Kitáb-i-Aqdas. 2. A New World Order
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh refers to a new World Order which may be regarded as one of the fruits of His Revelation. The Báb in the Persian Bayán has revealed the following: 'Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the order of Bahá'u'lláh and rendereth thanks unto his Lord! For He will assuredly be made manifest.' And these are the words of Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System--the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.1It was difficult to discern the upheaval in the life of man in 1873 when Bahá'u'lláh revealed these words. But today, a little over a hundred years later, it is evident that 'mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized'. Describing the decline in the fortunes of humanity, Shoghi Effendi writes:
Beset on every side by the cumulative evidences of disintegration, of turmoil and of bankruptcy, serious-minded men and women, in almost every walk of life, are beginning to doubt whether society, as it is now organized, can, through its unaided efforts, extricate itself from the slough into which it is steadily sinking. Every system, short of the unification of the human race, has been tried, repeatedly tried, and been found wanting. Wars again and
1. Synopsis, p. 27.
["The world's equilibrium..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶181; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, LXX
again have been fought, and conferences without number have met and deliberated. Treaties, pacts and covenants have been painstakingly negotiated, concluded and revised. Systems of government have been patiently tested, have been continually recast and superseded. Economic plans of reconstruction have been carefully devised, and meticulously executed. And yet crisis has succeeded crisis, and the rapidity with which a perilously unstable world is declining has been correspondingly accelerated. A yawning gulf threatens to involve in one common disaster both the satisfied and dissatisfied nations, democracies and dictatorships, capitalists and wage-earners, Europeans and Asiatics, Jew and Gentile, white and coloured. An angry Providence, the cynic might well observe, has abandoned a hapless planet to its fate, and fixed irrevocably its doom. Sore-tried and disillusioned, humanity has no doubt lost its orientation, and would seem to have lost as well its faith and hope. It is hovering, unshepherded and visionless, on the brink of disaster. A sense of fatality seems to pervade it. An ever-deepening gloom is settling on its fortunes as she recedes further and further from the outer fringes of the darkest zone of its agitated life and penetrates its very heart.2The gloom described almost fifty years ago by Shoghi Effendi has deepened even further, and today the world is moving dangerously and at an alarming speed towards the brink of a catastrophe. But, alas, the generality of mankind, its leaders, its intellectuals, its seers and philosophers, have not as yet discovered the real cause for such a revolution in the life of man on this planet. Bahá'u'lláh describes the reason in these words:
A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause, or perceived its motive.3To appreciate the reason for the turmoil of this age, the breaking up of the old order and the derangement of the
2. 'The Unfoldment of World Civilization', in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 190
3. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, ibid. p. 202.
world's equilibrium, we could do no better than to turn to nature and learn from its laws. Because the laws of nature and those of religion, as we have already stated, are closely linked together. Whatever happens in nature is a reflection of something spiritual.
Let us examine, for example, the principle of the conception of a new life and the growth of the embryo. We may study the condition of an egg before and after it is fertilized. Before the conception of the new life, the egg is in its normal state and contains good food. But when the new life begins to grow within it, the condition inside changes radically. The food turns bad and becomes corrupted. Yet the new life lives within this corrupted matter and feeds on it. At first this change is not obvious. But as the new life grows, the condition inside becomes more unstable. And there comes a time when the egg cannot remain whole anymore. Eventually, it breaks open; the young creature is born and the egg is reduced to a broken shell.
Exactly the same is happening in the world of humanity today. For thousands of years mankind's progress was very slow and limited, and few changes took place in the life of nations. One might say that before the coming of Bahá'u'lláh the peoples of the world had lived their lives in peace and tranquillity, compared to what came afterwards.
But over a hundred years ago when Bahá'u'lláh declared His mission, He sowed the seed of a new community in human society. At that moment a new life was conceived and the world has never been the same since--it has been revolutionized. With the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, as the process of growth and development of the embryonic institutions of His Faith was set in motion, so was the process of the extinction of the old order. The new world community is now growing within the womb of the old. The more it grows and becomes lively, the more will human society be plunged into the abyss of darkness and corruption. Its condition will continue to deteriorate until, as prophesied by Bahá'u'lláh over a hundred years ago, it will disintegrate like the egg in the
above example. These are the words of Bahá'u'lláh written all those years ago, describing in clear terms the tormenting ordeals which humanity must experience at the time of the breaking up of the old order:
The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then and only then will the Divine Standard be unfurled and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody.4In another instance, Bahá'u'lláh writes:
After a time, all the governments on earth will change. Oppression will envelop the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm.5Shoghi Effendi describes the conception of the institutions of the Faith within the womb of human society in these words:
Resplendent as has been the Age that has witnessed the inception of the Mission with which Bahá'u'lláh has been entrusted, the interval which must elapse ere that Age yields its choicest fruit must, it is becoming increasingly apparent, be overshadowed by such moral and social gloom as can alone prepare an unrepentant humanity for the prize she is destined to inherit.
4. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Goal of a New World Order', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 33.
5. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 121.
stand on the threshold of an age whose convulsions proclaim alike the death-pangs of the old order and the birth-pangs of the new. Through the generating influence of the Faith announced by Bahá'u'lláh this New World Order may be said to have been conceived. We can, at the present moment, experience its stirrings in the womb of a travailing age--an age waiting for the appointed hour at which it can cast its burden and yield its fairest fruit.Although the immediate future is very dark and perilous, the outcome--the emergence of the Community of the Most Great Name--is glorious indeed. At present, the majority of the peoples of the world are either unaware of the existence of the embryonic institutions of the Faith, or cannot fully appreciate the tremendous potentialities which are latent within these institutions. They cannot fully understand their purpose and the role they are destined to play, in the fullness of time, by assuming their full share in the act of government of mankind.
The reason for this ignorance is, that although the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is being increasingly proclaimed to humanity, the institutions of the Faith have not yet fully evolved to the point of being noticed by the people. In the passage quoted on page
6. 'The Unfoldment of World Civilization', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 168-9.
311, Bahá'u'lláh prophesies that the exaltation of His Cause will take place only after dire tribulations and calamities have afflicted humanity. He states:
And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then and only then will the Divine Standard be unfurled and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody.This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. In the terms of the above analogy, the egg has not yet broken to cast its burden. The old order is still lingering on its death bed and the hour of the birth of the new has not yet struck.
The position of the Bahá'í community today is similar to the position of a gardener who claims to have a most beautiful garden full of flowers and trees. But when the enquirer visits the garden he sees no sign of vegetation whatsover. All that the gardener can do is to point to the seeds that he has sown and explain that the plants will emerge in time.
Only when the pangs of the birth of the new order of Bahá'u'lláh have been experienced and the embryonic institutions of His Faith have emerged, will the peoples of the world take notice of them and become aware of their potentialities. This emergence, closely linked with the rolling up of the old order, is only the beginning and must not be confused with that day of days in the distant future when Bahá'u'lláh's World Order will be established throughout the planet. The emergence of the embryonic institutions of the Faith is similar to the birth of a child. A newly born infant cannot use his limbs and organs effectively. A long time must elapse before it can reach the state of maturity and manhood. The emergence of the Bahá'í community from obscurity and the evolution of its institutions are therefore different from the emergence, in the distant future, of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
Indeed, the rolling up of the present-day order and the trembling which, according to Bahá'u'lláh's pronouncement,
must seize the limbs of mankind will, on the one hand, pave the way for the establishment of the Lesser Peace,* and on the other, witness the evolution of the Bahá'í national and local institutions of the Faith.
The blessings which the Lesser Peace will confer upon humanity will enable it to produce a new political structure freeing humanity from the curse of war. The social and humanitarian teachings and principles of Bahá'u'lláh which have already become the spirit of the age and which are being pursued by the enlightened peoples of the world will become incorporated in this political structure. Without being conscious of their origin, mankind will increasingly adopt these social teachings in every aspect of its life. These principles include the establishment of a world federated system, a world commonwealth, a world legislature, a world government backed by an international force, a world language, and other institutions as enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh in His teachings. The energies released by the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh over a hundred years ago will to an increasing degree so penetrate within human society as to leave no other option for humanity but to incorporate such teachings as the equality of the sexes, compulsory education, the abolition of extremes of poverty and wealth and similar ones in all its institutions. This is already evidenced by the application of these Bahá'í principles within many progressive movements in the world.
This new form of government must emerge from amidst the ruins of a doomed and dilapidated present-day order, and govern humanity until such time as the nascent institutions of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh will have attained their state of maturity. It is then that the Bahá'í World Order will be established in its great glory and this vision of Shoghi Effendi stretching far into the future will be realized.
To the general character, the implications and features of
* see pp. 125ff.
this world commonwealth, destined to emerge, sooner or later, out of the carnage, agony, and havoc of this great world convulsion, I have already referred in my previous communications. Suffice it to say that this consummation will, by its very nature, be a gradual process, and must, as Bahá'u'lláh has Himself anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace which the nations of the earth, as yet unconscious of His Revelation and yet unwittingly enforcing the general principles which He has enunciate will themselves establish. This momentous and historic step, involving the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness, will bring in its wake the spiritualization of the masses, consequent to the recognition of the character, and the acknowledgement of the claims, of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh--the essential condition to that ultimate fusion of all races, creeds, classes, and nations which must signalize the emergence of His New World Order.
capable of fulfilling that ineffable destiny fixed for it, from time immemorial, by the love and wisdom of its Creator.7The Bahá'í Administrative Order
The Local and the Universal Houses of Justice, the basic institutions of the Faith, were ordained by Bahá'u'lláh. These are His words in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas concerning the institution of the Local House of Justice:
The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá,* and should it exceed this number it does not matter...It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive.8Local Houses of justice are already established all over the world in many cities and villages in their embryonic form known as Local Spiritual Assemblies. The growth and development of the Faith and its institutions follow the same pattern as any created thing which has an organic growth. Therefore, in the future, these bodies will be transformed into Houses of justice as an infant is into an adult, and the passage of time will be needed to bring this about.
