views updated May 29 2018


BAHÁʾÍ. Originating in Persia in the mid-nineteenth century, the Baháʾí Faith is the youngest of the independent world religions. It is also one of the fastest growing and most widespread of religions with about 7 million adherents in over 220 countries. Founded by the prophet Baháʾuʾlláh, the faith is built on the fundamental principles of unity and justice and the necessary convergence of spiritual and social development. The faith embraces a concept of progressive revelation that assigns equal status to previous prophets, who are known as "manifestations of God." There is only one God. As perfect reflections of God the manifestations occupy a status between the human and the divine. Each prophet brings the same core message as well as new teachings suited to the time and place of his particular revelation and the stage of development of humanity. Baháʾuʾlláh's purpose, as the latest of these manifestations of god, is to usher in a new world order of peace and prosperity for the human race.

Dietary codes and prohibitions are absent in the Baháʾí sacred writings. Rather than rules there is an emphasis on guidance and on the responsibility of individual believers to live a virtuous life. Food rules and practices are often used as boundary markers in religions and as a way for believers to assert their faith identities. The absence of such prescriptive dietary codes in Baháʾí teachings exemplifies the Baháʾí concept of the unity of humankind by removing one boundary between races, cultures, and religions. There is no symbolic value attached to particular foods, nor are there foods that are associated with specific rituals or celebrations. Generally speaking Baháʾís follow local dietary custom. Nevertheless, there are three aspects of food that are explicitly addressed in Baháʾí sacred writings: the relationship of diet to health, fasting, and commensality as exemplified in the Nineteen Day Feast.

Role of Religion in Shaping Daily Diet

There is a special concern for the strength and wellbeing of the body as the temple of the human spirit. The body should be a willing, obedient, and efficient servant, kept in good health so that the Baháʾí can devote all his or her energy to serving Baháʾuʾlláh's purpose. To this end, Baháʾís are expected to take responsibility for looking after their own health, in which diet plays an essential role. Both asceticism and hedonism are to be avoided; the former because it is an inappropriate withdrawal from the world and a rejection of what God has provided, and the latter because one should not be preoccupied with material possessions. Instead, moderation is advised as a means to achieve a state of "detachment" necessary to attain true understanding of God's will.

The ideal regime is a balanced natural diet that is adapted to local climate and to the type of work in which the body is engaged. Although animal food is not forbidden, meat-eating is considered to be only a temporary necessity of the current age, one that will give way in the future to vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is portrayed as being a compassionate practice, for the killing of animals blunts the spiritual qualities of the human race. A meatless diet is also natural in that it uses simple foods that grow from the ground. Finally, vegetarianism is just; one should not eat lavishly while others starve.

Food is not only seen to be the chief way of maintaining health, but also the preferred means for treatment of disease. Health and disease are conceived of in terms of balance and bodily equilibrium reminiscent of Greek humoral theory and Ayurvedic conceptions of hot and cold. Disease arises from disturbances to the balance of the body, which can be restored through consumption of food containing the necessary elements to bring it back to health. Although a time is foreseen when improved medical knowledge and understanding will enable all illness to be treated by food, Baháʾís are enjoined to take full advantage of the best that current medicine has to offer and to seek the services of competent physicians when they are ill.

Fasting and Feasting

There is only one annual fast prescribed for Baháʾís. The precepts of the fast are laid down in the Kitab-I-Aqdas, or Most Holy Book, of Baháʾuʾlláh and along with obligatory prayer it is the most important of Baháʾí ritual obligations. The fast bears a marked resemblance to Islamic practice, the context in which it emerged. The Baháʾí fasting period lasts nineteen days from the second to the twentieth of March, and requires complete abstention from food and drink between the hours of sunrise and sunset. It is a period of meditation and prayer, a chance to renew one's spiritual self, and a reminder of the need to abstain from selfish desires. The fast is binding on Baháʾís in all countries but it is an individual obligation, not enforceable by Baháʾí administrative institutions. It applies to all believers from the age of maturity (thought of as age fifteen) until seventy, with exemptions for travelers under specified conditions; the sick; women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing; and those engaged in heavy labor, who are advised to be discrete and restrained in availing themselves of this exemption. Unlike in the Islamic model, fasters who are unable to meet their commitment do not have to offer any sort of restitution or make up the missed days later. Nor are sexual relations prohibited during fasting periods. Baháʾís are allowed to fast at other times of the year but this is not encouraged, and is rarely done. Fasting itself is only acceptable if it is done purely out of love for God. This is reminiscent of the importance of niyyah or intent in the Islamic fast of Ramadan.

