By Horace Holley

The Universe of Palomar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man’s Inner World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conscience: The Mirror Hung in a Darkened Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sectarianism—From Creation to Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internationalism: The End of an Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Education—The Instrument of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manifestation of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Elsie Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Horace Holley

1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2.

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

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

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

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

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

 

3.

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

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

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

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

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

 

4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

7.

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

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

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

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

To what degree can this movement be fulfilled?

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

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

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

 

8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Stanwood Cobb

1.

Religious bigotry and prejudice are chiefly due to religions being viewed as historical rather than as functional events. The followers of every great world religion tend to look upon their own revelation and the institutions built around it as unique in the history of the planet and consequently to deny the authenticity of other world religions. Hence a bitter rivalry has arisen between religions making such monopolistic claims.

When, however, we take a scientific view of a religion as functional in the development of humanity we are able to look not only with tolerance but with sympathy at other religions than our own. Wherever a sincere spiritual force is effective in the lives of a people, there we see a religion which we may respect. When, however religious expression degenerates into institutionalism either at home or abroad, we may know that religion is no longer performing its normal function.

The function of religion is: first, to make humanity God-conscious; second, to make humanity obedient to the Divine Will (this implies today the unifying of humanity); and third, to bring to each human being the understanding of how to make use of prayer and guidance and thus take advantage of the inestimable privileges offered man by the Divine Power in the way of communion and help.

 

2.

Religions do not come into being by accident. No great historic epoch and no section of the world has been deprived by Destiny of the opportunity to acquire the priceless treasures of true religion. The spiritual evolution of the human race is as much a part of the majestic plan of the Creator as is the evolution of solar systems. Were it not for the instructive, stimulative and inspirational power of religion upon the heart and conscience of humanity, men would remain morally on a level with animals. In other words they would be unmoral, without the refined conscience which spiritual man possesses. They would be creatures of impulse and of instinct, following the law of the herd but not recognizing that as the only law outside themselves to be obeyed.

Religion brings to man a new conscience, instructing him in the higher laws of living which make for harmony, happiness and prosperity both in an individual and a collective sense. Through religion man is enabled to transcend to himself to become nobler than his biologically inherent animal qualities would permit. Through religion he is trained to sublimate all of these animal qualities – qualities perfectly legitimate in their own field but obstructive to the development of a catholic and harmonious human society.

Through religion man is made aware of his spiritual potentiality. He learns that his soul can aspire in the realm of spirit and need not be dragged and weighted down by all the heavy burdens of carnality. Like a young child learning to walk, he begins to realize powers which he can put into practice. In the use of faith, prayer and spiritual guidance he becomes more and more proficient, growing daily nearer to the full stature of spiritual manhood for which he is destined.

Can any one deny that these are the purposes and these the effects of religion? Any unbiased scientific study of the history of religion as a moral, social and spiritual force in the life of humanity will substantiate the foregoing statements.

 

3.

But whence does religion spring? Here we come to a much mooted question. We are told by the Founders of the world’s great religions that the truth which they teach is revealed to them from the Divine Source itself; that they are but channels for the Divine instruction and power to flow through; and that their word is, indeed, the Word of God.

Such is the claim of all the great Revelators. But the attitude of science during the last century has been to disparage such super-human claims. From the scientific point of view there seems little chance of objectively proving the claims of revelation. The scientific mind can investigate everything in the phenomenal universe, but it cannot investigate the Mind and Ways of God. Here is a field distinctly barred to the scientific approach. There is only one standpoint from which the claims of revelation might be investigated, appraised and corroborated. This standpoint is the field of actual religious achievement.

When we study the force which inheres in every great world religion – a force definite and unique, a force which, while its sources may be beyond our investigation, as regards its workings and effects lies clearly within the field of scientific investigation – what do we see? History shows that every great religion in the days of its purity – before institutionalism and human dogma begin their taints – exerts a terrific force upon human conduct and human character, a force unparalleled in the history of human morals as regards its contagiousness, its miraculous power to change character, and its quality of sustained application to the art of living on the part of the individual adherent. This force of religion is indeed mysterious – as mysterious as is the force of electricity.

Can we reasonably conceive that such a force can emanate from a source no higher than human mentality? Are these Founders of religion simply spiritual geniuses who are but a few degrees loftier in moral and spiritual insight than their fellows? If so, how could they produce these magical effects upon human nature, both individually and collectively? Effects which last not for a day, but for milleniums. Effects which no founders of schools of philosophies, not even the greatest, have ever been able even in the slightest degree to approximate. Secondly, we should have to assume that in their claims of revelation the Founders of the great world religions were either using deliberate falsehood or suffering under hallucinations. Both of these points of view have been taken. Previous to the religious tolerance of the twentieth century it had been the custom for earnest adherents of Christianity to accuse the founders of other world religions as being hypocrites, falsifiers or emissaries of evil. The theological doctrine of the uniqueness of Christianity induced this attitude. But as scientific liberalism made inroads into Christian theology and the history of religion came to be studied without prejudice of sectarianism, it became apparent to scientific historical observation that such characters as Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster and Muhammad were not uttering deliberate falsehoods when they claimed to be channels of Divine communication to humanity. They were at least sincere, there could be no question about that. Ergo – assuming the impossibility of substantiating this claim of divine revelation – certain materialistically inclined scholars of comparative religion, abnormal psychologists, and other secularists were led to the conclusion that these claimants to divine revelation were suffering from hallucinations.

