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Consultation is a distinctive and unifying method of decision-making that is used by Baha’is whether at home, among friends, or while serving on committees or institutions at any level.
No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.The Prosperity of Humankind, p. 7-8
Shoghi Effendi also said that:
…consultation, frank and unfettered, is the bedrock of this unique Order.Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter dated 18 November 1933 written on his behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, quoted in this compilation by the BIC
Consultation is an essential tool. As I watch my toddler’s discovery and education in how to use the tools of daily life (how to hold a spoon, turn a page, talk and walk, grasp a crayon, or don a hat) I realize I am likewise painstakingly bumbling, fumbling and learning — and will forever continue to learn — how to use the spiritual tool of consultation. Abdu’l-Baha provided us with guidance as to how we should consult. He said:
…consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide. A spark is produced when flint and steel come together. Man should weigh his opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If he finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of his own. By this excellent method he endeavors to arrive at unity and truth. …Therefore, true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love. Members must love each other in the spirit of fellowship in order that good results may be forthcoming. Love and fellowship are the foundation.The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72-73
With true love and fellowship, consultation becomes the surest bedrock and foundation for the world order we are building because it will always lead us to the truth. Abdu’l-Baha stated:
If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.Baha’i World Faith: Selected Writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, p. 411
Consultation is not a tool to be used solely on special occasions, in specific meetings or conferences. It is as quotidian and essential to life as shelter and food. The Blessed Beauty said:
Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 168
Abdu’l-Baha explained this further. He said:
Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man’s reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult.BIC compilation on consultation
He also stated:
Settle all things, both great and small, by consultation. Without prior consultation, take no important step in your own personal affairs.Ibid.
My understanding of this is that there are better fruits borne of consultation than when we make decisions by ourselves – even decisions that we have the prerogative to make individually. Learning how to consult, whether it’s about the weekly grocery list, or about cross-country travel plans to a youth conference, is a process. But it is complemented and improved by other spiritual tools, such as prayer, reflection, teaching the Faith, and service. When I see my little one’s face light up in delight when she figures something out – when a laden spoon makes it to her mouth — I recognize a feeling that I have when, in the loving heart of consultation, ideas arise that are bigger and better than any I could have come up with on my own. It also reminds me that I need to consult conscientiously and not casually, and that I should always bear in mind how Abdu’l-Baha says we should consult. When I hear her mimic me by holding my phone to her ear and saying “hi!” among other garbled syllables and sounds it makes me even more cognizant of the fact that she is always watching me consult – with her papa, her grandparents, and members of her community – and I pray that my ability to consult improves for the sake of the example I am showing her.
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