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The Future of Mankind and the Most Holy Book

by Fazel Naghdy

published in The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Studies from the First National Conference on the Holy Book, vol. 1
Roseberry: Association for Baha'i Studies Australia, 1996
1. INTRODUCTION

The paradigms offered by various ideologies on the future of mankind very much depends on their definition of the nature of man, his origin and destiny. This is usually a philosophical view of the interdependent forces affecting human life on earth, termed by some authors as a world model. The system of solutions offered to deal with the crisis identified in the model is known as an order.

The world model has always enabled mankind to comprehend the complex, inter-related and dynamic causes of his crises. It has also provided images of the future which have acted as a dynamic force pushing a society forward. With the physical, spiritual and intellectual evolution of man, the world model has been changing accordingly. The orders proposed by these models have also been evolving towards more complex systems of solutions.

Religions have always offered the most efficacious, creative and spiritual world models. At the same time the orders offered by these religions have been the most influential and well-accepted guidelines, personal laws and social teachings which have transformed the masses and often created great civilisations. The concept of progressive revelation taught by Bahá'u'lláh is a portrayal of this process describing the nature of religion.

Throughout history philosophers, socialists, and politicians have also given their interpretations of the world. Some have even gone further and proposed systems of solutions to confront the problems observed and to achieve the goal set for the society in their models. These world models were either inspired by divine religions or prompted by the social and political circumstances of the time. Contrary to religious ideologies, these models and their associated orders, have not had an enduring and dominant effect on the main-stream of social processes. The orders and social teachings proposed have usually been enforced by terror, tyranny, and atrocity.

At present the world models and orders depicted by the past religions and leaders of the materialistic ideologies have failed to solve the contemporary problems facing humanity. The recent events in the Eastern Bloc and economic decline in the capitalist countries are clear indications of the failure of these models. Such failure has also undermined the future images offered by these models and hence created pessimism, disillusion and anxiety in the masses about the future of mankind.

In this background, Bahá'u'lláh has revealed a new, holistic and unique world model and its associated order in His writings. He has not only unfolded powerful images of the future but provided the means of achieving them. The vision of Bahá'u'lláh describes the nature of the progress and evolution of mankind while providing a structure for the order and political system which will eventually govern the life of humanity on earth. In His model, Bahá'u'lláh considers the earth as one country and offers spiritual and political solutions towards creating a global civilisation. For this reason the Order of Bahá'u'lláh is referred to as the 'World Order'. This order has been further explained, illustrated and engineered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi.

The Guardian has acclaimed the Most Holy Book of Bahá'u'lláh, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, as the "charter of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh" and future civilisation He has also referred to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the primary source of this Order:

That Bahá'u'lláh in His book of Aqdas, and later, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will - a document which confirms, supplements, and correlates the provisions of the Aqdas -have set forth in their entirety those essential elements for the constitution of the world Bahá'í Commonwealth, no one who has read them will deny. According to these divinely-ordained administrative principles, the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh-the Ark of human salvation -must needs be modelled. From them, all future blessings must flow, and upon them its inviolable authority must ultimately rest.

The major aim of this paper is to explore and understand the relationship between the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the world model revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in His Writings, and the World Order He has given to the humanity to deal with the crisis of this age. In order to highlight the significance of the world model and order of Bahá'u'lláh, a brief study of the major world models and their associated orders will be initially conducted. This will take place in two parts: the obsolete world models and contemporary global models. The world model and order of Bahá'u'lláh and the process of its expression in the physical world will be then addressed. The role of Kitáb-i-Aqdas in facilitating this expression and hence bringing about the Golden Age of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh will be finally explored.

2. OBSOLETE WORLD MODELS AND ORDERS

The world models revealed by the past major religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism do not adequately describe the social, economical, and political features of the contemporary world. These religions might still satisfy the spiritual needs of a group of people, however, their inadequacy to encounter the complex global socio-economic issues of the present has been well demonstrated by the role that they play in the political structure of the countries following them. Some experts even believe that such religions are contributing more towards these problems rather than offering a solution [1].

