Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Essays and short articles
> add tags
Abstract:
On the irreversible movement toward the interdependence of all peoples and nations, a Baha'i perspective on history, and Baha'u'llah's summons to the rulers.

Bahá'u'lláh: His Call to the Nations:
A Summons to World Order

by Eunice Braun

Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1967

click for larger image
"A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects, unimaginably glorious in its ultimate consequences, is at present sweeping the face of the earth. .. . (Humanity) can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome. Bewildered . . . it watches this great and mighty wind of God invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth, rocking its foundations . . . uprooting its institutions . . . harrowing up the souls of its inhabitants." [1]
THESE words were written to the Bahá’ís of the West during the second World War by Shoghi Effendi, world leader of the Bahá’í Faith for thirty-six years. They carry more urgent import today than when written; for humanity does not yet sufficiently perceive the significance of the struggle in which it finds itself more deeply entrenched each day.

Shoghi Effendi's purpose was not only to give assurance, in the midst of a titanic upheaval, of the eventual victory of the forces of world order. More pointedly, His words focused a searchlight upon the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith; and particularly on His stirring appeals in the latter half of the 19th century to the then all-powerful rulers of the world. These messages, addressed both collectively and individually, were an eloquent appeal for world order and peace, for justice for all people, based upon spiritual principles that only a Prophet of God could proclaim.

Revealed to a handful of monarchs and ecclesiastical leaders who held the destinies of vast numbers of people in their hands, these Tablets marked the beginning of an irreversible, ever-accelerating movement toward the interdependence of all peoples and nations.

Though ignored by world leaders as well as the masses of mankind, that "mighty wind of God" has continued to sweep forward, restructuring the house of civilization long fragmented by false concepts of racial, national and religious exclusiveness. It has continued to play inwardly upon the spiritual nerve centers of humanity, slowly but relentlessly dredging out prejudice, apathy and ignorance. For this power is initiated in words brought by the Bearer of a new, divine Revelation in every age — words that go forth to vitalize a society atrophied by the rejection of the very spiritual fibre that once gave it substance. It is a sad fact that the mind of modern, educated man, so enlightened by knowledge of physical law, is also the mind that too often rejects the root of all creativity: the revealed Word of God.

Nevertheless innumerable scholars and people from all branches of learning have embraced the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, or given serious consideration to His proclamation of world order. To cite but a few of the latter: E. G. Browne, distinguished professor of Arabic and Persian, University of Cambridge, the only Western scholar to meet personally with Bahá’u’lláh, in 'Akká, Palestine, in April, 1890[2]; Lord Curzon, noted English historian; Leo Tolstoy; Professor Jowett of Oxford; Luther Burbank; Dr. Nels Ferré, theologian; Norman Cousins, author, editor; and Arnold Toynbee.

Its Bahá’í adherents have included: Queen Marie of Rumania; Dr. Auguste Forel, Swiss scientist; Dr. George Townshend, former canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin; Alain Locke, poet, philosopher; Lydia Zamenhof, educator (daughter of the creator of Esperanto); and Mark Tobey, renowned artist.

Multitudes are entering the Faith from all continents: in Latin America whole villages of unlettered Indian tribes; in Asia tens of thousands from all social castes and religious backgrounds have joined hands; in Africa many nations and tribes have arisen to build together a magnificent House of Worship that has attracted worldwide attention. Literate or not, these disparate peoples have recognized the call of Bahá’u’lláh, together with their European and American brothers. All have acknowledged the meaning of religious truth progressively revealed from age to age by God's chosen Prophet; the dignity and wholeness of the human race, man and woman alike; the need for all mankind to support and build a federated world structure, not superseding or eliminating national sovereignty but tempering it by the common good of all.

These and many other universal principles of world order are being grasped by the educated and uneducated with a zeal that can only be compared to that of the early followers of Moses, Christ or Muhammad; for the common denominator of humanity is the ability to identify a boundless, inner spark with the newly Revealed Word. This inherent ability to recognize the new Word has caused mankind to reach forth periodically in past ages in great waves of faith, expanding the perimeters of his mind, spirit and world. Today large segments of humanity are stretching outward toward a new beyond-ness of existence, awaiting only dynamic, courageous leadership.

