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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- The harmony and cooperation of races.
- The unity of religions in a world faith.
- An economic world order in which capital and labor are conjoined in a relationship of partners and not competitors.
- 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.
- 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.’”
To an unprecedented degree, the power of constructive thought has been released from the realm of private affairs for study of the basic social structure, as responsible men in all countries have since the European War come to realize their new obligation to give concern to the general problem of depression and unrest.
The time is therefore favourable for more widespread knowledge of the fact that a plan of world order was advanced more than 50 years ago which not only anticipates many proposals now receiving serious consideration, but rests upon the substantial foundation of a true analysis of the malady afflicting modern life.
It is, in fact, a matter of importance for the serious student of current conditions, whether his interest is primarily economic, political or sociological, to learn that a body of literature has existed for two generations in which are to be found explicit principles and teachings meeting the very difficulties now so profoundly felt throughout the world.
The world economy of Bahá’u’lláh transcends in scope and purpose the belated response to the risk of calamity made by economists and statesmen under the pressure of events in recent years. His principles are established upon organic laws of human evolution. They interpret the modern problem not as a temporary maladjustment of industry and trade – the effects of an “industrial revolution” – but as a movement in humanity itself. They make the necessary connection between the spiritual and practical affairs of men which alone can breathe the breath of life into any social mechanism.
Careful study of this body of literature makes it apparent that Bahá’u’lláh stood at that major turning-point of social evolution where the long historic trend toward diversity – in language, custom, civil and religious codes and economic practises – came to an end, and the movement was reversed in the direction of unity. The human motive in the new era is necessarily cooperative.
From this point of view it becomes clear that the European War and the uninterrupted sequence of international disturbances since 1918 are, essentially, vital indications that by sheer spiritual inertia humanity has continued to function under the old competitive motive when conditions have arisen which make cooperation and unity imperative to the very existence of mankind.
Instead of temporary “maladjustment” we have the urgent necessity to transform the whole structure of civilization. Institutions and social organisms created in the age of diversity and competition have become unfit to serve human needs in the age of cooperation and peace. Our present “crisis” discloses more and more clearly the tragic fact that people turn for the divine gifts of peace and sustenance to agencies adapted for the opposite ends of war and destruction.
The new conditions affecting every branch of human activity today are the result of the physical unity of the world achieved during the last century through technological equipment. As the arena of human affairs has become one unit, and is no longer a series of unrelated territories, the law of cause and effect, for the first time in history, operates for society as positively as it operates for the material universe. The consequence is that every public action has its immediate reaction. National and racial or class movements are no longer isolated and irresponsible; they no longer can be made to secure definite and limited objectives, like a small, compact medieval army turned loose among unarmed peasants, but every social movement and influence today affects the structure of society and brings about results of a general character.
Just as this new law of cause and effect connects in one common destiny hitherto isolated geographical areas, so likewise, within the single political or economic area of each nation, consequences of political or economic action now cannot be confined to their own special field, but flow throughout the whole nation and produce effects in all fields.
That is, not only has humanity become an organic unit by reason of geographical relationship, but in addition its structure of civilization has become interdependent by reason of the new relationships affecting such apparently unrelated activities as business and religion, or government philosophy. The real significance of this vital fact is that politics is no longer politics alone, and economics is no longer economics alone, but both are nothing else than facets of the one, indivisible substance of human life.
We have arrived, in other words, at a stage in human evolution when moral value – that which serves the good of humanity and not merely the interest of any one group – determines not alone the desirability but also the feasibility of every public policy and every social program.
That is why the present world crisis escapes every effort to bring it under the control of normal social agencies. When another international war seems imminent, we call the crisis “political” and effort is made to control it by political bodies. When the economic depression seems most acute, we call the crisis “economic” and seek to control it by economic bodies. It would be just as logical to call the crisis “religious” and base our hope of recovery upon the influence of the churches. In reality, the crisis is at once political, economic and religious, but humanity possesses no responsible, authoritative agency capable of coordinating all the factors and arriving at a world plan which takes all factors into account.
These considerations reveal the vital importance of a new principle of action, a new attitude and a new quality of understanding such as the student of society encounters in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Here one makes contact with a world view raised above local and partisan interests, and a spirit of faith in divine Providence so profound that it sustains the certitude that mankind will be guided through the most terrible storm of confusion and strife the world has ever faced.
In contradistinction to those social plans which attempt to rationalize an abstract system of political economy and apply it, with or without the element of compulsion, to the body of humanity in naive disregard of the complexity of human nature, the principles of Bahá’u’lláh operate from the heart outward to the social structure. His principles interpret the realities of man’s spiritual nature, upholding an ideal civilization which will come into being gradually, by voluntary action of those who understand it, accept it as truth and strive for its attainment as the fulfillment of their own highest aspiration.
His aim was the unity of mankind in the world of the mind and spirit, that the external unity in process of realization might become man’s blessing, the means of peace and cooperation, rather than a bitter curse, the means of chaos and strife. Through the leaven of spiritual knowledge those prejudices which now divide the hearts and confuse the minds, setting nation against nation, class against class and creed against creed, will be transmuted into a common loyalty and positive fellowship identifying social order with true ethics and true mystical experience.
If we desire material abundance, leisure, security, opportunity for broader knowledge, a larger conquest of nature and a social environment enabling men to enjoy creative relationships – we seek to give actuality to those visions and desires which society now resists and makes impossible – the door of attainment is unity and cooperation. As unity of personality brings power to individuals, so human fellowship will release yet dormant capacities in the race.
Bahá’u’lláh exemplified the possibility of this human fellowship and its capacity to transform society from the clash of hostile communities to an organic structure embracing the world. The literature expressing his insight into human reality, when responsive to the transforming spirit of the one God, links together those necessary steps in evolution which lead from the new outlook required by the individual to a world order coordinating the different aspects of social activity now functioning separately and aimlessly: education, religious devotion, industry, finance, trade, government.
Before adding certain important details to these fundamental tenets, it is desirable to meet the attitude which represents the chief danger to human welfare at this time, namely the opinion that a few superficial alterations in the political and economic organization are sufficient to overcome the difficulties we new confront.
The Nature of World Unrest
Warfare and strife have ever been present in human society, but since the outbreak of military operations in Europe seventeen years ago, the principle of war has been enormously reinforced. The cessation of hostilities by no means meant the termination of war. The military period served to exhaust and destroy all the human and social resources at the command of governments, but the consuming flame was communicated from the field of battle to the broader field of business, where its destructiveness assumed new forms.
In passing from the military to the economic domain, the principle of war escaped the control vested by society in government, which throughout history has served to confine the area and duration of violent combat within the attainment of definite objectives. The principle of war today – that is, the condition of organized conflict – spreads throughout the body of society, engaging all civil activities and setting not only nation against nation but class against class and interest against interest. In this domain no government nor any other social institution is powerful enough to stamp out the flames. Civilization has become one continuous crisis, a state of unending civil war. Meanwhile, under the steady pressure of fear arising as much from the possibility of domestic revolution as of foreign aggression, the military establishments directed by all leading governments have accumulated means of violence sufficient virtually to destroy the human race.
As long as war can be regarded as abnormal, a temporary emergency within the control of responsible governments, ended at will by victory or surrender, its operation does not interrupt fixed social habits nor affect fundamental ideas. A people during war temporarily abandons its civil routine and its inherited moral and religious tenets, as a family abandons a house injured by storm, to re-enter it when the storm has subsided and repair whatever damage has been done. But when the principle of war has carried over from the limited field of government operation to the unlimited field of general social activity, we have a condition in which the inherited capital of social loyalty and constructive idealism is readily impaired. The steady, relentless pressure exercised by a society divided against itself and reduced to the elemental struggle for existence affects the form and nature both of government and other responsible institutions. It affects also the aims and habits of the mass of the people. The failure of social philosophies emanating from ancient religious teachings opens the door to philosophies and doctrines essentially materialistic in aim and outlook. These compete for the control of the state and its complex agencies of legislation, finance and public education, altering radically the traditional relations of political parties. Industry has the alternative of entering this political struggle at the risk of separating the interests of labor, capital and consumer, or of concentrating upon its business task at the risk of finding its international markets crippled by nationalistic policies abroad and its domestic market interfered with by socialistic programs at home. As materialistic philosophies spread among a confused, a burdened and disillusioned people, religious bodies follow industry in its effort to control legislation and education in order to safeguard their special interests and values, with the result that the power of the state to adopt broad and fundamental public policies is sacrificed to the clash of determined interests. Only occasionally, and timidly, can the state rise above this interminable wrangle to consider its true relations to the world situation as a whole.