This phenomenon is not unexpected when considered in the context of the Bahá'í philosophy on religion. The divisive attitude developed over centuries by the followers is not providing the uniting forces required at present time. The doctrines and orders contained in these religions, even in its purest form, have been revealed for societies radically different from that which humanity is witnessing today. The solutions provided do not have a global dimension, do not accommodate the technological and scientific progresses made since the inception of these religions, and do not assume the intellectual evolution which has taken place collectively in humanity over this period.

Political ideologies have also provided powerful world models. Some like anarchism and totalitarian fascism have ultra right beliefs, while some groups such as Marxism and Maoism are basically left and materialistic. There are other ideologies which combine religious beliefs with political values such as Christian Socialism, and Christian democrats.

Marxism has been the most powerful political movement up to 1990's. Marx' ideas were based on the conditions in early modern industrial cities like Berlin, Paris, and London. His concept of historical development was very simple and was based on early factory conditions and on class struggles. There have been many different interpretation of Marxist ideas such as those by Mao in China, Lenin in Russia and by other political leaders.

The recent crisis in the Eastern Bloc and collapse of socialist regimes in those countries have demonstrated that the world models offered by Marx has been too static and much too simple to deal with dynamic, multi-dimensional, and multi-level, and global crisis we are facing.

The failure of these obsolete world models and the crisis that humanity is facing as the result has been best described by the Guardian:

Beset on every side by the cumulative evidences of disintegration, of turmoil and of bankruptcy, serious-minded men and women, in almost every walk of life, are beginning to doubt whether society, as it is now organised, can, through its unaided efforts, extricate itself from the slough into which it is steadily sinking,. Every system, short of the unification of the human race, has been tried, repeatedly tried, and been found wanting. Wars again and again have been fought, and conferences without number have met and deliberated. Treaties, pacts and covenants have been painstakingly negotiated, concluded and revised. Systems of government have been patiently tested, have been continually recast and superseded. Economic plans of reconstruction have been carefully devised, and meticulously executed. And yet crisis has succeeded crisis, and the rapidity with which a perilously unstable world is declining has been correspondingly accelerated. A yawning gulf threatens to involve in one common disaster both the satisfied and dissatisfied nations, democracies and dictatorships, capitalists and wage-earners, Europeans and Asiatics, Jews and Gentile, white and coloured.

3. GLOBAL WORLD MODELS

A global awareness has been developing in the world since the late 60's. This has resulted in a series of global world models being proposed in response to the crises facing humanity. These proposals have come either from groups and organisations or individuals.

The Club of Rome, initiated in 1968, produced the most successful world models of its time. The club commissioned a number of research projects the results of which have been published as books. The first project was called to study the state of mankind both at present and in the future. The team studied five major trends pertaining to increase in population, use of natural resources, agricultural production, industrial production, and pollution. The result of this study has been published under the title The Limits to Growth. It was concluded that the limit to growth would be reached by the next century if current trends of behaviour would continue.

The second report produced by the Club of Rome was called Mankind at the Turning Point. This report attempts to take a more holistic approach to world problems rather than just considering the five factors studied in the first report. The need for a global perception for mankind and the urgency for a global planning is emphasised. "Barring suicide, mankind will face the most awesome test in its history: the necessity of a change in the man-nature relationship and emergence of a new perception of mankind as a living global system." [4] The report also considers the need for world consciousness, a new ethic, and harmony of man with nature.

The Club also commissioned Ervin Laszlo and a team of twenty three researchers for a study on the goals of mankind in a global society. Their report was published as Goals for Mankind: A Report to the Club of Rome on the New Horizons of the Global Community.

The World Order Models Project (WOMP) has been another international movement studying world predicaments. The project was initiated in the mid 60's by Saul H. Medlovitz and pursued 5 major aims; prevention of war, economic well-being and social justice, ecological stability, and alienation or the identity problems. Similar to the Club of Rome the work has been conducted by various research groups in different countries. The publications of this group have a global nature and comprise of titles such as On the Creation of a Just World Order edited by Saul H. Mendlovitz, Footsteps into the Future by Rajni Kothari, A Study of Future Worlds by Ali A. Mazrui and others.

