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Security for a Failing World

by Stanwood Cobb

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Chapter 10


The Universal State

LIKE every religion, the Bahá'í Cause has both an individual and a universal message. Its teachings for the individual concern the perfecting of character, the development of spiritual aspirations and strivings, the attainment of a closer fellowship with spiritual realities and powers. In its universal aspect the message of Bahá'u'lláh is an inspired and perfect plan for the organization of humanity into a world state founded upon a new and universal religious consciousness and a realization of human brotherhood. Universal peace is to be maintained by a world court backed by a league of nations.

It is the Great Society that the Bahá'ís seek to found. To this high purpose they dedicate their lives. And they strive to spiritualize their own natures not so much for the sake of eternal blessedness as for the sake of gaining power and ability for the creative work most vitally needed on earth today--that of transforming human institutions into more noble patterns.

This ideal presents a powerful appeal to all types and classes, of whatever race. Here is something which stirs all that is generous and noble in human nature; something that calls forth those hidden energies in the depths of man's being which can be real-ized only in the expression of lofty ideals and which

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strengthened by divine force, can become powerfully effective in the building of nobler institutions.


In 1867 Bahá'u'lláh, from his prison cell in Akka, managed to send forth a call to the great rulers of the world inviting them to arise for the establishment of universal peace and a universal civilization. At about this time he also outlined the plan of a league of nations with proportionate representation, and a world court backed by the force not only of international sentiment but of international concerted action.

Woodrow Wilson, destined to go down to posterity as the initiator of the League of Nations, was well read in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, whose books he frequently perused at his bedtime reading hour. Was his League of Nations, so similar to the plan of Bahá'u'lláh, derived from these readings in the Bahá'í literature? Or was there already a plan forming in his own soul which these writings confirmed and strengthened?


The ideal of an international "Parliament of man" has at last been put into concrete form. We have an actual League of Nations and a World Court. But their power of functioning is as weak as that of our own Continental Congress. There is a vast difference between the League of Nations of, Woodrow Wilson as a political plan for the world,

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and the brotherhood confederation of man as designed by Bahá'u'lláh.

The present League of Nations is a praiseworthy effort to arouse and crystallize public opinion everywhere to the point of employing organized international sanctions for the sake of preventing war and maintaining peaceful and just relations between nations. But this method of achieving an effective league of nations is impossible, as human nature goes today, because of the nationalistic suspicions, jealousies, hatreds, and wilful aggressions.

The whole fabric of human society, politically speaking, is woven out of the strands of brutish emotions. Nowhere yet has there been any attempt toward applying the Golden Rule to international policy, or of maintaining in the intercourse between nations even the ordinary standards of human relations.

The present pattern of international commerce and politics is based too much on selfishness, nationalistic pride, and aggressive exploitation to permit of an effective league of nations with universal disarmament to the point of a minimum force needed for internal law and order.


The great inequality in the natural distribution of minerals and raw materials necessary for industrial civilization causes every great power to deem it essential, for its prosperity and safety, to preempt an ample supply of these basic materials. A

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nation's successful existence, as the world is organized today, becomes very precarious (especially in case of war) if it has no national sources of supply of iron, coal and oil. Countries which have abundant supplies of coal and iron have thrived under the modern industrial regime, and no country of importance could afford to see itself cut off from such supplies. Many other minerals — copper, aluminum, magnesium, zinc, tin, and less known minerals used in alloys and in electrical apparatus — are needed in modern industrialism. Also, each nation must see itself assured of adequate supplies of cotton, wool, and rubber, as well as of basic agricultural products. It is such needs and considerations as these which motivate much of the aggressiveness and militarism that is still left in the world.

If the world, however, were organized on another basis than it is at present, it would be entirely possible for nations to exist without possessing any of these raw materials and yet be in the utmost condition of prosperity and safety. Even today certain small countries whose neutrality and inviolability is practically guaranteed, such as Switzerland, need have no concern as to the supply of basic materials, for they can purchase these in the world market at any time.

The World State as outlined by Bahá'u'lláh is a world free from tariff walls, free from selfish nationalism, free from aggressions; a world whose prosperity depends upon an international exchange of raw materials and manufactured goods as untrammeled and friendly as the exchange which now

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takes place within the boundaries of each individual nation.


The United States presents the remarkable example of forty-eight sovereign states between which there is no obstructive or aggressive rivalry. No state seeks artificially to bolster up its industrial and commercial life by means of protective tariffs against other states. Since tariffs are specifically prohibited between the states, it has become necessary for each state to develop to the fullest its natural resources and to base its economic prosperity upon its own natural advantages, whether these be agricultural or industrial.

New England, for example, without coal, iron, or cotton, achieved notable prosperity in manufacturing commodities which necessitate the use of these raw materials. To do this it is necessary to import coal, iron, and cotton. But New England has not felt itself to be at any time in danger of poverty or destruction because of the lack of these basic commodities among her natural resources.[l]

    [ 1. When cheap labor and the juxtaposition of iron, coal and cotton in certain Southern States threatened the success of her cotton mills, New England industrialists used their ingenuity to develop types of manufacturing in which their skilled operatives could successfully compete even against the lower wages of the South. When the depression came, it found New England, because of her recent efforts in thrift, in ingenuity and in diversification of manufacture, the best prepared of any section of the country to meet hard times. Had New England been able to erect tariff walls as an aid to Southern competition she would have grown weaker, not stronger, industrially.]

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Similarly each section of the country has developed according to its own natural resources and abilities. There is no dangerous jealousy between the states. True, each state boasts of its prowess and advantages, deriving a proud satisfaction from the wealth of its natural resources, the beauty of its scenery, the industry and culture of its citizens. In this vying with each other there has never been any danger of conflict and war. It is a friendly rivalry in which notable achievement in anyone state, instead of being a detriment to other states, becomes an advantage in the way of stimulus and example.

The colonial fear that in case of a constitutional union the larger colonies such as New York and Pennsylvania would dominate the smaller colonies--a fear vivid and realistic enough to remain for some years a major obstacle to the forming of our Union — has not been confirmed by experience. The greatness and prosperity of New York has never been any danger to the prosperity of Rhode Island. Nor, as the colony of New York greatly feared, have the smaller states, because of equal senatorial powers in Congress, proved any detriment to the welfare of the larger states.

Thus we have in the United States of America a practicable and approved pattern for world federation.


In America, it is true, we have a fairly homogeneous population speaking the same language and

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held together by the same national ideals and by the realization of a common destiny. But how can one form a world state out of the many nations so diverse in race, in religion, in language, in morals--with no sentiment of common destiny, of a community of interest? What can displace the present negative emotions of distrust, of jealousy, of fear, of egoism, of jingoistic pride and aggressiveness; substituting for them those more peaceful emotions and motives such as have guided the destinies of the American people in their marvelous federation of states?

It is plain that some force greater than is functioning at present must intervene to make this magical change and bring all the peoples of the world into an adequate realization of their interdependence — into a vivid sense of community of interest and of actual brotherhood.

There must be developed a new type of nationalism; an enlightened generous-hearted nationalism which rejoices in the prosperity and progress of other nations at the same time that it strives mightily for the prosperity and progress of its own people. One for all and all for one — that must be the motto of the future world federation. From this new cosmic mutuality and altruism will result an enhanced and universal prosperity.


It would be difficult to establish an effective sense of brotherhood between the various races and nations

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while many diverse and in some cases aggressively competitive religions and sects divide the allegiance of mankind just as no force is so strong in creating ties of brotherhood as that unity which results from a common spiritual communion, so no obstacle to harmony and unity are so insuperable as violent divergencies in religious thought and practise.

Closely bound up with religious differences are differences of morals and customs. A people, for example, who base monogamy upon religious teachings and convictions cannot easily comprehend and tolerate a people with whom polygamy is religiously sanctioned, even though sex morality may be high among the latter group. So in a hundred other ways folk customs tracing back to religion and supported by all the force of ecclesiasticism thrust a sharp dividing wedge between normal human affinities and sympathies.


Even differences of language affect adversely the psychology and practice of human associations. It is almost impossible to feel consanguinity with one who speaks a language which one cannot understand. If this forms a barrier among the educated, how great an obstacle it is among illiterate peoples!

Conversely, unity of language is a powerful and almost indispensable factor in creating a sense of unity. So well is this truth known to statesmen that language is used as a political instrument for the formation of a strong nationalism. The public

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school system of the United States has demonstrated the miracle which only a common language can accomplish, that of forging a myriad of races together into one people.

Practically, diversity of language becomes an annoying impediment to international travel and commerce; to world-wide circulation of ideas expressed in literature or science; to international conferences of all kinds; to international broadcasting; to the international development of talking films; and to the effective operation of the Parliament of the League of Nations.[2]

    [2. In Europe and the Near East, French has been for many years a universal auxiliary language among the educated classes. By means of French I have been able to talk with nearly all the peoples of Europe; with peoples of the little Balkan States so divided by language barriers; and with Orientals such as Turks, Arabs, Persians, Syrians and Egyptians. I have learned much through the medium of this auxiliary language. It has enabled me to fraternize with peoples of other races with whom otherwise I could never have conversed. It has enriched my knowledge of the East, it has brought me understanding of foreign races, it has given me a sense of universal brotherhood such as I never could have gained without the enlightenment that comes from sympathetic conversation with members of strange races.]

But however necessary world-wide unity of language may appear to be, the present sense of nationalism — strenuously expressing a rivalry of cultures closely bound up with language factors — opposes a natural tendency toward the flowing together of languages. What force can operate to bring together all human speech and create that linguistic unity which legend reports the Almighty to have purposely disrupted in the days of ancient Babylon?

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What can bring about these vast changes so necessary to the establishment of world brotherhood and a world state? Common sense may perceive the needs, but it cannot effectuate the reforms. For, as we have previously shown, intellectual arguments lack the persuasive and convincing force requisite for altering human behavior on any large scale.

Religion alone has the potentiality of changing psychic habits, of forging emotions to a white heat so as to fuse souls together.


The New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh solves all these difficult problems and removes every possible obstacle to world brotherhood.

For the purpose of cementing peoples together and facilitating world federation and a common world culture, Bahá'u'lláh includes in his world plan an international auxiliary language — either some existing language or an artificial auxiliary language such as Esperanto. The rulers of all the nations are to agree on such a universal language, which would become a required subject in the curriculum of all national school systems. Thus in a single generation the world would have a fully developed auxiliary language as a universal means of communication.

In the field of religion the Bahá'í Movement removes all barriers by establishing a universal faith not competing with the existing religious systems

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of the world but turning man's universal consciousness of God toward the establishment of more perfect patterns of individual and group conduct.

Through the dogmas, the ritual, the ecclesiasticism of the established religions the spiritual teachings of Bahá'u'lláh penetrate to the very core and essence of religion — reiterating those simple truths which make for universal righteousness, for peace, for joy in the love of God.


Imagine a world bound together by one language, one religion, one code of morals and one government, into a great common culture. Such is the Bahá'í World State. Universal education, a universal curriculum, international exchange of commodities without tariff barriers, peaceful and friendly national rivalry, a world parliament to form international laws and a world court to enforce them, the maintenance of universal peace by means of an international police force, the sublimation of human energies from brutal expression in aggressive competition and world conflicts into more ideal channels of cooperation and harmony of interests — this is the World State in its simple and grand outlines as given us by Bahá'u'lláh.

But before this World State can be established there is one thing which must take place — the elimination of prejudice. Racial prejudice, religious prejudice, economic prejudice and political prejudice--all must go. But these prejudices, so deep seated in our emotional nature, how can they be overcome?

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