By George Townshend

The Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh which the beloved Guardian has given us is in large measure an intimate remembrance of the Redeemer’s sufferings. And Bahá’u’lláh wished us to meditate on these sufferings. In the Tablet of Aḥmad He says: ‘Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.’

In a great poem known as the Fire Tablet He records at length the tale of His calamities and writes at the close:

‘Thank the Lord for this Tablet whence thou canst breathe the fragrance of My meekness and know what hath beset Us in the path of God.’ He adds: ‘Should all the servants read and ponder this, there shall be kindled in their veins a fire that shall set aflame the world.’

True religion in all ages has called on the faithful to suffer. On the one hand it brings to mankind a happiness in the absolute and the everlasting which is found nowhere but in religion. No unbeliever knows any joy which in its preciousness can be compared to the joys of religion. ‘The true monk,’ it has been said, ‘brings nothing with him but his lyre.’

On the other hand Heaven is walled about with fire. This bliss must be bought at a great price. So it has ever been in all religions of mankind.

An ancient hymn of lndia proclaims a truth as real now as it was in distant times:

The way of the Lord is for heroes. It is not meant for cowards.
Offer first your life and your all. Then take the name of the Lord.
He only tastes of the Divine Cup who gives his son, his wife, his wealth and his own life.

He verily who seeks for pearls must dive to the bottom of the sea, endangering his very existence.
Death he regards as naught; he forgets all the miseries of mind and body.
He who stands on the shore, fearing to take the plunge, attains naught.

The path of love is the ordeal of fire. The shrinkers learn from it.
Those who take the plunge into the fire attain eternal bliss.
Those who stand afar off, looking on, are scorched by the flames.

Love is a priceless thing only to be won at the cost of death.
Those who live to die, those attain; for they have shed all thoughts of self.
Those heroic souls who are rapt in the love of the Lord, they are the true lovers.

All the founders of religions have had to endure rejection and wrong, and as mankind grew more and more mature and the victory of God nearer, these wrongs, these sufferings have grown more and more severe continually.

We read little if anything of martyrdom in the Old Testament. But the New opens with Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, his beheading of John the Baptist; its central figure is a Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. The Gospels close with the agony in Gethsemane and with the Cross, the Nails, the Spear, and history follows with the martyrdom of all the eleven apostles. The Báb Himself was martyred and His followers gave up their lives for love of Him, not by dozens only but by hundreds and by thousands. In establishing the victory of God Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá drank the cup of suffering to the dregs.

It is said there are three kinds of martyrdom: one is to stand bravely and meet death unflinchingly in the path of God without wavering or under torture denying for an instant one’s faith. The second is little by little to detach one’s heart entirely from the world, laying aside deliberately and voluntarily all vanities and worldly seductions, letting every act and word become a speaking monument and a fitting praise for the Holy Name of Bahá’u’lláh. The third is to do the most difficult things with such self-sacrifice that all behold it as your pleasure. To seek and to accept poverty with the same smile as you accept fortune. To make the sad, the sorrowful your associates instead of frequenting the society of the careless and gay. To yield to the decrees of God and to rejoice in the most violent calamities even when the suffering is beyond endurance. He who can fulfill these last conditions becomes a martyr indeed.

None can attempt to delineate the variety or to analyze the nature of the afflictions which were poured upon Bahá’u’lláh. Repeatedly He has Himself summarized them in a few brief powerful sentences. In one place He calls our particular attention to the fact that it was not the Black Dungeon of Ṭihrán, for all its horrors and chains, which He named the Most Great Prison. He gave that name to ‘Akká. We are left to surmise why, and we reflect that in the Black Pit His sufferings were chiefly personal and physical; His enemies were external foes, the hope of redeeming the Cause was still with Him. But when He went down to ‘Akká in 1868, the traitor Mírzá Yaḥyá had done his deadly work; the kings and leaders had definitely rejected the Message, He was definitely cast out and silenced. Not He Himself alone but the Cause of God was in prison.

We can never imagine what numberless possibilities of immediate redemption the mad, sad, bad world had wantonly flung away; nor can our less sensitive natures know what the anguish of this frustration must have been to the eager longing of a heart as divinely centered, divinely loving as His.

But this much is abundantly plain; that the pains, the griefs, the sorrows, the sufferings, the rejections, the betrayals, the frustrations which were the common lot of all the High Prophets reached their culmination in Him.

Yet through all He remained calm, confident, His courage unshaken, His acquiescence forever radiant.

No one is to imagine that the excess of His tribulations means that at any time the power of evil had prevailed against Him. Pondering as He would have us to do, over the significance of these afflictions, we are shown that the truth is quite otherwise. He reveals:

‘Had not every tribulation been made the bearer of Thy wisdom, and every ordeal the vehicle of Thy providence, no one would have dared oppose Us, though the powers of heaven and earth were to be leagued against Us.’ He writes that God had sacrificed Him that men might be born anew and released from their bondage to sin. He praises God for His sufferings, He welcomes them, and even prays that for God’s sake the earth should be dyed with His blood and His head raised on a spearpoint. He continually protests that with every fresh tribulation heaped upon Him He manifests a fuller measure of God’s Cause and exalts more highly still God’s Word.

How bitterly felt were His tribulations, how acute His anguish, how real His grief and pain is shown a hundred times in His laments. His high divinity did not protect Him from human sensibility, but never did He quail nor blanch, never did He show resentment.

Many of His laments are not over His woes themselves but over the effect they produce on the faithful whose hearts they sorely shook or on the enemies of the Cause whom they fill with joy.

Nothing could exhaust His patience nor dampen His spirit. ‘Though My body be pained by the trials that befall Me, though it be afflicted by the revelation of Thy decree, yet My soul rejoiceth.’ He affirms that the tribulations that He and the faithful are made to endure are such as no pen in the entire creation can record, nor anyone describe. Yet ‘We swear by Thy Might, every trouble that toucheth us in our love for Thee is an evidence of Thy tender mercy, every fiery ordeal a sign of the brightness of Thy light, every woeful tribulation a cooling draught, every toil a blissful repose, every anguish a fountain of gladness.’

How then is it that ‘by Thy stripes we are healed?’

It is because the intensity, the magnitude, the volume of the sufferings of Bahá’u’lláh called forth the fullest possible expression and outpouring of the infinite mercy and love of God.

Wrongs done to the founder of a religion have two inevitable effects: one is that of retribution against the wrong done—the severity of which we may judge from the two thousand year exile of the Jewish people. The other is that of reward to the High Prophet whom they enable to release fresh powers of life that would have otherwise lain latent, to pour forth Divine energies which in their boundlessness will utterly overwhelm the forces of evil and empower Him to say: ‘Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’

The sufferings of Bahá’u’lláh enable us in some degree to measure the immensity of His love for mankind, to appreciate the sacrifice He made for love of us. The story of them enables us to keep in remembrance the heinous blackness and cruelty of the world of man from which He saved us; it enables us to realize the meaning and the need of Divine redemption, it proves to us the invincibility of God and the lone majesty of God’s victory over evil.

It is for the sake of learning more fully the love and the glory and the might of God that we contemplate this story of Bahá’u’lláh’s tribulations.

In that spirit we are to read it, and as a proof of His triumphant inviolable love He keeps the picture before us in many forms that we may be fortified and uplifted in our poor human struggle with the tests and afflictions of life.

The Fire Tablet adds all the poignancy and impassioned power of divine poetry to the story of the boundless suffering He and His beloved followers had to endure. In language of torrential eloquence He tells of the longing of the faithful for reunion with God being ungratified, He tells of the casting out of those most near to His heart, of dying bodies, of frustrated lovers left afar to perish in loneliness, of Satan’s whisperings in every human ear, of infernal delusions spreading everywhere, of the triumph of calamity, darkness, and coldness of heart. He tells of the sovereignty in every land of hate and unbelief while He Himself is forbidden to speak, left in the loneliness of His anguish, drowning in a sea of pain with no rescue ship to come and save Him. The lights of honour and loyalty and truth are put out; slander prevails and no avenging wrath of an outraged God descends to destroy the wicked and vindicate God’s messenger.

He calls to God for an answer. And the answer comes, showing the inner significance of God’s seeming to forsake His righteous ones.

Man’s evil sets off God’s goodness. Man’s coldness of heart sets off the warmth of God’s love.

Were it not for the night, how would the sun of the Prophet’s valour show forth the splendour of its radiance? Through His loneliness, the unity of God was revealed; through His banishment, the world of divine singleness grew fair.

‘We have made misery,’ said God to Him, ‘the garment of Thy glory, and sorrow the beauty of Thy temple. O Thou treasure of the worlds! Thou seest the hearts are filled with hate, and shalt absolve them, Thou Who dost hide the sins of all the worlds! Where the swords flash, go forward; Where the shafts fly, press onward, O Thou victim of the worlds.’

In that battle which we—all of us—wage with pain and suffering and sorrow, those are God’s last words to us:

‘Where the swords flash, go forward; Where the shafts fly, press onward.’

For love is a priceless thing, only to be won at the cost of death. Those who live to die, those attain; for they have lost all thoughts of self. Those heroic souls who are rapt in the love of the Lord, they are the true lovers.

By Adib Taherzadeh

At this particular juncture in the history of the Formative Age of the Faith, when the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in most parts of the world have, under the unerring guidance of the Universal House of Justice, embarked upon extensive programmes of proclamation designed to bring the Faith out of obscurity into the notice of the generality of mankind, it is most appropriate that we turn our hearts and souls to the events of a century ago when the King of Kings was issuing the remainder of His majestic summons to the kings and rulers of the world from the prison of ‘Akká.

In the summer of 1868, through the intrigues of the Persian Ambassador in Turkey and the hostility of ‘Álí Páshá, Grand Vizir of the Sultan (of Turkey), Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the barracks of ‘Akká and confined to a small room which looked desolate and depressing. This room, the interior of which today is kept in good condition and is visited by innumerable pilgrims from all the world over, was, in the days of Bahá’u’lláh, uninhabitable and dilapidated. He Himself mentions in a Tablet that its floor was covered with thick dust, and what plaster remained on the ceiling was often falling down.

A number of officials, ill disposed, hateful, and unaccommodating, were commissioned to guard and isolate Him from the outside world. Thus Bahá’u’lláh, the Supreme Manifestation Of God, He at Whose advent “the hearts of the entire company” of God’s “Messengers and Prophets were proved”, “Whose presence” Moses “hath longed to attain”, for “Whose love” the spirit of Jesus “ascended to heaven”, “the beauty of Whose countenance” Muhammad “had yearned to behold”, and “for Whose sake” the Báb had “sacrificed” Himself—the Bearer of such a mighty Revelation, fallen into the hands of a perverse generation, being wronged and afflicted with calamities, was now secluded within the walls of a barracks designated by Him as the “Most Great Prison”.

The Cause He revealed, however, had by then been well established in the land of His birth. His followers after years of misfortune and uncertainty were reinvigorated, their faith strengthened and their souls galvanized.

At the time of Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival in the prison city of ‘Akká, well nigh six years had elapsed since the Most Great Festival had been ushered in through Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration in the Garden of Riḍván, when the whole creation was “immersed in the sea of purification” and the splendours of the light of His countenance broke upon the world.

The Cause of God had by then witnessed a prodigious outpouring of divine Revelation for five years in Adrianople, culminating in the historic proclamation of His Message in that land. The Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of the Kings) had been revealed in a language of authority and power; through it the clarion call of a mighty King had been sounded and His claims fully asserted.

The Tablet described by Him as “the rumbling” of His proclamation, addressed to Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh of Persia, had been revealed though not yet delivered.

His first Tablet to Napoleon III, in which the sincerity of that monarch concerning His statement in defence of the oppressed among the Turks was tested, had been dispatched and received. The Súriy-i-Ra’ís (Arabic), in which ‘Álí Páshá had been severely rebuked, and about which Baha’u’llah had testified that from the moment of its revelation “until the present day, neither hath the world been tranquilized, nor have the hearts of its people been at rest,” had been revealed and the prophecies it contained had been noted with awe and wonder.

Now in ‘Akká, though confined to a cell and cut off from the body of the believers, the outpourings of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation did not cease. The ocean of His utterance continued to surge, and the “Tongue of Grandeur” spoke with authority and might. The Pen of the Most High directed its warnings and exhortations first to His immediate persecutors and then to some of the more outstanding monarchs of the world at that time.


‘Álí Páshá, Grand Vizir of the Sultan of Turkey

Bahá’u’lláh Warns ‘Álí Páshá

Soon after His confinement in the prison barracks in 1868, Bahá’u’lláh addressed another Tablet of tremendous importance to ‘Álí Páshá, who had been an implacable enemy and the prime instigator of His banishment to the prison of ‘Akká, and who previously had been addressed by Him as Ra’ís (i.e. Chief).

In this second Tablet (Persian), known as the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, Bahá’u’lláh recounts with much tenderness and resignation the hardships and sufferings to which He and His companions had been subjected on their arrival in ‘Akká; describes very movingly the cruelties perpetrated by the guards in the prison; reminds the Grand Vizir that the Manifestations of God in every age had suffered at the hands of the ungodly; narrates a story for him of His own childhood, portraying in a dramatic way the instability and futility of this earthly life; counsels him not to rely on his pomp and glory as they would come to an end soon; reveals to him the greatness of this Revelation; points out his impotence to quench the fire of the Cause of God; admonishes him for the iniquities he had perpetrated; emphatically warns him that God’s chastisement would assail him from every direction and confusion overtake his peoples and government; and affirms that the wrath of God had so surrounded him that he would never be able to repent or make amends.

On this last point Mírzá Áqá Ján, Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis, asked Bahá’u’lláh what would happen if ‘Álí Páshá changed his attitude and truly repented. Bahá’u’lláh’s emphatic response was that whatever had been revealed in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís would inevitably be fulfilled, and if the whole world were to join together in order to change one word of that Tablet they would be impotent to do so.

A majestic contrast took place one hundred years later when passages from this very Tablet, depicting the rigours and hardships of the Most Great Prison, were chanted in the vicinity of Bahá’u’lláh’s Most Holy Tomb, in the presence of over two thousand of His followers gathered from every corner of the world to commemorate the centenary of the arrival in ‘Akká of the One Whom the world had wronged.


Fu’ád Páshá, the foreign minister of the Sultan and a faithful accomplice of the Prime Minister in bringing about the exile of Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká

The Tablet of Fu’ád

Another Tablet of great significance, the The Tablet of Fu’ád, was revealed in 1869, soon after the premature death in Nice, France, of Fu’ád Pasha, the foreign minister of the Sultan and a faithful accomplice of the Prime Minister in bringing about the exile of Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká. It was revealed in honour of one of Bahá’u’lláh’s most devoted apostles, Shaykh Káẓim-i-Samandar (father of the late Hand of the Cause of God Ṭaráẓu’lláh Samandarí). The following passage from it contains the clear prediction of the downfall of ‘Álí Páshá and the Sultan himself: “Soon will We dismiss the one who was like unto him (i.e. ‘Álí Páshá), and will lay hold on their Chief (i.e. the Sultan) who ruleth the land, and l, verily, am the Almighty, the All-Compelling.” Soon after the revelation of the Tablet, ‘Álí Páshá: was dismissed from his post, and two years later he died.

In those days the believers in Persia often referred to Baha’u’llah’s newly revealed Tablets to the kings and rulers of the world, and many non-Bahá’ís made their acceptance of the Faith conditional upon the fulfilment of the warnings they contained.

 


Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl-i-Gulpáygání

A notable example is the case of Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl, the greatest of Bahá’í scholars. He was renowned for his knowledge and learning among the divines of lslam, and was the head of the Theological College in Tihran. His first contact with the Faith was through meeting a blacksmith who was a Bahá’í at his shop in the outskirts of Tihran. Never before had Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl been so humiliated as on this occasion, when, with all his knowledge, he was utterly confounded by the amazing force of the argument of this illiterate Bahá’í. The blacksmith immediately reported this whole episode to a Bahá’í friend, ‘Abdu’l-Karím, who, although he did not belong to the learned class, pursued Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl and eventually succeeded in bringing him to his house to discuss the Faith.

At this meeting, and subsequent ones, Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl, confronted with some simple Bahá’ís who were not of his calibre, found himself over and over again incapable of refuting the clear proofs and arguments put forward by his uneducated Bahá’í teachers. He marvelled at these men who answered his difficult and abstruse questions so simply and so brilliantly. From there on he visited more often the house of ‘Abdu’l-Karim. He read many of the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and met many learned Bahá’ís, but his immense knowledge was a barrier and a veil.

One day in 1876 he met Ḥájí Muḥammad Ismá‘íl-i-Káshání, surnamed Anís. Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl was handed the original copy of this Súrih in the very handwriting of Mírzá Áqá Ján, Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis; the Tablet wherein Baha’u’llah foretells that Adrianople will pass out of the Sultan’s hand and that confusion will overtake his kingdom. He was also given the Tablet of Fu’ád, in which the downfall of the Sultan is clearly prophesied. Upon seeing these two Tablets Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl made his acceptance of the Faith conditional upon the fulfilment of these prophecies.

His Bahá’í friends pursued him no longer. A few months passed and the news of the assassination of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz reached Tihran. On hearing the news Abu’l-Faḍl became very agitated. His soul was yearning for confirmation of the truth of this Cause, and yet his heart was not touched by the light of faith. He sat the whole night, read some Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, and prayed with absolute sincerity until his eyes were opened and he knew the truth of the Cause of God. At the hour of dawn he went to the house of that faithful friend ‘Abdu’l-Karím, and when the door was opened he kissed the threshold of that house and prostrated himself at the feet of the man who, through perseverance and love, had given him the gift of the Faith and led him to the truth.

It is no exaggeration to say that among the apostles of Baha’u’llah there was no one who surpassed Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl in his knowledge, his humility and self-effacement. Ali-Kuli Khan, a well-known and learned Bahá’í who was commissioned by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to serve Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl in America and act as his interpreter, has described him so well in these few lines: “If I had never seen ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, I would consider Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl the greatest being I ever laid eyes on.”

The Downfall of a Monarch and a Pope

Let us turn our thoughts again to Bahá’u’lláh. Though captive in the hands of His enemies and cut off from the outside world, the Supreme Pen wrote many more Tablets in the prison of ‘Akká. In the year 1869 two important Tablets were revealed and delivered; one addressed to Napoleon III, in which Bahá’u’lláh explicitly foretells his extinction; the other to Pope Pius IX. Within almost a year’s time Napoleon, the most powerful monarch of his time in Europe, was driven into exile and suffered an ignominious death, while in the same year the supreme Pontiff’s temporal powers which had existed for many centuries, were seized from him and his vast dominion was reduced to the tiny Vatican State.


Napolean III, the first president of France, from 1848 to 1852


Pope Pius IX, the head of the Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878

Parallel with these events and indeed, ever since Bahá’u’lláh had been sent to the prison of ‘Akká, the believers in Persia were desperately trying to establish contact with Him. Many travelled on foot all the way, but could not gain admittance to that city. The officials had taken many precautions in order to prevent the Bahá’ís from entering. The few Azalís, headed by the notorious Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání, who is described by the beloved Guardian as the “embodiment of wickedness”, were housed in a certain room overlooking the landgate. One of their functions was to watch for any Bahá’í who might wish to enter the city and to inform the guards. This they did with great zeal and enthusiasm. Many believers, even though they had disguised themselves, were recognized by these men and were not allowed to enter.

Every day a party consisting of a small number of Baha’u’llah’s companions, including ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was allowed out of the barracks in order to purchase food and other necessities in the markets of ‘Akká. The first time that the people of ‘Akká took notice of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in a butcher’s shop. While waiting to be served He noticed that a Christian and a Muslim were discussing their faiths, but the Muslim was being defeated. Thereupon, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá simply and eloquently proved the authenticity and truth of Islam for the Christian. The news of this spread and warmed the hearts of many people of ‘Akká towards the Master; this was the beginning of His immense popularity among the inhabitants of that city.

