After the devotional at a recent Feast one of the children asked what the word ‘consultation’ meant. The adults explained it and one mentioned that Shoghi Effendi encouraged Baha’is to be both frank and loving in their deliberations. Driving home I thought more about it and considered that amongst all the wold’s religions, the Baha’i Faith is unique in the scope and range of its consultation. Other religions may have consultative process, councils and the like but ultimately priests and particularly spiritual leaders, can have the final say and those in councils are rarely there through a democratic electoral process chosen from the rank and file of all believers.
All decisions in the Baha’i Faith are the result of consultation, which, following Shoghi Effendi’s guidance is frank and loving. Frankness, however, like Loch Ness can have a monster lurking just below the surface. Nessie is rarely seen and some people do not believe it is there. The monster secreted in Frank Ness is spotted more often, but rarely by the frank themselves. Those who sit patiently on the shores of Frank Ness with their binoculars have given their quarry a name. They call it ego and it can be seen on our televisions most days. The Ruhi process in particular has reminded Baha’is to use, whenever possible, the words of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith when teaching. Added to that Baha’is can proudly demonstrate to enquirers how, throughout the last hundred years and across the globe, a unique effective consultation process using frankness imbued with love and detachment has been created and firmly established. It is far more exciting and ground-breaking than most of us realise.
‘Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority, but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation. Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá’í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand and fellowship, candour and courage on the other.’
(Shoghi Effendi, 23 February 1924 to the Bahá’ís of America, published in “Bahá’í Administration, pp.63/4)