Security for a Failing World
"Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself"
HOWEVER much we may wish to strive for universal peace and the brotherhood of man, it is evident that these great and noble aims are impossible of accomplishment so long as prejudices continue to divide mankind — prejudices cultural, religious, racial, and national. Wherever striking differences exist between peoples — whether of pigmentation and language, of customs, of education and culture — there is apt to be a lack of sympathy, a lack of understanding, a lack of harmony. Deep-rooted prejudices formed by hereditary and social environment and strongly supported by tradition still remain — even in the enlightenment of the Twentieth Century — insuperable obstacles to world unity.
Prejudices are hard to overcome because they are seated in the emotional nature. Even the education and training of the intellect does not suffice to overcome these pre-judgments of others based not upon rational grounds but upon emotional reactions and traditions implanted in the course of the formation of man's emotional character. In such cases the intellect merely serves to rationalize the prejudice, to defend it, to justify it with apparently reasonable grounds.
Prejudices may be personal; or they may be community prejudices, national prejudices, prejudices embedded in religious teaching and tradition. Of whatever class they are, they tend to be handed down from generation to generation. Indeed there is no other way in which they can be maintained. Psychologists have discovered that children have no innate prejudices of a racial, religious or national character; and that they acquire such prejudices only by indoctrination and training.
Could this indoctrination — this hereditary handing down of traditional prejudice — be stopped, these world prejudices would soon disappear. But that is easier said than done. Since one cannot at one stroke eliminate the prejudices of the adult world, neither can one prevent these prejudices from being handed down to children who are constantly surrounded--in their homes, in their schools, and in the adult life around them — with some form or other of prejudicial indoctrination.
2One of the simplest forms of racial prejudice is that due to the conquest of one people by another more vigorous and potent. The conquerors naturally tend to despise the conquered, especially if there are differences of language and religion. They consider subject races to be stupid and inferior creatures not entitled to esteem. They tend to hold them in a subordinate position in the community, to
impose menial tasks upon them, to make them "hewers of wood and drawers of water." If there is a difference of color, this may crystallize into a caste system.
If no wide difference of color, race, or religion exists, the conqueror and the conquered tend in time to coalesce; and prejudices gradually disappear. But if there is a wide divergence in religion, race, and color, the prejudices remain for generations, centuries, and even for millenniums, causing a segregation of the different races and becoming an effective barrier against unification.
In the Norman conquest of England the Saxons, retreating to rural districts, became a race of rustics; while the Normans, seizing the towns, became both an urban and a ruling race and held in great contempt the less sophisticated and to them stupid and unintelligible Saxons. Gradually, however, through normal intercourse and especially through the coalescence of the two languages, a complete unity came to pass.
The Turks, in the course of their widespread conquests, came to look down upon all their conquered peoples, whether Jews or Christians. These they called "donkeys" and held in contempt and subjection.
In Persia, since the Muhammadan Conquest, the Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians have been held in contempt and subjected to various forms of mild persecution. These subject-races have suffered under a social stigma so strong that they must be careful
lest their shadow fall upon the ruling caste of Muslems. The conquering race would not eat from the same vessels nor practice any social affiliation.
The caste system of India arose from the diversity of the races at the time of the Aryan conquest of India. Its purpose was to hold indigenous races in a subordinate position and prevent coalescence. These crystallized cleavages between the diverse races of India constitute one of the gravest difficulties under which this country labors today;
"'There's the Afghan, and, as a highlander, he despises all the dwellers in Hindoostan — with the exception of the Sikh, whom he hates as cordially as the Sikh hates him. The Hindu loaths Sikh and Afghan, and the Rajput — that's a little lower down across this yellow blot of desert — has a strong objection, to put it mildly, to the Maratha who, by the way, poisonously hates the Afghan. Let's go North a minute. The Sindhi hates everybody I've mentioned. Very good, we'll take less warlike races. The cultivator of Northern India domineers over the man in the next province, and the Behari of the Northwest ridicules the Bengali. They are all at one on that point. I'm giving you merely the roughest possible outlines of the facts, of course.... Hate eternal and inextinguishable hate.'"
The superiority given the Western World in recent times, by the use of gunpowder and other advantages of modern scientific industrialism, developed an aggressive imperialism leading to the conquest and settlement of the New World and later to the conquest or domination of most of Asia and all of Africa. This all-victorious career of the West has
produced a superiority complex on the part of western imperialistic nations toward the conquered races. And today, when world events call for a change of attitude, it is very difficult for the nations of the West to rid themselves of long-rooted prejudices against Asiatic peoples who have been considered to be racially inferior because they have been in subjection or in military weakness.
More striking still has been the attitude of the white race in the United States toward the negro race. Here, in a country founded on the conception of freedom and equal opportunity, it has been possible to hold vast numbers of another race in slavery while at the same time defending this action by pious explanations regarding the relative destinies of the white and colored races. The basis and motivation of slavery was economic. But by a naive form of rationalism virtuous pretexts for slave-holding were established and the psychology of the slave-holders was crystallized to a point beyond possibility of argument or voluntary change.
3Race prejudices due to such political or economic factors are very difficult to eliminate because they are founded upon man's most basic emotions of egoism and greed. The human mind is so formed as to avoid voluntarily facing a consciousness of guilt or wrongdoing. Therefore, if a man's course of action though ethically indefensible is self-advantageous,
such action tends to become rationalized; that is to say, right-seeming motives for conduct are invented by the subconscious self and passed on to the conscious self which implicitly accepts these false motives as the true ones. It is difficult to eradicate such rationalized ideas, since they originate in man's deep-emotional or subconscious nature,and are caused by self-regarding desires.
The whole attitude and aim of imperialism must be abandoned, it is clear, before the prejudices of race due to imperialistic conquests can be overcome.
4Another great cause of prejudice is religion. Though a less potent factor than it was a century ago, religious tradition is still strong enough to influence the vast majority of the inhabitants of this planet. A foreigner of another religion is a "heathen," a "ghaour," a "white devil." That form of theology which teaches that one's own religion is the only true religion naturally condemns all other religions to falsity and their adherents to error. Such theological concepts effectively prevent any real understanding or appreciation of the foreigner's religion.
Competitive religions that are still active and aggressive arouse prejudice the most vividly. Thus ardent Christians of the doctrinal type have more prejudices regarding Muhammadanism than they have regarding Confucianism, for the reason that
Confucianism at present is not a virile expanding religion while Muhammadanism in many sections of the world is engaged in active competition with Christianity.
An earnest Christian and an earnest Muhammadan, if both are of the fundamentalist type, could argue for days at a time without making the slightest dent in each other's reciprocal attitude. The fundamentalist Christian claim that Christ is the only begotten Son of God, the sole Messiah, the unique Revealer of religion implies that Muhammad must be an imposter and the Muhammadan religion an invention of the devil. A pious Muhammadan, on the other hand, believes that Muhammad was the last of the prophets ("the seal of the prophets") and that Muhammad's religion supersedes Christianity; hence he looks with pity upon the Christians, who having a partial truth are unwilling to accept the whole truth.
So long as earnest religious zeal burns in the hearts of fundamentalist adherents of these opposing religions nothing can ever bring them together--nothing, that is, except the transforming power of the Bahá'í Movement, which is miraculously uniting even the most zealous and fundamentalist followers of these two diverse and strongly competitive religions.
5A third and potent cause of prejudice is due to differences in customs and morals. A feeling of inherent separativeness due to such differences is not without some actual foundation. It would be indeed difficult to unify and harmonize races of widely diverging codes of custom and morals. How, for instance, could a family strict as to sex morals venture to fraternize with another family which believed in free love? Close friendship would be impossible for fear of contamination. So, too, a people that are shifty and dishonest in their business dealings cannot expect to find friendship and affiliation from other peoples who practice higher ethical standards in their business dealings. It is apparent that world unity in its most profound sense cannot be established until there is one code of morals effectively holding the loyalty of all mankind. And this is just what the Bahá'í Movement brings about.