During these daily visits, the people of ‘Akká came in touch with the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. They felt His genuine love and compassion and were attracted to His magnetic personality. Gradually their fear and animosity towards Bahá’u’lláh and His followers were removed, and many became sympathetic to the Faith and its Founder. Some of these people who were attracted to the Faith tried, at times to help the believers, who were refused entry, by lowering ropes and pulling the believers up over the walls of the city—attempts which however were foiled by the guards.

The first two believers who managed to get into the city were Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad and Ḥájí Abu’l-Ḥasan, both from the province of Yazd. The former was the first Trustee of Bahá’u’lláh, and was martyred. The latter, known also as Ḥájí Amín who succeeded him, lived to an old age and continued to be the Trustee of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh during the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and part of that of the Guardian. The dominating factor in the lives of these two heroes of the Faith was a passionate love for Bahá’u’lláh. In order to enter the city they bought some camels and disguised themselves as Arabs. No one recognized them as Bahá’ís, and they were allowed in.

In the city they met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the news of their arrival was conveyed to Baha’u’lláh. Arrangements were made for them to meet Bahá’u’lláh in the public bath, but with the strict instructions that they show no signs of recognition or emotion. However, on beholding the face of his Beloved, Ḥájí Amín was so overwhelmed that his body began to tremble. He fell to the ground and hit his head on a stone, was badly injured, and was hurriedly carried out by his friend.

The arrival in ‘Akká of these two souls, and a few others who managed to get in afterwards, established a vital link between the Community of the Most Great Name and its exalted Founder, from Whom they were so cruelly cut off. Letters from the believers began to pour in, and Tablets were sent out. This process, which called for acts of sacrifice and heroism on the part of the many believers who risked their lives in order to maintain a two-way communication channel, continued throughout Bahá’u’lláh’s life. Men like Shaykh Salmán, honoured by the appellation of “the Messenger of the Merciful”, who in previous years had carried Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablets from ‘Iráq and Adrianople, continued in this arduous task, travelling on foot between ‘Akká and Persia, and, in the utmost poverty, eating mostly bread and onions for sustenance. This great hero of the Cause, though illiterate, stands out among the disciples of Bahá’u’lláh as one of the spiritual giants of this Dispensation.


Áqá Buzurg of Khurásán (c. 1852-1869), surnamed Badí by Baháu

Badí—The Handful of Dust

About a year after Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival in ‘Akká, a young Persian, aged seventeen, by the name of Áqá Buzurg, disguised himself as an Arab and entered the city. Although his father, a survivor of the upheaval of Shaykh Ṭabarsí, had been a devoted Bahá’í, Áqá Buzurg had shown no interest in the Faith until he met Nabil in the city of Níshápúr, in northeast Persia, and was converted. He then decided to go and attain the presence of Bahá’u’lláh.

Upon his arrival in the city of ‘Akká in 1869 he began to roam around until he came to a mosque where he saw a few Persians and recognized the Master among them. He wrote a note, in which he declared his faith, and handed it to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who greeted him warmly and took him along with the party straight to the barracks, where he was ushered into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh.

In a Tablet Mírzá Áqá Ján mentions that Áqá Buzurg was summoned twice to meet Bahá’u’lláh alone. It was in the course of these momentous audiences that the hands of Bahá’u’lláh created a new being and bestowed upon him the title of Badí‘ (i.e. wonderful). For more than two years Bahá’u’lláh had been waiting for a devoted soul to arise and deliver His Tablet to Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh of Persia. While in Adrianople He had written some passages on the cover of the Tablet, anticipating that the Almighty would cause one of His servants to arise, detach himself from all earthly things, adorn his heart with the ornament of courage and strength, take the Tablet, walk all the way to the capital of Persia, hand it in the manner described by Him to the King, and in the end be prepared to give his life, if necessary, with great joy and thankfulness. “We took a handful of dust,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s own testimony referring to Badí‘, “mixed it with the waters of might and power and breathed into it the spirit of assurance.”

In a Tablet revealed in honour of the father of Badí‘, who was also martyred a few years later, the Pen of the Most High, in great detail, portrays the manner in which this new creation came into being. He describes that when the appointed time had arrived the Tongue of Grandeur uttered “one word” which caused his whole being to tremble, and that were it not for God’s protection he would have been dumbfounded. Then the Hand of Omnipotence began creating the new creation, and “breathed into him the spirit of might and power”. So great had been the infusion of this might, as attested by Bahá’u’lláh, that, single and alone, Badí‘ could have conquered all that is on earth and in heaven. Bahá’u’lláh mentions that when this new creation came into being, Badí‘ had smiled in His presence and manifested such steadfastness that the Concourse on high was deeply moved and uplifted.

In the same Tablet, referring to the loftiness of the station of Badí‘, He states that no Tablet can convey its significance nor any pen describe its glory. Badí‘ left the Most Great Prison and went to Haifa. Baha’u’llah entrusted Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad Amín (His Trustee) with a small case and a Tablet to be delivered into the hands of Badí‘ at Haifa. The following is the story as recounted by this Trustee to an eminent Bahá’í historian.

I was given a small case and was instructed to hand it to Badi‘ at Haifa together with some money. I did not know anything about the contents of the case. I met him at Haifa and gave him the glad tidings that he had been honoured with a trust . . . we left the town and walked up Mount Carmel where I handed him the case. He took it into his hands, kissed it, and knelt with his forehead to the ground; he also took the sealed envelope, walked twenty to thirty paces away from me, sat down facing ‘Akká, read it, and again knelt with his forehead to the ground. The rays of ecstasy and the signs of gladness and joy appeared on his face.

I asked him if I could read the Tablet also. He replied, ‘There is no time’. I knew it was a confidential matter. But what it was I had no idea—l could not imagine such a mission.

I mentioned that we had better go to Haifa, in order that, as instructed, I might give him some money. He declined to go with me, but suggested that I could go alone and bring it to him.

When I returned, in spite of much searching, I could not find him. He had gone. . . We had no news of him until we heard of his martyrdom in Ṭihrán. Then I knew that the case contained the Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh to the Sháh, and the sealed envelope, a holy Tablet containing the glad tidings of the future martyrdom of the one who was the essence of steadfastness and strength.

The same chronicler has written the following account given by a certain believer who met Badí‘ on his way to Persia and travelled with him for some distance.

. . he was very happy and smiling, patient, thankful, gentle, and humble. All that we knew was that he had attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and was now returning to his home in Khurásán. Many a time he could be seen to have walked about a hundred steps, leaving the road in either direction, turning his face towards ‘Akká, kneeling with his forehead to the ground and could be heard saying, ‘O God! Do not take back, through Thy justice, what Thou hast vouchsafed unto me through Thy bounty, and grant me the strength for its protection.’

Thus Badí‘ travelled on foot all the way to Ṭihrán and did not meet with anyone there. On arrival he discovered that the King was staying at his summer residence. He made his way to that area and sat on the top of the hill overlooking the Sháh’s palace at Níyávarán. The King on successive days, looking through his binoculars, saw the same man dressed in white, sitting in the same position on the hill. He ordered his men to find out who he was and what he wanted.

Badí‘ told them that he had a letter from a very important personage for the Sháh and must hand it personally to him. After searching him they brought him to the King.

Only those who are well versed in the history of Persia in the nineteenth century can appreciate the immense dangers which faced an ordinary person like Badí‘ wishing to meet a palace official, let alone the King. For at that time the King enjoyed absolute power and was surrounded by ruthless officials who would put to the sword anyone who would dare to utter one word, or raise a finger, against the established institutions of that oppressive regime. The loud voice of the “herald” who announced to the public in the streets the approach of the King’s carriage, shouting, “Everyone die! Everyone go blind!” would strike terror into the hearts of the citizens who, with eyes cast to the ground, stood motionless and still as their King and his men passed by.

Being invested by Bahá’u’lláh with tremendous powers, this young man of seventeen, assured and confident, stood straight as an arrow, face to face with the King. Calmly and courteously he handed him the Tablet and in a loud voice called out the celebrated Arabic phrase: “O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message.”

The King sent the Tablet to the divines of Ṭihrán and commanded them to write an answer to Bahá’u’lláh. Finding themselves incapable of doing so, they evaded the issue and put forward some excuses which displeased the King immensely.

Badí‘ was arrested, and brutally tortured. His endurance and fortitude amazed the executioner and other officials. They took a photograph of him as he sat in front of a brazier containing hot bars of iron with which he was branded. Eventually his head was beaten to a pulp and his body thrown into a pit. This was July 1870.

For three years after the martyrdom of Badí‘, Bahá’u’lláh referred in His Tablets to his steadfastness and sacrifice, extolled his station, and bestowed upon him the title “Pride of Martyrs”.

 


Badí‘ was arrested, and brutally tortured. His endurance and fortitude amazed the executioner and other officials. They took a photograph of him as he sat in front of a brazier containing hot bars of iron with which he was branded. This was July 1870.

The Tablet to the Sháh

For over two decades the people of Persia had witnessed memorable acts of heroism performed by a small band of God-intoxicated heroes, whose devotion and self-sacrifice had lit a great conflagration throughout that country. The Message of the Báb, the accounts of His martyrdom, and the transforming power of His Cause had already reached to every corner of that land; and from there its reverberations had echoed to the Western world. And yet, as attested by Bahá’u’lláh, not until this momentous Tablet was delivered to the King had the nature of the Cause of God or the claims of its Founder, or its principles and teachings, been clearly enunciated to those who held the reins of power in their hands.

In the annals of the Faith, Badí‘ stands out among the first heroic souls to arise for the proclamation of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. He joyously sacrificed himself in His path.

This sacrifice was not in vain. The Cause of Bahá’u’lláh—which, from the time of its inception, had been suppressed; whose adherents in the land of its birth had been so cruelly persecuted and at times mowed down in thousands; whose very name, as anticipated by Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh and the divines of Persia, was to have been obliterated from the pages of history—has, in spite of much opposition, tremendously expanded during the last hundred years. Its light has been systematically diffused to all the continents of the world. The army of its pioneers and teachers, recruited from every race, class and colour, proclaiming to mankind the advent of the Lord of Hosts, has encircled the globe. The rising institutions of its divinely guided Administrative Order have been established, and within its World Centre, in the vicinity of its Holy Shrines, the crowning Edifice of that same Order (The Universal House of Justice)—the only refuge for the world’s tottering civilization —has been majestically erected.

This glorious unfoldment of the Cause in the Formative Age and its future sovereignty in the Golden Age are the direct consequences, on the one hand, of the outpourings of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation and, on the other, of the mysterious power generated by the sacrifice of countless martyrs, whose precious blood has flowed in great profusion during the Heroic Age of the Faith.


Prison Cell of Bahá’u’lláh today

By William Sears

 

 

We drove through the newer part of ‘Akká down to the great sweep of sandy beach where a stormy wind lashed the great breakers and drove them as far into the old city as possible. We turned left and wound our way over the hill down into the old city again. The wind blew everyone’s coat collar up around the neck. The day was still gray, misty and chill. The cold crashing of the surf punctuated the silent spots in our conversation as we stood, our backs to the sea wall, gazing across the way at the House of ‘Abbúd.

The sea, the wind, the swirling mist, none could cool down the ardor that stirred inside the pilgrim as he looked upon this gray shell of a house that once sheltered the Supreme Prophet of God. This was once the sanctuary of the Supreme Pen. Its walls had resounded to the words of the Most Great Book, the Mighty Aqdas. Here were formed the laws which would stand inviolate and unaltered for a thousand years. Here were fashioned the provisions which would lay the foundation for the greatest structure in the social history of mankind. Here, those ancient prophetic words had come true, “The Government shall be upon His shoulders.” Here, the Author of the Bahá’í Faith, protected by these blessed walls from the stinging winds of the sea, had poured out the fairest fruit of all His Revelation, the Aqdas—pre-eminent among all the writings which had streamed forth in a never-ending river from His holy pen.

What a plain, unimposing structure. Two stories in height with a small balcony around the second floor front, drab gray in color, bleak in appearance, beautiful to the believer.

We were all staring silently up at the balcony which surrounds the bedroom of Bahá’u’lláh. Many long hours He had paced this balcony, looking out over the sea and down upon the very earth where we were standing. This small balcony, which can be crossed in less than ten paces, furnished almost the only outside exercise for Bahá’u’lláh in seven long years of imprisonment within the walls of this house.


House of ‘Abbúd, 1920s

Before entering the House, we walked to the small public square in the rear. Our gracious host, Leroy Ioas, holding his hat and coat-collar against a wind that whirled tiny cyclones of ‘Akká dust across the courtyard, showed us the exact spot where the Master had stood and distributed alms and food to the poor.

Salah led us back between the houses and into the side door of the House of ‘Abbúd. We crossed an inner court and started up a flight of stairs, turning to the right twice and continuing to climb until we reached the living quarters of the Holy Family. We saw the small room that held thirteen believers the first night spent in this house. We saw the upper shelf which one of the friends had slept upon that first night and, rolling over too far to one side, had toppled down upon the Master.

 


Back entrance, House of Abbúd, circa 1921

We removed our shoes and walked across another room of soft carpets, through a small hallway and then turned left into Bahá’u’lláh’s bedroom. Against the wall on the sea-side of the room was a long cushioned bench. Upon the south end, toward Haifa, rested the táj of Baha’u’llah, marking the place where He often would sit. A few feet away, along the south wall, was a rocking chair which He used. Upon the floor, a carpet brought with them all the way from Adrianople.

As I write this now in Johannesburg, I am back there again. I can feel my pulse accelerate and my heart beat stronger. The atmosphere of these holy places never leaves you. It comes rushing back whenever you turn to ‘Akká and Haifa. Hour after hour, month after month, year upon year, Bahá’u’lláh had moved back and forth in this room. At times He would turn left in the doorway and go out on the balcony which runs across the front of the house. After Salah chanted a prayer, we followed Bahá’u’lláh’s path to the balcony and looked out upon the turbulent sea. The wind, it seemed to us, was still whipping up the indifferent Mediterranean and driving it toward the shore, where in mighty rollers it bowed and prostrated itself before the throne of Majesty.

The room of revelation (where Baha’u’llah revealed the Aqdas) is quite different from the others. This was also ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s bedroom. It is paneled in wood which is to be found in other places associated with Him. This bedroom is in the back corner of the House. We could look down into the back courtyard. … We saw many of the books of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His writing equipment, papers, the simple iron bed—many things that were much loved by Him and are revered by all who look upon them.

Above all else, the mind tries to take in the truth that here in this room, a room that is simplicity itself, was revealed the Book of Laws, the Most Great Book, the mightiest written testimony since the beginning of our recorded times. Its Author would cast His Shadow of guidance for five hundred thousand years!

It is too much to understand. The mind willingly surrenders and turns to examine the surroundings, the little things it can comprehend. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sat here, He walked here, He knelt here, He looked out this window. But irresistibly your thoughts keep coming back to that one inescapable fact—it was here that Bahá’u’lláh revealed the Aqdas.

Emptying yourself of every single thing to which the mind can cling, you ask Almighty God to pour into your heart a true appreciation of this experience you are undergoing. … The presence and significance of these holy places are like hammer-blows to those of us who have lived in a world so remote from the spirit.

Those veritably spiritual thunderbolts the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, of the Báb, and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the room at Bahjí where Bahá’u’lláh passed away, the mansion of Mazra‘ih, the Garden of Riḍván—all had numbed the senses until the cup could not contain the flood.

Each of us said a prayer before departing from this cradle of future civilization. When we made our way downstairs, there was additional conversation, but none of it registers. The hearing was working, but the comprehension and recording instruments were unable to function. This was a mercy of God. The body must be much like an electrical system. It can successfully carry its normal “load” of power, but when subjected suddenly to an incredibly strong current, it “blows out” the fuse at its point of protection. A similar phenomenon happens to the pilgrim, several times, in fact. Something breaks the connection and permits no more impulses to register. The system cannot bear them. (Bahá’u’lláh has written of this spirit, saying of the wine of revelation that it is so inebriating to the Prophet, Himself, that the pen is stilled and can move no more.)

 


Bahá’u’lláh's room in the house of ‘Údi Khammár, where He revealed the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, c. 1921

The sun came out gaily for a brief moment, for the first time, as we strolled through the picturesque streets of “Old ‘Akká.” It splashed against the drab earth-colored walls and transformed them into a happy tan. We traced our way along many of the favorite walks of the Master.

We paused and took photographs in the doorway of the house of the former Mufti of ‘Akká. He had been a bitter enemy of Bahá’u’lláh. Salah, caretaker at Bahjí, told us the story of the two attempts on the life of Bahá’u’lláh made by this Mufti while Bahá’u’lláh was still in prison. Once with a hidden dagger, but Baha’u’llah before admitting him to His presence said, “Let him first cleanse his hands.” A second time, the Mufti planned to strangle the Blessed Beauty, and Bahá’u’lláh said before admitting him, “First let him cleanse his heart.” The Mufti became an ardent believer and collected all the “traditions” to be found in the Faith about ‘Akká.

What a delightful city “Old ‘Akká” is to visit. Salah, who was born within its walls, greeted almost everyone. He told us many intriguing stories about its non-Bahá’í history as well. We entered a small door built in one of the lower walls of the prison, walked to the center of a cellar-like cavern. Below us excavation had been started. How strange to know that beneath the prison lies this famous church built by Richard, the Lion-hearted. The packed earth on which we stood was high up toward the top of the Gothic arches. The pillars were buried many, many feet in the solid earth below us.

Salah pointed out the house to which Bahá’u’lláh had been taken in custody when some of His followers had disobeyed His commands, quarreled with three enemies of the Faith and slew them. Bahá’u’lláh was dictating Tablets to His secretary when troops surrounded His house. Crowds gathered quickly. They shouted at Bahá’u’lláh as the Governor, sword in hand, led Him away for questioning. His innocence was established and Bahá’u’lláh was freed; the Governor apologized for his own bad behavior.

We began our approach to the prison itself. The steps up which Bahá’u’lláh had walked to enter the fortress that first time have been taken down. They have left their scar across the body of the prison wall. We all stopped and gazed up at the marks of that old stairway. This was as far as we could retrace the steps of banishment. In order to enter the prison, we had to drive around the city to the front by the sea wall.

We parked by the gate, passed the guards, and walked about three hundred yards up to the prison entrance. As you cross the small bridge over the moat, you can see the cannon balls of Napoleon embedded in the walls. They are splashed with red paint to make them easily visible. Passing through a small arched entrance, we approached the courtyard.

The prison is now a hospital for the insane and feeble-minded. You can see them exercising in the very courtyard where the believers were herded together that first day. There was a sound of heavy keys rattling in a metal door, the door swung open, and you entered the prison barracks. Passing through an ante-room of poor, unfortunate sick ones, you enter the cell-block. In the far left-hand corner is a plaque which reads: Bahá’í Holy Place. . . . This is the cell of Baha’u’llah. The plaque is written in both English and Hebrew.

We removed our shoes outside the great door, and then entered the prison cell where for over two years Bahá’u’lláh had been shut away from the world. This was the heart of the “Most Great Prison.” Even that Black Pit in Ṭihrán, the Siyáh-Chál, a place foul beyond comparison, a dungeon wrapped in thick darkness, so dreadful that no tongue could describe its loathsome smell, had not been called by such a name.


The Most Great Prison, 1907


The prison cell of Bahá'u'lláh, 1965

The cell was barren and desolate in Bahá’u’lláh’s day. Now there is a Persian carpet in the corner where He used to sit. There are five straight-backed chairs upon which the pilgrims sit. One window looks out upon the old ‘Akká. The other two windows look out upon the sea. These are the windows shown in most of the photographs.

