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Title: One Common Faith
Author: Baha'i International Community
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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One Common Faith


by Baha’i International Community



Edition 1, (September 2006)



                           BAHA’I TERMS OF USE


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                                 CONTENTS


Baha’i Terms of Use
FOREWORD
ONE COMMON FAITH
   “There is every reason for confidence that the period of history
   now...”
   “The reawakened interest in religion is clearly far from having
   reached...”
   “In addition to disillusionment with the promises of materialism, a...”
   “Throughout history, the primary agents of spiritual development
   have...”
   “The dilemma is both artificial and self-inflicted. The world order,
   if...”
   “The objection most commonly raised against the foregoing
   conception...”
   “Freed from the thickets with which theology has hedged religious...”
   “Confusion about the role of religion in cultivating moral...”
   “The exigencies of the new age of human experience to which...”
   “The power through which these goals will be progressively realized
   is...”
   “A corollary of the abandonment of faith in God has been a paralysis
   of...”
   “Everything in its history has equipped the Bahá’í...”
   “One of the distinguishing features of modernity has been the
   universal...”



FOREWORD


At Riḍván 2002, we addressed an open letter to the world’s religious
leaders. Our action arose out of awareness that the disease of sectarian
hatreds, if not decisively checked, threatens harrowing consequences that
will leave few areas of the world unaffected. The letter acknowledged with
appreciation the achievements of the interfaith movement, to which Bahá’ís
have sought to contribute since an early point in the movement’s
emergence. Nevertheless, we felt we must be forthright in saying that, if
the religious crisis is to be addressed as seriously as is occurring with
respect to other prejudices afflicting humankind, organized religion must
find within itself a comparable courage to rise above fixed conceptions
inherited from a distant past.

Above all, we expressed our conviction that the time has come when
religious leadership must face honestly and without further evasion the
implications of the truth that God is one and that, beyond all diversity
of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one.
It was intimations of this truth that originally inspired the interfaith
movement and that have sustained it through the vicissitudes of the past
one hundred years. Far from challenging the validity of any of the great
revealed faiths, the principle has the capacity to ensure their continuing
relevance. In order to exert its influence, however, recognition of this
reality must operate at the heart of religious discourse, and it was with
this in mind that we felt that our letter should be explicit in
articulating it.

Response has been encouraging. Bahá’í institutions throughout the world
ensured that thousands of copies of the document were delivered to
influential figures in the major faith communities. While it was perhaps
not surprising that the message it contained was dismissed out of hand in
a few circles, Bahá’ís report that, in general, they were warmly welcomed.
Particularly affecting has been the obvious sincerity of many recipients’
distress over the failure of religious institutions to assist humanity in
dealing with challenges whose essential nature is spiritual and moral.
Discussions have turned readily to the need for fundamental change in the
way the believing masses of humankind relate to one another, and in a
significant number of instances, those receiving the letter have been
moved to reproduce and distribute it to other clerics in their respective
traditions. We feel hopeful that our initiative may serve as a catalyst
opening the way to new understanding of religion’s purpose.

However rapidly or slowly this change occurs, the concern of Bahá’ís must
be with their own responsibility in the matter. The task of ensuring that
His message is engaged by people everywhere is one that Bahá’u’lláh has
laid primarily on the shoulders of those who have recognized Him. This, of
course, has been the work that the Bahá’í community has been pursuing
throughout the history of the Faith, but the accelerating breakdown in
social order calls out desperately for the religious spirit to be freed
from the shackles that have so far prevented it from bringing to bear the
healing influence of which it is capable.

If they are to respond to the need, Bahá’ís must draw on a deep
understanding of the process by which humanity’s spiritual life evolves.
Bahá’u’lláh’s writings provide insights that can help to elevate
discussion of religious issues above sectarian and transient
considerations. The responsibility to avail oneself of this spiritual
resource is inseparable from the gift of faith itself. “Religious
fanaticism and hatred”, Bahá’u’lláh warns, “are a world-devouring fire,
whose violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine power can, alone,
deliver mankind from this desolating affliction....” Far from feeling
unsupported in their efforts to respond, Bahá’ís will come increasingly to
appreciate that the Cause they serve represents the arrowhead of an
awakening taking place among people everywhere, regardless of religious
background and indeed among many with no religious leaning.

Reflection on the challenge has prompted us to commission the commentary
that follows. _One Common Faith,_ prepared under our supervision, reviews
relevant passages from both the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the scriptures
of other faiths against the background of the contemporary crisis. We
commend it to the thoughtful study of the friends.

The Universal House of Justice

_Naw-Rúz, 2005_



ONE COMMON FAITH



“There is every reason for confidence that the period of history now...”


There is every reason for confidence that the period of history now
opening will be far more receptive to efforts to spread Bahá’u’lláh’s
message than was the case in the century just ended. All the signs
indicate that a sea change in human consciousness is under way.

Early in the twentieth century, a materialistic interpretation of reality
had consolidated itself so completely as to become the dominant world
faith insofar as the direction of society was concerned. In the process,
the civilizing of human nature had been violently wrenched out of the
orbit it had followed for millennia. For many in the West, the Divine
authority that had functioned as the focal centre of guidance—however
diverse the interpretations of its nature—seemed simply to have dissolved
and vanished. In large measure, the individual was left free to maintain
whatever relationship he believed connected his life to a world
transcending material existence, but society as a whole proceeded with
growing confidence to sever dependence on a conception of the universe
that was judged to be at best a fiction and at worst an opiate, in either
case inhibiting progress. Humanity had taken its destiny into its own
hands. It had solved through rational experimentation and discourse—so
people were given to believe—all of the fundamental issues related to
human governance and development.

This posture was reinforced by the assumption that the values, ideals and
disciplines cultivated over the centuries were now reliably fixed and
enduring features of human nature. They needed merely to be refined by
education and reinforced by legislative action. The moral legacy of the
past was just that: humanity’s indefeasible inheritance, requiring no
further religious interventions. Admittedly, undisciplined individuals,
groups or even nations would continue to threaten the stability of the
social order and call for correction. The universal civilization towards
the realization of which all the forces of history had been bearing the
human race, however, was irresistibly emerging, inspired by secular
conceptions of reality. People’s happiness would be the natural result of
better health, better food, better education, better living conditions—and
the attainment of these unquestionably desirable goals now seemed to be
within the reach of a society single-mindedly focused on their pursuit.

Throughout that part of the world where the vast majority of the earth’s
population live, facile announcements that “God is Dead” had passed
largely unnoticed. The experience of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin
America and the Pacific had long confirmed them in the view not only that
human nature is deeply influenced by spiritual forces, but that its very
identity is spiritual. Consequently, religion continued, as had always
been the case, to function as the ultimate authority in life. These
convictions, while not directly confronted by the ideological revolution
taking place in the West, were effectively marginalized by it, insofar as
interaction among peoples and nations was concerned. Having penetrated and
captured all significant centres of power and information at the global
level, dogmatic materialism ensured that no competing voices would retain
the ability to challenge projects of world wide economic exploitation. To
the cultural damage already inflicted by two centuries of colonial rule
was added an agonizing disjunction between the inner and outer experience
of the masses affected, a condition invading virtually all aspects of
life. Helpless to exercise any real influence over the shaping of their
futures or even to preserve the moral well-being of their children, these
populations were plunged into a crisis different from but in many ways
even more devastating than the one gathering momentum in Europe and North
America. Although retaining its central role in consciousness, faith
appeared impotent to influence the course of events.

As the twentieth century approached its close, therefore, nothing seemed
less likely than a sudden resurgence of religion as a subject of consuming
global importance. Yet that is precisely what has now occurred in the form
of a groundswell of anxiety and discontent, much of it still only dimly
conscious of the sense of spiritual emptiness that is producing it.
Ancient sectarian conflicts, apparently unresponsive to the patient arts
of diplomacy, have re-emerged with a virulence as great as anything known
before. Scriptural themes, miraculous phenomena and theological dogmas
that, until recently, had been dismissed as relics of an age of ignorance
find themselves solemnly, if indiscriminately, explored in influential
media. In many lands, religious credentials take on new and compelling
significance in the candidature of aspirants to political office. A world,
which had assumed that with the collapse of the Berlin Wall an age of
international peace had dawned, is warned that it is in the grip of a war
of civilizations whose defining character is irreconcilable religious
antipathies. Bookstores, magazine stands, Web sites and libraries struggle
to satisfy an apparently inexhaustible public appetite for information on
religious and spiritual subjects. Perhaps the most insistent factor in
producing the change is reluctant recognition that there is no credible
replacement for religious belief as a force capable of generating
self-discipline and restoring commitment to moral behaviour.

