This is a summary of a statement released by the BAHAI INTERNATIONAL
Office of Public Information, New York, in February 1999
It has Five Sections
The opening section recalls the reference to Bahá'u'lláh
made in the Brazilian parliament on May 28, 1992, the centennial
anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh’s Declaration. The recognition
given to Bahá'u'lláh in Brazil contrasts with the continued
persecution of the Bahá'’’s in Iran. The statement then
asks: "What is the nature of the body of thought that has
aroused such sharply divergent reactions?
The first section makes a simple statement of some of
Bahá'u'lláh’s essential teachings:
1 That the laws that govern "reality" are
fundamentally spiritual in nature
2 That the individual is a spiritual being, and that
civilisation is itself a spiritual process.
3 That civilization is becoming increasingly complex and
sophisticated, through the "inherent moral and intellectual
capacities" of the "human mind and heart".
4 That identification of humanity as the "arrowhead of
the evolution of consciousness" implies rejection of the
view that process has a materialist cause and origin.
5 That "wars, exploitation, and prejudice" indicate
"immature stages" in the evolution of civilization, not
evidence of inherent and enduring human weaknesses.
6 That the inevitable material advances must be used for
"moral and social development", lest they be harnessed
by nationalistic and sectarian conflicts that could use the same
material forces destructively:
"Strange and astonishing things exist in the
earth", he cautioned. "These things are capable
of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their
contamination would prove lethal".
The Second Section points out that the "central
spiritual issue facing all people" is "that of laying
the foundations of a global society that can reflect the oneness
of human nature."
1 Unification of the world’s peoples is
inescapable: it is not a "remote utopian vision" and it
is not a matter of choice.
2 All the essential problems of our age are
global, not specific.
3 The suffering of the twentieth century can be
viewed as "the operation of forces that are liberating human
consciousness for a new stage in its evolution"
4 World upheavals have led leaders to "begin putting in
place new systems of global organisation that would have been
unthinkable at the century’s beginning."
5 "habits and attitudes that had divided peoples and
nations" are rapidly eroding.
6 The breakthrough came with the post war consolidation of
Long dreamed of by progressive thinkers, the new
system of international conventions and related agencies
was now endowed with crucial powers that had tragically
been denied to the abortive League of Nations. As the
century advanced, the system’s primitive muscles of
international peacekeeping were progressively exercised
in such a way as to demonstrate persuasively what can be
accomplished. With this came the steady expansion
throughout the world of democratic institutions of
governance. If the practical effects are still
disappointing, this in no way diminishes the historic and
irreversible change of direction that has taken place in
the organisation of human affairs.
7 The rights of peoples have also been addressed – as
Bahá'u'lláh requested in the last century: the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights and its associated agencies.
8 The Economic life of the planet is being organised:
- Pre war: the adoption of legislation to prevent
effects of another ‘great depression’: social
welfare programs, systems of financial control, reserve
funds, and trade regulations.
- Post-war: establishment of global institutions: the
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and a network of
development agencies devoted to rationalising and
advancing the material prosperity of the planet.
At century’s end—whatever the intentions and however
crude the present generation of tools—the masses of humanity
have been shown that the use of the planet’s wealth can be
fundamentally reorganised in response to entirely new conceptions
9 All these developments were "amplified" by
education to the masses.
- Increased allocation of resources for teacher
- Development plans focussed on educational needs and
massively financed by such bodies as the World Bank,
government agencies, major foundations and several
branches of the United Nations system.
- Information technology explosion
10. They were animated by a "a profound shift of
- Realisation of need to change "ingrained habits
of mind that breed conflict"
- Advance of women
- Realisation that ethnic conflicts are "wilful
aberrations that must be brought under effective
- Realization that poverty is not "an enduring
and inescapable feature of the social order"
- Advance of religious tolerance commencing with the
"Parliament of Religions";
11. This shift in consciousness also embraced fundamental changes
in mankind’s understanding of the physical universe:
- New theories of relativity and quantum mechanics
It became apparent that classical physics could
explain phenomena within only a limited range. A new
door had suddenly opened into the study of both the
minute constituents of the universe and its large
cosmological systems, a change whose effects went far
beyond physics, shaking the very foundations of a
world view that had dominated scientific thinking for
centuries. Gone forever were the images of a
mechanical universe run like a clock and a presumed
separation between observer and observed, between
mind and matter. Against the background of the
far-reaching studies thus made possible, theoretical
science now begins to address the possibility that
purpose and intelligence are indeed intrinsic to the
nature and operation of the universe.
- These conceptual changes brought interaction among
physical sciences—physics, chemistry, and biology,
along with the nascent science of ecology—opened
breathtaking possibilities for the enhancement of life:
agriculture; medicine; energy; and materials science
(specialised resources unknown when the century
opened—plastics, optical fibres, carbon fibres.)