6A very natural cause of racial prejudice, even among intelligent and well-meaning people, is the tendency to make wholesale judgments based upon a limited experience. Thus if in the course of travel we are duped by a member of a certain race, we are apt to classify this whole race as dishonest. If members of a foreign race prove unreliable all members of that race are classified as unreliable.
Even if certain unlikeable qualities do prevail very characteristically in certain races (and we must not forget that other races find in Americans much to dislike) it is wrong to carry in our minds wholesale racial judgments. What we deal with in this world are individuals, and each individual should have a fair chance to prove and demonstrate himself to us regardless of his race, creed or class. Not to permit this is to act on prejudice.
7One of the more innocent and less harmful expressions of nationalism is that national vanity which leads people to think and say that their country is the best in the world. It would be amusing if one could psychologize a large number of people of every race in the world and realize how strong this mental attitude is in them all.
This superiority-emotion of peoples for their native country is not founded so much upon an intelligent comparison of actual achievements as it is upon insularity; it is found most marked in races having the highest proportion of illiteracy, ignorance, and provincialism. Examine the historic literature and popular thought of such countries as China, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and you will find that each conceives itself to be the center of the universe and its rulers to be the supreme potentates of the planet.
The same kind of unreasoning emotional cleavage
exists between city dwellers and rustics; between inhabitants of the mountains and inhabitants of the plains; between Semitic desert nomads and their compatriot urbanites.
It is natural, of course, that we should love our country; that we should think it a glorious country and wish it to be superlatively great. Indeed, it may be the best country in the world for us. But how can it be that in a world composed of some fifty countries each one of them can be the best?
This national vanity, empty-minded and ludicrous as it may seem, is definitely menacing and injurious when it leads to contempt and aggression toward other countries. It may even eventuate in the idea of beneficent imperialism — a very dangerous idea leading certain countries to feel that the more of the world they conquer and rule the better off the world will be.
Thus even a seemingly innocent habit of racial vanity may become a threat to world peace; in its mildest form, it leads to ungenerous and inharmonious comparisons. It must be classed as a negative emotion, since its effects are the opposite of constructive.
All this talk about racial superiorities and inferiorities-so far as the native gifts of intelligence of each race is concerned — is irrational, modern science tends to show. There has not been found any distinct difference as to intelligence in the races of the world. In fact, intelligence tests and other evidences point to a normal and equitable distribution
of innate intelligence and ability throughout all the races of the world. The causes of the existing vast diversity in races are differences in natural and human environment, in training, in racial ideology, in nationalistic aspirations and ideals.
8Since the causes of prejudice lie chiefly in the self-regarding emotions, it is evident that until man's nature is dominated by altruistic emotions these prejudices cannot be overcome.
We cannot eliminate prejudice and leave nothing in its place. Something else must be substituted, or else new prejudices will arise. The emotionally egocentric and intellectually analytical factors of human nature tend always to discriminations which lead to unkind and unsympathetic judgments. Thus even if all the prejudices in the world were by some miracle eliminated today, unless the hearts of men were changed new prejudices would arise tomorrow.
There is only one thing that can wipe out existing prejudices and prevent new ones from forming — a loving charitable heart that instinctively goes out in kindly thought and deed to others. Such a heart exists only in those who are spiritually attuned to the great Heart of Love.
Yes, religion is the only power capable of overcoming the vastly intrenched force of prejudice--that innate tendency of man's mental and emotional nature to set himself and his country above all
others and to inordinately glorify his own folkways and distinctive culture.
9The Bahá'í Faith specifically attacks prejudice of all kinds. It condemns all emotional expression which tends toward separation and inharmony. It preaches sympathy, understanding, and love for every race.
