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Until the point when I discovered the Baha’i Faith, I had not been terribly dissatisfied with what I had been taught about religion.
I had accepted the best and discarded all that seemed patently inane, and I had done so without fear of damnation or retribution of any other sort. Furthermore, prior to this implantation of this new Baha’i theory of reality in my mind, I had not been frantically searching for answers. I was, for the most part, happily submerged in and tantalized by the joys of youthful passions and material delights, though I had long been aware that the group thing—social clubs, fraternities, “belonging”—was not attractive to me, that I was a “loner,” not as a rebel or hero. I simply enjoyed my own company. I certainly did not consider myself an intellectual or a recluse. I was not aware that I was a “loner.” I was only aware that I did not much enjoy having others tell me what to do or calling the shots in my daily life, and I had always thoroughly enjoyed doing stuff by myself, whether in the woods, or in my workshop making model airplanes.
In no way was I perturbed by or inhibited by the prospect of pursuing something that was not “mainstream” thinking. I found it a joy, not a challenge, to jump off the choice train from time to time, however socially awkward it might have been to some. So possessing this new theory of everything that the Baha’i teachings offered was for me like putting on a new pair of glasses with which I could see reality as it really was instead of “through a glass darkly.”
Or perhaps a better analogy would be to compare my newfound delight in this Baha’i theory of the universe and human purpose to the joy and sense of freedom early astronomers experienced when they first encountered the Copernican theory. Imagine what energy was unleashed when these curious minds suddenly found themselves able to set aside the convoluted description of reality that the once useful Ptolemaic theory had become. In its stead they could set before them a theory that resolved all consternation, a lens through which the kaleidoscopic heavens suddenly became logically structured. But even more exciting for them—the theory became not a conclusion, but a platform from which they could ascend to the heights of speculation and study. Like the planets in our solar system, they were no longer constrained by the tangled limitations of a reality focused on a single planet; they circumambulated the single source of all energy and enlightenment:
Today sciences of the past are useless. The Ptolemaic system of astronomy and numberless other systems and theories of scientific and philosophical explanation are discarded, known to be false and worthless. Ethical precedents and principles cannot be applied to the needs of the modern world. Thoughts and theories of past ages are fruitless now. Thrones and governments are crumbling and falling. All conditions and requisites of the past unfitted and inadequate for the present time are undergoing radical reform. It is evident, therefore, that counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations which are at variance with the foundations of divine reality must also pass away and be reformed. They must be abandoned and new conditions be recognized. The morals of humanity must undergo change. New remedies and solutions for human problems must be adopted. Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 143.
Perhaps Copernicus’ gift of this new mizán was like giving an eager child a bright light with which to enter a formerly darkened room filled to overflowing with a wonderful array of toys. The scientists who accepted this new perspective felt liberated, empowered, and stimulated. They no longer needed to fear the oppression of traditional perspectives, or try to explain the universe with antiquated theories.
Learning of about the new Baha’i theory of religion and history had this exact effect on me:
Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them, and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance. Therefore, it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love. This unity is the radiance of eternity, the divine spirituality, the effulgence of God and the bounty of the Kingdom. We must investigate the divine source of these heavenly bestowals and adhere unto them steadfastly. For if we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race. – Ibid., p. 144.
Next: Establishing the Machinery of World Unity