Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Baha'i Commentary on Pyramids and Power

By John Taylor; 2010 Feb 24, Mulk 18, 166 BE

The last Badi' Blog essay on "political science as oxymoron," a.k.a.: "Of Pyramids and Polishers," got three reader responses, all of which were Baha'i-oriented, even though I did not mention the faith in the original essay. Two readers pointed out a fragmented sentence, which I have corrected. I made other changes, added a Baha'i reference, and re-posted the essay, at:

One reader pointed out a passage in the Aqdas where Baha'u'llah provided for the election by lot of a group who would in turn consult on a hard decision. (Kitab-i-Aqdas, 136) In the event of a split decision, He advised that you add more people to the original group, then choose by lot the smaller committee again, have them consult, and so, on, as in a recipe, add in more ingredients, mix, select and repeat. The UHJ in another note to this says that although the present system of electing assemblies supplanted this system, we can draw from it a lesson about how much Baha'u'llah valued unanimity. As for pyramids, the reader commented:

"I think that a pyramid design is inherent to authority structures. However authority is only one of many social functions. The characteristic failing of the modern age was the fixation on authority, and therefore elevating the state and politics to an umbrella that controls all social functions. In my view the way forward is not to replace the pyramid with something else, but to put the pyramid in its place as the proper structure for one function in society, recognising that wealth-creation, knowledge, and religion (and others) are separate organs that have their own internal requirements. ... Authority, in short, can only do so much."

Another reader, Ed, also sees a lot of good in pyramidal power structures,

"I don't think there being a pyramid is the problem; rather, it's the qualities or materials of the pyramid. The pyramid isn't an ugly or bad form. Even the best civilizations of the past had their pyramid form. The pyramid in which power is the top point is material, whereas the one with service as its apex is the spiritual one. Armies have to be pyramidal, and Abdu'l-Baha used the image of an army in the spiritual conquest of the planet."

"I am also reminded of the analogy that Abdu'l-Baha uses in His explanation of sacrifice, that of the metal losing its coldness to become malleable--I think. In the Baha'i Faith there's also a pyramid. Spiritualizing the pyramid, if you will, would make its components fluid on a regular basis, as in Baha'i elections-- but not only then, because every act of obedience to the Revelation spiritualizes the pyramid. The lower elements, to follow this analogy, would be happy to play their role in being at the base, knowing that inward change only can raise them, and would desire to rise to be able to spiritualize every part of the pyramid."

Jimbo had a different perspective on the legal ramifications of the pyramid:

"It is the written language of law that is and has always been the problem in order for change to occur. Looking at the Kitab'i'Aqdas, Baha'u'llah makes his simple and strong laws very clear for everyone. A Judge, who is a friend of the Baha'is, read the Kitab'i'Aqdas and commented that there were loop-holes in it that you could drive a truck through. In rebuttal, I would also say that there is loop-holes in the morality of lawyers that you could drive an ocean liner through. I guess there's little hope for unity between us on that subject."

"I listened to a good interview tha other day on PBS Bill Moyers Journal, about how change is impossible with the big US financial institutions because the "cleverest" have made it far too complex for anyone (including the government) except them to change the system.

"The ancient Romans had a proverb: "Money is like sea water. The more you drink, the thirstier you become." That adage finds particular meaning today on Wall Street, which began this New Year riding a tidal wave of bonuses in a surging ocean of greed."

Their only ray of hope was suggesting to make new rules that are SIMPLE and STRONG.

Keep up the good writing."

I plan to continue writing about pyramids and power, but I am easily distracted. Before I close, I note that the UHJ, or its agencies, think of the Ruhi process as a pyramid building process, not to say a pyramid scheme.

"For the development of human resources in India may be likened to the building of an ever-expanding pyramid, whose base must be constantly broadened." (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Apr, Training Institutes)

"In this way, the development of human resources is characterized by the image of an ever-expanding pyramid. The size of the "pyramid" is an indication of a national community's success in creating human resources to meet its needs for the tasks of expansion and consolidation." (International Teaching Centre, 2000 Feb, Training Institutes and Systematic Growth, p. 7)


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