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Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and the head of his Faith after his passing, came to the West in 1911 after more than 50 years of exile and imprisonment with his father. He came to advocate for peace.
In his journey through Europe and North America, Abdu’l-Baha reinforced Baha’u’llah’s view that our civilization would self-destruct unless we found a way to join together in unity. On the eve of World War I, Abdu’l-Baha predicted that the uncertain times were about to get much worse—but that the dark days ahead would give the world a new impetus toward a coming age of peace:
Up to the present time in history the world of humanity has neither attained nor enjoyed any measure of peace, owing to incessant conditions of hostility and strife. History is a continuous and consecutive record of warfare brought about by religious, sectarian, racial, patriotic and political causes. The world of humanity has found no rest. Mankind has always been in conflict, engaged in destroying the foundations, pillaging the properties and possessing the lands and territory of each other, especially in the earlier periods of savagery and barbarism where whole races and peoples were carried away captive by their conquerors. Who shall measure or estimate the tremendous destruction of human life resulting from this hostility and strife? What human powers and forces have been employed in the prosecution of war and applied to inhuman purposes of battle and bloodshed? In this most radiant century it has become necessary to divert these energies and utilize them in other directions, to seek the new path of fellowship and unity, to unlearn the science of war and devote supreme human forces to the blessed arts of peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 230.
Abdu’l-Baha described the gradual evolution of our civilization as one of increasing unification—progressing from the unity of the family, to the tribal group, to the city-state, to the nation, and finally toward the inevitable unity of the world.
In his talks, interviews and addresses in the West, Abdu’l-Baha emphasized three basic steps to unity that every society must pass through.
- Co-operation and mutual helpfulness are necessary;
- Society is guided by divine educators, the founders of religions and civilizations; and
- Society evolved through unifying steps from family, tribe, city-state, and nation.
The Baha’i teachings say that today the world has reached the stage of global unity—that Baha’u’llah has given the principles and basic fundamentals to establish worldwide integration and peace.
Humans first built civilizations by learning to work together. Families and tribes did not make any major success without combined effort:
Because the members of the world of humanity are unable to exist without being banded together, co-operation and helpfulness is the basis of human society. Without the realization of these two great principles no great movement is pressed forward. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Principles of Baha’i Administration, p. 52.
This kind of cooperative teamwork forms the basis for the foundation of civilization.
If working together toward the same end is basic to community building, then cooperation rests on education. But does education spontaneously happen? No—the Baha’i teachings say guides or teachers are necessary for human progress, and history bears this out.
The first educators of humanity, the Baha’i writings say, are the messengers of God:
Were it not for an educator, the means of comfort, civilization and human virtues could in no wise have been acquired. …
Human education, however, consists in civilization and progress, that is, sound governance, social order, human welfare, commerce and industry, arts and sciences, momentous discoveries, and great undertakings, which are the central features distinguishing man from the animal. …
It is therefore clear and evident that man stands in need of an educator. … A divine and spiritual power is therefore needed to enable him to carry out this mission. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 9-11.
Through the instruction and teachings of those divine educators—the prophets and founders of the world’s great Faith—the advancement of civilization occurs. The divine educators—Christ, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah—give us spiritual and material teachings and guidance that knits society together for common progress.
Civilization is more than just material prosperity. It possesses a spiritual component or life-force that cements communities of people together in a common cause and culture. So Hebrew society had Abraham or Moses, Persian civilization had Zoroaster, East Indian societies were guided by Krishna, East Asian civilizations of China and the far east relied on the teachings of Buddha. Over time each of those civilizations reached a golden period, but as time advanced each society lost its life force—only to be renewed by the next messenger and educator.
Humanity now faces a new crossroads. Today is a new time of opportunity and crisis, with the goal of a new, much larger scale of integration. Abdu’l-Baha repeatedly conveyed this central Baha’i teaching:
In every Dispensation the light of Divine Guidance has been focused upon one central theme … In this wondrous Revelation, this glorious century, the foundation of the Faith of God and the distinguishing feature of His Law is the consciousness of the Oneness of Mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The Promised Day is Come, p. 119.
We know that unity forms the basis for every successful society—and we know that bringing about a unified global society will provide us with the true building blocks that will allow us to unlearn the science of war. Baha’u’llah said: “We, verily, have come to unite and weld together all that dwell on earth.” – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 24.
Today, humanity faces its overdue destiny—the maturation of the human race. The unification of mankind, the last stage in the evolution of humanity, is inevitable, and we can now take the very first step to heal the deep divisions in the world.