THE CALL TO THE NATIONS

Bahá’u’lláh, born into a noble family in Persia, had already attracted a large following at the time the Tablets to the rulers were revealed. He had suffered torture, imprisonment and, with His family and some of His followers, banishment to ‘Iraq and Turkey. Thousands had been martyred, for the power-wielding state-clergy feared the universal scope of His teachings and the unfettering of the minds of the people.

It was in Adrianople in 1867 that the Tablet to the Kings[3] addressed collectively to the monarchs of East and West, and specifically to the Sultán of Turkey, was written and circulated in manuscript form. Noteworthy in this Epistle is the recurring emphasis on justice as the God-given standard for all who rule, a safeguarding of the rights of the poor, a reduction of armament and its corresponding burden upon the people, a call to international arbitration and conciliation of disputes, with the implied need for an international police force to maintain peace.

Within three years Bahá’u’lláh had written or dictated lengthy Tablets which were sent to the Shah of Persia, the Pope, Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, Czar Alexander II, as well as general letters to the religious leaders of the world and a proclamation to all mankind. Several of these were revealed after His imprisonment in the military barracks at 'Akká, Palestine, where He was sent in August of 1868.

HISTORIANS, sociologists, philosophers and observers from many schools of thought have written thousands of volumes in the past fifty years trying to analyze and interpret what went wrong with Western civilization at what seemed like the point of its Utopian efflorescence. Instead of never-ending peace and prosperity, modern man stares into the face of a seemingly unavoidable catastrophe created from an over-confident worship of the material forces of existence. Modern science, tool of the intellect, with its variformed material effluence, serves only part of man's needs. That faith in a God-given order of things, growing out of the spiritual counterpart in man's dual nature, must also be manifested in his collective life, has not yet worked itself into his analysis of the crisis of our times.

To state categorically that the fall of the all-powerful dynasties in an astonishingly short period of months, years, or a few decades at most, was a direct result of the rejection of the call of Bahá’u’lláh, may seem incredibly presumptuous and naive. Certainly it cannot be proven a posteriori. Yet history records that streams of civilization have been propelled forward on mighty waves of faith that had their impetus in the lone Prophet of God, calling men and nations to judgment, preparing for them a new garment of truth.

If one can conceive of the present crisis as due to man's turning away from his own spiritual nature and the laws that relate him to the Author of the universe, then the reality of such spiritual law underlying and permeating the structures of society itself must also be considered. Be that as it may, it is a fact that the judgment which Bahá’u’lláh called down upon the world leaders of His day materialized in a remarkably swift and thorough manner. Certainly the principles of world order and the path He prescribed for world unity are being steadily though painfully embraced by the institutions of our day.

THE FALL OF THE DYNASTIES

One of the most dramatic fulfillments of Bahá’u’lláh's prophetic utterances concerned Napoleon III, the most powerful and proud monarch of Europe in his day. This exceedingly vain and hypocritical ruler had styled himself as a world leader inspired by ideals of peace and justice. That he was possessed of an inordinate ambition for power and a mentality equal to any means for securing that power was later revealed in his provocation of the Crimean War. In a first letter to him, Bahá’u’lláh held before him the possibility of becoming what he claimed to be. It was contemptuously cast aside by the Emperor. In a later, stern message, Bahá’u’lláh called him to account for his deeds and foretold his sudden, drastic fall from power: "For what thou has done, thy kingdom shall be thrown into confusion, and thine empire shall pass from thine hands ..."[4]

In a startlingly swift development, he was involved in war with Prussia, was defeated in the Battle of Sedan (1870), one of the greatest military capitulations recorded in modern history. Disaster followed upon disaster, bringing the Emperor to the final humiliation of imprisonment and exile.

Swiftly, too, came the breakdown of Turkish power. Sultán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, responsible, in collusion with the Shah of Persia, for Bahá’u’lláh's banishments and eventual imprisonment in the military fortress of ‘Akká, Palestine, was deposed and assassinated. The Ottoman Empire itself collapsed. Even the religious authority of the Caliphate that rested in the Sultán was terminated. Chaos overtook the rule of the Qájár Dynasty in Persia, resulting in the Shah's assassination and the fall of the Dynasty.[5]

From 'Akká Bahá’u’lláh addressed a warning to Kaiser William I: "O banks of the Rhine! We have seen you covered with gore, inasmuch as the swords of retribution were drawn against you; and you shall have another turn. We hear the lamentations of Berlin, though she he today in conspicuous glory."[6] World Wars I and II are grim reminders of this prescient warning.