Feast has a particular meaning in the Baháʾí Faith, referring to the monthly community meeting known as the Nineteen-Day Feast. The original purpose of the Baháʾí feast was a means of creating fellowship, and is rooted in the Persian tradition of hospitality. Baháʾuʾlláh enjoined believers to entertain nineteen people every nineteen days even if only water was provided. Over time the feast shifted from being a display of personal hospitality to becoming an institutional event. The modern Nineteen-Day Feast is held in each Baháʾí community on the first day of each Baháʾí month, and consists of three parts. The first is devotional and consists of readings from the Baháʾí sacred writings; the second is a consultative meeting where administrative and community issues are discussed; the third is a social gathering at which food is served. What is served is at the discretion of the host and is guided by personal preference and local custom. The Nineteen-Day Feast is intended only for the members of the Baháʾi community; however, non-Baháʾí visitors should be received hospitably at the social portion of the feast only.

The sharing of food is an important feature of Baháʾí social events. Food sharing also occurs through charitable activity and social action. However, where local community development projects supported by Baháʾís involve food, these usually take the form of agricultural development rather than food distribution.

See also Fasting and Abstinence: Islam ; Iran; Vegetarianism .


ʿAbduʾl-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Ill.: BPT, 1964. Section 73. Passages on food, health, and the body.

Paul Fieldhouse

Selection from Some Answered Questions by ʿAbduʾl-BahÁ

The science of medicine is still in a condition of infancy; it has not reached maturity. But when it has reached this point, cures will be performed by things which are not repulsive to the smell and taste of manthat is to say, by aliments, fruits and vegetables which are agreeable to the taste and have an agreeable smell. . . . All the elements that are combined in man exist also in vegetables; therefore, if one of the constituents which compose the body of man diminishes, and he partakes of foods in which there is much of that diminished constituent, then the equilibrium will be established, and a cure will be obtained (Sec. 73).


views updated May 18 2018


BAHÁ'Í. The Bahá'í religion developed out of the Bábí movement, which in turn sprang from Shi'ite Islam. Bahá'u'lláh, born in Tehran in 1817, became a Bábí in 1844 (the year the Bábí movement began) and in 1863 announced that he was the divine messenger awaited by the movement. Within a few years virtually all Bábís accepted Bahá'u'lláh's messianic claim, thereby becoming Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh gave his religion shape through fifteen thousand letters and about one hundred essays and books, which form the core of Bahá'í scripture. In them he described the nature of God, revelation, humanity, and physical creation; delineated the path of individual spiritual development, involving prayer, scripture study, fasting, pilgrimage, material sacrifice, and service to humanity; defined the holy days and governing institutions of the Bahá'í community; and described a spiritual civilization in which war would be abolished, humanity would be unified, and all would have access to education, opportunity, and prosperity. Before Bahá'u'lláh died in 1892 he appointed his son, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (18441921), as head of the religion.

In 1892 the Bahá'í religion was brought to the United States by Middle Eastern immigrants. The first American, Thornton Chase (18471912), converted in 1894 in Chicago; by 1900 there were some 1,500 Bahá'ís in the United States, with the largest communities in Chicago, New York, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. The first Bahá'í temple in the Western world was built in Wilmette, a Chicago suburb, from 1912 to 1953. American Bahá'ís played a major role in taking the religion to Europe (1899), East Asia (1914), South America (1919), Australia (1920), and sub-Saharan Africa (1920). They helped organize many of the earliest Bahá'í local and national "spiritual assemblies" (governing councils); the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States dates back to 1926, with a predecessor institution dating to 1909. The religion has seen steady membership growth in the United States, from 3,000 in 1936 to 140,000 in 2000. Worldwide in 2000 it had more than 5 million members.


Smith, Peter. The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions: From Messianic Shi'ismto a World Religion. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Robert Stockman


views updated May 17 2018


The Bahá'í faith, a new and growing world religion, holds the unity and harmony of science and religion as one of its core principles. Science and religion, according to the Bahá'í teachings, are both equally necessary for humanity to progress. Science is the discoverer of the material and the spiritual reality of things, and it is the foundation of material and spiritual development. Religion develops both the individual and society, fostering the love, fellowship, and will that is necessary for humanity to advance. Science and religion counterbalance each other: Religion without science leads to superstition, whereas science without religion leads to materialism.

Historical origins

The Bahá'í faith originated in nineteenth-century Iran at a time when the country was struggling with economic and political instability, conflict between the religious and secular segments of society, and Russian and British expansionist policies. Iran was in decline under the Qajar dynasty when the Bábí millenarian movement was founded in 1844 by the Báb (Siyyid 'Alí Muhammad, 18191850). The rapid rise of the Bábí movement and its prophecy of the coming of a world redeemer led to violent suppression, with its leaders either killed or sent into exile, as was the case for Baháhuhlláh (Mírzá Husayn hAlí, 18171892).

Baháhuhlláh nursed the decimated Iranian Bábí community back to health from nearby Baghdad but was further exiled to Constantinople (modern Istanbul), to Adrianople (modern Edirne), and finally to Acre (modern Akko in Palestine). When he announced that he was the redeemer prophesied by the Báb, most of the Bábí community became Bahá'ís, followers of Baháhuhlláh.

