This morning I read the blurb from the Baha'i World News Service about the recent North American Baha'i Studies conference held in San Diego, which finished on 1 September. Hushmand Fatheazam, former member of the Universal House of Justice, gave the Hasan M. Balyuzi Memorial Lecture on the subject "Some Observations on the Scope and Value of Baha'i Scholarship." The news release tells us that Mr. Fatheazam gave the following advice to Baha'i scholars:
"While underlining the vital contributions of Baha'i scholarship to the development of the Baha'i Faith and the progress of society, he cautioned against the temptations of intellectual pride that scholars from all traditions have historically been susceptible to, and urged Baha'is to pursue paths of scholarship with the utmost humility."
This is a favourite theme of those high up in the Baha'i administration: the curse of intellectual pride on the part of Baha'i scholars. Not long before my expulsion, I was invited along to a meeting at my local centre, which was dedicated to this theme and was based on a compilation on Baha'i scholarship and its pitfalls by the House of Justice.
But as I read the above advice, reported as given from one of impeccable community credentials and assured salvation, new thoughts come to me. Why is it that he and his colleagues never apply this theme of intellectual pride to leaders of religion? The scholars are invariably singled out and cautioned, as if they're poised to run amok like Baha'i youth at a summer school. But never a word about leaders of religion. It strikes me as a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
The theme of pride and, indeed, "veils of glory" as it relates to leaders of religion, far from being an obscure idea, is one Baha'u'llah emphasised, and gets a lot of airing in the writings. For example:
"Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people." (Kitab-i-Iqan, p 15, emphasis mine)
"But as they [the Christians] failed to recognize the accents of God and the divine mysteries and holy allusions enshrined in that which flowed from the tongue of Muhammad, and as they neglected to examine the matter in their own hearts, and followed instead those priests of error who have hindered the progress of the people in past dispensations and who will continue to do so in future cycles, they were thus veiled from the divine purpose, failed to quaff from the celestial streams, and deprived themselves of the presence of God, the Manifestation of His Essence, and the Dayspring of His eternity." (Gems of Divine Mysteries, paragraph 54, emphasis mine)
The theme in the writings that leaders of religion fall prey to intellectual pride, and lead people away from recognising the manifestation, is not discussed at Baha'i conferences. Instead, the evidence is that Baha'i leaders of religion persist in reminding scholars about their uncontrollable egos, sending scholars scuttling into dark corners lest they inadvertently catch their leaders' unwelcome attention. Given this climate of 'learning', I shouldn't think there was any danger a scholar worthy of the name would raise the subject of leaders of religion going bad - unless, of course, it was to argue that the House of Justice isn't a leader of religion, or is infallible and therefore not subject to the failings of those Baha'u'llah identified. Or perhaps the matter has been put to rest by the Department of the Secretariat in a letter to an individual: "There is nothing in the Writings to support the view that the opposition or persecution [of the next manifestation] will be instigated or inflicted by the Universal House of Justice." Letter from the Department of the Secretariat, 1997