In addition there are a large number of individuals and other smaller research groups who have recognised the need for a global world model and have studied various aspects of it. The limitation on space does not permit to include them in this paper.

These world models are an indirect manifestation of the Spirit released by Bahá'u'lláh and the new collective consciousness developed as its result. They, however, do not provide a holistic solution to the modern problems and lack the divine creative power and spirit required for their deep penetration in society.

4. THE WORLD MODEL AND ORDER OF BAHÁ'U'LLÁH

The world model offered by Bahá'u'lláh, similar to other religions of the past, addresses all aspects of human life including physical, spiritual, individual and social. As far as the individual and his/her soul are concerned the picture drawn by Bahá'u'lláh, to a large extent, is similar to previous religions though it provides more depth and understanding on the nature of mankind and its potential for spiritual growth.

Socially the world model of Bahá'u'lláh is unique in the history of religions as well as non-religious ideologies. He claims that the 'earth is but one country and mankind its citizen'. Mankind is in the process of transition from adolescence to maturity and its unity on earth is the next stage in its collective social evolution.

Bahá'u'lláh has then revealed a series of laws, social teachings and administrative structure, empowered by a spiritual creative power, to facilitate and speed up this process of unification. These are collectively referred to as the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh to reflect its inherent global nature.

Bahá'u'lláh has portrayed a bright future for mankind, emerging through His World Order, revealed more than a century before the emergence of the global consciousness being witnessed today. This was long before the appearance of global world models, referred to briefly in the previous section. This was at a time when no sign of a planetary community was evident and the contemporary crises were unpredictable. The process of conception and development of His order has been radically different in essence from contemporary world models, which are merely a reaction to the accumulating problems of the world.

The nature of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, the potential and magnitude of the spiritual power inherent in His order, and the spiritual processes taken place as its result have not been given to us systematically. Bahá'u'lláh, in one of His prayers provides a glimpse into the predicament of the inception of His order:

I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionised, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause.

The significance of the internal and external revolution that Bahá'u'lláh has brought about can be appreciated through understanding the implications of the philosophical structure of His Order and world model. Since this Order permeates the reality of all things, its manifestation can be observed everywhere. A study of this manifestation can provide a perception of His order.

Roger Coe [8] has identified at least four areas wherein the Order of Bahá'u'lláh has expressed itself according to Bahá'u'lláh Himself:

(i) The world of Nature, where "upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names . . . ";

(ii) The human soul, which has the capacity to reflect all the attributes of God, as Bahá'u'lláh has referred to in the Gleanings: "Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focussed the radiance of all of His own self" [9];

(iii) The Word of Bahá'u'lláh;

(iv) The Principles of the Administrative Order which have been elucidated by the Guardian

The manifestation of "new and regenerating Spirit" that Bahá'u'lláh has imbued into humanity, will be gradual as He has attested to it:

It hath been decreed by Us that the Word of God and all the potentialities thereof shall be manifested unto men in strict conformity with such conditions as have been foreordained by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise . . . Should the Word be allowed to release suddenly all the energies latent with it, no man could sustain the weight of so mighty a revelation.

The transformation that is meant to manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, affecting both the inner life and external conditions of mankind, will, therefore, take place gradually over many generations. It is, however, possible to reflect on the process of transformation which will take place by identifying the dominant factors in this process through the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh.

The Administrative Order, though in its infancy at this stage, also reflects the global and universal nature of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. At present this is the only example of a systematic and infallible expression of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order.

5. THE ORDER OF BAHÁ'U'LLÁH AND THE KITÁB-I-AQDAS

The Guardian has repeatedly mentioned in his writings that the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh will '...embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind' and its establishment will '...signalise the Golden Age of the Cause of God'.

Considering the Golden Age as the future of mankind which will be realised as the result of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and on the basis of the background set so far, attempt will be made here to explore how the Kitáb-i-Aqdas will help to achieve this Order and hence bring about the golden future for mankind. It is important to note that there are a number of Tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas which contain passages that supplement the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In addition the Guardian has attested that the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá also confirms, supplements and correlates the provisions of the Aqdas.