The individual, meanwhile, finds himself more and more conditioned by this general, ever-changing and menacing competition. He finds himself becoming a lone being in a social jungle threatening his welfare at many points. Isolated goodwill and personal integrity tend to lose their meaning as he finds that they no longer produce their habitual result in terms of his life and work. He feels that there is no longer any connection between ultimate faith and today’s shelter and food. He finds materialism in his church and idealism in his economic party.
Above all, he witnesses the confounding of leadership in high places and recognizes that the balance of competing forces is so complete that no social group can through political influence successfully enforce its will upon the whole population. Under these conditions the final impact of world unrest upon the mass of people is anti-social, manifested in indifference, in uneasy fear or in determination to seek the short cut through direct action.
The combined and successive shock to human nature of the butchery during the war, the depreciation of currencies, the post-war revolutions, unemployment, public dishonesty, and the rise of materialistic philosophies to the stature of fully developed institutions, not to mention other vital factors such as the inadequacy of the education afforded by public school and sectarian church, and the social blindness exhibited by responsible leaders in all fields of human activity since 1914, has been underestimated in the promotion of plans promising general improvement. The ultimate triumph of the principle of war has been to reduce the richly varied capacities of people to the sheer instinct to survive. Society is no longer under control – it is a rudderless ship, an unpiloted plane. No one can predict events, and no authority can deal properly with the emergencies that continually arise.
An adequate social diagnosis, one on which a permanent plan of betterment may be founded, can at this time scarcely afford to overlook these three essential facts: first, that through their inability to establish real peace and their endorsement of universally destructive instruments of warfare, governments no longer protect life and property, but, on the contrary, have become the chief source of peril to mankind; second, that as the result of the concentration of the means of production and distribution, without corresponding social policy, industry and commerce no longer feed, clothe and shelter the people, but, on the contrary, have increased the area and intensity of poverty and destitution; and, third, that through the diversity and strife of creeds, and their materialistic dependence upon civil authority to enforce moral principles, established religion no longer intensifies the inner life of man, relating people one to another in the spirit of cooperation and sincere consultation for mutual protection and general betterment, but, on the contrary, poisons the very sources of loyalty and understanding and fans the flame of competition and dissension which, passing out from the church into life, sanctioned nationalism in the state and self-aggrandisement in business affairs.
By gradual, imperceptible stages, the constructive instruments of civilization have acquired destructive aims. The condition called “peace” is one in which antagonisms and strifes grow to the breaking point within each nation; the condition called “war” is the only one in which people in each nation attain solidarity and exercise collective will. The logical end of either condition is the same.
Regarded from the institutional point of view, this age marks the end of a civilization which no longer serves mankind. From the point of view of human experience, it marks the complete and final frustration of the instinct of physical self-preservation, which man shares with the beast, as the dominating social motive. Both statements reflect the same truth, for it is the instinct of physical self-preservation which throughout history has impelled humanity to organize the competitive institutions of state, industry and church which are miscalled “civilization.”
Disillusion would only be justified if human society could be successfully established on the war principle. An age which has fully proved that war no longer leads to the fruits of victory, and that a competitive economy no longer produces wealth, is an age permeated and sustained by providential forces. The complexity of the problem, and the greatness of the crisis, is in itself the true measure of human capacity.
To realize that antagonism and hatred, no matter how magnified by the leverage of social institutions, no matter how gilded and refined by cultural and doctrinal philosophies, threaten the very existence of humanity, is to perceive that human life functions under other and higher laws than those which condition the life of the brute. It is likewise to perceive that, all along, the external man-made world of civilization has had no true inner correspondence with the spiritual nature and infinitely varied talents, desires and thoughts of the race. Only by continuous suppression of one entire aspect of his being – his latent and passive reality – has man, acting from emergency to emergency, made competition the dominant motive in comparison to cooperation. Both motives are always present; if competition has created governments and industrial systems, the vision of unfulfilled love has supplied the power and inspiration for true music, art and poetry in every age.
The rise of science in the modern age has enormously reinforced the latent powers of men in comparison to those faculties developed during the era of external struggle against the physical environment. Important as its technological achievement has been, the ultimte value of science lies not in its inventions but in its assertion of yet-undeveloped resources within the mind and soul. The faculties that make for discovery in the realm of the material universe can, and will, be employed in the more important realm of spiritual reality. Science restores the balance between man as being and man as desiring and doing. It reveals a new measure of human capacity, and confirms the integrity of the race as the vehicle for further evolution. While the effects of science so far have been negative no less than positive, a spiritual science conceived with the central problem of human welfare can provide the agencies necessary for the functioning of the spirit of cooperation throughout society.
The providential character of the crisis actually consists in the fact that it is a crisis – a challenge to human understanding not to be diverted or put off to a more convenient season. Because it is worldwide, it lays its burden as heavily upon America as Europe, upon the East no less than upon the West, upon government as upon industry, and upon religion as upon government. Humanity shares one universal experience of suffering and grief, bears one unavoidable responsibility, reacts to one supreme stimulus serving to quicken the slumbering, passive “inner” powers – hence humanity grows in understanding of its fundamental reality and is trained to function through collective resources and instruments.
The present unrest has no real meaning or ultimate value until it is recognized as a movement in humanity and only secondarily a disturbance in the institutional elements of civilization. Political exigencies and economic depression have become so acute that the symptoms are mistaken for the actual disease. The first principle, and the foundation upon which the new order stands, is the oneness of humanity – the interdependence of the race in a common origin and destiny. The social organization that now fails to function is one constructed upon the assumption of diversity and separateness, which has produced a society motivated by competition.
The Analogy of Rome
Fortunately, the history of our own civilization offers, on a smaller scale, an era closely paralleling the present condition.
The Roman Empire, at a certain point, also established a civilization opposed to the best interests of humanity. Its institutional society likewise entered a time of “transition” when the competitive instinct began to fail, faced with political, economic and religious problems too complex for solution by traditional means. But through the power of the Christian faith, those problems were transmuted into a higher human process. The claim of that faith no doubt remained consistently ignored or condemned by those indoctrinated with the social science of the period, but the fact remains that the stream of human evolution abandoned the institutions of civilization and flowed onward through the channels of a movement reflecting the needs and capacities of humanity. The restoration of society came about through the loyalty of regenerated individuals welded in a cooperative group, not through the reorganization of tariffs, wages, public statutes and trade. Up to the limit of human capacity, the people of faith constituted a society in which a bond and relationship, like that animating the members of a family, replaced the formal procedures and unfeeling contacts sanctioned by the political and economic science of the ruined state.
The essence of that experience was the triumph of humanity over civilization. The early Christians dipped themselves in the eternal stream of human reality, recovered the vision of God, and armed only with devotion and faith, stood fast against the shocks of a collapsing society and eventually laid the foundation for a “new age.” Their faith in Christ released the mysterious forces of the spirit within; by sacrifice they were able to re-create society on a higher moral basis, nearer the ultimate aim of a cooperative world.
The early Christian world was, however, a definitely limited area, hemmed in by barbaric hordes and prevented from expanding the Christian experience to include humanity. The movement outward came to an end; Christianity organized itself for defence, admitting within itself the fatal influence of dissension and force; the new social body after it had repudiated the law of universal love revealed the presence of spiritual disease by dividing on issues of scientific truth; this fissure gradually widened until Protestantism made it permanent, and modern civilization, with its inner conflict between “secular” and “religious” values was the inevitable result. Nothing in this gradual decay can be made to serve as argument against the true significance of religion. Christianity restored the power of the heart.
The “truth” of Christianity, and of all religions founded by a prophetic spirit, is, however, not a constant but a variable; a rise toward the vision of God, followed by a darkening and degeneration. It is a spring time of spiritual fertility, followed by summer and the harvest of autumn, and terminating in the cold of winter. Civilization may be likened to a clock that must be wound. The historic process that reduced Christianity from a source of inner renewal to a mere institutionalism operated also in the case of Judaism, Muhammadanism, Buddhism and the other religions. Each regenerated an area of humanity, revived civilization, created new and better conditions for mankind and slowly died, to yield place to another prophet and a renewal of faith.
