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WLP Proposal

This essay is from a proposal that was sent to the Universal House of Justice with the commitment that there would be no request for funds from any Bahá'í institutions so as not to detract from any other priorities that they might have.

 The response from the Universal House of Justice included the following statement:

 "Your research into the development of a common language and your vision for the language institutes, undertaken to promote one of the important teachings of the Cause, are much appreciated. The time, however, is not propitious for the House of Justice to endorse, formally or otherwise, any project in this field of endeavor. Naturally, you are free to pursue this initiative as a private venture...."

The proposal contained considerable more material than repeated here, however the relevant Bahá'í quotes are to be found in the following essay.

Why Bahá'í Universal Auxiliary Language Institutes

(The numbers in the [square brackets] refer to both the attached references and the complete raw notes in the following Appendix A)

Universal Language is the Second Incumbancy Upon Universal House of Justice

Universal auxiliary language concepts are a matter of global purview and a responsibility assigned by Bahá'u'lláh, directly to the Universal House of Justice. Bahá'u'lláh said, "It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, ... (regarding ) languages, ... efforts must be made to reduce them to one,..." [1] He further says regarding that which "constitute(s) the fundamental principles for the administration of the affairs of men: First: It is incumbent upon the ministers of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace .... Second: Languages must be reduced to one..." [2] and further that "We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice ... to choose ... This ... is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book: The men of God's House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. [3]

'Abdu'l-Bahá further reinforced this point, saying, "Questions not treated of are left to the civil law of each country, and to the decisions of the Bait-ul-Adl, or House of Justice, instituted by Baha'o'llah (sic). ... A universal language, and the creation of tribunals of arbitration between nations, are to suppress wars." [41]

Universal Language also Responsibility of Governments and Individuals

The call for a universal auxiliary language figured prominently in many of the presentations and interests of Bahá'u'lláh [4,5,6,7,8], 'Abdu'l-Bahá [14,15,16,17,18,19,20,22, 24,25,26,27,28, 29,30,31,32,33,34,35,42,43], and Shoghi Effendi [44,45,46,47,48,49,50, 52,53,54,55,57,58,59, 62]. Bahá'u'lláh placed the responsibility of establishing a universal language not only upon the Universal House of Justice but also upon "the sovereigns of the world" [4], "the ministers of the earth" [4], and the "members of parliaments throughout the world" [8], saying that it is "incumbent upon all nations" [5], and the "officials and ministers of the Government" [7]. He wrote individually "to the kings and rulers of the various nations, recommending that one language should be sanctioned and adopted by all governments" [29], even hoping that "the Persian Government" [7] would carry it out. In fact, He said that, "It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action...." [6]

'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that a universal language will be accomplished through "A committee appointed by national bodies" [15], "the matter to be determined by a confederation met for the purpose which shall represent all tribes and nations." [16] He has said that "the servants of humanity should meet together," [24] and that "An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation in the world, Eastern as well as Western." [24] That "It must be made by a Council representing all countries," [26] He said that it was His "hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organise an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech." [27] and that "Ere long significant and scientific discussions concerning this matter will arise among the people of discernment and insight and it will produce the desired result." [42]

Bahá'u'lláh's "injunction to the members of parliaments throughout the world, urging the adoption of a universal script and language;" [45] along with His exhortation that "the legislators to 'take counsel together,'" [44] is of course confirmed by Shoghi Effendi.

Universal Language is the Greatest Means for Promoting Unity

Bahá'u'lláh has stated that "the greatest means for the promotion of ... unity is for the peoples of the world to understand one another's writing and speech. ... Thus will the earth be regarded as one country and one home." [3] He says to the leaders of the world that a universal language is "that which shall profit you and enable you to be independent of others. ...This will be the cause of unity, ... and the greatest instrument for promoting harmony and civilization" [8] He repeatedly states that it is what will cause "the whole earth ... to be regarded as one city and one land. [1] or "as one country", [4,5,7] saying that, "When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. [6]

'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that, " the question of an auxiliary international tongue has the utmost importance." [27] He adds that it is, "Through this means international education and training become possible;" [27] and that , "The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium." [27] He says therefore, "the very first service to the world of man is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication. It will become the cause of the tranquillity of the human commonwealth. Through it sciences and arts will be spread among the nations, and it will prove to be the means of the progress and development of all races." [27] He further points out that, "The causes of dispute among different nations are always due to one of the following classes of prejudice: racial, lingual, theological, personal, and prejudices of custom and tradition .... The differences in language cause disunion between nations. There must be one universal language." [25]

Today we realise that communication builds community and world wide communication will build world wide community so that as Bahá'u'lláh says, "...this ... is the means of the reconstruction of the world and the unity of nations." [3] Likewise, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says, "the brightest ray is the coming of the universal language. Its achievement is the greatest virtue of the age ... and when the international auxiliary tongue becomes universal it is easily conceivable that the acquirement of knowledge and instruction will likewise become universal.

Today one of the chief causes of the differences in Europe is the diversity of languages. ...The greatest working basis for bringing about unity and harmony amongst the nations is the teaching of a universal tongue... His Holiness BAHA'O'LLAH declared that complete union between the various nations of the world would remain an unrealized dream until an international language was established.

Misunderstandings keep people from mutual association and these misunderstandings will not be dispelled except through the medium of a common ground of communication. A mutual language will become the mightiest means toward universal progress, for it will cement the east and the west. It will make the world one home and become the divine impulse for human advancement." [18]

Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi actively promoted Universal Language

Bahá'u'lláh's, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's and Shoghi Effendi's interest and commitment to the development of a universal language were not limited to prophecies about the future or mere statements about the cultural and sociological benefits to be associated with such an ideal. They each and every one actively made positive efforts, in keeping with the circumstances of their times, to further the language cause.

Bahá'u'lláh offered to teach an inquirer a suitable international language. [7] Taherzadeh [83] speculates that this may have been Esperanto but this may be questioned because Bahá'u'lláh says that it also involved a new script, something which is not generally contributed to Esperanto. Anyway, as Marzieh Gail, states, "The language and script .. were never communicated to anyone by Bahá'u'lláh." Bahá'u'lláh actually would have preferred that Arabic become the universal language [79] but, as described above, he has left the choice to mankind. Bahá'u'lláh also revealed a rather mystical language called Badi' [13] 'Abdu'l-Bahá made reference to the same or a similar language. [36] 'Abdu'l-Bahá also recommended the learning of Persian [40], but not specifically as a universal language.

While, as shown earlier, both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá directly encouraged world leaders to immediately take action on the language issue, 'Abdu'l-Bahá went much further in directly supporting Esperanto. [55] Although He acknowledged that Esperanto had many deficiencies, and His list of requirements for a universal language was in many ways a list of the deficiencies of Esperanto, [26,23] and although He emphasised that "no one person can construct a Universal Language", still He said, "Praise be to God, that Dr. Zamenhof has constructed the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of universal adoption. All of us must be grateful and thankful to him for his noble effort, for in this matter he has served his fellow-man well. He has done a service which will bestow divine benefits on all peoples. With untiring effort and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees it holds a promise of universal acceptation. Therefore every one of us must study this language and make every effort to spread it, so that each day it may receive a wider recognition, be accepted by all nations and governments of the world and become a part of the curriculum of all the public schools..." [18]

'Abdu'l-Bahá concluded that, " Esperanto ...is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people. [24] He further said, "This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal." [43] While pointing out Esperanto's deficiencies He nevertheless encouraged people to "strive untiringly to spread this language." [19] He, Himself inviting teachers of the language to go to Persia and asking Persians to go to Paris to study it. [18] He said, "Therefore appreciate 'Esperanto', for it is the beginning of the carrying out of one of the most important of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, and it must continue to be improved and perfected." [24] and assured that , "The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost," [26] in the hope "that Dr. Zamenhof, (would) become assisted by the invisible confirmation and do a great service to the world of humanity." [43]

Shoghi Effendi was also a major supporter of Esperanto, "invariably encouraging the believers, both in the East and in the West, to make an intensive study of that language," [54] pointing out that "the teaching of that language has been repeatedly encouraged by 'Abdu'l-Bahá," [55] although further stating, "there is no reference either from Him or from Bahá'u'lláh that can make us believe that it will necessarily develop into the international auxiliary language of the future." [55] and that "Neither Bahá'u'lláh, nor even 'Abdu'l-Bahá, ever stated that Esperanto will be the international auxiliary language." [54] so only "encouraging the Bahá'ís to learn it, if they wish to." [58] In fact, there were cases where, "He would not advise ... to teach ...Esperanto, as we have no way of knowing whether it will ultimately be chosen as the auxiliary language of the world." [59]

