Chapter 11   Chapter 13

Chapter Twelve

The Center Of The Covenant. The New World Order. A Divine Civilization. The Kingdom Of God On Earth.

The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System--the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 136

On the evening of the same day, December 2nd, Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to a large group of the friends in the same home referred to in the previous chapter. His theme covered the spiritual teachings peculiar to the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. It is essential to the complete understanding of the reader of the influences which have exerted such a revolutionary effect upon the life of the writer that the words of Abdu'l-Bahá on this subject should be elaborated a bit.

And here I must digress a little to explain why I have forced myself to write so frankly of the personal and intimate things which, had I followed my own inclinations, would have been locked deep within my heart. There is only one reason. For many years I have striven to evade the responsibility which this obligation has laid upon me, and which, under the repeated urging of friends I can no longer do. The reason is this:

Humanity is one. No individual is without a spiritual, as well as a physical relationship with every other individual. The hopes, longings, aspirations of one are those of each and all. The depths and heights; the agonies and joys; the victories and defeats vary in intensity with each individual according to the capacity and courage of each, but all travel much the same path and all fight over much the same ground.

If, then, one of these units in the struggling, aspiring mass has found the Path to the "Abode of Peace"; has won battles, if not the whole campaign, in this universal Field, and, knowing that so many of his world-wide brothers are still "bewildered in search of the Friend"; still so unnecessarily and despairingly involved in a dying civilization to whom a new courage and hope and energy might be conveyed by a knowledge of the Way out of the wilderness found by one who has fought over the very ground upon which they are more or less aimlessly and hopelessly fighting, should not the history of that campaign be recounted that other souls, bewildered and saddened as I was, might, God willing, be ever so little assisted in meeting and overcoming the same army of spiritual enemies? It seems to me that this is a responsibility which may not be evaded. Hence this history.

This chapter is devoted to a summary of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh as given by Abdu'l-Bahá on that memorable evening.[44]

He began by saying that he would mention some of the teachings which are peculiar to Bahá'u'lláh's teachings: saying that in addition to those he is about to mention there are many others which are to be found in the books. Tablets and Epistles written by Bahá'u'lláh such as the Hidden Words, Glad Tidings, Words of Paradise, Tablet of the World and the Aqdas, or Most Holy Law, which cannot be found in any of the past books or epistles of other prophets.

"A fundamental teachings of Bahá'u'lláh," He began, "is the oneness of the World of Humanity. Addressing mankind He said:

"Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch."... "By this it is meant that the world of humanity is like a tree, the nations and peoples are the different limbs or branches of that tree and the individual human creatures are as the fruits and blossoms thereof. In all the religious teachings of the past the human world has been represented as divided into two pans, one the "people of the Book" (followers of some particular Prophet) or the pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error, or the evil tree..."Bahá'u'lláh in His teachings has submerged all mankind in the sea of Divine Generosity.

Some are asleep, they need to be awakened. Some are ailing, they need to be healed. Some are immature as children, they need to be trained. But all are recipients of the bounty and bestowals of God."[45]

I submit to the reader whether or not the application of this principle to the problems of international statesmanship, commerce and religion would or would not conduce to the happiness and prosperity of mankind.

I suggest that the reader, if he questions the scientific accuracy of the statement (i.e., the implied assertion that all races and colors have the same capacity for mental and spiritual advancement; that all are affected by the same handicaps and freed by the same method), consult some recognized up-to-date ethnologist on the matter.

"Another new principle," Abdu'l-Bahá went on, "is the injunction to investigate Truth--that is to say, no man should blindly follow his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate the truth himself in order that he may follow the truth instead of blind acquiescence and imitation of ancestral beliefs."[46]

In the previous chapter I have pointed out how deeply this affects the traditional connotations of the word "Authority" but consider how it also affects the connotations mankind has throughout historical times associated with the words "Religion," "Law," "Government," "Education," in fact there is hardly a single angle of our social, economic, or religious life which is not dominated by what somebody in the remote past has had to say on the matter. We are ruled in law by the precedents laid down either by Roman or Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence. The very phraseology in which our legal documents are couched smacks of the dust of courtrooms of a thousand years ago or more. We are ruled in educational fields by precedents established when students and teachers alike were living under conditions, and motivated by ideals, as different from those of today as could well be imagined.