From here Bahá’u’lláh would look out toward that spot beyond the moat where His followers would stand hoping for a glimpse of His hand waving from the window. We all stood and peered out at that same spot and to the white-capped sea beyond it. Later we walked out to that place of bliss and sorrow and looked up at these two forlorn windows. The face of the prison is bruised and scarred from shell-fire.

 


Plain of ‘Akká from Prison window, early 1900s

Inside the prison-cell itself, the heart is touched and saddened by the sight of that bleak, unfragrant room. True, it has been cleaned and restored, but here and there upon the floor were small fragments of paint and plaster which had fallen from the ceiling and walls. These are a grim reminder of the chilling dampness of this dismal place.

Here in this cell, where but a few paces carry you from end to end, Bahá’u’lláh spent over two years of His precious life. Here it was that Baha’u’llah, Himself, said that His sufferings had reached their culmination.

Our eyes bestowed loving prayers upon each of these places of anguish. After all these years, and even with the reformations, it is still unsanitary and foul in these barracks. The mind refuses to try to picture the misery and abomination that must have surrounded Bahá’u’lláh upon His arrival here. We know that they were herded together, deprived of food and drink, that malaria, dysentery, and the sickening heat added to their sorrows. All were ill but two.

It was here that the two brothers died the same night locked in each other’s arms. Bahá’u’lláh sold His carpet to provide for their winding sheets and burial, but the guards had kept the money and cast them into a pit unwashed and unshrouded.

This is where Bahá’u’lláh’s young son, Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch, was killed. He was pacing the roof at twilight reciting his prayers. He fell through an unguarded skylight on a wooden crate below which pierced his ribs and took his life in less than a day. It was here that this sweet son pleaded with his Father, Bahá’u’lláh, that his life be not saved, but that it be offered as a ransom so that the pilgrims, who so longed for His healing Presence, might be permitted to attain their hearts’ desire. At his tomb in the Monument gardens, we repeated the words of Baha’u’llah written about him:

“Thou art the trust of God and His treasure in this land. Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired.”

From here Bahá’u’lláh wrote many of His tablets to the kings of the earth, proclaiming that the only remedy for the ills of the world was the union of all its peoples in one common faith, and that only a divine, inspired Physician could bring this to pass.

Many were the wholesome truths that flowed from that Supreme Pen within this prison cell. Each of these tablets and writings took on a new force since we had come to the scene of their origin.

The doors that did not open for Bahá’u’lláh for two years, swing wide for you, then grind closed upon their hinges. We put on our shoes, everyone silent, lost in the weight of thoughts which held words down, unformed.

This was the last stop in ‘Akká. We were grateful. We wanted no conversation; no invasion of that place the mind had set aside for reflecting upon this unequaled experience.

There was no receptiveness left to truly appreciate the stories told as we descended the stairs; the room below where the rest of the pilgrims had been quartered, the place where the Master had made broth for all—made broth with little more than air for ingredients. His words spoken in London sent another sliver of pain into the body. He had made so much broth in those days, He said, that He could make a very good broth with a very little. How the Master loved His wonderful Father. He told of this loathsome prison. How Bahá’u’lláh would call the pilgrims together, would make them laugh at their troubles, until they forgot their stone beds, the lack of food and water. He banished the pain of their illness and the ravages of their fever. He would tell them stories and lift their hearts. He would start them to laughing so loudly that they must be cautioned for fear the sentinels would believe they were mad if they could laugh and enjoy themselves in these conditions of utter dreadfulness.

What tenderness must have been in the Master’s eyes as He placed His graceful hand upon the luxurious furniture of the Western world and said, “We had no chairs such as this in the prison of ‘Akká; no soft beds to lie upon; no delicious food to nourish us. But I would not exchange all of these days for one moment of the sweetness of those hours in the presence of the Blessed Beauty.”

 


City of ‘Akká, c. 1919

Seeing these poor, unfortunate inmates of the asylum for the last time, one thinks: How like the entire world is this prison barracks. These pitiful wretches, unbalanced, living in another dead world (like all humanity) are within but a few paces of the Holy Place of Bahá’u’lláh‘ Healer of all ills.

We crossed the moat and walked out into the open air. The clouds were gone. The sun was out ruling the blue sky all by itself. The sea, a deeper blue, was still charging up to the old sea wall and plunging against its rocks. There was a queer, mingled feeling in possession of me. It was half of joy and half of sadness, gladness and heavy-heartedness, happiness and sorrow. Perhaps it was the accumulation of the day’s emotions, unsettled and unabsorbed within me. Each experience taking charge of my being at alternate intervals, just as the sea sent alternate breakers against the wall.

I did not look back. It was all locked forever in my heart.

By Horace Holley

The Universe of Palomar

The largest telescope yet designed has been raised by scientists on a mountain under the clear California sky. Its lens, measuring sixteen feet eight inches in diameter, gathers light with so much more intensity than the human eye that its reflected image discloses an endless heaven hung with brilliant orbs. Its power is so encompassing that it extends human vision to bodies whose distance from the earth, measured by the time required for the travel of a ray of light, is not less than one billion years.

August 1941: Telescope structure visible through dome slit. (Palomar/Caltech Archives)

Since the speed of light is 186,000 miles a second, no terrestrial system of measurement can contain this utter remoteness or translate it into ordinary human meaning.

The universe of Palomar engulfs the small and familiar worlds sustained by the imagination of the poet, the shepherd and the mariner of ancient times. Its infinity of space and time can never be subjective to hope or fear. It is a motion we cannot stay, a direction we cannot divert, a peace we cannot impair, a power we cannot control. Here existence realizes the fulness of its purpose. The design and the material, the means and the end, the law and the subject, seem wholly one.

At Palomar the mind of man, standing on tiptoe, can behold the cosmic spectacle and grow by the eternal majesty it feeds on, but searching east or west or north or south one finds here no candle lighted to welcome the errant human heart.

“This nature,” the Bahá’í teachings observe, “is subjected to an absolute organization, to determined laws, to a complete order and a finished design, from which it will never depart; to such a degree, indeed, that if you look carefully and with keen sight, from the smallest invisible atom up to such large bodies of the world of existence as the globe of the sun or the other great stars and luminous spheres, whether you regard their arrangement, their composition, their form or their movement, you will find that all are in the highest degree of organization, and are under one law from which they will never depart.

“But when you look at nature itself, you see that it has no intelligence, no will … Thus it is clear that the natural movements of all things are compelled; there are no voluntary movements except those of animals, and above all, those of man. Man is able to deviate from and to oppose nature, because he discovers the constitution of things, and through this he commands the forces of nature; all the inventions he has made are due to his discovery of the constitution of things …

“Now, when you behold in existence such organizations, arrangements, and laws, can you say that all these are the effects of nature, though nature has neither intelligence nor perception? If not, it becomes evident that this nature, which has neither perception nor intelligence, is in the grasp of Almighty God Who is the Ruler of the world of nature; whatever He wishes He causes nature to manifest.”1‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. p.3.

Another passage states: “Know that every created thing is a sign of the revelation of God. Each, according to its capacity, is, and will ever remain, a token of the Almighty . . . So pervasive and general is this revelation that nothing whatsoever in the whole universe can be discovered that does not reflect His splendor . . . Were the Hand of Divine Power to divest of this high endowment all created things, the entire universe would become desolate and void.’’2Bahá’í World Faith. p.97.

The Bahá’í teachings also declare: “Earth and heaven cannot contain Me; what can alone contain Me is the heart of him that believes in Me, and is faithful to My Cause.”3Bahá’í World Faith. p.98.

Man’s Inner World

From man’s inner world of hope and fear the cry for help has never been raised so desperately nor so generally across the whole earth. Civilization is in conflict with the man of nature. Civilization betrays the man of understanding and feeling. The individual has become engulfed in struggles of competitive groups employing different weapons to attain irreconcilable ends. The beginning and the end of his actions lie concealed in the fiery smoke of furious, interminable debate. His personal world has been transformed into an invaded area he knows not how to defend.

Sickness of soul, like physical ailment, manifests itself in many forms. It need not be a localized pain nor an acute sense of shock and disability. An ailment can produce numbness as well as torment, or it can spare the victim’s general health but deprive him of sight, hearing or the use of a limb.

Soul sickness that goes deep into the psychic organism seldom finds relief in hysteria or other visible adjustments to ill-being. It expresses itself in successive re-orientations to self and to society, each of which results in a conviction representing a definite choice or selection between several possibilities. When the conviction hardens, all possibilities but one are denied and dismissed. If individuals come to realize that effort to express certain qualities through their daily lives is continuously unsuccessful, they will, in the majority of cases, abandon the exercise of that quality and concentrate on others. If individuals find that their civilization makes demands on them for the exercise of qualities they personally condemn, in most cases the necessary adjustment is made.

The modern individual is in the same position as the mountain climber bound to other climbers by a rope. At all times he is compelled to choose between freedom and protection—to balance his rights and his loyalties, and compromise between his duty to protect others and his duty to develop something unique and important in himself. As long as the route and the goal are equally vital to all the climbers, the necessary adjustments can be made without undue strain. But modern life binds together in economic, political and other arrangements groups of people who never entered into a pact of mutual agreement, who inwardly desire and need diverse things. The rope that binds them is a tradition, a convention, an inherited obligation no longer having power to fulfill.

Here, in essence, is the tragic sickness of modern man. What he sows he cannot reap. What he reaps he cannot store until a new harvest ripens. He feeds on another’s desire, he wills to accomplish an alien task, he works to destroy the substance of his dearest hope. Moral standards stop at the frontier of the organized group. Partisan pressures darken the heavens of understanding.

Humanity is undergoing a complete transformation of values. The individual is being transplanted from his customary, sheltered traditional way of life to the vast and disruptive confusions of a world in torment. The institutions which have afforded him social or psychic well-being are themselves subject to the same universal dislocation. The label no longer identifies the quality or purpose of the organization. One cannot retreat into the isolation of primitive simplicity; one cannot advance without becoming part of a movement of destiny which no one can control nor define.

Where can a new and creative way of life be found? How can men attain knowledge of the means to justify their legitimate hope, fulfill their normal emotions, satisfy their intelligence, unify their aims and civilize their activities? The astronomer has his polished lens of Palomar to reveal the mysteries of the physical universe. Where can mankind turn to behold the will and purpose of God?

Conscience: The Mirror Hung in a Darkened Room

Many persons feel that in man there is a power of conscience that will unfailingly, like the compass needle, point to the right goal. If in any individual case, this conception believes, the power of conscience fails to operate, it is because the human being himself has betrayed his own divine endowment. He has heard the voice but refused to heed. He has seen the right course of action but preferred to take the evil path.

If we examine this contention as applied to ourselves and others familiar to us over a considerable period of time, we find that conscience, as a faculty, cannot be understood by reference to any such naive and conventional view.

The individual has no private wire to God. The dictates or impulses we call conscience indicate different courses of action at different times. The truth, the law, the appropriate principle or the perfect expression of love is not when wanted conveyed to our minds like a photograph printed from a negative developed in the subconscious self. No individual can afford to rely for guidance in all vital affairs on the testimony offered from within.

Individual conscience appears to be compounded of many ingredients at this stage of mass development: childhood training, personal aptitude, social convention, religious tradition, economic pressure, public opinion and group policy.

It is when we examine individual conscience in the area of social action and public responsibility that its limitations become clear. Public policy is the graveyard in which the claim to perfect personal guidance lies interred. In every competitive situation involving social groups, conscientious persons are found on both sides of the struggle. The conscience of one leads to a definition of value or a course of action which stultifies the other. Conscientious persons in the same group seldom agree on matters affecting the whole group. Individual conscience retreats to the realm of the private person when it cannot share or alter the conscience and conviction of others.

The result is that while theoretical exaltation of conscience is seldom abandoned, the operation of conscience, outside the small area controlled by personal will, is continuously suppressed. Policy is the conscience of the group, and dominant groups sanction collective actions frequently abhorrent to the individual. Our dominant groups are the successors to the primitive tribes in which the individual was once completely submerged. Like the primitive tribe, their basic policy is to survive.

So helpless has the individual become under pressure of world-shaking events that leaders of revolution dismiss his moral worth entirely from their considerations. The individual ceases to be a person. He is made subject to mass regulation under penalty of punishment for disobedience and, if obedient, under hope of his share of a mass award. Societies have arisen composed of this unmoral mass of human beings, the nature of which resembles the physical monsters terrorizing the earth aeons ago.

Between the naive spiritual conception of conscience as divine spark, and the naive rational view that conscience is automatic response to external stimuli, the actual truth undoubtedly lies.

Human conscience is a quality existing in different stages of development. In the child it makes for obedience to the power by which the child is protected. It can manifest as an expression of the instinct of self-survival or self-development. It can inspire loyalty to the group. It can subject the individual to complete sacrifice for the sake of his group or for the truth he most reveres.

Moral attitudes become established through social education and discipline conducted over long periods of time. The moral worth of the individual consists in his capacity to share in a process of endless evolution. Though at times he seems bogged down in the swamp of evil, the ladder of development stands close to his hand and he can ascend it rung by rung. His moral responsibility can never be disclaimed by him nor voided by others on his behalf, since the principle of cause and effect operates throughout all life. No man and no society exists in a universe shaped to the pattern of human desire.

Conscience is not a form of wisdom or knowledge. It cannot be dissociated from the development of the individual or from the condition of his society. But one may say that conscience is a mirror hung in a room. If the room is darkened the mirror reflects but dimly. Light is needed—the light of truth and love. Then will the mirror of spiritual awareness disclose to the individual the essential nature of his own problem of choice, and open for him the door that leads from the private person to mankind. The helplessness of the individual today is due to the absence of light.

“When man allows the spirit, through his soul, to enlighten his understanding, then does he contain all creation; because man, being the culmination of all that went before and thus superior to all previous evolutions, contains all the lower world within himself. Illuminated by the spirit through the instrumentality of the soul, man’s radiant intelligence makes him the crowning-point of creation.

“But on the other hand when man does not open his mind and heart to the blessing of the spirit, but turns his soul towards the material side, towards the bodily part of his nature, then is he fallen from his high place and he becomes inferior to the inhabitants of the lower animal kingdom. In this case the man is in a sorry plight! For if the spiritual qualities of the soul, open to the breath of the Divine Spirit, are never used, they become atrophied, enfeebled, and at last incapacitated; while the soul’s material qualities alone being exercised, they become terribly powerful, and the unhappy, misguided man becomes more savage, more unjust, more vile, more cruel, more malevolent than the lower animals themselves.

“If, on the contrary, the spiritual nature of the soul has been so strengthened that it holds the material side in subjection, then does the man approach the divine; his humanity becomes so glorified that the virtues of the celestial assembly are manifest in him; he radiates the mercy of God, he stimulates the spiritual progress of mankind, for he becomes a lamp to show light on their path.”4Compiled by Horace Holley. The Reality of Man. p.6.

In such words the Bahá’í teachings describe the two paths which open before each human being, choice of which he himself is free to make.

Sectarianism—From Creation to Chaos

If individual conscience cannot illumine from man’s inner world the nature of basic social problems, what of religion? Have the traditional faiths such command of spiritual truth that they can serve as the guide and conscience of mankind? Do these sects and denominations constitute the moral Palomar bestowing vision upon a divided, a desperate humanity? Has God spoken to our age from these minarets, these temples, mosques, chapels and churches which represent the meaning and purpose of religion to the masses in East and West?

The world of sectarian religion is not a universe, ordered by one central creative will, but the fragments of a world which no human authority has power to restore. There are the main bodies of ancient, revealed religion: Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Muhammadanism and Christianity, standing apart like continents separated by the salt, unplumbed sea. There are in each of these bodies a large number of independent, mutually exclusive subdivisions. Their diverse claims to organic sovereignty maintain in the realm of faith the same condition which exists among nations, principalities, kingdoms and empires. They deal with one another by treaty and truce; there are conquests and seizures, colonies and alliances, plans and strategies, wars and revolutions, all without control of the greater and vital movements of society or even foreknowledge of what was and is to come.

This is why mankind has suffered two world wars, social dislocation and a plague of immorality, faithlessness, materialism and discontent. No universal religious body has existed to stay the swift descent of our age into the gloom of savage strife. Events do not wait upon doctrinal readjustments. When peace does not exist in the world of the soul it cannot exist in any other realm of human intercourse and experience. The masses have been given no moral unity, no common purpose which, stamped with divine authority, could raise them above the fatal disunities and conflicts distilled by their economic and political institutions.

Yet each of these faiths was divinely revealed, imbued with a universal spirit, charged with a high creative mission, and established itself through the sacrifice and heroism of those early believers who beheld the Word of God. Each faith has reconsecrated human life and by its lifeblood nourished great progress in civilization. What has happened to the first, true vision? What has extinguished the flame upon the altar of worship?

The superhuman character of revelation has gradually undergone dilution and admixture. The human explanation of a truth has been substituted for the truth itself. The performance of ceremonial rites has come to occupy the place held by the mystery of spiritual rebirth. Obligation to a professionalized institution has weakened the duty laid upon individuals to serve society and mankind. The aim of a regenerated, righteous, peaceful civilization inspired by the founders of religion has become diverted into hope for the victory of the church. Sectarianism in essence is not freedom of religion. It is an opportunity to abandon the way of life revealed from on high and substitute belief for sacrifice, ritual for virtue, creed for understanding, and a group interest for the basic rights of mankind.

All things exist in a process of life and death, growth and development, extinction and renewal. The fact that what men devise as a counterfeit for truth is eventually destroyed, does not confirm the rejection of religion by the cynic or the materialist. On the contrary, the succession of faiths throughout the period of known history points to a complete vindication of faith in God, since He divides truth from error, the spirit from the letter. He punishes and He rewards. For every death He sends a new life.

“O army of life!” the Bahá’í teachings warn, “East and West have joined to worship stars of faded splendor and have turned in prayer unto darkened horizons. Both have utterly neglected the broad foundation of God’s sacred laws, and have grown unmindful of the merits and virtues of His religion. They have regarded certain customs and conventions as the immutable basis of the Divine Faith, and have firmly established themselves therein. They have imagined themselves as having attained the glorious pinnacle of achievement and prosperity when, in reality, they have touched the innermost depths of heedlessness and deprived themselves wholly of God’s bountiful gifts.

“The cornerstone of the Religion of God is the acquisition of the Divine perfections and the sharing in His manifold bestowals. The essential purpose of faith and belief is to ennoble the inner being of man with the outpourings of grace from on high. If this be not attained, it is indeed deprivation itself. It is the torment of infernal fire.”5‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. p.43.

And even more definitely: “Superstitions have obscured the fundamental reality, the world is darkened and the light of religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences and dissensions; rites and dogmas are many and various; therefore discord has arisen among the religious systems whereas religion is for the unification of mankind. True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities; but the people are holding to the counterfeit and imitation, negligent of the reality which unifies, so they are bereft and deprived of the radiance of religion.”6Bahá’í World Faith. p.237.

“When the lights of religion become darkened the materialists appear. They are the bats of night. The decline of religion is their time of activity; they seek the shadows when the world is darkened and the clouds have spread over it.”7Bahá’í World Faith. p.238.

“If the edifice of religion shakes and totters, commotion and chaos will ensue and the order of things will be utterly upset.”8Bahá’í World Faith. p.289.

“Religious fanaticism and hatred,” the Bahá’í teachings affirm, “are a world-devouring fire, whose violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine Power can alone deliver mankind from this desolating affliction.”9Bahá’u’lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. p.288.

