The fundamental disagreement between the sans-Guardian Baha'is and those who remain loyal to the living Guardians of the Cause, has to do with the interpretation of Aghsan. That is, the Sons of Baha'u'llah, and the question of whether the Guardians must be Aghsan.
Shoghi Effendi, as the first Guardian, had the sole right to interpret the Writings of the Faith. His translations of the Holy Text are authoritative, including the interpretions he had to make in translating the Arabic and Persian words into English words.
Shoghi Effendi translated the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, and in the English version of that document, Shoghi Effendi used the the word "branch" or a variation thereof ten times. Lets take a look at how they are used (emphasis added):
1) "Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas..." (p. 3)
The primal branch grown out of the Twin Holy Trees obviously refers to Shoghi Effendi, who branched from both the Bab and Baha'u'llah. Of course, he was not one of the Sons of Baha'u'llah, but was the grandson of Abdu'l-Baha, through His daughter.
In this translation and interpretation of Aghsan, Shoghi Effendi uses the lower case "b" to refer to himself.
2) "...for behold! he is the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees. Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind." (p. 3)
Again, Shoghi Effendi's translation and interpretation in reference to himself uses a lower case "b" in "branch."
3) "...it is incumbent upon the Afnan, that are steadfast in the Covenant of God and have branched from the Tree of Holiness; the Hands, (pillars) of the Cause of God (the glory of the Lord rest upon them), and all the friends and loved ones, one and all to bestir themselves and arise with heart and soul and in one accord, to diffuse the sweet savors of God, to teach His Cause and to promote His Faith..." (p. 9)
Here, Abdu'l-Baha is referring to the Afnan, the maternal relatives of the Bab and Shoghi Effendi's translation and interpreation uses the word "branched" with a lower case "b".
4. 5. 6, and 7) "After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsan (Branches), the Afnan (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abha Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi -- the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, -- as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn..." (p. 11)
In this passage, Abdu'l-Baha is abandoning the succession of the Aghsan and replacing it with the Guardianship, with Shoghi Effendi as the first Guardian. In referring to the Sons of Baha'u'llah, who now must obey Shoghi Effendi, he interprets and translates the word with an upper case "B" but the other three uses of the word "branch" are lower case "b" because in those uses he is referring to Shoghi Effendi and the Guardians. Abdu'l-Baha makes it clear that the Sons of Baha'u'llah and the Hands are to turn to the Guardians.
8) "The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty," (p. 11)
The sans-Guardian Baha'is may misinterpret this sentence because they have been brainwashed into believing that their headless UHJ is being referred to, when elsewhere Abdu'l-Baha makes it clear that the UHJ he is referring to has the Guardian as its "sacred head." In referring to the Guardian of the Cause, the word branch is lower case "b" according to the translation and interpretation of Shoghi Effendi.
9) "Thus, should the first-born of the Guardian of the Cause of God not manifest in himself the truth of the words: -- "The child is the secret essence of its sire," that is, should he not inherit of the spiritual within him (the Guardian of the Cause of God) and his glorious lineage not be matched with a goodly character, then must he, (the Guardian of the Cause of God) choose another branch to succeed him."
Although Abdu'l-Baha clearly states a preference for the first born son of the Guardian to be his successor, He clearly makes the Guardianship an appointed position and not hereditary. If the Center of the Cause was strictly hereditary, then Abdu'l-Baha's successor would have to be Abdu'l-Bahá's half-brother, Muhammad `Alí, who was named by Baha'u'llah Himself as one of His successors (but who turned against Abdu'l-Baha). In this passage, the word "branch" is not referring to the Sons of Baha'u'llah, but instead it was referring to a spiritual branchhood, and therefore according to Shoghi Effendi's authoritative interpretation and translation, a lower case "b" is used for the word "branch." Abdu'l-Baha is specifically allowing the Guardians to appoint someone other than their own children by allowing them to choose another "branch."
