Security for a Failing World
A New World Movement
IN THE midst of materialism more widespread and gross than the world has known since the Roman Empire; every man more or less a measure to himself; the great religions of the world so aged, so devitalized that they have very limited power to inspire ethical and spiritual living, — into such a world has come a movement which is pregnant with promise, the New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
What are the characteristics of this movement which would lead one to see in it such promise of unifying mankind, as well as of individualizing spiritual accomplishment? Wherein is its rise comparable to the rise of great spiritual movements of the past?
The primary fact regarding the Bahá'í Faith is this: — like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam it claims to be definitely a Revelation. Herein lies its power. For though to the modern world the idea of a special revelation seems dubitable and hardly in accord with the dictates of science, yet every great religion has claimed to be just this and only because of such a claim has it been able to win the allegiance of its followers. This much, at least, is true — no movement can possibly capture the heart and conscience of the whole
world today unless it claims and demonstrates divine authenticity and authority.
Secondly, the Bahá'í Movement has displayed an amazing power of inspiring self-sacrificing zeal in its adherents. This spiritual requirement is met as fully in the Bahá'í Movement as it has been met in the Judiac, the Buddhist, the Christian, and the Muhammadan religions. Religion without ardor is inconceivable. For the very essence of religion is the spiritualization of the emotions; the welding of them into one white heat capable of melting all the lesser contrary moods of human nature into a standard of character so lofty that it sheds a light, as it were, upon the lower ways of man. And without zeal religion can make no headway. In their early stages all religions meet with opposition, persecution, martyrdom. Only through zeal can the early adherents of a religion hold fast. In the course of its history since 1844 the Bahá'í Movement has paid a heavy toll of martyrdoms. Its followers have lost their property, their family, their lives. Sons have been cruelly tortured and butchered before fathers, and fathers before sons. All told, the blood of some twenty thousand martyrs has fertilized the soil of the Bahá'í Movement.
Thirdly, the Bahá'í Movement has definite spiritual, ethical, and collective doctrines. Its spiritual doctrine is simple, easily understandable, and entirely compatible with science. Its ethical principles for the individual are lofty and compelling. For collective humanity its program is so comprehensive
and yet so practical as to compel the admiration of statesmen, educators, economists, philosophers — in fact, of every thoughtful person.
The New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh displays a uniquely universal power of appeal. It reaches people of every class, of every degree of intelligence or culture. Already it includes among its adherents great statesmen and one world ruler. It appeals to the Occidental scholar or business man, as well as to the untutored peasants of Asia.
The Bahá'í Faith, like all great spiritual forces, shows the power of annihilating prejudice and of uniting members of different religions, different races, and different nations into one living brotherhood. This is the kind of miracle of which the Bahá'í Movement boasts. It bases its proofs, not upon miraculous births or miraculous deeds of its founders, but upon miracles in the transformation of human character, especially in the way of abolishing prejudices and emotional barriers. It is bringing together Jews, Zoroastrians, Muhammadans, Christians, Buddhists, Confucianists — welding them into an organic whole, a living, breathing body of brotherhood and love.
Lastly, the Bahá'í Faith shows the power of gripping the heart and changing its beat. It transforms human nature, sublimating and spiritualizing the human qualities. It has produced many saints. Its rank and file are superior in their personal morals, in their unselfish consideration of their fellowmen, and in their devotion to great principles and ideals.
2The great success of Bahá'í missionary work has been due to the fact that no one is asked to abandon his own religion in order to become a Bahá'í. The Bahá'í propagandist, because he does not have to argue the inferiority of other religions, avoids arousing a spirit of combative ecclesiastical loyalty on the part of those to whom he preaches, of whatever religion they may be.
The Bahá'í theology is extremely simple and rational — that Divinity in its infinite essence is unknowable to man and indescribable; that Divinity can, however, communicate with man; that the world religions are authentic messages and revelations from this Divine Source; that Truth has revealed itself periodically, and will continue to do so, through great Teachers and Founders of religions; that the Bahá'í Faith is one of these periodic revelations, its purpose being to complete the messages and aims of all the existing world religions and to bring to pass a universal and ideal civilization upon earth.