Internationalism: The End of an Era

When changes take place in the spiritual life of a people, they produce effects not only upon the realm of personal conscience or upon the definitions of denominational faith—their results flow forth throughout the civilization. Society, indeed, is the outer surface of human action, as religion is the inner surface. The persons who are impressed with certain values from the religious teaching of their childhood, strive to fulfill them as adults in their civilization. The nations of the world are not composed of a separate race of human beings called citizens or subjects; all this mass of humanity who serve as citizens or subjects are at the same time members of different racial groups and members of different religious bodies.

Since religious training has for the most part been based upon pre-rational states of childhood, the vital assumptions of faith or theology continue from generation to generation without analysis or investigation. The child assumes that his religion sets him off in some mysterious but inevitable and justifiable manner from those people who belong to a different religion. This pre-rational experience becomes an imperative directing his activities in other fields, all the more effective because it works behind his conscious and rational thought. Religion has thus prepared the way for the spirit of exclusive nationalism, class competition and other self-centered types of social institution. The pre-rational experience of justifiable division matures in the irrational attitudes of partisan loyalty which set people off from one another in political and economic matters, eventuating in strife and ruin.

The modern nation represents the most powerful and effective social unity ever achieved. It has coordinated the human qualities and possibilities to an unprecedented degree, liberating people from servitude to nature and laying the foundations of orderly progress by reconciling the political claims of the state with the social and cultural needs of the individual. But like every human institution, the nation cannot become an end unto itself. It cannot draw arbitrary lines and decree that human evolution must stop short at this line or that. The nation cannot reduce all questions of human relations to political principle, and solve them by a formal relationship to the state.

The movement of life is irresistible. When the modern nation had organized its area and completed the creation of the necessary institutions, it became mature and incurred obligation to establish useful relationships with other nations. The nation became more and more involved in activities and affairs outside its boundaries and beyond its jurisdiction. Internationalism has been the principle of civilization for more than a hundred years, but the nations could not realize themselves as means to an end, as instruments called upon, for the sake of humanity, to create a sovereignty of and for the entire world. This moral resolution has been lacking.

Denied fulfilment in world order, modern internationalism has organized the nations for their own destruction. The social organism made an end unto itself becomes self-consuming. First there has been an interval of spiritual blindness, a miscalculation of the essential nature of human life; then a denial of the obligation to join with other nations for the sake of peace, then a denunciation of some threatening foe, and, finally, a plunge into the maelstrom where every trend toward world unity is accelerated faster than the public intelligence can comprehend.

Power to make permanent and workable decisions has been temporarily lost. Our international relations rest upon formal agreements which have not yet become translated into world relationships and hence remain subject to abrupt dissolution if the strains of social dislocation go to the breaking point. In this condition of crisis humanity stands, unable to return to the simpler societies of the past and unable to generate sufficient power for true unity in a world civilization. The races and peoples meet in a fateful encounter, each cherishing its separateness as a duty and a right. One may say that humanity does not yet exist, for men are not directed by a world consciousness or impelled by a mutual faith.

“Today the world of humanity,” the Bahá’í teachings stated a generation ago, “is in need of international unity and conciliation. To establish these great fundamental principles a propelling power is needed. It is self-evident that unity of the human world and the Most Great Peace cannot be accomplished through material means. They cannot be established through political power, for the political interests of nations are various and the policies of peoples are divergent and conflicting. They cannot be founded through racial or patriotic power, for these are human powers, selfish and weak. The very nature of racial differences and patriotic prejudices prevents the realization of this unity and agreement. Therefore it is evidenced that the promotion of the oneness of the kingdom of humanity, which is the essence of the teachings of all the Manifestations of God, is impossible except through the divine power and the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Other powers are too weak and are incapable of accomplishing this.”10‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. p.5.

“Among the teachings … is man’s freedom, that through the ideal Power he should be free and emancipated from the captivity of the world of nature; for as long as man is captive to nature he is a ferocious animal, as the struggle for existence is one of the exigencies of the world of nature. This matter of the struggle for existence is the fountainhead of all calamities and is the supreme affliction.”11Bahá’í World Faith. p.288.

“Universal peace is a matter of great importance, but unity of conscience is essential, so that the foundation of this matter may became secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong.”12Bahá’í World Faith. p.285.

In the Bahá’í writings, peace is revered because in essence it is a spiritual mystery in which humanity has been invited in our day, for the first time, to partake. Peace is a divine creation; a reconciliation of human and divine purpose. Peace appears first as a universal religion; as its influence gathers force and its principles spread then peace can permeate the body of society, redeeming its institutions and its activities and consecrating its aims.

“Universal peace,” these writings promise, “is assured … as a fundamental accomplishment of the religion of God; that peace shall prevail among nations, governments and peoples, among religions, races and all conditions of mankind. This is one of the special characteristics of the Word of God revealed in this Manifestation.”13Bahá’í World Faith. p.247.

Spiritual Education—The Instrument of Peace

The issues of human existence turn upon the axis of education. Education alone can overcome the inertia of our separateness, transmute our creative energies for the realization of world unity, free the mind from its servitude to the past and reshape civilization to be the guardian of our spiritual and physical resources.

The true purposes of education are not fulfilled by the knowledge conferred through civil education, since this knowledge ends with the purposes of the individual or the needs of the state. They are not fulfilled by sectarian education, since sectarian knowledge excludes the basic principle of the continuity and progressiveness of revelation. The true purposes of education are not achieved by independent pursuit of knowledge undertaken through study of the classics, the great philosophies or even the religious systems of the past. Such education enhances the individual capacity and deepens the insight of a group. It opens the door to a world of superior minds and heroic accomplishment. But that world is the reflection of the light of truth upon past conditions and events. It is not the rising of the sun to illumine our own time, inspire a unified world movement, and regenerate withered souls.

But that world is the reflection of the light of truth upon past conditions and events. It is not the rising of the sun to illumine our own time, inspire a unified world movement, and regenerate withered souls.

Nor may we hope that psychology can develop the necessary transforming power for a dislocated society, a scientific substitute for the primitive offices of religion. The explorer in the world of the psyche sees the projection of his own shadow, finds the answer determined by his own question. He can prove mechanistic determinism or demonstrate the freedom and responsibility of the soul. The area within which he works is suitable for the development of personal healing. He can learn the habitual reactions of persons in a group or of groups in a society, but this knowledge is statistical until applied by a comprehensive organ of intelligence on a world scale.

“The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal,” the Bahá’í teachings state, “is the rational soul; and these two names—the human spirit and the rational soul—designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings, and as far as human ability permits discovers the realities of things and becomes cognizant of their peculiarities and effects, and of the qualities and properties of beings. But the human spirit, unless assisted by the spirit of faith, does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and the heavenly realities. It is like a mirror which, although clear, polished and brilliant, is still in need of light. Until a ray of the sun reflects upon it, it cannot discover the heavenly secrets.”

This significant comment is also found: “With the love of God all sciences are accepted and beloved, but without it, are fruitless; nay, rather, the cause of insanity. Every science is like unto a tree; if the fruit of it is the love of God, that is a blessed tree. Otherwise it is dried wood and finally a food for fire.”

A new and universal concept of education is found in the literature of the Bahá’í Faith.

“When we consider existence, we see that the mineral, vegetable, animal and human worlds are all in need of an educator.

“If the earth is not cultivated it becomes a jungle where useless weeds grow; but if a cultivator comes and tills the ground, it produces crops which nourish living creatures. It is evident, therefore, that the soil needs the cultivation of the farmer …

“The same is true with respect to animals: notice that when the animal is trained it becomes domestic, and also that man, if he is left without training becomes bestial, and, moreover, if left under the rule of nature, becomes lower than an animal, whereas if he is educated he becomes an angel. …

“Now reflect that it is education that brings the East and the West under the authority of man; it is education that produces wonderful industries; it is education that spreads glorious sciences and arts; it is education that makes manifest new discoveries and laws. If there were no educator there would be no such things as comforts, civilization, facilities, or humanity. …

“But education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. Material education is concerned with the progress and development of the body, through gaining its sustenance, its material comfort and ease. This education is common to animals and man.

“Human education signifies civilization and progress: that is to say, government, administration, charitable works, trades, arts and handicrafts, sciences, great inventions and discoveries of physical laws, which are the activities essential to man as distinguished from the animal.

“Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education; for in this estate man becomes the center of divine appearance, the manifestation of the words, ‘Let us make man in our image and after our likeness.’ This is the supreme goal of the world of humanity.

“Now we need an educator who will be at the same time a material, human and spiritual educator, and whose authority will be effective in all conditions . . .

“It is clear that human power is not able to fill such a great office, and that the reason alone could not undertake the responsibility of so great a mission. How can one solitary person without help and without support lay the foundations of such a noble construction? He must depend on the help of the spiritual and divine power to be able to undertake this mission. One Holy Soul gives life to the world of humanity, changes the aspect of the terrestrial globe, causes intelligence to progress, vivifies souls, lays the foundation of a new existence, establishes the basis of a marvelous creation, organizes the world, brings nations and religions under the shadow of one standard, delivers man from the world of imperfections and vices, and inspires him with the desire and need of natural and acquired perfections. Certainly nothing short of a divine power could accomplish so great a work.’’14‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. p.8.

Who is this educator? “The holy Manifestations of God, the divine prophets, are the first teachers of the human race. They are universal educators and the fundamental principles they have laid down are the causes and factors of the advancement of nations. Forms and imitations which creep in afterward are not conducive to that progress. On the contrary these are destroyers of the human foundations laid by the heavenly educators.’’15Bahá’í World Faith. p.250.

“Religion is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore it must be living, vitalized, moving and progressive. If it be without motion and non-progressive it is without the divine life; it is dead. The divine institutes are continuously active and evolutionary; therefore, the revelation of them must be progressive and continuous.”16Bahá’í World Faith. p.224.

The Manifestation of God

The focal point of the Bahá’í teachings is clarification of man’s relationship to God. As long as peoples differ, or are unaware, or accept a substitute for this relationship, we cannot distinguish between truth and error, or discriminate between principle and superstition. Until we apprehend human beings in the light of the creative purpose, it is impossible to know ourselves or others. Social truth is merely experiment and hypothesis unless it forms part of a spiritual reality.

The founders of revealed religions, who have been termed prophets, messengers, messiahs and saviours, in the Bahá’í teachings are designated Manifestations of God. These beings, walking on earth as men, stand in a higher order of creation and are endowed with powers and attributes human beings do not possess. In the world of truth they shine like the sun, and the rays emanating from that sun are the light and the life of the souls of men.

The Manifestation is not God. The Infinite cannot be incarnated. God reveals His will through the Manifestation, and apart from what is thus manifested His will and reality remain forever unknown. The physical universe does not reveal the divine purpose for man.

“Every one of them,” the Bahá’í teachings state, “is the Way of God that connects this world with the realms above, and the standard of His truth, unto every one in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His truth, and the signs of His glory.”17Bahá’í World Faith. p.21.

What almighty power is exercised by a will manifested through a person who has been flouted, denied, imprisoned, tortured and crucified? No human authority could survive such savage onslaughts as have greeted each messenger who has come from the heavenly realm to this lowest of worlds. The divine power expresses itself by compulsion in the kingdoms of nature. In the kingdom of man the divine power operates in such a manner that men are free to accept and adore, or repudiate and condemn. The divine power compels that from age to age men must come to a decision, but the decision itself is free. By that decision, when the prophet has revealed the will of God, men separate into two organic companies: those who believe and those who deny.

The whole pattern and process of history rests upon the succession of dispensations by which man’s innate capacities are developed and by which the course of social evolution is sustained. The rise and fall of civilizations proceed as the effect of prior spiritual causation. An ancient civilization undergoes moral decadence; by division of its own people and attack from without its power and authority are destroyed; and with that destruction collapses the culture and the religious system which had become parasites upon its material wealth. Concurrently, a new creative spirit reveals itself in the rise of a greater and better type of society from the ruins of the old.

The critical point in this process is the heroic sacrifice offered the Prophet by those who see in Him the way to God, and His official condemnation by the heads of the prevailing religious system. That condemnation, because men cannot judge God, recoils back upon the religion and the civilization itself. They have condemned themselves. In the same manner, the small and weak minority who have seen the Face of God in His Manifestation grow from strength to strength. The future is with them. In their spiritual fellowship the seeds of the new civilization are watered and its first, tender growth safeguarded by their heart’s blood.

Through the Manifestation of God the power of the Holy Spirit accomplishes the will of God. Nothing can withstand that power. Because its work is not instantaneous, a darkened age cannot perceive the awful process of cause and effect—the divine will as cause, and human history as effect—guiding human destiny from age to age.

But the Bahá’í teachings penetrate farther into the mystery when they affirm that in spirit and in aim the successive prophets are one being, one authority, one will. This teaching on the oneness of the Manifestations of God is the essential characteristic of a revelation which represents religion for the cycle of man’s maturity and the creation of world peace.

“There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements of the age in which they were revealed.”18Bahá’u’lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. p.217.

Those who deny and condemn the Prophet, therefore, are not defending the divine purpose from sinister betrayal by one who introduces new laws and principles; on the contrary, since the Manifestation in Himself is one, they condemn their own Prophet when He returns to regenerate the world and advance the true Faith of God. Thus is the moral nature of human life, and man’s responsibility to God, sustained throughout the devious course of history. Faith is no mere belief, but a connection with the only power that confers immortality on the soul and saves humanity as a whole from complete self-destruction.

“A man who has not had a spiritual education,” the Bahá’í writings attest, “is a brute.”19‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. p.135. “We have decreed, O people, that the highest and last end of all learning be the recognition of Him Who is the Object of all knowledge; and yet behold how ye have allowed your learning to shut you out, as by a veil, from Him Who is the Dayspring of this Light, through Whom every hidden thing hath been revealed.”20Bahá’u’lláh. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. p.129.

The oneness of the Manifestations has been thus established in the Bahá’í writings: “In the Word of God there is … unity, the oneness of the Manifestations of God, His Holiness Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. This is a unity divine, heavenly, radiant, merciful; the one reality appearing in successive manifestations. For instance, the sun is one and the same but its points of dawning are various. During the summer season it rises from the northern point of the ecliptic; in winter it appears from the southern point of rising. Although these dawning points are different, the sun is the same sun which has appeared from them all. The significance is the reality of prophethood which is symbolized by the sun, and the holy Manifestations are the dawning-places or zodiacal points.”21Bahá’í World Faith. p.259.

The coming of the Manifestation in this age signalizes the termination of a long epoch in human history, the prophetic era in which mankind was gradually prepared for the promised day of universal peace. In Bahá’u’lláh the spirit of faith is renewed and given expression in teachings which affirm the organic unity of the whole human race. Nothing sacred and valid revealed in former dispensations is denied, but the spirit of faith has been endowed with a worldwide and universal meaning.

The Bahá’í teachings overcome prejudices of race, nation and sect by inspiring sentiment of brotherhood. They create not only a pure well of feeling but constitute also a unified body of knowledge in which the power of reason can be fulfilled. They connect social truth with the truth of worship, and broaden the field of ethics to include right relationships of races as well as individual persons. They formulate law and principle which will bring order into international affairs. “In this present age the world of humanity,’’ the teachings declared before the first World War (anticipating the conditions of today) “is afflicted with severe sicknesses and grave disorders which threaten death. Therefore His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh has appeared. He is the real physician bringing divine remedy and healing to the world of man.”22‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. p.12.

“The first teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the investigation of reality. Man must seek the reality himself, forsaking imitations and adherence to mere hereditary forms. As the nations of the world are following imitations in lieu of truth and as imitations are many and various, differences of belief have been productive of strife and warfare. So long as these imitations remain the oneness of the world of humanity is impossible. Therefore we must investigate the reality in order that by its light the clouds and darkness may be dispelled. If the nations of the world investigate reality they will agree and become united.”23Bahá’í World Faith. p.238.

“The source of all learning is the knowledge of God, exalted be His glory, and this cannot be attained save through the knowledge of His divine Manifestation.”24Bahá’í World Faith. p.140. This knowledge offers to men the substance of the education needed for the establishment of a society worthy of the blessings of justice and peace.

By Elsie Austin

Today, people who seek to stress the spiritual basis of peace and justice among men, or who dare to accent the necessity for the regeneration of human hearts and characters as the first step to needed social change, are usually rebuffed by those who immediately cry out, “Oh, you must be practical and realistic.”

This is because so many folk think that the only practical approach to human problems is one which deals immediately with outward evidences of what is desirable. They do not see human needs beyond the specific projects devised for education and security. Outwardly these matters do represent the things which separate the “Haves” from the “Have Nots” in human society, and if you look at them in this light, they may seem to be the sole issues which have all along produced restlessness, division and strife among men.

However, any social program which is to operate for true world betterment must of necessity go beyond outward evidences, if it is to be really practical. The best plans for social cooperation and peace are always limited by the kind of human beings who must use and apply them. There is no more realistic force in the world today than the Bahá’í Faith. In its teachings and its social program there are profoundly realistic approaches to the· fundamental social changes which must be the basis of any real and lasting unity for mankind.

The Bahá’í Faith is first of all a Faith which harmonizes the inward incentives and outward procedures to unity. Outward procedures give the means for unity and inward incentives give the heart for unity. There is great difference between folk who have the means for unity and the folk who have the heart for unity.

Legislation and the interplay of conflicting social interests may furnish a kind of means for unity, and even a certain state of outward compliance. However, legislation and the pressures of expediency have never been able to get at the inward fears, jealousies, greeds and animosities of men. And it is these which furnish the vicious inner motives which can browbeat the intelligence of men and make mockery of outward social compliance. Nearly every day we see tragic instances of failure where social change depends upon means alone. Instances where people nullify and obstruct legislation, where they sabotage social effort or fail to produce and support the kind of courageous policies and action needed for the patterns and standards consistent with just and enlightened ideals. The means for unity is there, but legislation is killed or evaded; communities lose their moral integrity in compromise with policies of hatred and division, and people excuse themselves from honest upright action by saying, “Law is not the way to do this.” “The time is not ripe” or “This is the right policy, but we must work up to it gradually.” Now, all such people are really saying is, “I have not the heart to do this thing” or “The people whose opinion I fear have not the heart for forthright action about this, and I do not know how to reach them.”

The religion of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of The Bahá’í Faith, begins with that essential spiritual regeneration of the human being which creates a heart for brotherhood and impels action for the unity of mankind. Bahá’u’lláh has made it very plain that the test of Faith is its social force. Principle and social planning are useless until they are rendered dynamic by the stamina and will of men to enforce and apply spiritual ethics to human affairs.

The second great realism of the Bahá’í faith is that it provides new patterns for the application of spiritual principle to the social problems of humanity.

When Bahá’u’lláh first proclaimed some eighty years ago, “This is the hour of the coming together of all the races and nations and classes. This is the hour of unity among the sons of men,” the prophecy was a far fetched ideal to the world of jealous politics and cultural isolation which received it. But the unity of mankind today is no mere social ideal. Human strife has made it a social necessity.

It is not surprising then to see that human unity is an increasingly popular subject for liberal thought and action. Nor is it surprising that programs to foster unity are being launched on every hand. Yet so many of the bona fide efforts for unity are being fatally compromised because they must be launched through the established social patterns which preserve old disunities. Do people learn brotherhood and the spiritual attitudes and social cooperation which brotherhood involves by lectures or hesitant compromising ventures, which leave untouched and unchanged the separate education, separate worship, separate security, separate social planning which shape every phase of their community living—embittering separations made in terms of differences of race, creed, culture and nationality? Any social pattern which elaborately preserves and accents these outward differences and their resultant inward animosities must of necessity crucify the objective of social unity.

The Bahá’í Teachings not only destroy without equivocation the fallacies which have nourished social strife and disunity, but they provide new patterns of social living and development through which men learn brotherhood by performance.

