I love a film that both entertains and speaks a truth, stripping away the layer of mundaneness that covers the magical reality we live in.

Last night I was lucky enough to see a movie that did just that: Arrival. I was struck by the profound ideas it portrays. I then started to ponder the similarity between the movie and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. (Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the movie, and do not want any of the plot revealed, please do not read on… yet.)

In Arrival we witness the arrival of an advanced alien species with a completely unknown way of communicating, using ink-like circular designs rather than letters and words. After the difficult process of deciphering their language, Louise Banks, a professor of linguistics, discovers the aliens’ purpose for coming to earth: to unite humanity; and to ask in return for humanity’s help in three thousand years’ time.

After seeing the movie I felt very inspired by its message, and pondered how profound it would be if in fact an alien species did come to Earth to unite us all!

But then I pondered a little more and remembered: someone has come to Earth and transmitted this very message. More than a century and a half has passed since Baha’u’llah delivered the Baha’i message of peace and unity to humanity:

Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Day Star of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 288.

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. – Ibid., p. 255.

I find it truly unfortunate to think that we would need such a dramatic cosmic occurrence to turn our attention to this message. It has, in fact, already been delivered—but as the Bible says, the messenger who delivered it came as a thief in the night.

Baha’u’llah announced the Baha’i message of peace in the 18th century. He even formally addressed it to some of the most prominent leaders of the world: Emperor Napoleon III of France, Queen Victoria in England, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, Tsar Alexander II of Russia, Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph, Pope Pius IX, the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Abdul-Aziz, and Nasiri’d-Din Shah from Persia. Yet the world’s political and religious leaders largely ignored Baha’u’llah’s promise of peace and warning of future conflicts.

As I reflected on its message, Arrival also reminded me of the way the messengers of God have been treated throughout history. Even though the aliens in the movie do not pose an obvious threat, much of humanity treats them with suspicion and aggression. Likewise, across the ages, the prophets of God who have delivered God’s word to the world have been mistreated and even put to death. Jesus was crucified, the Bab was executed and Baha’u’llah imprisoned–despite the fact that they all brought a message of love.

Think, for a moment, of such a prophet arriving from outer space to deliver a message to us—would we pay attention?

It is equally incredible to think of the fact that the mysterious act of revelation has occurred throughout history right here on Earth. To think that the invisible and unknowable God communicates to humanity through a chosen messenger from age to age! That is stranger than fiction!

Another common element between film and Faith is a universal language. In Arrival the aliens bring us the great bounty of their language—not only a new way of communicating, but also a completely new way of conceiving of reality. The film presents that alien language as a gift for all of us to use. Baha’u’llah said that a universal language should be established throughout the world as a means of enabling cross-cultural communication. He instructed the future leaders:

…either to choose one of the existing tongues, or to originate a new one, and in like manner to adopt a common script, teaching these to the children in all the schools of the world, that the world may become even as one land and one home. – quoted by J. E. Esselmont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 163.

arrival-language

A scene from the 2016 film ‘Arrival’ showing a character from the language of an alien species.

Another concept in common between the film and the Baha’i teachings is the idea of seeing the end in the beginning. Since the aliens’ language enables the individual to perceive time in a circular, non-linear way, they can envision the future. This in turn effects the way they approach the present. The Baha’i teachings, too, speak about this mystical idea:

…those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, because they see the end in the beginning, see peace in war and friendliness in anger. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 15.

The similarities are striking!

Arrival reminded me that the unity of humankind is of paramount importance. It is great to see filmmakers who have a positive vision of the future! Hopefully though, we do not need to wait for the arrival of an alien species to unite us all. We are all witnessing the signs of disunity around us, and likewise, the incredibly pressing need to overcome our differences and unite.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

6 Comments

characters remaining
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Aug 17, 2017
    Arrival is one of my favorite films, because it shows us that true communication is always communion, the realization of oneness, which is love. Communion, community and communication have the same root. Our language determines how we think and communicate and affects how we see everything. We can only create an enlightened planetary civilization, if we learn a new way of communication. Language is the heart of everything.
    „A song's asleep in everything
    And it dreams on and on,
    And the world begins to sing,
    Once you hit the magic tone.“
  • Lani Dyck
    Jan 21, 2017
    I loved the movie as well. I've always believed that if aliens have or will come to Earth, not only would they have to be advanced scientifically but spiritually as well. In order for life on other planets to develop the science needed to get here, they would have had to unite on their own planet first. How could they develop technology if they were still fighting among themselves? I'm sure if the world leaders had listened to Baha'u'llah, we could have been flying to the stars by now.
  • Dennis Highley
    Jan 21, 2017
    Should say "19th century" not "18th century".
  • Terry Tibando
    Jan 20, 2017
    It is interesting, exciting and with synchronicity, that as we move on the path toward global unity and a global civilization that we are currently being visited by other extraterrestrial civilizations who are watching us at this precarious time in out planetary evolution. from the tens of millions of reported accounts globally of extraterrestrial contact, one has to reflect on the spiritual values of other interstellar civilizations and whether they recognize a divine being in the universe. The Baha'i writings, in fact, do support such a notion. One could even say, in keeping with the precept of Extraterrestrial Intelligences ...that God may be likened to, as the "Supreme Extraterrestrial Intelligence " (SETI) in the universe!
    Read more...
    • Mark David Vinzens
      Aug 17, 2017
      You make a good point, Terry. The planetary union of humanity is the basis for successful contact with other civilizations.
  • Meg Stevens
    Jan 20, 2017
    I just loved that movie! Also you should see the movie," Collateral Beauty"
    I can hardly believe that these two movies can out around the same time.
    It is wonderful t see two such spirituality uplifting movies!