These same forces, operating in a collateral field, have effected a still more remarkable, and a more radical, revolution, culminating in the collapse and fall of the Muslim Caliphate, the most powerful institution of the whole Islamic world. This event of portentous significance has, moreover, been followed by a formal and definite separation of what was left of the Sunní faith in Turkey from the state, and by the complete secularization of the Republic that has arisen on the ruins of the Ottoman theocratic empire. This catastrophic fall, that stunned the Islamic world, and the avowed, the unqualified, and formal divorce between the spiritual and temporal powers, which distinguished the revolution in Turkey from that which occurred in Persia, I now proceed to consider.
Sunní Islám has sustained, not through the action of a foreign and invading Power, but at the hands of a dictator, avowedly professing the Faith of Muḥammad, a blow more grievous than that which fell, almost simultaneously, upon its sister-sect in Persia. This retributive act, directed against the archenemy of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, recalls a similar disaster precipitated through the action of a Roman emperor, during the latter part of the first century of the Christian era—a disaster that razed to its foundations the Temple of Solomon, destroyed the Holy of Holies, laid waste the city of David, uprooted the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem, massacred thousands of the Jewish people—the persecutors of the religion of Jesus Christ—dispersed the remainder over the surface of the earth, and reared a pagan colony on Zion.
The Caliph, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islám, exercised a spiritual sovereignty, and was invested with a sacred character, which the Sháh of Persia neither claimed nor possessed. Nor should it be forgotten that the sphere of his spiritual jurisdiction extended to countries far beyond the confines of his own empire, and embraced the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world. He was, moreover, in his capacity as the Prophet’s representative on earth, regarded as the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the defender and propagator of Islám, and the commander of its followers in any holy war they might be called upon to wage.
So potent, so august, so sacred a personage was at first by virtue of the abolition of the Sultanate in Turkey, divested of that temporal authority which the exponents of the Sunní school have regarded as a necessary concomitant to his high office. The sword, emblem of temporal sovereignty, was thus wrested out of the hands of the commander who, for a brief period, was permitted to occupy such an anomalous and precarious position. It was soon, however, trumpeted to the Sunní world, which had not previously been in the least consulted, that the Caliphate itself had been extinguished, and that the country which had accepted it as an appanage to its Sultanate, for more than four hundred years, had now permanently disowned it. The Turks who had been the militant leaders of the Muḥammadan world, since the Arab decline, and who had carried the standard of Islám as far as the gates of Vienna, the seat of government of Europe’s premier Power, had resigned their leadership. The ex-caliph, shorn of his royal pomp, stripped of the symbols of his vicarship, and deserted by friend and foe alike, was forced to flee from Constantinople, the proud seat of a dual sovereignty, to the land of the infidels, resigning himself to that same life of exile to which a number of his fellow-sovereigns had been and were still condemned.
Nor has the Sunní world, despite determined efforts, succeeded in designating anyone in his stead who, though deprived of the sword of a commander, would still act as the custodian of the cloak and standard of the Apostle of God—the twin holy symbols of the Caliphate. Conferences were held, discussions ensued, a Congress of the Caliphate was convened in the Egyptian capital, the City of the Fatimites, only to result in the widely advertised and public confession of its failure: “They have agreed to disagree!”
Strange, incredibly strange, must appear the position of this most powerful branch of the Islamic Faith, with no outward and visible head to voice its sentiments and convictions, its unity irretrievably shattered, its radiance obscured, its law undermined, its institutions thrown into hopeless confusion. This institution that had challenged the inalienable, divinely appointed rights of the Imáms of the Faith of Muḥammad, had, after the revolution of thirteen centuries, vanished like a smoke, an institution which had dealt such merciless blows to a Faith Whose Herald was Himself a descendant of the Imáms, the lawful successors of the Apostle of God.
To what else could this remarkable prophecy, enshrined in the Lawḥ-i-Burhán, allude if not to the downfall of this crowned overlord of Sunní Muslims? “O concourse of Muslim Divines! Because of you the people were abased, and the banner of Islám was hauled down, and its mighty throne subverted.” What of the indubitably clear and amazing prophecy recorded in the Qayyúm-i-Asmá’? “Erelong We will, in very truth, torment such as waged war against Ḥusayn [Imám Ḥusayn], in the Land of the Euphrates, with the most afflictive torment, and the direst and most exemplary punishment.” What other interpretation can this Muḥammadan tradition be given? “In the latter days a grievous calamity shall befall My people at the hands of their ruler, a calamity such as no man ever heard to surpass it.”
This was not all, however. The disappearance of the Caliph, the spiritual head of above two hundred million Muḥammadans, brought in its wake, in the land that had dealt Islám such a heavy blow, the annulment of the sharí’ah canonical Law, the disendowment of Sunní institutions, the promulgation of a civil Code, the suppression of religious orders, the abrogation of ceremonials and traditions inculcated by the religion of Muḥammad. The Shaykhu’l-Islám and his satellites, including muftís, qádís, hujáhs, shaykhs, súfís, ḥájís, mawlavís, dervishes, and others, vanished at a stroke more determined, more open, and drastic than the one dealt the Shí‘ihs by the Sháh and his government. The mosques of the capital, the pride and glory of the Islamic world, were deserted, and the fairest and most famous of them all, the peerless St. Sophia, “the Second Firmament,” “the Vehicle of the Cherubim,” converted by the blatant creators of a secular regime into a museum. The Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet of God, was banished from the land, its alphabet was superseded by Latin characters, and the Qur’án itself translated into Turkish for the few who still cared to read it. The constitution of the new Turkey not only proclaimed formally the disestablishment and disendowment of Islám, with all its attendant and, in the view of some, atheistic enactments, but also heralded various measures that aimed at its further humiliation and weakening. Even the city of Constantinople, “the Dome of Islám,” apostrophized in such condemnatory terms by Bahá’u’lláh, which, after the fall of Byzantium, had been hailed by the great Constantine as “the New Rome,” and exalted to the rank of the metropolis of both the Roman Empire and of Christendom, and subsequently revered as the seat of the Caliphs, was relegated to the position of a provincial city and stripped of all its pomp and glory, its soaring and slender minarets standing sentinel at the grave of so much vanished splendor and power.
