subject, with power and authority" (277).
"The above clear and emphatic words of Abdul Baha were used in the course of public addresses as one of the most characteristic teachings of the Cause. They were quoted over and over again in numerous articles and sundry publications. Abdul Baha had sounded the clarion call: No Organization in the Bahai Cause; and the echo of this order reverberated through the corridors of the minds and spirits, for a time--and then it died away" (277-278).
"It remains a tragic commentary on the undeveloped nature of the American Bahais that the institution of the Mashreq-Ul-Azkar, the erection of which was intended to create centers of divine emotions, actually became the mainspring for the organizing of a spiritual cause and was the origin of the reduction of this movement to the status of an ecclesiastical order" (283).
"The tendency toward organization had, from the very beginning, existed among the American Bahais, but it remained for Mr. Holley to develop it, to officialize it, to make it obligatory and to place the details of Bahai housekeeping (and not very good housekeeping at that) on a level with the Teachings of the Revelator of the Modern Age" (291).
"The spirituality that one could somehow feel in the two previous constitutions is utterly missing in this portentous and formidable Declaration of Trust . It is an ice-bound, juridical document. Its articles are like hailstones that pierce and cut into the heart of the reader; its phrases are so wind-laden that they transform the balmy atmosphere of the Paradise of Abha into the frigid immensities of Nova Zembla; it is the apotheosis of an inflexible organization, the hypostasis of the machine; it is the Bastille of Paris, the Tower of London and the Concentration Camp of the Third Reich all rolled into one, and striking terror into the soul of a most hardy champion of freedom of conscience!" (305).
"The point that I want to establish and which I believe is already proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that the *Declaration of Trust* and *By-laws* originated in the brain of an American, or in the brains of Americans and that the Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha had nothing to do with it" (308).
"The officials now began to soft-pedal the phrase: *The Bahai Cause is not an organization*, and to remove it, little by little, from conspicous places in their literature; yet, to their discomfiture, the words remained engraven on the minds of the people" (318).
"Thus, the campaign developed, increasing in momentum and presently *all* reports, programs, lectures, publicity, radio broadcasts, annual Conventions, youth activities, membership, elections became *colored* with expressions becoming to the Administration; until finally in 1928, a book containing the early letters of Shoghi Effendi was published under the title *Bahai Administration*. This book, with the authority back of it, crystallized the plan and made the name permanent" (319).
"Only the old Bahais can appreciate what the writer means by *the elimination of any non-Bahai views* It was no gentle elimination, but actually a Hitlerian purge conducted with full present-day Nazi efficiency. And as to *re-education!* That is where the *give-away* comes in; for in that period, which the writer frankly designates as dating from the departure of the Master, the poor simple Bahais were educated along totally different lines from those which they knew and loved, and which they believed to be the *Cause*" (320).
"Here then, in plain language, we have nine Hitlers, or nine Mussolinis, or nine Stalins, all rolled into one; or probably we have a few of each species, combining their authority over, not 80 million Germans and more than 100 million conquered peoples, 45 million Italians and 175 million Russians, but over the conscience and activities of 2584 plain, simple, folksy, democratic Americans. With such paraphernalia to hold them in order, these American Bahais must indeed be the most unruly and rebellious people on the face of the earth!" (323).
"Adbul Baha told his followers that the Bahai Cause was not a *new* religion, and that it was their mission to carry the leaven of tolerance into all circles, thus little by little, demolishing sectarian lines of demarcation; yet the Administration has adopted a policy of complete RELIGIOUS ISOLATION, raising such iron-clad frontiers around their constituents that none of them can overstep them or presume to adhere to the injunction of Baha'u'llah: *Associate with the people of all religions with joy and fragrance*" (325).
"In this manner has the Administration adopted a policy of SOCIAL ISOLATION, impossible to reconcile with the contents of most of the addresses delivered by Abdul Baha in Europe and America, for these deal with the abolition of political boundaries, the eradication of social limitations, the ensuring of the economic prosperity of mankind and the establishment of a new commonwealth of humanity based on freedom, justice and peace. And again, as our minds dwell on the Teachings, now so completely obscured, we come with a shock on the words of Baha'u'llah: *Oh people . . . be intent on the betterment of the world and the training of nations*" (327).