Man must set the world and its needs above even the love of one's country. "Glory not in this," said Bahá'u'lláh, "that you love your country, but rather in this, that you love mankind." National pride and glory are not to be condemned so long as they lead only to friendly rivalry, emulation, and co-operation. But that form of nationalism which accepts the slogan "My country right or wrong" as an excuse for jingoistic attitudes falls woefully short of the ideal that Bahá'ís strive for.
In its brief history the Bahá'í Brotherhood has shown a marvelous power of wiping out strong and deep-seated prejudices. This miracle is especially noteworthy in the Orient where traditions and habits of hatred are so strong. How is it that in a single generation this movement has been able to bring together into loving comradeship and brotherhood Muhammadans, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians — races which had lived hitherto segregated from each other by social and religious barriers of the strongest kind, peoples between whom misunderstanding and hatred were universally prevalent?
The Bahá'í Movement has accomplished this miracle not simply by urging people to be kind and to develop their higher emotions; nor by a gradual process of education and enlightenment leading them out of the unreasoning prejudices of the past. No, it is not by such means that millions have been brought into harmony and love. It is rather by the proclamation of a spiritual message which is accepted by all its adherents as divinely revealed and authoritative.
Once the Oriental gives his heart to a religion he dedicates his intellect and his full powers to it. His one aim is to carry out its precepts. It is thus that the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh has demonstrated the miracle of raising ignorant, illiterate, provincially-minded Orientals in the twinkling of an eye, so to speak, to the plane of world citizenship, transforming narrow concepts of religion and race into broad ideals of world brotherhood and peace. Occidental Bahá'ís, too, lend willing and glad obedience to these spiritual precepts validating and enabling the efforts of all who work toward the glorious goal of universal peace and the unity of mankind.
10Some years ago in Constantinople I met with a group of Persian Bahá'ís on their way back to Persia from visiting their leader at Haifa. There were in this group, traveling together in the closest
friendship and love, Muhammadans, Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews; and meeting with them from Constantinople an Arab, a Turk, and an American. Here was a most diverse group as regards race, nationality, and religion, consorting together in the utmost brotherhood and love. One of the Persians, a youth with a white cloth wound around his tarbush (evidence of his being a theological student) said to me with tears in his eyes as he grasped my hand and held it firmly in both of his: "My brother, my brother! Just to think! Six months ago if I had had to shake your hand I should have thought myself contaminated. I should have spat on the ground in disgust at having to shake hands with an infidel. And now the Bahá'í Faith has made me see you as a brother. What a miracle this is!"
And truly it was. Yet this sort of miracle is taking place in similar groups all over the world.
11This effective spiritual brotherhood between the different religionists and races of Persia was not established without struggle, danger, and persecution.
At first it was very difficult for Bahá'ís to put into practice their ideals of peace and brotherhood. For a Muhammadan of the dominant race to be seen admitting to his house in social fellowship a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian was to bring down a
mob upon him. His house might be destroyed by fire, he and his family massacred. Brotherhood had to be practiced in secret and very cautiously. Yet--and here is the important thing to realize — it was practiced!
Bahá'ís do not state a creed, and then neglect the deeds that give expression to their creed. Brotherhood is such an integral part of the Bahá'í doctrine that to avoid or neglect its practice is an unpardonable fault. Therefore the Bahá'ís of Persia felt an irresistible urge to prove the power of their faith.
As the Bahá'ís increased in number in any given town they found it advisable to withdraw to a new quarter of the town where Muhammadan, Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Bahá'ís could live side by side and practice fellowship without attracting the rancor of the more conservative elements of the city.
Only since the rise of Riza Shah to power has it been possible for Bahá'ís to congregate openly together. Because of the order established by his tolerant and just rule it is now safe for Bahá'ís in most of the cities of Persia to hold their meetings and festivities together openly in private gardens or even in a public park; it is not necessary for them to creep to their common destination singly and in the dark, as in former days.
