The Divine Plan, Shoghi Effendi affirms, is "a Plan holding within it the seeds of the world's spiritual revival and ultimate redemption" (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith). This presentation charts the course of the unfolding stages of the Divine Plan and its anticipated outcome- the efflorescence of the Bahá'í worldwide community.
The Unveiling. The Tablets of the Divine Plan were unveiled in 1919, at the end of the First World War- midst jubilation- in New York City at the Tenth Annual Mashrek-el- Azkar Convention and Bahá'í Congress-designated by 'Abdu'l- Bahá, the "Convention of the Covenant". Concurrent with this event, across the Atlantic Ocean, the Paris Peace Conference was in session. The outcome of the calls raised through these two events invite our reflection.
The Unfoldment of the Divine Plan. After the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the unfolding stages of the Divine Plan were directed by Shoghi Effendi and subsequently by the Universal House of Justice. The strategy of the plans of the Bahá'í world has been evolutionary and systematic-- implemented in phases. During the first phase, dispersion-- global spread-- was of foremost importance for diffusing the message of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the virgin areas of the world. The later phases of the plans of the Bahá'í world place special focus on advancing the process of "entry by troops"large scale growth. Three global Plans launched by Shoghi Effendi, the First Seven Year Plan, the Second Seven Year Plan and the Ten Year Global Crusade continued the primary focus on global dispersion. The character and expanse of the Ten Year Global Crusade signify a defining moment in the fortunes of the Bahá'í Faith;Í¾ the Bahá'í Faith became global.
The flow of guidance continued under the directives of the Universal House of Justice through: a series of plans from the Nine Year Plan (1964-73), to the current Five year Plan to culminate in 2021, the Centenary of the passing of `Abdu'l- Bahá. The Four Year Plan (1996-2000) marks a turning point in the approach of the Bahá'í world to growth;Í¾ its fundamental emphasis was the creation of a sustainable pattern of expansion and consolidation.
Growth of the Bahá'í Community under the Plans of the Bahá'í World. A panoramic survey from the passing of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892, to the present day, highlights several salient points. By 1892, all adherents of the Bahá'í Faith lived in fifteen countries in Asia and Africa, The landmark year 1893- one year after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh- the Bahá'í Faith was mentioned for the first time in the western hemisphere; this was the beginning of enlisting followers in the West. As the result of continuing response to the unfolding stages of the Divine Plan, the Bahá'í Faith has become widespread across the planet with significant increase--since Shoghi Effendi assumed Guardianship-in the total number of countries and localities where Bahá'ís now reside.
Reflections. The approach to growth- through the unfolding stages of the Divine Plan- has been systematic, coherent and evolutionary. Each approach is suited to its specific historical circumstance. The course of progression of the global plans of the Bahá'í world displays the dynamic process of layering. In the earlier phase, primary focus was placed on geographical spread. The later phases place increasing focus on consolidation. In 2010, The Universal House of Justice- prior to launching its subsequent five year plan -- introduced the elements of involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society. These were introduced gradually to be further developed in future plans. The phenomenon of layering will be discussed in this presentation. Under the guidance of the unfolding stages of the Divine Plan, the Bahá'í community is now well positioned to address its large scale growth and crystallization. The process of Crystallization - an elegant metaphor from natural sciences- will be explored in relation to the transformation and crystallization of the Bahá'í worldwide community.