"This is the building up of a theocratic order, so intransigent, so frightful, that nothing hitherto imagined can match it. Shoghi Effendi is indeed correct in saying that his system is unique and has no parallel in all the annals of history!" (333).
"An integral part of an organization is *funds* and *fund raising*, and from this dreary aspect of concerted effort the Bahai Administration is not exempt; in fact, the National Spiritual Assembly has so accentuated the subject of contributions that *money* ranks alongside of *authority* as the second feature in italics of the Cause as it stands today" (333).
"Everybody who accepts the Faith at the hands of the Administration places himself or herself under the severe obligation of contributing funds to the movement, while those who acquire the Teachings through other channels undergo no taxation whatsoever. It is evident that the Administration, having in mind the dram of world dominion (which dream seems to include one of universal taxation), would consider such independent individuals or groups as a menace to its plan for temporal power, and this undoubtedly explains, in part, the disfavor in which The New History Society is held" (336).
"My Object. I have herein outlined the circumstances which led to the founding, development and establishment of the Bahai Administration, an institution which by this time has so identified itself with the Cause that the large majority of Bahais feel that this universal movement, born in Persia, is unauthentic without the trade-mark: *Made in the United States*. Like an octopus, this sinister organism has wound itself about its victim, while the *faithful*, ever obedient to authority and power, stifle whatsoever instincts of responsibility that yet remain in their hearts. Now, I do not flatter myself with the hope of making even a dent on the consciousness of those who follow the Administration; such is not my object in writing this book. I merely wish to set down, as a record for the future, a few notes of historic importance, believing that no one else is possessed of the knowledge, the documentation and the *will* to do so. In addition, I am inserting the views of an individual who loves the Cause devotedly and who believes that he understands, in some measure, the liberal and lofty intentions of Abdul Baha. Perhaps, some day, when mankind has learned much through suffering, a few scholars will look through these pages and gain a new impression of the movement. But, this is for the future and what the future holds, no man knows"(337).
"For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Now, the Lord is that spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Epistle of Paul, II Corinthians, Chapter 3, Verses 6 and 17. Quoted (353).
"Baha'u'llah was a champion of religious liberty, an apostle of intellectual freedom and the advocate of man's emancipation from the fetters of dogmas and creeds. His teachings inaugurated an era of human brotherhood on a logical foundation, and made a royal circle of universal understanding among the religions, nations and races. Consequently, the Bahai Cause stands for equality, and this equality of course can have no meaning except equal rights for *all*; nor can there be a functioning of equal rights unless the individual is allowed liberty to act according to his best judgment and the dictates of his conscience" (357).
"In the words of Baha'u'llah which I have repeatedly quoted throughout the preceding paragraphs, we plainly see that the supreme mission of this Prophet has been to confer upon the population of the entire earth the inalienable rights of liberty of religion, of speech and of the press. Evidently, emancipation of mind and spirit is a fundamental doctrine of the Bahai Cause, even as it is an elementary law of the United States. It originates in the liberation of a moral personality, working towards the Highest Good--the *Supreme Concourse*, or in Christian terminology, the Kingdom of Heaven" (362-363).
"According to Hitler's policy makers, the Nazi regime of dictatorship is set at one thousand years; but, to the National Spiritual Assembly such a period is but a short and fleeting moment. Its vision is far more grandiose; indeed, it envisaged a *perpetual* dictatorship to be imposed on every aspect of spiritual life, backed by the laws of the United States" (370).
"Yet, the while I ask these questions, I know very well that our supposed sins are far greater than these, and more serious: We do not surrender our religious liberty nor submit to the corporate and ecclesiastical authority of the National Spiritual Assembly. We turn to Baha'u'llah without asking permission. We carry the name of Abdul Baha in our hearts and on our lips. We spread the ideals of peace and brotherhood as taught by these, our beloved Masters. We hold meetings and deliver lectures on spiritual subjects relative to the Bahai Cause. We write and publish leaflets, pamphlets and books on the Bahai Movement. Yes, we perpetrate all these actions, in love happiness and freedom; we have stepped out into the open spaces of service, unmindful of obligations imposed on us to remain on perpetual parole and on perpetual probation; and these crimes have been committed in broad daylight, unblushingly and with no tremors of fear. Indeed, we are fully aware of the fact that few Bahais would have acted as we have" (371).