A New Cycle of Human Power
Bahá’u’lláh, whose mission was promulgated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in Europe and America, completed the circle or religion as the expression of man’s real nature and possibility in relation to God, to society and to the physical universe. He joined the arcs described Jesus and the prophets of other races. In his teaching are made those necessary connections between ethics, science and sociology which carry into society and civilization the full integrity of the principle of love. Bahá’u’lláh is the first interpreter of humanity as a unified organism capable of coordinating its resources of mind and heart. “Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country,” Bahá’u’lláh declared more than fifty years ago, “rather let him glory in this, that he loves his kind.” Standing in the same relation of sacrifice toward the unmoral institutions of modern society that Jesus held toward the civilization of Palestine and Rome, Bahá’u’lláh manifested a spiritual power which likewise created a movement of faith and devotion among the people paralleled by exreme hate and antagonism on the part of the official leaders in his environment. Today his teaching has the dimension of history — a story written indelibly in the blood of Persian martyrs.
The movement entered the West in the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who travelled throughout Europe and America during 1911 and 1912 to expound Bahá’u’lláh’s doctrine in relation to the political, economic and social problems of the age.
Speaking in the City Temple, London, in September, 1911 – on the eve of the great war which he foresaw and warned people against – he used these significant words: “This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of the unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundations of true humanity.
“The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.
“In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather cooperation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind. Enmity is now the result of prejudice only…There is one God; mankind is one; the foundations of religion are one. Let us worship Him, and give praise for all His great prophets and messengers who have manifested His brightness and glory.”
This conception of world unrest as the gathering of the latent resources of mankind for release in a “new cycle of human power” emanates from the depths of truth. It focuses in one point the complex issues which specialists in many fields are separately unable to meet; it recovers for human imagination, human understanding and human will the control of events apparently dominated by an uncontrollable social “machine.”
But with this statement should be paralleled another statement, made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Baptist Temple, Philadelphia, June 9, 1912 : “True religion is the source of love and agreement among 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. They follow superstitions inherited from their fathers and ancestors…That which was meant to be conducive to life has become the cause of death; that which should have been an evidence of knowledge is now a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be its degradation. Therefore the realm of the religionist has gradually narrowed and darkened and the sphere of the materialist has widened and advanced; for the religionist has held to imitation and counterfeit, neglecting and discarding holiness and the sacred reality of religion. When the sun sets it is time for bats to fly. They come forth because they are creatures of night.”
Here we have the obverse of the picture – the negative condition opposed to the positive, the blind submission to external, “institutional” truth in contradistinction to faith in human values; in other words, civilization in active opposition to the real interests of humanity. Between these polar extremes, currents of immeasurable power flow through modern society, destroying all forms of organized selfishness and at the same time quickening human minds and hearts with the capacity to realize that only through unity and cooperation can the race survive.
The concentration of moral force and intelligence upon one objective creates a tool for the accomplishment of the greatest task. The objective laid upon conscience and reason alike in this stage of evolution is world order and peace. In this aim the ideals of religion become identical with the requirements of economics and social science.
Up to the economic depression, world peace was held to be merely a political problem, a matter of treaty between the sovereign states. The depression served to reveal the fact that world peace in reality is a question of social justice and not merely the cessation of military strife. It revealed also that from the point of view of social justice the states are no longer sovereign, but have become areas of economic and psychological revolution. This fact makes the League of Nations, as now constituted, an inadequate instrument for international control. It is as though the Federal Government at Washington consisted merely of delegates from nearly fifty sovereign states, whose deliberations to become effective had to be ratified separately by each state legislature and who possessed no Federal army or navy, while each state maintained a complete military establishment in competition with every other state, and refused to yield to Washington any essential elements of its local sovereignty. Such a condition in one country could not be termed a national government, nor can the League be properly regarded as an international government. The League at Geneva seems to represent the limit of attainment possible to the old civilization; it is not yet an organism of humanity.
Objectives of Social Progress
Chaos and revolution will continue, with increased momentum, until social justice creates an instrument of world government, a government possessing the sovereignty of mankind, to which the national states are subordinated as provinces having only local jurisdiction. This is the central issue of the world today, the unescapable obligation written in financial, political, social and moral terms that all may eventually read.
For world government differs from the present national governments not merely through an extension of the physical area of jurisdiction, but in the dimension of social responsibility as well. It alone can effect disarmament, create a safe currency, reconcile the discord of classes, establish an education conforming to basic human needs, and overcome the sinister peril resident in the divergent theories of capitalism and communism. Not until world government exists can the divorce between “religious” and “secular” values be ended, the greatest curse in human experience. World government implies social administration by the elect of mankind – men whose executive talents are imbued with moral principles. It is the partisan politician who maintains social disunity that he may have the privilege of fishing in troubled waters.
World government is the only source of stability for local communities in all nations. The local community today is the victim of the evils of civilization, dragged as it is by the chariot wheels of national politics and large scale industry. In the unemployment prevalent in larger towns and cities, and the prostration of agriculture which saps the life of small towns and villages, we see the brake applied which is gradually bringing civilization to an absolute standstill.
As world government is the first, so a regenerated local community is the second objective of social progress. The essential human relations are all maintained locally. It is our community environment which finally determines the quality of human life. Here our inner attitudes begin that cycle of social influence culminating either in peace or war. Here takes place the impact of education upon the unprejudiced child soul which produces the motives and reactions of adult life.
The transformation needed to make the local community over from the condition of a diseased cell in a disordered social body, into the condition of a healthy cell in a sound organism, is the extension of the social relationship from the political to the economic realm. In a vital social organism, the individual would have not merely the inalienable right to vote and receive the protection of the courts, but also the inalienable right of economic livelihood – not insulting charity but fundamental human right. The political structure today is a sieve through which runs away in loss the noblest aspirations and the most effective motives and qualities of mankind. Nothing can redeem the fact that modern government originated as an agency for the conduct of war rather than for the maintenance of peace.
This new and higher human status, moreover, does not depend upon the success of socialism and far less upon the success of communism. Both these social theories fail to correspond to the standard of human reality. They are, at bottom, an effort to organize materials and processes and not an effort to unify human beings. The emphasis is entirely upon the mechanism instead of upon the nature of man. Their complete application might produce the semblance of external order, but this would be at the expense of the human spirit. Only after we have uncovered the spiritual principles of human association can we evolve a social order corresponding to the divine reality.
Both world government and regenerated local community are possibilities in human evolution the realization of which depends upon the existence of a new scale of personal motives and a new range of social understanding. The ultimate goal of a world economy therefore has a third objective, correlated to the two objectives already outlined. The third objective is the need of spiritual education – the reinforcement of man’s passive idealism to the point where people consciously strive together for mutual ends, and are no longer socially indifferent waiting for “good times” to come of itself or to be received as a gift from a few bankers, manufacturers and statesmen.
The profit motive will not sustain a balanced, enduring civilization. Far stronger, far truer – in fact, far more humanly natural – is the motive of self-expression and fulfilment found in children and surviving in the few artists, artisans and spiritually conscious men and women who refuse to be moulded by the external forces prevailing in their environment. The inadequacy of the profit motive appears when we imagine the result if it were extended to family life. Every family is a cooperative economy attempting to maintain itself in a competitive community. The dissolution of the family marks the end of an age.
At present, education is limited to the aim of assuring personal survival in a competitive society, and the effect of this mental and moral strangulation is to leave the essential core of personality – its understanding of fundamental purpose and its motives – to the overwhelming influence of an already perverted society. As the expression of a collective social mentality, education can and must deal with the basic human values.
Spiritual education has little connection with the systems of education developed by churches for partisan ends. It is education of the whole being for useful life in a united society which derives its laws and principles from the universal law of love. It is education conscious of the modes of social evolution and hence subduing the means of life to its true purpose and outcome. One single generation raised by spiritual education above the false guides who rationalize class, race, national and religious prejudices can give humanity a definite foothold in the new age of cooperation and unity.
These three objectives – world government, a regenerated community and spiritual education – are interdependent. Neither can exist without the other two. All three are latent in human society at the present time. They are emerging to the degree that the highest type of people in all countries recognize one or more of them as the most worthy values for idealism and effort. The sheer inertia of past evolution, however, still carries the race in other directions. By comparing the numbers and resources devoted to the promotion of these three ideals, with the numbers and resources available for the promotion of all vested interests dependent on a competitive order, we appreciate anew the depth of the crisis in which we are plunged.
