Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God

Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Vigor of Shoghi Effendi

A number of times during his life, particularly in the years immediately following the Ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi retired to Switzerland to regain health, energy and self-confidence.  He lived a very physically rigorous life here.  Ruhiyyih Khanum wrote of "the Bernese Alps, where he had spent so many months of his life walking and climbing." (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 134)

Shoghi Effendi as a young man
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used by permission
Please click photo for larger image

She continues:

"Interlaken is in the heart of the Bernese Oberland and the starting point for innumerable excursions into the surrounding mountains and valleys. Often long before sunrise Shoghi Effendi would start out, dressed in knee breeches, a Norfolk jacket and black wool puttees on his legs, sturdy mountain boots, and a small cheap canvas rucksack on his back and carrying a cane. He would take a train to the foot of some mountain or pass and begin his excursion, walking often ten to sixteen hours, usually alone, but sometimes accompanied by whichever young relative was with him; they could seldom stand the pace and after a few days would start making their excuses. From here he also climbed some of the higher mountains, roped to a guide. These expeditions lasted practically up to the time of his marriage...Shoghi Effendi often told me these stories of his early years in the mountains and showed this or that peak he had climbed, this or that pass he had been over on foot. His longest walk, he said, was forty-two kilometres over two passes. Often he would be caught by the rain and walk on until his clothes dried on him. ... Shoghi Effendi would tell me of how he practically never ate anything until he got back at night, how he would go to a small hotel (he sometimes took me there to the same simple restaurant) and order pommes sautees, fried eggs and salad as these were cheap and filling, go home to his little room under the eaves and fall into bed exhausted and sleep, waking to drink a carafe of the cold mountain water, and sleep again, until, driven by this terrible soul-restlessness, he arose and set out again before daybreak."
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 60)

There are a number of photographs of Shoghi Effendi climbing ice-covered Alps and glaciers in Ruhiyyih Khanum's second book about Shoghi Effendi
"The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith."  Regrettably, this book is out of print.  In this book there are two photographs showing him with bicycles at the top of high Alpine passes, well above the tree line.  These were not modern high-tech equipment--just simple bicycles. Khanum wrote in the Priceless Pearl, p. 61, "During one or two of those summers early in Shoghi Effendi's ministry he told me he had bought a bicycle and cycled over many passes."  Khanum's caption under one photograph in her second book reads: "ON TOP OF THE WORLD. His bicycle--the poor man's car--became a favourite of Shoghi Effendi.  He sometimes climbed the highest passes in Switzerland, pushing it up and riding down." ("The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith," between pages 154-155) 

When Shoghi Effendi completed the construction of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel, he decided to place a piece of plaster from the cell in which the Bab had been imprisoned in the Castle of Mah-Ku, where he had been denied even a lamp, underneath one of the tiles in the dome of the Shrine.  The Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas, with the assistance of a workman, prepared a place for the silver case containing the plaster. Shoghi Effendi approached the Shrine, and Mr. Ioas wished to precede him in climbing up the scaffolding, to test its strength, but the Guardian said, "You forget, I am a mountaineer." (Leroy Ioas, p. 224)

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