Beyond the attention that religion, as formally conceived, has begun to
command is a widespread revival of spiritual search. Expressed most
commonly as an urge to discover a personal identity that transcends the
merely physical, the development encourages a multitude of pursuits, both
positive and negative in character. On the one hand, the search for
justice and the promotion of the cause of international peace tend to have
the effect of also arousing new perceptions of the individual’s role in
society. Similarly, although focused on the mobilization of support for
changes in social decision-making, movements like environmentalism and
feminism induce a re-examination of people’s sense of themselves and of
their purpose in life. A reorientation occurring in all the major
religious communities is the accelerating migration of believers from
traditional branches of the parent faiths to sects that attach primary
importance to the spiritual search and personal experiences of their
members. At the opposite pole, extraterrestrial sightings,
“self-discovery” regimens, wilderness retreats, charismatic exaltation,
various New Age enthusiasms, and the consciousness-raising efficacy
attributed to narcotics and hallucinogens attract followings far larger
and more diverse than anything enjoyed by spiritualism or theosophy at a
similar historical turning point a century ago. For a Bahá’í, the
proliferation even of cults and practices that may arouse aversion in the
minds of many serves primarily as a reminder of the insight embodied in
the ancient tale of Majnún, who sifted the dust in his search for the
beloved Laylí, although aware that she was pure spirit: “I seek her
everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her.”(1)



“The reawakened interest in religion is clearly far from having
reached...”


The reawakened interest in religion is clearly far from having reached its
peak, in either its explicitly religious or its less definable spiritual
manifestations. On the contrary. The phenomenon is the product of
historical forces that steadily gather momentum. Their common effect is to
erode the certainty, bequeathed to the world by the twentieth century,
that material existence represents ultimate reality.

The most obvious cause of these re-evaluations has been the bankruptcy of
the materialist enterprise itself. For well over a hundred years, the idea
of progress was identified with economic development and with its capacity
to motivate and shape social improvement. Those differences of opinion
that existed did not challenge this world view, but only conceptions as to
how its goals might best be attained. Its most extreme form, the iron
dogma of “scientific materialism”, sought to reinterpret every aspect of
history and human behaviour in its own narrow terms. Whatever humanitarian
ideals may have inspired some of its early proponents, the universal
consequence was to produce regimes of totalitarian control prepared to use
any means of coercion in regulating the lives of hapless populations
subjected to them. The goal held up as justification of such abuses was
the creation of a new kind of society that would ensure not only freedom
from want but fulfilment for the human spirit. At the end, after eight
decades of mounting folly and brutality, the movement collapsed as a
credible guide to the world’s future.

Other systems of social experimentation, while repudiating recourse to
inhumane methods, nevertheless derived their moral and intellectual thrust
from the same limited conception of reality. The view took root that,
since people were essentially self-interested actors in matters pertaining
to their economic well-being, the building of just and prosperous
societies could be ensured by one or another scheme of what was described
as modernization. The closing decades of the twentieth century, however,
sagged under a mounting burden of evidence to the contrary: the breakdown
of family life, soaring crime, dysfunctional educational systems, and a
catalogue of other social pathologies that bring to mind the sombre words
of Bahá’u’lláh’s warning about the impending condition of human society:
“Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and
seemly.”(2)

The fate of what the world has learned to call social and economic
development has left no doubt that not even the most idealistic motives
can correct materialism’s fundamental flaws. Born in the wake of the chaos
of the Second World War, “development” became by far the largest and most
ambitious collective undertaking on which the human race has ever
embarked. Its humanitarian motivation matched its enormous material and
technological investment. Fifty years later, while acknowledging the
impressive benefits development has brought, the enterprise must be
adjudged, by its own standards, a disheartening failure. Far from
narrowing the gap between the well-being of the small segment of the human
family who enjoy the benefits of modernity and the condition of the vast
populations mired in hopeless want, the collective effort that began with
such high hopes has seen the gap widen into an abyss.

Consumer culture, today’s inheritor by default of materialism’s gospel of
human betterment, is unembarrassed by the ephemeral nature of the goals
that inspire it. For the small minority of people who can afford them, the
benefits it offers are immediate, and the rationale unapologetic.
Emboldened by the breakdown of traditional morality, the advance of the
new creed is essentially no more than the triumph of animal impulse, as
instinctive and blind as appetite, released at long last from the
restraints of supernatural sanctions. Its most obvious casualty has been
language. Tendencies once universally castigated as moral failings mutate
into necessities of social progress. Selfishness becomes a prized
commercial resource; falsehood reinvents itself as public information;
perversions of various kinds unabashedly claim the status of civil rights.
Under appropriate euphemisms, greed, lust, indolence, pride—even
violence—acquire not merely broad acceptance but social and economic
value. Ironically, as words have been drained of meaning, so have the very
material comforts and acquisitions for which truth has been casually
sacrificed.

Clearly, materialism’s error has lain not in the laudable effort to
improve the conditions of life, but in the narrowness of mind and
unjustified self-confidence that have defined its mission. The importance
both of material prosperity and of the scientific and technological
advances necessary to its achievement is a theme that runs through the
writings of the Bahá’í Faith. As was inevitable from the outset, however,
arbitrary efforts to disengage such physical and material well-being from
humanity’s spiritual and moral development have ended by forfeiting the
allegiance of the very populations whose interests a materialistic culture
purports to serve. “Witness how the world is being afflicted with a fresh
calamity every day”, Bahá’u’lláh warns. “Its sickness is approaching the
stage of utter hopelessness, inasmuch as the true Physician is debarred
from administering the remedy, whilst unskilled practitioners are regarded
with favour, and are accorded full freedom to act.”(3)



“In addition to disillusionment with the promises of materialism, a...”


In addition to disillusionment with the promises of materialism, a force
of change undermining the misconceptions about reality that humanity
brought into the twenty-first century is global integration. At the
simplest level, it takes the form of advances in communication
technologies that open broad avenues of interaction among the planet’s
diverse populations. Along with facilitating interpersonal and intersocial
exchanges, general access to information has the effect of transmuting the
cumulative learning of the ages, until recently the preserve of privileged
elites, into the patrimony of the entire human family, without distinction
of nation, race or culture. With all the gross inequities that global
integration perpetuates—indeed intensifies—no informed observer can fail
to acknowledge the stimulus to reflection about reality that such changes
have produced. With reflection has come a questioning of all established
authority, no longer merely that of religion and morality, but also of
government, academia, commerce, the media and, increasingly, scientific
opinion.

Apart from technological factors, unification of the planet is exerting
other, even more direct effects on thought. It would be impossible to
exaggerate, for example, the transformative impact on global consciousness
that has resulted from mass travel on an international scale. Greater
still have been the consequences of the enormous migrations that the world
has witnessed during the century and a half since the Báb declared His
mission. Millions of refugees fleeing from persecution have swept like
tidal waves back and forth across the European, African and Asiatic
continents, particularly. Amid the suffering such turmoil has caused, one
perceives the progressive integration of the world’s races and cultures as
the citizenry of a single global homeland. As a result, people of every
background have been exposed to the cultures and norms of others about
whom their forefathers knew little or nothing, exciting a search for
meaning that cannot be evaded.

It is impossible to imagine how different the history of the past century
and a half would have been had any of the leading arbiters of world
affairs addressed by Bahá’u’lláh spared time for reflection on a
conception of reality supported by the moral credentials of its Author,
moral credentials of the kind they professed to hold in the highest
regard. What is unmistakable to a Bahá’í is that, despite such failure,
the transformations announced in Bahá’u’lláh’s message are resistlessly
accomplishing themselves. Through shared discoveries and shared travails,
peoples of diverse cultures are brought face to face with the common
humanity lying just beneath the surface of imagined differences of
identity. Whether stubbornly opposed in some societies or welcomed
elsewhere as a release from meaningless and suffocating limitations, the
sense that the earth’s inhabitants are indeed “the leaves of one tree”(4)
is slowly becoming the standard by which humanity’s collective efforts are
now judged.

Loss of faith in the certainties of materialism and the progressive
globalizing of human experience reinforce one another in the longing they
inspire for understanding about the purpose of existence. Basic values are
challenged; parochial attachments are surrendered; once unthinkable
demands are accepted. It is this universal upheaval, Bahá’u’lláh explains,
for which the scriptures of past religions employed the imagery of “the
Day of Resurrection”: “The shout hath been raised, and the people have
come forth from their graves, and arising, are gazing around them.”(5)
Beneath all of the dislocation and suffering, the process is essentially a
spiritual one: “The breeze of the All-Merciful hath wafted, and the souls
have been quickened in the tombs of their bodies.”(6)



“Throughout history, the primary agents of spiritual development have...”


Throughout history, the primary agents of spiritual development have been
the great religions. For the majority of the earth’s people, the
scriptures of each of these systems of belief have served, in
Bahá’u’lláh’s words, as “the City of God”,(7) a source of a knowledge that
totally embraces consciousness, one so compelling as to endow the sincere
with “a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind”.(8) A vast
literature, to which all religious cultures have contributed, records the
experience of transcendence reported by generations of seekers. Down the
millennia, the lives of those who responded to intimations of the Divine
have inspired breathtaking achievements in music, architecture, and the
other arts, endlessly replicating the soul’s experience for millions of
their fellow believers. No other force in existence has been able to
elicit from people comparable qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and
self-discipline. At the social level, the resulting moral principles have
repeatedly translated themselves into universal codes of law, regulating
and elevating human relationships. Viewed in perspective, the major
religions emerge as the primary driving forces of the civilizing process.
To argue otherwise is surely to ignore the evidence of history.