Still, Ruhiyyih Rabbani informs us that, "Shoghi Effendi had far more contact with certain non-Bahá'í organizations than is commonly supposed. ... particularly ... the Esperantists, ..." That he "often took the initiative himself in sending Bahá'í representatives, chosen by him, to various conferences ...", addressing them as his "'dear fellow workers in the service of humanity, ...'" whom he reminded of the "'repeated and emphatic admonitions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (to) His many followers ...(who were) strenuously and enthusiastically engaged in the study and teaching of Esperanto,'" [63] Indeed, the enthusiasm, interest and support of Bahá'ís for the language movement, just those few short decades ago, were amazing, It received not just a cursory mention in a listing of the principles of the Faith, nor the pious futuristic expectation presently about equally attributed to vegetarianism, but a predominance that might be properly associated with one of the seven candles of unity [20] and one of the "two signs for the coming of age of the human race". [8,9,10] In those days there were even Bahá'í International Auxiliary Language Committees [48] and Bahá'í international language study days. [49]

Present Day Bahá'ís are relatively inactive in promoting Universal Language Solutions

Today, among most Bahá'ís, any expression of interest in working on the language problem is met with the easy formulation that it is something for the future. That it is not an individual's concern, and indeed not even properly a present concern of the Universal House of Justice because, "The first stage will be the adoption of a universal language by the governments, while the second will have to wait until such time that the Universal House of Justice has emerged as the supreme institution of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and its authority is recognized. It is only then that it can possibly reconsider the choice of the language so as to either retain the one chosen by the governments or alter it altogether." [78] For this reason it is felt that a person devoted to this seemingly Quixotic language cause is really tilting with windmills and diverting energies from the present pressing needs for the expansion of the Faith. However, Bahá'u'lláh states in regard to our subject that, "These things are obligatory and absolutely essential" [6]. Moreover, He says, "It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action...." [6] And, as the Universal House of Justice has pointed out in its letter of May 15, 1994, "The power of action in the believers is unlocked at the level of individual initiative...".

Indeed, far from diverting energies from the expansion of the Faith, the language issue may be central to its success. Aside from being referred to as, "The seventh candle ...(of) unity" [20], and one of the "two signs for the comi ng of age of the human race", [8,9,10] 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that, "The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium. As long as diversity of tongues and lack of comprehension of other languages continue, these glorious aims cannot be realized." [27] In this connection Bahá'u'lláh has said, "Every age hath its own problem, ... The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." [6] "The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy." [6]

The Possible Future Role of English as the Universal Language

Still, some persons have doubts about supporting the goal of the World Language Program. For instance, there are raised accusations of cultural imperialism when in fact there are more persons today who speak English as a Second Language than those who speak it as their mother tongue. Indeed, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi supported [62] the spread of the Romance Language culturally based Esperanto there were numerous contenders for an international language. French was still on the rise and recognised as the language of diplomacy, German was the recognised language of science, Latin was the language of law and medicine and Italian of music. 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi made it very clear that they recognised the limitations of Esperanto and the unlikelyhood of its success, yet they gave it immense support.

Mario Pei, without question the world's foremost secular authority on universal languages, states that there have been over 650 attempts to develop a suitable solution. Notable attempts contiguous with Esperanto in the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi were Ido and Interlingua. The World Language Process may be simply a 651st+ attempt, but perhaps the important thing is to keep trying. In any case the World Language Program does not force English on anyone but only offers its ITM (Intermediate Teaching Method) as a service to the members of mankind who would like to learn English as a Second Language.

English, as it stands today, is deficient in a number of ways in meeting the standards established by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a universal language. 'Abdu'l-Bahá spelled out many technical details regarding a universal language, stating that it must:

   a.  "... contain words from different languages." [26]
 b. "... be governed by the simplest rules ..." [26]
 c. "... there will be no exceptions..." [26]
 d. "... neither will there be gender..." [26]
 e. "... nor extra and silent letters." [26]
 f. "...Everything indicated will have but one name."[26]

 The system used by the World Language Process meets all these requirements.