Present-day Local Spiritual Assemblies are instituted in localities where there are nine or more adult believers resident. These bodies are elected annually by every adult member of the Bahá'í community, and are charged with the responsibility
* The numerical value of the word 'Bahá' in Arabic is nine. (A.T.)
7. The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 128- 9.
8. Synopsis, p. 13.
["The Lord hath ordained..."] God Passes By, p. 332; The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶30
of directing the affairs of the community in accordance with certain principles laid down in the Writings of the Faith. Bahá'í elections, carried out in a prayerful attitude, are spiritual in nature, and vastly different from any system in existence today.* So is Bahá'í consultation which, as described in a previous chapter,† is designed to take place in an atmosphere of love and unity.
One of the unique features of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh is that He has attached great importance to consultation in every sphere of human activity. Bahá'í communities and institutions, whether local, national or international, function through Bahá'í consultation. These bodies not only consult on community affairs, but are empowered also to deal with personal matters affecting the lives of individual believers. However, Bahá'u'lláh has not limited consultation to the institutions of His Faith. He has stressed the importance of consultation on personal matters with friends and experts. These are some of the words of Bahá'u'lláh gleaned from His Writings on this subject:
The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.9
* For more information see Principles of Bahá'í Administration.
† see pp. 49-51.
9. Lawh-i-Maqsúd, in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 168.
10. Consultation: A Compilation, p. 3.
observed by all. The intent of what hath been revealed from the Pen of the Most High is that consultation may be fully carried out among the friends, inasmuch as it is and will always be a cause of awareness and of awakening and a source of good and well-being.11'Abdu'l-Bahá too has written a great deal on this subject. These are only two passages out of many:
Settle all things, both great and small, by consultation. Without prior consultation, take no important step in your own personal affairs. Concern yourselves with one another. Help along one another's projects and plans. Grieve over one another. Let none in the whole country go in need. Befriend one another until ye become as a single body, one and all...12Local Spiritual Assemblies are the bed-rock upon which the National Spiritual Assemblies, designated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as
11. Consultation: A Compilation, p. 3.
12. ibid. p. 9.
13. ibid. pp. 8-9.
'Secondary Houses of justice', are established. These national bodies are today instituted in most countries of the world and are empowered to 'direct, unify, coordinate and stimulate the activities of the individuals as well as local Assemblies within their jurisdiction'.14 Their members are also given the responsibility of electing The Universal House of Justice, the Supreme Body of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and regarded as the apex of the Bahá'í Administrative Order. This august institution, which was elected for the first time in 1963, is ordained by Bahá'u'lláh with the assurance of divine guidance. He has conferred infallibility upon its decisions and given it the authority to enact laws which are not specifically revealed by Him.
In the Ishráqát (Splendours) revealed in the latter part of Bahá'u'lláh's life He declares:
This passage, now written by the pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book: The men of God's House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries.One of the basic differences between the institutions of the old order and those of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh is that the latter are animated by the spirit of the Cause of God,
14. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 332.
15. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 128-9.
["This passage..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 91
whereas the former are as bodies without spirit. The divinely-founded order is alive and growing; the old order is disintegrating and its ability to solve the problems of the world is constantly declining. A man-made institution, to carry out its tasks successfully, must function with vigour and health. Should any of its members fail in the conduct of affairs, the work of the whole system may well become ineffective. It may be likened to a machine which cannot operate unless all its component parts function efficiently, for the failure of one part can paralyse or even wreck the machine as a whole.
In contrast to such a machine, which is lifeless and depends for its proper functioning on perfect coordination between its parts, we may observe that a young and living organism grows healthily without being perfect, and before its faculties are fully matured. A child, for example, can flourish and be active while possessing many imperfections due to immaturity. It has a vigour and a vitality that no lifeless object can rival. Although it makes mistakes, upsets the order of things and creates disturbances around itself, yet no one demands maturity and perfection from it, and no one is unduly concerned about its childish behaviour. For it is normal that as the child grows up it will cease to act immaturely, and in the fullness of time will acquire wisdom and other perfections.
True Bahá'ís understand the nature of their national and local institutions to be organic. They know that these bodies, animated by the spirit of the Cause, are in their infancy. They recognize that these assemblies, the embryos of future National and Local Houses of justice, may make wrong decisions at times and may on occasion act unjustly, but in spite of these shortcomings they are pulsating with life and growing in strength and vitality day by day. Far from attacking and criticizing them, Bahá'ís rally around them with loving care and pride. For they know that Bahá'u'lláh has vouchsafed His protection to the embryonic institutions of His Faith. And they realize that like any living organism, the local and national institutions of the Faith must have their growing pains until
|the problems now facing them will gradually disappear. Though insignificant in the eyes of the outside world and relatively small in numbers, these local and national bodies have already demonstrated their ability to forge ahead, overcome difficult problems, remove apparently insurmountable obstacles, win great victories for the Cause and grow steadily to a point where, in the fullness of time, they will establish the foundations of justice and love for the peoples of the world.