"Now, the National Spiritual Assembly turns the key, opening toward Baghdad and pours reproaches upon the officials of that city because, in their dealings with the Bahais, they do not put into practice *the principle of liberty of conscience and religion* as embodied in their Organic Law. Then, this same Assembly turns the key opening toward New York and pours reproaches, even more vehement, upon a group of Bahais in The New History Society, because they have allowed themselves to put into practice *the principle of the liberty of conscience and religion* as taught by Baha'u'llah and Adbul Baha, and as embodied in the Bill of Rights" (376).
"Now, the point which I again wish to call to the attention of the reader is the contradictory attitude of the National Spiritual Assembly which, on the one hand, puts forward such a stupendous amount of time, energy and money to lift the ban on entry of Bahai literature in *Persia*, on the basis of *the power of religious freedom and international communication customary in modern times*; while, on the other hand, it spends a very appreciable amount of time, energy and money to place a ban on this same literature in the *United States* (380).
"To my mind, the major tenor of Bahai life is the process of the transmutation of authority into liberty; of tradition into freedom of thought and action; it is the ceaseless renovation of habits and customs and the incoming and outgoing of the spirit of truth to and from the heart of a Bahai. No individual or group should have dictatorial rights over other individuals or groups, and everyone should be allowed to function as a Bahai according to the dictates of his conscience.
In our striving after freedom of conscience and liberty, we have been accused by the National Spiritual Assembly of a tendency to break away from the divine government; of a destructive effort to atomize the distinctive teachings of the Cause; of planning to bring about dissolution of discipline and order. But the National Spiritual Assembly has lost sight of the important fact that a human Bahai personality must possess the moral privilege of expressing itself in thought and action, and that it is entitled, through divine right, to emancipation which in itself is the essence of discipline and the substratum of the divine order.
A moral Bahai personality has two aspects. The first is the universal aspect, which I call the religious or the spiritual, in virtue of which every Bahai ought to have complete and unchallenged right to idealistic and ethical self-expression. Here, freedom of conscience holds court with no rival; here, we enjoy liberty of thought, undivided and whole. Then, there is the individual aspect, to which I ascribe legal or state obligations. Here, the individual Bahai, as a member of society, is called upon to observe the laws of the State and realize the fact that, although he is free to break any of these laws, he is at the same time liable to be hauled into court and punished for his infractions.
Today, in the civilized world, there is *no* religious tribunal that can *compel* a man to appear before it on account of his so-called heresies or unbeliefs in the doctrines of the church. In the moral sphere, there is no judge to condemn a person. The religious authorities may excommunicate him, but such an act will not be legal in any state court and will simply be regarded as the decision of a group of ecclesiastical disciplinarians.
In brief, the relation subsisting between an individual Bahai and his group must be conditioned by the incontrovertible postulate that, as a moral personality, he shall have all rights to think and act spontaneously and consistently according to his own spiritual insight" (381-382).
"Independent Investigation. A fundamental law of religion and philosophy is freedom of inquiry and investigation, together with the inalienable right of each individual to express the result of his search without any external control or official supervision. *Censorship* as applied to the fruits of the spirit is the negation of the spirit itself" (385).
"On his visit to this country, Abdul Baha was asked: What is the greatest thing you have seen in America? and he answered: *The greatest thing I have seen in America is its freedom" (386).
"A Dramatic Change. This attitude of religious liberalism and freedom of conscience; this *idealization* of the *liberty of thought and right of speech*; this *right of unrestricted individual belief* came to an end with the departure of Abdul Baha from this life, in 1921. Immediately, a sudden and dramatic change of principle and policy was inaugurated, for Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahai Cause, in a letter dated March 5, 1922, created a censorship to be applied not only to all Bahai writings and books, but to all other matters as well.... This desire to control the thoughts and actions of the Bahai community, this drive toward the centralization of authority, this creation of a board of censorship, this plan of bringing under the full jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly *all* matters pertaining to the Bahai Cause is, to say the least, in strange and incomprehensible contrast to the broad tolerance and liberality of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha" (387-389).
