We human beings are gregarious creatures, which explains why most of us tend to live in communities instead of living isolated and alone.
From a practical perspective, living in communities facilitates our way of life as we know it—individuals of various talents and capacities contribute to progress in human societies, supporting themselves, their families and one another. As communities grow, develop and become increasingly complex, human beings establish institutions in order to facilitate cooperation and reciprocity and meet the increasing needs of society. Today, societies typically have educational, financial, legal, scientific, and other institutions to serve the needs of people. These kinds of societal structures require the reciprocal cooperation of the people who use them:
The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity. Without cooperation and reciprocal attitude the individual member of human society remains self-centered, uninspired by altruistic purposes, limited and solitary in development like the animal and plant organisms of the lower kingdoms. The lower creatures are not in need of cooperation and reciprocity. A tree can live solitary and alone, but this is impossible for man without retrogression. Therefore, every cooperative attitude and activity of human life is praiseworthy and foreintended by the will of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 337.
To Baha’is, living in communities is not just a mere tendency, but an essential aspect of the continuous unfoldment of the eternal plan of God, a plan very much connected to the wholesome development of humanity, particularly those qualities and capacities with which our souls are endowed. A human being cannot develop kindness, love, trustworthiness, sincerity, and the capacity for justice in isolation—interaction with others is necessary.
In every phase of the earlier stages of humanity’s evolution, human beings had to reflect on the adequacy of their institutions, including their institutions of justice. According to the Baha’i writings humanity is at an early stage of its entrance into its age of maturation—its global stage of development. Ensuring the provision of justice to a mature humanity, living in a global context, has to be given adequate attention. We need to reflect now, while that maturity is happening and globalization of the world is occurring, on the implications of such a transformative change in world affairs. The following passage conveys the Baha’i position in regards to such an important issue:
Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life …
A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation—such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 202-204.
How do we move our current society closer to a world like the one described here? The Baha’i writings clearly indicate that world unity can only be founded on global justice—in fact, Baha’u’llah said that “The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.” – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 66. Given the divine nature of the human reality, ultimately, humanity can only be satisfied by a society reflective of the virtues with which the human soul is endowed. Regardless how close or far away humanity may be from the establishment of a divinely-inspired global order, it is only when that global order, an order characterized by institutions operating on the basis of divine justice, is firmly established that humanity will have an unshakeable sense of well-being, peace, and security.
No system of law, however elaborate it may be; no system of governance, however sound and proven it may be perceived, will be able to satisfy the human family if it is not firmly grounded in justice, if it is not in sync with that inner guidance system with which the human soul is endowed by its Creator. Only a system of divine justice can ultimately satisfy a mature and globalized humanity. It is not surprising, then, that the supreme institution of the governing system associated with the Baha’i revelation is the Universal House of Justice:
… upon the international elected representatives of the followers of Baha’u’llah has been conferred the exclusive right of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the Baha’i writings. Neither the Guardian of the Faith nor any institution apart from the International House of Justice can ever usurp this vital and essential power or encroach upon that sacred right. The abolition of professional priesthood with its accompanying sacraments of baptism, of communion and of confession of sins, the laws requiring the election by universal suffrage of all local, national, and international Houses of Justice, the total absence of episcopal authority with its attendant privileges, corruptions and bureaucratic tendencies, are further evidences of the non-autocratic character of the Baha’i Administrative Order and of its inclination to democratic methods in the administration of its affairs. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 153.