The "Most Great Peace" isn't discussed in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,
but the "Lesser Peace" is. Here are some notes on that important topic. It is in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
that Bahá'u'lláh gives the most thorough outline of the Lesser Peace that we have in any of His available writings in English.
The Lesser Peace
In the writings of Bahá'u'lláh available today in English, there are six references to the "Lesser Peace," the earliest dating to 1868 in the Tablet to Queen Victoria (see Promised Day Is Come, p. 26-7; Gleanings, 254; World Order 162; and Proclamation 12) and the latest dating to 1891 in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 30. The remaining four references are in Bishárát (the sixth Glad-Tidings; TB, p. 23); Kalimát-i Firdawsiyyih (ninth leaf; TB, p. 69); Lawh-i Dunyá (TB, p, 89), and Lawh-i Maqsúd (TB, p. 165).
The Guardian writes that it is in His Tablet to Queen Victoria that Bahá'u'lláh addresses all the kings of the earth, "summoning them to cleave to the Lesser Peace, as distinct from that Most Great Peace which those who are fully conscious of the power of His Revelation and avowedly profess the tenets of His Faith can alone proclaim and must eventually establish." (Promised Day Is Come, p. 26)
This is the passage from the Tablet to Queen Victoria:
"O kings of the earth! ... Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace, hold ye fast unto this, the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better your own condition and that of your dependents.
"O rulers of the earth! Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions. Beware lest ye disregard the counsel of the All-Knowing, the Faithful.
"Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend. Should anyone among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice."
(see Promised Day Is Come, p. 26-7)
When Bahá'u'lláh quotes portions of the Tablet to Queen Victoria for the benefit of Shaykh Muhammad Taqi (pp. 59-64), He actually omits this section referring to the Lesser Peace, possibly because earlier in the Epistle He already discussed the topic in greater detail. He writes:
"We pray God — exalted be His glory — and cherish the hope that He may graciously assist the manifestations of affluence and power and the daysprings of sovereignty and glory, the kings of the earth — may God aid them through His strengthening grace — to establish the Lesser Peace. This, indeed, is the greatest means for insuring the tranquillity of the nations. It is incumbent upon the Sovereigns of the world — may God assist them — unitedly to hold fast unto this Peace, which is the chief instrument for the protection of all mankind. It is Our hope that they will arise to achieve what will be conducive to the well-being of man. It is their duty to convene an all-incl usive assembly, which either they themselves or their ministers will attend, and to enforce whatever measures are required to establish unity and concord amongst men. They must put away the weapons of war, and turn to the instruments of universal reconstruction. Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries. If they attain unto this all-surpassing blessing, the people of each nation will pursue, with tranquillity and contentment, their own occupations, and the groanings and lamentations of most men would be silenced. We beseech God to aid them to do His will and pleasure. He, verily, is the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, and the Lord of this world and of the world to come. It would be preferable and more fitting that the highly honored kings themselves should attend such an assembly, and proclaim their edicts. Any king who will arise and carry out this task, he verily will, in the sight of God, become the cynosure of all kings. Happy is he, and great is his blessedness!"
The Lesser Peace in the Context of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
In the context of the Epistle, the Lesser Peace appears as a topic in part of a larger argument — a body of text and quotes consisting of around ten pages (pp. 22-33) — presented as character evidence following upon a discussion of the first charge against Him addressed in the Epistle. That is, the charge concerning conspiracy to assassinate the Sháh (pp. 19-22). After He has given His account of events at the time of the failed assassination attempt, He writes:
"We shall herewith cite a few passages [i.e., pp. 23-30] from Tablets specifically revealed to this people, so that every one may know of a certainty that this Wronged One hath acted in a manner which hath been pleasing and acceptable unto men endued with insight, and unto such as are the exponents of justice and equity." (pp. 22-3)
From these words we understand His reason for quoting various earlier writings from Kalimát-i-Firdawsiyyih, Ishráqát, Tajallíyát, and a few unidentified sources, that He is about to present. These texts concern honesty, piety, purity, fear of God (p. 23), the abolition of Holy War (p. 24, 25), the forbidding of contention and sedition (p. 24, 25), deeds as the distinguishing feature of faithfulness (p. 25), the importance of teaching and good deeds (pp. 25-6), the importance of beneficial professions (pp. 26-7), the importance of religion (pp. 27-8), the promotion of religion by kings and leaders (pp. 27-8), trustworthiness and piety (p. 29), the golden means and humility (p. 30). In between these quotes He adds additional teachings about the importance of education (p. 27), the tranquility of nations depending on justice (pp. 28-9), and ends discussing the Lesser Peace (p. 30-1), militarism and conscriptment in Persia (pp. 31-2), and statements about the potential of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation and His true aims
"to suppress whatever is the cause of contention amidst the peoples of the earth, and of separation amongst the nations, so that all men may be sanctified from every earthly attachment, and be set free to occupy themselves with their own interests." (p. 33).