"With such intensive control exercised over every department of the Bahai Cause, the believers become mere automata, having no will of their own, no incentive and no initiative to start any original undertaking; for, they are at all times conscious that, at any moment, the heavy hand of the National Spiritual Assembly may fall upon them and destroy their labors" (391).
"What a system! Apparently we are a lot of wayward children. Every word, spoken or written, must be scrutinized; every action must be controlled. We are, indeed, according to these extraordinary orders, as dead men in the hands of an undertaker. Why, in heaven's name, become Bahais? What benefits do we receive from this spiritual totalitarianism?" (391-392).
"This Reviewing Committee or Board of Censorship is patterned on the church authorities of the Middle Ages whose function it was to suppress the expression of free thought" (392).
"If in any realm more than any other we need freedom, it is in the domain of religion. History has shown us that censorship may deprive a nation of its best leadings and inspirations. Again, I assert that no man or body of men is wise enough or tolerant enough to be entrusted with power controlling the expression of thought, either in the Catholic Church or outside of it. The right of free speech and free press is the most precious possession of man, and there is no authority on the face of the earth which has the right to withhold it" (394).
"Having placed all kinds of iron fences around the Kingdom of Bahai thought, closing the *Way of Freedom* that Baha'u'llah had *opened* and sealing *the Fountain of Knowledge* which was intended to flood the earth with its salubrious waters, the legislator of the Reviewing Committee solemnly affirms:--
The purpose of this statement is to assure proper protection of the interests of the bahai faith, while providing sufficient freedom of action to individual believers under all circumstances.
In reading the above *statement* one cannot help wondering what are the particular *interests of the Bahai Faith* which need *proper protection!* Does God and His Truth stand in need of the protecting arm of the National Spiritual Assembly? Or, is it the people who are to be protected from contamination through the Love of God; and are we to combine in a union to bar the common run of humanity from access to the life-giving words of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha?
Yet, in regard to the clause which provides *sufficient freedom to individual believers*, probably, it is appropriate to offer a vote of thanks to the National Spiritual Assembly for this largesse on their part, so royally meted out. *Sufficient freedom?* Of course! It is a superfluity, even beyond our deserts. Why should we be grasping? As intellectual and spiritual bondsmen to the National Spiritual Assembly, we must accept our lowly station, and in all obsequiousness stoop to pick up the crumbs that fall from the table of our Administrative masters! Who are we, and what are we that we should dare to even *think* of more freedom? The members of the National Spiritual Assembly are all-wise, and they say that it is sufficient. So, sufficient it is and sufficient it must be! We should ask no questions. As model slaves, it is fitting that we obliterate ourselves before our superiors. We should pray that we be characterized with the qualities of meekness, deference, compliance and subserviency. We should, in all humility, present our allegiance to these shepherds who have assembled us under the overhanging rock of their salvation and who, in solicitude for us, have set aside appropriate and *sufficient* pasture-land, where in we may graze and offer them our thanksgiving at dawn and at sunset" (397-398).
"A Divine Legacy. Just the same, there are some who cannot blot out the memory of the Bahai Cause as it was taught once upon a time and who, in spite of prevailing conditions, yet hold to the teachings of Baha'u'llah and the universal expositions of them as dispensed by Abdul Baha. Man's reason contains a truth which has existed since the dawn of human history: his spirit is enveloped with a light which was enkindled by God at the very foundation of creation. This is no other than a divine legacy reserved for us by the Maker of the Universe. The Prophets appeared upon the earth to remind us of these preternatural truths, which so consistently have been defaced by spiritual charlatans and perverted by superstitious organizations. In our own times, Baha'u'llah came to restore these lost truths through the free exercise of rational and celestial faculties; and now, while powerful influences, actually *within* the established Faiths, have arisen to assist mankind in this process of emancipation, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada, pitifully claiming to represent the foremost liberal element in religion, has formed another set of dogmas wherewith to throttle free thought and subvert the essential liberty of human expression in all its diversified manifestations. Censorship, in the social domain, is an outmoded tyranny; in the spiritual realm, it is unwholesome and impracticable. Censorship is not wanted anywhere, especially in the Bahai Cause; and if we allow it to retain the upper hand in the great movement that has been entrusted to us, we will set ourselves up before the world and in the face of history as false trustees, and as men and women unworthy and unfit to call ourselves Bahais" (398-399).
