A study circle is a small group that meets to study the course materials from the Ruhi Institute. This collection contains resources related to study circles, as well as resources to assist anyone with deepening their understanding of the Baha’i Writings.
This March 26, 2016, we celebrate the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. Revealed by Abdu’l-Baha to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada in 1916 and 1917, and described as “a final link in the chain of love and care which bound Him to the friends on this continent”, 1 the fourteen immortal Tablets that constitute the Tablets of the Divine Plan embody the unique mission and mandate for the “the spiritual regeneration of the world”. 2
Together with The Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, these texts constitute the greatest legacy Abdu’l-Baha left to prosperity and are regarded, along with the The Most Holy Book (Kitab-i-Aqdas) and the Tablet of Carmel, as the Charter of the World Order of Baha’u’llah. These four documents “constitute the major instruments which are to guide the Baha’i institutions as well as inspiring the believers in their common task of building a New World Order for mankind.” 3
The Universal House of Justice has just published two new letters in honour of the historic occasion, and in order to celebrate this centenary, we’d like to explore the history and importance of these sacred words.
When were the tablets revealed?
The tablets were revealed under the shadow of the darkest period of World War I, as the world bore witness to the agony of the unimaginable “spectacle of human slaughter through humanity’s failure to respond to the summons [Abdu’l-Baha] had issued, or heed the warning He had given.” 4 Abdu’l-Baha, suffering from ill health and exhaustion due to His three year sojourn to the West, living under the constant threat of bombardment in Haifa by the Allies, virtually severed from all communication with the believers across the world,
[…] was moved to confer once again, and for the last time in His life, on the community of His American followers a signal mark of His special favor by investing them, on the eve of the termination of His earthly ministry, through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, with a world mission, whose full implications even now…still remain undisclosed, and whose enfoldment thus far, though as yet in its initial stages, has so greatly enriched the spiritual as well as the administrative annals of the first Baha’i century. 5
The first eight of these tablets were written between March 26 and April 22, 1916. As Amin Banani explains:
It is truly breathtaking to contemplate the devising of the Divine Strategy for the redemption of the planet in the midst of the din and destruction of the old order. 1
The remaining six tablets were revealed between February 2 and March 8, 1917. Whilst five of the tablets actually reached America and were published in the September 8, 1916 issue of Star of the West, the remaining tablets were kept in a vault under the Shrine of the Bab for the remainder of the war. They were sent to New York City at the end of the war where they were unveiled during the “Convention of the Covenant” during April 26-30, 1919.
Had the Baha’is in the West been entrusted with specific tasks before?
The first direct address to the “peoples of the West” made by a Central Figure of the Cause was given by the Bab during the year that witnessed the birth of the Faith in Shiraz. He bade the believers to “issue forth” from their “cities” to aid God, and “become as brethren” in His “one and indivisible religion”. 6
Baha’u’llah went on to elaborate that,
[…] in the East the light of His Revelation has broken; in the West the signs of His dominion have appeared. 7
Abdu’l-Baha Himself testifies:
From the beginning of time until the present day the light of the Divine Revelation hath risen in the East and shed its radiance upon the West. The illumination thus shed hath, however, acquired in the West an extraordinary brilliancy. Consider the Faith proclaimed by Jesus. Though it first appeared in the East, yet not until its light had been shed upon the West did the full measure of its potentialities become manifest. 8
How were, and are, the Tablets of the Divine Plan being translated into action?
Described as “a laborious and tremendously long process”, 9 the task of implementing the Divine Plan was left to the Guardian. The process began in 1921 with what the Guardian described as a “period of incubation”. 4 During this time, Shoghi Effendi lay down the foundation and began with the building of the Baha’i Administrative Order, establishing an initial contingent of local and national spiritual assemblies.
Despite the immediate response of several individuals, such as the immortal teacher of the Faith, Martha Root, and beloved pioneers, ‘Mother and Father’ Dunn, to the Master’s call for “souls who will illumine this dark universe and quicken to life this dead world”, 10 the Divine Plan, the “supreme charter for teaching” 2 was only formally launched by the Guardian in 1937. This first Seven Year Plan, assigned to the believers in North America, marked the first stage of the first epoch of the Divine Plan, and outlined a clear blueprint upon which further plans were designed, establishing a pattern the Universal House of Justice continues today.
The first epoch of the Divine Plan ended with the conclusion of the Ten Year Crusade in 1963, a global Plan during which for the first time, the entire Baha’i world was engaged in the pursuit of a common undertaking – the planting of the teachings of Baha’u’llah across the entire planet. The second epoch of the Divine Plan began in 1964 under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice and has continued with a series of plans up to the current four 5 Year Plans (2001-2021), that will culminate in the centenary of the inception of the Formative Age.
The Universal House of Justice has stated:
…the Divine Plan has continued to unfold over the decades…as the collective capacity of Baha’u’llah’s followers has grown, enabling them to take on ever-greater challenges. How wondrous the vision of the Plan’s Author! Placing before the friends the prospect of a day when the light of His Father’s Revelation would illuminate every corner of the world, He set out not only strategies for accomplishing this feat but guiding principles and unchanging spiritual requisites. Every effort made by the friends to systematically propagate the divine teachings traces its origins to the forces set in motion in the Divine Plan. 11
As we embark on a new Five Year Plan, we can turn to the Tablets of the Divine Plan for inspiration and guidance.
Yas is happiest when the sun is shining. After country-hopping across the globe for the last ten years, she lives (for now) in the most beautiful (and windiest) city in the world. She loves the power of the creative word and teaches literature and creative writing to teenagers. She also loves strawberries.