|The administrative bodies of the
Bahá'í Faith at all levels use a distinctive method of non-adversarial decision-making,
known as "consultation."
principles of consultation were laid down in Bahá'u'lláh's writings, and, as a procedure
for building consensus and investigating truth, they have the potential for wide
application. Indeed, Bahá'ís have found them to be useful in virtually any arena where
group decision-making and cooperation is required. These principles are used not only by
the Faith's own institutions, but in Bahá'í-owned businesses, in Bahá'í-operated
schools, and in day-to-day decision-making of Bahá'í families.
"Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face,
and hear the Voice, of the Promised One." --Bahá'u'lláh
In essence, consultation seeks to build consensus in a manner
that unites various constituencies instead of dividing them. It encourages diversity of
opinion and acts to control the struggle for power that is otherwise so common in
traditional decision-making systems.
Bahá'í consultation is based on the following principles:
- Information should be gathered from the widest
possible range of sources, seeking a diversity of points of view. This may mean making
special efforts to seek the views of specialists--such as lawyers, doctors, or scientists.
It may also mean looking for information outside traditional specialties or making a
special effort to consider the views of community members from diverse backgrounds.
- During discussion, participants must make
every effort to be as frank and candid as possible, while maintaining a courteous interest
in the view of others. Personal attacks, blanket ultimatums and prejudicial statements are
to be avoided.
- When an idea is put forth it becomes at once
the property of the group. Although this notion sounds simple, it is perhaps the most
profound principle of consultation. For in this rule, all ideas cease to be the property
of any individual, sub-group, or constituency. When followed, this principle encourages
those ideas that spring forth from a sincere desire to serve, as opposed to ideas that
emanate from a desire for personal aggrandizement or constituency-building.
- The group strives for unanimity, but a
majority vote can be taken to bring about a conclusion and make the decision. An important
aspect to this principle is the understanding that once a decision is made, it is
incumbent on the entire group to act on it with unity--regardless of how many supported
In this sense, there can be no "minority" report or
"position of the opposition" in consultation. Rather, Bahá'ís believe that if
a decision is a wrong one, it will become evident in its implementation--but only if the
decision-making group and, indeed, the community at large, support it wholeheartedly.
This commitment to unity ensures that if a decision or a
project fails, the problem lies in the idea itself, and not in lack of support from the
community or the obstinate actions of opponents.
"He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart
the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body." -- Bahá'u'lláh
The principle, again, harks back to an understanding of the
power of unity. Bahá'u'lláh's son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, said that
Bahá'ís should strive always to seek agreement on an issue:
"If they agree on a subject, even though it be wrong, it
is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the
demolition of the divine foundations. Though one of the parties may be in the right and
they disagree, that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both
parties are in the wrong, it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made