Has not science, in its materialistic scepticism, brought itself here into a ridiculous dilemma? Those beings so pure and sinless in character, so noble in their self-sacrificing lives that no other humans can even be put in the same category; those beings who have expressed lofty truths which humanity has intuitively accepted as a perfect pattern for human behavior; those beings the power of whose exemplary lives and exalted teachings has influenced humanity more than any other force, – can it be that these great souls were merely insane? That their conception of the nature of their mission and the source of their wisdom was not only fallacious but the expression of psychologically diseased natures? Marching these Revealers of noble faith and living against opinions of modernistic secularists, I cannot see how the verdict of thoughtful people can be cast in favor of the materialistic psychologist.

 

4.

Is the idea of revelation, then, so impossible from the scientific point of view? The painter, the poet, the composer feel that their inspirations come from some source greater than themselves. Plato, the greatest creative thinker and literary artist the world has ever produced, had a definite theory as to where his inspirations came from. The artist, he states, is but a channel for images and truths which come to him from the World of the Ideal. The soul of the great artist is able to contact this higher archetypal world where perfection already exists, and thus bring to earth artistic revelations, creative ideas, and discoveries in the realm of truth. Since Plato was himself such a colossally creative thinker, we must acknowledge at least some importance to this theory of his regarding the nature of inspiration and creation.

Many a great artist, thinker, and inventor since the day of Plato has felt this same way about the nature of inspiration. Their greatest works have seemed to them not so much the manufacture of their own limited mentality as a projection, through the sensitivity of their being, of truth or beauty from some world outside themselves.

In fact, so disparate from their creator are the greatest achievements of the creative soul that he must look with a feeling of awe upon these creations emanating through him and enjoy them in a purely impersonal relation, receiving from them an inspiration as from a force totally and miraculously outside of his own personality.

Now if it is a possibility for any creative person to receive all inspiration from some mysterious source outside himself, it is certainly possible for the prophetic soul of a great world Saviour to become a channel for those Divine Forces which seek to guide and stimulate this planet into higher spiritual evolution.

Not only do these Teachers of religion proclaim a truth greater than they themselves could originate, but they are born into the world already destined for such a mission. Their station is above that of ordinary mortals, as the station of the ambassador of a great emperor is peerless in whatever country he may officially abide. “They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade.”1Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán. Available at www.bahai.org/r/077907308

 

5.

These great messengers of God are an essential part of the Divine plan for the evolution of humanity. Biological evolution has gone as far as it is able to go when it has produced “homo sapiens” – man with the power of thought. The further evolution of man in the way of development of his creative intelligence and his spiritual progress depend upon forces from a higher plane. Religion is this force absolutely essential to man’s spiritual evolution, to the awakening and training of potential qualities which elsewise would never come into active expression.

Evolution now ceases to be a something which operates on man apart from his own conscious effort. Progress beyond primitive man he can make only by voluntary conscious effort. It is to awaken and aid this effort toward higher spiritual self-development of humanity that these great Teachers come to earth. Without the inspiration of their teachings and the dynamic stimulus to spiritual progress which they give to man by means of a tremendous outpouring of that cosmic, spiritual, creative force which has been called the Holy Spirit, man would remain on the moral and mental level of the animal.

“Further evolution, if it takes place,” says P. D. Ouspensky in his “Tertium Organum,” “cannot be an elemental and unconscious affair, but will result solely from conscious efforts toward growth. Man, not striving toward evolution, not conscious of its possibility, not helping it, will not evolve. And the individual who is not evolving does not remain in a static condition, but goes down, degenerates. This is the general law.”

 

6.

An important point to consider here is that the revelations of religion do not come by chance. They are part of a continuous plan for the spiritual evolution of humanity. They are a special communication and dispensation of that great creative and guiding Force of the universe which we call God, and they are revealed through spiritualized beings who are special channels for the flow of this creative force.

Humanity, like a battery which has to be recharged, is under the necessity of fresh spiritual impulse at stated intervals. Fortunately for the spiritual evolution of humanity, at every epoch when one religion has been outgrown a new religion has magically arisen – a religion full of vital hope and promise and charged with the power to remold and to remake the lives of its communicants.

“In their essence all these religions are one. Spiritual Truth cannot, indeed, be different and conflicting. The aims of all the great prophets were one: to bring human beings into the Divine Consciousness, to advance their spiritual development, and to effect better conditions of organized living.

“Nor can the great Founders of religions be supposed to exist in any sort of rivalry one to the other. Their purpose is one. Their devotion to Divinity is one. Their devotion to humanity is one. There can be no possibility of rivalry between these great Souls whose first requisite is abnegation of self, whose words and deeds are guided by divine inspiration, and whose lives serve no other purpose than to mirror Divinity to man.”2Cobb, Security for a Failing World.

From this point of view it will be seen that no religion is final. As humanity develops, it acquires capacity for new and higher revelations. At the same time that its capacity to comprehend is constantly increased, its ability to lead a spiritual life periodically diminishes (as has already been shown), thus necessitating a regular and definite reoccurrence of spiritual revelation.

Each Founder of a great religion gives warning of this to His followers. He speaks of a Return, and warns them to be open and receptive to Truth when it returns again, as return it must when the gradual crystallization and degeneration of established religion takes place through institutionalism and the natural carnal proclivities of man.

7.