"The leaders of the Bahai Administration in America have for years been carrying on an ideological flirtation with the totalitarian religious systems of the past, copying their methods and procedures, and manifesting the while a pride and satisfaction as if they had discovered an entirely new system. Nevertheless, the incomparable worth of Baha'u'llah's genius lies in the fact that he has constructed for the children of this generation a spiritual fortress which shall protect the rights of man against the encroachment of all religious dictators, whether in the Bahai Administration or outside of it" (401).
"A Dangerous Doctrine. In considering the problem of fear, let us for a while study the writings of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Cause, and see how he handles this vital subject.... The three published volumes of Shoghi Effendi are *Baha'i Administration, The World Order of Baha'u'llah* and *The Advent of Divine Justice*, which works consist of the letters which he has addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly in the course of the last 20 years. Now, I have read these three books and find that the words *enemies* and *adversaries* are greatly featured. Baha'u'llah has said: *Consort with all men with joy and fragrance, yet Shoghi Effendi, in his very first letter, dated January 21, 1992, written after his assumption of the guardianship, recommends *the absolute shunning of whomsoever we feel to be an enemy of the Cause. (*Bahai Administration, page 16.) Now, I cannot bring myself to the point of believing that *absolute shunning* of whomsoever we *feel* to be the enemy of the Cause is a principle of Baha'u'llah. Is every one going to let his *feelings* guide him in the matter? Can we not take for granted that frail human beings as we are, a great deal of personal caprice and spite may enter into our calculations as to *who* is the enemy of the Bahai Cause? This is a very dangerous doctrine, and yet one finds it in different forms throughout Shoghi Effendi's communications. He practically never mentions the names of the *enemies* or *adversaries* to whom he constantly refers. He simply creates ogres and bogey men, and fills the hearts of the Bahais with apprehension and fear. In this way, the fountain-head of free and open comradeship is dried up and the flowers of loving-kindness wither away" (409-410).
"Fear Complex. Through the publication and wide distribution of these instructions, the National Spiritual Assembly and its followers have come down with an acute attack of ecclesiastical goose-flesh and much energy is spent in locating these *enemies* and in unearthing their *plots*. Gossip becomes fact, and facts assume distorted proportions. Consequently, a chain of correspondence is established among the various Spiritual Assemblies, the object of which is to hunt down the enemies and expose them. Meanwhile, hatred is engendered and the spirit of tolerance, mercy and forgiveness is trampled underfoot" (418-419).
"In regard to being an *enemy of the Faith*, to this I definitely make objection; nor do I allow this statement to pass without making flat denial. If the upholding of the freedom of the Cause, is enmity to the Cause; if the teaching of the Bahai principles, is *instilling* poison into the minds of the hearers, then I assert, and without reserve, that Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha were enemies of the Cause, *par excellence*, and that their words were the essence of poison upon poison" (425).
"Thus, it is made most difficult for Eastern people of all faiths and creeds to come in contact with American Bahais and to learn of the Cause; and then to cap this gorgeous structure of exclusiveness and intolerance, a bar is made, preventing even the American Bahais, travelling from one city to another, from visiting local Assemblies or having a chat with individual believers, if these travelers happen to be unarmed with the proper *credentials*.... Segregation! They name, is indeed, Bahai Organization!" (429).
"Thus, we can see that Shoghi Effendi and the National Spiritual Assembly throughout these years have built a segregated community--a community, the members of which are taught to suspect the motives and actions of the most innocent--an isolated, self-centered, self-satisfied community, living behind the iron walls of a prison which Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha thought to destroy" (431).