Baháhuhlláh's teachings were laid out in numerous books, epistles, and letters to a growing community. The central theme was unity: the unity of religion; the oneness of God; the unity of humanity; the equality of women and men; the need for a united world civilization, and the unity of science and religion. Religion promoted amity and concord as its chief aim, and this required the unfettered search after truth and the elimination of prejudice and superstition characteristic of science.

By the early twentieth century, the Bahá'í faith had spread around the world. 'Abduhl-Bahá (18441921)Baháhuhlláh's eldest son and successortraveled and spoke widely throughout Europe and North America, emphasizing that religion must be progressive. The great progress in technical and material spheres wrought by science necessitated similar progress in religion. "When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science," he told his audiences, "then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles" (1969, p. 146). Shoghi Effendi (18971957) succeeded 'Abduhl-Bahá. After his death, leadership passed to the Universal House of Justice seated in Haifa, Israel.

Bahá'í teachings about science and religion

The teachings of the Bahá'í faith are "founded upon the unity of science and religion and upon investigation of truth." Science and religion are like the two wings of one bird: "A bird needs two wings for flight, one alone would be useless. Any religion that contradicts science or that is opposed to it, is only ignorancefor ignorance is the opposite of knowledge. Religion which consists only of rites and ceremonies of prejudice is not the truth" ('Abduhl-Bahá, 1969 p. 129).

The Bahá'í writings describe science as "the discoverer of realities," the means by which humanity explores and understands both material and spiritual phenomena:

The virtues of humanity are many, but science is the most noble of them all. . . . It is a bestowal of God; it is not material; it is divine. Science is an effulgence of the Sun of Reality, the power of investigating and discovering the verities of the universe, the means by which man finds a pathway to God. Through intellectual and intelligent inquiry science is the discoverer of all things. ('Abduhl-Bahá, 1982 p. 49)

The purpose of religion is to "safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men" (Baháhuhlláh, 1978, p. 168). Human nature is fundamentally spiritual, and the "spiritual impulses set in motion by such transcendent figures as Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muhammad have been the chief influence in the civilizing of human character" (Bahá'í International Community). Religion and spiritual commitment are necessary if the fruits of science are to be used for the advancement of humanity: "In every sphere of human activity and at every level, the insights and skills that represent scientific accomplishment must look to the force of spiritual commitment and moral principle to ensure their appropriate application" (Bahá'í International Community).

Religious truth must be understood in the light of science and reason if it is not to become superstition and a source of discord. Religious doctrines that disagree with science are likely to disagree with doctrines of other religions, creating and sustaining religious conflict. However, this does not mean the current scientific point of view is necessarily fully correct, nor does it mean that truth is limited to only what science can explain.

Similarly, science alone is inadequate. Doctrines inspired by sciencemost notably, the view that only material things are realhave had pernicious and corrosive effects when imposed on the people of the world. These doctrines need to be counteracted by the truths of religion. 'Abduhl-Bahá in Paris Talks emphasized that "with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism" ('Abduhl-Bahá 1969, p. 143). Furthermore, the commitment and the will that derives from religion is required if the results of science are to be applied to the benefit of the people of the world.

Evolution and the emergence of humanity


The Bahá'í writings address in depth the issue of evolution and the emergence of humanitya major source of conflict between science and contemporary religion. Humanity is described as emerging by a gradual progression that starts at a simple material stage and advances degree by degree to the human stage. In each stage, according to 'Abduhl-Bahá, humanity develops capacity for advancement to the next stage: "While in the kingdom of the mineral he was attaining the capacity for promotion into the degree of the vegetable. In the kingdom of the vegetable he underwent preparation for the world of the animal, and from thence he has come onward to the human degree, or kingdom" ('Abduhl-Bahá 1982, p. 225). Evolutionary processesindeed, all natural processesare the expression of God's will and the mechanism for the unfolding of God's creation:

Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world (Baháhuhlláh, p. 142).

Humanity, therefore, was created by God and potentially existed even before being actualized as a "composition of the atoms of the elements."

Humans and animals and are distinct and different kinds of beings, according to the Bahá'í view. It is incorrect to say that humans are descended from animals, even though physically that is the case. This is because humans have a rational and spiritual side in addition to the physical reality they share with animals: "The reality of man is his thought, not his material body. The thought force and the animal force are partners. Although man is part of the animal creation, he possesses a power of thought superior to all other created beings" ('Abduhl-Bahá 1969, p. 17). The Bahá'í point of view therefore diverges from understandings of evolution that see no distinction between humans and animals. It reconciles two perspectivesnatural evolution and divine creationthat many have deemed irremediably in conflict.

