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Security for a Failing World

by Stanwood Cobb

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Chapter 17


Making a Better World

RELIGION, as, Bahá'ís see it, is not an artificial compulsion, an abnormal restraint upon life; nor is it a passive unreasoning submission to exigencies and events. It is something dynamic, active. It releases creative forces in the individual and attracts to the individual creative forces greater than his own personal powers.

True spirituality means the full exercise of the creative intelligence in changing and ordering one's life so as to make it harmonious and joyous. Through the aid of the scientific intellect plus guiding and stimulating forces from a super-world man becomes the ruler of his environment — organizing and administering the world about him so as to adapt it to his needs. "Religion is in reality the cause of infinite progress," says 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Bahá'ís believe that the most individually important form of creative work man can indulge in is the forming of his own character and personality. This is a task which is placed in man's own hands. No one can create another's personality. This is an individual responsibility and it is the most important task of life. As man creates his higher self on the inner plane, so correspondingly will be the effects of all his efforts on the outer plane. Everything

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flows from the center. We must be in order to do.


Every individual, in lifting his own life up to nobler heights, finds himself inspired with a great zeal for helping to improve humanity.

In the process of human evolution from the savage satisfying only his animal wants to the modern with his multitudinous desires, "there at last came the selfless and compassionate man who pitied the hungry and the maimed and the heavily burdened, and dreamed a splendid dream — that he might collaborate with God in creating a world free of misery and wrong and injustice."[3]

    [3. Robert Quillen.]

What enormous possibilities await this loftiest of tasks, the building of a more perfect world! Humanity has only for a brief two centuries been conscious of itself as a struggling, evolving society. It has only within this brief span of its existence come to envision and assume conscious goals of perfection toward which to strive. Today the conscience of men the world over is being aroused as never before to the urgent need of creating a new world order which shall establish security and happiness for the individual. In this titanic effort where man's ordinary intelligence stands baffled and halting, the Bahá'ís seek to utilize all the creative power which religion has to give. The mere force of the intellect will never suffice to remake the world, they

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say. There is needed the heart of charity and the soul of vision.


Leading thinkers and writers of the world, in giving earnest attention to the great problem of how to achieve an ideal organization of humanity, realize the part which altruism must play in this.

"To the ears of many 'idealism' means a lot of empty words," says Heywood Broun, "an effort to achieve the impossible at some very distant date. But it is better than that. Several of the wisest of economists can offer us little counsel to improve the tangled snarl of international relationships except to suggest that we might work our way out if there were a greater amount of goodwill floating around in the world. The road to adjustment lies plainly ahead of us but is blocked by fear, hatred, petty nationalism, and personal greed. I mean very literally that the wise men need not only all their wisdom but also the fellowship of love."

"The problem of social injustice will be a problem for many years to come," says Frank Howard. "We have today, as ever, need of prophets of the social gospel, of those with a genuine desire to lighten the burdens of the race. There must be an application of the teachings of religion to industry. It is well enough to say no business can be a charitable institution, and that is true. It is easy to point out that if a business is to survive it must make

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money. None the less, the need of the humanitarian spirit in industry remains."

H. G. Wells — writer of Utopias and for years an earnest searcher for ways in which to perfect the organization of humanity — states: "Either we must make peace throughout the world, make one world State, one world-pax, with one money, one police, one speech, one brotherhood — however hard that task may seem — or we must prepare to live with the voice of a stranger in our ears, with the eyes of a stranger in our homes, with the knife of a stranger always at our throats, in fear and danger of death. We are confronted with two facts — one bad and one good. The first is that acts of war have become hideously immediate and far-reaching. The second is that the whole round world can be brought together into one brotherhood, one communion, one close-knit, freely communicating citizenship far more easily today than was possible with even such a little country as England a century ago."


The formulation of principles of organization for all humanity and the guidance of humanity into such a world order is too immense a task for any human personality. It requires a super-power. The function of the individual is to become a channel for a Divine Force and a Divine Plan which would remake this planet into a better and happier home for man. It is through the power of the Holy

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Spirit — the Light which guided the Prophets and shone forth from them — that the Bahá'ís seek to operate.

"When you breathe forth the breath of the Holy Spirit from your hearts into the world, commerce and politics will take care of themselves in perfect harmony. All arts and sciences will become revealed, and the knowledge of God will be manifested. It is not your work but that of the Holy Spirit which you breathe forth through the Word. This is a fundamental truth."[4]

    [4. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "Divine Art of Living."]

Human power cannot suffice to reconstruct the world, because there is implied in the essential economic and political structure of mankind an infinite variety of incalculable circumstances. The way out must be shown by a Power higher than ourselves. To the light of his intellect man must add the Light of the Spirit, says 'Abdu'l-Bahá

"The light of the intellect enables us to understand and realize all that exists. But it is the divine Light alone which can give us sight for the invisible things and which enables us to see truths that will not be visible to the world for thousands of years hence. It was the divine Light which enabled the prophets to see two thousand years in advance what was going to take place. And today we see the realization of their vision. Thus it is this Light which we must strive to seek, for it is greater than any other."[5]

    [5. "Divine Art of Living."]