But why continue? The facts are pikestaffian. And this monstrous slavery under which we attempt to carry on in a world of radio-airplane-Soviet newness is not confined to the so-called thoughtless mob. It is true that for some centuries yet the vast majority of mankind will be content to follow rather than lead. As James Truslow Adams remarks: "Within any appreciable period of time to expect it (`the vast herd') to reason like John Dewey is as irrational as to expect it to carve like Phidias or paint like Rembrandt. It will be guided by its desires and emotions." But when this subordination of one mind to another, which functioned possibly 2,000 years ago, extends to the intellectual, educational, governmental, religious and legal leaders of the race it behooves us to consider carefully what kind of ground lies at the bottom of the precipice towards which we are all rushing so madly. How hard is the ground? How destructive will be the certain smashup of a civilization which insists on being guided by superstition rather than by reason?

How simply, nobly, scientifically Bahá'u'lláh places His finger on the crucial spot!

"O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behoveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes."[47]

Again I ask the reader to consider what effect would in all likelihood be produced upon civilization if the leaders of world thought could suddenly become convinced that the Author of this sublime paragraph was one of the long line of divinely inspired Prophets Who has appeared in the world at this time to act as the Leader of the race in the establishment of a New World Order, and one of whose fundamental precepts directs each individual's attention to his own responsibility. Consider how the application of this one principle would effect the immediate overthrow of the abuses in the fields of Religion, Law, Education and Government. Backed by the emotional impulse of the Love of God (love of the new Messiah enshrined within the earthly Temple of the "Glory of God"), it is impossible to predict the beauty and joy of the civilization which, within the space of two or three generations, would be established.

Abdu'l-Bahá continued:

"His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh has announced that the foundation of all religions is one; that oneness is Truth and Truth is oneness which does not admit of plurality.

"He sets forth the principle for this day that religion must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement among mankind. If it be the cause of discord and hostility, if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world.

"Furthermore He proclaims that religion must be in accord with science and reason. If it does not so conform it is superstition."

It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the wisdom and common sense of these principles or to speak of the practical results accruing from their application. Surely they are apparent.

"Again Bahá'u'lláh establishes the equality of man and woman. This is peculiar to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, for all other religions have placed man above woman."

In commenting upon this I simply point out that this principle as enunciated by the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith was laid down as early as 1853 and in a country, Persia, which from time immemorial had placed women on a level with the animal and denied them even the possession of a soul. It was about 1848 that there arose in Persia a woman who could well be styled the first woman suffragist. Qurratu'l-'Ayn (Consolation of the Eyes). She was the only woman among the eighteen disciples of the Báb, the divine forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh.

"She threw aside the veil," says Abdu'l-Bahá, "carried on controversies with the most learned men, and in every meeting she vanquished them. She was stoned in the streets, exiled from town to town, threatened with death, but she never failed in her determination to work for the freedom of her sisters. She bore persecution with the greatest heroism and even in prison gained converts. To a Persian minister, in whose house she was imprisoned, she said: You can kill me as soon as you like but you cannot stop the emancipation of women. At last she was strangled and her body thrown into an empty well and stones piled upon it. Preparing for her execution she put on her choicest robes as if she were going to a bridal party."

So speaks Abdu'l-Bahá of this heroic leader of women who gave her life for the liberation of her sex at a time when Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard and others had not yet begun the campaign.

A new religious principle is that prejudice and fanaticism--whether sectarian, denominational, patriotic or political--are destructive to the foundation of human solidarity; therefore, man should release himself from such bonds in order that the oneness of the world of humanity may become manifest. [48]

The cancer at the heart of world society is prejudice. It affects every relation in life from "other-side-of-the-tracks" snobbery to racial and religious antagonisms resulting in lynchings, pogroms and massacres like that of St. Bartholomew and the centuries long persecution of the Armenians. I do not ask the reader to believe that such a cancer may at once be eradicated, but only to ask himself whether it might not have a fair chance of extermination if an influential minority of world leaders, who would necessarily carry with them the mass of their followers, became convinced (after scientific investigation) of the "Authority" of the promulgator of this principle.

"Universal peace," Abdu'l-Bahá went on, "is assured by Bahá'u'lláh 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.[49]

This is what Bahá'u'lláh calls "The Most Great Peace." Note that it implies not the mere cessation of warfare. It goes to the root of the matter and envisages the whole composite life of the individual, the society in which he functions and the emotions which are the mainsprings of action.