What is needed above all at this time is a valid source of conviction that, whatever the immediate future may be, bright or dark, the reinforcement of universal truth stands behind the movement toward world order and peace, and that the opposition is in essence negative and will ultimately be overthrown. Conscious faith alone can turn the scale between evolution and revolution, between order and chaos.
Principles of Bahá’u’lláh
Bahá’u’lláh is the source of this conscious faith. His teachings transform political and economic problems into occasions for human virtue and love. A summary of the teachings will emphasize the following essential truths.
- There is an organic cycle in human evolution, marked by the duration of the life of a religion, approximately one thousand years. A social cycle begins with the appearance of a prophetic founder of religion, whose influence and teaching renews the inner life of man and releases a new wave of progress. Each cycle destroys the outworn beliefs and institutions of the former cycle and creates a civilization based on beliefs in closer conformity with actual human needs. This civilization in turn decays, with the passing of time, as human doctrines are substituted for the reality taught by the prophet, and must give way to a fresh conception of God.
- In the past the influence of each founder of religion has been limited to one race or region by reason of the physical separation of the races and nations. The present cycle has worldwide influence and meaning. It upholds faith in the spiritual oneness of humanity and will accomplish the creation of an organic world order. As Bahá’u’lláh is the spiritual proof of the coming of a universal cycle, so the rise of science is its intellectual proof and evidence. The rise of science has made the definite cleavage between the age of competition and the age of cooperation. Science has drawn man up from his physical helplessness in nature, multiplied his powers and at the same time given man an entirely new degree of moral responsibility. If the old tribal morality persists, science will be a destroyer. Its forces can only be controlled by a united humanity striving for the general welfare and well being.
- Sectarian churches will be abandoned and replaced by a spiritual centre in each community devoted to meditation and prayer, without a professional clergy. Religious ideas and practises not in conformity with science are superstitions and will not survive. Not ritual and creed but the inspiration of the prophet’s life and message is the foundation of religion. As science progresses, men will not fail to recognise that humanity has ever depended on the vision of love and brotherhood revealed by the prophets from age to age, and that they have the unique office of inspiring a higher capacity for life through conscious knowledge of the will of God. The prophet is the focal point of human evolution.
- As the local community is dependent upon the national community, so the nation is dependent upon the community of nations. The theory of national sovereignty has been overthrown by the fact of economic interdependence; it should be discarded in political practise. Statesmen are responsible to the Creator for the protection of the people. They must take steps to create a world body on which alone complete sovereignty can be conferred. More essential than the fact that metals and products are distributed throughout the world, beyond the control of any one nation, is the fact that humanity is one organism and must have one law and one executive control. All morality is fulfilled in loyalty to mankind through the orderly processes of world government.
- The law of the struggle for existence does not exist for man when he becomes conscious of his mental and spiritual powers. It is replaced by the higher law of cooperation.Under this higher law the individual will enjoy a far larger status than that of passive political citizenship. His organic rights will include universal education and the means of livelihood. Local communities will be organized so as to give this status effect. Public administration will pass from partisan politics, which betray the people, to those who can regard office as a sacred trusteeship in which they can serve divine principles of justice and brotherhood. Income taxes are to be paid to the local community rather than the national state, which will give the community a secure material basis and enable it to provide the necessary agencies for the welfare and protection of the people. The national treasury is to receive its income from local communities rather than from individuals. The emphasis is thrown back upon the local community, where the issues of life are first raised and are first to be met.The present national state, during the era of war, developed many agencies and instruments which will be unnecessary when an international state is established. The international state will enact statutes making for world order and progress.
- Economic stability depends upon moral solidarity and the realization that wealth is the means and not the end of life, rather than upon the working out of any elaborate socialistic or communistic plan. The essential point is the rise of a new mind, a new spirit of cooperation and mutual help, not universal subservience to a formal system, the effect of which would be to remove all individual moral responsibility. Under conditions of cooperation and peace, the tragedy of unemployment could be transformed into the opportunity for leisure for cultural progress and personal development. Employees are to receive not only wages but also a fixed share of the profit of industry, as partners in the firm. The foundation of industry is agriculture, and first concern must be given those who live and work upon the land. Industry will become simpler as men attain a balance between being and doing.Bahá’u’lláh also reveals a method or system of inheritances by which the handing down of great fortunes can be made to serve the community as a whole, without depriving the individual of a just measure of liberty. By this method, an inheritance is divided into proportionate parts for the surviving relatives, and significantly enough, teachers who have contributed to the decedent’s character and development are given a share of the estate.Another principle emphatically laid down is that loyalty to representative and just government is a requisite of the religious attitude toward society. No justification is given the view that ecclesiastical doctrines and policies can claim a higher loyalty than that rendered the civil state. Faith in God may not be controlled by the state; the state may not require the individual to betray his spiritual conviction; but apart from this, matters of public policy are wholly under government control.
- Neither democracy nor aristocracy alone supply the correct basis for society. Democracy is helpless against internal dissension; aristocracy survives by foreign aggression. A combination of both principles is necessary – the administration of affairs by the elite of mankind, elected by universal suffrage and controlled by a world constitution embodying principles having moral reality.
- The spiritual basis of humanity consists in universal education – combining in every individual both economic and cultural values, coordinating mind and emotion, and quickening the powers of the soul through knowledge of the tenets of true religion. “The source of all knowledge,” as Bahá’u’lláh has said, “is knowledge of God.”The basic social principle confirmed by Bahá’u’lláh is the law of consultation. He has declared that the solution of all problems depends on the sincere meeting for discussion of all parties to the question, and their willingness to abide by the decisions so made. The spark of clashing opinion, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, reveals the truth. At present the “truth” of practically any situation is obscured by prejudices and vested interests. From the human point of view, truth must include all parties. The new social organism cannot be anticipated in detail. It must evolve.
- At this time of transition between the old age of competition and the new age of cooperation, the very life of humanity is in peril. It is a major stage in human history, a turning-point in the evolution of mankind. Between spiritual ignorance, nationalistic ambition, class strife, economic fear and greed, tremendous forces are arrayed for another and fatal international war. Only a divinely sent, providential power, an influence like that of Christ, can avert the supreme catastrophe. The world is in dire need of the conviction of kinship and solidarity, of mutual cooperation and interdependence, of common principles and a definite program combining the validity of religion with the aim and purpose of social science.
The bitter experiences of the past nineteen years throw a revealing light upon the statements made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to public audiences in Europe and America during 1911 and 1912. The following quotations will serve to illustrate the character and scope of his outlook, and indicate the manner in which he appealed to humanity rather than to institutional values.
The Religion of God
“The body politic today is in need of a physician. It is similar to a human body afflicted with severe ailments. A doctor diagnoses the case and prescribes treatment. He does not prescribe, however, until he has made the diagnosis. The disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence of altruism. In the hearts of men no real love is found and the condition is such that unless their susceptibilities are quickened by some power so that unity, love and accord may develop within them, there can be no healing, no agreement among mankind. Love and unity are the needs of the body politic today. Without these there can be no progress or prosperity attained. Therefore the friends of God must adhere to the power which will create this love and unity in the hearts of the sons of men. Science cannot cure the illness of the body politic. Science cannot create amity and fellowship in human hearts. Neither can patriotism nor racial allegiance effect a remedy. It must be accomplished solely through the divine bounties and spiritual bestowals which have descended from God in this day for that purpose. This is an exigency of the times and the divine remedy has been provided. The spiritual teachings of the religion of God alone can create this love, unity and accord in human hearts.” (June 8, 1912, at 309 West 78th St., New York City.)
The Body Politic
“Although the body politic is one family, yet because of lack of harmonious relations some members are comfortable and some in direct misery, some members are satisfied and some members are hungry, some members are clothed in most costly garments and some families are in need of food and shelter. Why? Because this family (of mankind) lacks the necessary reciprocity and symmetry. This household is not well arranged. This household is not living under a perfect law. All the laws which are legislated do not insure happiness. They do not provide comfort, Therefore a law must be given to this family by means of which all the members will enjoy well being and happiness.” (September, 1912, at a meeting of Socialists, Montreal.)
