Century of Light:
Questions and References
- Question: How realistic are humanity's hopes and beliefs that "through some fortuitous conjunction of circumstances it will nevertheless be possible to bend the conditions of human life into conformity with prevailing human desires."?
Reference: Preface: "Such hopes are not merely illusory, but miss entirely the nature and meaning of the great turning point through which our world has passed in these crucial hundred years."
- Question: What difference does it make for the future what humanity understands about the 20th century?
Reference: Preface: "Only as humanity comes to understand the implications of what occurred during this period of history will it be able to meet the challenges that lie ahead."
- Question: What is the role of Bahá'ís in this process?
Reference: Preface: "The value of the contribution we as Bahá'ís can make to the process demands that we ourselves grasp the significance of the historic transformation wrought by the 20th century."
- Question: What are some examples of "ruin" which the human race
has brought upon itself in the last one hundred years?
Reference: Page 1: loss of life; disintegration of basic institutions of social order; abandonment of standards of decency; surrender to ideologies; weapons of mass annihilation; poverty; destruction of the environment.
- Question: In 1941 in Promised Day is Come, how did Shoghi Effendi
describe the "tempest" sweeping the face of the earth?
Reference: Page 2: quotation from Promised Day is Come
- Question: In 1900, at the beginning of the 20th century, what areas of
the world had the greatest "wealth and influence"?
Reference: Page 2: Europe and the United States"
- Question: What are some examples of what was happening to "the
vast majority of the human family, living in lands outside the Western
world," e.g., China, India, Russia, Africa and even Mexico?
- Question: What are some of the "accomplishments" of the peoples of
West at the beginning of the 20th century?
References: Pages 4-5: technological, scientific and philosophical
- Question: From a spiritual perspective, what was the "strange,
paradoxical duality" of the age?
References: Pages 5-6: secularism and religious prejudice
- Question: How did 'Abdu'l-Bahá describe the 20th century?
Reference: Page 7: quotation from Selections from the Writings of
- Question: What did 'Abdu'l-Bahá write in the Tablet to the small
Bahá'í village of Kishih, Iran describing what He meant by the image of "this is the century of light"?
References: Pages 8 - 10: quotations from Tablet
- Question: What were examples of some of the effects of 'Abdu'l-
Baha's Tablets on the Persian Bahá'ís?
References: Pages 10-12: social, organizational, practical advances:
enrollments, consultative groups, education, medical, postal, baths,
travel-teaching, building House of Worship in province of Russia
- Question: What was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's greatest victory in the early
years of the century?
Reference: Page 13: Building the mausoleum for the remains of the Bab on Mount Carmel on the spot designated for it by Bahá'u'lláh
- Question: What was the significance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's stay in
Egypt (September 1910-1911) before going on to Europe?
References: Pages 14-15: the opportunity for the first public proclamation of the Faith's message and successful interactions with
prominent individuals in the intellectual world of Sunni Islam, so that
His fame preceded him to Europe.
- Question: What were some of the methods 'Abdu'l-Bahá used in
teaching in the West?
References: Pages 17-18: gentleness, metaphors, historical examples, indirectness, patience towards questions
- Question: Who were some "God-intoxicated pilgrims" who visited
'Abdu'l-Bahá in Akka and His effect on them?
References: Pages 18-19: May Maxwell and Thornton Chase which
afterwards led to "an outburst of systematic and sustained activity"
- Question: Where and when did 'Abdu'l-Bahá give His first talk to a
public audience in the West and when did he arrive in New York?
Reference: Page 20: from the pulpit of City Temple, London, on
September 10, 1911; and arrived in New York on April 11, 1912
- Question: What were the key social principles and points proclaimed
by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His talks and His assurances?
References: Pages 21-24: quotation on Page 21 from God Passes By;
quotation on Page 22 from Promulgation of Universal Peace ("what was needed was the will to act and the faith to persist"); and quotation
on Page 24 from Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
- Question: What is the role of the Covenant?
References: Pages 25-26: quotation on Page 26 from God Passes By
(in the words of Shoghi Effendi, the Covenant was "to perpetuate the
influence of [the] Faith, insure its integrity, safeguard it from schism,
and stimulate its world-wide expansion")
- Question: Describe some of the effects of World War I (1914-1918)
and review 'Abdul-Baha's explanation given in Montreal two years before
the outbreak of WWI.
