The letter of 28 December 2010 of the Universal House of Justice identifies three “spiritual prerequisites for the success of all Baha'i undertakings”, and paragraph 32 of this message deals with the first of these prerequisites, namely a “rectitude of conduct.” We may imagine that this is only a quality of individuals in their personal dealings with others, not very different from a vague and pious – and often unsuccessful – call for personal morality. But in the original source of this idea, Shoghi Effendi in the Advent of Divine Justice, makes it clear that this is altogether a different concept described as “a high sense of moral rectitude in their social and administrative activities.” We will explore this concept a little more in this posting.
So what is meant by a rectitude of conduct in this context? Firstly it is “an abiding sense of undeviating justice, unobscured by the demoralizing influences which a corruption-ridden political life so strikingly manifests”. “This rectitude of conduct, with its implications of justice, equity, truthfulness, honesty, fair-mindedness, reliability, and trustworthiness, must distinguish every phase of the life of the Bahá’í community.” [Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p.23]
At the individual level justice is a faculty of human soul that enables each person to distinguish between truth and falsehood. At the social level justice is a principle that demands to be present in every consideration. It is a compass that helps all collective decision making to build unity.
Of course everyone must be just, both personally and collectively. But this appeal is in particular about the institutions using the principles of justice to arrive at collective decisions that everyone would be happy to follow. How will this principle apply to the work of the new institutions of the Faith, namely the cluster agencies of training institute coordinators, and the Area Teaching Committee?
The cluster agencies follow a pattern of consultation, action and reflection. If the proper principles of consultation are applied, it will lead to unity of thought, and the resulting decisions are seen as transparently fair by everyone. Only those who are actually arising for service will contribute to such a consultation. No one will come with a set of preconceived ideas and theoretical consideration, expecting that someone else will implement what he or she is recommending.
There is a relationship between unity and justice. The purpose of justice is to bring about unity. Justice is essential in a decision-making process that seeks to build unity. This is the opposite of when one group attempts to impose a set of ideas on others through contentious negotiation. Justice can curb tendencies towards manipulation and partisanship. This is a significant subject, and two good references that contain much explanation and analysis are Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 23 – 29, and Bahá’í International Community, The Prosperity of Humankind, pp. 18-21.
In the study of this paragraph the following questions are suggested:
- Why this spiritual prerequisite of rectitude of conduct particularly addressed to elected representatives of the community?
- In what sense is the present day society a strangely disordered world?
- What are the evidences that political life everywhere has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate in the intervening years?
- What is the list of institutions that will need to particularly implement this standard?
Baha’u’llah wrote: “The companions of God are, in this day, the lump that must leaven the peoples of the world. They must show forth such trustworthiness, such truthfulness and perseverance, such deeds and character that all mankind may profit by their example.” “I swear by Him Who is the Most Great Ocean! Within the very breath of such souls as are pure and sanctified far-reaching potentialities are hidden. So great are these potentialities that they exercise their influence upon all created things.”