10) "It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi,the twig that hath branched from and the fruit given forth by the two hallowed and Divine Lote-Trees, that no dust of despondency and sorrow may stain his radiant nature, that day by day he may wax greater in happiness, in joy and spirituality, and may grow to become even as a fruitful tree." (p. 25)
In this last reference, referring to how Shoghi Effendi "branched" from the Bab and Baha'u'llah, the word is interpreted and translated by Shoghi Effendi with a lower case "b" as Shoghi Effendi is obviously not one of the Sons of Baha'u'llah. Those who say that the Guardian must be one of the Sons of Baha'u'llah, the Aghsan, are really denouncing Abdu'l-Baha since it was He who did away with the Agshan as the successors to Baha'u'llah. Those who insist that Aghsan refers to any descendant of Baha'u'llah are perverting the meaning of the word as used by Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi and are rejecting the clear interpretation of Shoghi Effendi, as well as the obvious intent of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha.
Those who refuse to recognize the idea of a spiritual inheritance, that the Guardians are spiritual offshoots of the Tree of Holiness are caught up into a materialistic world view that is not consistent with Baha'i orthodoxy. It is absurd to believe that the DNA transferred from one member of the Holy Family to another is the carrier of divine guidance, yet this is exactly what the sans-Guardian Baha'is are saying when they say that there was no Agshan for Shoghi Effendi to appoint his successor.
Abdu'l-Baha seems to display foreknowledge that Shoghi Effendi would not have children in passage number 10, wherein He says that if the Baha'is must "take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi" so that "no dust of despondency and sorrow may stain his radiant nature", then Shoghi Effendi would "grow to become even as a fruitful tree." Is He not saying that the opposition that Shoghi Effendi faced during his entire life caused him not to sire children, and therefore the greatest test of the Baha'i world would ensue?
Thus, the Baha'is are tested on whether they would accept a spiritual branchhood.
As Joel B. Marangella, stated in "The Tree of the Covenant:"
"Bahá'u'lláh is the Ancient Root from which has sprung the Primal Branch or Greatest Branch; that is His appointed Successor and the Center of His Covenant, 'Abdu'l-Bahá "a Branch" that hath been so uplifted as to encompass the whole of creation" and the "Most Mighty Branch of God. " The Guardians of the Faith who have been endowed with the same interpretive authority as had been vested in 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in accordance with the explicit provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, may be regarded (and, in fact, are so designated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá) as the youthful branches or twigs which are the offshoots of the Primal Branch while the mass of faithful believers are the leaves and fruits of this glorious Tree." http://bahai-guardian.com/tree.html
Abdu'l-Baha confirms this in Last Tablet to America (found at Baha'i World Faith, p. 438):
"Consider! The Divine Gardener cuts off the dry or weak branch from the good tree and grafts to it, a branch from another tree. He both separates and unites."
This is exactly what Abdu'l-Baha did when He created the Guardianship in His Will, and this is exactly what Shoghi Effendi did when he appointed Mason Remey to the presidency of the embryonic UHJ (the International Baha'i Council).
It is time for the Baha'is who follow the headless UHJ to abandon their materialistic ideas about the succession of the Center of the Cause and recognize that the Baha'i Faith is not to be bogged down with materialistic notions of hereditary succession. The Guardianship is a spiritual office. To be firm in the Covenant means and always has meant fidelity and obedience to the Guardian of the Cause:
"The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the Guardian of the Cause of God. It is incumbent upon the members of the House of Justice, upon all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the Guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him. He that opposeth him hath opposed the True One, will make a breach in the Cause of God, will subvert His Word and will become a manifestation of the Center of Sedition. Beware, beware, lest the days after the ascension (of Bahá'u'lláh) be repeated when the Center of Sedition waxed haughty and rebellious and with Divine Unity for his excuse deprived himself and perturbed and poisoned others. No doubt every vainglorious one that purposeth dissension and discord will not openly declare his evil purposes, nay rather, even as impure gold, will he seize upon divers measures and various pretexts that he may separate the gathering of the people of Baha." Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament, p. 11.
Beware that He is talking about you!
For more information on the Orthodox Baha'is:
The living Guardian's web site:
The International Baha'i Council's web site:
The Hands of the Cause of God web site: