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Century of Light:
Questions and References

by Sheila Banani

2001-09-13
  1. 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."

  2. 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."

  3. 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."

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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"

  7. 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?
      References: Pages 3-4

  8. 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 developments

  9. Question: From a spiritual perspective, what was the "strange, paradoxical duality" of the age?
      References: Pages 5-6: secularism and religious prejudice

  10. Question: How did 'Abdu'l-Bahá describe the 20th century?
      Reference: Page 7: quotation from Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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"

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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")

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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"

  25. Question: What were the struggles/disappointments facing Shoghi Effendi with some of his family and its importance for us to understand today?
      References: Pages 46-49; "because of the light it casts on the challenges the Bahá'í community will increasingly face in the years ahead"

  26. 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 maturity

  27. 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."

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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.
      References: Pages 65-66

  31. 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.

  32. 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"

  33. 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 for us?
      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"

  34. 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"

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. 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)

  38. 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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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)

  42. 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 behavior"

  43. 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.

  44. 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."

  45. 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

  46. 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"

  47. 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

  48. 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

  49. 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

  50. Question: What segment of the Bahá'í community made a significant contribution to the process of growth?
      Reference: Page 100: youth

  51. Question: But what were some of the challenges which came with growth?
      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

  52. 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"

  53. 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)

  54. 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 decentralization

  55. 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

  56. 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

  57. 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

  58. 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

  59. 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

  60. 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

  61. 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

  62. 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"

  63. Question: Describe 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet enumerating 7 "candles (lights)" of "unity" and how they have become illumined in this "century of light."
      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

  64. 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

  65. 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

  66. 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 relativism")

  67. 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."

  68. Question: For a Bahá'í, what are the "ultimate issues"?
      Reference: Page 136: they are spiritual liberation, therefore, a fundamental change of consciousness (transformation)

  69. 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

  70. 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..."

  71. 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

  72. 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

  73. 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

  74. 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 spirit..."

  75. Question: What is the main purpose of the Bahá'í community in the world today?
      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 longing (Bahá'u'lláh).
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