For thousands of years, beginning with the birth of the family – the smallest unit in the scale of human organization – humanity’s evolution has been characterized by a process of integration, which although far less spectacular than the parallel process of disintegration, is nonetheless more significant. This process of integration, which has gone though successive stages from clan, tribe, city-state, and nation, will culminate in the final stage of humankind’s evolution – the unification of the entire planet. This is the age in which we now live. The hallmark of this age in human history is the principle of the oneness of humankind. As humanity’s transition to maturity and oneness will be a complete transformation that the world has not yet witnessed, the principle of the oneness of humankind will be the basis for the reconceptualization of all relationships within society and all social structures.
However, in order for patterns of community life – fruit from the transformation of relationships and structures – built upon the principle of the oneness of humankind to emerge, certain foundational concepts must be reexamined – notably the concept of power. Additionally, to contemplate a complete transformation as the one upcoming for humanity, the question of the power to accomplish it is raised.
Traditionally, power has been viewed as advantage of one person or group in order to dominate another person or group. Power is considered a limited resource that is acquired through contest with others, and confers the ability to surpass others and win. Notwithstanding the benefits brought to the human race from the exercise of power to advance one over another, as humanity matures, it must leave behind obsolescent and anachronistic ideas that have obviously reached the limit of their effectiveness.
There are other conceptions of power, and with it, sources of power, that are more befitting a maturing humanity. The powers of the human spirit, the power of unity, of love, of pure deeds, are all powers that have been harnessed and tapped throughout history, resulting in impressive accomplishments in all spheres of life. These are the powers that religion draws our attention to – religions which have represented successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. These sources of power constitute a limitless capacity to transform that resides in humanity as a whole; and their operation is necessary to move humanity forward. Under the premise of the oneness of humanity, these sources are not only more powerful than military might, economics, media, propaganda, etc., or anything that implies an “other”, but in fact the only relevant means to progress in a global society.
Truth is another source of power, associated throughout history with some of the greatest philosophical, artistic, and scientific advances we’ve experienced, that humanity as a whole must learn a great deal more about how to tap in order to propel the advance of civilization. Why is it so powerful?
Reality is an expression of truth. To actively explore this reality, through conversation, through service, through fellowship, through collective reflection, through study, is to understand truth – and with that, harness the power of truth. The exploration of reality, then, becomes a very empowering action. Framing action as an exploration of reality, then, is a highly encouraging mindset. As more and more individuals work together to explore reality, as more and more individuals are encouraged to share with others the idea that their collective action is an exploration of reality, and as more and more individuals are empowered by generation of knowledge, the total amount of power available to humanity increases enormously. And suddenly, with all this power, the transformation beckoning humanity doesn’t seem as difficult.
The worldwide Baha’i community is actively laboring to increase the power available to humanity for its transformation: “…everywhere, a notable number of friends find themselves ready to enter into conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests and to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them.” In fact, one may say that a goal of the worldwide Baha’i community is to work for the empowerment of all the peoples of the world.
And as Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation of God for our age, has ushered in this new stage of human development, He has also promised that the power of truth will strengthen all of humanity in our efforts towards collective maturity: “Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes. 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.”