Today it is apparent that all over the world religion is in great need of renewal. The spiritual consciousness of humanity is suffering eclipse. This is true not only of Christianity but also of every other great world religion – Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Muhammadanism. With the normal restraints of religion removed, with man’s spiritual conscience obscured as his scientific intelligence is accentuated, we see taking place a rapidly growing chaos and a threatened disintegration of world civilization.

Clearly the time is ripe for a renewal of man’s spiritual consciousness, and that renewal is already offered the world in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. Here we find not only a renewal of all the spiritual beauty and dynamic force of previous revelations, but also pronouncements especially adapted to the advanced needs of this day. We have not only general moral laws, but their definite application to individual and collective living. We have a comprehensive set of principles upon which the establishment of a great world order is predicated, and a great world civilization of a perfection such as the past has hardly ventured to dream of.

8.

Of all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, perhaps none is so needed as the clear enunciation which He gives regarding the continuity of religion. As we have pointed out at the beginning of this article, the lack of such realization has been the cause of the crystallization of religious thought and expression and its disintegration into religious rivalries and hostilities never intended by the Divine Power from whose great Purpose for humanity all religions emanate.

Bahá’u’lláh makes clear not only that His Revelation is a renewal of spiritual truth and potency necessitated by the decline of spiritual consciousness throughout the world; but also that, just as other religions have faded and declined, so the religious expression built around His message is also destined to decadence, in the course of time. Thus He definitely prepares His followers and safeguards them against the dangers of bigotry, of religious smugness, and of blindness to the just and verifiable claims of a new Revelator when His day arrives.

How refreshing is this view of religion, which is now seen as a part of the normal functioning of our planetary life, as necessarily recurrent as are the seasons. Indeed each religion passes through its phases of growth comparable to the seasons – its springtime of blossoming and rejuvanescence, its summer of growth, its autumn of rich fruitage, and its winter of crystallization and decline.

And now again a spiritual springtime has appeared, and the Holy Spirit is pouring down Its rays upon this planet with a potency that is stirring everything to rapid motion and renewed growth. And as in the springtime old forms of vegetation, which in their sear and withered stiffness have lingered through the winter, become broken up by the actinic force of the sun and give way to marvelous new growths whose nourishment they help to furnish by their own decay, so today ancient institutions are falling and every old form is yielding ground to a marvelous newness, which, however disconcerting it may be to unprepared minds, is the breath of life and hope to those who can see beyond the present moment.

“…when the holy Manifestation of God, Who is the Sun of the world of creation, casts His splendour upon the world of hearts, minds, and spirits, a spiritual springtime is ushered in and a new life is unveiled. The power of the matchless springtide appears and its marvellous gifts are beheld. Thus you observe that, with the advent of each of the Manifestations of God, astonishing progress was attained in the realm of human minds, thoughts, and spirits. Consider, for example, the progress that has been achieved in this divine age in the world of minds and thoughts—and this is only the beginning of the dawn! Erelong you will witness how these renewed bounties and heavenly teachings have flooded this darksome world with their light and transformed this sorrow-laden realm into the all-highest Paradise.”3Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Available at www.bahai.org/r/726404644. Note that the original text has been modified to reflect the newest translation of this work.

By George Townshend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah cries:

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

Or Zechariah:

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

Or again Joel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By George Townshend

Here the world’s religions meet and are fused into one by the fire of a great love. “This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity.”

In an age of compendiums there is no other compendium such as this. No other pen has attempted to make a summary which shall be so concise and so complete as to contain in less than eight score brief Words of Counsel the vital substance of the world-religions. In the newly printed version of Shoghi Effendi, the “Hidden Words” makes a small pocket volume of fifty-five pages.

Yet for all its terseness it bears none of the marks of a digest or an abstract. It has the sweep, the force, the freshness of an original work. It is rich with imagery, laden with thought, throbbing with emotion. Even at the remove of a translation one feels the strength and majesty of the style and marvels at the character of a writing which combines so warm and tender a loving kindness with such dignity and elevation.

The teaching of the book throughout is borne up as if on wings by the most intense and steadfast spirituality. With the first utterance the reader is caught away to the heavenly places, and the vision is not obscured when the precepts given deal with the details of workaday life, with the duty of following a craft or a profession and of earning a livelihood to spend on one’s kindred for the love of God. The picture given of man and of human nature is noble and exalted. If he be in appearance a “pillar of dust,” a “fleeting shadow” yet he is in his true being a “child of the divine, and invisible essence,” a “companion of God’s Throne.” The created worlds are designed for his training. The purpose of all religious teaching is to make him worthy of the love of God and able to receive his bounties.

The “Hidden Words” is a love-song. It has for its background the romance of all the ages—the Love of God and Man, of the Creator and His creature. Its theme is God’s faithfulness and the unfaithfulness of Man. It tells of the Great Beloved Who separates from Himself His creatures that through the power of the Spirit breathed in them they may of their own will find their way to that reunion with Him which is their paradise and their eternal home. It tells how they turned away to phantoms of their own devising, how He ever with unwearying love sought them and would not leave them to the ruin they invoked but called them back that they might enter yet the unshut gates of heaven. Only the final event of the love-story is lacking. God calls, and when His utterance is complete He pauses that man may answer, and waits—listening.