Why, then, does this immensely rich heritage not serve as the central
stage for today’s reawakening of spiritual quest? On the periphery,
earnest attempts are being made to reformulate the teachings that gave
rise to the respective faiths, in the hope of imbuing them with new
appeal, but the greater part of the search for meaning is diffused,
individualistic and incoherent in character. The scriptures have not
changed; the moral principles they contain have lost none of their
validity. No one who sincerely poses questions to Heaven, if he persists,
will fail to detect an answering voice in the Psalms or in the Upanishads.
Anyone with some intimation of the Reality that transcends this material
one will be touched to the heart by the words in which Jesus or Buddha
speaks so intimately of it. The Qur’án’s apocalyptic visions continue to
provide compelling assurance to its readers that the realization of
justice is central to the Divine purpose. Nor, in their essential
features, do the lives of heroes and saints seem any less meaningful than
they did when those lives were lived centuries ago. For many religious
people, therefore, the most painful aspect of the current crisis of
civilization is that the search for truth has not turned with confidence
into religion’s familiar avenues.

The problem is, of course, twofold. The rational soul does not merely
occupy a private sphere, but is an active participant in a social order.
Although the received truths of the great faiths remain valid, the daily
experience of an individual in the twenty-first century is unimaginably
removed from the one that he or she would have known in any of those ages
when this guidance was revealed. Democratic decision-making has
fundamentally altered the relationship of the individual to authority.
With growing confidence and growing success, women justly insist on their
right to full equality with men. Revolutions in science and technology
change not only the functioning but the conception of society, indeed of
existence itself. Universal education and an explosion of new fields of
creativity open the way to insights that stimulate social mobility and
integration, and create opportunities of which the rule of law encourages
the citizen to take full advantage. Stem cell research, nuclear energy,
sexual identity, ecological stress and the use of wealth raise, at the
very least, social questions that have no precedent. These, and the
countless other changes affecting every aspect of human life, have brought
into being a new world of daily choices for both society and its members.
What has not changed is the inescapable requirement of making such
choices, whether for better or worse. It is here that the spiritual nature
of the contemporary crisis comes into sharpest focus because most of the
decisions called for are not merely practical but moral. In large part,
therefore, loss of faith in traditional religion has been an inevitable
consequence of failure to discover in it the guidance required to live
with modernity, successfully and with assurance.

A second barrier to a re-emergence of inherited systems of belief as the
answer to humanity’s spiritual yearnings is the effects already mentioned
of global integration. Throughout the planet, people raised in a given
religious frame of reference find themselves abruptly thrown into close
association with others whose beliefs and practices appear at first glance
irreconcilably different from their own. The differences can and often do
give rise to defensiveness, simmering resentments and open conflict. In
many cases, however, the effect is rather to prompt a reconsideration of
received doctrine and to encourage efforts at discovering values held in
common. The support enjoyed by various interfaith activities doubtless
owes a great deal to response of this kind among the general public.
Inevitably, with such approaches comes a questioning of religious
doctrines that inhibit association and understanding. If people whose
beliefs appear to be fundamentally different from one’s own nevertheless
live moral lives that deserve admiration, what is it that makes one’s own
faith superior to theirs? Alternatively, if all of the great religions
share certain basic values in common, do not sectarian attachments run the
risk of merely reinforcing unwanted barriers between an individual and his
neighbours?

Few today among those who have some degree of objective familiarity with
the subject are likely, therefore, to entertain an illusion that any one
of the established religious systems of the past can assume the role of
ultimate guide for humankind in the issues of contemporary life, even in
the improbable event that its disparate sects should come together for
that purpose. Each one of what the world regards as independent religions
is set in the mould created by its authoritative scripture and its
history. As it cannot refashion its system of belief in a manner to derive
legitimacy from the authoritative words of its Founder, it likewise cannot
adequately answer the multitude of questions posed by social and
intellectual evolution. Distressing as this may appear to many, it is no
more than an inherent feature of the evolutionary process. Attempts to
force a reversal of some kind can lead only to still greater
disenchantment with religion itself and exacerbate sectarian conflict.



“The dilemma is both artificial and self-inflicted. The world order,
if...”


The dilemma is both artificial and self-inflicted. The world order, if it
can be so described, within which Bahá’ís today pursue the work of sharing
Bahá’u’lláh’s message is one whose misconceptions about both human nature
and social evolution are so fundamental as to severely inhibit the most
intelligent and well-intentioned endeavours at human betterment.
Particularly is this true with respect to the confusion that surrounds
virtually every aspect of the subject of religion. In order to respond
adequately to the spiritual needs of their neighbours, Bahá’ís will have
to gain an in-depth understanding of the issues involved. The effort of
imagination this challenge requires can be appreciated from the advice
that is perhaps the most frequently and urgently reiterated admonition in
the writings of their Faith: to “meditate”, to “ponder”, to “reflect”.

A commonplace of popular discourse is that by “religion” is intended the
multitude of sects currently in existence. Not surprisingly, such a
suggestion at once arouses protest in other quarters that by religion is
intended rather one or another of the great, independent belief systems of
history that have shaped and inspired whole civilizations. This point of
view, in turn, however, runs up against the inevitable query as to where
one will find these historic faiths in the contemporary world. Where,
precisely, are “Judaism”, “Buddhism”, “Christianity”, “Islám” and the
others, since they obviously cannot be identified with the irreconcilably
opposed organizations that purport to speak authoritatively in their
names? Nor does the problem end there. Yet another response to the enquiry
will almost certainly be that by religion is intended simply an attitude
to life, a sense of relationship with a Reality that transcends material
existence. Religion, so conceived, is an attribute of the individual
person, an impulse not susceptible of organization, an experience
universally available. Again, however, such an orientation will be seen by
a majority of religiously minded persons as lacking the very authority of
self-discipline and the unifying effect that give religion meaning. Some
objectors would even argue that, on the contrary, religion signifies the
lifestyle of persons who, like themselves, have adopted severe regimens of
daily ritual and self-denial that set them entirely apart from the rest of
society. What all such differing conceptions have in common is the extent
to which a phenomenon that is acknowledged to completely transcend human
reach has nevertheless gradually been imprisoned within conceptual
limits—whether organizational, theological, experiential or ritualistic—of
human invention.

The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh cut through this tangle of inconsistent views
and, in doing so, reformulate many truths which, whether explicitly or
implicitly, have lain at the heart of all Divine revelation. Although in
no way a comprehensive reading of His intent, Bahá’u’lláh makes it clear
that attempts to capture or suggest the Reality of God in catechisms and
creeds are exercises in self-deception: “To every discerning and illumined
heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is
immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal
existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His
glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that
human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery.”(9) The instrumentality
through which the Creator of all things interacts with the ever-evolving
creation He has brought into being is the appearance of prophetic Figures
who manifest the attributes of an inaccessible Divinity: “The door of the
knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all
beings, the Source of infinite grace ... hath caused those luminous Gems
of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of
the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart
unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the
subtleties of His imperishable Essence.”(10)

To presume to judge among the Messengers of God, exalting one above the
other, would be to give in to the delusion that the Eternal and
All-Embracing is subject to the vagaries of human preference. “It is clear
and evident to thee”, are Bahá’u’lláh’s precise words, “that all the
Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in
divers attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt
behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same
heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and
proclaiming the same Faith.”(11) To imagine, further, that the nature of
these unique Figures can be—or needs to be—encompassed within theories
borrowed from physical experience is equally presumptuous. What is meant
by “knowledge of God”, Bahá’u’lláh explains, is knowledge of the
Manifestations Who reveal His will and attributes, and it is here that the
soul comes into intimate association with a Creator Who is otherwise
beyond both language and apprehension: “I bear witness”, is Bahá’u’lláh’s
assertion about the station of the Manifestation of God, “...that through
Thy beauty the beauty of the Adored One hath been unveiled, and through
Thy face the face of the Desired One hath shone forth....”(12)

Religion, thus conceived, awakens the soul to potentialities that are
otherwise unimaginable. To the extent that an individual learns to benefit
from the influence of the revelation of God for his age, his nature
becomes progressively imbued with the attributes of the Divine world:
“Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth”, Bahá’u’lláh explains,
“every man will advance and develop until he ... can manifest all the
potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed.”(13)
As humanity’s purpose includes the carrying forward of “an ever-advancing
civilization”,(14) not the least of the extraordinary powers that religion
possesses has been its ability to free those who believe from the
limitations of time itself, eliciting from them sacrifices on behalf of
generations centuries into the future. Indeed, because the soul is
immortal, its awakening to its true nature empowers it, not only in this
world but even more directly in those worlds that lie beyond, to serve the
evolutionary process: “The light which these souls radiate”, Bahá’u’lláh
asserts, “is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement
of its peoples.... All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an
animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided,
and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of
being.”(15)

Belief is thus a necessary and inextinguishable urge of the species that
has been described by an influential modern thinker as “evolution become
conscious of itself”.(16) If, as the events of the twentieth century
provide sad and compelling evidence, the natural expression of faith is
artificially blocked, it will invent objects of worship however
unworthy—or even debased—that may in some measure appease the yearning for
certitude. It is an impulse that will not be denied.

In short, through the ongoing process of revelation, the One Who is the
Source of the system of knowledge we call religion demonstrates that
system’s integrity and its freedom from the contradictions imposed by
sectarian ambitions. The work of each Manifestation of God has an autonomy
and an authority that transcend appraisal; it is also a stage in the
limitless unfolding of a single Reality. Because the purpose of the
successive revelations of God is the awakening of humankind to its
capacities and responsibilities as the trustee of creation, the process is
not simply repetitive, but progressive, and is fully appreciated only when
perceived in this context.