And what realistic way is there, you may ask, to deal with the ancient bitter diversities of race, religion and culture? What can be done with the changing pressures of unstable economics and the conflicting education of the world’s peoples?

The Bahá’í Faith provides for the diversities of religion, that long needed center of reconciliation, which can produce harmonious understanding of its varying prophets and systems. Bahá’u’lláh has shown us in the Bahá’í Revelation that the great revealed religions of the world are like lamps which carry the pure light of Divine Truth providing social teaching and discipline for humanity. But as that lamp is borne by human hands, there are periods when conflicting interpretations of the Divine Word, dogmas and superstitions, alienate and divide men. Periods when the temptations of material power pervert religion into an instrument for the exploitation and suppression of human development. It is because of this that new lamps have always come and will always come. Each of the great lamps tests the social force of the others. In this men should find source for progress, not reason for strife. God in His mercy has provided in the Divine Faiths a continuous and successive renewal of Universal Spiritual Truth.

The Bahá’í learns the relation and ordered unfoldment of Truth in all Divine Religions. Thus Spiritual Faith is lifted above the period differences of its various names and systems. Is it unrealistic that in a world so in need of spiritual regeneration, Jews, Christians, Moslems and Believers of all Divine Faiths should be given that which will relate their spiritual purposes and development and thus enable them to travel harmoniously a wide free path to greater social demonstration and understanding of the Truth? Is this not a more effective way to create the heart for unity than the elaborate separations and the jealous fencing off of Religious paths? Today men so preserve and concentrate upon their symbolic differences that the common goal is lost in confusion and animosity.

There are really no diversities of race to those who truly accept the fact that all mankind is God’s creation. Yet the outward differences of color, physiognomy and culture have annoyed and divided us. When members of the human family meet each other who have striking differences in appearance and manners, they resort very naturally to reactions of fear, distaste and derision, which grow out of the human complex for conformity and the fear of strangeness. Unity of mankind is not only a basic principle in the Bahá’í Faith, but it is also the basis of a new social pattern in terms of which Bahá’ís worship, work, educate themselves and contribute their capacities to civilization. Living in a Bahá’í community is a matter of learning differences, appreciating them and achieving with them great loyalties to human welfare, which are above the narrow confinements of race, creed and class, color and temperament. The most practical knowledge in the world is the knowledge that the world can never become what so many people like to believe; a world in which we make other people look, act, and understand in terms of that with which we are familiar. That kind of world is neither possible nor desirable. What we really want is a world of harmonized differences, where a man can make his contribution with other men for the good of all mankind. This is the world of the Bahá’í Community, a community covering seventy-eight national backgrounds and thirty-one racial origins and Heaven knows how many temperaments and cultural backgrounds in this first one hundred years. A growing Community which operates with every possible human difference to take into consideration, yet its members through practicing and perfecting their practice of the Bahá’í Teachings, have achieved a unity of objectives through which entirely new social patterns, standards and virtues are being evolved.

People do not like to mention religion and economics in the same breath. The problem is that of the economically disinherited who in bitter restless upsurge change periodically the pressures and controls of this world’s unstable economics. It is practical to talk of trade policies, of commerce regulations and spheres of influence, now. However, the world must soon face the fact that economic instability and the bitter struggle and suffering which go on because of it, have a question of human motives, human development, behind them. Motives behind the failure to use opportunity, or the use of it to selfishly acquire and control wealth, goods, and services, constitute the real factors causing the unhealthy inequalities, the exploitation and suppression in human society. Bahá’u’lláh stressed the need of a spiritual basis as the first step in the development of stable world economics. The extremes of poverty and vast wealth are not only matters of material opportunity and education, they are also matters of greed and slothfulness in human characters.

Material education and spiritual enlightenment must be applied to bring the kind of economic adjustments which will make possible responsible efforts for all people and insure a just distribution of wealth, goods and services for all people.

Until then, we are all, regardless of our skins, creeds and countries, caught economically between the evil extremes which are produced by the Jeeter Lesters and those masters of selfish financial genius, who, like a cancerous growth, feed upon and weaken the earth’s human and material resources.

Nothing but the wholesome regeneration of human hearts and establishment of new social objectives for the efforts and acquisitions of men, will in the final analysis remedy these ills.

The great realisms of the Bahá’í Faith lie in its new spiritual teachings and in the new social patterns which they provide for needed development of mankind; a development which will turn men from the beliefs and superstitions which are destructive to human solidarity and create in them the heart to initiate and perfect new standards, new morals and new undertakings for a great new era of civilization.

These achievements are possible when man is afforded that perfect combination of Human and Spiritual Unity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the great expounder of the Bahá’í Teachings, has described it in these words:

Human Unity or solidarity may be likened to the body, whereas unity from the breaths of the Holy Spirit is the spirit animating the body. This is a perfect unity. It creates such a condition in mankind that each one will make sacrifices for the other and the utmost desire will be to forfeit life and all that pertains to it in behalf of another’s good. It is the unity which through the influence of the Divine Spirit is permeating the Bahá’ís, so that each offers his life for the other and strives with all sincerity to attain His good pleasure. This is the unity that caused twenty thousand people in Írán to give their lives in love and devotion to it. It made the Báb the target of a thousand arrows and caused Bahá’u’lláh to suffer exile and imprisonment for forty years. This unity is the very spirit of the body of the world.

By Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánúm

Not the least of the treasures which Bahá’u’lláh has given to the world is the wealth of His prayers and meditations. He not only revealed them for specific purposes, such as the Daily Prayers, the prayers for Healing, for the Fast, for the Dead, and so on, but in them He revealed a great deal of Himself to us. At moments it is as if, in some verse or line, we are admitted into His Own heart, with all its turbulent emotions, or catch a glimpse of the workings of a mind as great and deep as an ocean, which we can never fathom, but which never ceases to enrapture and astonish us.

If one could be so presumptuous as to try and comment on a subject so vast and which, ultimately, is far beyond the capacity of any merely mortal mind to analyse or classify, one might say that one of His masterpieces is the long prayer for the Nineteen Day Fast. I do not know if He revealed it at dawn, but He had, evidently, a deep association with that hour of the day when the life of the world is repoured into it. How could He not have? Was He not the Hermit of Sar-Galú, where He spent many months in a lonely stone hut perched on a hilltop; the sunrise must have often found Him waiting and watching for its coming, His voice rising and falling in the melodious chants of His supplications and compositions. At how many dawns He must have heard the birds of the wilderness wake and cry out when the first rays of the sun flowed over the horizon and witnessed in all its splendor the coming alive of creation after the night.

In this prayer it is as if the worshipper approaches the sun while the sun is approaching its daybreak. When one remembers that the sun, the lifegiver of the earth, has ever been associated with the God Power, and that Bahá’u’lláh has always used it in His metaphors to symbolize the Prophet, the prayer takes on a mystical significance that delights and inspires the soul. Turning to the budding day He opens His supplication:

“I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy mighty Sign (the Prophet), and by the revelation of Thy grace amongst men, to cast me not away from the gate of the city of Thy presence, and to disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of Thy grace amidst Thy creatures.” Who has not, in order to better visualize himself in relation to the Kingdom of God, seen his own soul as a wanderer, weary and hopeful, standing at the Gates of the Heavenly City and longing for admittance? The worshipper gazes at the brightening sky in the east and waits, expectant of the mercy of God. He hears the “most sweet Voice” and supplicates that by the “most exalted Word” he may draw ever nearer the threshold of God’s door and enter under the shadow of the canopy of His bounty—a canopy which is already spreading itself, in mighty symbolic form, over the world in crimson, gold, and gray clouds.

The day waxes; the oncoming sun, in the prayer of Bahá’u’lláh, becomes the face of God Himself to which He turns, addressing words of infinite sweetness and yearning: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the splendor of Thy luminous brow and the brightness of the light of Thy countenance, which shineth from the all-highest horizon, to attract me, by the fragrance of Thy raiment, and make me drink of the choice wine of Thine utterance.”

The soft winds of dawn, which must have often played over His face and stirred His black locks against His cheek, may have given rise to this beautiful phrase in His prayer: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy hair which moveth across Thy face, even as Thy most exalted pen moveth across the pages of Thy tablets, shedding the musk of hidden meanings over the kingdom of Thy creation, so to raise me up to serve Thy Cause that I shall not fall back, nor be hindered by the suggestions of them who have cavilled at Thy signs and turned away from Thy face.” How deep, how poetical, how sincere are His words! The playing of the strands of hair recall to Him the fine tracing of the Persian script, revealing words from God that shed a divine fragrance in the lives of men. But that is not all. In His communion all the love and loyalty of His heart is roused, He supplicates to be made of the faithful, whom naught shall turn aside from the Path that leads them to their Lord.

The sun has risen, as if in answer to the cry of the worshipper to “enable me to gaze on the Day-Star of Thy Beauty. …” And as he continues his prayer it seems as if all nature were moving in harmony with it: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the Tabernacle of Thy majesty on the loftiest summits, and the Canopy of Thy Revelations on the highest hills, to graciously aid me to do what Thy will hath desired and Thy purpose hath manifested.” North and south the glory spreads, a faint echo of that celestial beauty visible to the eye of Baha’u’llah and which He says: “shineth forth above the horizon of eternity.” So deeply does it penetrate the heart that it evokes the desire to “die to all that I possess and live to whatsoever belongeth unto Thee,” The soul is moved; all earthly things pale before the vision which, as symbolized in the sunrise, it beholds in the inner world; God, the “Well-beloved” seems to have drawn very near.

The winds flit over the land; some tree calls to the Prophet’s mind, as it shivers and stirs, the Tree of Himself that over-shadows all mankind: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the rustling of the Divine Lote-Tree and the murmur of the breezes of Thine utterance in the kingdom of Thy names, to remove me far from whatsoever Thy will abhorreth, and draw me nigh unto the station wherein He who is the Day-Spring of Thy signs hath shone forth.” Bahá’u’lláh puts the words into our mouths whereby we may draw nigher to God and receive from Him the heavenly gifts: “I beseech Thee … to make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom.” “I beseech Thee … to number me with such as have attained unto that which Thou hast sent down in Thy Book and manifested through Thy will.” “I beseech Thee … to write down for me what Thou hast written down for Thy trusted ones. …”

And finally, in words designed for those countless worshippers for whom He wrote this glorious Fasting Prayer, He asks God to “ write down for every one who hath turned unto Thee, and observed the fast prescribed by Thee, the recompense decreed for such as speak not except by Thy leave, and who forsook all chat they possessed in Thy path and for love of Thee.” He asks that the silence of the good may descend upon them-both the silence and the speech of chose who are wholly dedicated to that Divine Will which alone can lead men to their highest destiny. The last thought of all is that those who have obeyed the decrees of God may be forgiven their trespasses.

This majestic prayer is composed of fourteen verses, each opening with the words “I beseech Thee …” and closing with the same refrain: “Thou seest me, O my God, holding to Thy Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious, and clinging to the hem of the robe to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come.” The rhythmical emphasis on the thoughts contained in these words is not only very powerful but very artistic—if one may borrow the term for lack of a better one–and the sense that all creatures living, and chose gone before into the invisible realms of God, are clinging to the skirt of His mercy, dependent on Him and Him alone, exerts a profound influence on one’s mind, particularly so when taken in conjunction with what one beholds at this hour of the day: The sky kindling with light, the brush of the wind gently over the face of nature; the whole world waking to the casks of living on all sides; all things dependent on God; they always have and they always will be. This is a little of what this long prayer conveys to the those who partake of it.

Another unique prayer of Bahá’u’lláh is His congregation prayer for the Dead.  His Revelation throughout has aimed at doing away with every form of ritual; He has abolished priesthood; forbidden ceremonials, in the sense of church services with a set form; reduced the conduct of marriages to a naked simplicity, with a minimum uniform rite required of those concerned. The one exception to this general policy is the Prayer for the Dead, portions of which are repeated while all present are standing. Prayers such as this and the one for the Fast, can never be properly appreciated by merely reading them. They are living experiences. The difference is as great as looking at a brook while you are not thirsty, and drinking from it when you are. If you lose some one you love and then read aloud the glorious words, you come to know what “living waters” are:

“This is Thy servant … deal with him, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant him admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. …” Simple words, words which follow our loved one out into the spaces where we may not follow. But the profound experience of this prayer is in the refrain, each sentence of which is repeated 19 times. “We all, verily, worship God. We all, verily, bow down before God. We all, verily, are devoted unto God. We all, verily, give praise unto God. We all, verily, yield thanks unto God. We all, verily, are patient in God.”

The very strength of the prayer is in the repetition. It is so easy to say just once, “We … bow down before God” or “We yield thanks unto God” or “We are patient in God”; the words slip off our minds swiftly and leave them much as before. But when we say these things over and over, they sink very deep, they go down into the puzzled, the rebellious, the grief stricken or numbly resigned heart and stir it with healing powers; reveal to it the wisdom of God’s decrees, seal it with patience in His ways,—ways which run the stars in their courses smoothly and carry us on to our highest good.

No form of literature in the whole world is less objective than prayers. They are things of motion, not of repose. They are speeches addressed to a Hearer; they are medicine applied to a wound; they stir the worshipper and set something in his heart at work. That is their whole purpose. Teachings, discourses, even meditations, can be read purely objectively and critically, but the man who can read a real prayer in the cold light of reason alone, has indeed strayed far from his own innate human nature, for all men, everywhere, at every period in their evolution, have possessed the instinct of supplication, the necessity of calling out to something, some One, greater than themselves, whether in their abasement it was a stone image, thunder or fire, or, in their glory, the invisible God of all men that they called upon, the instinct was there just as deeply.

Many wonderful prayers exist in all languages and all religions; but the prayers of Bahá’u’lláh possess a peculiar power and richness all their own. He calls upon God in terms of the greatest majesty, of the deepest feeling; sometimes with awe; sometimes with pathos; sometimes in a voice of such exultation that we can only wonder what transpired within his soul at such moments. He uses figures of speech that strike the imagination, stir up new concepts of the Divinity and expand infinitely our spiritual horizons. Much, no doubt, of their perfection is lost in translation as He often employed the possibilities and peculiarities of the Arabic and Persian languages to their fullest. Some of His prayers, following the style of the Súrihs of the Qur’án, end every sentence in rhyme—though they are not poems—and the custom of alliterating words, thus imparting a flowing sense of rhythm to the sentences, is very often resorted to in all His writings, including His prayers. Nevertheless the original charm and beauty pervades the translations and none of the lyric quality of the following prayer seems to have been lost. It rises like a beautiful hymn which lifts the soul on wings of song:

“From the sweet-scented streams of Thine eternity give me to drink, O my God, and of the fruits of the tree of Thy being enable me to taste, O my Hope! From the crystal springs of Thy love suffer me to quaff, O my Glory, and beneath the shadow of Thine everlasting providence let me abide, O my Light! Within the meadows of Thy nearness, before Thy presence, make me able to roam, O my Beloved, and at the right hand of the throne of Thy mercy, seat me, O my Desire! From the fragrant breezes of Thy joy let a breath pass over me, O my Goal, and into the heights of the paradise of Thy reality let me gain admission, O my Adored One! To the melodies of the dove of Thy oneness suffer me to hearken, O Resplendent One, and through the spirit of Thy power and Thy might quicken me, O my Provider! In the spirit of Thy love keep me steadfast, O my Succorer, and in the path of Thy good pleasure set firm my steps, O my Maker! Within the garden of Thine immortality, before Thy countenance, let me abide for ever, O Thou Who art merciful unto me, and upon the seat of Thy glory stablish me, O Thou Who art my Possessor! To the heaven of Thy loving-kindness lift me up, O my Quickener, and unto the Daystar of Thy guidance lead me, O Thou my Attractor! Before the revelations of Thine invisible spirit summon me to be present, O Thou Who art my Origin and my Highest Wish, and unto the essence of the fragrance of Thy beauty, which Thou wilt manifest, cause me to return, O Thou Who art my God!

“Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. Thou art, verily, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the All-Highest.”

At times Bahá’u’lláh put words into the mouth of the worshipper according to his need: He writes a supplication for a child, for one who is ill, one who is sad, one who is pregnant, one who is a sinner, one who pours forth his heart to God—capturing the whole gamut of human emotions in His various communions. But at times it is obvious the prayer is His own. We read it, but we cannot be the speaker, or mortal feet cannot tread the path that lay between His soul—the soul of the Prophet Himself—and the God Who sent Him here among men to labor and suffer for them. “I know not,” He declares, “what the water is with which Thou hast created me, or what the fire Thou hast kindled within me, or the clay wherewith Thou hast kneaded me. The restlessness of every ocean hath been stilled, but not the restlessness of this Ocean which moveth at the bidding of the words of Thy will. The flame of every fire hath been extinguished, except the Flame which the hands of Thine omnipotence have kindled, and whose radiance Thou hast, by the power of Thy name, shed abroad before all that are in Thy heaven and that are on Thy earth. As the tribulations deepen, it waxeth hotter and hotter.” The Holy fire that burned within His being is not for us, frail creatures that we are, to comprehend. We can only gaze into its heart and marvel at its shifting hues and beauty, much as we marvel at the flames that leap and dance on our own hearth fires, though we may not approach or touch them.

Bahá’u’lláh exalts the being and nature of God, in His addresses to Him, as no other Prophet ever has. He defines His relation to Him; He gives us glimpses of the forces surging within His soul; He lay bare the emotions that stir within His turbulent breast. In words of honey He cries out: “Thou beholdest, O my God, how every bone in my body soundeth like a pipe with the music of Thine inspiration. …” A love far beyond our ken burns in His heart for the One God who sent Him down amongst men: “Thou seest, O Thou Who art my All-Glorious Beloved, the restless waves that surge within the ocean of my heart in my love for Thee. …” “Thou art, verily, the Lord of Bahá and the Beloved of his heart, and the Object of his desire, and the Inspirer of his tongue, and the Source of his Soul.” “Lauded be Thy name, O Thou Who art my God and throbbest within my heart!” “O would that they who serve Thee could taste what I have tasted of the sweetness of Thy love!” How keenly His soul thrilled with appreciation for the aid that poured into His inmost being from the Invisible Source: “Were I to render thanks unto Thee for the whole continuance of Thy kingdom and the duration of the heaven of Thine omnipotence, I would still have failed to repay Thy manifold bestowals.” How ardent is His gratitude to His Lord for raising Him up to serve His fellowmen: “How can I thank Thee for having singled me out and chosen me above all Thy servants to reveal Thee, at a time when all have turned away from Thy beauty!”

Ever and again He confesses His readiness, nay, His eagerness, to bear every trial and hardship for the sake of shedding the light of God upon this darkened world, and in order to demonstrate the greatness of the love He feels for His Creator: “I yield Thee thanks for that Thou hast made me the target of diverse tribulations and manifold trials in order that Thy servants may be endued with new life and all Thy creatures may be quickened.” “I yield Thee thanks, O my God, for that Thou hast offered me up as a sacrifice in Thy path … and singled me out for all manner of tribulation for the regeneration of Thy people.” “I swear by Thy glory! I have accepted to be tried by manifold adversities for no purpose except to regenerate all that are in Thy heaven and on Thy earth.” “How sweet is the thought of Thee in times of adversity and trial, and how delightful to glorify Thee when compassed about by the fierce winds of Thy decree.” “Every hair of my head proclaimeth: ‘But for the adversities that befall me in Thy path how could I ever taste the divine sweetness of Thy tenderness and love?’”

