BAHAI THINKING VI
|View from inside the Centre for the Study of the Texts, to Bahá'í Archives (background), Mount Carmel||
Humanity is approaching a golden age. The era of warring with one another is approaching its breaking point. Heaven and earth are joining to write the future. A planetary civilization is unfolding with a new idea of God as the measure of all realities. The great dream of justice and peace is coming true. While opening our eyes to this great view, the Bahá'í Writings also contain a warning that this redemption is coupled with heavy birth pangs.
According to the Gospel of Matthew Christ “did not come to bring peace, but to bring a sword”, and that has come to pass in the last two thousand years. Yet since the dawn of a new time, mankind has taken a step backwards with every new war. Around the beginning of the millennium, eternal peace is not longer a utopia, but a necessary condition for sustainable life on earth. Militaristic power puts life itself at risk.
Worldwide public opinion longs to have the “swords” changed into “ploughshares”. The preemptive war of the last superpower in 2003 has been declared without basis in law by the people, and does not solve for the aggressor that for which it must serve. At the moment military power finds itself in a fundamental crisis.
The prophet Isaiah saw an about-face on the horizon of time, in “the last days”, which lay so far away from him then. The “Prince of Peace” who would come, would bring an “endless peace”, a kingdom established upon law and justice, “from now until eternity”. God’s time of the sword would then come to an end. Bahá'ís believe that Isaiah spoke of Bahá’u’lláh, the Glory of God, who would change the darkness of the world of thought into light.
The historian, Arnold Toynbee, had the feeling that a dome of quartz, which he had seen lying on the shore of a Lake Michigan outside Chicago, was “a sign of the future”. The building that had attracted his attention was the first House of Worship of the new religion in the West. Toynbee, in his “Study of History”, came to the conclusion that the success of civilizations depended upon their capacity to adapt to historical challenges at the level of humanity and breathing space. Indeed, it was the regenerating capacity of religion that was for him the determining factor in the history of civilization.
Materialistic exegetes of the world’s inner meaning declared that Toynbee exaggerated, but according to the information revealed by Bahá’u’lláh about the inner processes underlying outward events, he was right. There is a spiritual growth in humanity under the influence of progressive manifestations of God in history. The religions that come forth from them are the traces of a structuring force from deep within the eons. They demonstrate that there have been other times in the past when the Spirit of God poured forth.
Human history is the social result of the physical evolution of the species homo sapiens. At the foundation of this process there lies a supernatural process, a Divine Plan. The supposed opposition between an immanent and a transcendent reality is an obsolete notion of affairs. In essence, reality is diffused with the spiritual. This conclusion can be drawn from the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the spiritual side of modern knowledge. Mankind is developing towards world citizenship, with, ideally, its head in the stars and its feet on the earth.
Bahá’u’lláh teaches that the historical development of mankind has reached a stage of inner advancement in which maturity of thought and action determines the success of every social activity. War between peoples, oppression, exploitation, impoverishment or intolerance are an anachronism. They belong to the state of collective immaturity, a state which, to God, has been passed by.
In the unending cycle of the earth around the sun, more than a century ago, a new spring began. This is the explanation for the expansive growth in all areas of life and the simultaneous decay of structures and systems of thought from an earlier age of history. Violent states and inhuman systems will no longer achieve success; they have God’s spirit of the times against them and will doubtless fall. Blessings will only come to those global undertakings that are in the interests of all and promote planet-wide humanization.
The theophany that took place under the name Bahá'u'lláh has changed the times from inside out. Above the threatening clouds of the situation of the world a “century of light” has dawned. Systems which set yesterday above tomorrow resist the rapid advance of the Holy Spirit and are changed into the driftwood of history. More and more people are running away from a past which no longer offers solutions.
Too long have the wondrous capacities of mankind been denied, its gift for glory overshadowed by the proposition that we are the castaways of a divinity that does not easily forgive. And the earth that has so many wonderful works and beauty is doomed to a final Twilight of the Gods in an explosion of the Milky Way. Bahá’u’lláh provides us with an image of mankind and of the world that different from this, a vision that honors the Creator's majestic intelligence.
The earth is carefully held in a breathtaking cosmic balance. This planet, which has been “sanctified by the footsteps of the Prophets”, contains a miracle. Through evolution, a creature has been created which can reach to the stars and can build a paradise, a world order upon which the might of heaven can rest and an ancient promise of God can be fulfilled.
In all areas of life a process of internationalization is taking place. The United Nations is rising to become the highest administrative system on the earth. Simultaneously, the mightiest of nations is approaching the limits of its political power. The sustainable security and development of mankind are bound to deep and complex conditions, which no one nation can fulfill alone. Our underlying interdependence has already become so great that none of the members of the UN dares to go it alone. They all seek coalitions as global as possible and to achieve as broad a support as possible in the “General Assembly” and “Security Council” of the world.