“O Spot that art situate on the shores of the two seas!” Bahá’u’lláh has thus apostrophized the Imperial City, in terms that call to mind the prophetic words addressed by Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, “The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been stablished upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom, in such wise that the Concourse on high, and they who circle around the Exalted Throne, have wailed and lamented. We behold in thee the foolish ruling over the wise, and darkness vaunting itself against the light. Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendor made thee vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters, and thy widows, and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
Such was the fate that overtook both Shí‘ih and Sunní Islám, in the two countries where they had planted their banners and reared their most powerful and far-famed institutions. Such was their fate in these two countries, in one of which Bahá’u’lláh died an exile, and in the other the Báb suffered a martyr’s death. Such was the fate of the self-styled Vicar of the Prophet of God, and of the favorite ministers of the still awaited Imám. “The people of the Qur’án,” Bahá’u’lláh testifies, “have risen against Us, and tormented Us with such a torment that the Holy Spirit lamented, and the thunder roared out, and the clouds wept over Us.… Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, bewaileth, in the all-highest Paradise, their acts.” “A day shall be witnessed by My people,” their own traditions condemn them, “whereon there will have remained of Islám naught but a name, and of the Qur’án naught but a mere appearance. The doctors of that age shall be the most evil the world hath ever seen. Mischief hath proceeded from them, and on them it will recoil.” And again: “Most of His enemies will be the divines. His bidding they will not obey, but will protest saying: ‘This is contrary to that which hath been handed down unto us by the Imáms of the Faith.’” And still again: “At that hour His malediction shall descend upon you, and your curse shall afflict you, and your religion shall remain an empty word on your tongues. And when these signs appear amongst you, anticipate the day when the red-hot wind will have swept over you, or the day when ye will have been disfigured, or when stones will have rained upon you.”
This horde of degraded priests, stigmatized by Bahá’u’lláh as “doctors of doubt,” as the “abject manifestations of the Prince of Darkness,” as “wolves” and “pharaohs,” as “focal centers of hellish fire,” as “voracious beasts preying upon the carrion of the souls of men,” and, as testified by their own traditions, as both the sources and victims of mischief, have joined the various swarms of sháh-zádihs, of emirs, and princelings of fallen dynasties—a witness and a warning unto all nations of what must, sooner or later, befall those wielders of earthly dominion, be it royal or ecclesiastic, who might dare to challenge or persecute the appointed Channels and Embodiments of Divine authority and power.
Islám, at once the progenitor and persecutor of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, is, if we read aright the signs of the times, only beginning to sustain the impact of this invincible and triumphant Faith. We need only recall the nineteen hundred years of abject misery and dispersion which they, who only for the short space of three years persecuted the Son of God, have had to endure, and are still enduring. We may well ask ourselves, with mingled feelings of dread and awe, how severe must be the tribulations of those who, during no less than fifty years, have, “at every moment tormented with a fresh torment” Him Who is the Father, and who have, in addition, made His Herald—Himself a Manifestation of God—to quaff, in such tragic circumstances, the cup of martyrdom.
I have, in the pages immediately preceding, quoted certain passages addressed collectively to the members of the ecclesiastical order, both Islamic and Christian, and have then recorded a number of specific addresses and references to Muslim divines, both Shí‘ih and Sunní, after which I proceeded to describe the calamities that afflicted these Muḥammadan hierarchies, their heads, their members, their properties, their ceremonials, and institutions. Let us now consider the addresses specifically made to the members of the Christian clerical order who, for the most part, have ignored the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, whilst a few among them have, as its Administrative Order gained in stature and spread its ramifications over Christian countries, arisen to check its progress, to belittle its influence, and obscure its purpose.
A glance at the writings of the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation will reveal the important and significant fact that He Who addressed collectively an immortal message to all the kings of the earth, Who revealed a Tablet to each of the outstanding crowned heads of Europe and Asia, Who issued His call to the sacerdotal leaders of Islám, both Sunní and Shí‘ih, Who did not exclude from His purview the Jews and the Zoroastrians, has, apart from His numerous and repeated exhortations and warnings to the entire Christian world, directed particular messages, some general, others precise and challenging, to the heads, as well as to the rank and file, of the ecclesiastical orders of Christendom—its pope, its kings, its patriarchs, its archbishops, its bishops, its priests, and its monks. We have already, in connection with the messages of Bahá’u’lláh to the crowned heads of the world, considered certain features of the Tablet to the Roman Pontiff, as well as the words written to the kings of Christendom. Let us now turn our attention to those passages in which the aristocracy of the church and its ordained servants are singled out for exhortation and admonition by the Pen of Bahá’u’lláh:
“Say: O concourse of patriarchs! He Whom ye were promised in the Tablets is come. Fear God, and follow not the vain imaginings of the superstitious. Lay aside the things ye possess, and take fast hold of the Tablet of God by His sovereign power. Better is this for you than all your possessions. Unto this testifieth every understanding heart, and every man of insight. Pride ye yourselves on My Name, and yet shut yourselves out as by a veil from Me? This indeed is a strange thing!”
“Say: O concourse of archbishops! He Who is the Lord of all men hath appeared. In the plain of guidance He calleth mankind, whilst ye are numbered with the dead! Great is the blessedness of him who is stirred by the Breeze of God, and hath arisen from amongst the dead in this perspicuous Name.”
“Say: O concourse of bishops! Trembling hath seized all the kindreds of the earth, and He Who is the Everlasting Father calleth aloud between earth and heaven. Blessed the ear that hath heard, and the eye that hath seen, and the heart that hath turned unto Him Who is the Point of Adoration of all who are in the heavens and all who are on earth.” “O concourse of bishops! Ye are the stars of the heaven of My knowledge. My mercy desireth not that ye should fall upon the earth. My justice, however, declareth: ‘This is that which the Son [Jesus] hath decreed.’ And whatsoever hath proceeded out of His blameless, His truthspeaking, trustworthy mouth, can never be altered. The bells, verily, peal out My Name, and lament over Me, but My spirit rejoiceth with evident gladness. The body of the Loved One yearneth for the cross, and His head is eager for the spear, in the path of the All-Merciful. The ascendancy of the oppressor can in no wise deter Him from His purpose.” And again: “The stars of the heaven of knowledge have fallen, they that adduce the proofs they possess in order to demonstrate the truth of My Cause, and who make mention of God in My Name. When I came unto them, in My majesty, however, they turned aside from Me. They, verily, are of the fallen. This is what the Spirit [Jesus] prophesied when He came with the truth, and the Jewish doctors caviled at Him, until they committed what made the Holy Spirit to lament, and the eyes of such as enjoy near access to God to weep.”