Socialism and Communism
“The question of socialization is very important. It will not be solved by strikes for wages. All the governments of the world must be united and organize an assembly the members of which should be elected from the parliaments and the nobles of the nations. These must plan with utmost wisdom and power so that neither the capitalist may suffer from economic losses nor the labourers become needy. In the utmost moderation they should make the law, then announce to the public that the rights of the working people are to be strongly protected; also the rights of the capitalists are to be protected. When such a general plan is adopted by the will of both sides, should a strike occur, all the governments of the world collectively should resist it. Otherwise, the labor problem will lead to much destruction, especially in Europe. Terrible things will take place. “The owners of properties, mines and factories should share their incomes with their employees and give a certain fair percentage of their products to their workingmen in order that the employees may receive, beside their wages, some of the general income of the factory, so that the employee may strive with his heart in the work.” (Spoken in 1912 at the home of a government official, reported in Star of the West, vol. 13, page 231.)
“Lycurgus, king of Sparta, who lived long before the day of Christ, conceived the idea of absolute equality in government. He proclaimed laws by which all the people of Sparta were classified into certain divisions…Lycurgus, in order to establish this forever as a law, brought nine thousand grandees together, told them he was going upon a long journey and wished this form of government to remain effective until his return. They swore an oath to protect and preserve his law. He then left his kingdom, went into voluntary exile, and never returned. No man ever made such a sacrifice to insure equality among his fellowmen. A few years passed and the whole system of government he had founded collapsed, although established upon such a wise and just basis.
“Difference of capacity in human individuals is fundamental. It is impossible for all to be alike, all to be equal, all to be wise. Bahá’u’lláh has revealed principles and laws which will accomplish the adjustment of varying human capacities.” (July 1, 1912, at 309 West 78th St., New York City.)
Material and Spiritual Civilization
“In the western world material civilization has attained the highest point of development but divine civilization was founded in the land of the East. The East must acquire material civilization from the West and the West must receive spiritual civilization from the East. This will establish a mutual bond. When these two come together, the world of humanity will present a glorious aspect and extraordinary progress will be achieved.” (June 2, 1912, at Church of the Ascension, New York City.)
“While thousands are considering these questions, we have more essential purposes. The fundamentals of the whole economic condition are divine in nature and are associated with the world of the heart and spirit. This is fully explained in the Bahá’í teaching, and without knowledge of its principles no improvement in the economic state can be realized…Economic questions are most interesting, but the power which moves, controls and attracts the hearts of men is the love of God.” (July 23, 1912, at Hotel Victoria, Boston.)
The Supreme Tribunal
“At present Universal Peace is a matter of great importance, but unity of conscience is essential, so that the foundation of this matter may become secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong…Although the League of Nations has been brought into existence, yet it is incapable of establishing Universal Peace. But the Supreme Tribunal which His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh has described will fulfil this sacred task with the utmost might and power. And his plan is this: that the national assemblies of each country and nation – that is to say parliaments – should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of that nation, and are well informed concerning international laws and the relations between governments, and aware of the essential needs of the world of humanity in this day. The number of these representatives should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants of that country. The election of these souls who are chosen by the national assembly, that is, the parliament, must be confirmed by the upper house, the congress and the cabinet and also by the president or monarch so that these persons may be the elected ones of all the nations and the government. From among these people the members of the Supreme Tribunal will be elected, and all mankind will thus have a share therein, for every one of these delegates is fully representative of his nation. When the Supreme Tribunal gives a ruling on any international question, either unanimously or by majority rule, there will no longer be any pretext for the plaintiff or ground of objection for the defendent. In case any of the governments or nations, in the execution of the irrefutable decision of the Supreme Tribunal, be negligent or dilatory, the rest of the nations will rise up against it, because all the governments and nations of the world are supporters of this Supreme Tribunal. Consider what a firm foundation this is! But by a limited and restricted League the purpose will not be realized as it ought and should.” (December 17, 1919, in a letter written to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace, The Hague.)
The Oneness of Reality
“The source of perfect unity and love in the world of human existence is the bond and oneness of reality. When the divine and fundamental reality enters human hearts and lives, it conserves and protects all states and conditions of mankind, establishing that intrinsic oneness of the world of humanity which can only come into being through the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit is like unto the life in the human body, which blends all differences of parts and members in unity and agreement.
“Consider how numerous are these parts and members, but the oneness of the animating spirit of life unites them all in perfect combination. It establishes such a unity in the bodily organism that if any part is subjected to injury or becomes diseased all the other parts and functions sympathetically respond and suffer owing to the perfect oneness existing. Just as the human spirit of life is the cause of coordination among the various parts of the human organism, the Holy Spirit is the controlling cause of the unity and coordination of mankind. That is to say, the bond or oneness of humanity cannot be effectively established save through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the world of humanity is a composite body and the Holy Spirit is the animating principle of its life…
“Today the greatest need of the world is the animating, unifying presence of the Holy Spirit. Until it becomes effective, penetrating and interpenetrating hearts and spirits, and until perfect reasoning faith shall be implanted in the minds of men, it will be impossible for the social body to be inspired with security and confidence. Nay, on the contrary, enmity and strife will increase day by day and the difference and divergences of nations will be woefully augmented. Continual additions to the armies and navies of the world will be made, and the fear and certainty of the great pandemic war – the war unparalleled in history – will be intensified.” (September 16, 1912, at 5338 Kenmore Avenue, Chicago.)
“The most important principle of divine philosophy is the oneness of the world of humanity, the unity of mankind, the bond conjoining East and West, the tie of love which binds human hearts…For thousands of years we have had bloodshed and strife. It is enough; it is sufficient. Now is the time to associate together in love and harmony.
“All the divine Manifestations have proclaimed the oneness of God and the unity of mankind. They have taught that men should love and mutually help each other in order that they might progress. Now if this conception of religion be true, its essential principle is the oneness of humanity. The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice. The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all.” (April 19, 1912, at Columbia University, New York City.)
The Divine Prophets
“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 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 human foundations established by the heavenly educators.
“Therefore there is need of turning back to the original foundation. The fundamental principles of the prophets are true and correct. The imitations and superstitions which have crept in are at wide variance with the original precepts and commands. His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh has revoiced and re-established the quintessence of the teachings of all the prophets, setting aside the accessories and purifying religion from human interpretation.” (May 3, 1912, at Hotel Plaza, Chicago.)
“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.” (May 24, 1912, at Unitarian Conference, Boston.)
“The divine Manifestations since the day of Adam have striven to unite humanity so that all may be accounted as one soul. The function and purpose of a shepherd is to gather and not disperse his flock. The prophets of God have been divine shepherds of humanity. They have established a bond of love and unity among mankind, made scattered peoples one nation and wandering tribes a mighty kingdom. They have laid the foundation of the oneness of God and summoned all to Universal. Peace. All these holy, divine Manifestations are one. They have served one God, promulgated the same truth, founded the same institutions and reflected the same light. Their appearances have been successive and correlated: each one has announced and extolled the one who was to follow and all laid the foundation of reality. They summoned and invited the people to love and made the human world a mirror of the World of God. Therefore the divine religions they established have one foundation; their teachings, proofs and evidences are one; in name and form they differ but in reality they agree and are the same.” (May 28, 1912, at Metropolitan Temple, New York City.)
The Divine Spirit of the Age
“That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race could neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day and period of newness and consummation…From every standpoint the world of humanity is undergoing a reformation. The laws of former governments and civilizations are in process of revision, scientific ideas and theories are developing and advancing to meet a new range of phenomena…This is the cycle of maturity and reformation in religion as well. Dogmatic imitations of ancestral beliefs are passing. They have been the axis around which religion revolved but now are no longer useful; on the contrary, in this day they have become the cause of human degradation and hindrance.
“Heavenly teachings applicable to the advancement in human conditions have been revealed in this merciful age. This reformation and renewal of the fundamental reality of religion constitute the true and outworking spirit of modernism, the unmistakable light of the world, the manifest effulgence of the Word of God, the divine remedy for all human ailments and the bounty of eternal life to all mankind.
“His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, the Sun of Truth, has dawned from the horizon of the Orient, flooding all regions with the light and life which will never pass away. His teachings which embody the divine spirit of the age and are applicable to this period of maturity in the life of the human world are: The oneness of the world of humanity; the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit; The foundation of all religion is one; Religion must be the cause of unity; Religion must accord with science and reason; Independent investigation of truth; Equality between men and women; The abandonment of prejudice; Universal Peace; Universal educatian; A universal language; Solution of the economic problem; An International Tribunal.