The four peace conferences of Brussels (1848), Paris (1849), Frankfurt (1850) and London (1851) were the first signs of an awakening world consciousness in society. Simultaneously a new religion, which announced the gospel of world peace, began its upward march. In 1844, this flow of God’s Will into history began.
In the last summer of the 19th century, in The Hague, a basis for world peace through international law was laid. Delegations from 26 powers came together at the “Huis ten Bosch” castle for the first world peace conference. In 1907, at a second top conference, which was to achieve sustainable peace, representatives of 44 nations sat at the table in the Hague’s Knight’s Hall. On both occasions, the Queen of the Netherlands served as hostess.
The President of the United States backed the original initiative of the Czar of Russia. Both future superpowers were involved from the beginning in the geopolitical attempts to ban war.
At their core, the Hague peace conferences fulfilled the call of heaven, uttered in the revelation that preceded these developments. The political results disappointed many. Still, the first conventions against military injustices were written, and, especially, the first structures of modern international law were conceived. In the floor mosaics of the Hague Peace Palace where the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice have their seats, stands the plea of the highest judges for peace in the world: “Sol iustitia illustre nos”. That “Sun of Justice” the world needs was announced by the prophet Malachi in the last paragraphs of the Old Testament as coming “at the end of time.”
Two World Wars and a Cold War after “The Hague”, universal peace and human rights for all who live on earth have become the declared goals of the United Nations. At the same time mankind is organizing networks of treaties, conventions, institutions and organizations to address every problem area of human existence.
What began to show signs of new life in the middle of the 19th century, in a spiritually-darkened Persia, has become a generally visible trend in modern times. The world knows intuitively that the world has to become one. Still, in the eyes of the rulers and opinion makers, this remains Utopia. The promise in all religions of a future world peace we now bitterly need is still not taken seriously in world politics . Neither is the God who speaks about it. The results of this skepticism are worrisome.
At the beginning of the 21th century the world community was still spending almost 1,000,000,000,000 dollars annually on obsolete preparations for war. One B2 bomber costs a quarter of a billion dollars. One of the last two military superpowers during the last phase of the old millennium suddenly collapsed. The Cold War was, from one moment to the next, over. Still the governments keep frightening arsenals of weapons. Above the earth and in the seas brews a planetary capacity for destruction that is encapsulated within thousands of thermonuclear bombs and rockets.
The nuclear weaponry of the United States alone has, according to the Atomic Audit of the Brookings Institute in Washington, cost, since the 1940s, more than five trillion dollars. At the beginning of 2004 the International Atomic Agency warned about the danger of attacks with nuclear weapons that could come into the hands of mad systems or terrorists. The nuclear arsenals of the former Soviet Union are possibly no longer watertight, and a Asian nuclear physicist seems to have sold the secret recipe of the Bomb to states with fanatic ideologies.
Everyone and everything have been threatened by the unpredictability of the smaller and smaller political units that operate in the areas of power struggle, propaganda and international operations, overshadowing everything else that has ever been seen.
In letters to the political and religious leaders in the world at the end of the 19th century, Bahá’u’lláh predicted that life on earth would be transformed by explosive technological progress, but that this progress had to be coupled with equally radical progress of morals and justice. Bahá'u'lláh spoke powerfully of one of the dangers that are bound with the new knowledge:
“Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth but they are hidden from the minds and the understanding of men. These things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal.”
On 28 May 1992, in the city of Brasilia, the Parliament came together in an extraordinary meeting. On the agenda was the memorial of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, which had occurred a century earlier across the Bay of Haifa, in Akka, in the current State of Israel. His Message about the unification of humanity, over all differences, had touched a chord in the hearts of the Brazilian parliamentarians.
Representative Luis Gushiken called the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, “The greatest religious work ever written by the pen of one man.” and Representative Rita Carnata declared during the session that the vision of Bahá’u’lláh about the future “rises above physical boundaries” and “reaches out to mankind, independent of all the superficial differences of nationality, race, limitations or faith”.
In reaction to this the Bahá'í International Community published the document “Who is Writing the Future?” The paper sums up the many changes which the world has experienced since the end of the 19th century and, especially, after the Second World War and proposes that the political changes, the development of international law and social-economic internationalization is the direction willed by God. Contrary to this are the deeply rooted self-interests of individuals, groups and nations that are opposed to unification of mankind and resist the redistribution of everything outward and inward which is necessarily associated with it.