The effect of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas will be considered in relation to the expression of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh in human soul and the administrative Order.

5.1 The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Human Soul

The evolution of the human soul and its spiritual progress as the result of the creative power of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh takes place through worship, divine education, and living the life.

According to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the worship of God is primarily carried out through obligatory prayer. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His tablets, describes the obligatory prayer as ' the very foundation of the Cause of God' and the 'cause of spiritual life'. Communion with God through the Word of Bahá'u'lláh particularly in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (House of Worship) at the hour of Dawn is praiseworthy.

Work performed in the spirit of service to mankind is considered as worship while everyone is 'enjoined upon to engage in some form of occupation'. Music is also ' made a ladder by which the soul may ascend to the realm on high'.

A significant factor in the progress of a soul is divine education which is achieved in this age through reading the words of Bahá'u'lláh. Adib Taherzadeh states that the writings of Bahá'u'lláh exerts the same influence upon the soul as food does on the body. Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas states:

Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that you may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lied hid in its depths.

This process assists the individual to develop divine characters and live a Bahá'í life. It also empowers the soul to draw closer to Bahá'u'lláh and become filled with His love and hence stay faithful to Him.

Recite ye the verses of God every morning and eventide. Whoso faileth to recite them, hath not been faithful to the Covenant of God and His Testament.

The Laws and Ordinances of the Faith as given in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are another important factor guiding the life of a believer and governing the community in which he lives. The Guardian refers to these laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the 'warp and woof' of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order and based 'on which the fabric of His future World Order" must rest . In the same passage, he further refers to the laws as:

The laws and ordinances that constitute the major theme of this Book, Bahá'u'lláh, moreover, has specifically characterised as "the breath of life unto all created things," as "the mightiest stronghold," as the fruits of His "Tree," as "the highest means for the maintenance of the order in the world and the security of its peoples," as "the lamps of His wisdom and loving providence," as "the sweet smelling savour of His garment," and "keys' of His "mercy" to His creatures.

The fundamental laws set by Bahá'u'lláh govern the character and behaviour of the individuals spiritually and also in society. The observance of these laws has been emphasised as the second duty 'prescribed by God for His servants' after 'the recognition of Him who is the Dayspring of His revelation and the Fountain of His laws' . The laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and their observance is one of the forces empowering individuals to manifest the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.

5.2 The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and The Administrative Order

The Guardian in a very profound statement in God Passes By, refers to the manifestation of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh in the Administrative Order. He initially describes the prophetic statement of the Báb in the Persian Bayán regarding this Order:

It should be noted, in this connection, that in the third Vahid of this Book (Persian Bayán), there occurs a passage which, alike in its explicit reference to the name of the Promised One, and in anticipation of the Order which in a later age, was to be identified with His Revelation, deserves to rank as the most significant statements recorded in any of the Báb's Writings. "Well is it with him," is His prophetic announcement, "who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán."

He then expounds on the creation and evolution of this Order which is generated by a statement in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and will be consummated by the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth:

It is with that self-same Order that the Founder of the promised Revelation, twenty years later-incorporating the same term in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas -identified the System envisaged in that Book, affirming that "this most great Order" had deranged the world's equilibrium and revolutionised mankind's ordered life. It is the features of that self-same Order which, at a later stage in the evolution of the Faith, the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the appointed Interpreter of His teachings, delineated through the provision of His Will and Testament. It is the structural basis of that self-same Order which, in the Formative Age the same Faith, the stewards of that same Covenant, the elected representatives of the world-wide Bahá'í World Commonwealth-the Kingdom of God on earth - which the Golden Age of that same Dispensation must, in the fullness of time, ultimately witness.

In addition, the characteristics of this Order, its skeleton, the dynamics of the process of its unfoldment, the forces and agents required for manifesting it in the physical world have been specified by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The references made are structured in this section as follows.

Characteristics of the Order

The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionised through the agency of this unique, this wondrous system-the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.