Types of knowledge. 'Abduhl-Bahá describes human knowledge as being of two kinds. One kind "is the knowledge of things perceptible to the senses." The other kind "is intellectualthat is to say, it is a reality of the intellect; it has no outward form and no place and is not perceptible to the senses" ('Abduhl-Bahá 1981, p. 83). The knowledge that people have of the laws of the universe is such an intellectual reality, as is the knowledge of God. 'Abduhl-Bahá further describes four criteria for knowledge: sense perception (empiricism), reason (rationality), tradition, and inspiration. By itself, each criterion is inadequate: The senses can be fooled, reasonable thinkers differ, understanding of tradition is reasoned and gives differing interpretations, and the heart's promptings are not reliable. Only when evidence from all criteria is in agreement can a proof be trusted as reliable.

The Bahá'í model of how reliable knowledge is obtained gives a perspective for viewing the roles of science and religion in society. Purely empirical approaches or rational approaches to knowledge, even when combined as they are in science, are inadequate to meet social needs. Approaches based solely on traditionprophetic or otherwiseor intuition and feeling are likewise inadequate. Rather, contributions from all the approaches are needed. Neither science nor religion separately provides the broad foundations by which society can progress. Both are needed.


The task facing humanity, according to the Universal House of Justice, the global Bahá'í administrative body, "is to create a global civilization which embodies both the spiritual and material dimensions of existence." Carrying out this task requires "a progressive interaction between the truths and principles of religion and the discoveries and insights of scientific inquiry." Science provides the understanding and technical capabilities that allow humanity to overcome the limitations of nature, making the goal of a peaceful and just world civilization an achievable one. Religion provides the moral, ethical, and spiritual strength, the discipline, and the commitment that are necessary if the goal is to become a reality.

See also Emergence


'abdu'l-bahá. paris talks: addresses given by 'abdu'l-bahá in paris in 19111912, 11th edition. london: bahá'í publishing trust, 1969.

'abdu'l-bahá. selections from the writings of 'abdu'l- bahá. haifa, israel: bahá'í world centre, 1978.

'abdu'l-bahá. some answered questions, 3rd edition. wilmette, ill.: bahá'í publishing trust, 1981.

'abdu'l-bahá. the promulgation of universal peace: talks delivered by 'abdu'l-bahá during his visit to the united states and canada in 1912, 2nd edition. wilmette, ill.: bahá'í publishing trust, 1982.

bahá'u'lláh. tablets of bahá'u'lláh revealed after the kitábí-aqdas. haifa, israel: bahá'í world centre, 1978.

bahá'í international community. the prosperity of humankind: a statement prepared by the bahá'í international community office of public information. haifa, israel: bahá'í international community, 1995.

universal house of justice. letters of the universal house of justice. haifa, israel: bahá'í world centre, 1992.

stephen r. friberg


views updated Jun 08 2018



Baha'i Faith

℅ National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the U.S.
536 Sheridan Rd.
Wilmette, IL 60091

In Persia (present-day Iran), a predominantly Muslim country, the expectation of the coming of the Mahdi, the successor to Muhammad promised in Islamic writings, was strong. In this environment was born Mirza Ali Muhammad (1819-1850), a Shi'a Muslim who declared himself the Bab or gate through whom people would know about the advent of another messenger of God. Many people accepted the messianic claims of the Bab after his declaration in 1844, and Babism was founded. The initial enthusiasm of the movement quickly encountered fierce opposition. Persecution followed. In 1850, the Bab was martyred.

Two years later, one of the Babis (followers of the Bab) attempted to kill the Shah, and persecution led to further imprisonments of Babis. Among those thrown in jail was Mirza Husayn-Ali (1817-1892), who, while languishing in prison, came to understand himself as the Holy One whom the Bab predicted; however, he kept the revelation to himself for several years. In 1853 he and his family were exiled and left Tehran to Baghdad. During the next years, leadership of the Babi movement was in the hands of Mirza Yahya, Husayn-Ali's half brother, but gradually it shifted to Husayn-Ali because of Mirza Yahya's incompetence. In 1863 Husayn-Ali revealed to a few close associates and members of his family that he was the messenger that the Bab had anticipated. From that time an increasing number of Babis accepted Baha'u'llah (as Husayn-Ali was called) and became Baha'is.

Baha'u'llah moved from Baghdad to Adrianople (now Edirne), to the penal colony at Akka (now Acco) in present-day Israel. Arriving in Akka in 1868, he spent the remainder of his life there. While still under house arrest by the Turkish authorities, he produced his most important works, considered scripture by his followers.

Baha'u'llah was succeeded by the third major figure in Baha'i history, Abbas Effendi (1844-1921), known to the world by his religious name, Abdu'l-Baha (meaning servant of Baha). Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'u'llah's son, is considered the exemplar of the Baha'i teachings. He served Baha'u'llah until his death and later found himself confined by the Turkish authorities until the Revolution of the Young Turks in 1908 brought a gradual easing of restrictions. Abdu'l-Baha then turned his attention to the spread of the Baha'i religion and traveled to Europe and North America in that effort. Upon his death in 1921, Abdu'l-Baha was succeeded by Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), his grandson, as guardian of the faith.