“Everyone who truly seeks and justly reflects will admit that the teachings of the present day emanating from mere human sources and authority are the cause of difficulty and disagreement amongst mankind, the very destroyers of humanity, whereas the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are the very healing of the sick world, the remedy for every need and condition. In them may be found the realization of every desire and aspiration, the cause of the happiness of the world of humanity, the stimulus and illumination of mentality, the impulse for advancement and uplift, the basis of unity for all nations, the fountain source of love amongst mankind, the center of agreement, the means of love and harmony, the one bond which will unite the East and the West.” (November 17, 1912, at Genealogical Hall, New York City.)
Immeasurable Upward Progress
“In this present cycle there will be an evolution in civilization unparalleled in the history of the world. The world of humanity has heretofore been in the stage of infancy; now it is approaching maturity. Just as the individual human organism, having attained the period of maturity, reaches its fullest degree of physical strength and ripened intellectual faculties, so that in one year of this ripened period there is witnessed an unprecedented measure of development, likewise the world of humanity in this cycle of its completeness and consummation will realize an immeasurable upward progress.” (April 21, 1912, 1219 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D. C.)
“According to an intrinsic law, all phenomena of being attain to a summit and degree of consummation, after which a new order and condition is established. As the instruments and science of war have reached the degree of thoroughness and proficiency, it is hoped that the transformation of the human world is at hand and that in the coming centuries all the energies and inventions of man will be utilized in promoting the interests of peace and brotherhood…
“The powers of earth cannot withstand the privilege and bestowals which God has ordained for this great and glorious century. Peace is a need and exigency of the time. Man can withstand anything except that which is divinely intended and indicated for the time and its requirements.
Now, praise be to God, in all countries of the world peace lovers are to be found and these principles are being spread among mankind, especially in this country. Praise be to God, this thought is prevailing and souls are continually arising as defenders of the oneness of humanity, endeavouring to assist and establish international peace. There is no doubt that this wonderful democracy will be able to realize it and the banner of international agreement will be unfurled here to spread onward and outward among all the nations of the world.” (May 13, 1912, at meeting of New York Peace Society, Hotel Astor.)
“May America become the distributing centre of spiritual enlightenment and all the world receive this heavenly blessing. For America has developed powers and capacities greater and more wonderful than other nations. While it is true that its people have attained a marvellous material civilization, I hope that spiritual forces will animate this great body and a corresponding spiritual civilization be established.” (April 16, 1912, at Hotel Ansonia, New York City.)
“Though these quotations are but a few fragments of the complete text, nevertheless they reveal the outline of a religious philosophy which penetrates to the soul of history and explains the strange disorders tormenting the present age. In Bahá’u’lláh a spiritual Sun has arisen above the darkness of the world, a touchstone dividing the false and the true, compelling a final, struggle between the forces of materialism and those of reality. He evokes a new and universal loyalty which alone can sustain the burden of world administration and develop in men their latent higher powers. He reinforces the hope of peace and the desire for social justice, by the assurance that they emanate from the very order of human evolution. Enshrined in the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the principle of a worldwide social structure, an organism fitted to the present needs of humanity. His teachings universalize the teachings given by prophets in the past.
The attempt of modern science to establish a psychology as definite and as authentic as biology is like the fish’s to leap a waterfall’s upstream. Long ago had our racial consciousness slipped over the brink of spiritual power into the shallows below. Our self-knowledge has come to be determined by that inferior level where power may sometimes, indeed, flow in as from above, but where power is neither to be created nor maintained. Perhaps it would be more accurate to assert that psychology has ceased even attempting to re-ascend the stream: officially, at least, it is more like the second generation of fish that, spawned beneath the falls, feels only a vague instinct of the height which gives its own waters renewal. In modern psychology as taught in the schools there may be much logos, but there is no psyche. The mind’s camera has been exposed in a darkened room.
For the essence of this matter is that the psyche is not spiritual fact observable, but a spiritual power to observe all fact. It is not a series of mysterious observations which can be organized into authentic knowledge, it is a mysterious but authentic gift to know. It is not an image of things within which may or may not be real; it is an inner eye which may or may not be possessed. True genius, scientific as well as religious, has always been aware of this fact.
The method of this “psychology” was borrowed, of course, from natural science. Natural science is organized knowledge, definite fact, authenticated observation. Its field of observation is nature; its power of observation is intellect. Now intellect transcends the phenomena of nature as the physical eye transcends the objects upon which it turns its vision. The intellect may, indeed, misapprehend the significance of phenomena in particular instances, as in particular instances the eye may erroneously determine perspective, but from the very nature of things the most unintelligent mind cannot fall to a level of consciousness lower than the phenomenon itself. Its relative advantage remains secure in the same way that the relative advantage between vision and visioned remains secure to the eye. Here there can be no question of the knower slipping downstream with respect to the thing known. Man is fast anchored upstream to the rest of nature as the animal is anchored upstream to the plant, or the plant to the mineral. The problem of natural science, therefore, was never the problem of establishing its own power to know, but merely to establish authentic knowledge of things knowable from the beginning. The mind has grown more accurate through training, but the mind was trained, not created, by its dealings with natural phenomena. Mind created science, science did not create mind. But because our age has been influenced, with respect to consciousness, by the authority of the natural sciences more than from any other source, we have come unquestioningly to accept the dictum of science concerning the proper method of investigating consciousness itself.
But the essential superiority of the knower to the known which obtains between rational intelligence and natural phenomena by no means determines the relation of knower to known as between rational consciousness and the essential nature of man. The most that any psychologist can claim for his own consciousness is that it exists, but its existence, obviously, is conditioned by its position relative to the entire stream. The psychologist’s self-consciousness may appear to him complete and aware of no higher existences, but this very completeness may conceivably correspond to a mere stagnant pool shut off from the main current. For even the most dogmatic psychologist cannot avoid the differentiation between minds, the differentiation manifested perceptibly between Shakespeare and his readers, for example, or between Christ and his followers. But the materialistic psychologist explains all such differentiation without altering the essential character of his own consciousness in the least—without even, apparently, realizing any need for altering it. He explains genius, whether religious or artistic, by establishing its factors in terms of heredity, environment or physiological status. Genius appears to him either a greater accumulation of elements present in every mind, or their mere superior arrangement, or, on the contrary, their disarrangement into abnormal states. In other words, he translates the phenomena of consciousness into a medium lower than consciousness itself. He breaks consciousness up into elements similar in degree to the elements which are the raw material, the objective, of natural science. Since the psychologist cannot remove the manifestation of genius—its religion or its poetry—he solicits every possible circumstance of heredity, environment and physiology to sustain his own inherent, unalterable conscious perspective, thereby, for the unwary, obscuring the very fact at issue: that genius is not the power of impression but the power of expression. Genius renders from the inside out, while the psychologist can only register from the outside in. He consequently emphasizes heredity, environment and physiological status because these are all three alike external, material conditions supremely significant to minds whose power of impression surpasses their power of expression, though they are supremely insignificant to minds conscious of possessing an independent creative force. This is not to assert that heredity, environment and physiological factors do not condition expression, for they do; but their influence is limited to conditioning the form, the extent and sometimes the direction which expression assumes: not one of them singly, not all combined, can explain the force by which they are shaken into significant patterns of character and art. Heredity may be as the oil of the lamp, environment may be as the colored globe, and physiological status as the wick, but genius is the flame. To establish the formula of genius in terms of neurotic instability is to betray unmistakably at last the spiritual prostitution to which science has fallen in these latter days. Its triumph is the triumph of logic merely, which convinces only those who start from the same premise; an ominous triumph in this case, since the authority of science has been able to transform much of the world’s reverence for valuable spiritual gifts into indifference or sympathetic contempt as for the victim of some mysterious mental ill.
