The Principle of Consultation

On May 2, 1912 at the Hotel Plaza in Chicago, Illinois, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá discussed consultation and its importance. He had previously visited a senate session in France and noted that, “altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result, mostly confusion and turmoil.” He went on to describe a vision of consultation that is vastly different from the argumentation He had witnessed, stating that, “He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide.” He also noted that, “antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth.” These poignant statements set the standard for consultation and highlight the fact that the term “consultation” actually encompasses a multifaceted and complex reality. What exactly is true consultation? What is its purpose? Under what circumstances does it occur?

  • What is true consultation & its purpose?

‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated that, “consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth,” and that “spiritual conference and not the mere voicing of personal views is intended.”

  • Under what circumstances can it occur?

Two of the key circumstances ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized were:

1)   Seeking the “consensus of opinion”:

He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide. A spark is produced when flint and steel come together.

2)   The appropriate manner in which opinions should be expressed:

Man should weigh his opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If he finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of his own. By this excellent method he endeavors to arrive at unity and truth.

These circumstances suggest the adoption of a posture of humility and highlight the importance of unity in consultation. Though spoken 100 years ago, these words remain profoundly relevant and set a lofty goal for us all as we consult and collaborate in the various spheres of our lives and of society.

 

Photo by Ryan Lash, www.nineteendays.blogspot.com

 

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