"Now, I deny the temporal and spiritual right of excommunication as exercised in the past by the ecclesiastical institutions; and I reject claims to the same prerogatives which are maintained today by those who hold themselves as the shepherds of the flocks. Long enough has religion been defaced by this inhuman contraption, operated by so-called *holy* men! Long enough have these far-from-holy-men manipulated the conscience of mankind through their demoniacal devices and, terming themselves the Vice-Gerents of the Most High, imposed their anti-spiritual and anti-social dogmas on a defenseless and innocent humanity! The people of the world must awaken to the realization that God, who is the fountain-head of all blessings, was not, is not and will never be an excommunicator. He is no God of wrath and vengeance, but a God of understanding and compassion. All those who sat on the thrones of authority, expelling and anathematizing the *dissenters*, did not themselves know what faith meant and had no share in the truth that they pretended to promulgate. The greatest service that could be rendered to religion is to lift from its brow the dark curse of excommunication and to demand, nay to insist, that this law be struck out from the creeds of all faiths. As long as it retains its place, even theoretically, in the Articles of the Confessions of various sects and denominations, the establishment of the principles of a Universal Religion and a Univesal God will remain an impossibility. Therefore we, the people of the world, must eradicate from the pages of our spiritual consciousness the language of hate and denunciation, and obliterate from our religious books the rules of expulsion and anathema" (434-435).
"The Bahais are therefore called upon, by the Revelator himself, to speak in the language of love and to protect themselves from the dust of lies; and the greatest lie of all the ages is that a compassionate God is the excommunicator of His own children or that He approves excommunication in His Name" (436).
"Bahai Administration Follows Suit. The few quotations from the writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that their central aim was the abolition of all exclusive acts and of every sectarian tendency. This one all-embracing spirit distinguishes their cause from all the past religions. Yet, *alas, this limitation, this explusion, this excommunication*, which Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha entreated their followers to renounce and cast away, these evil spirits of a by-gone age, these gibbering goblins of a lost generation have been taken up by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States and Canada and incorporated in the fundamental laws of their ecclesiastical organization. The pity of it is that Shoghi Effendi falls in line with their medieval orthodoxy, with the result that today the Bahai world is witnessing religious persecution, heresy-hunting and excommunication according to standard pattern. In addition to this, the National Spiritual Assembly does not permit its *recognized* followers to join any organization, political or religious, and the Bahais are required to cancel any membership they may have in such bodies. Thus, it seems to me that this is not at all *the New World Order of Baha'u'llah* but the very old world order of intolerance, fanaticism, exclusion and spiritual isolation which Baha'u'llah came to destroy. Thanks to the labor and ingenuity of the National Spiritual Assembly and Shoghi Effendi, these liabilities of the dark ages have been recaptured and embodied bag and baggage in this modern and one-time healthy movement" (441-442).
"Now, do we want to bring into the Bahai Cause these relics of barbarism, these inventions of the devil? One may legitimately argue that such conditions will never return to our world. Yet I answer: So long as a single man claims this power and the right to exercise it, and a subservient group yields to his authority, the potential danger of a return to the practices of the Middle Ages *exists*.... On the other hand, it is not difficult to picture the establishment of a type of spiritual cruelty which would not necessitate the burning of heretics at the stake. This is the 20th Century, in spite of the European nightmare, and it is probable that we will content ourselves with more refined methods of persecution. We are able to propagate, by subtle and *civilized* methods, rumors that in time will destroy the character of those whom we are pleased to point out as enemies. Just keep hammering at it, persistently, unremittingly, and, in time, men will be ready to call white black, and day night" (446-447).
"Every soul, in accepting the Bahai Cause, makes a covenant with Baha'u'llah, and that Covenant, neither Shoghi Effendi nor the National or Local Assemblies can ever break. Its foundation is in the deeps of consciousness, and God alone knows its dwelling-place" (448).
"As a result of the doctrine of excommunication propounded by Shoghi Effendi and upheld by the National Spiritual Assembly, the Bahai Cause has taken up all the characteristics of the Church of Rome and, unless this doctrine is publicly repudiated, it will be subject to the same spiritual diseases, with gradual corruption and disintegration" (451).
