Baha'i scholar Sen Mcglinn advices Baha'is to forget about Entry by Troops!

Imminent entry by troops belongs in the same box as Unity of Nations or the Lesser Peace by the year 2000 - both examples of reading into the texts what we want to be true. And then living on expectations for as long as possible, and becoming discouraged and quite often withdrawing from the community. All of that process could be shortcut by studying the texts closely at the beginning. It's extraordinary that something that is barely mentioned in passing in the Bahai scriptures has been a major community focus for several decades now. The little that the scriptures say suggests to me that its importance has been over-rated, and that the time-frame of entry by troops, its nature, and how the Bahais can bring it about have all been misunderstood. From my reading of the world and of the scriptures, I suggest that we should not now be greatly preoccupied with entry by troops or large scale conversion: a concern with the needs of the age we live in, and the needs of our Bahai communities today, will indicate healthier, locally-specific priorities which – ironically – will be more conducive to actual ‘growth’ in every sense.

If reports of the imminent arrival of the Lesser Peace were premature, the miscalculation in relation to entry by troops has been greater. Fifty three years have passed since entry by troops was announced, and large-scale conversion was said to be imminent (Ridvan 1964). Great victories have been reported. What has been the actual numerical outcome?

The compilation ‘promoting entry by troops‘ prepared by the Research Department at the Bahai World Centre in 1993, contains little from Shoghi Effendi. This is significant in itself, for we can suppose their search was reasonably exhaustive (although they did miss at least one quote I will share below). Evidently what has become a great preoccupation since Shoghi Effendi’s passing, was not such a prominent issue during his life.

What Shoghi Effendi does say is also surprisingly different to what the Universal House of Justice has been saying.

In 1932, in a letter written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf, we find:

… it is only when the spirit has thoroughly permeated the world that the people will begin to enter the Faith in large numbers. … We are still in the state when only isolated souls are awakened, but soon we shall have the full swing of the season and the quickening of whole groups and nations into the spiritual life breathed by Baha’u’llah.

In 1936 Shoghi Effendi asks himself:

Must a series of profound convulsions stir and rock the human race ere Baha’u’llah can be enthroned in the hearts and consciences of the masses, ere His undisputed ascendancy is universally recognized, and the noble edifice of His World Order is reared and established? (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 201-2)

Two letters written on his behalf in 1944, and one each in 1945 and 1949, warn that people will not respond in large numbers until they see the Bahai teachings in action in the Bahai community. I will quote a fifth such letter on his behalf, from 1951, which is typical of these:

Although tremendous progress has been made in the United States during the last quarter of a century, he [the Guardian] feels that the believers must ever-increasingly become aware of the fact that only to the degree that they mirror forth in their joint lives the exalted standards of the Faith will they attract the masses to the Cause of God.

Far from encouraging a belief in the imminence of entry by troops, these letters seem to be written to people who already believed that entry by troops was imminent, to warn them that it is not going to happen until they have first built communities that embody the Bahai virtues and teachings. And as we will see, there are other prerequisites.

There is one very relevant passage from Shoghi Effendi’s own hand which has been omitted from that compilation on promoting entry by troops, yet it seems to me that it gives us the key to his thinking. It’s in The Promised Day is Come (1953):

Suffice it to say that this consummation will, by its very nature, be a gradual process, and must, as Baha’u’llah has Himself anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace … involving the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness, [This]…will bring in its wake the spiritualization of the masses, consequent to the recognition of the character, and the acknowledgment of the claims, of the Faith of Baha’u’llah — the essential condition to that ultimate fusion of all races, creeds, classes, and nations which must signalize the emergence of His New World Order.

A letter from the Guardian’s secretary that I quoted above warned that “only when the spirit has thoroughly permeated the world” will people “begin to enter the Faith in large numbers.” Here the Guardian says that that spiritualization of the masses has two pre-requisites: the universal recognition of the oneness of humanity, and the subsequent establishment of the Lesser Peace. From this it seems clear to me that he envisioned the fruitful time for the spiritualisation of the masses, and then for preparing for the process of entry by troops, will be when the flames of war and antagonism have been stilled, when “the fury of a capricious and militant nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of world citizenship.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 41).

In Shoghi Effendi’s vision, entry by troops, and mass conversion, comes at the end of this two-fold process leading to “the unification and spiritualization of the entire human race.” (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 149)

If the Lesser Peace and entry by troops, and mass conversion, are not imminent prospects, this has implications for the orientation of our individual lives as Bahais and for our communities.

In the first place, that our activities and choices must have intrinsic meaning now: they must be good and productive in themselves. We cannot waste our swiftly passing days on matters that will be meaningful if some momentous chain of events should happen. Nor can we live for generation after generation in the expectation that the great reversal is just about to happen.

Second, that our individual and community activities have to be shaped to meet the widely varying needs of the many countries we live in, and their readiness to engage in the reformation of the world and of religion. Growth will come from answering needs and demonstrating the viability of those answers, not from having a large pool of human resources ready to incorporate the masses when they convert.

Ridvan 1964:
Entry by troops (time to be announced)
Stark choices
Century’s end – my two cents
Century of Light

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