Love is the cause of creation: it is the Beginning, the End and the Way. God, as yet a Hidden Treasure, knew His love for man, drew him out of the wastes of nothingness, printed on him His Own image and revealed to him His beauty. Apart from God man has nothing and is nothing; but in union with God he possesses all things. God ordained for his training every atom in the universe and the essence of all created things. He is the dominion of God and will not perish: the light of God which will never be put out; the glory of God which fades not, the robe of God which wears not out. Wrought out of the clay of love and of the essence of knowledge he is created rich and noble. He is indeed the lamp of God, and the Light of Lights is in him. He is God’s stronghold and God’s love is in him. His heart is God’s home; his spirit the place of God’s revelation. Would he sanctify his soul, he could look back beyond the gates of birth and recall the eternal command and antenatal covenant of God. Would he but look within himself, he would see there God standing powerful, mighty and supreme.

Alas! in the proud illusion of his separateness, man has forgotten whence he came, and what he is, and whither he moves. He has turned away from his True Beloved and given his heart to a stranger and an enemy. Bound fast in the prison of self, dreading that death which might be to him the messenger of joy he has rejected the immortal wine of wisdom for the poor dregs of an earthly cup and has given up eternal dominion that he might revel for an hour in the lordship of a passing world.

So blinded by arrogance and rebellion have mankind become that they live well content amid these sterile imaginings. They are no longer able to tell Truth from error nor to recognize it when it stands before them in naked purity. Thought they enter the presence of the All-Glorious; thought the Manifestation of Him Whom they affect to seek is before them and the Face of the Mighty One in all its beauty looks into their face, yet are they blind and see not. Their eyes behold not their Beloved; their hands touch not the hem of His robe. Though every utterance of His contains a thousand and a thousand mysteries, none understands, none heeds. He made the human heart to be His dwelling place; but it is given to another. Among His own on earth He is homeless. Nay more, His own heap on him persecutions. The dove of holiness is imprisoned in the claws of owls. The everlasting candle is beset by the blasts of earth. The world’s darkness gathers about the Celestial Youth. The people of tyranny wrong Love’s King of Kings. The angels weep at the spectacle; lamentation fills the heaven of heavens; but men glory in their shame and esteem their impiety a sign of their loyalty to God’s cause.

In His mercy and compassion, God leaves them not to self-destruction. Sternly but lovingly He upbraids them, He warns them. He summons them from the couch of heedlessness to the field of endeavor and heroic adventure. He demands of them a faith and courage that will dare the utmost in His service, a fortitude that will endure serenely every calamity, a devotion that will rejoice in tribulation and in death itself for the Beloved’s sake.

He gives them counsel upon counsel. With definiteness and force He shows what God expects of His lovers. The toils and perils of the Homeward Way are many and grievous; but true love will overcome them all and be grateful for afflictions through which it can prove its strength. None can set out upon this journey unless his heart is single and his affections are centered without reserve on God. If he would see God’s beauty he must be blind to all other beauty. If he would hear God’s word, he must stop his ear to all else. If he would attain to the knowledge of God he must put aside all other learning. If he would love God he will turn away from himself; if he would seek God’s pleasure he will forget his own. So complete will be his devotion that he will yield up all for the dear sake of God and welcome with longing the martyr’s death.

Earth has a thousand ties to bind men from their God: envy, pride, indolence, ambition, covetousness, the habit of detraction, the ascription to others of what one would not like to have ascribed to oneself. Against such things as these He warns all who wish to reach the bourne of Love, bids them keep ever before them the rule of Justice (“the best beloved of all things God’s sight”), and every day to bring themselves to account ere the opportunities given here on earth are snatched from them for ever by the hand of death.

He reminds them of the treasures He has laid up for those who are faithful to the end. Upon the sacred tree of glory He has hung the fairest fruits and has prepared everlasting rest in the garden of eternal delight. Sweet is that holy ecstasy, glorious that domain. Imperishable sovereignty awaits them there, and in the joy of reunion they will mirror forth the beauty of God Himself and become the revelation of His immortal splendor.

Now in this age, He declares, yet greater rewards and ampler powers are vouchsafed to mankind than in time gone by. God’s favor is complete, His proof manifest, His evidence established. He has opened in the heavenly heights a new garden, a new degree of nearness to God. Whoso attains thereto, for him the flowers of that garden will breathe the sweet mysteries of love, for him its fruits will yield the secrets of divine and consummate wisdom.

Yet even in this great day of revelation the fulness of God’s ultimate being has not been uttered. So much has been said as the will of the Most High permits: and no more. What has been set forth is measured by man’s capacity to understand it. God’s true estate and the sweetness of His voice remain undivulged.

How strange and pitiful that in the East the warmth of heart and breadth of mind of him who wrote this little book should have brought on him the relentless hate of the priests of his land. Born the heir of an ancient and noble family of Persia and endowed with vast wealth, he was through priestly envy deprived of all his possessions, driven into exile, chained, tortured and at last consigned to a life-imprisonment in the city of ‘Akká, a gaol reserved for the lowest criminals of the Ottoman Empire and reputed so pestilential that the birds of the air fell dead as they flew over it.

Strange, too, that this devotional volume, so beautiful in its thought and also (it is said) in the classic purity of its style, should never have drawn to itself the attention of an English scholar and should remain after seventy years unknown to the religion and the culture of the West.

By Louis Gregory

Scientific Aspects

The world today is making many discoveries in the realm of phenomena. The greatest of these concerns man himself, the laws which relate to his being and those which govern his relations with his fellow beings. Although many glooms and shadows still sway the minds of men, yet two great lights are shining with increasing splendor. One is science and the other religion. Through these luminous orbs men are coming to know each other better than they have ever known through past ages.

