Alison's final letter to her NSA

The following is Alison's letter to the National Spiritual Assembly suggesting that she and the assembly agree to disagree and make peace.

26 May 2004

Dear members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand


I was moved to write to you after reading your recent letter to Steve, outlining your concerns about him. It is just over a year now since the court case ended, and your letter made me realise how much I have changed in that time. I decided to write and tell you about that and about how I see your actions today in light of it, in the hope that it may inspire you to reconsider your course of action. As members of the national assembly, you have a huge spiritual responsibility and I do not envy you your job, that’s for sure. Although you do not consider me to be a Baha’i, nevertheless, I am one and take seriously my responsibility to give you my considered opinions if I think a particular situation warrants it.

Soon after the legal action between us finished, I underwent an enormous spiritual change. Of course, these experiences are always personal and impossible to capture in words, but the best way to describe it is as an insight where I saw something of what Baha’u’llah calls, among other things, “immortal sovereignty” in the Hidden Word: “Didst thou behold immortal sovereignty, thou wouldst strive to pass from this fleeting world.” That Hidden Word captures in a nutshell what happened to me. I ‘saw’ as never before what Baha’u’llah was referring to. And the Hidden Word also captures how I changed as a result. I wanted to flee all that was fleeting. When I looked around at my life, I saw that everything in my life except my love for, and service to, Baha’u’llah was fleeting. When I die, it’ll be folded up in Baha’u’llah’s puppeteer’s box, including everything that has passed between me and you. Right there and then, I let it go. It simply no longer mattered. My heart cleared, my soul rejoiced and I became filled with an inner delight that I knew, if I kept guard over it, was God’s grace to me for eternity.

When I read your letter to Steve, I was reminded of what had passed between us. You see, I had as good as forgotten about it, having become so caught up in this new contentment. This had given me a clear direction - that I needed to dedicate the remaining years of my life to teaching the Faith. Then your letter arrived. Suddenly I was thrown back in my mind to a time that seemed like an eternity ago, but in worldly terms was only one year. And it dawned on me that I should write in a bid to establish peace. I have put the whole business behind me and forgiven you. I wish you well in your endeavours. Unfortunately, we can’t work together for the Cause because you don’t want anything to do with me. But nevertheless, my heart can see this situation in the light of eternal sovereignty, where all these fleeting matters disappear, and maybe we will know each other in the next world in better circumstances.

I know you have a strong belief in the infallibility of the House, which I do not share. All along, that appears to have been the main source of disagreement between us. Reading between the lines of your letter to Steve, the infallibility issue appears to be the thing you are driving at again. I’m genuinely sorry that you feel so strongly about it that you feel justified in tossing people out of the community because of it. I simply don’t understand why we can’t live with differing views on it. As you know, Abdu’l-Baha says that if two believers argue over a matter, then they are both wrong. I think this is because we need to keep our eye on that immortal sovereignty that is our priceless spiritual gift, and these unimportant differences of opinion should not be allowed to rob us of that. Abdu’l-Baha says that our Lord will not punish us for rejecting a dogma that we cannot believe. The Lord, he says, is just. “Our Father will not hold us responsible for the rejection of dogmas which we are unable either to believe or comprehend, for He is ever infinitely just to His children.” (Paris Talks p26) If the Lord can do this, then is it possible you could emulate his compassionate and tolerant example?

Abdu’l-Baha also tells us that the alphabet is for children and, as such, legalism isn’t worthy of the spiritually mature:

“Holding to the letter of the law is many times an indication of a desire for leadership. One who assumes to be the enforcer of the law shows an intellectual understanding of the Cause, but that spiritual guidance in them is not yet established. The alphabet of things is for children, that they may in time use their reasoning powers. ‘Following the spirit’ is a guidance by and through the heart, the prompter of the spirit.” (Star of the West, Volume VI, p43)

By taking the position you do, I believe you raise a sentence on the membership card – and a tenuous interpretation of it at that - to that of a verse in the Aqdas. And yet, would you disenrol a person for offending against an injunction of the Kitab-i Aqdas? Did Baha’u’llah dismiss people from his presence for not truly recognising his spiritual station as a manifestation? Then why do you throw away people who you believe do not truly see the station of the House? Look at what happened to the Muslim community when it raised a literal interpretation of the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ verse to an article of faith.

My point in all this is not to get you to change your view on the infallibility of the House. I don’t mind what you believe. I don’t see it as my business. My point is to suggest that this issue isn’t as important as you make it out to be. You often speak of unity; wouldn’t this be achieved if we just agreed to disagree? Why should this matter be allowed to get between us like this? Surely, that is the real spiritual offence. In my view, all things must be looked at from the point of view of immortal sovereignty. And from that perspective, I say we’ll one day look back together on this day and see these petty concerns as a thing forgotten. Let’s not wait until the next world to see that happen. Let’s realise the sanctity of that vision in our hearts now.

Warmest Baha’i love
Alison Marshall

“O son of worldliness! Pleasant is the realm of being, wert thou to attain thereto; glorious is the domain of eternity, shouldst thou pass beyond the world of mortality; sweet is the holy ecstasy if thou drinkest of the mystic chalice from the hands of the celestial Youth. Shouldst thou attain this station, thou wouldst be freed from destruction and death, from toil and sin.”
-- Baha'u'llah: Persian Hidden Words, no 70