With what passion and majesty He testifies to the unquenchable power and purpose of His Lord—the Lord Whom He called His “Fire” and His “Light”—which burned within His breast: “Were all that are in the heavens and all that are on the earth to unite and seek to hinder me from remembering Thee and from celebrating Thy praise, they would assuredly … fail … And were all the infidels to slay me, my blood would … lift up its voice and proclaim: ‘There is no God but Thee, O Thou Who Art all my heart’s desire!’ And were my flesh to be boiled in the cauldron of hate, the smell which it would send forth would rise towards Thee and cry out: ‘Where art Thou, O Lord of the Worlds, the One Desire of them that have known Thee!’ And were I to be cast into fire, my ashes would—I swear by Thy glory—declare: ‘The Youth hath, verily, attained that for which he had besought His Lord the All-Glorious, the Omniscient.’”

Reading such testimonials that sprang in moments of who knows what exaltation?—from the heart of the prophet, we cannot but marvel at the mighty and strange bond that binds such a Being to the Source of all power. It is as if an invisible umbilical cord tied Him to His Creator; all His life, His motivations, His inspiration, His very words, flowed down this divine channel, as all the life, blood, and food of the babe flows in through that one bond it has with its mother. He throbbed in this mortal world with the vibrations of a celestial world; He set all things pulsating with Him, whether they knew it or not, and drew them up and closer to the throne of God. One of His most moving and sublime rhapsodies is included in a meditation in which He testifies to the power of the praise which He pours out to God, to transform and influence the hearts of others: “I yield Thee such thanks,” He declares, “as can direct the steps of the wayward towards the splendors of the morning light of Thy guidance. … I yield Thee such thanks as can cause the sick to draw nigh unto the waters of Thy healing, and can help those who are far from Thee to approach the living fountain of Thy presence …. I yield Thee such thanks as can stir up all things to extol Thee . . . and can unloose the tongues of all beings to … magnify Thy beauty … I yield Thee such thanks as can make the corrupt tree to bring forth good fruit … and revive the bodies of all beings with the gentle winds of Thy transcendent grace. … I yield Thee such thanks as can cause Thee to forgive all sins and trespasses, and to fulfill the needs of the peoples of all religions, and to waft the fragrances of pardon over the entire creation. … I yield Thee such thanks as can satisfy the wants of all such as seek Thee, and realize the aims of them that have recognized Thee. I yield thee such thanks as can blot out from the hearts of men all suggestions of limitation. …”

Poetic and stirring as these words are, we need not assume them to be merely the effusions of an exalted and over-filled heart. Bahá’u’lláh was never idle in His words. If He tells us that enshrined in the thanks He poured forth to His God is a power that can blot out every limitation from the hearts of men, it is so. The trouble is with us. How many Seers and Prophets, how many scientists and pioneers, have brought men tidings of truths and powers they knew not of and offered them to their generation, only to be spat upon, laughed to scorn, killed or ignored? And in the end a more enlightened people would take the key and open the door and find the wonders that the incredulous disbelieved, to be all true, ready at hand, waiting to be used for their good. The Prophets of God are intent on giving us both the good of this world and the one awaiting us after death, but most of the time we will not have it. We, blind and perverse, prefer our own ways! Did not Christ say: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered Thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” It is not a new story. Every Divine Manifestation has placed jewels in the hands of man, only to see them flung aside for some foolish toy of his choosing.

Yet each Prophet has assured us that God’s pity knows no bounds. “Thou art, in truth,” states Bahá’u’lláh in one of His prayers, “He Who mercy hath encompassed all the worlds, and Whose grace hath embraced all who dwell on earth and in heaven. Who is there who hath cried after Thee, and whose prayers hath remained unanswered? Where is he to be found who hath reached forth towards Thee, and whom Thou hast failed to approach? Who is he who can claim to have fixed his gaze upon Thee, and towards whom the eye of Thy loving-kindness hath not been directed? I bear witness that Thou hadst turned toward Thy servants ere they had turned toward Thee, and hadst remembered them ere they had remembered Thee.”

It is an education in divinity to read Bahá’u’lláh’s prayers. He maintained the unique nature of God, the utter impossibility of any creature approaching or comprehending Him, in a clear and graphic manner. The unseen God of Moses; the “Father” of Christ, unto Whom none cometh to but through the Son; the One of Whom Muhammad so beautifully said: “Eyes see Him not but He sees the eyes,” is exalted, one might say, to unimaginable heights by Him. “Thou art He Whom all things worship and Who worshipeth no one, Who is the Lord of all things and the vassal of none, Who knoweth all things and is known of none.” “From everlasting Thou hast existed alone with no one beside Thee, and wilt, to everlasting, continue to remain the same, in the sublimity of Thine essence and the inaccessible heights of Thy glory,” He declares. In a short and wonderful prayer He solemnly sets forth the fundamental doctrine of the nature of God with a lucidity and power that would, in any past dispensation, have gained it first place in the dogmas of the church:

“God testifieth to the unity of His Godhood and to the singleness of His Own Being. On the throne of eternity, from the inaccessible heights of His station, His tongue proclaimeth that there is none other God but Him. He Himself, independently of all else, hath ever been a witness unto His own oneness, the revealer of His own nature, the glorifier of His own essence. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the Beauteous.

“He is supreme over His servants, and standeth over His creatures. In His hand is the source of authority and truth. He maketh men alive by His signs, and causeth them to die through His wrath. He shall not be asked of His doings and His might is equal unto all things. He is the Potent, the All-Subduing. He holdeth within His grasp the empire of all things, and on His right hand is fixed the Kingdom of His Revelation. His power, verily, embraceth the whole of creation. Victory and over-lordship are His; all might and dominion are His; all glory and greatness are His. He, of a truth, is the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful, the Unconditioned.”

The “Unconditioned.” That one word provides ample food for thought. Some of the adjectives Bahá’u’lláh uses for the Godhead are most striking and seem to plow up our minds and prepare them for an infinitely deeper and richer concept of the One on Whom we depend for everything we have, be it physical or spiritual. For instance: “O God Who art the Author of all Manifestations . . . the Fountain-Head of all Revelations, and the Well-Spring of all Lights.” As words are the tools of men’s thoughts, they are tremendously important. The “Well-Spring of all Lights,” though but another way of saying, that all the Prophets are generated by God, presents a tremendous mental picture to a man who has studied something of modern astronomy, of a universe which is light upon light, of matter which itself is the stuff of which light is made. Compare the mental picture this phase conjures up with that of an anthropomorphic God, bearded, stern and much like a human grandfather, who created the world in six days and took a rest on the seventh! Though no doubt when that metaphor was propounded it opened up men’s minds to a new and wider concept of the Divinity. A being Who could do all that in six days was worthy of worship and to be strictly obeyed!

Bahá’u’lláh calls God “the Pitier of thralls,” “the Pitier of the downtrodden,” “the Help in peril,” “the Great Giver,” “the Restorer”—words which sink into our hearts these dark days with an added comfort as we see so many of our fellow-men downtrodden, in deadly danger, despoiled and broken. He tells us that this “King of Kings,” this “Quickener of every mouldering bone,” this “Enlightener of all creation” Who is the “Lord of all mankind” and the “Lord of the Judgment Day” is the One “Whom nothing whatsoever can frustrate.” Such a God will right all wrongs and rule the world for the good of man! Grievous, on the other hand, as are our sins, as testified by these words: “Wert Thou to regard Thy servants according to their deserts … they would assuredly merit naught except Thy chastisement …” He yet assures us, in the words He addresses to God, that: “All the atoms of the earth testify that Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, the Benevolent, the Great Giver …” and that “the whole universe testifieth to Thy generosity.” Even though He be the Lord “Whose strength is immense, Whose decree is terrible,” yet we can confidently turn to Him, and, in Bahá’u’lláh’s words declare: “A drop out of the ocean of Thy mercy sufficeth to quench the flames of hell, and a spark of the fire of Thy love is enough to set ablaze a whole world.”

Our world is steadily sinking into ruin. We have waxed proud and forgotten our God—as many a people has before us to its soul’s undoing—and turned away from Him, disbelieved in Him, followed proudly our own fancies and desires. No Being that was not such a Being as Bahá’u’lláh depicts would still hold open His door to us! And yet in how many passages such as these the way back, the way we once trod but have now, for the most part, forgotten, is pointed out to us and words placed in our mouths that are food for our sick hearts and souls: “Cleanse me with the waters of Thy Mercy, O my Lord, and make me wholly Thine. …” “I am all wretchedness, O my Lord, and Thou art the Most Powerful, the Almighty!” “Thy Might, in truth, is equal to all things!” “Whosoever has recognized Thee will turn to none save Thee, and will seek for naught else except Thyself.” “Help me to guard the pearls of Thy love, which by Thy decree, Thou hast enshrined in my heart.” “‘Many a chilled heart, O my God, hath been set ablaze with the fire of Thy Cause, and many a slumberer hath been awakened by the sweetness of Thy voice.”

Of such stuff as these is the treasury of prayers which Bahá’u’lláh has left us. They are suited to the child before he goes to sleep at night, to the mystic, to the busy man of practical outlook, to the devout. An instance of the comprehension and tolerance with which He viewed human nature is the fact that He revealed a choice of three daily, and obligatory, prayers. While imposing on men the obligation of turning to their Creator once, at least, during every day, He provided a means of doing so suited to widely different natures. One takes about thirty seconds to recite and is to be said at the hour of noon; one is longer and is to be used three times during the day; and the third is very long and profound, accompanied by many genuflexions, and may be used any time during the twenty-four hours of the day. The Divine Physician provided us with what we might call a spiritual polish with which to brighten our hearts. We need this renewal which comes through turning to the Sun of Eternal Truth—as every bird and beast, be it ever so humble, responds to the light of the physical sun at dawn—but he gave latitude to the individual state of development and temperament.

Some Westerners have found the long Daily Prayer very strange; no doubt this is because the present generation has ceased to feel intimate with its God. For a man to stand alone in his room and stretch his arms out to nothingness, or kneel down before a blank wall, in the midst of familiar objects, seems to him unnatural and even foolish. This is because he has lost the sense of the “living God.” God, far from being to him, as the Qur’án says, “nearer than his life’s vein,” has become more of an X in some vast equation. And yet men that we honor and men that we long to emulate have not felt shy before their God. Many a burly crusader knelt on the stones of Jerusalem where he felt His Lord’s feet might have trod, and the Pilgrim Fathers did not feel self-conscious on their knees when turning to God who had led them to a new and freer homeland. The prayers of Bahá’u’lláh will help lead us back to that warm sense of the reality and nearness of God, through use. He makes no compulsion, He takes our hand and guides us into the safe road trodden by our forefathers.

No survey, however cursory and inadequate, of His Prayers would be complete without quoting one of the most passionate and moving of them all, one associated with probably the saddest hours of His whole life. After His banishment from Persia to ‘Iráq the initial signs of envy and hatred began to be apparent from His younger brother, Mírzá Yaḥyá. In order to avoid open rupture and the consequent humiliation of the Faith in the eyes of the non-believers, Bahá’u’lláh retired for two years to the wilderness of Kurdistan and lived, unknown, as a dervish among its people.

During His absence the situation, far from improving, now that the field was left open and uncontested to Mírzá Yaḥyá, steadily deteriorated. Shameful acts took place and conditions became so acute that the believers sent a messenger in search of Baha’u’llah to report to Him and beseech His return. Reluctantly He turned His face towards Baghdad. He was going back to mount the helm; storms lay ahead of Him of a severity and bitterness no other Prophet had ever known; behind Him, once and for all, He left a measure of peace and seclusion. For two years He had communed with His own soul. He had written wonderful poems and revealed beautiful prayers and treatises. Now He headed back into the inky blackness of an implacable hatred and jealousy, where attempts against His very life were to be plotted and even prove partially successful. As He tramped along through the wilderness, beautiful in its dress of spring, the messenger that had gone to fetch Him back testified that He chanted over and over again this prayer. It rolled forth like thunder from His agonized heart:

“O God, my God! Be Thou not far from me, for tribulation upon tribulation hath gathered about me. O God, my God! Leave me not to myself, for the extreme of adversity hath come upon me. Out of the pure milk, drawn from the breasts of Thy loving-kindness, give me to drink, for my thirst hath utterly consumed me. Beneath the shadow of the wings of Thy mercy shelter me, for all mine adversaries with one consent have fallen upon me. Keep me near to the throne of Thy majesty, face to face with the revelations of the signs of Thy glory, for wretchedness hath grievously touched me. With the fruits of the tree of Thine Eternity nourish me, for uttermost weakness hath overtaken me. From the cups of joy, proffered by the hands of Thy tender mercies, feed me, for manifold sorrows have laid mighty hold upon me. With the broidered robe of Thine omnipotent sovereignty attire me, for poverty hath altogether despoiled me. Lulled by the cooing of the Dove of Thine Eternity, suffer me to sleep, for woes at their blackest have befallen me. Before the throne of Thy oneness, amid the blaze of the beauty of Thy countenance, cause me to abide, for fear and trembling have violently crushed me. Beneath the ocean of Thy forgiveness, faced with the restlessness of the leviathan of glory, immerse me, for my sins have utterly doomed me.”

By Horace Holley

1.

It was only a few generations ago when the people ceased thinking that man, with the animals and plants, inhabited a world composed of “dead” matter. Life was conceived to be that which could think, feel, move or at least which could grow and reproduce.

As the notion of “life” has become extended until it includes all matter, all substance, and every ingredient and constituent of substance, so has the notion of religion developed until it applies to the whole of man. No longer is religion confined, like a small island in a great sea, to that little area of belief and practice specialized under the influence of a formal creed. It is the entire human life, its conscious and unconscious elements, its personal and social relationships, its affirmations and denials, its triumphs and defeats, its hidden as well as its revealed awareness and action, its unrealized possibility along with its recognized, admitted frustration and impotence.

The real aim of the physical sciences is fulfilled in knowledge of man. The physical and chemical principles discovered in the world have meaning only as they are principles of human life. Man himself is the universe in miniature. Physical science thus becomes part of a larger science of biology, and biological science in turn becomes a chapter in the greater volume of the human science, psychology.

A man’s whole life, and not merely his conscious creedal practice, is his religion. His highest love is conditioned by his profoundest hate; his supreme sacrifice is limited by his unconscious selfishness; his ideals and his daily life are a single reality, one and inseparable.

The social sciences likewise are dependent for their validity on human psychology. When a science calling itself “economics” gives official sanction for cruel indifference; when a science calling itself “politics” finds imperatives for armed frontiers, this lack of agreement between these social sciences and the sanctions of the separate department of human life called “religion” does not mean that men live in three separate worlds, obeying three mutually exclusive “laws” – it means simply that a general failure in the realm of motive and understanding has projected itself outward into society, and this failure men try to conceal from themselves and each other by labelling the anti-religious actions one or another “science.”

But just as these evasions and attempts at concealment in personal life sooner or later come to a balance of accounts with every other element of the personality, so the elaborate myth called “civilization” has now become rent to fragments as the social “sciences” and the formal creeds alike eventuate in a society which as a whole does not know how to survive. It matters not which element of the whole result is made the scapegoat – whether formal “religion” or “economics” or “politics” – the truth is that man himself has failed in his social relationships, and this failure in turn rests upon failure in his relationship to himself. The fictitious separation of life into formal departments, each with an exclusive label, has been an unconscious evasion of reality the final result of which was inevitable from the beginning.

On no other basis can we erect a spiritual knowledge preserving the responsibility on which integrity depends.

 

 

2.

At some definite point of experience, the conscious person comes to realize the oneness of the universe and the wholeness of human personality. His formal religious beliefs undergo profound adjustment as he perceives their artificial separateness from the rest of his existence. Able no longer to isolate “Sunday” from the remaining days of the week, his new sense of cause and effect compels him to fit his religious values into experience as a whole. This adjustment in some cases enhances the whole of life with new spiritual possibility; in other cases what had been a mere artificial belief or practise is destroyed, and life as a whole becomes secular and without spiritual content. The philosophic projection of this awareness is pantheism or atheism – both are based upon an effort to realize the universe as homogeneous, as one. The only difference between pantheism and atheism is that the former raises everything to the “high” level of God, or Spirit, or Providence while the latter reduces everything to the “low” level of matter and natural law.

The similarity between pantheism and atheism is more vital than the difference. Both philosophies establish one single level; both maintain a view of the universe which interprets experience in terms of cause and effect operating on one plane. There is little real distinction between realizing all substance as “God” and realizing all experience as subject to natural law; for both views deprive one of the necessity of making any truly vital choice.

The realization of oneness, in fact, is but a starting point in the search for religion. Religion is distinctiveness as well as universality.

Historically, religion has a definite point of origin. No religion has come into existence without a Founder, a Prophet or Messiah.

Whether one considers Christianity, Judaism, Muhammadanism or any other organic religion historically, what appears is the phenomenon of religion as an experience suddenly interposed into the current stream of human life. This interposition compels the most vital choice or decision which life can offer. It creates a new standard of reality rising like a mountain from the plain of daily intercourse. Its influence sets the individual against his own past, and historically has always made a definite cleavage in the course of civilization. The prophet becomes identified with a higher possibility in the present, which necessarily divides the future from the past. Life tends to become dynamic and assert new directions, while the past exists in the present as inertia.

 

3.

Religious history is meaningless when conceived merely as a time sequence without reference to the fundamental law of cycles. We take for granted the existence of this law whenever dealing with natural phenomena: the cycle of life operating for the tree from seed to fruit, for the human being from birth to death, even for the stars of immensest magnitude. But societies and social institutions seldom or never admit that for their own existence there is also an allotted period, the beginning of which is their birth, the end of which is their destruction, during the course of which they rise to a climax of maturity and power, receding thereafter until eventually they are no more. Tracing this development in Judaism we come to the civilization of Solomon, a glory that could not be retained. In Christianity we have the feudal age, when religion could he completely identified with civilization after which the Reformation destroyed the unity not only of the church but of the civilization as well. Here stands the origin of “modern” times, which actually have been the autumn and winter of faith. On one side has existed an alliance between national state, natural science, industry and militarism; on the other side the tradition of feudal aristocracy, the memory of a living unifying faith, the organization of the church.

Both phases in reality proceeded from the same prior condition. One can not be termed “Christian” and the other “pagan” or “non-Christian” with the slightest historical accuracy. For modern militarism, justified as the necessary virtue of the national state, derives immediately from the Crusades, justified as the necessary virtue of the church. The profit motive, justified as the necessary virtue of industry, derives immediately from the practice of the sale of indulgences, justified as the necessary virtue of the church. If modern science is condemned as “pagan,” a vast power delivered over to the secular realm, it must be recalled that the first faint beginnings of natural science were so resisted by the church that the scientists were compelled to develop their knowledge outside the religious community.

The Reformation, then, merely marks the point at which the historical religion has reaped its harvest, produced its richest fruit; and consequently could no longer maintain its internal unity nor its balance between religion and civilization.

The law of cycles operates in the case of religions and nations no less imperatively than in the case of trees, animals, planets and human beings. This law may for a time appear inoperative where the larger social bodies are concerned, but this is merely for the reason that man has yet attained no adequate sense of historical process, and also because even after a great social institution has died spiritually it can still survive physically for a relatively long period. But when a religion ceases to be the motive and inspiration of civilization, its date of death is recorded in the annals of destiny. And once this spiritual death has taken place, the religion can never be artificially revived.

The “modern” world, striving to transform nationalism into world order, overcome the antagonism of economic classes and reconcile peoples and creeds, is nothing else than a larger example of ancient Rome striving to maintain order, justice and law after its original impulse had ebbed and the creative power had passed from the imperial government to the weak, despised and minority body of Christians, reborn by the mystery of superhuman faith. Our social institutions are more powerful to destroy than to create; no matter how conscientiously administered, without transformation they are vessels not built to outride this time of worldwide storm.

 

4.

When the creative power of spirit is withdrawn from the community as a whole, and the parts of the community engage in mutual struggle for predominance or survival, the life cycle of that social order has run its course.