In no sense can Bahá’ís profess to have grasped at this early hour more
than a minute portion of the truths inherent in the revelation on which
their Faith is based. With reference, for example, to the evolution of the
Cause, the Guardian said, “All we can reasonably venture to attempt is to
strive to obtain a glimpse of the first streaks of the promised Dawn that
must, in the fullness of time, chase away the gloom that has encircled
humanity.”(17) Apart from encouraging humility, this fact should serve
also as a constant reminder that Bahá’u’lláh has not brought into
existence a new religion to stand beside the present multiplicity of
sectarian organizations. Rather has He recast the whole conception of
religion as the principal force impelling the development of
consciousness. As the human race in all its diversity is a single species,
so the intervention by which God cultivates the qualities of mind and
heart latent in that species is a single process. Its heroes and saints
are the heroes and saints of all stages in the struggle; its successes,
the successes of all stages. This is the standard demonstrated in the life
and work of the Master and exemplified today in a Bahá’í community that
has become the inheritor of humanity’s entire spiritual legacy, a legacy
equally available to all the earth’s peoples.

The recurring proof of the existence of God, therefore, is that from time
immemorial He has repeatedly manifested Himself. In the larger sense, as
Bahá’u’lláh explains, the vast epic of humanity’s religious history
represents the fulfilment of the “Covenant”, the enduring promise by which
the Creator of all things assures the race of the unfailing guidance
essential to its spiritual and moral development, and calls on it to
internalize and give expression to these values. One is free to dispute
through historicist interpretations of the evidence the unique role of
this or that Messenger of God, if that is one’s purpose, but such
speculation is of no help in accounting for developments that have
transformed thought and produced changes in human relationships critical
to social evolution. At intervals so rare that the known instances can be
counted on one’s fingers, the Manifestations of God have appeared, have
each been explicit as to the authority of His teachings and have each
exerted an influence on the advance of civilization incomparably beyond
that of any other phenomenon in history. “Consider the hour at which the
supreme Manifestation of God revealeth Himself unto men”, Bahá’u’lláh
points out: “Ere that hour cometh, the Ancient Being, Who is still unknown
of men and hath not as yet given utterance to the Word of God, is Himself
the All-Knower in a world devoid of any man that hath known Him. He is
indeed the Creator without a creation.”(18)



“The objection most commonly raised against the foregoing conception...”


The objection most commonly raised against the foregoing conception of
religion is the assertion that the differences among the revealed faiths
are so fundamental that to present them as stages or aspects of one
unified system of truth does violence to the facts. Given the confusion
surrounding the nature of religion, the reaction is understandable.
Chiefly, however, such an objection offers Bahá’ís an invitation to set
the principles reviewed here more explicitly in the evolutionary context
provided in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings.

The differences referred to fall into the categories of either practice or
doctrine, both of them presented as the intent of the relevant scriptures.
In the case of religious customs governing personal life, it is helpful to
view the subject against the background of comparable features of material
life. It is most unlikely that diversity in hygiene, dress, medicine,
diet, transportation, warfare, construction or economic activity, however
striking, would any longer be seriously advanced in support of a theory
that humanity does not in fact constitute one people, single and unique.
Until the opening of the twentieth century, such simplistic arguments were
commonplace, but historical and anthropological research now provides a
seamless panorama of the process of cultural evolution by which these and
countless other expressions of human creativity came into existence, were
transmitted through successive generations, underwent gradual
metamorphoses and often spread to enrich the lives of peoples in far
distant lands. That present-day societies represent a wide spectrum of
such phenomena, therefore, does not in any way define a fixed and
immutable identity of the peoples concerned, but merely distinguishes the
stage through which given groups are—or at least until recently have
been—passing. Even so, all such cultural expressions are now in a state of
fluidity in consequence of the pressures of planetary integration.

A similar evolutionary process, Bahá’u’lláh indicates, has characterized
the religious life of humankind. The defining difference lies in the fact
that, rather than representing simply the accidents of history’s ongoing
method of trial and error, such norms were explicitly prescribed in each
case, as integral features of one or another revelation of the Divine,
embodied in scripture, their integrity scrupulously maintained over a
period of centuries. While certain features of each code of conduct would
eventually fulfil their purpose and in time be overshadowed by concerns of
a different nature brought on by the process of social evolution, the code
itself would lose none of its authority during the long stage of human
progress in which it played a vital role in training behaviour and
attitudes. “These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty
systems”, Bahá’u’lláh asserts, “have proceeded from one Source, and are
the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be
attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were
promulgated.”(19)

To argue, therefore, that differences of regulations, observances and
other practices constitute any significant objection to the idea of
revealed religion’s essential oneness is to miss the purpose that these
prescriptions served. More seriously, it misses the fundamental
distinction between the eternal and the transitory features of religion’s
function. The essential message of religion is immutable. It is, in
Bahá’u’lláh’s words, “the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past,
eternal in the future”.(20) Its role in opening the way for the soul to
enter into an evermore mature relationship with its Creator—and in
endowing it with an ever-greater measure of moral autonomy in disciplining
the animal impulses of human nature—is not at all irreconcilable with its
providing auxiliary guidance that enhances the process of civilization
building.

The concept of progressive revelation places the ultimate emphasis on
recognition of the revelation of God at its appearance. The failure of the
generality of humankind in this respect has, time and again, condemned
entire populations to a ritualistic repetition of ordinances and practices
long after these latter have fulfilled their purpose and now merely
stultify moral advance. Sadly, in the present day, a related consequence
of such failure has been to trivialize religion. At precisely the point in
its collective development where humanity began to struggle with the
challenges of modernity, the spiritual resource on which it had
principally depended for moral courage and enlightenment was fast becoming
a subject of mockery, first at those levels where decisions were being
made about the direction society should take, and eventually in
ever-widening circles of the general population. There is little cause for
surprise, then, that this most devastating of the many betrayals of trust
from which human confidence has suffered should, in the course of time,
undermine the foundations of belief itself. So it is that Bahá’u’lláh
repeatedly urges His readers to think deeply about the lesson taught by
such repeated failures: “Ponder for a moment, and reflect upon that which
has been the cause of such denial....”(21) “What could have been the
reason for such denial and avoidance...?”(22) “What could have caused such
contention...?”(23) “Reflect, what could have been the motive...?”(24)

More detrimental still to religious understanding has been theological
presumption. A persistent feature of religion’s sectarian past has been
the dominant role played by clergy. In the absence of scriptural texts
that established unarguable institutional authority, clerical elites
succeeded in arrogating to themselves exclusive control over
interpretation of the Divine intent. However diverse the motives, the
tragic effects have been to impede the current of inspiration, discourage
independent intellectual activity, focus attention on the minutiae of
rituals and too often engender hatred and prejudice towards those
following a different sectarian path from that of self-appointed spiritual
leaders. While nothing could prevent the creative power of Divine
intervention from continuing its work of progressively raising
consciousness, the scope of what could be achieved, in any age, became
increasingly limited by such artificially contrived obstacles.

Over time, theology succeeded in constructing in the heart of each one of
the great faiths an authority parallel with, and even inimical in spirit
to, the revealed teachings on which the tradition was based. Jesus’
familiar parable of the landowner who sowed seed in his field addresses
both the issue and its implications for the present time: “But while men
slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his
way.”(25) When his servants proposed to uproot them, the landowner
replied, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the
wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time
of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares,
and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my
barn.”(26) Throughout its pages, the Qur’án reserves its severest
condemnation for the spiritual harm caused by this competing hegemony:
“Say: The things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds,
whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason;
assigning of partners to God, for which he hath given no authority; and
saying things about God of which ye have no knowledge.”(27) To the modern
mind it is the greatest of ironies that generations of theologians, whose
impositions on religion embody precisely the betrayal so strongly
denounced in these texts, should seek to use the warning itself as a
weapon in suppressing protest against their usurpation of Divine
authority.

In effect, each new stage in the progressively unfolding revelation of
spiritual truth was frozen in time and in an array of literalistic images
and interpretations, many of them borrowed from cultures which were
themselves morally exhausted. Whatever their value at earlier stages in
the evolution of consciousness, conceptions of physical resurrection, a
paradise of carnal delights, reincarnation, pantheistic prodigies, and the
like, today raise walls of separation and conflict in an age when the
earth has literally become one homeland and human beings must learn to see
themselves as its citizens. In this context one can appreciate the reasons
for the vehemence of Bahá’u’lláh’s warnings about the barriers that
dogmatic theology creates in the path of those seeking to understand the
will of God: “O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such
standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is
the unerring Balance established amongst men.”(28) In His Tablet to Pope
Pius IX, He advises the pontiff that God has in this day “stored away ...
in the vessels of justice” whatever is enduring in religion and “cast into
fire that which befitteth it”.(29)



“Freed from the thickets with which theology has hedged religious...”