“Say: O concourse of priests! Leave the bells, and come forth, then, from your churches. It behooveth you, in this day, to proclaim aloud the Most Great Name among the nations. Prefer ye to be silent, whilst every stone and every tree shouteth aloud: ‘The Lord is come in His great glory!’?… He that summoneth men in My name is, verily, of Me, and he will show forth that which is beyond the power of all that are on earth. …Let the Breeze of God awaken you. Verily, it hath wafted over the world. Well is it with him that hath discovered the fragrance thereof and been accounted among the well-assured.” And again: “O concourse of priests! The Day of Reckoning hath appeared, the Day whereon He Who was in heaven hath come. He, verily, is the One Whom ye were promised in the Books of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the All-Praised. How long will ye wander in the wilderness of heedlessness and superstition? Turn with your hearts in the direction of your Lord, the Forgiving, the Generous.”
“Say: O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in churches and cloisters. Come forth by My leave, and occupy yourselves with that which will profit your souls and the souls of men. Thus biddeth you the King of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behooveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire. Thus counseleth you your Lord, and He, verily, is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous. Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place. We have forbidden you perfidious acts, and not that which will demonstrate fidelity. Have ye clung to the standards fixed by your own selves, and cast the standards of God behind your backs? Fear God, and be not of the foolish. But for man, who would make mention of Me on My earth, and how could My attributes and My name have been revealed? Ponder ye, and be not of them that are veiled and fast asleep. He that wedded not [Jesus] found no place wherein to dwell or lay His head, by reason of that which the hands of the treacherous had wrought. His sanctity consisteth not in that which ye believe or fancy, but rather in the things We possess. Ask, that ye may apprehend His station which hath been exalted above the imaginings of all that dwell on earth. Blessed are they who perceive it.” And again: “O concourse of monks! If ye choose to follow Me, I will make you heirs of My Kingdom; and if ye transgress against Me, I will, in My long-suffering, endure it patiently, and I, verily, am the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Merciful. …Bethlehem is astir with the Breeze of God. We hear her voice saying: ‘O Most Generous Lord! Where is Thy great glory established? The sweet savors of Thy presence have quickened me, after I had melted in my separation from Thee. Praised be Thou in that Thou hast raised the veils, and come with power in evident glory.’ We called unto her from behind the Tabernacle of Majesty and Grandeur: ‘O Bethlehem! This Light hath risen in the orient, and traveled towards the occident, until it reached thee in the evening of its life. Tell Me then: Do the sons recognize the Father, and acknowledge Him, or do they deny Him, even as the people aforetime denied Him [Jesus]?’ Whereupon she cried out saying: ‘Thou art, in truth, the All-Knowing, the Best-Informed.” And again: “Consider, likewise, how numerous at this time are the monks who have secluded themselves in their churches, in My name, and who, when the appointed time came, and We unveiled to them Our beauty, failed to recognize Me, notwithstanding that they call upon Me at dawn and at eventide.” “Read ye the Evangel,” He again addresses them, “and yet refuse to acknowledge the All-Glorious Lord? This indeed beseemeth you not, O concourse of learned men!… The fragrances of the All-Merciful have wafted over all creation. Happy the man that hath forsaken his desires, and taken fast hold of guidance.”
These “fallen stars” of the firmament of Christendom, these “thick clouds” that have obscured the radiance of the true Faith of God, these princes of the Church that have failed to acknowledge the sovereignty of the “King of kings,” these deluded ministers of the Son who have shunned and ignored the promised Kingdom which the “Everlasting Father” has brought down from heaven, and is now establishing upon earth—these are experiencing, in this “Day of Reckoning,” a crisis, not indeed as critical as that which the Islamic sacerdotal order, the inveterate enemies of the Faith, has had to face, but one which is no less widespread and significant. “Power hath been seized” indeed, and is being increasingly seized, from these ecclesiastics that speak in the name, and yet are so far away from the spirit, of the Faith they profess.
We have only to look around us, as we survey the fortunes of Christian ecclesiastical orders, to appreciate the steady deterioration of their influence, the decline of their power, the damage to their prestige, the flouting of their authority, the dwindling of their congregations, the relaxation of their discipline, the restriction of their press, the timidity of their leaders, the confusion in their ranks, the progressive confiscation of their properties, the surrender of some of their most powerful strongholds, and the extinction of other ancient and cherished institutions. Indeed, ever since the Divine summons was issued, and the invitation extended, and the warning sounded, and the condemnation pronounced, this process, that may be said to have been initiated with the collapse of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff, soon after the Tablet to the Pope had been revealed, has been operating with increasing momentum, menacing the very basis on which the entire order is resting. Aided by the forces which the Communist movement has unloosed, reinforced by the political consequences of the last war, accelerated by the excessive, the blind, the intolerant, and militant nationalism which is now convulsing the nations, and stimulated by the rising tide of materialism, irreligion, and paganism, this process is not only tending to subvert ecclesiastical institutions, but appears to be leading to the rapid dechristianization of the masses in many Christian countries.
I shall content myself with the enumeration of certain outstanding manifestations of this force which is increasingly invading the domain, and assailing the firmest ramparts, of one of the leading religious systems of mankind. The virtual extinction of the temporal power of the most preeminent ruler in Christendom immediately after the creation of the Kingdom of Italy; the wave of anticlericalism that swept over France after the collapse of the Napoleonic empire, and which culminated in the complete separation of the Catholic Church from the state, in the laicization of the Third Republic, in the secularization of education, and in the suppression and dispersal of religious orders; the swift and sudden rise of that “religious irreligion,” that bold, conscious, and organized assault launched in Soviet Russia against the Greek Orthodox Church, that precipitated the disestablishment of the state religion, that massacred a vast number of its members originally numbering above a hundred million souls, that pulled down, closed, or converted into museums, theatres and warehouses, thousands upon thousands of churches, monasteries, synagogues and mosques, that stripped the church of its six and a half million acres of property, and sought, through its League of Militant Atheists and the promulgation of a “five-year plan of godlessness,” to loosen from its foundations the religious life of the masses; the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy that dissolved, by one stroke, the most powerful unit which owed its allegiance to, and supported through its resources the administration of, the Church of Rome; the divorce of the Spanish state from that same Church, and the overthrow of the monarchy, the champion of Catholic Christendom; the nationalistic philosophy, the parent of an unbridled and obsolete nationalism, which, having dethroned Islám, has indirectly assaulted the front line of the Christian church in non-Christian lands, and is dealing such heavy blows to Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian Missions in Persia, Turkey, and the Far East; the revolutionary movement that brought in its wake the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico; and finally the gospel of modern paganism, unconcealed, aggressive, and unrelenting, which, in the years preceding the present turmoil, and increasingly since its outbreak, has swept over the continent of Europe, invading the citadels, and sowing confusion in the hearts of the supporters, of the Catholic, the Greek Orthodox, and the Lutheran churches, in Austria, Poland, the Baltic and Scandinavian states, and more recently in Western Europe, the home and center of the most powerful hierarchies of Christendom.
