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Development Human Nature Oneness

A Final Step in Humanity’s Evolution

One can analyze in the tumultuous evolution of the life of humankind one thread, among others, that has been present and steadily advancing for thousands and tens of thousands of years.  Perhaps human history can even be conceptualized as a progressive movement in this direction.  This common theme is that since its earliest beginnings, humanity has been moving closer and closer to realizing the oneness of humankind – to manifest into reality this latent truth.

 

The fundamental barrier towards this realization is perceiving otherness – categorizing one group of human beings as “other” to another, often one’s own, group.

 

The reality of man is his thought.  Just as spiritual and physical reality, with all its laws, processes, and forces, is a manifestation of the mind of God – (Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.) – so, too, is all of social reality an emanation of the collective mind of humanity: “…all these highly varied phenomena, these concepts, this knowledge, these technical procedures and philosophical systems, these sciences, arts, industries and inventions—all are emanations of the human mind.”

 

However, both the oneness of humankind and the fundamental reality of human beings as thought have both been progressively realized over humanity’s collective development.  This evolution necessarily started out as more physical, then moved towards more cultural and geographic – natural evolution into our current physical form, then the gradual integration of individuals into families, families into tribes, tribes into city-states, cities into nations, nations into empires, and now the emergence of a global civilization.  At this point, no one can reasonably argue that humankind is not whole and interconnected, and the earth is not one homeland.

 

This realization has only been at the physical, geographic, and cultural level – through masses of people moving like waves across the earth, through inter-ethnic marriage on a vast scale, through interconnected systems of communication and economics.  Yet, the reality of man is his thought, and social reality an emanation of the mind.  The final step in the oneness of humankind, beyond conceptualizing that all of humanity is one, is in not creating an “other” that doesn’t conceptualize this.  This is, perhaps, the most challenging “us” and “them” barrier.

 

Recently I heard the statement: “well, for us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, but for them there is an ‘us’ and ‘them'” or “we don’t think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s’, but they think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s'”.  This type of categorization of “us” and “them” is the deepest obstacle to oneness, the greatest challenge that must be overcome in humanity’s physical-geographic-cultural-intellectual-spiritual evolution.  Once our collective consciousness eliminates the thought that one group of people realize humanity’s oneness, and another group do not, then will we have reached the level of humanity’s fundamental reality (thought), and will social reality reflect more and more just and unified processes and systems, greater and greater degrees of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for humanity.

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Justice Oneness

120 years of discourse

A few days ago passed the 120th anniversary of the first mention of the Baha’i Faith in the Western hemisphere.  At last, the spiritual forces released by Baha’u’llah’s Revelation had an “initial conversation” through which they could be channeled.  Many of the early Baha’is of the West interacted with the Faith through this initial conversation – whether they were present, read about in it a newspaper, or heard about it in a subsequent conversation.

 

September of 1893, just over a year after Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, Reverend George Ford, a missionary in Syria, read a paper by a Presbyterian minister named Henry Jessup, at the World Parliament of Religions held in downtown Chicago.  After speaking about Christianity, he ending the speech with,

 

In the Palace of Bahjí , or Delight, just outside the Fortress of ‘Akká, on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since, a famous Persian sage, the Bábí Saint, named Bahá’u’lláh -the “Glory of God”- the head of that vast reform party of Persian Muslims, who accept the New Testament as the Word of God and Christ as the Deliverer of men, who regard all nations as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christlike, that we repeat them as our closing words:

“That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religions should cease and differences of race be annulled. What harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come. Do not you in Europe need this also? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”

 

Thus began a discourse on Baha’u’llah’s principle of the oneness of humankind.

 

One way to think about discourse is as the instrumentality through which spiritual forces are able to influence the hearts and minds of human beings.  As thoughts and habits of behavior are altered, so are social structures.  The initial conversation – the Word of God brought by a Manifestation of God and subsequently spread across the world – leads to a community dedicated to translating high ideals into action.  This new system of values reorders consciousness and behavior and restructures the administration of society.  Eventually, a civilization emerges that embodies the concepts contained throughout this conversation.  As more and more people engaged in this conversation, the civilization becomes more and more just – as justice requires universal participation.  And as it becomes more and more just, it takes on higher degrees of unity.

 

The discourse on peace that began 120 years ago in the heart of North America has gained in strength and momentum, and taken on degrees of complexity.  The conversation has taken many forms and included many topics over the last century, and is currently about a community-building endeavor that receives its impetus from an education process that seeks to build capacity in its protagonists for acts of service through imparting skills, insights, and knowledge.  But it’s always been the same conversation. This is humanity’s conversation about its spiritual and social destiny – all can contribute, all have a say.  And at a deep level, all are connected to it….all can learn from it and advance it.  The conversation’s aim is to empower populations to take charge and responsibility for their own development, as a people.  In what ways are your daily thoughts, words, and actions contributing to this conversation?

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion Development Human Nature Knowledge Oneness Power

The Power of Truth

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.

 

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Categories
- Governance Discourse Justice Oneness

America’s 1912 Election

One hundred years ago today, a sixty-six year old traveler from the East, an exile and prisoner since the age of nine, with no formal education, in broken and failing health, having never faced a public audience, and unfamiliar with the customs and language of the West, gave a talk at Grand Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, en route to the capital of the United States.  He was ‘Abdu’l-Baha.  It was election day.

That particular election was unique.  The three competitors are now all called by the same name “President”, for on the ballot was the incumbent President, a former President, and the newly elected President.  This was the first time all the 48 continuous states participated.  That day seemed to embody unity.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, in the course of this nearly three-year historic journey to Egypt, Europe, and North America, before audiences large and small, brilliantly expounded principles – the spirit of the age – that are imperative for humankind’s imminent transition to maturity.  The independent search for truth, the oneness of the entire human race, the unity of all religions, the condemnation of all prejudice, the harmony of science and religion, the equality of men and women, abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty, justice as the ruling principle of social organization, and universal peace as humanity’s goal, to name a few, were proclaimed in every social space, from homes, churches, parks, and railway cars, to universities, societies, halls, and public squares.  None were excluded.  The working poor, scientists and statesmen, children, refugees, clergy and skeptics, all benefited from a wisdom and love that was uncompromising in defense of truth yet elevating and gentle in manner.  Still today, millions are galvanized by such a matchless example of words and deeds that transformed hearts and expanded consciousness.

Election day a century ago, ‘Abdu’l-Baha praised the efforts of then-President Taft for rendering services towards the cause of peace, and noted that peace was constantly a topic of discourse in this country.  Taft had made treaties with various nations, and while this was good, the talk urged a higher level of peace – one that moves past cooperation within the current fetish of the social convention of nation-state sovereignty, one that embraces the beckoning world commonwealth, putting into social structure and political machinery the truth of the oneness of humanity.

America is destined to lead the world in the cause of peace, in spiritual civilization.  The challenge will not be easy or swift, and it is one that includes every member of the human race.  Society is formed from conceptions – these thoughts are shaped by conversation.  President Wilson, who was elected that day in 1912, incorporated these spirit-of-the-age principles into a noble peace program aimed at the well-being of all.  How can we apply, elevate, and spread the discourse of the oneness of humankind?

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