Anyone visiting Persia will see today this miracle of brotherhood in active expression. He will find Persians of every race and creed — where hitherto mutual hatred and intolerance had existed — living
together in utmost harmony and love. Nothing short of a divine power working in the heart of men could have effected such miracles of brotherhood--miracles which carry us back in imagination to those thrilling days when the message of the Nazarene united Jew and Gentile, proud Romans and despised Barbarians, bound and free, in loving Christian fellowship.
"The teachings of the Holy Books need a divine potency to complete their accomplishment in human hearts. In Persia Bahá'u'lláh reared and taught souls, established a bond of affiliation among various peoples, and united divergent religious beliefs to such an extent that twenty thousand devoted ones sacrificed themselves for the Cause of God in the glorious unity of martyrdom. No differences whatever remained among these blessed souls; Christians, Jews, Muhammadans, Zoroastrians were all blended, unified, and agreed through the potency of his heavenly power. Bahá'u'lláh not only proclaimed unity in love; he established it."
12And so this first step toward world peace and a new world order is being established in the hearts of men throughout the world. Brotherhood must first be felt before it can be expressed in organization. The evidence of the power of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh actually to create the feeling
and expression of brotherhood all over the world is one of the most powerful factors in its appeal to people of understanding, sincerity and idealism.
How great is the need for some such force to rend asunder the veils which the world over have concealed men from each other's understanding; and to cut from human feet those tradition-forged shackles which have held them from walking out to meet their brothers of different race and creed!
If we would have world brotherhood, it is only in the world of the soul that this unity can be achieved. Sympathetic charity and activating love — these are unifying spiritual qualities which emanate from the soul and function on a plane higher than that of the discriminative and separative intellect. And these spiritual qualities can be established only as religion brings to the individual an inspiration, a faith, a power which lifts him above his own lower nature and helps him to attain to his best self.
13Religion always has shown a cohesive force, a power to bring diverse races together and to cause them to cohere in one civilization and culture. Buddhism did this. Christianity did this. Muhammadanism did it most strikingly in its early centuries.
"The Holy Spirit is the only power which will
ultimately unite and harmonize the races and nations of the world. The Cause of God is the only panacea which will heal for all time to come the social, economic, and political diseases of mankind. The revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is the tree which will send its outstretched branches to all the countries and under whose cool shade all the religious sects will gather to fraternize and associate with one another.
"The world is full of ideas but they are either fleeting or profitless or impractical or limited in their influence, or confined within a narrow scope. The beaming shafts of the light of cosmic ideals must pierce through the hearts of men and the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary to carry into execution these noble thoughts of the age.
"Human power is limited in its influence. It can unite two persons, or two tribes, or two communities, or at the utmost two nations. At the same time it confesses that this unity is temporal and may be abrogated by the whim of either of the high contracting parties. But the divine power unites nations and peoples, and cements them together in the bond of brotherhood and peace for ages and cycles."
14When people of diverse races and temperaments are brought together in a social or religious unity
the charm of the association is enhanced by the very differences that exist, just as in marriage opposite temperaments are said to produce the greatest happiness and vitality in the mating.
Thus one discovers, in the course of world travel, that association with people of greatly different temperament and background is most fascinating. To find oneself actually in a situation of sympathetic exchange of ideas with individuals of foreign and exotic races is an exhilarating type of experience which does not occur in intercourse with one's own countrymen. The greater the difference of race and culture, the greater is the romance of this intercourse.
And so it will happen that when prejudices are removed, when barriers are broken down and the peoples from opposite ends of the earth come together in harmony, a cosmic and vivid emotional experience will take place. Hearts will become aflame with the marvel of this experience of unity.
Love is a creative force. It builds up. The spirit of universal inter-active love will assuredly erect upon the foundation of world brotherhood marvelous institutions of culture, of art, and of religion.