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Seeing beyond the dualities of the material world–and recognizing the oneness that embraces all–is the challenge of our time.
The good news? The forces of attraction, altruism, and love have been increasing in the world. Even with a constant ebb and flow, the direction of evolution’s arrow has moved toward ever-wider circles of collective unity. Greater social complexity has resulted in larger systems of cooperation, charity, and harmony. The Baha’i teachings encourage us to strive toward love and unity:
Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, colour or shade of political opinion. Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity… We must look higher than all earthly thoughts; detach ourselves from every material idea, crave for the things of the spirit; fix our eyes on the everlasting bountiful Mercy of the Almighty, who will fill our souls with the gladness of joyful service to His command ‘Love One Another’. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 38-39.
How Altruistic Love Evolves
Baha’is understand love, the most powerful attractive force in the universe, as the primary principle of an emerging divine order. Across the epochs of human history, our consciousness of altruistic love has evolved from a feeling of emotional warmth toward limited circles of others, to the practice of unconditional love directed toward seemingly unconnected, yet unlimited circles of others.
A rising tide of humanitarianism in the late 18th century, exemplified by the founding of the Royal Humane Society in England, ushered in a new era of caring for and giving altruistically to any and all members of humanity in need. This trend toward compassion and justice expanded during the 19th century with the founding of the profession of nursing, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the gradual outlawing of slavery worldwide. This long, protracted process, fraught with tremendous struggle, eventually meant that altruistic love unfolded further with the first series of Civil Rights Acts of the 1860s and 70s and a second series in the 1950s and 60s. Though the struggle lives on, and we still have far to go, the evolution of consciousness is undeniable.
We can envision that compassion and altruism, or love in action, would ultimately eliminate all forms of prejudice if given a chance. The understanding of the biological truth of our unity as a human race has advanced and become clearer with each civil and human rights movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. President Obama summed up the essence of the transformation of consciousness we have undergone over this time following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, when he said: “For all our differences in culture or language or religion, ultimately, humanity is one.”
Knowing that we are one human family–the primary spiritual principle of the Baha’i teachings–creates a consciousness of selfless, altruistic caring for all other human beings. As love, the most powerful of all forces, continues to gain momentum, Baha’is believe that we will see the rise of a spiritual civilization. All the prophets and major religions uphold love as the strongest of universal forces, and teach the principles of a morality built upon compassion.
Prejudice is a manifestation of love’s opposite force—but when love prevails, it can stifle any form of its opposite. Love’s celebration in story, myth, and poetry across time and place has been greater than any of the other human capacities. Love’s supremacy means it is in the unique and powerful position of bringing about the realization of oneness in those who truly understand its meaning and purpose.
Love safeguards human diversity. The loving realization of the oneness of the human race eliminates the notion that any one group is in some way superior to the rest of humanity. The recognition that humanity is a single people with a common destiny can further cause a shift in society as a whole, enabling all individuals to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization. As Robert Wright has said, “Give evolution long enough, and reciprocal altruism will arise yet again – and again and again and again.”
Love Binds Together the Universe
Love is a transformative power. Mystics and saints have long known that love is the highest truth, that the universe comes from love, and that the universe is sustained by love. Love is the primary expression of creation. The power of love unveils the illusion of the physical world and takes us beyond birth and death to the world of spiritual wonderment.
Abdu’l-Baha captured the meaning of love as the underlying force of evolution:
Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings … Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things … Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
From this we can say, as many have, that we humans are hardwired to connect, to cooperate, to be empathic, compassionate, caring, and altruistic. We see expressions of these virtues daily. In all its forms and disguises, love still flourishes in a world wounded by hatred. As we consciously integrate this divine force into our lives, we feel the unifying force of love evolving personal and collective potential to its highest level possible. Loving all beings with a pure heart is the most needed spiritual activism of our time.