Freed from the thickets with which theology has hedged religious
understanding about, the mind is able to explore familiar scriptural
passages through the eyes of Bahá’u’lláh. “Peerless is this Day,” He
asserts, “for it is as the eye to past ages and centuries, and as a light
unto the darkness of the times.”(30) The most striking observation that
results from taking advantage of this perspective is the unity of purpose
and principle running throughout the Hebrew scriptures, the Gospel and the
Qur’án, particularly, although echoes can readily be discerned in the
scriptures of others among the world’s religions. Repeatedly, the same
organizing themes emerge from the matrix of precept, exhortation,
narrative, symbolism and interpretation in which they are set. Of these
foundational truths, by far the most distinctive is the progressive
articulation and emphatic assertion of the oneness of God, Creator of all
existence whether of the phenomenal world or of those realms that
transcend it. “I am the Lord,” the Bible declares, “and there is none
else, there is no God beside me”,(31) and the same conception underpins
the later teachings of Christ and Muḥammad.

Humanity—focal point, inheritor and trustee of the world—exists to know
its Creator and to serve His purpose. In its highest expression, the
innate human impulse to respond takes the form of worship, a condition
entailing wholehearted submission to a power that is recognized as
deserving of such homage. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.”(32) Inseparable
from the spirit of reverence itself is its expression in service to the
Divine purpose for humankind. “Say: All bounties are in the hand of God:
He granteth them to whom He pleaseth: and God careth for all, and He
knoweth all things.”(33) Illumined by this understanding, the
responsibilities of humanity are clear: “It is not righteousness that ye
turn your faces towards East or West”, the Qur’án states, “but it is
righteousness—to believe in God ... to spend of your substance, out of
love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer,
for those who ask....”(34) “Ye are the salt of the earth”,(35) Christ
impresses on those who respond to His call. “Ye are the light of the
world.”(36) Summarizing a theme that recurs time and again throughout the
Hebrew scriptures and will subsequently reappear in the Gospel and the
Qur’án, the prophet Micah asks, “...what doth the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”(37)

There is equal agreement in these texts that the soul’s ability to attain
to an understanding of its Creator’s purpose is the product not merely of
its own effort, but of interventions of the Divine that open the way. The
point was made with memorable clarity by Jesus: “I am the way, the truth,
and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”(38) If one is not
to see in this assertion merely a dogmatic challenge to other stages of
the one ongoing process of Divine guidance, it is obviously the expression
of the central truth of revealed religion: that access to the unknowable
Reality that creates and sustains existence is possible only through
awakening to the illumination shed from that Realm. One of the most
cherished of the Qur’án’s surihs takes up the metaphor: “God is the Light
of the heavens and the earth.... Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He
will to His Light.”(39) In the case of the Hebrew prophets, the Divine
intermediary that was later to appear in Christianity in the person of the
Son of Man and in Islám as the Book of God assumed the form of a binding
Covenant established by the Creator with Abraham, Patriarch and Prophet:
“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after
thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto
thee, and to thy seed after thee.”(40)

The succession of revelations of the Divine also appears as an
implicit—and usually explicit—feature of all the major faiths. One of its
earliest and clearest expressions occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita: “I come,
and go, and come. When Righteousness declines, O Bharata! When Wickedness
is strong, I rise, from age to age, and take visible shape, and move a man
with men, succouring the good, thrusting the evil back, and setting Virtue
on her seat again.”(41) This ongoing drama constitutes the basic structure
of the Bible, whose sequence of books recounts the missions not only of
Abraham and of Moses—“whom the Lord knew face to face”(42)—but of the line
of lesser prophets who developed and consolidated the work that these
primary Authors of the process had set in motion. Similarly, no amount of
contentious and fantastical speculation about the precise nature of Jesus
could succeed in separating His mission from the transformative influence
exerted on the course of civilization by the work of Abraham and Moses. He
Himself warns that it is not He Who will condemn those who reject the
message He bears, but Moses “in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses,
ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his
writings, how shall ye believe my words?”(43) With the revelation of the
Qur’án, the theme of the succession of the Messengers of God becomes
central: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to
Abraham, Ismā‘īl, Isaac, Jacob ... and that given to Moses and Jesus, and
that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord....”(44)

For a sympathetic and objective reader of such passages what emerges is a
recognition of the essential oneness of religion. So it is that the term
“Islám” (literally “submission” to God) designates not merely the
particular dispensation of Providence inaugurated by Muḥammad but, as the
words of the Qur’án make unmistakably clear, religion itself. While it is
true to speak of the unity of all religions, understanding of the context
is vital. At the deepest level, as Bahá’u’lláh emphasizes, there is but
one religion. Religion is religion, as science is science. The one
discerns and articulates the values unfolding progressively through Divine
revelation; the other is the instrumentality through which the human mind
explores and is able to exert its influence ever more precisely over the
phenomenal world. The one defines goals that serve the evolutionary
process; the other assists in their attainment. Together, they constitute
the dual knowledge system impelling the advance of civilization. Each is
hailed by the Master as an “effulgence of the Sun of Truth”.(45)

It is, therefore, an inadequate recognition of the unique station of
Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muḥammad—or of the succession of Avatars
who inspired the Hindu scriptures—to depict their work as the founding of
distinct religions. Rather are they appreciated when acknowledged as the
spiritual Educators of history, as the animating forces in the rise of the
civilizations through which consciousness has flowered: “He was in the
world,” the Gospel declares, “and the world was made by him....”(46) That
their persons have been held in a reverence infinitely above those of any
other historical figures reflects the attempt to articulate otherwise
inexpressible feelings aroused in the hearts of unnumbered millions of
people by the blessings their work has conferred. In loving them humanity
has progressively learned what it means to love God. There is,
realistically, no other way to do so. They are not honoured by fumbling
efforts to capture the essential mystery of their nature in dogmas
invented by human imagination; what honours them is the soul’s
unconditioned surrender of its will to the transformative influence they
mediate.



“Confusion about the role of religion in cultivating moral...”


Confusion about the role of religion in cultivating moral consciousness is
equally apparent in popular understanding of its contribution to the
shaping of society. Perhaps the most obvious example is the inferior
social status most sacred texts assign to women. While the resulting
benefits enjoyed by men were no doubt a major factor in consolidating such
a conception, moral justification was unquestionably supplied by people’s
understanding of the intent of the scriptures themselves. With few
exceptions, these texts address themselves to men, assigning to women a
supportive and subordinate role in the life of both religion and society.
Sadly, such understanding made it deplorably easy to attach primary blame
to women for failure in the disciplining of the sexual impulse, a vital
feature of moral advancement. In a modern frame of reference, attitudes of
this kind are readily recognized as prejudiced and unjust. At the stages
of social development at which all of the major faiths came into
existence, scriptural guidance sought primarily to civilize, to the extent
possible, relationships resulting from intractable historical
circumstances. It needs little insight to appreciate that clinging to
primitive norms in the present day would defeat the very purpose of
religion’s patient cultivation of moral sense.

Comparable considerations have pertained in relations between societies.
The long and arduous preparation of the Hebrew people for the mission
required of them is an illustration of the complexity and stubborn
character of the moral challenges involved. In order that the spiritual
capacities appealed to by the prophets might awaken and flourish, the
inducements offered by neighbouring idolatrous cultures had, at all costs,
to be resisted. Scriptural accounts of the condign punishments that befell
both rulers and subjects who violated the principle illustrated the
importance attached to it by the Divine purpose. A somewhat comparable
issue arose in the struggle of the newborn community founded by Muḥammad
to survive attempts by pagan Arab tribes to extinguish it—and in the
barbaric cruelty and relentless spirit of vendetta animating the
attackers. No one familiar with the historical details will have
difficulty in understanding the severity of the Qur’án’s injunctions on
the subject. While the monotheistic beliefs of Jews and Christians were to
be accorded respect, no compromise with idolatry was permitted. In a
relatively brief space of time, this draconian rule had succeeded in
unifying the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and launching the newly
forged community on well over five centuries of moral, intellectual,
cultural and economic achievement, unmatched before or since in the speed
and scope of its expansion. History tends to be a stern judge. Ultimately,
in its uncompromising perspective, the consequences to those who would
have blindly strangled such enterprises in the cradle will always be set
off against the benefits accruing to the world as a whole from the triumph
of the Bible’s vision of human possibilities and the advances made
possible by the genius of Islamic civilization.

Among the most contentious of such issues in understanding society’s
evolution towards spiritual maturity has been that of crime and
punishment. While different in detail and degree, the penalties prescribed
by most sacred texts for acts of violence against either the commonweal or
the rights of other individuals tended to be harsh. Moreover, they
frequently extended to permitting retaliation against the offenders by the
injured parties or by members of their families. In the perspective of
history, however, one may reasonably ask what practical alternatives
existed. In the absence not merely of present-day programmes of
behavioural modification, but even of recourse to such coercive options as
prisons and policing agencies, religion’s concern was to impress indelibly
on general consciousness the moral unacceptability—and practical costs—of
conduct whose effect would otherwise have been to demoralize efforts at
social progress. The whole of civilization has since been the beneficiary,
and it would be less than honest not to acknowledge the fact.

So it has been throughout all of the religious dispensations whose origins
have survived in written records. Mendicancy, slavery, autocracy,
conquest, ethnic prejudices and other undesirable features of social
interaction have gone unchallenged—or been explicitly indulged—as religion
sought to achieve reformations of behaviour that were considered more
immediately essential at given stages in the advance of civilization. To
condemn religion because any one of its successive dispensations failed to
address the whole range of social wrongs would be to ignore everything
that has been learned about the nature of human development. Inevitably,
anachronistic thinking of this kind must also create severe psychological
handicaps in appreciating and facing the requirements of one’s own time.