"The Black Plague. The doctrine of excommunication, appropriated by Shoghi Effendi, is peculiarly the weapon of the Dark Ages of intolerance and ignorance. No other dogma is so distinctly the creation of an irreligious era. It is the black plague in the realm of the mind; it is religious assassination and spiritual murder; it is an abomination unto the Lord of Mercy and Truth. The spiritual and cultural manifestations of the Renaissance as well as the courage and sacrifice of thousands of lovers of freedom contributed to wrest (to all intents and purposes) the power of excommunication from the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and to establish in Europe and America the age of the liberty of Religion. Does it then seem credible that Shoghi Effendi is so unmindful of the history of the past that he has brought himself to believe that he can bring back into the Western world the doctrine of excommunication? Are the members of the National Spiritual Assembly so blind to the significant events in the United States during the last hundred and fifty years that they hope to succeed in establishing on these shores a religious tribunal, with authority to expel from the Cause those believers whom they are unable to brow-beat into submission?" (453).
"If the Bahai Cause aspires to spread its teachings far and wide and gain the respect and devotion of mankind, now or in the future, it must purge itself of *all* the religious limitations of the past. It must submit to a process of complete self-purification and then dedicate itself to the progressive, spiritual, social and intellectual interests of our fellowmen.
The doctrine of excommunication has *not one* good thing in its favor. It has set men against men and class against class. It has made the leaders of religions suspicious and revengeful, leaving behind an accursed memory. It is beyond my comprehension why Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of a Universal Movement, wishes to revive this practically lifeless corpse and so inflict a mortal injury upon the Cause!
In the face of this overriding danger, which is embodied in Shoghi Effendi's claim that as the supreme head of the Cause he has the power to excommunicate or expel the believers, thereby depriving them of their spiritual heritage, no other choice is left to me but to sound the alarm. I have been impelled by motives beyond my control to present this problem before the Bahai world, before the public in general, and before the conscience of an awakening society which, little by little, is becoming aware of the mission of Baha'u'llah (454)."
"Herewith I appeal to Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian designated by the Master, to preserve the democracy of the Bahai Cause, to protect the vital dignity of man, to obliterate all the traces of negation, to herald the universality of the Message of Abdul Baha, and, in so doing, to *expel* expulsion and *excommunicate* excommunication. Such an excommunication would, indeed, be worthwhile!" (455).
**Independent investigation!* The least that can be said of this principle of Baha'u'llah is that the very mention of it has, by this time, become *heresy*" (509).
"Shoghi Effendi expresses *his abhorrence* of political affairs. There is the point! The Guardian, living thousands of miles away, unfamiliar with the democratic processes of the New World, finds them distasteful, chooses to *abhor* them, and then expects all his followers to alter their palates so that they also may abhor them. I myself cannot help questioning the method of bringing personal taste into the problem at all" (508).
"Yes, my gentle reader! Although I admit that it is almost too quaint to be true; for the punishment meted out by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahais who do not accept his ruling of non-participation in the political affairs of the United States is--believe it, if you can--non-participation in the political affairs of the Bahai movement. Actually, the recalcitrant Bahais, who persist in co-operating with their government for the progress of the Democracy which their forefathers established on these shores, are deprived of membership in the Bahai political machine, an institution which has incorporated within itself all the stratagems, tricks and juggleries of Tammany Hall in its most flourishing days. Thus, the recalcitrant Bahai can no longer attended the Annual Bahai Conventions and sit behind closed doors in its secret sessions; he can no longer apply himself to electioneering, possibly for Tenth or Fifteenth Term candidates; he can no longer go to the Bahai polling booths nor take advantage of the Bahai absentee vote; he can no longer share in the little privileges that are allowed to members in good standing nor bask in the sunlight that is shed upon the humble by those who sit in High Places. Alas! He must resign himself to non-participation in Bahai political affairs, now and for evermore, as the price for being a self-respecting citizen of the United States, and for having tried to make his country a better place to live in" (512-513).