The Distinguishably Separate Call for a Common Script

Bahá'u'lláh, in combination (but distinguishably separate) with his call for a universal language also called for a "common script" [1,3,4,5,6,7,7,8,10], a call which was of course reiterated in the writings of Shoghi Effendi [44,45,46,52,53] but strangely not in those of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Bahá'u'lláh's father was famed for his calligraphy, [94] knowing many scripts, but we are told that while Bahá'u'lláh's favourite script was shitastih-nasta'liq [95,94] the Revelation Writing of His amanuensis was in Khatt-i-tazili. [96] although Browne says the Bábís created a new writing called Khatt-i-Badi, possibly related to the Badi language [13] mentioned above.. The recognition of the significance of a common script is a subject within itself. Without belabouring the difference between scripts, fonts and faces, English commonly uses the Roman script but there have been others proposed and used.. For example the Mormon Deseret by Brigham Young, WES (World English Spelling), ITA (International Teaching Alphabet), Pitman and other shorthands, to name just a few. Khatt-i-tazili could perhaps be compared in function to the latter.

Bahá'u'lláh stated that, "... before Adam. There was ... a system entirely different from the one which they now use. For a proper exposition of this an elaborate explanation would be required." [12], He was perhaps intimating that technologies previously existed beyond the comprehension of his contemporary audience. Today, electronic technology for digital storage and a law passed in 1994 by the U.S. Congress regarding the required inclusion of captioning decoders in all future home television receivers has dictated the design of the ANJeL Tug to conform with both the U.S. and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's standards. To properly explain this to Bahá'u'lláh's contemporary audience would certainly have required an elaborate explanation.

Other Issues In the Development of a Universal Language

As 'Abdu'l-Bahá was well aware, there were many other technical issues when He stated, "...Ere long significant and scientific discussions concerning this matter will arise among the people of discernment and insight and it will produce the desired result." [42] And indeed, as Esselmont stated, "Bahá'u'lláh commanded the adoption of a universal auxiliary language, and Dr. Zamenhof and others[39] obeyed His call by devoting their lives and genius to this great task and opportunity." [86], although as he also noted, their contributions have not always been willingly received. [85] The development of the ANJeL Tug stands upon the backs of giants too numerous to list but including Zamenhof, C.K Ogden, I.A. Richards and Mario Pei to name but four. These scholars, and many others, devoted their lives to developing principles that we discover in retrospect were already delineated in the Bahá'í Scriptures, if we had but the wisdom to recognise them. A listing here of the principles, and their ramifications, would border on pedantry and would only be of interest to the technically inclined. Just as Bahá'í spiritual economic principles find their fulfilment in the work of technical economists so also are the linguistic principles being implemented by technical linguists.

There are also many issues other than those which are technical. The question of universality [1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,15,20,22,24,26,28,31,32,33,34,41,42,43,44,45,46,50, 57,75,79,80,81,82,88,93] versus auxiliarity[7,14,16,18,19,27,29,30,35,47,48,53,54,55,57,58,59,63,64,75, 76,77,78,86,87], the subject of unity and diversity [51,74], the role of secular organisations [4,5,7,8] versus that of the Universal House of Justice [1,2,3,41], and even that of individuals [6,18,27,90]. The means of spread of the universal language through schools [2,3,4,5,6,7,15,18,26,29,53,75,87], and other means [8,16,45,24,28,30,31,32,55,93], the translation of Scripture [21,56,69,70,71,72,73] and its use for Bahá'í publication [68], to name just a few. The purpose here, however, has not been to exhaustively examine any of these issues, technical or otherwise, but simply to demonstrate how regardless of the effort being spent or not spent on the language problem by Bahá'ís, the Divine Destiny still moves forward.

The Present Opportunity is Much Greater than those of the Past

The Divine Destiny has unfurled numerous technological advances (eleven of which are discussed elsewhere in these pages) that have made both the necessity and possibility of a universal language infinitely more apparent. Although no human organisations are actively pressing for its realisation these Divine Destinies will, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization." [20] Still, does this relieve us individually from making an effort? Especially since Bahá'u'lláh has said that, "These things are obligatory and essential.", and "It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action...." [6] Are not the technological changes of the last several decades simply a sign of the Divine Assistance towards our achieving the Divine Decree? Should we not, having the greater resources and opportunity, now press on even more eagerly than did those early pioneers under the guidance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi?

