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As the obedience to the laws of the manifestation for each age gradually enhance the capacity of humankind to manifest spiritual concepts in social structure, we discover that these laws assist in bringing about the most encompassing and most strategic metaphorical exercise that exists—the gradual but unrelenting establishment of a planetary spiritual community.
When understood from this perspective, the entire Baha’i administrative order, its institutions, and its procedures are dramatic expressions of this process:
The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture—all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Baha’i Era—should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 163.
As a species, humanity has evolved socially through various stages—from the tribe, to the village, to the city-state, to the kingdom, to the nation-state, with increasing levels of complexity and civilization coming about at each stage. The Baha’i teachings say that the time has come for the final stage of that process to occur:
… the Supreme Tribunal which Baha’u’llah has described will fulfil this sacred task with the utmost might and power. And His plan is this: that the national assemblies of each country and nation—that is to say parliaments—should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of that nation, and are well informed concerning international laws and the relations between governments and aware of the essential needs of the world of humanity in this day. The number of these representatives should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants of that country. The election of these souls who are chosen by the national assembly, that is, the parliament, must be confirmed by the upper house, the congress and the cabinet and also by the president or monarch so these persons may be the elected ones of all the nation and the government. From among these people the members of the Supreme Tribunal will be elected, and all mankind will thus have a share therein, for every one of these delegates is fully representative of his nation. When the Supreme Tribunal gives a ruling on any international question, either unanimously or by majority rule, there will no longer be any pretext for the plaintiff or ground of objection for the defendant. In case any of the governments or nations, in the execution of the irrefutable decision of the Supreme Tribunal, be negligent or dilatory, the rest of the nations will rise up against it, because all the governments and nations of the world are the supporters of this Supreme Tribunal. Consider what a firm foundation this is! – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 306-307.
Finally, many of the laws themselves are metaphorical exercises. When Christ wished to teach the abstract concept of the brotherhood of humankind to his followers, he ordained a law to help them act out that concept in a daring dramatic form:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
… For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? – Mathew 5:38-42; 46.
Likewise, while Baha’u’llah teaches abstract concepts such as the unity of humankind and the equality of women and men, he also provides humankind creative laws and dramatic institutions that enable us to act out spiritual principles in similar creative physical exercises. Many of the laws of the prophets are thus dramaturgical in nature, metaphorical devices by which we express with actions the spiritual attitudes we are attempting to develop. Sometimes understanding of the attitudes precedes the dramatization; sometimes the reverse is true. The point is that in studying the nature of the manifestation himself, his actions, his use of language, or the laws he institutes, we can observe the metaphorical tie between spiritual growth and physical performance as each reinforces the other in a pattern of continuous evolution.