Nothing in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh create the illusion that the coming changes will occur easily, far from this. Just as the events of the twentieth century have demonstrated, the traditional and habitual patterns that have crept in over thousands of years, will not be given up, neither spontaneously, nor through education, nor through legislation.
In personal life and in that of society, radical changes often come about only when there is no other way out for the miserable or unbearable situation that is being experienced. Bahá’u’lláh has warned that a disaster of unforeseeable proportions might be necessary before the people of the world join together as one people.
In December 2003, in Geneva, representatives of the world came together to establish a planetary information order. All people were to have access to the worldwide web that at the beginning of the 3rd millennium formed the crucible for a miracle of communication. Billions of minds were growing together into one, gigantic knowledge bank. For the Geneva World Summit on the Information Society it was a goal that this miraculous communication system must serve the humanization of life on earth along the lines of the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations.
Secretary General Kofi Annan explained in 1999 what it was all about:
The principal mandate of the United Nations -- "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" -- remains as valid today as when those words were written into the Charter more than half a century ago. Today, around the world, the march of human progress continues to be plagued by conflict, violence, hatred and greed. The Culture of Peace is an idea whose time has come.
For the United Nations, there remains no higher goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict. But true peace is far more than the absence of war. It is a phenomenon that encompasses economic development and social justice. It means safeguarding the global environment and curbing the global arms trade. It means democracy, diversity and dignity; respect for human rights and the rule of law; and more, much more. These pillars of peace are interrelated. Gains in one area can bring progress in another. Setbacks, of course, are just as contagious.
For there to be peace among nations, there must also be peace within them, among groups and individuals. The Charter of UNESCO says it best: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." This is no small project. In fact it is a comprehensive enterprise, a global mission that requires a transformation in our thinking, massive amounts of political will and resources, and the solidarity of all humankind.
The UN Secretary General's declaration could have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, since all the points he mentions can be found in the Divine Plan which has been unfolded since 1844 in the Bahá'í Revelation. Unfortunately, together with trust in a God, Who is the Source of reason, people have lost a great deal of faith in the victory of civilization and common sense. Nevertheless, in the end, the making of Utopia will come forth from the insight that there is no longer any other alternative.
War is no longer “the continuation of politics by other means”, but a concept of doom. The classic war theatre is disintegrating into cellular terrorism far from the command of generals. On the other hand strategists consider the destruction of the big cities of the earth, and the killing of millions of peoples a debatable alternative. The nations' warlords of the 21st century can cause a radioactive fall-out from the clouds and winds that could make the fire raining upon Sodom and Gomorra look like a spring shower.
Ending destructive thinking is point one on the agenda of our time. The deadly danger in which the world finds itself will force at first a Lesser Peace in the world political sphere. Then a Most Great Peace, the planet-wide civilization to which God is leading man, will unfold. Bahá’u’lláh teaches that unity is neither a far-off utopia nor, in the end, a question of choice.
The unification of all the peoples, cultures and religions into one civilization is the next, inevitable step in the process of social evolution, to which all the experience of the past and the present is driving mankind.
All the issues before the world of the 21st century demand a universal approach. This observation alone confirms the timeliness of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, in which the principle of universality has been raised to God’s major theme.
While mankind finds itself in the greatest danger since its beginning, ways have been given which can lead in the opposite direction, to a peaceful world order. As soon as the military budgets, under the pressure of economic necessity, are transferred to civilian projects, the construction of Eden will begin. Modern man has all the means and possibilities available to change the earth in the coming centuries into an ensemble of gardens of world-embracing size.
Although religious institutions often shut off the view of a happy continuation of history, this does not erase the fact that God is closer in time and more concretely involved in current world affairs than many learned think possible. In the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Earth has become a special heavenly body; it is the incubation chamber of a new man.
From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh.
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded.
The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquility of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquility of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories.
The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. These things are obligatory and absolutely essential. It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action...
That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.
Our hope is that the world's religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth...
That which God hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful, and inspired Physician.
The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquility of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God.
Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
From a statement of the Bahá'í Universal House of Justice
The Bahá'í International Community regards the current world confusion and calamitous condition in human affairs as a phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet. The human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary stages analogous to the stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age.
We are witnessing the unavoidable conflict and confusion that comes with the process of maturation. Bahá'ís are confident that, as all peoples reach a new stage of cooperation based on mutual respect and a commitment to justice, the contemporary conflicts among minorities and between minorities and majorities will become relics of the past. Cooperation will emerge from a growing consciousness of the oneness of humanity and will be facilitated, Bahá'ís believe, through a process of consultation and deliberation. Such consultation must be frank and candid on the one hand, yet cooperative and open-minded on the other.