What a sorry spectacle of impotence and disruption does this fratricidal war, which Christian nations are waging against Christian nations—Anglicans pitted against Lutherans, Catholics against Greek Orthodox, Catholics against Catholics, and Protestants against Protestants—in support of a so-called Christian civilization, offer to the eyes of those who are already perceiving the bankruptcy of the institutions that claim to speak in the name, and to be the custodians, of the Faith of Jesus Christ! The powerlessness and despair of the Holy See to halt this internecine strife, in which the children of the Prince of Peace—blessed and supported by the benedictions and harangues of the prelates of a hopelessly divided church—are engaged, proclaim the degree of subservience into which the once all-powerful institutions of the Christian Faith have sunk, and are a striking reminder of the parallel state of decadence into which the hierarchies of its sister religion have fallen.
How tragically has Christendom ignored, and how far it has strayed from, that high mission which He Who is the true Prince of Peace has, in these, the concluding passages of His Tablet to Pope Pius IX, called upon the entire body of Christians to fulfill—passages which establish, for all time, the distinction between the Mission of Bahá’u’lláh in this age and that of Jesus Christ: “Say: O concourse of Christians! We have, on a previous occasion, revealed Ourself unto you, and ye recognized Me not. This is yet another occasion vouchsafed unto you. This is the Day of God; turn ye unto Him.… The Beloved One loveth not that ye be consumed with the fire of your desires. Were ye to be shut out as by a veil from Him, this would be for no other reason than your own waywardness and ignorance. Ye make mention of Me, and know Me not. Ye call upon Me, and are heedless of My Revelation.… O people of the Gospel! They who were not in the Kingdom have now entered it, whilst We behold you, in this day, tarrying at the gate. Rend the veils asunder by the power of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bounteous, and enter, then, in My name My Kingdom. Thus biddeth you He Who desireth for you everlasting life.… We behold you, O children of the Kingdom, in darkness. This, verily, beseemeth you not. Are ye, in the face of the Light, fearful because of your deeds? Direct yourselves towards Him.… Verily, He [Jesus] said: ‘Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.’ In this day, however, We say: ‘Come ye after Me, that We may make you to become the quickeners of mankind.’” “Say,” He moreover has written, “We, verily, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation. Flee ye the One Who hath sacrificed His life that ye may be quickened? Fear God, O followers of the Spirit [Jesus], and walk not in the footsteps of every divine that hath gone far astray.… Open the doors of your hearts. He Who is the Spirit [Jesus] verily, standeth before them. Wherefore keep ye afar from Him Who hath purposed to draw you nigh unto a Resplendent Spot? Say: We, in truth, have opened unto you the gates of the Kingdom. Will ye bar the doors of your houses in My face? This indeed is naught but a grievous error.”
Such is the pass to which the Christian clergy have come—a clergy that have interposed themselves between their flock and the Christ returned in the glory of the Father. As the Faith of this Promised One penetrates farther and farther into the heart of Christendom, as its recruits from the garrisons which its spirit is assailing multiply, and provoke a concerted and determined action in defense of the strongholds of Christian orthodoxy, and as the forces of nationalism, paganism, secularism and racialism move jointly towards a climax, might we not expect that the decline in the power, the authority, and the prestige of these ecclesiastics will be accentuated, and further demonstrate the truth, and more fully unfold the implications, of Bahá’u’lláh’s pronouncement predicting the eclipse of the luminaries of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Devastating indeed has been the havoc wrought in the fortunes of the Shí‘ih hierarchy in Persia, and pitiable the lot reserved for its remnant now groaning under the yoke of a civil authority it had for centuries scorned and dominated. Cataclysmic indeed has been the collapse of the most preeminent institution of Sunní Islám, and irretrievable the downfall of its hierarchy in a country that had championed the cause of the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of God. Steady and relentless is the process which has brought such destruction, shame, division, and weakness to the defenders of the strongholds of Christian ecclesiasticism, and black indeed are the clouds that darken its horizon. Through the actions of Muslim and Christian divines—“idols,” whom Bahá’u’lláh has stigmatized as constituting the majority of His enemies—who failed, as commanded by Him, to lay aside their pens and fling away their fancies, and who, as He Himself testified, had they believed in Him would have brought about the conversion of the masses, Islám and Christianity have, it would be no exaggeration to say, entered the most critical phase of their history.
Let none, however, mistake my purpose, or misrepresent this cardinal truth which is of the essence of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. The divine origin of all the Prophets of God—including Jesus Christ and the Apostle of God, the two greatest Manifestations preceding the Revelation of the Báb—is unreservedly and unshakably upheld by each and every follower of the Bahá’í religion. The fundamental unity of these Messengers of God is clearly recognized, the continuity of their Revelations is affirmed, the God-given authority and correlative character of their Books is admitted, the singleness of their aims and purposes is proclaimed, the uniqueness of their influence emphasized, the ultimate reconciliation of their teachings and followers taught and anticipated. “They all,” according to Bahá’u’lláh’s testimony, “abide in the same tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech, and proclaim the same Faith.”
The Faith standing identified with the name of Bahá’u’lláh disclaims any intention to belittle any of the Prophets gone before Him, to whittle down any of their teachings, to obscure, however slightly, the radiance of their Revelations, to oust them from the hearts of their followers, to abrogate the fundamentals of their doctrines, to discard any of their revealed Books, or to suppress the legitimate aspirations of their adherents. Repudiating the claim of any religion to be the final revelation of God to man, disclaiming finality for His own Revelation, Bahá’u’lláh inculcates the basic principle of the relativity of religious truth, the continuity of Divine Revelation, the progressiveness of religious experience. His aim is to widen the basis of all revealed religions and to unravel the mysteries of their scriptures. He insists on the unqualified recognition of the unity of their purpose, restates the eternal verities they enshrine, coordinates their functions, distinguishes the essential and the authentic from the nonessential and spurious in their teachings, separates the God-given truths from the priest-prompted superstitions, and on this as a basis proclaims the possibility, and even prophecies the inevitability, of their unification, and the consummation of their highest hopes.