The Baha'i Faith was brought to America in 1892 by Ibrahim Kheiralla, though he later left the movement and founded a rival organization. Kheirella founded a Baha'i group in Chicago in 1894 and several others sprang up as a result of his efforts. The first convert was Thornton Chase, who joined the faith in 1894. The first United States Convention was held in 1907. In 1900, Agnes Baldwin Alexander encountered the Baha'i religion in Rome and took it to Hawaii. During 1912, Abdu'l-Baha spent eight months in the United States and laid the cornerstone of the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. The temple took forty years to complete and was dedicated in 1953. The temple's structure demonstrated the significance of the number nine. As the largest whole number, nine is for Baha'is a symbol of culmination and unity. The Wilmette temple, like all Baha'i temples, is nine sided and capped with a dome.

The Baha'i teachings are contained in the writings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, considered scriptures, and in the writings of Shoghi Effendi which are considered infallible guidance. They teach the essential oneness of all revealed faiths, which have been given at different stages and ages. The Baha'i Faith is the crown and summation of the previous world faiths to date. While Baha'u'llahs revelation is the most recent, Baha'is believe that God will continue to send messengers in the future.

The Baha'i Faith teaches that God is, in essence, unknowable, though his word is known through his chosen messenger. This word is often summarized in thirteen principles: the independent search for truth, the oneness of the human race, the unity of religion, the condemnation of prejudice, the harmony of science and religion, the equality of the sexes, compulsory education, the adoption of a universal language, the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty, a world court, work in the spirit of service as worship, justice and universal peace. Baha'i scriptures also stress the immortality and continuous progress of the soul. While these principles form a popular enumeration of Baha'i emphases, the scriptures contain reflections on a variety of other topics and concerns, many of equal importance.

Work is held as a necessity for all and is considered a form of worship. However, regular weekly gatherings featuring prayer and the readings from the sacred writings are held. There are an annual fasting period and eight holy days commemorating various events in the lives of the founders. March 21 is also a holy day, celebrated as New Year's Day. Besides the temple at Wilmette, six others have been built around the world.

After Shoghi Effendi's death, leadership of the faith passed to the Universal House of Justice, an international body headquartered in Haifa, Israel. The Universal House of Justice administers the affairs of the worldwide Baha'i community. It may enact laws and ordinances not expressly stated in the sacred Baha'i texts, but may not offer interpretation of scripture. Members of the Universal House of Justice are elected every five years at an international convention composed of the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies, which have been formed in most countries of the world. National Spiritual Assemblies are elected annually at the National Baha'i Convention. From its offices in Wilmette, Illinois, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has charge of the national administrative affairs of the faith, including the management of the Baha'i Publishing Trust. Members elect local spiritual assemblies wherever there are at least nine Baha'is. There are no clergy.

The world center of the Baha'i Faith is in Haifa, Israel, where the Bab's shrine is located and Abdu'l-Baha is buried. The National Assembly in England is one of the oldest, having been established in 1923. The British publishing house of George Ronald is a major publisher of English-language Baha'i books widely circulated in the United States.

Membership: In 2001 it was reported that approximately 145,000 Baha'is resided in the United States. There were approximately 1,200 local spiritual assemblies. Worldwide there are more than 5 million Baha'is in close to 12,000 spiritual assemblies in more than 230 countries of the the world. There were 182 National Spiritual Assemblies as of April 2001.

Periodicals: World Order. • Brilliant Star.


Balyuzi, H. M. Abdu'l-Baha. London: George Ronald, 1971.

——. Baha'u'llah, The King of Glory. Oxford: George Ronald, 1980.

Miller, William McElwee. The Baha'i Faith. South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1974.

Perkins, Mary, and Philip Hainsworth. The Baha'i Faith. London: Ward Lock Educational, 1980.

Whitehead, O. Z. Some Early Baha'is of the West. Oxford: George Ronald, 1976.


Faith of God


The Faith of God grew out of the work of Jamshid Maani, a Persian prophet known to the public as simply "The Man," a title used to signify the coming of maturity to humanity and that the real station of man is a spiritual station. The Man announced his mission in 1963 in Israel and then Iran. He began to gather followers in various nations around the world to the Faith of God. The Faith emerged following the death of Shoghi Effendi, the guardian of the Baha'i World Faith, and the failure of another guardian to emerge as his successor. Among the early converts to The Man's cause was John Carre, a lifelong Baha'i, who traveled extensively on his behalf and organized the House of Mankind, the administrative aspect of the Faith, in several countries.