The issue is not the past, but the implications for the present. Problems
arise where followers of one of the world’s faiths prove unable to
distinguish between its eternal and transitory features, and attempt to
impose on society rules of behaviour that have long since accomplished
their purpose. The principle is fundamental to an understanding of
religion’s social role: “The remedy the world needeth in its present-day
afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may
require”, Bahá’u’lláh points out. “Be anxiously concerned with the needs
of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and
requirements.”(47)



“The exigencies of the new age of human experience to which...”


The exigencies of the new age of human experience to which Bahá’u’lláh
summoned the political and religious rulers of the nineteenth century
world have now been largely adopted, at least as ideals, by their
successors and by progressive minds everywhere. By the time the twentieth
century had drawn to a close, principles that had, only short decades
earlier, been patronized as visionary and hopelessly unrealistic had
become central to global discourse. Buttressed by the findings of
scientific research and the conclusions of influential commissions—often
lavishly funded—they direct the work of powerful agencies at
international, national and local levels. A vast body of scholarly
literature in many languages is devoted to exploring practical means for
their implementation, and those programmes can count on media attention on
five continents.

Most of these principles are, alas, also widely flouted, not only among
recognized enemies of social peace, but in circles professedly committed
to them. What is lacking is not convincing testimony as to their
relevance, but the power of moral conviction that can implement them, a
power whose only demonstrably reliable source throughout history has been
religious faith. As late as the inception of Bahá’u’lláh’s own mission,
religious authority still exercised a significant degree of social
influence. When the Christian world was moved to break with millennia of
unquestioning conviction and address at last the evil of slavery, it was
to Biblical ideals that the early British reformers sought to appeal.
Subsequently, in the defining address he gave regarding the central role
played by the issue in the great conflict in America, the president of the
United States warned that if “every drop of blood drawn with the lash
shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand
years ago, so still it must be said ’the judgements of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether’.”(48) That era, however, was swiftly drawing to
a close. In the upheavals that followed the Second World War, even so
influential a figure as Mohandas Gandhi proved unable to mobilize the
spiritual power of Hinduism in support of his efforts to extinguish
sectarian violence on the Indian subcontinent. Nor were leaders of the
Islamic community any more effective in this respect. As prefigured in the
Qur’án’s metaphorical vision of “The Day that We roll up the heavens like
a scroll”,(49) the once unchallengeable authority of the traditional
religions had ceased to direct humanity’s social relations.

It is in this context that one begins to appreciate Bahá’u’lláh’s choice
of imagery about the will of God for a new age: “Think not that We have
revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the
choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.”(50) Through His
revelation, the principles required for the collective coming of age of
the human race have been invested with the one power capable of
penetrating to the roots of human motivation and of altering behaviour.
For those who have recognized Him, equality of men and women is not a
sociological postulate, but revealed truth about human nature, with
implications for every aspect of human relations. The same is true of His
teaching of the principle of racial oneness. Universal education, freedom
of thought, the protection of human rights, recognition of the earth’s
vast resources as a trust for the whole of humankind, society’s
responsibility for the well-being of its citizenry, the promotion of
scientific research, even so practical a principle as an international
auxiliary language that will advance integration of the earth’s
peoples—for all who respond to Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation, these and similar
precepts carry the same compelling authority as do the injunctions of
scripture against idolatry, theft and false witness. While intimations of
some can be perceived in earlier sacred writings, their definition and
prescription had necessarily to wait until the planet’s heterogeneous
populations could set out together on the discovery of their nature as a
single human race. Through spiritual empowerment brought by Bahá’u’lláh’s
revelation the Divine standards can be appreciated, not as isolated
principles and laws, but as facets of a single, all-embracing vision of
humanity’s future, revolutionary in purpose, intoxicating in the
possibilities it opens.

Integral to these teachings are principles that address the administration
of humanity’s collective affairs. A widely quoted passage in Bahá’u’lláh’s
Tablet to Queen Victoria expresses emphatic praise of the principle of
democratic and constitutional government, but is also an admonition about
the context of global responsibility in which that principle must operate
if it is to realize its purpose in this age: “O ye the elected
representatives of the people in every land! Take ye counsel together, and
let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind and bettereth
the condition thereof, if ye be of them that scan heedfully. Regard the
world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect,
hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and
maladies. Not for one day did it gain ease, nay its sickness waxed more
severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave
full rein to their personal desires and have erred grievously. And if, at
one time, through the care of an able physician, a member of that body was
healed, the rest remained afflicted as before.”(51) In other passages,
Bahá’u’lláh spells out some of the practical implications. The governments
of the world are called upon to convene an international consultative body
as the foundation, in the words of the Guardian, of “a world federal
system”(52) empowered to safeguard the autonomy and territory of its state
members, resolve national and regional disputes and coordinate programmes
of global development for the good of the entire human race.
Significantly, Bahá’u’lláh attributes to this system, once established,
the right to suppress by force acts of aggression by one state against
another. Addressing the rulers of His day, He asserts the clear moral
authority of such action: “Should any one among you take up arms against
another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest
justice.”(53)



“The power through which these goals will be progressively realized is...”


The power through which these goals will be progressively realized is that
of unity. Although to Bahá’ís the most obvious of truths, its implications
for the current crisis of civilization appear to escape most contemporary
discourse. Few will disagree that the universal disease sapping the health
of the body of humankind is that of disunity. Its manifestations
everywhere cripple political will, debilitate the collective urge to
change, and poison national and religious relationships. How strange,
then, that unity is regarded as a goal to be attained, if at all, in a
distant future, after a host of disorders in social, political, economic
and moral life have been addressed and somehow or other resolved. Yet the
latter are essentially symptoms and side effects of the problem, not its
root cause. Why has so fundamental an inversion of reality come to be
widely accepted? The answer is presumably because the achievement of
genuine unity of mind and heart among peoples whose experiences are deeply
at variance is thought to be entirely beyond the capacity of society’s
existing institutions. While this tacit admission is a welcome advance
over the understanding of processes of social evolution that prevailed a
few decades ago, it is of limited practical assistance in responding to
the challenge.

Unity is a condition of the human spirit. Education can support and
enhance it, as can legislation, but they can do so only once it emerges
and has established itself as a compelling force in social life. A global
intelligentsia, its prescriptions largely shaped by materialistic
misconceptions of reality, clings tenaciously to the hope that imaginative
social engineering, supported by political compromise, may indefinitely
postpone the potential disasters that few deny loom over humanity’s
future. “We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with
great, with incalculable afflictions”, Bahá’u’lláh states. “They that are
intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the
Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men,
themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither
discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the
remedy.”(54) As unity is the remedy for the world’s ills, its one certain
source lies in the restoration of religion’s influence in human affairs.
The laws and principles revealed by God, in this day, Bahá’u’lláh
declares, “are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for
the dawning of the light of unity amongst men.”(55) “Whatsoever is raised
on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair
its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its
structure.”(56)

Central to Bahá’u’lláh’s mission, therefore, has been the creation of a
global community that would reflect the oneness of humankind. The ultimate
testimony that the Bahá’í community can summon in vindication of His
mission is the example of unity that His teachings have produced. As it
enters the twenty-first century, the Bahá’í Cause is a phenomenon unlike
anything else the world has seen. After decades of effort, in which surges
of growth alternated with long stretches of consolidation, often shadowed
by setbacks, the Bahá’í community today comprises several million people
representative of virtually every ethnic, cultural, social and religious
background on earth, administering their collective affairs without the
intervention of a clergy, through democratically elected institutions. The
many thousands of localities in which it has put down its roots are to be
found in every country, territory and significant island group, from the
Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, from Africa to the Pacific. The assertion that
this community may already constitute the most diverse and geographically
widespread of any similarly organized body of people on the planet is
unlikely to be challenged by one familiar with the evidence.

The achievement calls out for understanding. Conventional
explanations—access to wealth, the patronage of powerful political
interests, invocations of the occult or aggressive programmes of
proselytism that instil fear of Divine wrath—none have played any role in
the events involved. Adherents of the Faith have achieved a sense of
identity as members of a single human race, an identity that shapes the
purpose of their lives and that, clearly, is not the expression of any
intrinsic moral superiority on their own part: “O people of Bahá! That
there is none to rival you is a sign of mercy.”(57) A fair-minded observer
is compelled to entertain at least the possibility that the phenomenon may
represent the operation of influences entirely different in nature from
the familiar ones—influences that can properly be described only as
spiritual—capable of eliciting extraordinary feats of sacrifice and
understanding from ordinary people of every background.

Particularly striking has been the fact that the Bahá’í Cause has been
able to maintain the unity thus achieved, unbroken and unimpaired, through
the most vulnerable early stages of its existence. One will search in vain
for another association of human beings in history—political, religious,
or social—that has successfully survived the perennial blight of schism
and faction. The Bahá’í community, in all its diversity, is a single body
of people, one in its understanding of the intent of the revelation of God
that gave it birth, one in its devotion to the Administrative Order that
its Author created for the governance of its collective affairs, one in
its commitment to the task of disseminating His message throughout the
planet. Over the decades of its rise, several individuals, some of them
highly placed and all of them driven by the spur of ambition, did their
utmost to create separate followings loyal to themselves or to the
personal interpretations they had imposed on Bahá’u’lláh’s writings. At
earlier stages in the evolution of religion, similar attempts had proved
successful in splitting the newborn faiths into competing sects. In the
case of the Bahá’í Cause, however, such intrigues have failed, without
exception, to produce more than transient outbursts of controversy whose
net effect has been to deepen the community’s understanding of its
Founder’s purpose and its commitment to it. “So powerful is the light of
unity”, Bahá’u’lláh assures those who recognize Him, “that it can
illuminate the whole earth.”(58) Human nature being what it is, one can
readily appreciate the Guardian’s anticipation that this purifying process
will long continue—paradoxically but necessarily— to be an integral
feature of the maturation of the Bahá’í community.



