Bahá’u’lláh wrote that, “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.”1 As the teachings of the Manifestations of God have guided the organization of society at ever higher levels of unity, the story of humanity has unfolded from the family to the tribe, through city state, to nation states.
That journey has today brought us to the threshold of our long-awaited coming of age as a human race. Passing through different stages, we have collectively traversed our infancy and childhood. Around the world, human society is being reshaped, and the ultimate trend is clear: we are witnessing nothing less than the organization of human society as a planetary civilization, the last and highest stage in humanity's collective life on this planet.
For millennia, people have held the vision of a great day when there will be true brotherhood on earth, when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,”2 and when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”3 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has described it as “a day in which the oneness of humankind shall uplift its standard and international peace, like the true morning, flood the world with its light.”4
God continues to set humanity’s direction. The Manifestations of God Themselves refer to their individual Revelations as but partial expositions of truth, limited only by the capacity of humankind in any given age to receive them. Christ’s words, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,”5 find an echo in the Qur’an which states that divine truth is “sent down…in due and ascertainable measures.”6 In the Bhagavad Gita the following words are found: “I come, and go, and come. When Righteousness declines, O Bharata! when Wickedness is strong, I rise, from age to age, and take visible shape, and move a man with men, succouring the good, thrusting the evil back, and setting Virtue on her seat again.”7 For centuries, followers of every religion have awaited the revelation of a fuller measure of God’s guidance to the world; those expectations are today fulfilled by the message of Bahá’u’lláh.
Speaking of the potentialities of this period in history, Bahá’u’lláh declares that, “This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things.”8
The first step essential for the peace and progress of humankind is its unification: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” 9
Only through the dawning consciousness that we constitute a single people will we be enabled to turn away from the patterns of conflict that have dominated social organization in the past and begin to learn to collaborate and cooperate. New social structures will be developed to reduce and eliminate conflict. Committed to the principle of collective security, global institutions would work together to ensure that resources are equitably distributed. In such a civilization, insights from both science and religion will be applied to the promotion of human well-being. “Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress.”10
There is nothing in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings to encourage the illusion that the changes envisioned will come about easily. This path will unfold over many generations. And there will no doubt be many crises and setbacks.
However great the turmoil, the period into which humanity is moving will open to every individual, every institution, and every community unprecedented opportunities to play their part in bringing their talents and capacities to the building of a world that represents the consummation of humankind’s development on this planet.
“The potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God.”11