The Man continued the Baha'i belief in progressive revelation to mankind through the various mediators or teachers from Zoroaster to Baha'u'llah, and sees himself as the latest in this series. Evolution is also a key notion. The universe and its various parts are in continuous evolution. The universe is alive. The culmination of material creation is man's moving toward spiritual man. This evolutionary process is part of a divine plan leading creation toward unity.

The overall evolution of humanity is toward perfection on all levels. This goal was the reason for all the prophets. Their teachings are one. All forms of worship are acceptable except those contrary to wisdom or detrimental to others. We must strive to give all persons the attributes of the saintly ones. The individual's progression is aided by thorough meditation and prayer but they must become effective in our thoughts and actions.

The House of Mankind was initially established in each of five areas of the world. Like the Baha'i Faith, there is no clergy. Pictured for the future was the development of the Universal Palace of Order, which will bring to realization the aspirations of mankind for the unity and oneness of government. The House of Mankind functioned for a period of approximately ten years in the United States from its headquarters in the residence of John Carre in Mariposa, California. However, during the 1970s, The Man lived with Carre for a number of months, during which time Carre came to know Maani personally and as a result withdrew his support. The movement, which had only several hundred members, ceased to exist in America soon after that action.


Carre, John. An Island of Hope. Mariposa, CA: House of Light, 1975.

The Man [Jamshid Maani]. "Heaven". Mariposa, CA: John Carre, 1971.

——. Universal Order. Mariposa, CA: John Carre, 1971.

——. The Sun of the Word of the Man. Mariposa, CA: John Carre, 1971.


Orthodox Baha'i Faith, National Baha'i Council of the United States

3111 Futura
Roswell, NM 88201

Members of the Orthodox Baha'i Faith, in contrast to most other Baha'is believe that the Baha'i Administrative Order remains unchanged with all of its administrative institutions intact since the death of Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), the first Guardian of the Faith. The Baha'i Administrative Order was dictated in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), the son of Baha'u'llah (1817-1892), the author of the Baha'i Revelation. This document was characterized by Shoghi Effendi as divinely conceived, coequal in sacredness and immutability to Baha'u'llah's most holy book, The Kitab-I-Agdas, and the charger of his world order. In his will, Abdu'l-Baha appointed Shoghi Effendi the first Guardian of the Baha'i Faith and stipulated that each Guardian appoint his successor "in his own lifetime." Under the terms of this document, the Guardian is the head of the Faith, the sole interpreter of Baha'i Holy Writ, and the sacred head of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme legislative body of the Baha'i Administrative Order.

Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian in 1921 following the death of Abdu'l-Baha. For the next thirty years he painstakingly developed the Baha'i Administrative Order at the local and national levels. Based upon the fact that there were then nine functioning national administrative institutions, he established the first International Baha'i Council, explaining that it was a temporary title given to what was to become the Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi did not assume the presidency of the council. He appointed Charles Mason Remey, a leading American Baha'i who had been chosen by Abdu'l-Baha to design the Baha'i temple on Mount Carmel and who was the architect of other Baha'i temples. The council was never convened into a functioning body during Shoghi Effendi's lifetime, although he assigned tasks to individuals who had been appointed to it. Coincident to the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, Remey became the functioning president of the council. It is the belief of the Orthodox Baha'is that president of the Universal House of Justice (i.e., the International Baha'i Council) and Guardian are synonymous terms, hence Remey became the second Guardian of the Faith. The majority of Baha'is refused to recognized the validity of the appointment and declared the office of the Guardian terminated.

Members of the National Baha'i Council state that Mason Remey elected to appoint his successor in the same manner that Shoghi Effendi had employed. He established the second International Baha'i Council and appointed as its president Joel B. Marangella. However, he reinforced the appointment in a letter addressed to Marangella, telling him to advise the Baha'is that he was the third guardian of the faith.

As it was impracticable for the second International Baha'i Council to function as a body, due to lack of support from national Baha'i administrative bodies, and as a majority of supporters of the Guardian were to be found in the United States, Marangella established a National Baha'i Bureau in New York City. The bureau, which moved to New Mexico in 1972, administered the affairs of the Faith in the United States on a provisional and limited basis.

In 1978, the bureau's functions were assumed and expanded by the local Baha'i council of Roswell, New Mexico, a body of nine believers designated by the third Guardian as the National Baha'i Council of the Orthodox Baha'is of the United States. The council was assigned national Baha'i administrative jurisdiction pending the formation of a national Baha'i council when circumstances permit.

The council, in addition to propagating the faith through various media such as newspapers and magazines, inserted open letters and appeals by the guardian in newspapers in the United States and foreign countries in order to convince Baha'is that Shoghi Effendi provided for the continuance of the guardian's office. In 1995 the third guardian established an Internet site at and in 1996 the Mother Baha'i Council established a site of its own at

In 2000, the Guardian transferred the responsibilities for the direction of the faith in the United States to a provisional National Baha'i Council. As was the case with the Mother Baha'i Council, the new administrative unit of the Orthodox Baha'i Faith continues to declare aggressively that in terminating the Guardianship the other Baha'is have, in effect, negated the major provisions of The Will and Testament and hence are attempting to destroy the World Order of Baha'u'llah and are therefore in violation of the covenant.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: Herald of the Covenant. • Friends in Touch. • Star of the Covenant (for Orthodox Baha'is only).