A century or more ago men with few exceptions accepted the dogma of eternal division and separation between various human stocks, which were regarded as distinct human species. This gave to any one of them the right by virtue of its material might to a station of inherent superiority conferred by Divine Power.

A few men of genius saw differently. One of these rare souls was Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. It is altogether remarkable that writing at a time when special privilege was enthroned and human slavery was sanctioned by the laws of all lands, he should have declared it to be self-evident that all men were created free and equal. Was this statement an accident? Was it not his intention to imply that all white men were equal?

No, that the great principle declared by the American Commoner was not on his part fortuitous is indicated by a further statement as well as by his personal attitude toward Benjamin Banneker, the Negro astronomer, who was his contemporary and by him was appointed as one of the surveyors of the site of the city of Washington. Writing about his colored scientist to one of his foreign friends, President Jefferson said:

“We have now in the United States a Negro, the son of a black man born in Africa and a black woman born in the United States, who is a very respectable mathematician. I procured him to be employed under one of our chief directors in laying out the new federal city on the Potomac, and in the intervals of his leisure while on the work, he made an almanac for the same year which he has sent me in his own handwriting… I have seen elegant solutions of geometrical problems by him. Add to this that he is a worthy and respectable member of society. He is a free man. I shall be delighted to see these instances of moral eminence so multiplied as to prove that the want of talents observed in them is merely the effect of their degraded condition and not proceeding from any difference of the structure of the parts upon which intellect depends.”

Were Thomas Jefferson living today he might be classed with the school of modern scientists known as the cultural anthropologists. A hundred years ahead of his time he saw and proclaimed a great truth.

The scientific world today records numberless thinkers of like convictions and among the great naturalists a decided and irresistible trend toward the law of one humanity and the equality of all races.

Of old the human family was arbitrarily divided into five races, so-called, growing out of the existence of five habitable continents. Men in their fancies associated a difference race with each continent. But scientific minds, even in the middle of the last century, did not agree upon this. Charles Darwin, perhaps the most famous of them all, records in his “Origin of Species,” the views of a dozen scientists whose classifications of humanity into races in no two cases agree and cover divisions of race varieties ranging from two to sixty-three! Darwin himself freely admits the illusory and imaginary nature of these divisions of mankind, and declares that the way supposedly different races overlap and shade off into each other completely baffles the scientific mind in constructing a definition of race.

Because the term “races” continues to be used as designating distinct stocks or divisions of the human family, we shall here employ it. But it must be understood that its use is popular and colloquial rather than scientific and accurate. Definition implies a limitation. Logically it must be both inclusive of the thing defined and exclusive of all else. The difficulty arises, when we attempt to define race as a limited portion of the human family upon the basis of distinct physical characteristics, that the description invariably applies with equal accuracy to no inconsiderable number of other people not sought to be included in the said category. The divisions of mankind upon the basis of physical features are due to fancy rather than reality. Attempts to describe with any degree of accuracy those designated by such terms as Aryan, Mongolian, India, African, Malay, Nordic, Hebrew, negro, invariably result in cross divisions, because all these groups overlap, and even when we select the most divergent types, as human beings they show vastly more points in common than signs of difference. The term “race” as applied to all mankind has a scientific and logical basis, but no so in its limited sense.

The historical records of mankind cover a very small portion of the vast period during which this earth has been populated. Yet even during that brief period the peoples of each continent have emigrated to other continents, associating with others and invariably mixing their blood. It is now universally known that the products of such admixtures are equally virile and fertile. This is a further indication that all races possess the same potentialities. Asiatics and Australians, Europeans and Africans, North and South Americans, to the ethnologist all present signs of admixture, a process through which all have been broadened and made more rugged and strong. All the so-called races of mankind are mixed races, the mixing being a process which continues more rapidly today than in past cycles and ages.

It is also seen that among the various ethnic groups denominated races, each at some time during the brief period of recorded history, has been in the ascendency. Each has in turn led the civilization of the world and each has at the time of its greatest success assumed that its superiority was fixed.

“Is not this great Babylon which I have built and must it not endure forever?”

The attitude of mind expressed by the words of an ancient king who came to grief through pride is as old as human error and as modern as the latest fashion show. Those who see the common humanity of all groups relieve themselves of a great burden imposed by thoughts of preference. For while it is true that some peoples at various times have advanced further than others, to the eye of reality this implies no inherent incapacity, but only lack of development.

In appearance the child is inferior to the adult, but the future may unfold another story. Wisdom looks with reverence upon the child who has that within his being the unfolding of which may make him the ruler of his kind.

The history of mankind unfolds an endless panorama of change. The most favored of races and nations have often lost their high estate. The most ill-favored of one cycle have sometimes in another period become the salt of the earth. To those who see humanity as one, apparent inequalities have no essential permanence.

However much opinions and emotions and customs may dominate human thoughts, the scientific world of today which reaches conclusions upon the basis of facts, is entirely agreed that there is no proof to establish the superiority of one racial group over another.

The backwardness of races and nations is due to poverty, ignorance, oppression, unfavorable environment, and similar conditions, all of which are subject to removal and change, releasing the forces of true manhood for ascent to the highest plane.

It is perhaps of greatest interest here to let those who speak with authority express their own convictions upon the basis of provable facts.

Sir Arthur Keith, the great English anthropologist, says:

“The expression high and low does not apply to races.”