“A corollary of the abandonment of faith in God has been a paralysis
of...”


A corollary of the abandonment of faith in God has been a paralysis of
ability to address effectively the problem of evil or, in many cases, even
to acknowledge it. While Bahá’ís do not attribute to the phenomenon the
objective existence it was assumed at earlier stages of religious history
to possess, the negation of the good that evil represents, as with
darkness, ignorance or disease, is severely crippling in its effect. Few
publishing seasons pass that do not offer the educated reader a range of
new and imaginative analyses of the character of some of the monstrous
figures who, during the twentieth century, systematically tortured,
degraded and exterminated millions of their fellow human beings. One is
invited by scholarly authority to ponder the weight that should be given,
variously, to paternal abuse, social rejection, professional
disappointments, poverty, injustice, war experiences, possible genetic
impairment, nihilistic literature—or various combinations of the
foregoing—in seeking to understand the obsessions fuelling an apparently
bottomless hatred of humankind. Conspicuously missing from such
contemporary speculation is what experienced commentators, even as
recently as a century ago, would have recognized as spiritual disease,
whatever its accompanying features.

If unity is indeed the litmus test of human progress, neither history nor
Heaven will readily forgive those who choose deliberately to raise their
hands against it. In trusting, people lower their defences and open
themselves to others. Without doing so, there is no way in which they can
commit themselves wholeheartedly to shared goals. Nothing is so
devastating as suddenly to discover that, for the other party, commitments
made in good faith have represented no more than an advantage gained, a
means of achieving concealed objectives different from, or even inimical
to, what had ostensibly been undertaken together. Such betrayal is a
persistent thread in human history that found one of its earliest recorded
expressions in the ancient tale of Cain’s jealousy of the brother whose
faith God had chosen to confirm. If the appalling suffering endured by the
earth’s peoples during the twentieth century has left a lesson, it lies in
the fact that the systemic disunity, inherited from a dark past and
poisoning relations in every sphere of life, could throw open the door in
this age to demonic behaviour more bestial than anything the mind had
dreamed possible.

If evil has a name, it is surely the deliberate violation of the hard-won
covenants of peace and reconciliation by which people of goodwill seek to
escape the past and to build together a new future. By its very nature,
unity requires self-sacrifice. “...self-love”, the Master states, “is
kneaded into the very clay of man.”(59) The ego, termed by Him the
“insistent self”,(60) resists instinctively constraints imposed on what it
conceives to be its freedom. To willingly forgo the satisfactions that
licence affords, the individual must come to believe that fulfilment lies
elsewhere. Ultimately, it lies, as it has always done, in the soul’s
submission to God.

Failure to meet the challenge of such submission has manifested itself
with especially devastating consequences throughout the centuries in
betrayal of the Messengers of God and of the ideals they taught. This
discussion is not the place for a review of the nature and provisions of
the specific Covenant by means of which Bahá’u’lláh has successfully
preserved the unity of those who recognize Him and serve His purpose. It
is sufficient to note the strength of the language He reserves for its
deliberate violation by those who simultaneously pretend allegiance to it:
“They that have turned away therefrom are reckoned among the inmates of
the nethermost fire in the sight of thy Lord, the Almighty, the
Unconstrained.”(61) The reason for the severity of this condemnation is
obvious. Few people have difficulty in recognizing the danger to social
well-being of such familiar crimes as murder, rape or fraud, nor the need
for society to take effective measures of self-protection. But how are
Bahá’ís to think about a perversity which, if unchecked, would destroy the
very means essential to the creation of unity—would, in the uncompromising
words of the Master, “become even as an axe striking at the very root of
the Blessed Tree”?(62) The issue is not one of intellectual dissent, nor
even of moral weakness. Many people are resistant to accepting authority
of one kind or another, and eventually distance themselves from
circumstances that require it. Persons who have been attracted to the
Bahá’í Faith but who decide, for whatever reason, to leave it are entirely
free to do so.

Covenant-breaking is a phenomenon fundamentally different in nature. The
impulse it arouses in those under its influence is not simply to pursue
freely whatever path they believe leads to personal fulfilment or
contribution to society. Rather, are such persons driven by an apparently
ungovernable determination to impose their personal will on the community
by any means available to them, without regard for the damage done and
without respect for the solemn undertakings they entered into on being
accepted as members of that community. Ultimately, the self becomes the
overriding authority, not only in the individual’s own life, but in
whatever other lives can be successfully influenced. As long and tragic
experience has demonstrated all too certainly, endowments such as
distinguished lineage, intellect, education, piety or social leadership
can be harnessed, equally, to the service of humanity or to that of
personal ambition. In ages past, when spiritual priorities of a different
nature were the focus of the Divine purpose, the consequences of such
rebellion did not vitiate the central message of any of the successive
revelations of God. Today, with the immense opportunities and horrific
dangers that physical unification of the planet has brought with it,
commitment to the requirements of unity becomes the touchstone of all
professions of devotion to the will of God or, for that matter, to the
well-being of humankind.



“Everything in its history has equipped the Bahá’í...”


Everything in its history has equipped the Bahá’í Cause to address the
challenge facing it. Even at this relatively early stage of its
development—and relatively limited as its resources presently are—the
Bahá’í enterprise is fully deserving of the respect it is winning. An
onlooker need not accept its claims to Divine origin in order to
appreciate what is being accomplished. Taken simply as this-worldly
phenomena, the nature and achievements of the Bahá’í community are their
own justification for attention on the part of anyone seriously concerned
with the crisis of civilization, because they are evidence that the
world’s peoples, in all their diversity, can learn to live and work and
find fulfilment as a single race, in a single global homeland.

This fact underlines, if further emphasis were needed, the urgency of the
successive Plans devised by the Universal House of Justice for the
expansion and consolidation of the Faith. The rest of humanity has every
right to expect that a body of people genuinely committed to the vision of
unity embodied in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh will be an increasingly
vigorous contributor to programmes of social betterment that depend for
their success precisely on the force of unity. Responding to the
expectation will require the Bahá’í community to grow at an
ever-accelerating pace, greatly multiplying the human and material
resources invested in its work and diversifying still further the range of
talents that equip it to be a useful partner with like-minded
organizations. Along with the social objectives of the effort must go an
appreciation of the longing of millions of equally sincere people, as yet
unaware of Bahá’u’lláh’s mission but inspired by many of its ideals, for
an opportunity to find lives of service that will have enduring meaning.

The culture of systematic growth taking root in the Bahá’í community would
seem, therefore, by far the most effective response the friends can make
to the challenge discussed in these pages. The experience of an intense
and ongoing immersion in the Creative Word progressively frees one from
the grip of the materialistic assumptions—what Bahá’u’lláh terms “the
allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy”(63)—that pervade society
and paralyze impulses for change. It develops in one a capacity to assist
the yearning for unity on the part of friends and acquaintances to find
mature and intelligent expression. The nature of the core activities of
the current Plan—children’s classes, devotional meetings and study
circles—permits growing numbers of persons who do not yet regard
themselves as Bahá’ís to feel free to participate in the process. The
result has been to bring into existence what has been aptly termed a
“community of interest”. As others benefit from participation and come to
identify with the goals the Cause is pursuing, experience shows that they,
too, are inclined to commit themselves fully to Bahá’u’lláh as active
agents of His purpose. Apart from its associated objectives, therefore,
wholehearted prosecution of the Plan has the potentiality of amplifying
enormously the Bahá’í community’s contribution to public discourse on what
has become the most demanding issue facing humankind.

If Bahá’ís are to fulfil Bahá’u’lláh’s mandate, however, it is obviously
vital that they come to appreciate that the parallel efforts of promoting
the betterment of society and of teaching the Bahá’í Faith are not
activities competing for attention. Rather, are they reciprocal features
of one coherent global programme. Differences of approach are determined
chiefly by the differing needs and differing stages of inquiry that the
friends encounter. Because free will is an inherent endowment of the soul,
each person who is drawn to explore Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings will need to
find his own place in the never-ending continuum of spiritual search. He
will need to determine, in the privacy of his own conscience and without
pressure, the spiritual responsibility this discovery entails. In order to
exercise this autonomy intelligently, however, he must gain both a
perspective on the processes of change in which he, like the rest of the
earth’s population, is caught up and a clear understanding of the
implications for his own life. The obligation of the Bahá’í community is
to do everything in its power to assist all stages of humanity’s universal
movement towards reunion with God. The Divine Plan bequeathed it by the
Master is the means by which this work is carried out.