Remarks: The council is one of three groups which continue the guardianship and recognize Mason Remey as the second guardian. Donald Harvey claims to have a letter from Remey appointing him to be the third guardian. In the United States, Harvey's followers are affiliated in the Remey Society. The third group, an offshoot of the Mother Council, is the Orthodox Baha'i Faith under the Regency.


The Orthodox Baha'i Faith. Roswell, NM: Mother Baha'i Council of the United States, 1981.


Orthodox Baha'i Faith under the Regency

℅ National House of Justice of the U.S. and Canada
Box 1424
Las Vegas, NM 87701

The Orthodox Baha'i Faith under the Regency is one of three organizations of former members of the Baha'i Faith who accepted the claims of Charles Mason Remey (see separate entry on Remey Society) to be the successor of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith who died in 1957. Remey claimed to be the Second Guardian. After Remey's death in 1974, Joel B. Marangella was one of two men who claimed to have been appointed by Remey as the Third Guardian. Marangella organized his followers as the Orthodox Baha'i Faith.

Among those appointed to a leadership role by Remey, Reginald B. (Rex) King accepted Marangella as the Third Guardian but later came to the conclusion that both Remey and Marangella had taken actions which were contrary to Baha'i law. He concluded that Remey, rather than being the Second Guardian, was but a regent who assumed control until such time as the Second Guardian appeared and took his rightful place. Upon reaching that conclusion, King withdrew from Marangella and claimed to be the Second Regent.

King died in 1977. In his will he appointed four members of his family–Eugene K. King, Ruth L. King, Theodore Q. King, and Thomas King–as the Council of Regents to succeed him. In 1993 Ruth L. King resigned from the Council of Regents. Maeny Whitaker was appointed to take her place. The Orthodox Baha'is follow the teaching of the Baha'i Faith, differing only in their rejection of the authority of the Universal House of Justice in favor of the Regency.

Membership: Not reported. There are an estimated several hundred Orthodox Baha'is in the United States.


Remey Society

℅ Jacques Soqhomonian
Boite Postal 593
F-13491 Marseille Cedex 04, France

The Remey Society is one of three organizations of former members of the Baha'i Faith who accept Charles Mason Remey (1874-1974) as the Second Guardian of the Faith. Remey was a prominent Baha'i for many years. He authored a number of books, designed several Baha'i temples, and served as president of the International Baha'i Council. In 1951 he was one of nine people named by Shoghi Effendi as a hand of the cause.

In 1957 Shoghi Effendi died without having fathered a child, leaving a will, or naming a successor. Remey then joined with the other hands of the cause in proclaiming the formation of a Baha'i World Centre made up of nine hands of the cause to assume temporarily the function of the guardian. Remey was one of the nine. However, during the next few years, Remey dissented from the position of the other hands. He argued that the guardianship was a necessary feature of the structure of the faith. He also asserted that, as the president of the International Baha'i Council (a position assigned Remey by Shoghi Effendi), he was the only one in a position to become the Second Guardian. He waited two years for the hands to accept his position. Then, in 1959, he left Haifa, Israel, where the Baha'i Faith has its international headquarters, and came to the United States. In 1960 he issued a proclamation to the Baha'is of the World and circulated it at the annual gathering of the American Baha'is that year. He also issued a pamphlet, "A Last Appeal to the Hands of the Faith," asking them to abandon plans to elect members of the International House of Justice in 1961. The hands continued to reject his claims and expelled him from the faith.

Throughout the 1960s Remey insisted upon his right to be designated the Second Guardian. Finally, in 1968 he appointed the first five Elders of the Baha'i Epoch and announced the organization of his followers under the name The Orthodox Abha World Faith. He retired to Florence, Italy, and lived out the last decade of his life in virtual retirement.

After Remey's death in 1974, two men, Donald Harvey and Joel B. Marangella, both claimed that he had appointed them as the Third Guardian of the Faith. The Remey Society unites the American followers of Donald Harvey. The society was organized by Francis C. Spataro. Following Harvey's death in 1991, Jacques Soqhomonian became the new Guardian of the Faith.

Membership: In 1995 the society reported 400 members in the United States, 150 in Canada, and 200 in two European centers in Italy and France.

Periodicals: The Remey Letter.


Remey, Charles Mason. The Baha'i Movement. Washington, DC: J. D. Milans & Sons, 1912.

——. Extracts from Daily Observations of the Baha'i Faith Made to the Hands of the Faith in the Holy Land. Privately published, 1961.

