Remember the John Lennon tune “Imagine”? The song’s most famous lines have always spoken to me: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
The next couplet in the song briefly describes the work of every Baha’i: “I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
The recognition of our human interconnectedness and oneness has happened in a gradual, evolutionary way, progressively taking our species from a sense of the unity of the family, to the unity of the tribe, to that of nations and eventually to all humankind. This principle of unity has been at the heart of all the spiritual and religious teachings imparted to the Earth at various intervals. Those teachings have charged us with the moral and spiritual impetus needed for people to love one another, cooperate and advance. Those teachings have progressively revolutionized thought, unlocked stores of knowledge and inspired the advance of civilization, sequentially setting out teachings and truths that answered the unique needs of each age:
The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 213.
The divine teachers who brought those messages imparted laws and moral imperatives to liberate the human spirit from the ignorance of the past. They allowed parents to raise children with more exalted aspirations, with understandings capable of taking us from the stage of tribe and nation to higher forms of unity where the oneness of humanity is placed at the very core of collective life. They work to reconcile and bring together the seemingly counteracting forces of science and religion, unity and diversity, freedom and order, individual rights and social responsibilities.
In this process, religious systems have become liberated from unnecessary restrictions, cultural aspects and man-made dogma that over time has weighed them down. This cleansing process has clarified and distilled the diverse original teachings into one common cause, capable of molding humanity’s future moral consciousness.
There is only one reality. All created things are subject to the same universal laws from which they can never depart. This realization of universality and oneness requires us to abandon prejudices of all kinds. By investigating that one reality we will become able to agree and develop unity. This will consequently enable the full release of human potential. Can you imagine it?
The reality of religion is that it too is one reality, one complete knowledge system. The impetus, and the force to achieve it, is love. Love is the underlying unifying force capable of evolving our true potential.
It is clear to me as both a counsellor and teacher that comfort is a no-growth state, whereas the opposite experience of discomfort functions as a challenge and a catalyst for transformation. The primal response to opposition and challenge in the past has been one of force and aggression; this is a reflection of immaturity. Far from being innately negative, the reality is that opposing forces are necessary for growth. In this context, our differences can be seen, not as negative states, but as necessary prompts and paths to further growth.
Reality is one, and when followed it will unify all of us. The universe is like one human body—all is interconnected. Indigenous communities possessed this universal consciousness of oneness. Our DNA has suggested we can be no more that 50th cousins to anyone else—in fact, DNA science proves that the concept of “race” is no more than a biological fiction.
Oneness is the supreme magnetic force in the universe; we are made of one substance, of molecules that adhere by the power of attraction or love. We have one parentage. We are one people. Therefore the Golden Rule of serving the common good, and practices like justice and education, are vital principles that override our differences and work to maintain order and harmony in the world. Seen in this light, justice is not a punitive force but one enabling the restoration of harmony. Love plus justice equals unity. This consciousness of oneness is an inevitable process that will lead to the transformation of society.
The answer to the suffering of any country experiencing conflict of any sort—the ultimate answer to all warfare—lies in our recognition of the oneness of humanity, that the earth is one country. All separation is an illusion; there is only one connective creative force. Our lives—yours and mine—are connected to the lives of all living beings. Our challenge is to move from our initial consciousness of duality to a recognition of our oneness.
True religion is in harmony with rational thought. Both are essential to social progress. Of course, religion is known by its fruits; by its capacity to inspire, transform, unify, to foster peace and prosperity. Only by the observance of the divine teachings will humanity prove capable of constructing a unified world civilization. This can progressively come about as every race, religion, nationality and class unifies around a vision of humanity as one people and the earth as one country.
As the world now faces its most pressing challenges yet, Baha’is acclaim Baha’u’llah as such a figure, whose teachings will usher in that long-promised time when all humanity will live side by side in peace and unity—and the world will be as one.