However central the ideal of the oneness of religion unquestionably is,
therefore, the task of sharing Bahá’u’lláh’s message is obviously not an
interfaith project. While the mind seeks intellectual certainty, what the
soul longs for is the attainment of _certitude_. Such inner conviction is
the ultimate goal of all spiritual seeking, regardless of how rapid or
gradual the process may be. For the soul, the experience of conversion is
not an extraneous or incidental feature of the exploration of religious
truth, but the pivotal issue that must eventually be addressed. There is
no ambiguity about Bahá’u’lláh’s words on the subject and there can be
none in the minds of those who seek to serve Him: “Verily I say, this is
the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the
Promised One. The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His
countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behoveth every man to blot
out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to
gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the
proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His glory.”(64)



“One of the distinguishing features of modernity has been the
universal...”


One of the distinguishing features of modernity has been the universal
awakening of historical consciousness. An outcome of this revolutionary
change in perspective that greatly enhances the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh’s
message is the ability of people, given the chance, to recognize that the
whole body of humanity’s sacred texts places the drama of salvation itself
squarely in the context of history. Beneath the surface language of symbol
and metaphor, religion, as the scriptures reveal it, operates not through
the arbitrary dictates of magic but as a process of fulfilment unfolding
in a physical world created by God for that purpose.

In this respect, the texts speak with one voice: religion’s goal is
humanity’s attainment of the age of “in-gathering”,(65) of “one fold, and
one shepherd”;(66) the great age to come when “the Earth will shine with
the glory of its Lord”(67) and the will of God is carried out “in earth,
as it is in heaven”;(68) “the promised Day”(69) when the “holy city”(70)
will descend “out of heaven, from ... God”,(71) when “the mountain of the
Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall
be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it”,(72) when
God will demand to know “what mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces,
and grind the faces of the poor”;(73) the Day when scriptures that have
been “sealed till the time of the end”(74) would be opened and union with
God will find expression in “a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall
name”;(75) an age utterly beyond anything humanity will have experienced,
the mind conceived or language as yet encompassed: “even as We produced
the first Creation, so shall We produce a new one: a promise We have
undertaken: truly shall We fulfil it.”(76)

The declared purpose of history’s series of prophetic revelations,
therefore, has been not only to guide the individual seeker on the path of
personal salvation, but to prepare the whole of the human family for the
great eschatological Event lying ahead, through which the life of the
world will itself be entirely transformed. The revelation of Bahá’u’lláh
is neither preparatory nor prophetic. It _is_ that Event. Through its
influence, the stupendous enterprise of laying the foundations of the
Kingdom of God has been set in motion, and the population of the earth has
been endowed with the powers and capacities equal to the task. That
Kingdom is a universal civilization shaped by principles of social justice
and enriched by achievements of the human mind and spirit beyond anything
the present age can conceive. “This is the Day”, Bahá’u’lláh declares, “in
which God’s most excellent favours have been poured out upon men, the Day
in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created
things.... Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one
spread out in its stead.”(77)

Service to the goal calls for an understanding of the fundamental
difference distinguishing the mission of Bahá’u’lláh from political and
ideological projects of human design. The moral vacuum that produced the
horrors of the twentieth century exposed the outermost limits of the
mind’s unaided capacity to devise and construct an ideal society, however
great the material resources harnessed to the effort. The suffering
entailed has engraved the lesson indelibly on the consciousness of the
earth’s peoples. Religion’s perspective on humanity’s future, therefore,
has nothing in common with systems of the past—and only relatively little
relationship with those of today. Its appeal is to a reality in the
genetic code, if it can be so described, of the rational soul. The Kingdom
of Heaven, Jesus taught two thousand years ago, is “within”.(78) His
organic analogies of a “vineyard”,(79) of “seed [sown] into the good
ground”,(80) of the “good tree [that] bringeth forth good fruit”(81) speak
of a potentiality of the human species that has been nurtured and trained
by God since the dawn of time as the purpose and leading edge of the
creative process. The ongoing work of patient cultivation is the task that
Bahá’u’lláh has entrusted to the company of those who recognize Him and
embrace His Cause. Little wonder, then, at the exalted language in which
He speaks of a privilege so great: “Ye are the stars of the heaven of
understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the
soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all
men....”(82)

The process bears within itself the assurance of its fulfilment. For those
with eyes to see, the new creation is today everywhere emerging, in the
same way that a seedling becomes in time a fruit-bearing tree or a child
reaches adulthood. Successive dispensations of a loving and purposeful
Creator have brought the earth’s inhabitants to the threshold of their
collective coming-of-age as a single people. Bahá’u’lláh is now summoning
humanity to enter on its inheritance: “That which the Lord hath ordained
as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all
the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one
common Faith.”(83)



FOOTNOTES


    1 Bahá’u’lláh refers to the ancient Persian and Arabian story of
      Majnún and Laylí, _The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys_
      (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991), page 6.

_    2 Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í
      Publishing Trust, 1983), section LXI.

_    3 ibid.,_ section XVI.

_    4 Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas_ (Wilmette:
      Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988), page 27.

_    5 Gleanings,_ section XVII.

    6 Bahá’u’lláh, _Epistle to the Son of the Wolf_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í
      Publishing Trust, 1988), page 133.

    7 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Íqán_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust,
      1993), paragraph 216.

_    8 ibid._

_    9 ibid.,_ paragraph 104.

_   10 ibid.,_ paragraph 106.

_   11 Gleanings,_ section XXII.

_   12 Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í
      Publishing Trust, 1987), page 311.

_   13 Gleanings,_ section XXVII.

_   14 ibid.,_ section CIX.

_   15 ibid.,_ section LXXXI.

   16 Julian Huxley, cited by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, _The Phenomenon
      of Man_ (London: William Collins Sons &Co. Ltd., 1959), page 243.
      See also Julian Huxley, _Knowledge, Morality, and Destiny_ (New
      York: Harper &Brothers, 1957), page 13.

   17 Shoghi Effendi, _The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh: Selected Letters_
      (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991), page 35.

_   18 Gleanings,_ section LXXVIII.

_   19 ibid.,_ section CXXXII.

   20 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book_ (Wilmette:
      Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1993), paragraph 182.

   21 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Íqán,_ paragraph 4.

_   22 ibid.,_ paragraph 8.

_   23 ibid.,_ paragraph 13.

_   24 ibid.,_ paragraph 14.

   25 St. Matthew 13.25, Authorized King James Version.

_   26 ibid.,_ 13.29–30_._

   27 Qur’án, surih 7, verse 33, Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation, third
      edition, (n.p.: 1938).

   28 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,_ paragraph 99.

_   29 The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh_ (Haifa:
      Bahá’í World Centre, 2002), paragraph 126.

   30 Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, _The Advent of Divine Justice
      _(Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990), page 79.

   31 Isaiah 45.5.

   32 Timothy 1.17.

   33 Qur’án, surih 3, verse 73.

_   34 ibid.,_ surih 2, verse 177.

   35 St. Matthew 5.13.

_   36 ibid.,_ 5.14.

   37 Micah 6.8.

   38 St. John 14.6.

   39 Qur’án, surih 24, verse 35.

   40 Genesis 17.7.

   41 Bhagavad-Gita, chapter IV, Sir Edwin Arnold translation.

   42 Deuteronomy 34.10.

   43 St. John 5.45–47_._

   44 Qur’án, surih 2, verse 136.

_   45 The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by
      ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in
      1912,_ revised edition (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1995),
      page 326.

   46 St. John 1.10.

_   47 Gleanings,_ section CVI.

   48 Abraham Lincoln, quoted in _Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of
      the United States_ (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing
      Office, 1989).

   49 Qur’án, surih 21, verse 104.

   50 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,_ paragraph 5.

_   51 The Summons of the Lord of Hosts,_ paragraph 174.

   52 Shoghi Effendi, _The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh,_ page 204.

   53 Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, _The World Order of
      Bahá’u’lláh,_ page 192.

_   54 Gleanings,_ section CVI.

_   55 Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh,_ page 129.

   56 Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, _The World Order of
      Bahá’u’lláh,_ pages 202–203.

   57 Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, _The Advent of Divine
      Justice,_ page 84.

_   58 Gleanings,_ section CXXXII.

   59 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, _The Secret of Divine Civilization_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í
      Publishing Trust, 1990), page 96.

_   60 Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá_ (Haifa: Bahá’í World
      Centre, 1997), page 256.

   61 Bahá’u’lláh, from a previously untranslated Tablet.

_   62 Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá_ (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing
      Trust, 1944), page 25.

   63 Bahá’u’lláh, _The Kitáb-i-Íqán,_ paragraph 213.

_   64 Gleanings,_ section VII.

_   65 The Summons of the Lord of Hosts,_ paragraph 126.

   66 St. John 10.16.

   67 Qur’án, surih 39, verse 69.

   68 St. Matthew 6.10.

   69 Qur’án, surih 85, verse 2.

   70 Revelation 21.2.

_   71 ibid.,_ 3.12.

   72 Isaiah 2.2.

_   73 ibid.,_ 3.15.

   74 Daniel 12.9.

   75 Isaiah 62.2.

   76 Qur’án, surih 21, verse 104.

_   77 Gleanings,_ section IV.

   78 St. Luke 17.21.

   79 St. Matthew 21.33.

_   80 ibid.,_ 13.23_._

_   81 ibid.,_ 7.17.

_   82 Gleanings,_ section XCVI.

_   83 ibid.,_ section CXX.





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