"Bahá'u'lláh declares that all mankind should attain knowledge and acquire an education."[50]

Again I would point out that this principle found utterance at a time when education in all parts of the world was assumed to be the prerogative only of a certain class. Its acquirement was denied the millions of children and adults alike whose station in life cut them off from those privileges of intellectual attainments which are the source of power. It was rightfully discerned that if the underdogs should be allowed the same access to the sources of this power which their rulers possessed their writhings might displace the mighty from their seats. It is an interesting coincidence, to say the least, that with this commanding edict from Bahá'u'lláh began the first emergence of what is known as free education of "the common people." And with it the first hopeful efforts towards their freedom in every field of human activity.

"Bahá'u'lláh has set forth the solution and provided the remedy for the economic question."

"He has ordained and established the House of Justice which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of Church and State. This institution is under the protecting power of Bahá'u'lláh Himself. A universal or international House of Justice shall also be organized whose rulings shall be in accordance with the commands and teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, and that which the universal House of Justice ordains shall be obeyed by all mankind. This international House of Justice shall be appointed and organized from the (local and national) Houses of Justice of the whole world, and all the world shall come under its administration"[51]

That is to say: Bahá'u'lláh has planned and ordained a type of world organization which bears an analogous relation to the Federal Government of the United States in that it envisages a Federation of the nations of the world under a central "House of Justice." There is this important and far-reaching difference, however, the Plan of Bahá'u'lláh involves that this governing head shall have a religious as well as a political function. This startles the minds of those who associate "religion" with the history of the abuses growing out of the warfare between Muhammadans and Christians; between Catholics and Protestants, and the only lesser strife between the countless sects in all religions.

But when it is understood that this State Religion formulated by Bahá'u'lláh is predicated upon world unity in the spheres of social, economic and educational activities as well as of religion; when one realizes that "the rulings of the House of Justice shall be in accordance with the commands and teachings of Bahá'u'lláh" which abolish prejudice, bigotry and contention, it is seen that the objections to such a union tend to disappear.

To draw a parallel let us assume that at the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. a constitution had been drawn up for the government of the Holy Roman Empire based upon the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians; the twelfth chapter of Romans, the Epistles of John and a few scattering paragraphs of similar high ethical import from the Old Testament. Let us suppose further that included in that constitution had been the principle that the prophets of all other religions were of equal authority with Christ and Moses; that Zoroaster and Krishna and Buddha were accepted as of equal authority with the Christ, and that all their followers were included among the participants of the benefits accruing to this unity of peoples and religions under the Holy Roman Empire. And still further let us suppose that Christ Himself had left a written constitution to the above effect and had appointed under His own hand and seal a certain one of His disciples as the first head of the governing council of the Empire, together with a definite program for the selection of his successors, the tenure of these incumbents to be determined by a Cabinet, or Council elected by popular suffrage by all the peoples of the then known world.--If your imagination is active enough to suppose all this your honest judgment will follow that the history of religion for the last nineteen hundred years would have been vastly different.

Yet all that I have ventured to put as a supposition in the case of Christianity, falls short of the facts underlying the establishment of the Bahá'í World Religion. This, I think, will be demonstrated later in this chapter.

The last one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh which Abdu'l-Bahá elaborated that evening is one which is not usually emphasized: yet it is of the utmost importance. Abdu'l-Bahá called it "the most great characteristic" of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.

"It is the ordination and appointment of the Center of the Covenant. By this appointment and provision He has safeguarded and protected the religion of God against differences and schisms, making it impossible for anyone to create a new sect or faction of belief. To insure unity and agreement He has entered into a Covenant with all the people of the world designating the interpreter and explainer of His teachings so that no one may interpret or explain the religion of God according to his own view or opinion and thus create a sect founded upon his individual understanding of the divine words."[52]

That is to say: Bahá'u'lláh in His Will and Testament named His own Son, Abdu'l-Bahá, as the sole interpreter of the meaning and implications of His teachings. "He did this," He said, "not because he is My son but because he is the purest channel in the world for the dissemination of the Water of Life."