As to Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, let none among His followers who read these pages, think for a moment that either Islám, or its Prophet, or His Book, or His appointed Successors, or any of His authentic teachings, have been, or are to be in any way, or to however slight a degree, disparaged. The lineage of the Báb, the descendant of the Imám Ḥusayn; the divers and striking evidences, in Nabíl’s Narrative, of the attitude of the Herald of our Faith towards the Founder, the Imáms, and the Book of Islám; the glowing tributes paid by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán to Muḥammad and His lawful Successors, and particularly to the “peerless and incomparable” Imám Ḥusayn; the arguments adduced, forcibly, fearlessly, and publicly by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in churches and synagogues, to demonstrate the validity of the Message of the Arabian Prophet; and last but not least the written testimonial of the Queen of Rumania, who, born in the Anglican faith and notwithstanding the close alliance of her government with the Greek Orthodox Church, the state religion of her adopted country, has, largely as a result of the perusal of these public discourses of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, been prompted to proclaim her recognition of the prophetic function of Muḥammad—all proclaim, in no uncertain terms, the true attitude of the Bahá’í Faith towards its parent religion.
“God,” is her royal tribute, “is All, everything. He is the power behind all beginnings.… His is the Voice within us that shows us good and evil. But mostly we ignore or misunderstand this voice. Therefore, did He choose His Elect to come down amongst us upon earth to make clear His Word, His real meaning. Therefore, the Prophets; therefore, Christ, Muḥammad, Bahá’u’lláh, for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him, to sharpen the realization of the existence of the true God. Those voices sent to us had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand.”
What greater proof, it may be pertinently asked, can the divines of either Persia or Turkey require wherewith to demonstrate the recognition by the followers of Bahá’u’lláh of the exalted position occupied by the Prophet Muḥammad among the entire company of the Messengers of God? What greater service do these divines expect us to render the Cause of Islám? What greater evidence of our competence can they demand than that we should kindle, in quarters so far beyond their reach, the spark of an ardent and sincere conversion to the truth voiced by the Apostle of God, and obtain from the pen of royalty this public, and indeed historic, confession of His God-given Mission?
As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended. The Founder of the Christian Faith is designated by Bahá’u’lláh as the “Spirit of God,” is proclaimed as the One Who “appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost,” and is even extolled as the “Essence of the Spirit.” His mother is described as “that veiled and immortal, that most beauteous, countenance,” and the station of her Son eulogized as a “station which hath been exalted above the imaginings of all that dwell on earth,” whilst Peter is recognized as one whom God has caused “the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth.” “Know thou,” Bahá’u’lláh has moreover testified, “that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive and resplendent Spirit. We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened and the soul of the sinner sanctified.… He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.”
Indeed, the essential prerequisites of admittance into the Bahá’í fold of Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, and the followers of other ancient faiths, as well as of agnostics and even atheists, is the wholehearted and unqualified acceptance by them all of the divine origin of both Islám and Christianity, of the Prophetic functions of both Muḥammad and Jesus Christ, of the legitimacy of the institution of the Imamate, and of the primacy of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. Such are the central, the solid, the incontrovertible principles that constitute the bedrock of Bahá’í belief, which the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh is proud to acknowledge, which its teachers proclaim, which its apologists defend, which its literature disseminates, which its summer schools expound, and which the rank and file of its followers attest by both word and deed.
Nor should it be thought for a moment that the followers of Bahá’u’lláh either seek to degrade or even belittle the rank of the world’s religious leaders, whether Christian, Muslim, or of any other denomination, should their conduct conform to their professions, and be worthy of the position they occupy. “Those divines,” Bahá’u’lláh has affirmed, “…who are truly adorned with the ornament of knowledge and of a goodly character are, verily, as a head to the body of the world, and as eyes to the nations. The guidance of men hath, at all times, been and is dependent upon these blessed souls.” And again: “The divine whose conduct is upright, and the sage who is just, are as the spirit unto the body of the world. Well is it with that divine whose head is attired with the crown of justice, and whose temple is adorned with the ornament of equity.” And yet again: “The divine who hath seized and quaffed the most holy Wine, in the name of the sovereign Ordainer, is as an eye unto the world. Well is it with them who obey him, and call him to remembrance.” “Great is the blessedness of that divine,” He, in another connection, has written, “that hath not allowed knowledge to become a veil between him and the One Who is the Object of all knowledge, and who, when the Self-Subsisting appeared, hath turned with a beaming face towards Him. He, in truth, is numbered with the learned. The inmates of Paradise seek the blessing of his breath, and his lamp sheddeth its radiance over all who are in heaven and on earth. He, verily, is numbered with the inheritors of the Prophets. He that beholdeth him hath, verily, beheld the True One, and he that turneth towards him hath, verily, turned towards God, the Almighty, the All-Wise.” “Respect ye the divines amongst you,” is His exhortation, “They whose acts conform to the knowledge they possess, who observe the statutes of God, and decree the things God hath decreed in the Book. Know ye that they are the lamps of guidance betwixt earth and heaven. They that have no consideration for the position and merit of the divines amongst them have, verily, altered the bounty of God vouchsafed unto them.”
Dear friends! I have, in the preceding pages, attempted to represent this world-afflicting ordeal that has laid its grip upon mankind as primarily a judgment of God pronounced against the peoples of the earth, who, for a century, have refused to recognize the One Whose advent had been promised to all religions, and in Whose Faith all nations can alone, and must eventually, seek their true salvation. I have quoted certain passages from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb that reveal the character, and foreshadow the occurrence of this divinely inflicted visitation. I have enumerated the woeful trials with which the Faith, its Herald, its Founder, and its Exemplar, have been afflicted, and exposed the tragic failure of the generality of mankind and its leaders to protest against these tribulations, and to acknowledge the claims advanced by those Who bore them. I have, moreover, indicated that a direct, an awful, an inescapable responsibility rested on the sovereigns of the earth and the world’s religious leaders who, in the days of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, held within their grasp the reins of absolute political and religious authority. I have also endeavored to show how, as a result of the direct and active antagonism of some of them to the Faith, and the neglect by others of their unquestioned duty to investigate its truth and its claims, to vindicate its innocence, and avenge its injuries, both kings and ecclesiastics have been, and are still being, subjected to the dire punishments which their sins of omission and commission have provoked. I have, owing to the chief responsibility which they incurred, as a result of the undisputed ascendancy they held over their subjects and followers, quoted extensively from the messages, the exhortations and warnings addressed to them by the Founders of our Faith, and expatiated on the consequences that have flowed from these momentous and epoch-making utterances.