References: Pages 29-32; and 'Abdul-Baha's talk in Promulgation of
Universal Peace on Pages 32-33
- Question: What were some of the hopes and disappointments of U.S.
President Woodrow Wilson regarding the League of Nations, and the
expectations of Shoghi Effendi for the future?
References: Pages 32-35; quotation on Page 34 from Shoghi Effendi
in Citadel of Faith
- Question: What are the expectations of the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh, and
'Abdu'l-Bahá about the West?
References: Pages 35-37: quotations from the Bab on Page 36; from
Bahá'u'lláh on Pages 36-37; and from 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Page 36 quoted in Citadel of Faith
- Question: In what way is 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament a
"Charter" of the Administrative Order?
References: Pages 39-42; preserves unity and structure
- Question: What was the "historic tragedy" that had occurred between
1850 - 1900 and its consequences?
References: Pages 43-45; rejection of the Message and "deepening
gloom throughout the Western world"
- Question: What were the struggles/disappointments facing Shoghi
Effendi with some of his family and its importance for us to understand
References: Pages 46-49; "because of the light it casts on the challenges the Bahá'í community will increasingly face in the years
- Question: What is the "organic metaphor" used to describe the stages
by which human society has been gradually organized?
References: Pages 50-51; "infancy and childhood, adolescence, and
- Question: Shoghi Effendi said international affairs would be
reshaped by twin forces in a dual process - what are they and what would
be the role of the United States?
Reference: Page 52: "integration and disintegration"; U.S. to take an
"active and decisive part...in the organization and the peaceful
settlement of the affairs of mankind."
- Question: What was the "organizing image" Shoghi Effendi used to
describe the period following the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (November 28, 1921) in which the Administrative Order would be erected and what were its first activities?
References: Pages 54-58; "the Iron Age/the Formative Age;" forming
local and national spiritual assemblies
- Question: What was the "spiritual calamity" engulfing humanity
between the two world wars (1918-1940) and what were the three
"false gods" of ideology being "worshipped"?
References: Pages 60-63; "Nationalism (Fascism), Racialism (Naziism) and Communism
- Question: Teaching the Faith up until the 1930's was conducted
differently by Bahá'ís in Iran and in the West - describe and explain why.
- Question: What did 'Abdu'l-Bahá write to the North American
Bahá'ís calling for "the spiritual conquest of the planet" and how did
Shoghi Effendi advance the Master's vision?
References: Pages 67-68; 14 Letters in Tablets of the Divine Plan;
Shoghi Effendi inspiringly described a vision of our "spiritual destiny"
in letters and to pilgrims who visited Haifa/Akka.
- Question: In the period of 1937-1944, describe the differences
between the goals and results of the armies of nations fighting in World
War II and "the little company of believers" who fulfilled their mission
in carrying out the first Seven Year Plan of Shoghi Effendi. Explain why.
References: Pages 68-69; "Bahá'í efforts are in harmony with [the]
Greater Plan of God"
- Question: What gift did the Guardian give to Bahá'ís of the world at
the end of the first Seven Year Plan (1944) and what was its importance
References: Pages 69-70; God Passes By, published in 1944, a "comprehensive and reflective history of the first 100 years of the Cause" to understand the "Purpose of God"
- Question: How did Shoghi Effendi view the Second World War?
Reference: Page 70: as a "continuation" of WWI started in 1914 and
as "an essential pre-requisite to world unification"
- Question: List some of the evidences of change in the world after
World War II.
References: Pages 71-76: hope and fear; international peacekeeping
force (principle of collective action for peace); UN Declaration of Human Rights; war crimes trials; national liberation movements; global economic integration; humanitarian initiatives; efforts of
idealistic youth; and new technologies
- Question: In 1946, when Shoghi Effendi launched the second Seven
Year Plan, what was the major difference in the Bahá'í world from the
first Seven Year Plan begun in 1937?
References: Pages 76-77: several other Bahá'í communities now in
a position to participate with North America in the second 7 Year Plan
- Question: When the Guardian announced a decade-long "Spiritual
Crusade" to begin in Ridvan 1953, how many National Spiritual Assemblies were there in the world and what were they to do?
References: Pages 77-78: 12 NSAs were to extend "Bahá'u'lláh's
spiritual dominion over the surface of the entire planet" (cable from
Shoghi Effendi, 8 October 1952)
- Question: Describe Shoghi Effendi's steps to winning the Crusade
and protecting the future of the Cause.