3It is chiefly because earnest and expectant adherents of existing world religions see in the Bahá'í Faith the natural fulfillment of their own religious purposes that they are attracted to it. Those who believe in prophecy find in the Bahá'í Movement fulfilment
of their own Messianic expectations (which exist unfulfilled not only in Christianity and Judaism but also in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Muhammadanism). Those who are skeptical of prophecy yet find in the Bahá'í Movement such enrichment of the spiritual life and such a noble platform dedicated to the unification of humanity and apparently capable of bringing about such a unification, that they welcome it as a reinforcement to their own spiritual or humanitarian ideals.
Thus the Bahá'í missionary can do what no other missionary can. He goes among various races and religions and wins adherents to his cause without attack, without invidious comparison, without offense to the sensibilities and loyalties of other religionists.
4In their essence all religions are one. Spiritual Truth cannot, indeed, be different and conflicting. The aims of all the great prophets were one: to bring human beings into the Divine Consciousness, to advance their spiritual development, and to effect better conditions of organized living.
Most of the differences that now exist between religions are due to the human speculations which have crept in. True religion is unifying in its effect; but the devices of human thought tend to enclose the kernel of every religion in dry husks, and it is this theologizing metaphysical tendency of man that causes differences and separations.
That this is true is apparent from the processes that go on in any given religion. In Christianity, for example, we have the three great churches: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Protestant. Within the Protestant Church alone we have some two hundred sects. Buddhism also has been broken into numerous sects. Muhammadanism, unified more than any other great religion, yet has its two great schisms of the Shi'ites and Sunnites as well as many minor sects.
What is all this division due to, but to the speculative tendency of human thought? Certainly it is not derived from the intention of the Founders.
Nor can the great Founders of religions be supposed to exist in any sort of rivalry one to the other. Their purpose is one. Their devotion to Divinity is one. Their devotion to humanity is one. There can be no possibility of rivalry between these great Souls whose first requisite is abnegation of self, whose words and deeds are guided by divine inspiration, and whose lives serve no other purpose than to mirror Divinity to man.
5Whatever differences there are in the legalistic teachings and precepts of the Prophets are due to the fact that every religion is obliged to be somewhat opportunist if it would seize the heart and consciousness of the epoch into which it is born. There must be some adaptation to the contemporary degree
of evolution. For example, had Christianity appeared in the time of Moses it would not have won strong adherence from Jews or from other racials. And Christ himself did not attempt specifically to teach the abolition of slavery, the abolition of war, or the abolition of wage chattelism; for these doctrines would at that epoch have made no headway. Again, were Muhammad to have completely forbidden polygamy and to have offered the savage and warlike Arabs a religion based upon love and forgiveness of one's enemies his message would have made no headway.
The physician prescribes and administers remedies that the patient can stand. There are no absolute standards in remedial work. What will cure one person will kill another. The same is true of spiritual doctrine. It must always be compatible with the capacity of the people to whom it is given.
But the spiritual teachings of the Prophets all agree and can be summed into the brief commandment of Jesus (which He himself quoted from a former prophet): "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself." It is only to their formal task of better organizing human society that the founders of religion bring a modified message suited to the time and place.
6Today, when science has so much expanded the mentality of man; when religions of the past have
ameliorated his manners and stimulated his conscience; when international intercourse has made apparent the impelling need of a world brotherhood,--now can be declared in explicit terms directions for world organization and a new international development of humanity such as have never been given in previous epochs.
So the Bahá'í Movement appears, upon sympathetic study, as the great keystone to the arch of human progress; the fulfilment of the dreams of all the prophets; the Utopia which philosophers have visioned; the Golden Age, the Millennium, the Kingdom of God upon earth.
Can the Bahá'í Movement indeed fill out this ideal pattern with a living force? Unless it can, it need make no claim upon investigation or belief. There would be no persuasive power, no obligation to allegiance, in a world order which could not demonstrate an actual ability to remake humanity on higher levels.