Though responsibility for accepting a material psychology may be forgiven the general, it is more difficult to overlook the responsibility of the scientist himself. He should have recalled the early history of his own subject, the days of Galileo and Kepler, when reason itself, as the power of establishing authentic laws of matter, was upstream to the priest’s consciousness; when the priest, consequently, began his attack against reason by denying its validity and ended by condemning it as a dangerous perversion of human nature. In those days the scientist had to defend himself against a consciousness intellectually so much lower that its attack must have seemed as unreasonable to him as would be the attack of so many trees. But today the psychologist himself, since he cannot create art must obviously be downstream to the artist, just as, since he cannot create devoted faith and self-sacrifice among multitudes of people over centuries of time, he must be even farther downstream with respect to the founders of religion. Had the modern materialist, however, realized the case of his own predecessor, he might have felt himself into the profound truth so far denied his reason; that while language is universal, experience is confined to those inhabiting the same spiritual domain. Religious conviction today, in a world of rational materialism, occupies the same position relative to the scientist as the scientist, in those days of dominant theology, occupied relative to the priest. The position is that of a Macbeth against whom advances the nightmare of Birnum wood.
Into a world rationalized as regards ideal if not action, religion has unexpectedly returned, renewing in men the strange lost sense of the soul. Slipping easily through the meshes of biological “truth,” and become a force in consciousness itself, this spiritual renaissance cannot be denied—like an angel in the garrison it can only be recognized and obeyed. By individuals, religious experience can be cherished for its own sake in the very teeth of reason; but one may be certain that in this pragmatic age religion may not establish social forms until science has come to terms with its every claim. The task of testing religion, of course, was never rightly the province of biology, and only appeared so while religion was considered in the perspective of history. In the personal perspective, which its return compels, the task falls once more to psychology. But the psychology born of natural science, as shown, rests upon an absolutely false premise. Its premise does not contain that easily vulnerable falsehood which can be disclosed in terms of the correspondence of phenomena; its premise is the more impregnable falsehood consisting in the fact that the psychologist himself is essentially incapable of fulfilling his function. It is not his method which fails, but his experience. He develops his mental film capably enough. The trouble is that the film is blank.
To indict the psychology, therefore, is to indict the psychologist himself. But to indict the psychologist is also to render verdict against the society accepting a premise whose error it never required an elaborate laboratory or special instruction to expose, but only the determination of the individual heart to safeguard its own fairest hope. Society accepted a material psychology because its strongest determination fell in the material world. Spiritual affirmation there has been, even under the reign of the gods of coal and iron, but affirmation which cast back to the days when science could reasonably be ignored. Increasingly now there is spiritual experience among those who would not ignore science even if they could, but these minds still hesitate to press their claims against an authority traditionally opposed to that claim, and one whose method and positive achievement they rightly admire.
The scientific mind came to be considered the true type of supreme intelligence as the result of three distinct influences: the triumph of science over theology in the question of facts; the positive achievement of science in its own field; and last but not least, the rise of universal education. The rapid spread of literacy, and the growing need of education as part of one’s equipment for labor, served to identify science with the new effectiveness and advantages of education itself. Knowledge came to imply book knowledge, and the reader of books attributed his own new sense of increased power, naturally enough, to the sources from which it was chiefly supplied. The triumph of natural science as ideal standard of truth was made complete by the basis it seemed to render all men for a conviction of intellectual self-sufficiency. But universal education was made possible only by enthroning the lowest of all intellectual faculties, memory. Memory alone will give the student possession enough of his texts to meet an institutional standard, because institutional standards necessarily make education a matter of receptivity; and the mastery of only a few books under this system creates in the student’s mind the conviction that he could, if he so desired, succeed to the heritage of all human wisdom. All human wisdom supposedly being reducible to three feet of wood-pulp and leather. It would be merely a question of adding more rungs to the ladder already begun. This feeling on the part of students has created a tendency on the part of their masters to re-write all old works for which a new need was felt—especially history and philosophy—and to re-write them in terms of the modern standard. In the process of translating history and philosophy into the language of economic values, much unsound material undoubtedly was cut away; but the translators cut away also even more material which had permanent significance as witnessing the faith of men in their own spiritual destiny. Faults of an unscientific material were attributed to the maker’s mind; an easy superiority of fact was considered an equally easy superiority of intelligence. Thus another influence was added to the economic pressure already operating toward opportunism, and cooperating with it prevented the average person from perceiving the gap intervening between the receptive mind, whose faculty is memory, and the creative mind, whose faculty is insight. The heritage to all human wisdom, the proud boast of democracy in education, is a heritage of external fact merely. To the true heritage of wisdom, the quality attaching to minds independently of their material, there have appeared few heirs; for minds so trained, so penetrated from the beginning with the need to go on, ever on, through field after field of fact, seldom have opportunity to realize that there soon comes a point where the longest ladder will not serve, but wings are required. Never suspecting his own inadequate psychic instrument, the modern layman does not suspect the inadequacy of the scientist’s intelligence for the task of psychology. The scientist, indeed, has only succeeded to the Parthian victory of the priest—that victory whose tragedy consists in the fact that, having been too easily won, it leads the victor to overestimate his own powers.
For these reasons, then, the nineteenth century was content to huddle upon one small island in the sea of human consciousness. It not only cut itself off from the larger area of ancient experience, but even vaunted its own ability to do so as the symbol of truest intellectual freedom. But that small island has been revealed in all its abject desolation by the War. Two waves of experience, rolling from opposite directions, have overwhelmed it forever: the soldier’s consecration to a spiritual power not received from without but welling up in his own being, and the civilian’s realization that social stability, even for prosperity on its lowest terms, requires a directive force not resident in the scientific ideal. The scientific ideal has served not life but death, thereby revealing itself less as the criminal to be punished than as the servant to be put under control. Its authority to establish a final standard of truth has, at any rate, been discredited; the problem now is rather to organize a new conviction than to reinterpret an old doubt.
As a matter of fact, at the very moment when the cleavage appears between consciousness and natural phenomena, the real contribution science has made the race in the way of thought now first becomes evident. Turning once more, in the light of personal aspiration, to direct contact with spiritual conviction in its original sources, we are struck by the fact that this conviction, from lack of precise and mutual knowledge, possessed an inadequate instrument of thought by which to express itself to other minds. The soul of the older, pre-scientific race expressed itself as a kind of poetry, by allusion and image; expression whose content is therefore necessarily limited to those sharing the key. Real enough to the possessor, religion became dark and shadowy in the process of transfer from one to another mind. Viewed from the perspective of inexperience, its concepts are as actors whose backs are turned to the audience, losing the plot in the mazes of half-heard echo. The man of religion spoke a language apart, a lover’s language, certain that his every wingéd word would find a nest in the heart of him moved by the same passion; unable to image that passion completely to the cold. In other words, religion was given the race in the form of implicit knowledge, a knowledge continually betrayed when translated into the medium of customary speech. But science, creating an external universe mutually perceptible and firmly grasped, has made knowledge explicit. Steeped in the habits of explicit thought, the modern mind differs from the ancient mind not so much in thinking different thoughts as in thinking the same thoughts in a different way. Science has placed the transfer of experience upon a new, socialized basis. The actor now faces his audience, revealing the whole plot. One mind can give its all to another mind through their mutual possession of the same external universe. Slowly but surely knowledge has been turned inside out. This fact, the necessity of science, is also the opportunity of religion. For the first time may we perceive another’s as positive light in the world of communicable thought, not merely as negative shadow. For the first time is the mystery of being captured from knowledge, where it perishes, and given the knower, where it lives on. For the first time also can religion be socialized above and beyond ritual and form on the plane of instruction. And the development of mind as self-consciousness from thought implicit to thought explicit actually turns both ways, enabling us to perceive at last that religion and science required one another from the beginning—that the relation of one to the other, in fact, is nothing more or less than the relation of soul and body in the social organization.
If the real problem at issue were the difference in degree which exists between the consciousness of the material psychologist, or the believer in material psychology, and the man who has undergone spiritual experience, the argument would stick fast on the shoals of practical impossibility. But this is not the problem at issue. However it may appear, spiritual experience is not a personal, untransferable gift, like talent or temperament. The chief point to be examined is less that the “spiritual” mind differs from the “material” mind in degree than that, wherever on the stream of reality the latter happens to be located, it faces the other way. The material mind faces downstream. This is the source of their disagreement, that the scientific attitude has its back to the religious attitude. The scientific attitude is concerned with a reality not only downstream to spiritual attainment, but downstream to its own being. Its point of view upon the human drama is the point of view of the lower natural order. The properties of its spectacles it attributes to its eye.