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Bahá'ís find in the New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh an inspiring goal to work for. They realize their own limited powers to be totally inadequate to the task. But they work as part of a concerted movement the plan of which they believe to be perfect, and the effectiveness of which is clearly to be measured by the zeal and unity of its adherents.

Here, in the working out of a modern world religion, is a creative task fit to call out all man's powers, the Bahá'ís believe. No task to which man can dedicate himself is more noble, more inspiring, more worthy of the utmost consecration and concentration than that of helping to build a better world.

Within the vast scope of this superhuman task Bahá'ís claim the privilege of becoming quarriers, architects and builders — each one an artist, a creator working in the service of the Great Architect and for the progress of humanity.


"Bahá'ís may not content themselves with the noise, the clamor, the hollowness of religious doctrine. Nay, rather, they should exemplify in every aspect of their lives the attributes and virtues that are born of God, and should arise to distinguish themselves by their goodly behavior. They should justify their claim to be Bahá'ís by deeds, not by name.

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"He is a true Bahá'í who strives by day and by night to progress and advance along the path of human endeavor; whose cherished desire is to live and act so as to enrich and illumine the world; whose source of inspiration is the Essence of Divine perfection; whose aim in life is to conduct himself so as to be the cause of infinite progress. Only when he attains unto such perfect gifts can it be said of him that he is a Bahá'í.

"In this holy dispensation the crowning glory of bygone ages and cycles, faith is no mere acknowledgment of the unity of God but rather the living of a life that manifests the virtues and perfections implied in such belief.

" ... Dedicate yourselves wholly to the service of humanity. Then will the world be turned into a paradise; then will the surface of the earth mirror forth the glory of the ... Kingdom."[6]

    [6. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "Bahá'í Prayers," pp. 182-185.]

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A WORLD united politically, religiously, culturally; and educated under a common universal curriculum.

A WORLD in which war is forever banned, and the energies of humanity are devoted solely to constructive enterprise.

A WORLD where all men are seen as brothers and differences of color, race, and nationality are no longer factors of prejudice but elements of pleasing variety in a vast cosmopolitan culture.

A WORLD where language barriers are overcome by the use of a universal auxiliary language.

A WORLD free from customs barriers and prosperously engaged in international interchange of goods.

A WORLD in which the long and bitter conflict between capital and labor is changed into effective cooperation based on profit sharing and mutuality of interests.

A WORLD where jungle-like competition in industry and business has given place to the orderly workings of a planned economic society.

A WORLD of plenty in which individual wealth is limited and poverty is abolished.

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A WORLD in which science walks hand in hand with religion, and knowledge is dedicated to human progress.

A WORLD in which the business of government devolves upon the fittest administrators and the best trained experts — a working aristocracy based on democratic universal foundations.

A WORLD, above all, which knows God and seeks to follow ways of righteousness and peace.

Is this a dream world built only of desire-images? No, it is a world toward which our planetary destiny is plainly moving. There is not an element in it, no matter how apparently idealistic, toward which social evolution and the force of events have not already shown manifest tendency. It is the type of world which modernism will inevitably produce as an alternative to planetary chaos, bankruptcy, and suicide.

It is the organized aim of Bahá'ís, the world over, to speed up this evolutionary process — to accelerate the growth of favorable culture aspects in order to bring to pass this New World Order within the present century.

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('Abdu'l-Bahá Speaks)

"The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement; its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching and it will lead all nations spiritually. The flag of freedom and banner of liberty have been unfurled here but the prosperity and advancement of a city, the happiness and greatness of a country depend upon its hearing and obeying the call of God. The light of reality must shine therein and divine civilization be founded; then the radiance of the kingdom will be diffused and heavenly influences surround.

"I exhort you to be devoted to your spiritual development. Just as you have striven along material lines and have attained to high degrees of worldly advancement, may you likewise become strengthened and proficient in the knowledge of God. May divine susceptibilities be increased and awakened; may your devotion to the heavenly kingdom become intense. May you be the recipients of the impulses of the Holy Spirit, be assisted in the world of morality and attain ideal power, so that the sublimity of the world of mankind may become apparent to you.

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"This is the time for man to strive and put forth his greatest efforts in spiritual directions. Material civilization has reached an advanced plane, but now there is need of spiritual civilization. Material civilization alone cannot satisfy; it cannot meet the con-ditions and requirements of the present age. Its benefits are limited to the world of matter.

"But there is no limitation to the spirit of man, for spirit in itself is progressive, and if the divine civilization be established the spirit of man will advance. Every developed susceptibilty will increase the effectiveness of man. Discoveries of the real will become more and more possible, and the influence of divine guidance will be increasingly recognized.

"All this is conducive of the divine form of civilization. This is what is meant in the Bible by the descent of New Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is none other than the divine civilization, and it is now ready. It is to be and shall be organized, and the oneness of humankind will be a visible fact."

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