References: Pages 79-80: appointment of Hands of the Cause and
Auxiliary Board members
- Question: When Shoghi Effendi unexpectedly died on November 4,
1957 in the middle of the Crusade, what role did the Hands of the Cause
perform and what actions did they take to protect the Faith?
References: Pages 81-82: As Custodians, they called for election of
the International Council in 1961 and for the first Universal House of
Justice in 1963 by 56 National Spiritual Assemblies at the end of the
Crusade for continuing divine guidance
- Question: In 1921 as soon as he became Guardian, why did Shoghi
Effendi not call for the election of the Universal House of Justice?
Reference: Page 83: needed administrative development of local and
national spiritual assemblies
- Question: What is the prime example of resolving an issue which
faced the Central Authority of the Faith after the death of the Guardian, and what did Shoghi Effendi do without a Universal House of Justice in existence for legislative decisions?
References: Pages 84-85: the issue was Shoghi Effendi had left no Will and the Universal House of Justice, in 1963, decided there was no
way to appoint or legislate to appoint a successor to Shoghi Effendi.
Shoghi Effendi, from 1921 to 1957, refrained from legislation and
gave "no more than provisional ordinances, leaving decisions in such
matters entirely to the Universal House of Justice." (when it would be elected)
- Question: As the "Cold War" political paradigm followed World
War II and revolutionary struggles increased, what "disease of the human
soul" infected the world and what are some of the results?
References: Pages 87-90; the "disease" is materialism; results
include religion being reduced to "a kind of personal preference,"
today's "cult of individualism" and "atomization of society," and
"rupture" of the "moral fabric," which is the "root cause" of our
apparently unrelated problems of pollution, economic dislocation,
ethnic violence, public apathy, increase of crime, etc. There will be no
recovery without a "fundamental change of moral consciousness and
- Question: What did the Bahá'í world achieve by the 1963 election of
the Universal House of Justice?
References: Pages 91-93: "history's first global democratic election"
which required a spiritual atmosphere and principled conduct.
- Question: What is the role of the Bahá'í community in humanity's
social and political evolution?
Reference: Page 94: "the Bahá'í community has no political agenda... The power that the Cause possesses to influence the course
of history thus lies not only in the spiritual potency of its message but
in the example it provides."
- Question: What is the significance of the designation "Houses of
Justice" given to the institutions that will govern the World Order conceived by Bahá'u'lláh?
Reference: Page 95: the power of "justice" to achieve unity
- Question: From 1963 to the present time (2000), what were the "two parallel tracks" of development of the Faith?
Reference: Page 97: "the expansion and consolidation of the Bahá'í
community itself and, along with it, a dramatic rise in the influence the
Faith came to exercise in the life of society"
- Question: What new institutions did the Universal House of Justice
create, and why?
Reference: Page 98: Continental Boards of Counselors (1968) and the
International Teaching Center (1973) to extend into the future the functions of the Hands of the Cause
- Question: What have been the global undertakings by the Universal
House of Justice which are extensions of initiatives set in motion by Shoghi Effendi based on the Faith's Founders?
References: Pages 98-99: list of Plans and initiatives given
- Question: What were the first efforts and challenges faced by the
Bahá'í community in carrying out the Plans?
References: Pages 99-100: teaching the masses (1960's and 1970's)
needed collective (not only individual) plans and projects
- Question: What segment of the Bahá'í community made a significant
contribution to the process of growth?
Reference: Page 100: youth
- Question: But what were some of the challenges which came with
References: Pages 101-102: problems of cultural "gaps," discouragement from slow results; unrealistic expectations; difficulties
of building Bahá'í community life with functioning LSAs, women's
equality, education in the face of poverty and illiteracy, moral priorities, Feasts, resources
- Question: What was the "net result" of these teaching experiences?
References: Pages 102-103: The pressure brought the Bahá'ís into a
"learning process" of experimentation toward "systematizing the
promotion of entry by troops"
- Question: What did the Universal House of Justice call on us to
begin to incorporate into our teaching and consolidation work?
References: Pages 103-104: social and economic development
(letter of October 1993)
- Question: What new institution was created in response to the
growth of the Faith in India and why?
Reference: Page 104: Regional Councils (1985) for administrative
- Question: Describe some of the struggles and triumphs of Bahá'ís in
Asia (including China) and Africa and the events marking the second Holy
Year (1992) globally.