With these quotes and words He conclude this particular defense against the first charge brought against Him and then takes up the next charge. So, in context, the Lesser Peace is presented as evidence of His true aims. Rather than promoting sedition, He has forbidden it, taught spiritual virtues and what is necessary to advance the security and prosperity of Persia and all nations.
The Basic Features of the Lesser Peace
The overall treatment of peace in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf is very instructive in the far-reaching way it exceeds the typically limited arguments of many political reformers. More than just international in scope, Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on peace address a broad range of issues necessary for its success. There is first those components that deal with the internal peace of nations — the morality of the citizens, education and employment, the role of the State to encourage religion and the role of religion in supporting the right interests of the State, and stress on the importance of justice to the maintenance of peace (a point that recalls His earlier discussion of the unity of religion and the protection of the rights of all religious groups, pp. 12-16). The "Lesser Peace" addresses both the internal and the external issues of peace effecting states by reducing the chances of war, reducing the burden of taxation for weapons, reducing the need for large conscriptions, and giving representation to all peoples. As He explains the Lesser Peace in the Epistle it contains these nine important features:
- Who is to bring it about: The role of people of "affluence and power," the rulers ("Kings") of the earth.
- Its purpose: The importance (or foundational mandate) of the Lesser Peace as "the greatest means for insuring the tranquillity of the nations" and "the protection of all mankind."
- Its basic structure: A consultative "assembly" or what we might call a world tribunal: "The duty of rulers to convene an all-inclusive assembly, which either they themselves or their ministers will attend."
- Who will attend: The word "all-inclusive" to describe the assembly indicates that it is to be representative of all peoples.
- An international executive: The means to "enforce whatever measures are required to establish unity and concord amongst men," presumably some form of international executive.
- Disarmament of weapons of aggression: They must put away the weapons "of war"
- Universal reconstruction: Not just a mandate to stop wars but to rebuild the world. "They must...turn to the instruments of universal reconstruction."
- Collective security and deterance: "Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him."
- Arms control (made possible by collective security): "Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries."
In the Tablet to Queen Victoria, Bahá'u'lláh addresses the topic more briefly touching on the Lesser Peace as a means for rulers to better their own condition and that of their dependents. He outlines three basic features, 1) arms reduction, 2) unity among nations, and 3) collective security. So it is here in 1891 in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf that Bahá'u'lláh gives the most thorough outline of the Lesser Peace that we have in any available source.
The Beginnings of the Lesser Peace in the Twentieth Century
From the outline above we can see that the basic features of what Bahá'u'lláh advocated to the European monarchs and peoples of His day came about gradually in a number of international bodies, most notably the United Nations. While that institution has yet to achieve the necessary influence and power to prevent all acts of aggression, it has increasing shown a determination to intervene to stop both hostilities between nations and civil wars. In it, we can observe the clear beginnings of the establishment of the Lesser Peace in the twentieth century. It can also be noted that the aggression common between European nations in Bahá'u'lláh's day has ended and Europe is firmly united in its own embrace of collective security and has benefited from a measure of arms reduction that has come from its strong alliances and unity.
One aspect of Bahá'u'lláh's discussion of the topic that stands out to the modern reader is the role assigned to "kings." In Bahá'u'lláh's day the most powerful of Europe's rulers were autocratic monarchs or dictators with the exception of Queen Victoria whose role in governing the British Empire was limited by their constitution. The autocratic forms of monarchy were part of the "old" world order that Bahá'u'lláh prophesied was coming to an end. Bahá'u'lláh held out to them the great blessing that would be theirs if they established the Lesser Peace and if they attended such an assembly and proclaimed their edicts. (p. 31) None achieved this and a humanity tired of suffering under such outmoded forms of government gradually rose up to establish representative and constitutional governments. Although many monarchies remain in the world, it would be elected representatives of the successor democratic governments, not the monarchs, who would be the chief promoters who would bring about the United Nations.
The case of the nineteenth-century monarchs is one of lost opportunities, first the Most Great Peace that could have been brought about by their recognition of Bahá'u'lláh and promotion of His teachings, and second the Lesser Peace which they traded for the fleeting pursuit of territorial conquests. By 1915 most of the world had been colonized by the few European powers addressed by Bahá'u'lláh. Theirs was a unique historical opportunity had they embraced Bahá'u'lláh's teachings and vision. Instead, within a few decades, the institutions of these monarchies would be overturned and their once great empires undone. In their place would remain the war tired nations of the world and the infant institution of the United Nations, the basis of the Lesser Peace envisioned by Bahá'u'lláh.