Skeleton of the Administrative Order - Houses of Justice

The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá, and should it exceed this number it does not matter.

Responsibility of the Members of the Houses of Justice

It behove them to be the trusted of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth.

The men of God's House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the People. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His Countries.

Decision Making in the Houses of Justice

It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly.

Basis of Decision Making

O People of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world.

Interactive Nature of the Houses of Justice

Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the House of Justice that the members therefore may act according to the needs and requirements of the time.

Succession

When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him whom God hath purposed, who hath branched from this Ancient Root.

O People of the World! when the Mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who has branched from this mighty Stock.

Assistance from Bahá'u'lláh

We behold you from Our realm of glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on High and a Company of Our favoured angels.

Arise to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men. We are with you at all times, and shall strengthen you through the power of truth. We are truly almighty. Whoso hath recognised Me will arise and serve Me with such determination that the powers of earth and heaven shall be unable to defeat his purpose.

5.3 Human Soul and Administrative Order

The spiritual progress of humanity and the advancement of the Bahá'í Administrative Order are two highly inter-related, interactive, and interdependent processes which cannot be separated. It is obvious from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that the action of the individual attracts confirmation and assistance from the Concourse on High. Such action depends on the recognition of the station of Bahá'u'lláh by the individual and hence its intensity and quality are proportional to the depth of the spiritual transformation which has taken place in him/her. The advancement, maturity and efficiency of the Administrative Order, in turn, will assist the individuals governed by it in their quest for spiritual progress. These two iterative processes will continue until the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh is brought about.

The Kitáb-i-Aqdas is, in essence, the creative source of energy for sustaining the operation of these two processes. It provides basic laws as a framework for the operation of these two processes, guidance on their nature, a firm covenant for maintaining the unity of the community, and an infallible body for continuous guidance and legislation, encouragement and inspiration for the individuals.

6. Conclusion

The role of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in bringing about the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh has been the major theme of this paper. It has been shown that the world model of Bahá'u'lláh is the most relevant, inspiring and dynamic model describing the nature, origin and destiny of mankind. The Order revealed by Bahá'u'lláh is inherently global, it provides the most holistic solutions to the contemporary problems and offers a universal infrastructure of the global civilisation of mankind on earth.

The nature of revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, and the spiritual power inherent in His order, can be understood by observing its expression in the world of nature, the human soul, the Word of Bahá'u'lláh, and the Administrative Order. This paper has focused on the last three in order to study the role of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in manifesting the expressions of this order, and hence in bringing about the Golden Age of mankind.

The spiritual progress of human soul as the result of revelation of Bahá'u'lláh takes place through worship, divine education, and living the life. This progress does not only happen during the life time of an individual, but is a collective evolutionary process in the followers of Bahá'u'lláh over continuous generations. The contents of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the creative power latent in its reality nourishes and empowers this process, thus enabling the spiritual progress of the human soul. The Kitab-i-Aqdas also provides the core components and infrastructure of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh upon which the future civilisation of mankind on earth will be dependent.


Bibliography

Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London, P. 76, 1949

Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, K115, p61, Bahá'í Publications, Australia, 1993.

Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London, Norwich, 1957.

Bahm Archie J., The Philosopher's World Model, Greenwood Press, 1979.

Coe, Roger, "An Organic Order", The Vision of the Guardian, pp25-56, Association of Bahá'í Studies, Canada, 1993.

Laszlo, Ervin, et al, Goals for Mankind: A Report to the Club of Rome on the New Horizons of the Global Community, New York, E. P. Dutton, 1977.

Meadows, Donellar H.,Meadows, Dennis L., Randers, Jorgen, Beherns III,William W.,The Limits of Growth, Washington, D.C., Potomac Associates, 1972.

Mesarovic, Mihailo,Pester, Eduard,Mankind at the Turning Point: The Second Report of the Club of Rome, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1974.

Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1974.

Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1979

Taherzadeh,Adib, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume Three, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983.


Notes

[Footnotes appear to have been lost in the version of this paper preserved at archive.org.]

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