For the basis of science is the conviction that conscious states derive as effects from physiological conditions. This conviction is one capable of proof. The proof itself is unquestionably sound to those establishing it. The proof consists of fact as well as theory, of demonstration as well as hypothesis. The proof cannot rationally be denied, but actually, however, it can be overstepped. For physiological conditions, while they do determine states of consciousness, and do so in human conduct as rigorously as the procedure of mathematics, are causal only for the minds facing downstream. The law holds, but it is not the only law. For minds facing upstream—even from the bottom of the stream itself—another law, apparently contradictory, operates. For the consciousness which has learned to seek its reality upstream, in the spiritual order, that which was cause becomes effect, and that which was effect becomes cause. Consciousness dilates, aware of itself as knower rather than mere repository of knowledge, as steadfast love rather than capricious lover; regards its previous state as death compared to life, as seed compared with flower; and stepping as it were from the moonlight of reflected being into the sunlight of being direct and essential, perceives the tyranny of nature replaced by the intimate regard of one all-sustaining Friend. This is the difference, then, between the two attitudes we call spiritual and material: that the spiritualized mind faces the sun of life, the materialized mind its own projected shadow.
Much confusion exists as the result of the terms “inner” life and “outer” life, which serve less to distinguish the upstream from the downstream of consciousness than to oppose inactivity to activity of conduct. The mind turned upon itself for nourishment too frequently asks for bread and receives a stone. The mind’s sustenance is actually not what it contains, in the way of acquired ideas or even personal talents, but what it receives, in the way that a spring receives fresh water or a flower receives light. The well-stored mind, especially the mind with a talent, undoubtedly has, in comparison, a semblance of independent “inner” life, but this independence is by comparison merely, as by comparison the camel is able to go without food. The real life of man is not thought but recognition of God. The first step toward real life is not to acquire more ideas, but to effect a different attitude. In other words, the first step is to turn consciousness about from a downstream perception to a perception upstream. This involves the mind as the mirror of reality, not as the storehouse of impressions. Memory and imagination are not concerned; what is concerned is insight, the dove sent forth from the ark of consciousness to find a point of dry land.
Here lies the preliminary difficulty which diverts many modern minds from spiritual attainment to psychic development—that in and by itself the intelligence is not a boat which can readily be turned about, but rather like the breath by which the mirror is obscured. The capacity of minds to take on new ideas and discard old ones is not like the ship’s freedom of movement about the sea, but the passenger’s freedom about the ship. It does not avoid the consequences of wreck, if toward wreck the vessel is directed. All the customary faculties, memory, will, reason, which in the material mind are concerned with the lesser interest, and exist in terms of the lesser interest, must be detached from that object and made to function for a different end. That change in the character of consciousness which transmutes material into spiritual being depends upon an awareness of self not as passenger in the ship, but as the ship itself.
Spiritual development, consequently, is a matter of humility, that humility which follows the loss of the sense of independence self-contained. The true nature of humility is not hateful self-abasement, but the perception of an object of devotion which creates a joy so profound that self is forgot. An example of real humility is the youth possessing elements of greatness in art. At this stage, the mind is downstream to attainment, but pointed upstream to attainment in others because this attitude serves the instinctive best interests of the awakening mind. It receives impressions from the masterpieces of art in the only way that impressions retain their dynamic quality, by giving them entrance into the mind as from above, in terms of the same qualities by virtue of which the masterpieces were originally created. It reverences that aspect of other minds which it reverences in itself. Genius is far nearer the attitude of humility than is mediocrity. It is the capacity for humility which sets one upon the way of power. That capacity is never a matter of the physical will, whose instinct is to dominate, but of the spiritual will, whose nature is to be inspired. In the spiritual world, the virtues arrange themselves in a scale the reverse of the physical virtues. Possession and domination follow last; the foremost are obedience and response.
But obedience and response bring strength only to the mind which has found levels of being higher than its own. To respond to new impulses within self, originated by self, merely substitutes one incapacity for another. Darkness can not drive itself away, it flees only from light. Efforts to achieve religion through a mere understanding of new ideas may change the image in the mirror; it will not remove the blur. One confronts the fact here that religion has nearly everywhere been reduced to the lower terms of knowledge or conduct, so that society closes round the inquiring mind a darkness like its own. All things of all lives can be explained in terms of material intelligence, for every experience entering the material intelligence, either at first or second hand, takes on the shadow of the closed room. The problem as to whether spiritual reality actually exists is not like the question as to whether a certain picture hangs in a locked room, which depends upon the picture, but the question is whether the picture contains the quality of beauty, which depends also upon the inquiring eye.
The book of Job is the eternal drama of the search for God, for spiritual reality, on the part of a consciousness surrounded by materialism. The name of religion is constantly employed, and the authority of religion freely acknowledged, but the miracle of the spiritual life cannot be performed. Job himself was one with his environment until cast outside its resources by extremity of misfortune and pain. Even when feeling himself outside, he turns again and again to it for consolation. Job’s friends typify the various ideas held about the spiritual life by complacently darkened minds. One and all, these are but material attitudes disguised under the terminology of faith. One and all, they represent mind in its relation to the downstream of experience—their content is derived from the usages of society, and all they actually know of the eagle is the empty net. The God of Job’s friends is nature adapted to the social organism. But the walls of Job’s mind have been broken through as by the weight of a falling tree. He has learned the limit of darkness for the first time through the power of light. Little by little his being adapts itself to the direct rays of the sun, until his intelligence formulates the astonishment of the sprouted seed. He stands outside himself as the sprout stands outside the seed; all his senses respond to their vital power of expansion through a new cycle of growth. From being one who had derived all his happiness from possession, he becomes one who brings to possession a greater joy. From being dependent on things, he learns to render the material world to his new vision as means to an end. He learns that spiritual reality is not the mirage of social prosperity, but social prosperity is its mirage. He learns that the way to God is not that narrow, crowded gate which typifies social competition, but the freedom of every sail to receive the wind once the sail has been unfurled. The path of the spirit brings many agonies, but these have to do with unfurling the sails; never do they mean that the wind has fallen to a dead calm.
In his endeavor to reach upstream to that self we make remote under the cloudy title “soul,” Job left behind every element of thought and emotion, every faculty and attribute, and breasted the current only by becoming one selfless detachment from desire. His consciousness passed as it were through the narrow door of death, where the back carries no burden and the hands no gift. His lost lands and his lost loves merely objectify his loss of the habitual factors of self; his physical agony in the same way represents supreme mental confusion, the quivering patches of shadow and light. But on the further side of that door, when the process came to fulfillment, to Job was rendered back his memory and will, his desires and thoughts and emotions, his recognitions and relationships—all the possessions of self by which being is maintained. But their moment of annihilation in “death” had severed their attachment to the physical centers of life; and their return was as the agencies of spirit. Immortality ascended into his life as sap to the bud in spring. Without physical death, he entered heaven from the earth of his own nature. The heaven he entered was not merely that easier environment which allows “soul” to exist as summer allows existence to the butterfly; it was itself established through the power of his own new perception. Soul does not come by wishing for heaven—heaven comes with the attainment of soul. All the emphasis religion brings to bear on life, in material societies, is vain and sterile by reason of our submission to the mere continuity of time. We remain on the surface of self as the fly upon water. We recognize the supreme transformations of death, but we attribute them to the physical death shared by the serpent and the weed. We develop the strength of giants for the downstream of things, but for their upstream reality we remain as children in the womb. The defensive armor we have cast from our bodies we still retain for our minds. We avoid the Armageddon of self by keeping within that darkened cave where the sun of truth enters not.
There are three stages in spiritual development; the first is that in which consciousness is like the passengers in a ship, borne they know not where; in the second stage, consciousness becomes as it were the ship itself; but in the third stage it seems like the very sea. To the ship, storms are ominous, fatal—to the sea they are passages of its eternal music, evidences of its greatness, renewers of its power. From this condition the soul looks out upon the world neither as conqueror nor slave, but as an actor in the drama of God.
The reason that a spiritual leader like Gandhi seems to be recognized by the world more readily than is the spiritual Servant, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, comes from the fact that Gandhi’s influence operates directly in the field of politics, which everybody understands and most people consider supremely important, while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s influence operates directly upon the unseen world of the soul, which alas few people give the first or in fact any vital place in the scheme of life. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was and is invisible to all save those who are truly humble: to them he is more visible than the sun. In the steadfastness of this supreme conviction the friends of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá may gaze serenely out upon the epic happenings of the day, beholding Job relived in the struggles and agonies of humanity itself; pain multiplied everywhere as never before, until through darkness as of annihilation, men become aware of the sound of the Voice of God.