The collapse of the Russian Empire and the fall of the House of Romanov occurred after the assassination of Czar Alexander II who had been given a special appeal from Bahá’u’lláh as a Christian ruler to "arise . . . and summon, then, the nations unto God."[7]

To the reactionary Pope Pius IX, soon to become the prisoner of the Vatican, Bahá’u’lláh clearly identified Himself as fulfilling the Biblical prophecy concerning the Return of Christ and called upon the Pope to inaugurate religious unity: "Arise in the name of thy Lord . . . seize thou the Cup of Life, . . . and proffer it then to such as turn towards it amongst the peoples of all faiths."[8]

Perhaps the most thought-provoking of all events surrounding this proclamation to the rulers concerns Queen Victoria, still remembered as England's greatest constitutional monarch. She was the only ruler addressed by Bahá’u’lláh who lived out her reign in comparative prosperity and peace. She alone is reported to have made a sympathetic response, having remarked: "If this is of God, it will endure…" Bahá’u’lláh commended her for having eliminated the slave trade and for having "entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people,"[9] and assured her of a long, bountiful reign.

A TWOFOLD PROCESS OF CHANGE

The above are but a few excerpts from messages addressed to rulers of the world, to its religious leaders and to mankind in general that the "long-promised age of world peace and brotherhood had at last dawned and that He was the Bearer of the new message and power from God which would transform the prevailing system of antagonism and enmity between men and create the spirit and form of the destined world order."[10]

However one may interpret the events themselves, it is clear enough that forces were released in the 19th century that have increased daily in momentum and have brought humanity to the door-step of a dilemma. Witnessing an unprecedented surge in scientific discovery throughout the past one hundred years with its vast material benefits, the world has learned that the hand that releases the powerhouse of material progress also opens the door to annihilation.

Not all the progress of the century has been in the material realm. Indeed the ethical and social victories have been prodigious. Among them have been the educational benefits extended to the masses of mankind; social programs that are giving life and hope to millions heretofore largely unregarded in the legislative halls of government; the recognition in word, if not yet fully in practice, of the equal rights and obligations of all human beings; the establishment of countless organizations devoted to the health and betterment of society; and man's increasingly earnest attempts at solving world problems around the international council table.

The process at work in transforming the planet is twofold. Like water, it is both cleansing and life-giving. An old order whose institutions no longer serve man's needs is disintegrating along with the emergence of a new, divinely inspired civilization. It is not the barbarian who topples the pillars of the elaborate institutions man erects to his own glorification in a latter day, but rather the emptiness within that is shattered by the release of the new Word.

THE GREAT AGE TO COME

Where is the answer? What of the future —the present? Even granting that Bahá’u’lláh may be the millennial Voice speaking once more in a latter-day wilderness, is there yet time to put into effect His universal, healing principles for peoples and nations?

In the words of Shoghi Effendi: "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 . . . 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 . . . Adversity, prolonged, world-wide, afflictive . . . must needs convulse the nations, stir the conscience of the world . . ."[11]

What of patriotism, love of country? Shoghi Effendi states: "... this clarion-call of Bahá’u’lláh, . . . 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,... 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, . . . the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive and the structure of world unification can rest."

Out of this transitional, worldwide struggle, a new world order is emerging, step by step. One of its first fruits will be a political peace initiated by the nations of the earth, "as yet unconscious of (Bahá’u’lláh's) Revelation . . . 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 . . . "[12]

"Then will the coming of age of the entire human race be proclaimed . . . 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, . . . (be) capable of fulfilling that ineffable destiny fixed for it, from time immemorial, by the love and wisdom of its Creator."[13]

Notes

    1. Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 1; Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1941; 1961.

    2. Edward G. Browne, A Traveller's Narrative (Introduction p. xi; The University Press, Cambridge, 1890. The following statement made by Bahá’u’lláh during Professor Browne's meeting with Him is quoted from the above work: "That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; . . . that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this? . . . Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the Most Great Peace shall come ..."

    3. Bahá’u’lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh (compilation) p. 3; Bahá'í World Center, Haifa, Israel, 1967.

    4. Ibid., pp. 17-23.

    5. Ibid., pp. 47-60.

    6. Ibid., p. 39.

    7. Ibid., pp. 27-30.

    8. Ibid., pp. 83-86.

    9. Ibid., pp. 33-35.

    10. Ibid., Introduction p. ix.

    11-13. Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, pp. 126-128.

Back to:   Essays and short articles
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
.
. .