——. Observations of a Baha'i Traveller. Washington, DC: J. D. Milans & Sons, 1914.

Spataro, Francis C. Charles Mason Remey and the Baha'i Faith. New York: Carlton Press, 1987.

——. The Lion of God. Bellerose, NY: Remey Society, 1981.

——. The Rerum. Bellerose, NY: The Author, 1980.


World Union of Universal Religion and Universal Peace

Current address not obtained for this edition.

In the years after the death of Abdu'l-Baha and the elevation of his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, to the leadership of the Baha'i Faith as the Guardian of the Faith, an American Baha'i, Ruth White, began to question Shoghi Effendi's authority. In her first book, Abdul Baha and the Promised Age (1926), she voiced her opposition to his attempts to develop the Baha'i organization by quoting Abdu'l-Baha to the effect that, "The Baha'i Movement is not an organization. You can never organize the Baha'i Cause." More importantly, she began to voice opposition to Shoghi Effendi's role as guardian, and in her 1929 work, The Bahai Religion and Its Enemy, the Bahai Organization, she attacked the authenticity of the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha, the document upon which Effendi's authority rested.

Though she lectured widely throughout the United States, her only success in recruiting supporters came in Germany where the Baha'i World Union was founded by Wilhelm Herrigel and other Baha'is, who were described as friends of Abdul-Baha. The Baha'i World Union continued until 1937 when the German government outlawed the Baha'i Faith.

Simultaneously with White's attack upon Effendi, though separate from it, Ahmad Sohrab, a close friend of Abdu'l-Baha who had accompanied him on his American tour in 1912, and an American Baha'i, Julie Chandler (Mrs. Lewis Stuyvesant Chandler), formed an independent Baha'i network in New York City. They felt that Effendi's increasing efforts to organize the faith were counterproductive. They established the New History Society which offered lectures by Sohrab and other prominent guests (Albert Einstein addressed it on one occasion) and opened the Baha'i Bookshop. Members of the New History Society considered themselves participants in the Baha'i movement but separate from the organization headed by Effendi. In response, the Baha'i Faith brought suit against Sohrab, Chandler, and the New History Society seeking to prevent their use of the name "Baha'i." The court ruled against them, however, stating that no group of followers of a religion could monopolize the name of that religion or prevent other groups of followers from practicing their faith.

Like the Baha'i World Union, the New History Society found support in Europe and opened offices in Paris in the 1930s, and Sohrab became the major spokesperson for the society. He spoke frequently and authored a number of books, including Broken Silence, a response to the 1941 court case.

Ruth White and Ahmad Sohrab both died in 1958 and Julie Chandler in 1961. Since their deaths, their work and thought have been carried on by Hermann Zimmer of Stuttgart, West Germany. Zimmer had returned to Germany in 1948 after being released from a POW camp. He picked up the remnants of Herrigel's organization and formed the World Union for Universal Religion and Universal Peace. In 1950 he published Die Wiederkunft Christi in which he equated Baha'u'llah with Christ returned in his Second Advent. Though never a large organization, the World Union remains a rallying point for "Free Baha'is" around the world.

Membership: Not reported. Estimates suggest that only a few hundred "Free Baha'is" reside in the United States.


The Baha'i Case against Mrs. Lewis Stuyvesant Chandler and Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Wilmette, IL: National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i of the United States and Canada, 1941.

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Broken Silence. New York: New History Foundation, 1942.

——. The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha: An Analysis. New York: New History Foundation, 1944.

White, Ruth. Abdul Baha and the Promised Age. New York, 1927.

——. Baha'i Religion and Its Enemy, the Baha'i Organization. Rutland, VT: Charles Tuttle, 1929.

Zimmer, Hermann. A Fraudulent Testament Devalues the Baha'i Religion into Political Shoghism. Stuttgart, Germany: World Union for Universal Religion and Universal Peace, 1973.


views updated May 17 2018

Ba·ha·'i / bəˈhī/ (also Ba·ha·i) • n. (pl. -ha·'is) a monotheistic religion founded in the 19th century as a development of Babism, emphasizing the essential oneness of humankind and of all religions and seeking world peace. The Baha'i faith was founded by the Persian Baha'ullah (1817–92) and his son Abdul Baha (1844–1921). ∎  an adherent of the Baha'i faith.DERIVATIVES: Ba·ha·'ism / -ˌizəm/ n.


views updated May 23 2018

Baha'i Religion founded in the 1860s by Bahaullah as an outgrowth of the Babi faith. Its headquarters are in Haifa, Israel. It seeks world peace through the unification of all religions and stresses a simple life dedicated to serving others. It recognizes Bahaullah as the latest prophet of God.


views updated Jun 27 2018

Baha'i a monotheistic religion founded in the 19th century as a development of Babism, emphasizing the essential oneness of humankind and of all religions and seeking world peace.