Collective consciousness emerges only as a result of an expanding number of individuals who develop a shared understanding. Such a shared understanding can be cultivated by a process of friendship. The process may very well start with one person who is great capacity for love and is able to engage his acquaintances in meaningful and distinctive conversations. These conversations increase the depth of friendship, and lead to working together as each person tries to assist in creating an expanding community of friends. More and more people are hosting devotional meetings. Some will compose songs. Others may have other artistic talents. But all try to lift up the atmosphere of their collective devotionals. Some will help with teaching the children and others assist in animating groups of junior youth in the village. These then are the stuff of activities carried out in a village without dependence on outside assistance. While visitors are always welcome and they can add to the beauty and variety of the activities, the essential ownership and character of these activities is derived from the inhabitants of the village themselves.
When we examine the formation and activities of many of the Spiritual Assemblies that came into existence in the decades past we realize that some of these institutions came into being after a robust set of spiritual activities were in place. But this was not a universal pattern. There were other institutions that were formed or functioned only tentatively. In such circumstances then while the inhabitants loved to come together, to receive visitors, to sing and pray together and to show acts of great hospitality, they had not yet established regular core activities, and therefore it is only natural that they did not yet appreciate the need for institutional support for such non-existent activities. How could anyone then expect them to meet regularly and keep minutes? What would be the purpose of such meetings and deliberations?
It is only after a set of core activities are put in place with dedicated and enthusiastic support of the individuals resident in the village that it makes sense to expect proper functioning of these institutions whose main aim is to mobilize the believers, and bolster and support the ongoing expansion of such activities. This, then is the stage of growth described in paragraph 21 of the letter of 28 December 2010 of the Universal House of Justice.
The study of this paragraph suggests the following questions:
1 – How does individual consciousness expand through personal involvement in the core activities?
2 – How does such personal awareness coalesce into a collective consciousness?
3 – What is the nature of the transformation in a village?
4 – What are the responsibilities of the Assembly in connection with the process of growth?
5 – Can you give a list of questions that an Assembly can ask itself in relation to the process of growth?
6 – According to this paragraph, what is the relationship between the Assembly and the cluster agencies?
7 – How does the beloved Guardian describe the relationship between the Assembly and the individual believer.
Abdu'l-Baha wrote: "The Spiritual Assemblies are collectively the most effective of all instruments for establishing unity and harmony. This matter is of the utmost importance; this is the magnet that draweth down the confirmations of God. If once the beauty of the unity of the friends—this Divine Beloved—be decked in the adornments of the Abhá Kingdom, it is certain that within a very short time those countries will become the Paradise of the All-Glorious." [Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, page 83]