Dr. Gordon Munroe, lecturer in Tokyo University, Japan:

“Modern anthropologists despair of finding distinctive races and are now generally agreed that difference of race is too illusive for scientific observation. Racial difference is mythical, though each individual – as a distinct expression of cosmic thought – differs in some degree from all his fellows, even to the skin of his finger tips.

“Nothing betrays the darkness of ignorance more than the arrogant assumption that pigmentation of skin brands its owner with obscurity of moral perception or darkened intellect, or in any way implies the co-existence of inferior physical traits… Like all exhibitions of prejudice, that of classification by skin color is illogical and inconsistent.

“It is sounding a discrepant note against the harmony of the spheres to call human color inferior or unclean. Not by darkness of skin but by darkness of soul shall humanity be judged in future ages.”

Dr. George A. Dorsey in his book, “Why We Behave Like Human Beings”:

“All human beings have skin pigment; it is the amount that counts. But high and low skin color is as sound biology as grading planets by color would be sound astronomy: Venus highest because whitest!

“There is no known fact of human anatomy or physiology which implies that capacity for culture or civilization or intelligence or capacity for culture inheres in this race or that type.

“We have no classification of men based upon stature, skin color, hair form, head form, proportions of limbs, etc., so correlated that they fit one race and one only.

“Nature is not so prejudiced as we are. She says there is a human race, that all human beings are of the genus homo species sapiens. She draws no color line in the human or other species.”

Prof. G. H. Esterbrook of Colgate University, considering the question of racial inferiority in a recent number of the inferiority in a recent number of the “American Anthropologist,” states that “there is no scientific basis for any such deduction.

“Again and again” he writes, “we have seen the case of a race or nation being despised, outcast, or barbarian in one generation and demonstrating that it is capable of high culture the next.”

Prof. E. B. Reuter, University of Iowa: “The doctrine of racial inequality is pretty well discredited in the world of scholarship, but in the popular thought of America it is firmly fixed.”

Dr. W. E. Burghardt Dubois, Editor of “The Crisis”: “The increasingly certain dictum of science is that there are no ‘races’ in any exact scientific sense; that no measurements of human beings, of bodily development, of head form, of color and hair, of physiological reactions, have succeeded in dividing mankind into different recognizable groups: that so-called ‘pure’ races seldom if ever exist and that all present mankind, the world over, are ‘mixed’ so far as the so-called racial characteristics are concerned.”

Prof. Edwin Grant Conklin, Chair of Biology, Princeton University: “With increasing means of communication as a result of migration and commercial relations, there is no longer complete geographical isolation for any people and the various races of mankind are being brought into closer and closer contact.

“Man is now engaged in undoing the work of hundreds of centuries, if in the beginning, ‘God made of one blood all nations of men,’ it is evident that man is now making of all nations one blood.”

Prof. Franz Boaz of Columbia University, in his recent book, “Anthropology and Modern Life”: “What we nowadays call a race of man consists of groups of individuals in which descent from common ancestors cannot be proved.

“If we were to select the most intelligent, imaginative, energetic and emotionally stable third of mankind, all races would be represented. The mere fact that a person is a healthy European or a blond European would not be proof that he would belong to this élite. Nobody has ever given proof that the mixed descendants of such a select group would be inferior.”

These are but a few quotations from scientific sources to illustrate the modern trend. Even a superficial inquiry into the question of human unity and the potential equality of all groups discloses a wealth of thought based upon factual values.

To conclude that people because uneducated cannot be educated, is a rash presumption indeed. When Julius Caesar conquered Britain he found the most revolting forms of savagery, including the practice of cannibalism; yet these people in part form the background of one of the most enlightened nations of today.

It is quite easy to imagine a Roman statesman of two thousand years ago saying, “Rome is the Eternal City! All other peoples from their inherent incapacity for rule must forever be her servitors and slaves!”

But what can intelligence tests prove of inherent capacity unless those subjected to them have had equal advantages in the way of environment and preparation? Where dollars are spent upon the education of one race and pennies upon that of another, obviously all such tests are misleading.

In a recent number of the “American Anthropologist,” Dr. G. H. Esterbrook remarks the extreme difficulty of measuring the intelligence of groups other than ourselves due to differences of culture, customs and language. This he illustrates by certain tests applied in the Philippine Islands in which it appeared that “the Filipinos were three years behind Americans in verbal tests (obviously due to the Spanish speaking natives being under the disadvantage of grappling with English), practically equal to the Americans in nonverbal tests and actually ahead of them in certain forms of mathematical ability.”

Apropos of the intelligence tests a question which may not be impertinent is, what value has intelligence in the absence of moral stamina? In the application of the intelligence tests what test is applied to determine this necessary concomitant of success?

The belief current in some circles that a long period of time, perhaps a thousand years, must elapse before people deprived of civilization can truly respond to its urge is unfounded in fact. Orientals whose background is different in numberless ways from that of the West appear in numbers at many of our great universities and with equal readiness with American youth acquire the arts and sciences. Youth taken from the African jungles with an age-long heritage of savagery have not only held their own in schools with students of light hue, but have ofttimes won high honors. The writer has met many native Africans whose virtues, attainments and polish do credit to the human race. It is clearly our duty to encourage people of all races to the end of making their contributions to the symposium of world culture.

 

Religious and Spiritual Aspects

The nineteenth century saw human slavery, as an institution sanctioned by law, banished from all civilized communities. The twentieth century sees the evolution of a new kind of freedom, one of which liberates minds from hoary superstitions and ancient dogmas, one which vibrates with the consciousness of a common humanity. Men now see as never before that class tyranny brings unhappiness to the aggressor no less than to the victim.