"An *organized religion* is hard, dour, rigid, iron-handed and iron-hearted; it is stern, arrogant, coercive and merciless. An *administered religion* has been, is and ever shall remain an *arrested religion*; for the premise that a few individuals or a network of individuals are able to organize or administer the spiritual realities of God, is an assumption as false as it is impertinent, and as outlandish as it is sacrilegious. Here is the test of the true religion: Does it unite the minds and hearts of the people in the task of developing a stable society and a humane civilization? Does it make us more tolerant, more sympathetic, more compassionate, more joyous, more sincere, more loving? If it accomplishes these things, then it is religion, indeed, and it comes straight from the Creator of the Universe" (519).
The h-net version of Sohrab's Broken Silence suppresses FOUR very important pages from the original that are presented here below. These pages were obviously not left out by oversight but reveal how the Baha'i administrative order operates and uses individual "scholars" and publicly funded institutions to suppress, revise, and distort understanding of its own history to suit its designs.
Mrs. Chanler emphasizes liberty and the universal and non-exclusive nature of Baha'u'llah's Teachings.
Describes the declarations of twenty-eight people to the Bahai Cause.
Mrs. Chanler and Sohrab's lawyers refute the claims of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. The New York Supreme Court later also upheld Mrs. Chanler and Sohrab's right to use the name Bahai.
Hon. Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, as Lieutenant-Governor of New York State, in 1906. H-Net, a tax supported Internet system, for scholarly study, also funded by Michigan State University, a publicly-funded institution, is being used by fundamentalist Baha'is to suppress the fact that a former Lieutenant-Governor was the husband of Mrs. Chanler, and supported her and Sohrab, morally and financially, in their decades-long battle to preserve their human right to freedom of speech and conscience.
Excerpts from Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Broken Silence: The Story of Today's Struggle for Religious Freedom.
New York: Universal Publishing, 1942. Entire Book PDF
Please note that in its use of the tactic of fundamentalist "slanderous vilification," the headnote on H-net violates the NEH, MSU, and H-Net's own democratic principles regarding scholarly and academic debate and discussion. The associated links and attempts to discredit Sohrab with bogus legal opinions further substantiate fanatical Baha'i abuse and undermining of the democratic principles that support H-Net, yet another indication of the methods of fanatical baha'is. http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/diglib/books/P-/S/sohrab/Broken.htm
Scholarship worthy of the name, whether conducted by Bahais or non-Bahais, cannot be done without confronting the actual history of the Bahai Faith in America to which Ruth White, Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, and Julie Chanler testify and the issues they raise.
It should be noted that the enormous collection of Bahai and New History Foundation material, including such artifacts as a lock of Baha'u'llah's hair, which Julie Chanler discusses in her autobiography, was acquired by the Baha'is of Wilmette, after the death of Ahmad Sohrab and Julie Chanler. According to Lili Townsend, Chanler's grand-daughter, during a 2007 telephone conversation, stated her own mother, Elsie Benkard-Clarke had bestowed the papers on the NSA of Wilmette upon the representation that they would be made available to researchers. Mrs. Townsend went on to add that she didn't believe anything had ever been done with the papers and clearly had no idea what had happened to them.
Selected Bibliography of works by Ahmad Sohrab:
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. I Heard Him Say. Words of Abdul Baha as Recorded by his Secretary. New York: The New History Foundation, 1937. Entire Book PDF
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Abdul Baha's Grandson: Story of a Twentieth Century
Excommunication. New York: Universal Publishing for The New History Foundation,
1943. Reprinted. H-Bahai: Lansing, Michigan, 2004.
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha, An Analysis. New York: Universal Publishing, 1944.
Sohrab, Mirza Ahmad. The Story of the Divine Plan. Taking Place during, and immediately following World War I. New York: The New History Foundation, 1947. Digitally republished, East Lansing, Mi.: H-Bahai, 2004.
Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. My Bahai Pilgrimage. Autobiography from Childhood to Middle Age. New York: New History Foundation, 1959.
Dr. C. Ainsworth Mitchell. Report on the Writing Shown on the Photographs of the Alleged Will of Abdul-Baha. 1930.
Julie Chanler, From Gaslight to Dawn: An Autobiography. The New History Foundation, 1956.