References: Pages 105-108
- Question: In what way was the Bahá'í community different in 1996
when it began the Four Year Plan from the way it was in 1964 at the end of the Ten Year Crusade?
Reference: Page 108: it had increased by several million, but they
were largely passive believers
- Question: What was the major goal of the Four Year Plan (1996-
2000) and its major outcome?
References: Pages 109-110: advancing the process of entry by
troops; training institutes
- Question: Why were the trials and difficulties encountered by Bahá'í
communities since 1963 "necessary"?
References: Pages 110-111: "to refine endeavor and purify
motivation" toward our maturity
- Question: List examples of "external affairs" (involvement in the life
of society) outreach by the Central Figures of the Faith, and through the
formation of the United Nations-accredited "Bahá'í International Community" as an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in 1948.
References: Pages 113-117
- Question: Describe the reaction of Bahá'ís in Iran to the persecutions
begun in 1980 and its effect on the non-Bahá'ís worldwide.
References: Pages 117-122: they only demanded justice through the
UN human rights system which affected the hearts and minds of those
outside the Bahá'í Faith
- Question: What Universal House of Justice statement was released in
1985 addressed to the generality of humankind and for what purpose?
Reference: Page 122: "The Promise of World Peace;" it offered the
"Bahá'í experience as a model for study" and served to educate Bahá'ís in important Bahá'í teachings
- Question: How is the "Bahá'í International Community" perceived
now at the United Nations?
Reference: Page 123: as an "association of democratically elected
'national councils' of the world"
- Question: Describe 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet enumerating 7 "candles
(lights)" of "unity" and how they have become illumined in this "century
References: Pages 127-129: unity in the political realm, unity of
thought in world undertakings, unity in freedom, unity in religion,
unity of nations, unity of races, and unity of language
- Question: In statements out of UN meetings leading up to and
including the Millennium Summit in New York in September 2000, what
gave hope of a new state of mind among over 1,000 NGOs in May 2000,
among leaders of most of the world's religious communities in August 2000, and at the Millennium Summit itself?
References: Pages 129-130: quotations from statements at each event
- Question: In spite of these visionary statements of world leaders,
what are the two phenomena which undermine humanity's faith in the future and create doubt and cynicism?
References: Pages 131-135: collapse of society's moral foundations
therefore a moral crisis of disillusionment; and globalization's
economic, political, social, environmental, and cultural inequalities
threats, in spite of its many benefits
- Question: What is the greatest danger of both the moral crisis and
the inequities associated with globalization?
Reference: Page 135: an attitude that seeks to justify and excuse
these failures of "Western civilization" (i.e., "capitalism" and "liberal
- Question: In spite of the benefits of personal freedom, social
prosperity and scientific progress now enjoyed by a significant minority of the earth's people, the system is ___________(fill in the blank).
Reference: Page 135: "morally and intellectually bankrupt" and
"impotent to deal with the needs of a world never imagined by the
18th century prophets who conceived most of its component elements."
- Question: For a Bahá'í, what are the "ultimate issues"?
Reference: Page 136: they are spiritual liberation, therefore, a
fundamental change of consciousness (transformation)
- Question: What does Shoghi Effendi call this process of world
unification which the struggles of the 20th century represent?
References: Pages 137-139: the "Major Plan" of God
- Question: How did Shoghi Effendi designate the Faith so the
believers woould have a deeper understanding of the Cause?
Reference: Page 139: "World Religion, destined to attain in the
fullness of time, the status of a world-embracing Commonwealth..."
- Question: What is the significance of the Faith's persecution over the
past century and its success in overcoming attacks made on it?
References: Pages 140-141: persecution increases supporters' efforts
and believers' understanding of their faith as well as rids the
community of those weak in the Covenant or against it
- Question: In what way does Mount Carmel with the Shrine of the
Bab and the buildings on the Arc contrast with other world religions?
Reference: Page 142: the spiritual and administrative centers of the
Cause are inseparably bound together in this same spot on earth
- Question: Whose death in January 2000 represented "the last
remaining link with the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá"?
Reference: Page 143: Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum
- Question: How does 'Abdu'l-Bahá describe the difference between
"material" and "divine" civilization?
Reference: Page 143: "Material civilization is like the body...
Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the
- Question: What is the main purpose of the Bahá'í community in the
References: Page 144-145: to give not only support, encouragement and example to humanity, but to assist the people of the world to open
their minds and hearts to the one "Power" that can fulfil their ultimate