Such is the nature of the present crisis. The old order was based historically upon Christianity in the West, upon Muhammanadism and other Faiths in the East. Each Faith had, in accordance with the principle underlying human society, developed a characteristic civilization representing a balance between legal, cultural, economic and social factors. All these regional civilizations had arrived at that stage in the cyclic process marked by the weakening of the original religious impulse, which bound the civilization together in one organism, and by the assertion of the superiority of the constituent parts over the whole.

As in Christianity a few centuries ago, so in Muhammadanism today, law, government, education and industry have thrown off the control of the religious tradition and undergone separate development, each seeking a fulfilment in terms of its own independent need and without reference to the general need of the community in its spiritual as well as material integrity. This development is more complete in the West, but the history of Europe since the Reformation has been paralleled in all essentials by the more recent experience of Turkey, Egypt and Iran.

The crucial point in this development is the transfer of social authority from a religious organization, by which it has been fatally abused, to a secular organisation explicitly claiming to be unmoral. At the stage of religious decay where this transfer of authority takes place, the secular government cannot control the entire area previously controlled by the religious influence. The transfer is characterized by the rise of several independent secular governments which divide the body of believers into separate, and potentially competitive nations. Western nationality arose from the spiritual death of Christendom, and the nations of Islam are similarly independent and exclusive.

The next step in the process, which in reality is disintegration and not “progress” except in a local and temporary degree, consists in the reinforcement of the secular (unmoral) authority by such laws and instruments as it deems necessary to protect itself in the rapidly augmenting struggle for national existence. Religion is replaced by patriotism of an exclusive nature, and the social duty of man becomes defense of his national state. Militarism inevitably develops. Compulsory military duty, found necessary as economic rivalry follows the original territorial competition of the states, sets mankind upon the path of death. In the modern world this complete divorce between spiritual and material values, enmeshing human life in a fatal net as economic and social existence come to depend upon struggle and competition rather than upon unity and cooperation, establishes a point of crisis imperilling the race. Authority, power and initiative throughout society are identified with unmoral institutions whose fiat controls a system of destruction well-nigh universal in capacity. On the other hand, the spiritual tradition of each race has become sterile, for ecclesiasticism is the negation of faith.

Such a jungle of competitive nationalism seems to reproduce, in terms of social organizations, the era of the pre-historic monsters marking an early stage in the biological evolution of the world of nature. Forms of life organized almost entirely for offense and defense had little available energy for the kind of response required in a changing world. Evolution left them behind. Their towering strength was their fatal weakness, and in their enormous aggressiveness they had no capacity to survive.

In the same way, the present stage of armed, competitive nationalism is essentially transitory and fugitive. The more aggressive it becomes, the less its capacity to meet social problems the only solution of which is non-aggression – cooperation. The states have waxed powerful upon the poverty of the people; their might is an illusion. They can destroy themselves by one final outburst of general war; or a series of revolutions, each perhaps small and almost unnoted, will evolve from them a type of government intelligent enough to deal with social relationships and moral enough to summon the highest and not the lowest impulses of an evolving race.

The key to future social evolution lies in the capacity for transformation rather than in mere progress and extension along the lines fixed by our prior history. For progress is the law of the cycle, but transformation is the sign that a cycle has run its term and a new age has dawned.

It is evolutionary progress when a form of life becomes larger, or fleeter by adaptation to its environment. This type of progress marks the biological world, where the natural environment is fundamentally constant. Likewise, when the social environment remains fundamentally constant, an institution progresses by growth in ways determined by its original character and aim.

Unlike nature, the social environment is subject to profound alteration. The development of machine production was more than progress from a small tool to a larger tool; it brought about an entirely different kind of society. Action and re-action in an industrialized society are not simply enlargement of the action and re-action of an agricultural, hand-craft society – they respond in quality to a different law. The plane has been raised from physical effort to intelligence.

As long as the simple law of progress applies to human society, the evil will be multiplied along with the good, the destruction will augment by the same ratio as the construction.

The symbol of transformation in the natural world is the organism like the butterfly, which at one stage is an egg, at the next stage is a caterpillar, becomes then a chrysalis in its cocoon, thence emerging as imago, the perfect insect with beautifully coloured wings. Applying the law of simple progress to this organism at any preliminary stage, we would have merely a larger egg, or a greater caterpillar or a larger and stronger cocoon. Metamorphosis is the scientific equivalent of that organic change which takes place in human society at those critical stages marked by the cycles of religion.

It is by no means necessary to contemplate a simple extension into the future of the social agencies dominating this transitional era. The progress of national government into empire is strictly limited by inter-state competition, and the progress of religion into the condition of world empire by any one creed is no less impossible.

 

5.

The impermanence of the several civilizations now existing becomes clear when we give attention to the non-social character of the religions from which they separately sprang.

In the saying, “Give unto Caesar” we are compelled to note that the Founder of Christianity limited His spiritual teaching to persons, to individuals, and refrained from extending that teaching to establish a principle for society. The character and scope of the Christian teaching, at its source, clearly contemplated an era during which individuals were to cultivate a spiritual life, purifying their inner motives and assuming responsibility for their deeds, in contrast to and complete disregard of their social institutions. They were to seek a Kingdom in the realm of the awakened and conscious soul, but the world was Caesar’s and the successors of Caesar.

Moreover, that doctrine, at its source, does not fail to include a social principle alone: it is in essence a doctrine of the “heart” and makes no provision for the life of the mind. It justifies no particular social form, creates a basis for no particular type of social institution, and in nowise explains those aspects of life and the universe which constitute the ends of psychology and philosophy. It renewed man’s inner life, it revealed more fully than ever before the nature of God and the spiritual capacity of human beings; it released a quality of personal relationships on the high plane required to maintain the new vision of the sanctity of life; but Christianity, at its source and in its reality, supports no political principle, sustains no economic theory, outlines no cosmogony, throws no light upon man’s relation to the physical universe, and sanctions no conception of the function of mind.

These organic limitations, posed not by absence of power at the Source but by lack of capacity in the environment and age, mark a cycle whose term was set at its beginning. It signalizes one necessary stage in the evolution of religion, or rather in the upward march of conscious human life, but finality is entirely absent, because the requisite foundation in revealed truth for the wholeness of life was not spiritually established. Unlike a scientific formula, religious truth does not continue indefinitely and independent of the way it is applied. While a chemical action can be employed for good or evil ends with equal efficiency, a spiritual truth, to possess validity, must include the vital element represented by the believer’s quality of response. When the quality of response has fallen below the level of the aim implied in the truth, the truth becomes void of influence. The living impulse sent forth from its Source has been expended; what remains is a form of words, a lifeless symbol, a ceremony possessing psychic but not spiritual effect.

Civilization is the outworking of spiritual faith. That faith inspires fresh courage, removes the barriers of personality and groups, stimulates the mind to solve necessary problems from the point of view of the society as a whole, establishes a foundation of human reality raised above the bestial struggle for existence, and enables mankind to take one more forward step in its progress upon the eternal path.

There is, however, no historical permanence for any civilization equivalent to the universality of revelation upon the plane of soul. Until mankind is united within one true faith and within one order of justice and knowledge, the need of the renewal and enlargement of spiritual truth is manifest to all.

 

6.

The external surface of human life, as recorded by sympathetic observers in every country, has become marked by appalling personal misery. Its innumerable details constitute a catalog which oppresses the heart like a Book of Doom. By war, by influenza, by poverty and by revolution a vast number of people have been reduced to a narrow margin of existence we thought had been left behind with the memories of the stone age before history began.

But this external surface does not reflect the entire content of modern life. The observer who concentrates all his attention upon the evidences of misfortune and suffering must be balanced by those who look with equal clarity beneath physical evidence to the inner surface and the foundations upon which human life is established. The world of the mind is rich with infinite possibilities, in tragic contrast to the poverty of the world of the body.

From the world of truth, as from an inexhaustible mine, we have derived truly miraculous reinforcement for the feeble body in its eternal struggle against the environment of nature. No longer need human aspiration and will be limited in fulfillment by the inadequate tool of hand and arm, directed by the inaccurate and incomplete guidance of the five physical senses. Mechanisms as sensitive as thought itself, as powerful as human ambition requires, stand as servants ready to carry out any material command. However far imagination may fly ahead, it can reach no ultimate limit beyond which the creative thought of the race dare not go.

But these two worlds, the world of body and the world of mind, though man lives native in both, appear to co-exist independently, in a relationship which is a separation no less than it is a contact. The scientist’s achievement in the form of truth has no human equivalent in the form of social security. The inventor’s technic has complicated existence but multiplied poverty. The world of truth is the modern Tantalus cup, offering what life cannot receive, even while it is likened to the slave of the lamp, fulfilling every command.

Social systems and programs devised during the last hundred years have one and all been efforts to confirm the contact and overcome the separation between the world of truth and the world of human experience. They have sought to mediate between the possibility of mind and the actuality of social need. What thought has accomplished in efficiency of mechanism it has endeavored to duplicate in efficiency of human relations. But every system and program combining the possibility of scientific truth with the social ingredient of human nature has produced not order but an increase of conflict. What appears perfectly fused in the crucible of abstract speculation reasserts its duality when put to the test of life. Socialism, communism, capitalism fundamentalist or reformed—all these systems alike—are unmistakably incapable of reconciling and blending the worlds of body and mind, the truths of science and society. The more that arbitrary power is applied to compel their acceptance as programs, the more explosive becomes the reaction of the human nature coerced in the name of efficiency and truth. Ours is not the first civilization to be brought to an end by mental capacity devoid of spiritual truth.

The unescapable historic fact is that the mediator between universe and humanity, the link between the world of truth and the world of social experience, has never been the speculative mind but the Prophet. The mind discovers only that which it seeks; its voyages of exploration bring back only that reality which can be confined in the small cage of material reason. The universe is not such captive truth, such mastered knowledge. The universe is the Will above and beyond man’s physical will; that Will by which man must become and not merely possess, by which man must serve and not merely enslave to himself. The life and words of a Moses, a Jesus, a Muhammad, by the spirit inspiring them are truth. Within that truth, since it contains man and is not merely man’s exploitation of what he contains, the life of the race is secure and progressive. Outside that truth, human existence moves ever toward destruction; for the Prophet is truth in that form in which it applies to the life of mankind.

By each Prophet is established a new civilization, because each Prophet establishes a spiritual world for the soul not less real than the nature which is the world of the body. The modern age, in all its social relationships, lies outside the spiritual world. Hence its agony, its frustration physical and mental, the degradation of an unrepentant Prodigal Son.

 

7.

Never has there been such a time of sincere, whole-hearted searching for a foundation grounded not upon secondary, temporary historical events and developments but upon the nature of the universe itself.

This age, in its spirit, feels nearer to the ancient Prophets than has any generation since the first generation of believers laid down their lives that the divine Cause might prevail. Not in Christendom alone, but in the other existing civilizations, the appeal to the pure manifestation of love and wisdom, the racial Prophet, has become for many the last refuge of hope that human life can endure, can be meaningful and blessed upon this troubled earth.

Between themselves and that radiant Source of hope they feel the long centuries of strife and ignorance fading to the unreality of a frantic dream. Let mankind, they cry from the depths of their souls, let mankind make a new beginning; let life rest upon the sure foundation of the Divine will; let us become transformed, renewed with a new spirit, and in that spirit proceed to transform all things which are in denial of or in conflict with that eternal will. The nations hurry to destruction, they lament, when vision perishes. From this undying flame let our hearts and minds be kindled with the fire of love.

As the crisis persists, this call, feeble at first, becomes louder and more assured. First a personal attitude, then a social movement, gathering force and momentum, the going back to the Prophet now represents a mighty psychological crusade paralleling the physical crusades of medieval times.

To what degree can this movement be fulfilled?

The Prophet himself made a fundamental condition, that those who sought to follow him should abandon their goods, their wealth, and walk in his path. This was said to a rich man’s son, but does it not apply likewise to those who have inherited goods and wealth in the realm of mind? Does it not mean that those who seek to return today must abandon their acquired culture, their traditional philosophy, their ecclesiastical institutions, their rites and ceremonies, their pomp of church and churchly power? Either it means this, or it means nothing at all, for the Prophet was not slain by the materially rich of his day, he was slain by order of the established church.

For Christendom, surely, the sincerity of all effort to establish life upon Divine rather than upon human will must be tested by conformity to the conditions its own Prophet laid down. When the churches voluntarily disband, and people of all denominations and sects seek the Prophet upon absolutely equal terms, then, and then alone, will this psychological crusade reach the Holy Land. As long as certain individual believers alone fulfil this test, the movement will not affect the vital problems of civilization but remain in the limited realm of personal experience. It may produce a beautiful literature; it will not carry civilization outside its captivity to the lords of war.

There is also, it would appear, another essential condition to be met in this poignant appeal from the world to God: the recognition that other races likewise had their Prophets, their revelations of the Divine will. For without such recognition, the crusade goes hostile and armed, a challenge to battle and not a conquest of universal peace. These two conditions—at root one condition seen in two different aspects—may fairly be said to be so difficult of realization as to be highly improbable, if not impossible, at least without one single precedent in human history. Rivers flow downhill; and the water once descended from its spring does not return.

 

8.

A contemporary historian remarks that the old world has died, but a new world has not yet been born. This view is no doubt the expression of an attitude which has come to prevail among many thoughtful people over a wide social area. It perceives that the foundation of the civilization existing prior to the European War cannot be rebuilt; it realizes to the full the present instability of conditions and the lack of agreement among aims and programs; it frankly admits that the future, both in general trend and in outline, is concealed from the rational mind. Its clarity of analysis of the past is matched by its incapacity for synthesis directed toward the future.

What emerges from consideration of this frank and sincere assertion is awareness of the artificial limitation assumed by the rational intelligence in dealing with the process of human history. By the phrase “old world” and “new world” it means civilization as formal institutions and established habits, and thereby overlooks the significant fact that civilization is an effect and not primarily a cause.

For civilization, long before it emerges in formal institutions, exists as an aspiration of the heart, as an ideal to be pursued and fulfilled by every faculty of mind and soul. It is only when human aspiration and ideal, shared by a considerable group or community, has gathered force and thrust through to the plane of social action, that civilization actually begins. Without this preliminary period of spiritual action, no civilization has ever become manifest. That period is to the later formal institutions and habits and doctrines as the root to the visible tree. Though the entire tree is potentially present in the seed, the great trunk and the widespread branches are contingent upon a period of prior and invisible growth within the soil.

To complete the thoughtful statement uttered by the historian, it is necessary to seek for the future “world” not in different programs and expedients adopted by the institutions of the dead “world” but in evidences of a spiritual life intense enough, universal enough, to establish within humanity that inner power required to raise the trunk and spread forth the branches of a tree whose fruit shall be universal peace.

World order, it is clear, represents a goal which includes the reconciliation of two values or ideals: the spiritual value of human brotherhood, and the social value of a united, an organic civilization. Without a firm and enduring basis in moral unity, the institutions of society, no matter how far extended, cannot alone produce peace but will remain as centers of disunity and strife. On the other hand, those instinctive anarchists who preach a “brotherhood” conceived as absence of governmental institutions are naïve and immature. Society without institutions would be a body without vital organs capable of expressing its various capacities and maintaining its existence.

These two values—humanity and civilization—have never been reconciled and united within the brief historic period known to the present age. We have had races but not mankind, cultures but not spiritual knowledge, nations but not civilization, and religions but not a brotherhood embracing the earth. We therefore approach the vital problem of world peace without experience of what world peace really is. World order—the goal of human evolution—cannot rightly be conceived as a mere truce or treaty between groups or institutions each born of past strife and discord, each cherishing a secret or avowed superiority and each committed to an ideal of sovereignty incompatible with the needs of permanent peace. Nor can world order be effectively upheld on terms of “non-cooperation” with existing agencies responsible for the little public order which now remains. Peace does not consist in abhorrence of war but in maintaining a steadfast conviction that the end of faith is human unity and the fulfilment of intelligence is a new social form, worldwide in scope and superior to the local forms which can no longer protect mankind and serve its highest interests.

In addition to a political world order, the attainment of universal peace involves:

  1. The harmony and cooperation of races.
  2. The unity of religions in a world faith.
  3. An economic world order in which capital and labor are conjoined in a relationship of partners and not competitors.
  4. Compulsory education throughout the world, and an education grounded in universal ethics and adapted so as to prepare every child for a useful trade, art or profession.
  5. A universal secondary language.

Compared to these organic aims, the peace efforts aimed at occasional details such as reduction of armaments or the signing of new treaties are insignificant. The character of this age is wholly new. It is charged with a spirit of transformation superficially violent but in reality constructive. The whole problem of world order consists in attaining an attitude of reverence and humility to that creative spirit.

The principles briefly stated here were promulgated more than twenty years ago by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in whom the spirit of the age found its most faithful interpreter and its noblest exemplar. He declared that humanity is entering upon its period of maturity, when powers will be given the world to achieve an organic unity never possible in any previous age. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made the enjoyment of these powers conditional upon purity of motive and acceptance of the oneness of mankind. Not for the people of prejudice and division, not for the organized selfishness of the rich nor the organized envy of the poor, but for those who have become truly human the day of universal peace has dawned. The way backward has become a door that is forever closed. Revolutions and wars bring no lasting fruit; arbitrary social laws, divorced from human values, bring no true security nor repose. The world needs a central point of inspiration raised above the clamors of history, a divine element, to supply a foundation for the latent unity within all people of good will.

“The foundations of all the divine religions are peace and agreement, but misunderstandings and ignorance have developed. If these are caused to disappear you will see that all the religious agencies will work for peace and promulgate the oneness of humankind. For the foundation of all is reality, and reality is not multiple or divisible. His Holiness Moses founded it, His Holiness Jesus raised its tent, and its brilliant light has shone forth in all the regions. His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed this one reality and spread the message of the ‘Most Great Peace.’”

By Martha Root

How great the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me! Such a king is numbered with the companions of the Crimson Ark—the Ark which God hath prepared for the people of Bahá. All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountain-head of blessings unto the whole world. Offer up, O people of Bahá, your substance, nay your very lives, for his assistance.1Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá”u’lláh, www.bahai.org/r/204457703

The first Queen of the world to study and to promote Bahá’u’lláh’s great Teachings has been Her Majesty Queen Marie of Rumania, one of the queens of this twentieth century who stands highest in intellect, in vision, in clear understanding of the new universal epoch now opening. Her Majesty received the book “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era” by Dr. J. E. Esslemont and a note from the writer of this article who first visited Bucharest, Rumania, in January, 1926. The Rumanian Queen, grand-daughter of the renowned Queen Victoria of the British Empire and of Czar Alexander II of Russia, both of whom received Tablets from Bahá’u’lláh in their day, read this volume until three o’clock in the morning and two days later, on January 30, 1926, received me in audience in Controceni Palace, in Bucharest. Her first words after the greeting were, “I believe these Teachings are the solution for the world’s problems today!” The account of that historic morning appeared in “The Bahá’í Magazine” in Washington, in June, 1926, but very illuminating letters written by Her Majesty that same year show how deep was her confirmation. Here is one written to her loved friend Loie Fuller, an American then residing in Paris, which after these ten years can be published for the first time:

Lately great hope has come to me from one, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a personal follower of Christ. Reading, I have found in His and His Father Bahá’u’lláh’s Message of Faith all my yearnings for real religion satisfied. If you ever hear of Bahá’ís or of the Bahá’í Movement which is known in America you will know what that is! What I mean, these books have strengthened me beyond belief and I am now ready to die any day full of hope; but I pray God not to take me away yet, for I still have a lot of work to do.

Other letters record that first of all she was teaching her young daughter Ileana about these beautiful truths. For ten years Her Majesty and her daughter, H.R.H. Princess Ileana (now Archduchess Anton), have read with interest each new book about the Bahá’í Movement as soon as it came from the press.