This great retributive calamity, for which the world’s supreme leaders, both secular and religious, are to be regarded as primarily answerable, as testified by Bahá’u’lláh, should not, if we would correctly appraise it, be regarded solely as a punishment meted out by God to a world that has, for a hundred years, persisted in its refusal to embrace the truth of the redemptive Message proffered to it by the supreme Messenger of God in this day. It should be viewed also, though to a lesser degree, in the light of a divine retribution for the perversity of the human race in general, in casting itself adrift from those elementary principles which must, at all times, govern, and can alone safeguard, the life and progress of mankind. Humanity has, alas, with increasing insistence, preferred, instead of acknowledging and adoring the Spirit of God as embodied in His religion in this day, to worship those false idols, untruths and half-truths, which are obscuring its religions, corrupting its spiritual life, convulsing its political institutions, corroding its social fabric, and shattering its economic structure.
Not only have the peoples of the earth ignored, and some of them even assailed, a Faith which is at once the essence, the promise, the reconciler, and the unifier of all religions, but they have drifted away from their own religions, and set up on their subverted altars other gods wholly alien not only to the spirit but to the traditional forms of their ancient faiths.
“The face of the world,” Bahá’u’lláh laments, “hath altered. The way of God and the religion of God have ceased to be of any worth in the eyes of men.” “The vitality of men’s belief in God,” He also has written, “is dying out in every land.… The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society.” “Religion,” He affirms, “is verily the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquility amongst its peoples.… The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion.” And again: “Religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world.” “As the body of man,” He, in another connection, has written, “needeth a garment to clothe it, so the body of mankind must needs be adorned with the mantle of justice and wisdom. Its robe is the Revelation vouchsafed unto it by God.”
This vital force is dying out, this mighty agency has been scorned, this radiant light obscured, this impregnable stronghold abandoned, this beauteous robe discarded. God Himself has indeed been dethroned from the hearts of men, and an idolatrous world passionately and clamorously hails and worships the false gods which its own idle fancies have fatuously created, and its misguided hands so impiously exalted. The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless.
The theories and policies, so unsound, so pernicious, which deify the state and exalt the nation above mankind, which seek to subordinate the sister races of the world to one single race, which discriminate between the black and the white, and which tolerate the dominance of one privileged class over all others—these are the dark, the false, and crooked doctrines for which any man or people who believes in them, or acts upon them, must, sooner or later, incur the wrath and chastisement of God.
“Movements,” is the warning sounded by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “newly born and worldwide in their range, will exert their utmost effort for the advancement of their designs. The Movement of the Left will acquire great importance. Its influence will spread.”
Contrasting with, and irreconcilably opposed to, these war-engendering, world-convulsing doctrines are the healing, the saving, the pregnant truths proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh, the Divine Organizer and Savior of the whole human race—truths which should be regarded as the animating force and the hallmark of His Revelation: “The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” “Let not a man glory in that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.” And again: “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” “Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth, that haply … all mankind may become the upholders of one order, and the inhabitants of one city.… Ye dwell in one world, and have been created through the operation of one Will.” “Beware lest the desires of the flesh and of a corrupt inclination provoke divisions among you. Be ye as the fingers of one hand, the members of one body.” And yet again: “All the saplings of the world have appeared from one Tree, and all the drops from one Ocean, and all beings owe their existence to one Being.” And furthermore: “That one indeed is a man who today dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”
Not only must irreligion and its monstrous offspring, the triple curse that oppresses the soul of mankind in this day, be held responsible for the ills which are so tragically besetting it, but other evils and vices, which are, for the most part, the direct consequences of the “weakening of the pillars of religion,” must also be regarded as contributory factors to the manifold guilt of which individuals and nations stand convicted. The signs of moral downfall, consequent to the dethronement of religion and the enthronement of these usurping idols, are too numerous and too patent for even a superficial observer of the state of present-day society to fail to notice. The spread of lawlessness, of drunkenness, of gambling, and of crime; the inordinate love of pleasure, of riches, and other earthly vanities; the laxity in morals, revealing itself in the irresponsible attitude towards marriage, in the weakening of parental control, in the rising tide of divorce, in the deterioration in the standard of literature and of the press, and in the advocacy of theories that are the very negation of purity, of morality and chastity—these evidences of moral decadence, invading both the East and the West, permeating every stratum of society, and instilling their poison in its members of both sexes, young and old alike, blacken still further the scroll upon which are inscribed the manifold transgressions of an unrepentant humanity.
Small wonder that Bahá’u’lláh, the Divine Physician, should have declared: “In this day the tastes of men have changed, and their power of perception hath altered. The contrary winds of the world, and its colors, have provoked a cold, and deprived men’s nostrils of the sweet savors of Revelation.”
Brimful and bitter indeed is the cup of humanity that has failed to respond to the summons of God as voiced by His Supreme Messenger, that has dimmed the lamp of its faith in its Creator, that has transferred, in so great a measure, the allegiance owed Him to the gods of its own invention, and polluted itself with the evils and vices which such a transference must necessarily engender.
Dear friends! It is in this light that we, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, should regard this visitation of God which, in the concluding years of the first century of the Bahá’í era, afflicts the generality, and has thrown into such a bewildering confusion the affairs, of mankind. It is because of this dual guilt, the things it has done and the things it has left undone, its misdeeds as well as its dismal and signal failure to accomplish its clear and unmistakable duty towards God, His Messenger, and His Faith, that this grievous ordeal, whatever its immediate political and economic causes, has laid its adamantine grip upon it.
God, however, as has been pointed out in the very beginning of these pages, does not only punish the wrongdoings of His children. He chastises because He is just, and He chastens because He loves. Having chastened them, He cannot, in His great mercy, leave them to their fate. Indeed, by the very act of chastening them He prepares them for the mission for which He has created them. “My calamity is My providence,” He, by the mouth of Bahá’u’lláh, has assured them, “outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.”
The flames which His Divine justice have kindled cleanse an unregenerate humanity, and fuse its discordant, its warring elements as no other agency can cleanse or fuse them. It is not only a retributory and destructive fire, but a disciplinary and creative process, whose aim is the salvation, through unification, of the entire planet. Mysteriously, slowly, and resistlessly God accomplishes His design, though the sight that meets our eyes in this day be the spectacle of a world hopelessly entangled in its own meshes, utterly careless of the Voice which, for a century, has been calling it to God, and miserably subservient to the siren voices which are attempting to lure it into the vast abyss.
God’s purpose is none other than to usher in, in ways He alone can bring about, and the full significance of which He alone can fathom, the Great, the Golden Age of a long-divided, a long-afflicted humanity. Its present state, indeed even its immediate future, is dark, distressingly dark. Its distant future, however, is radiant, gloriously radiant—so radiant that no eye can visualize it.