The spread of the social sciences is bringing enlightening contacts among people of all races and nations. All the races of mankind, no matter how delayed their development in some cases may be, with encouragement, opportunity, sympathy and understanding, may attain the heights.

The colored philosopher and educator, the late Booker Washington, in his autobiography, recalled that during his boyhood he sometime engaged in wrestling. On such occasions he observed that if he threw another boy to the ground, if he held him there he would be compelled to stay down with him; but if he arose the other boy would also rise. So his motto was, “All men up! No one down!” Such is the true philosophy of life.

Among the early white settlers of America was at least one group that regarded the red aborigines as being worthy of the treatment of men. In Pennsylvania under the guidance of William Penn, white and red men entered into a bond of mutual trust that was not to be sundered as long as the sun should give light. This colony was thus saved from the bloodshed which disgraced most of the others. It seems a natural sequence that today the largest school supported by the American government for the training of Indians should be on the soil of Pennsylvania, a commonwealth through upholding its standards of justice to men of all races.

In the memoirs of General U. S. Grant he relates how once when visiting the outposts of his army on Southern soil, a call was raised, “Make way for the commanding general of the army, General Grant!” To his surprise he saw himself surrounded by Confederate soldiers who had raised this call. Although these men were a part of an army with which his own was constantly fighting, yet these troops saluted him and made no attempt to capture him or do him bodily harm.

It had so happened that for some days the outposts of the two armies, Federal and Confederate, had touched each other and the soldiers on both sides, free from rancor, had become entirely friendly, exchanged what they possessed of the comforts of life as well as its amenities and were accustomed to salute each other’s officers when they appeared. In the early days of the great war a similar condition of friendliness appeared among the soldiers of the contending armies in France.

If men engaged in deadly conflict can pause long enough to discover and act upon the basis of their common humanity, certainly the forces of peace should strive for the means of making it durable, and in this nothing is more desirable than a farewell to class tyranny and the banishment of what the sociologist calls the superiority complex from all the world. The light of science powerfully aids this.

Among the youth of the world there is a great and continuous awakening to the need of friendliness and co-operation among all races and nations. Recently, among many incidents of a similar nature, the writer had the pleasure of mingling with an inter-racial and inter-national group of students made up of representatives of John Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, the University of Delaware, Morgan College and Howard University.

Their faces shone with happiness as from the standpoint of biology, sociology, anthropology and genetics they discussed, almost without dissenting voice, the potential equality of all races and the desirability of their mingling freely without prejudice in all the activities and amenities of life.

With the usual naïveté, charm and courage of youth, they seemed to care nothing about what their elders, who were wrapped up in the traditions of the past, might think of their present acts and attitudes. And they had summoned to their gathering three modernist and learned scientists to confirm them in their thoughts. Thus the orb of science beams with increasing brilliancy upon a growing world of thought and discovery.

This light of science is but the reflection of a far “greater and more glorious Light” that has appeared with majestic splendor in the world today. This second light is Religion pure and undefiled from the Throne of God, or Temple of Manifestation.

The Bahá’í Revelation is the divine intervention in human affairs. Its ideals, teachings and principles will remove the superstitions that pall, the hatreds that blight, the prejudices that becloud, and that preparation for the slaughter that now threatens the existence of all humanity.

Clearer than the deductions of science, weightier than the might of princes, wiser than the councils of statesmen, kinder than the hearts of philanthropists, and sweeter than the songs of seraphs is the Voice of God, calling all mankind to the unity of the human family, the oneness of the world of humanity. This is the true guidance of all men in their relationship with their fellows, whether they be of the same race or nation of others. The great law of universal well-being and happiness is set forth with a simplicity, purity, majesty and power which leaves no one in doubt.

“Verily the words which have descended from the heaven of the will of God are the source of unity and harmony for the world. Close your eyes to racial differences and welcome all with the light of oneness.”

Those who move in the direction of the Divine Will as expressed by the Manifestation of God, His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, have the mightiest confirmation to support their efforts and are assured of victory, no matter how difficult the way may seem. A distinguished Southern educator who heard the Servant of God, His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, address the Lake Mohonk Peace Conference in 1912, quotes Him as opening His luminous address by saying:

“From time immemorial we have been taught the Unity of God, the Unity of God, the Unity of God! But in this day the divine lesson is the unity of man, the unity of man, the unity of man!”

Dr. Samuel C. Mitchell declared that from listening to this holy man whom he recognized as a Prophet, he had decided for himself never again to draw a vertical line upon his fellow-men. The great horizon line which covers all mankind, is sufficient for him. How happily does this illustrate the power and penetration of the Creative Word, that it should raise up from a single utterance one who has declared and reechoed it upon many platforms.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá says: “God has made mankind one family: no race is superior to another…God is the Shepherd of all and we are His flock. There are not many races. There is only one race.”

Although the Sun of Truth is still largely hidden, “veiled by its own splendor,” yet its rays are penetrating the remotest corners of the earth, creating in souls a consciousness which binds all hearts together. Common sense and reason are explaining away the barriers of color which are caused by adjustment of people to climatic states over long periods of time. Scientists in many fields of research are thrilled by the discovery of a common human heritage which they sometimes boldly declare in words similar to those found in the sacred text. Statesmen, national and international, are making the Divine Spirit the foundation upon which they are striving to build a new social structure with justice to all, while in growing numbers people who take religion seriously are finding heart balm through their helpful interest in other people’s affairs.