To make the picture complete it is necessary to include in this explanation a reference to the Will and Testament which Abdu'l-Bahá left when He passed from this world in 1921. In that Will He appointed His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, then a youth of 25, as Guardian of the Cause of God and the Head of the first House of Justice. One of the prime functions of the Guardian is to decide without question as to the meanings and implications of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.

Now let us use our most vivid imagination again. Let us suppose that Peter, instead of being a fisher-disciple of Jesus', had been his own son, had been under His care and instruction since infancy. Let us watch Jesus as He grew to old age writing innumerable books, and epistles and holding countless conversations with His followers who had grown before His passing to a host numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and had seen thousands of believers die as martyrs in His Cause, in spite of the fact that He was in exile and prison for the last forty years of His life.

And let us finally postulate that Peter, His son, lived for twenty-nine years after the passing of Jesus (remembering that Jesus had left the appointment of this son as the only interpreter of His Words) and that those years had been spent in writing books, thousands of letters answering every conceivable question that could arise as to the meaning of the teachings of Jesus, and finally that Peter had spent some ten years traveling throughout the known world, meeting not scorn and persecution but honor and respect from all classes of people. Then, as has been said, before his own passing at the age of seventy-seven years, appointing his grandson to act as the Guardian of the purity of Jesus' teachings.

I think you will agree with me that not only would the history of the Christian Church have been more free from the schisms which have rent it asunder, but that The Holy Roman Empire would have been a power for unity and peace, acting ever for the welfare and happiness of the race, for do not forget that its constitution would have been based solely on the Words of the Prophets of God, culminating in the Sermon on the Mount and that no discrimination was allowable between the followers of any one of these Mouthpieces of the Eternal.

I have followed this hypothetical analogy at some length for it seems to me the best form in which to present vividly the World Order planned and ordained by Bahá'u'lláh, explained, exemplified and fully set forth by Abdu'l-Bahá and which is now being actively brought into functioning power by Shoghi Effendi.

There is still one highly important feature of the Plan of Bahá'u'lláh which needs emphasis. He has ordained in His Law that throughout the world there shall be built Temples for the worship of the one God, in which all mankind shall be welcomed, without regard to the Name under which they have chosen to be enrolled. These Temples consist of ten buildings; a central one built after a prescribed plan, having nine sides, nine entrances, nine paths radiating from these entrances leading to the nine other buildings surrounding the central House of Worship. These nine buildings are to represent and typify the various means by which the Love of God flows forth in manifestation of the love of man for man. For instance a hospital, an institution of learning, a home for the aged, an institution for the care and instruction of the blind, a home for orphaned children, a laboratory for scientific research, an institution for the care and instruction of the deaf and dumb and sub-normal unfortunates, and a building containing lecture halls and class rooms for the dissemination of the principles and objectives of pure religion, for this is not within the functions of the House of Worship itself. Within those holy walls the words of man are never heard. No sermons or ritual observances are there observed. Nothing but the Words of God uttered by His Prophets are there chanted. And furthermore it is prescribed that no salary is attached to the services of any spiritual teacher.

And included among the nine buildings surrounding the central One is a Hotel, or Hospice for the entertainment of travelers. Here visitors are welcomed, cared for gratis temporarily and served in any way their need dictates. Two of these Houses of Worship are already in existence: one in Ishkabad, Russia, completed some years ago, the other (the central building only) in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

In this group of buildings we see typified for the first time in human history what Jesus described as the summing up of all the Law and all the Prophetic teachings--the Love of God expressed in love for man. Is it any wonder that He described the fulfillment of His prophetic Words as "The Kingdom of God on Earth!"

The Administrative Order, which ever since Abdu'l-Bahá's ascension has evolved and is taking shape under our very eyes in no fewer than forty countries of the world, may be considered as the framework of the Will [Abdu'l-Bahá's Will] itself, the inviolable stronghold wherein this new-born child is being nurtured and developed. This Administrative Order, as it expands and consolidates itself, will no doubt manifest the potentialities and reveal the full implications of this momentous Document - this most remarkable expression of the Will of One of the most remarkable Figures of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh. It will, as its component parts, its organic institutions, begin to function with efficiency and vigor, assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind.[53]

"So firm and mighty is this Covenant that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious dispensation hath produced its like." --Abdu'l-Bahá [54]

Chapter 11   Chapter 13

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