“The winds of despair,” writes Bahá’u’lláh, as He surveys the immediate destinies of mankind, “are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective.” “Such shall be its plight,” He, in another connection, has declared, “that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly.” “These fruitless strifes,” He, on the other hand, contemplating the future of mankind, has emphatically prophesied, in the course of His memorable interview with the Persian orientalist, Edward G. Browne, “these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come.… These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family.” “Soon,” He predicts, “will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.” “After a time,” He also has written, “all the governments on earth will change. Oppression will envelop the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm.” “The whole earth,” He, moreover, has stated, “is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings.” “All nations and kindreds,” ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá likewise has written, “…will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself.”
What we witness at the present time, during “this gravest crisis in the history of civilization,” recalling such times in which “religions have perished and are born,” is the adolescent stage in the slow and painful evolution of humanity, preparatory to the attainment of the stage of manhood, the stage of maturity, the promise of which is embedded in the teachings, and enshrined in the prophecies, of Bahá’u’lláh. The tumult of this age of transition is characteristic of the impetuosity and irrational instincts of youth, its follies, its prodigality, its pride, its self-assurance, its rebelliousness, and contempt of discipline.
The ages of its infancy and childhood are past, never again to return, while the Great Age, the consummation of all ages, which must signalize the coming of age of the entire human race, is yet to come. The convulsions of this transitional and most turbulent period in the annals of humanity are the essential prerequisites, and herald the inevitable approach, of that Age of Ages, “the time of the end,” in which the folly and tumult of strife that has, since the dawn of history, blackened the annals of mankind, will have been finally transmuted into the wisdom and the tranquility of an undisturbed, a universal, and lasting peace, in which the discord and separation of the children of men will have given way to the worldwide reconciliation, and the complete unification of the divers elements that constitute human society.
This will indeed be the fitting climax of that process of integration which, starting with the family, the smallest unit in the scale of human organization, must, after having called successively into being the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, continue to operate until it culminates in the unification of the whole world, the final object and the crowning glory of human evolution on this planet. It is this stage which humanity, willingly or unwillingly, is resistlessly approaching. It is for this stage that this vast, this fiery ordeal which humanity is experiencing is mysteriously paving the way. It is with this stage that the fortunes and the purpose of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh are indissolubly linked. It is the creative energies which His Revelation has released in the “year sixty,” and later reinforced by the successive effusions of celestial power vouchsafed in the “year nine” and the “year eighty” to all mankind, that have instilled into humanity the capacity to attain this final stage in its organic and collective evolution. It is with the Golden Age of His Dispensation that the consummation of this process will be forever associated. It is the structure of His New World Order, now stirring in the womb of the administrative institutions He Himself has created, that will serve both as a pattern and a nucleus of that world commonwealth which is the sure, the inevitable destiny of the peoples and nations of the earth.
Just as the organic evolution of mankind has been slow and gradual, and involved successively the unification of the family, the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, so has the light vouchsafed by the Revelation of God, at various stages in the evolution of religion, and reflected in the successive Dispensations of the past, been slow and progressive. Indeed the measure of Divine Revelation, in every age, has been adapted to, and commensurate with, the degree of social progress achieved in that age by a constantly evolving humanity.
“It hath been decreed by Us,” explains Bahá’u’lláh, “that the Word of God, and all the potentialities thereof, shall be manifested unto men in strict conformity with such conditions as have been foreordained by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.… Should the Word be allowed to release suddenly all the energies latent within it, no man could sustain the weight of so mighty a Revelation.” “All created things,” ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, elucidating this truth, has affirmed, “have their degree or stage of maturity. The period of maturity in the life of a tree is the time of its fruit-bearing.… The animal attains a stage of full growth and completeness, and in the human kingdom man reaches his maturity when the light of his intelligence attains its greatest power and development. …Similarly there are periods and stages in the collective life of humanity. At one time it was passing through its stage of childhood, at another its period of youth, but now it has entered its long-predicted phase of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere apparent.… That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race can neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day, this period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former state of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moral standards, new capacities. New bounties, perfect bestowals, are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and blessings of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity.” “In every Dispensation,” He moreover has written, “the light of Divine Guidance has been focused upon one central theme.… In this wondrous Revelation, this glorious century, the foundation of the Faith of God, and the distinguishing feature of His Law, is the consciousness of the oneness of mankind.”
The Revelation associated with the Faith of Jesus Christ focused attention primarily on the redemption of the individual and the molding of his conduct, and stressed, as its central theme, the necessity of inculcating a high standard of morality and discipline into man, as the fundamental unit in human society. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find any reference to the unity of nations or the unification of mankind as a whole. When Jesus spoke to those around Him, He addressed them primarily as individuals rather than as component parts of one universal, indivisible entity. The whole surface of the earth was as yet unexplored, and the organization of all its peoples and nations as one unit could, consequently, not be envisaged, how much less proclaimed or established. What other interpretation can be given to these words, addressed specifically by Bahá’u’lláh to the followers of the Gospel, in which the fundamental distinction between the Mission of Jesus Christ, concerning primarily the individual, and His own Message, directed more particularly to mankind as a whole, has been definitely established: “Verily, He [Jesus] said: ‘Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.’ In this day, however, We say: ‘Come ye after Me, that We may make you to become the quickeners of mankind.’”
The Faith of Islám, the succeeding link in the chain of Divine Revelation, introduced, as Bahá’u’lláh Himself testifies, the conception of the nation as a unit and a vital stage in the organization of human society, and embodied it in its teaching. This indeed is what is meant by this brief yet highly significant and illuminating pronouncement of Bahá’u’lláh: “Of old [Islamic Dispensation] it hath been revealed: ‘Love of one’s country is an element of the Faith of God.’” This principle was established and stressed by the Apostle of God, inasmuch as the evolution of human society required it at that time. Nor could any stage above and beyond it have been envisaged, as world conditions preliminary to the establishment of a superior form of organization were as yet unobtainable. The conception of nationality, the attainment to the state of nationhood, may, therefore, be said to be the distinguishing characteristics of the Muḥammadan Dispensation, in the course of which the nations and races of the world, and particularly in Europe and America, were unified and achieved political independence.