Such advances in science and technology were
reciprocal in their effects. Grains of sand—the
most humble and ostensibly worthless of
materials—metamorphosed into silicon wafers and
optically pure glass, making possible the creation of
world-wide communications networks. This, together
with the deployment of ever more sophisticated
satellite systems, has begun providing access to the
accumulated knowledge of the entire human race for
people everywhere, without distinction. It is
apparent that the decades immediately ahead will see
the integration of telephone, television, and
computer technologies into a single, unified system
of communication and information, whose inexpensive
appliances will be available on a mass scale. It
would be difficult to exaggerate the psychological
and social impact of the anticipated replacement of
the jumble of existing monetary systems—for
many, the ultimate fortress of nationalist pride by a
single world currency operating largely through
12 Science and Technology have brought a "unifying
effect" to the twentieth century. The human race
"without regard to race, culture, or nation" now has
the means needed to realise the visionary goal of world unity
Part three provides perspective on the terrible problems
that are facing the world, and the terrible acts that have taken
place in history.
1. There can be no denying that there is ‘darkness’
(ie suffering and problems) at the present time.
- The deliberate extermination of millions of helpless
- The invention and use of new weapons of destruction
- The rise of ideologies that suffocated the spiritual
and intellectual life of entire nations
- Damage to the physical environment on global scale
- Problem of young generation "taught to believe
that violence, indecency, and selfishness are triumphs of
2 But "darkness" does not have its own existence or
autonomy. Darkness cannot extinguish light.
The ferocities of animal nature, which raged out of
control through these critical years and seemed at times
to threaten society’s very survival, did not in fact
prevent the steady unfoldment of the creative
potentialities which human consciousness possesses. On
the contrary. As the century advanced, growing numbers of
people awakened to how empty were the allegiances and how
insubstantial the fears that had held them captive only
short years before.
"Peerless is this Day," Bahá'u'lláh insists,
"for it is as the eye to past ages and centuries,
and as a light unto the darkness of the times."8
3. The important issue is not the present darkness but concern
at how much more "suffering and ruin must be experienced by
our race before we wholeheartedly accept the spiritual nature
that makes us a single people, and gather the courage to plan our
future in the light of what has been so painfully learned."
Part four says that Bahá'u'lláh has a vision for world
unity which many still cannot see because of their own
presumptions, which are in fact wrong, and require
If social and intellectual evolution is in fact
responding to a moral intelligence inherent in
existence, a great deal of the theory determining
contemporary approaches to decision-making is fatally
If human consciousness is essentially spiritual in
nature—as the vast majority of ordinary people
have always been intuitively aware, its development
needs cannot be understood or served through an
interpretation of reality that dogmatically insists
1. The cult of individualism has been nurtured by such
cultural forces as political ideology, academic elitism, and a
2 The resulting "pursuit of happiness" has produced
an aggressive and almost boundless sense of personal entitlement.
The "moral consequences" have included disease and drug
addiction, and call into question entrenched assumptions about
right and wrong.
a) The conviction that unity is a distant, almost
unattainable ideal to be addressed only after a host of
political conflicts have been somehow resolved, material
needs somehow satisfied, and injustices somehow corrected.
Bahá'u'lláh says the opposite. The human race is
distinguished by its capacity for collaboration and its
progress depends on unified action. Conflict is not an
intrinsic feature of human nature, but a complex of
learned habits and attitudes.
b) An inadequate concept of justice. "If the body of
humankind is indeed one and indivisible, then the authority
exercised by its governing institutions represents
essentially a trusteeship. Each individual person comes into
the world as a trust of the whole, and it is this feature of
human existence that constitutes the real foundation of the
social, economic and cultural rights that the United Nations
Charter and its related documents articulate."
c) The development of the self comes through service, not
through acquisition of goods and self-assertion.
"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age
ye live in," is Bahá'u'lláh’s counsel,
"and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and
d) the predominance of the national state "in
determining the fate of humankind" delays world peace
and prolongs suffering.
- Globalisation of the economy has brought concentrations of
power that must be brought under international democratic control
- Similarly with information and communication technologies.
Part five, the final section re-emphasises
Bahá'u'lláh’s vision that a new relationship between God
and humankind is emerging, and that what we have seen in the
twentieth century is the "beginning of the history of
humankind, the history of a human race conscious of its own
- The Founders of the great religions have contributed
to our knowledge of the ‘ultimate reality’ and
have allowed earth’s peoples to develop the
civilizing spiritual, intellectual, and moral capacities.
- These processes have taken a millennium and are now
- The changes will not come about easily:
Whether in the life of the individual or that of
society, profound change occurs more often than not
in response to intense suffering and to unendurable
difficulties that can be overcome in no other way.
Just so great a testing experience, Bahá'u'lláh
warned, is needed to weld the earth’s diverse
peoples into a single people.
- Spiritual and materialistic conceptions of the
nature of reality are irreconcilable with one another and
lead in opposite directions.
- the weaknesses of the materialistic approach are
becoming increasingly obvious and "the new century
will see the release of energies and aspirations
infinitely more potent than the accumulated routines,
falsities, and addictions that have so long blocked their
However great the turmoil, the period into which
humanity is moving will open to every individual,
every institution, and every community on earth
unprecedented opportunities to participate in the
writing of the planet’s future.
"Soon", is Bahá'u'lláh’s confident
promise, "will the present-day order be rolled
up, and a new one spread out in its stead."