Since 'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that "it matters not what language man speaks or employs" [29] and that no matter which universal language is chosen it will be "revised" [26], for the time being does it hurt to teach that language which is most universally popular as a second language? He, Himself said that He would have learned Esperanto, had it been more universally accepted, [18] but, For Shoghi Effendi, [60] and others, [37,38] He required the learning of english which He considered to be a "world language". [60] Admittedly, it may not be officially called a universal language until decreed as such by those mechanisms designated by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá and admittedly the ANJeL Tug prototype even if accepted through those mechanisms would be subject to those same revision procedures. Still, today, the ANJeL Tug is only being presented as a revolutionary ITM (Intermediate Teaching Method) that reduces the learning of english from years to a single month. Can we not say then that this would be a service to mankind?

This is an attempt, as Bahá'u'lláh says, "to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.... That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth." [6] Is it not obedient to the instructions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to make the effort to perform "the very first service to the world of man (which) is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication."? [27]

The Possible Role of North America

One cannot say definitively what the future holds but it would not be surprising, based upon the United States past record of non-support for the League of Nations and an effective United Nations, and as the last major bastion against the international metric system of weights and measures, but that the American people might be the last to willingly accept any modifications to the english language. Although, given world antipathy to American causes this too might work for the good of goal. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that He finds, "these two great American nations highly capable and advanced in all that appertains to progress and civilization. These governments are fair and equitable. The motives and purposes of these people are lofty and inspiring. Therefore, it is my hope that these revered nations may become prominent factors in the establishment of international peace and the oneness of the world of humanity; that they may lay the foundations of equality and spiritual brotherhood among mankind; that they may manifest the highest virtues of the human world, revere the divine lights of the Prophets of God and establish the reality of unity so necessary today in the affairs of nations." [31]

In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, 'Abdu'l-Bahá repeatedly told these two great American nations to "send to (the East and the West)... fluent speakers" [98] and teachers throughout the world. Particularly in the Tablet in which Kansas was addressed He says that it is, "like unto the heart of America, and the heart is connected with all the parts of man. If the heart is strengthened, all the organs of the body are reinforced, ..."[99] Moreover, He says in the same Tablet, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate... [100] How fitting then that Kansas should be one of the locations for one of the two proposed universal language institutes. How essential and favourable this location might be as a centre from which to institute mass teaching in the period of reconstruction after the universal great catastrophe.

The Possible Role of Bahá'í Institutes

The Universal House of Justice has told us that, "institutes should not only be seats of Bahá'í learning but also centres from which mass teaching and consolidation work over a large area must be inspired and conducted." [89] The goals, both of the Institutes themselves, and of the teachers that they would produce, would be to:

  Category I.

" * Encourage individual believers to adopt teaching goals for themselves.
* Carry out activities designed to deepen the believers in both a spiritual and intellectual understanding of the Cause.
 * Encourage the believers to make greater use of Bahá'í literature.
* Encourage the believers to enhance their command of language to assist them to understand the Bahá'í writings ever more clearly." [90]

 These foregoing are surely worthwhile Institute and mass teaching goals but the specific goals of these Institutes would also include:

Category II.

 the encouragement of: * "the adoption of a world auxiliary language" [91],

 the advocacy of : * "the establishment of world government" [91],
* "the promotion of education" [91],
* "the extension of social and economic development" [91],

and the mounting of a publicity campaign for : * "world peace through world language" [91].

 Many of the Institutes goals may be accomplished through developing and administering

* "correspondence courses for teaching and deepening" [91]

particularly towards the goal of

* "teaching the concept of world citizenship" [92].

The above Category II goals, universalist and ambitious as they may be, are intentionally selective from the tasks commended to the Institutes by the Universal House of Justice. The reason for this is the unique relationship which these two initial Institutes, and the offspring which they would spawn, would have to the World Language Process. While the Bahá'í Institutes would seek to inspire and deepen Bahá'í teachers, and teachers of Bahá'í teachers, the vehicle of service to humanity which they would be using, namely the World Language Process, remains much more narrowly focused and identifies itself with no sectarian religious or nationalistic or otherwise limited political agendas.

 
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