Some years ago the venerable Bishop of Georgia, Rt. Rev. Atticus G. Haygood, amazed his followers by boldly declaring in his book, “Out Brother in Black,” that no attainment of the white race was impossible for the colored.

Governor Charles Aycock of North Carolina inaugurated a policy of large expenditure for education that would help white and black upon this basis:

“We hold our title to power by the tenure of service to God, and if we fail to administer equal and exact justice to the Negro we shall in the fullness of time lose power ourselves, for we must know that the God who is love, trusts no people with authority for the purpose of enabling them to do injustice.”

Although the strongholds of prejudice seem invincible, the clouds of superstitions lower, the veils of ignorance overshadow and the resources of rancor prepare for the strife, yet upon the plane of being the Sun of Truth is radiant and will remove in time all dust from minds and all rust from hearts, to the end that the true Glory of God and the brightness of man may appear in the unity of the world. The shadows of the sunset and the glory of the dawn are both revealed in the Words that follow from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

“It is very strange to see how ‘illusion’ has taken possession of the hearts of men while ‘Reality’ has no sway whatsoever. For example – racial difference is an optical illusion! It is a figment of imagination, yet how deep-seated and powerful its influence! No one can deny the fact that mankind in toto are the progeny of Adam; that they are offshoots of one primal stock, yet the optical illusion has so radically misrepresented this plain truth that they have divided and subdivided themselves into so many tribes and nations… Although many intelligent men amongst them know that this racial difference is an optical illusion, yet they all confess their inability to stand firm before its uncanny, invisible power.

“The world of humanity is like unto one kindred and one family. Because of the climatic conditions of the zones through the passing ages colors have become different. In the torrid zone on account of the intensity of the effect of the sun throughout the ages the dark race appeared. In the frigid zone on account of the severity of the cold and the ineffectiveness of the heat the white race appeared. In the temperate zone the yellow, brown and red races came into existence. But in reality mankind is one race. Because it is one race unquestionably there must be union and harmony and no separation or discord.

“The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are the breaths of the Holy Spirit which create men anew. Personal amity, both in private and public, is emphasized and insisted upon.

…Bahá’ís believe that mankind must love mankind; that universal amity must be practiced; that dead dogmas must be thrown away; that we are at the threshold of the Era of Interdependence; that we must forget prejudice and that universal love must become the dominant note of the twentieth century… The tree of humanity is one and is planted by God. The origin is one and the end must also be one.”

Thus it is clearly establish through both religion and science that the only race is the human race. The illuminati of all groups today, upon the basis of divine principle of the oneness of humanity, are working to build a new order in the world. Their ranks are widening day by day and among them are included all branches of the human family. They have crossed the borderland of separation and view with delight the world of unity. With reverence and appreciation they perceive the descent of heavenly guidance. In the sacred books of the past this divine favor is pictured as the Holy City.

The cities of the world today present to the gaze of the traveler striking contrasts between old and new. In days of yore the construction of homes was in the nature of a castle. Each house was defended by a high fence or wall, behind which dogs barked furiously at all who approached, who were presumably foes until otherwise proven. Such places did not lack beauty. Nor were passers-by always wanting in charm. But in each case the beauty and charm were hidden by defensive battlements. Such are the cities of hearts when their love is concealed by the battlements erected by superstition and fear. In many of the new cities the absence of walls reveals velvet lawns and the varied charm of flowers. The adornments of the home, the sport of the children, the family co-operation in simple toil, create impressions of friendliness and accentuate the joy of life.

Those who visualize the City of God have faith in the final outcome of human destiny through a love that transcends all boundaries of race. Herein lies joy to the worker whose toil is linked with heaven as he serves mankind en masse as well as singly. Peace to the nations when ready to pursue those ideals that guide the people of splendor. Perfection in education when the youth are allowed to treasure the jewels of minds and hearts despite the obstinate barriers of caste. Wealth for governments when the huge sums now given to armaments are by common consent turned into channels of construction. Solace for the needy when deserts are irrigated, waste places reclaimed, slums removed, the deep yields its coffers and the earth its fruits. Illumination to humanity when every man sees in his neighbor a garment in which God has clothed the reflection of the Manifestation of Himself. Glory for the whole world when receptive to divine civilization which descends through the majestic revelation of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, the Shining Orb of His Covenant and the protection of His laws by which all races are banded together in the exaltation of service.

The story runs that a youth long absent from home in pursuit of education returned and was overjoyed to find that he now had a younger brother, born during his absence. He eagerly and lovingly embraced the newcomer. But alas! That child of immature years seeing in his brother only a stranger and all unaware of the relationship made a great outcry, wiggled out of his arms and even scratched his brother’s face.

Such is all too often the attitude of people of one group toward those of another when uninformed of the divine law which makes all men brothers. Such immaturity in a time of rapid changes must soon happily pass as that which is real comes more and more into view.

That reality is the co-operation of all mankind in productive enterprises, the awakening of spiritual life, the assurance of the way of God, and the enkindlement of the flame of divine love which removes all clouds. To forsake prejudice is better than to amass wealth. The conquest of animosities is far greater than victory over one’s foes. The struggle for universal good is far nobler than the desire for personal success.

The Glory of the rising Sun reveals the way. Victory and joy to those who strive!

By Horace Holley

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.

II.

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.

III.

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.

PART 2

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.