As we know she wrote three marvelous articles about these Bahá’í peace Teachings in 1926, and as they were syndicated each article appeared in nearly two hundred newspapers in the United States and Canada. Many millions of people were thrilled to read that a Queen had arisen to promote Bahá’u’lláh’s plan for universal peace. Quickly these articles were translated and published in Europe, China, Japan, Australasia and in the Islands of the seas.

Received in audience by Her Majesty in Pelisor Palace, Sinaia, in 1927, after the passing of His Majesty King Ferdinand, her husband, she graciously gave me an interview, speaking of the Bahá’í Teachings about immortality. She had on her table and on the divan a number of Bahá’í books, for she had just been reading in each of them the Teachings about Life after death. She asked the writer to give her greeting to Shoghi Effendi, to the friends in Írán and to the many American Bahá’ís who she said had been so remarkably kind to her during her trip through the United States the year before. Also, she graciously gave the writer an appreciation of these Bahá’í Teachings in her own hand-writing, for Volume IV. of the “Bahá’í World.”

Meeting the Queen again on January 19, 1928, in the Royal Palace in Belgrade, where she and H.R.H. Princess Ileana were guests of the Queen of Jugoslavia—and they had brought some of their Bahá’í books with them—the words I shall remember longest of all that Her dear Majesty said were these: “The ultimate dream which we shall realize is that the Bahá’í channel of thought has such strength, it will serve little by little to become a light to all those searching for the real expression of Truth.”

Another happy audience was in Her Majesty’s lovely summer palace “Tehna-Yuva,” at Balciĉ, on the Black Sea, in October, 1929. Again in the home of Archduchess Anton at Mödling near Vienna she and her mother received me on August 8, 1932, and in February, 1933, and Her Majesty made this great statement which was used as the frontispiece to “Bahá’í World,” Volume IV.:

 


The Bahá’í Teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering together all those who have long searched for words of hope. It accepts all great prophets gone before, it destroys no other creeds and leaves all doors open. Saddened by the continual strife amongst believers of many confessions and wearied of their intolerance towards each other, I discovered in the Bahá’í Teaching the real spirit of Christ so often denied and misunderstood. Unity instead of strife, Hope instead of condemnation, Love instead of hate, and a great reassurance for all men.

Then in the audience in Controceni Palace on February 16, 1934, when Her Majesty was told that the Rumanian translation of “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era” had just been published in Bucharest, she said she was so happy that her people were to have the blessing of reading this precious Teaching.

How beautiful she looked that afternoon—as always—for her loving eyes mirror her mighty spirit; a most unusual Queen is she, a consummate artist, a lover of beauty and wherever she is there is glory. Perhaps too, a Queen is a symbol, people like to have their Queen beautiful and certainly Queen Marie of Rumania is one of the most lovely in this world today. Her clothes, designed by herself, are always a “tout ensemble” creation so harmonious in colors they seem to dress her soul. She received me in her private library where a cheerful fire glowed in the quaint, built-in fireplace; tea was served on a low table, the gold service set being wrought in flowers. There were flowers everywhere, and when she invited me into her bedroom where she went to get the photograph which I like so much, as I saw the noble, majestic proportions of this great chamber with its arched ceiling in Gothic design, I exclaimed in joy, “Your room is truly a temple, a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár!” There were low mounds of hyacinths, flowers which Bahá’u’lláh loved and mentioned often in His Writings; there was a bowl of yellow tulips upon a silken tapestry in yellow gold, a tall deep urn of fragrant white lilacs, and an immense bowl of red roses. Controceni Palace is the most beautiful palace I have seen in any country in the blending of its colors and III its artistic arrangements.

Her Majesty is a writer as well as an artist, and Her Memoirs entitled “The Story of My Life” were just then being published in “The Saturday Evening Post.” She told me she writes two hours every morning unless her time is invaded by queenly duties, charity duties, family duties. She was pleased with the sincere letters that were pouring in from all continents giving appreciations of her story. She told me the American people are so open-hearted and that from the United States children, professors, farmers’ wives and the smart people had written to her, the tone in all their letters revealing Her Majesty’s entire sincerity and the deep humanity of her character. One teacher wrote Her Majesty that in her childhood each one lived through his own childhood: another said, “All who read your story have their own lives stirred!” The Queen remarked, “And this is a very satisfactory criticism for an author.”

A most pleasing letter had just arrived from Japan from a girl there who thanked God Who had allowed her to live in a period in which such a wonderful book had been written! “This,” said the Queen, “is one of the nicest appreciations I have ever heard.”

Then the conversation turned again to the Bahá’í Teachings and she gave a greeting to be sent to Shoghi Effendi in Haifa. Later she mentioned an incident in Hamburg when she was en route to Iceland in the summer of 1933. As she passed through the street, a charming girl tossed a little note to her into the motor car. It was: “I am so happy to see you in Hamburg, because you are a Bahá’í.” Her Majesty remarked that they recognized a Bahá’í and this shows a spirit of unity in the Bahá’í Movement.

Her Majesty said to me, “In my heart I am entirely Bahá’í,” and she sent me this wonderful appreciation: “The Bahá’í Teaching brings peace to the soul and hope to the heart. To those in search of assurance the Words of the Father are as a fountain in the desert after long wandering.”

And now today, February 4, 1936, I have just had another audience with Her Majesty in Controceni Palace, in Bucharest. As I was starting to walk up the wide ivory toned stairs carpeted with blue Iranian rugs to the third floor suites, at that very moment over a radio came the rich strains of the Wedding March from “Lohengrin,” played by an orchestra. It seemed a symbol: the union of spiritual forces of the East and Europe! Again Queen Marie of Rumania received me cordially in her softly lighted library, for the hour was six o’clock. She was gowned in black velvet and wore her great strands of marvelous pearls. The fire in the grate beamed a welcome with its yellow-glowing fragrant pine boughs and large bowls of yellow tulips adorned the apartment.

What a memorable visit it was! She told me she has a friend in ‘Akka, Palestine, who knows Shoghi Effendi and this friend recently has sent her pictures of ‘Akka and Haifa; the two were playfellows when they were children and met in Malta. She also told me that when she was in London she had met a Bahá’í, Lady Blomfield, who had shown her the original Message that Bahá ‘u’llah had sent to her Grandmother Queen Victoria in London. She asked the writer about the progress of the Bahá’í Movement especially in the Balkan countries.

“Since we met two years ago,” said Her Majesty, “so many sad events have happened! I look on with a great deal of sorrow at the way the different peoples seem to misunderstand one another; especially now that I have become very lonely in my home, I have all the more time to think over these problems, and I’m sometimes very sad that I can do so little. However, I know that the right spirit and the right thoughts go a long way towards that unity of hearts which I haven’t given up the hope to see before I pass on.”

She spoke, too, of several Bahá’í books, the depths of “Íqán” and especially of “Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh” which she said was a wonderful book! To quote her own words: “Even doubters would find a powerful strength in it, if they would read it alone and would give their souls time to expand.”

Her Majesty kindly promised to write for “Bahá’í World,” Volume VI, a special appreciation and to send it after four days.

I asked her if I could perhaps speak of the broach which historically is precious to Bahá’ís, and she replied, “Yes, you may.” Once, and it was in 1928, Her dear Majesty had given the writer a gift, a lovely and rare brooch which had been a gift to the Queen from Her Royal Relatives in Russia some years ago. It was two little wings of wrought gold and silver, set with tiny diamond chips and joined together with one large pearl. “Always you are giving gifts to others, and I am going to give you a gift from me,” said the Queen smiling, and she herself clasped it onto my dress. The wings and the pearl made it seem “Lightbearing,” Bahá’í! It was sent the same week to Chicago as a gift to the Bahá’í Temple, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and at the National Bahá’í Convention which was in session that spring, a demur was made-should a gift from the Queen be sold? Should it not be kept as a souvenir of the first Queen who arose to promote the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh? -However, it was sold immediately and the money given to the Temple, for all Bahá’ís were giving to the utmost to forward this mighty structure, the first of its kind in the United States. Mr. Willard Hatch, a Bahá’í of Los Angeles, California, who bought the exquisite brooch, took it to Haifa, Palestine, in 1931 and placed it in the archives on Mt. Carmel where down the ages it will rest with the Bahá’í treasures.

Inadequate as is anyone article to portray Her Majesty Queen Marie of Rumania’! splendid spiritual attitude, still these few glimpses do show that she stands strong for the highest Truth, and as an historical record they will present a little of what the first Queen did for the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.

 

By George Townshend

Bahá’u’lláh revealed a sublime vision of human history as an epic written by the finger of God and proceeding along an ordered course to a climax, the nature of which was exactly defined before the story opened and the appearance of which at the date ordained by the Author no human misunderstanding nor opposition could prevent or postpone.

He taught that human history throughout its entire length was an intelligible and connected whole, centring round a single theme and developing a common purpose. From the beginning of the cycle to the present day and beyond the present to the cycle’s distant end, one master-scheme is by set degrees disclosed. The stage upon which the action moves forward is the entire globe, with all its continents and all its seas; and there is no race nor nation nor tribe nor even individual who has not a designated place in the unfolding of the Grand Design of God.

This doctrine of the unity of world-history held in the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh a position of cardinal importance. He was far from being the first among the Messengers of God to reveal it. Those “prophets which have been since the beginning of the world” and lesser seers as well as they have given glimpses of it to mankind, or have referred to it in symbol and in parable. It is indeed involved in all the historic faiths of the human race, and there is no world-religion extant which can be fully understood without a knowledge of its truth. But Bahá’u’lláh was the first to lay on it so great an emphasis and to expound it at large and in plain terms. On it depends the significance of his own advent and the timeliness of his humanitarian reforms; and on it turns his teaching as to the aims and methods of Providence in its dealings with mankind.

This scheme is carried out by the power of God’s will and it has its origin in his desire for the well-being of his creatures. Its aim is the training of the peoples of the world to live and to work together in harmony, and to establish by God’s particular assistance a universal civilisation in which all the human faculties shall find at last adequate and complete expression. The attainment of this goal is in the Divine Author’s eyes the opening of the main movement of human history. All previous and earlier events are in the nature of an introduction. They are steps up a long ascent, causes of a desired result. However important they be, their meaning lies not wholly in themselves, but in the fact that they look and lead forward to a transcendent issue save for which they themselves would never have been called into existence.

Secular schools of thought cannot be said to have applied nor adopted any such broad conception of the integral unity of all human history. In past times, truths so large did not find easy entrance into the minds of men. So long as accurate knowledge of distant peoples was as hard to gain as accurate knowledge of past events, such doctrines would remain for scholars disembodied and unsubstantiated ideas. Today, histories of mankind on a comprehensive scale have become numerous; yet those of them which present the complete story as having an organic plot like a well-constructed epic, are probably few indeed.

In the sphere of religion, however, the case is different. The idea that the course of human events is directed by a stronger will and a clearer eye than man’s to a predetermined end is found in more revelations than one. It is said to have been mentioned by the founders of all the world-religions. Though it has not been in any past age of such critical interest as it is today and has not before been treated so fully as now by Bahá’u’lláh, yet it has never been kept wholly concealed from man. There are references to it in scripture or tradition which are clear enough to show that this truth is part of the common religious knowledge of mankind while slight enough to prove that it did not hold in any High Prophet’s teaching the same importance as in that of Bahá’u’lláh.

The general fact that God ordains human events long ages before they take shape on this earth (somewhat as a dramatist will complete his play before it is embodied in action on the stage), was alluded to by Jesus when He said of the righteous in the Last Day, “Enter into the joy prepared for you by the Father before the beginning of the world”; and again on many occasions by the Apostle Paul, as, “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. i. 4), and by Peter who speaks in a similar connection of “the foreknowledge of God the Father” (I Peter i. 2).

Muhammad bore the same witness when he revealed that the first thing which God created was a pen and that he said to it, “Write.” It said to him, “What shall I write?” and God said, “Write down the quantity of every separate thing to be created.” And it wrote all that was and all that will be to eternity.

More specifically, Zarathustra taught the gradual perfecting of mankind under divine law and the God-guided progress of history towards a distant but certain culmination.

At some unknown date the Hebrew allegory of the creation of the world in seven days made a cryptic allusion to the procession of world-religions and to the final consummation of God’s full purpose in the Seventh Day, the day of maturity, completion and rest. The seers of the Hebrew people, lifted by inspiration into the eternal realm, would descry some sign or feature of the far-off Day of God, the foreordained climacteric of world-history, and in a mood of exaltation would give utterance to their predictive vision without fully comprehending what they saw or measuring the interval which separated them from its fulfilment.

Isaiah cries:

It shall come to pass in the last days that the Mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established in the top of the mountains . . . and all nations shall flow to it. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.1(i. 2, 4)

Or Zechariah:

The Day of the Lord cometh. . . . And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord and His name one.2(Zech. xiv. 1, 9).

Or again Joel:

The Day of the Lord cometh . . . there hath not been ever the like, neither shall there be any more after it even to the years of many generations. . . . Ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord that hath dealt wondrously with you . . . ! I will pour out my spirit and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . your old men shall dream dreams . . . your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will show wonders in the heaven and on the earth. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and the terrible Day of the Lord come. And whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.3(Joel ch. 2)

Confucius, more than five centuries before Christ, outlined in his book, Spring and Autumn, the ordained Plan of History in brief but plain terms.

He divided history into three stages. In the first, which he called the Stage of Disorder, the social mind was very crude; there was a sharp distinction between one’s own country and other countries, and hence attention was paid more to conditions at home than abroad. In the second stage, the Advancement of Peace, there was a distinction between civilized countries on the one side and those uncivilized on the other; the range of civilization extended and friendship between nations became closer. The smaller people could make their voices heard. In the third and final stage, the Supreme Peace, there was no distinction at all among the nations of the world. All became civilized and met upon the level. Righteousness prevailed and the world was unified.

Jesus spoke much of the Last Day (the Kingdom of God as He usually called it) and of its near approach. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He did not stress, as Confucius had done, the historical aspect of the coming climacteric, but taking up the warnings of the Hebrew prophets He spoke of the unexpectedness of its advent and of the terrible jeopardy into which it would bring mankind. Even in an age so late in history as His, a full account of the development and destiny of the race would have been premature. He kept the fullness of this truth among those things which He had to say to His disciples, but which at that stage they could not yet bear.

But now a new occasion has arisen. New opportunities, new problems, new perils, confront mankind; and with these new conditions has come the need of a new knowledge. He who, before the human race began, fixed the date at which that yet untreated race would reach the apex of its course and attain the maturity of its powers, has now declared that the Date has come. He who, in dim and distant ages long past, solemnly ratified with His people a Covenant and made to them a faithful promise that He would bring them all to His Kingdom in His own good time, has now in this epoch kept His ancient promise and fulfilled the Covenant in its completeness.

This present time is God’s Good time. This present time is the Era of which since the beginning of the world prophets have chanted and seers have sung. Suddenly—unexpectedly—unawares—without observation (exactly as Jesus said) the fullness of the Glory of God has irradiated the globe from the east to the farthest west. The Day of the Lord has dawned. Keeping his pledge, God has thrown open to men a new domain of life and activity, has conferred on them new powers, laid on them new responsibilities; and he demands that they enter as quickly as may he into this new order of existence and fit themselves to these higher conditions.

The nature of those charges which in the Day of God are to be laid upon mankind can be gathered from a sympathetic reading of the prophets of Israel. Those seers wrote—as a great poet might write—with their minds turned towards God and their hearts lighted and warmed by ardent faith. They could not control the vision that was vouchsafed them: they could not complete it nor set it in its own environment and perspective, nor plumb its meanings nor yet count the years which should elapse before it descended from the realm in which they saw it to the realm of actuality. When the prophets are read in this spirit as Jesus and the evangelists read them, there rises into view a clear and boldly sketched outline of those world-developments which from the creation have been laid up to await the present hour.

The picture is one which has puzzled, fascinated and awed the Christian mind. The impression made by the vision upon the seer-prophets was profound. They write or chant in a strain of exaltation which finds its answer across the years in the rapturous faith of the Apocalypse and the controlled but not less deep emotion of the Christ telling of his second Advent. The strange scenes and deeds and wonders that appear in the picture are hardly more startling than the violent contrast of the colors in which they are painted. Here Hell seems to reach out to the gates of Paradise; delusion and enlightenment, despair and victory, the unlighted Pit and the sunshine of God’s own presence seem all to have a place here, and through some purgation of Phlegethonian misery man hardly comes alive to inherit the promise of all ages.

The Event which the Hebrew prophets foresaw was not to be an isolated occurrence; it was one of a series of events; it was the Last Day of many days. But it so transcended all before it as to be outstanding and paramount. Its splendour outshone all previous splendours, and its blessings were so far above all previous experience and precedent that men would live in a new world and would not even remember the former things that had passed so utterly away. So full will be the Revelation vouchsafed by God in the Last Day, so glorious the effulgence of this supreme Theophany that darkness and error will not be able to withstand the impact of its might. They will flee and perish. The radiance will sweep across the entire globe from the east to the west. It will settle and abide in every land. Mankind will become one, and will be organised round a single central authority which it will recognise as divinely appointed. One law will run throughout the whole earth. National distinctions will not be obliterated; the various nations will meet upon a common level but will retain their separate identity. All peoples and races will share a common relation to one another. A Universal religion will unite the hearts of all. Mankind will form a single congregation, their God being recognised everywhere as one and the same God endowed with the same attributes and known by the same Name. The Glory of the Most High in its depth and in its height will be poured forth over the earth; and spiritual gifts, once the privilege of a gifted few, will be possessed by the many. War will be abandoned. The skill of those who made weapons of destruction will be turned to beneficent uses. All the world over, men will be able to enjoy their homes and their prosperity in security and peace.4See, for instance, Isaiah ii. 2-4; xv. 17- 25; Zech. ix. 10; xiv. 9; viii, 20 ff.; Zeph. iii. 9; Micah iv. 1-5, etc.

Such is the prophets’ picture of the world conditions of the Last Day; such—believe the Bahá’ís—are the changes which man in this hour is called upon to make.

Prescient of the crisis and the difficulties that lay ahead, Bahá’u’lláh, half a century ago, with timely forethought, offered to mankind the knowledge that would enable them to shoulder the new responsibility about to be imposed upon them. He not only outlined a large plan of reform, but he explained, with an emphasis, a fullness, and a precision not used before, the brotherhood of mankind and the unity of their development from the infancy of the race to the present time.

History, he taught, is in its length and breadth one and single. It is one in its structure. It is one in its movement. From the beginning of time the whole human race has been subject to one law of development; and it has advanced age after age in accordance with one and the same principle and by the application of one and the same method. Its whole movement has one source and one cause, and is directed towards one goal. The unification of the world, instead of being an afterthought, or of needing an improvised miracle for its completion, is the normal conclusion of a process that has been going on since the race began. Each of the world-religions has its own set place within this vast economy. Each is mediated through a Master Prophet from God by one and the same principle and bears witness to some phase of one indivisible Truth. No religion has been exhaustive or final. Every one admits of development and invites it. If all were under God thus developed, each along the line of its own implicit truth, they would not move farther and farther apart, but on the contrary would approach one another till at last they merged and became one. The ultimate ideal of them all, while not the same as any one of those from which it grew, will yet be consistent with the essence of each of them. It is the universal religion: the fruit and the perfection of all that preceded it. He who accepts it on its appearance will not deny the ancient Faith of his forefathers; he will reassert it, and at the same time will accept all the other revealed faiths of mankind.

When all men know the certainty of their common history and their organic unity, then, said Bahá’u’lláh, on that knowledge will be built the temple of peace and the fabric of future civilisation.