Brian Aull, “Consultation: A Revolutionary Model of Democratic Governance”
Sunday, February 14, 2016, 2 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific, 8 p.m. Western European time)
In 2007, the Universal House of Justice commented on the “erosion of trust and collaboration between the individual and the institutions of governance,” and cited endemic political corruption, media bias, and the undue influence on electoral processes of vested interests with lavish resources. One other symptom of the failure of society’s institutions is the climate of partisan bickering.
In recent years, civic renewal advocates have articulated the need for deliberative processes that are based on collaborative learning and problem solving rather than partisan conflict. Over a century earlier, however, the Baha’i writings articulated such a process and ‘Abdu’l-Baha began cultivating its practice in Baha’i communities. This process is known as consultation. Consultation has as its goal the investigation of truth, and is undertaken in a spirit of service, an attitude of humility, and an atmosphere of love and respect. This presentation reviews the principles of consultation and the seven requisite qualities that participants cultivate to make it successful. It contrasts consultation to other processes, such as adversarial debate, negotiation, compromise, and consensus building. Finally, it discusses the importance of consultation as a model of governance that can address the ills besetting the world’s political systems.
Dr. Brian Aull is a staff scientist at MIT. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from MIT, all in the field of electrical engineering. A Bahá’í since 1981, he is interested in a number of topics: the dialog between science and religion, the relationship between the individual’s spiritual development and the struggle for a just society, and the relationships among the world’s religions and religious communities. In his community of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Aull served on the Cambridge Peace Commission and the board of the Coalition for a Strong United Nations. In recent years, he has been active in teaching spiritual education classes for children in urban neighborhoods. He represents the Bahá’í Faith on the MIT Board of Chaplains and has been pursuing interfaith work in that context. His publications include “The Faith of Science and the Method of Religion” (JBS 88) and “The Process of Social Change” (WOM Sp/Su89). He also made contributions to Nat Rutstein’s book Healing Racism in America. His most recent project is The Triad, a book on American democracy, which is described on his web site http://www.AwakenDemocracy.com.