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá Himself elucidates this truth in one of His Tablets: “In cycles gone by, though harmony was established, yet, owing to the absence of means, the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided, nay even among the peoples of one and the same continent association and interchange of thought were well-nigh impossible. Consequently intercourse, understanding and unity amongst all the peoples and kindreds of the earth were unattainable. In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one.… In like manner all the members of the human family, whether peoples or governments, cities or villages, have become increasingly interdependent. For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age, this glorious century. Of this past ages have been deprived, for this century—the century of light—has been endowed with unique and unprecedented glory, power and illumination. Hence the miraculous unfolding of a fresh marvel every day. Eventually it will be seen how bright its candles will burn in the assemblage of man.”
“Behold,” He further explains, “how its light is now dawning upon the world’s darkened horizon. The first candle is unity in the political realm, the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned. The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed. The third candle is unity in freedom which will surely come to pass. The fourth candle is unity in religion which is the cornerstone of the foundation itself, and which, by the power of God, will be revealed in all its splendor. The fifth candle is the unity of nations—a unity which, in this century, will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland. The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race. The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse. Each and every one of these will inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization.”
“One of the great events,” ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has, in His “Some Answered Questions,” affirmed, “which is to occur in the Day of the manifestation of that Incomparable Branch [Bahá’u’lláh] is the hoisting of the Standard of God among all nations. By this is meant that all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself, and will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself.”
This is the stage which the world is now approaching, the stage of world unity, which, as ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá assures us, will, in this century, be securely established. “The Tongue of Grandeur,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms, “hath … in the Day of His Manifestation proclaimed: ‘It is not his to boast who loveth his country, but it is his who loveth the world.’” “Through the power,” He adds, “released by these exalted words He hath lent a fresh impulse, and set a new direction, to the birds of men’s hearts, and hath obliterated every trace of restriction and limitation from God’s Holy Book.”
A word of warning should, however, be uttered in this connection. The love of one’s country, instilled and stressed by the teaching of Islám, as “an element of the Faith of God,” has not, through this declaration, this clarion-call of Bahá’u’lláh, been either condemned or disparaged. It should not, indeed it cannot, be construed as a repudiation, or regarded in the light of a censure, pronounced against a sane and intelligent patriotism, nor does it seek to undermine the allegiance and loyalty of any individual to his country, nor does it conflict with the legitimate aspirations, rights, and duties of any individual state or nation. All it does imply and proclaim is the insufficiency of patriotism, in view of the fundamental changes effected in the economic life of society and the interdependence of the nations, and as the consequence of the contraction of the world, through the revolution in the means of transportation and communication—conditions that did not and could not exist either in the days of Jesus Christ or of Muḥammad. It calls for a wider loyalty, which should not, and indeed does not, conflict with lesser loyalties. It instills a love which, in view of its scope, must include and not exclude the love of one’s own country. It lays, through this loyalty which it inspires, and this love which it infuses, the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive, and the structure of world unification can rest. It does insist, however, on the subordination of national considerations and particularistic interests to the imperative and paramount claims of humanity as a whole, inasmuch as in a world of interdependent nations and peoples the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole.
The world is, in truth, moving on towards its destiny. The interdependence of the peoples and nations of the earth, whatever the leaders of the divisive forces of the world may say or do, is already an accomplished fact. Its unity in the economic sphere is now understood and recognized. The welfare of the part means the welfare of the whole, and the distress of the part brings distress to the whole. The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh has, in His own words, “lent a fresh impulse and set a new direction” to this vast process now operating in the world. The fires lit by this great ordeal are the consequences of men’s failure to recognize it. They are, moreover, hastening its consummation. Adversity, prolonged, worldwide, afflictive, allied to chaos and universal destruction, must needs convulse the nations, stir the conscience of the world, disillusion the masses, precipitate a radical change in the very conception of society, and coalesce ultimately the disjointed, the bleeding limbs of mankind into one body, single, organically united, and indivisible.
To the general character, the implications and features of this world commonwealth, destined to emerge, sooner or later, out of the carnage, agony, and havoc of this great world convulsion, I have already referred in my previous communications. Suffice it to say that this consummation will, by its very nature, be a gradual process, and must, as Bahá’u’lláh has Himself anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace which the nations of the earth, as yet unconscious of His Revelation and yet unwittingly enforcing the general principles which He has enunciated, will themselves establish. This momentous and historic step, involving the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness, will bring in its wake the spiritualization of the masses, consequent to the recognition of the character, and the acknowledgment of the claims, of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh—the essential condition to that ultimate fusion of all races, creeds, classes, and nations which must signalize the emergence of His New World Order.
Then will the coming of age of the entire human race be proclaimed and celebrated by all the peoples and nations of the earth. Then will the banner of the Most Great Peace be hoisted. Then will the worldwide sovereignty of Bahá’u’lláh—the Establisher of the Kingdom of the Father foretold by the Son, and anticipated by the Prophets of God before Him and after Him—be recognized, acclaimed, and firmly established. Then will a world civilization be born, flourish, and perpetuate itself, a civilization with a fullness of life such as the world has never seen nor can as yet conceive. Then will the Everlasting Covenant be fulfilled in its completeness. Then will the promise enshrined in all the Books of God be redeemed, and all the prophecies uttered by the Prophets of old come to pass, and the vision of seers and poets be realized. Then will the planet, galvanized through the universal belief of its dwellers in one God, and their allegiance to one common Revelation, mirror, within the limitations imposed upon it, the effulgent glories of the sovereignty of Bahá’u’lláh, shining in the plenitude of its splendor in the Abhá Paradise, and be made the footstool of His Throne on high, and acclaimed as the earthly heaven, capable of fulfilling that ineffable destiny fixed for it, from time immemorial, by the love and wisdom of its Creator.
Not ours, puny mortals that we are, to attempt, at so critical a stage in the long and checkered history of mankind, to arrive at a precise and satisfactory understanding of the steps which must successively lead a bleeding humanity, wretchedly oblivious of its God, and careless of Bahá’u’lláh, from its calvary to its ultimate resurrection. Not ours, the living witnesses of the all-subduing potency of His Faith, to question, for a moment, and however dark the misery that enshrouds the world, the ability of Bahá’u’lláh to forge, with the hammer of His Will, and through the fire of tribulation, upon the anvil of this travailing age, and in the particular shape His mind has envisioned, these scattered and mutually destructive fragments into which a perverse world has fallen, into one single unit, solid and indivisible, able to execute His design for the children of men.
Ours rather the duty, however confused the scene, however dismal the present outlook, however circumscribed the resources we dispose of, to labor serenely, confidently, and unremittingly to lend our share of assistance, in whichever way circumstances may enable us, to the operation of the forces which, as marshaled and directed by Bahá’u’lláh, are leading humanity out of the valley of misery and shame to the loftiest summits of power and glory.