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The source of the dramatic changes in our modern world has been the discovery of new spiritual truths during a heretofore largely unacknowledged period of enlightenment in the 19th century.
Just as there are physical laws and formulas in science, there are also spiritual laws and formulas, which are equally as precise and powerful as the physical ones. When a scientist discovers a physical law, such as magnetism, or electricity, or when Einstein discovered E=MC2; they discovered a truth that had always existed, but until that moment of discovery we had remained oblivious to it. Scientific discovery of a cause and effect relationship, for example, means taking the veil away from a physical truth that had always existed, but which we were not previously able to see or understand.
Once a physical truth is discovered, it unavoidably spreads throughout the world. Different people are inspired by it and enabled to advance it to the next level; to use it to innovate new things that did not exist in the world before. In other words, the discovery of new truths always results in new inventions based on that discovery.
That discovery of new physical truths, and the innovations based on them, have been the source of the accelerating processes of technological change during the last two centuries, enabling us to turn silicon, which is elemental sand, into a means of communication with distant planets.
In the same way, the 19th century saw the discovery of three major spiritual truths that humanity was previously oblivious to:
- The earth is one country and humankind its citizens.
- Women and men have been created equal.
- There is only one race; that is the human race.
Just like the newly discovered physical truths, these spiritual truths had always existed, but until the veil was removed from them, they were absent from the collective consciousness of humanity.
The discovery of these ideas set into motion an unprecedented process of positive social change, which, though slow and gradual, has been moving steadily and decisively in the right direction.
During the past two centuries, every horrific event in the destructive plane has fueled the constructive process in an unprecedented dialectic. In this new dialectic, the processes of destruction and construction do not clash with one another; rather, they move forward, simultaneously and side-by-side, on separate planes. These two processes are related only in the sense that each destructive event creates an initial shock and turmoil that, instead of reversing humanity’s progress, gives new energy and fuel to the constructive process.
In this new dialectic, both of these parallel movements are irreversible. Once an old system has been abolished, efforts to re-establish it, however forceful and bloody—or temporarily successful—are doomed to ultimate failure. By the same token, once a new evolutionary constructive trend has been put into motion, it will continue to move forward in the world. It cannot be stopped, nor can it be turned back.
Why is it then, we might ask, that at this juncture in human history the destructive process in the world is so much more visible to the naked eye? This glaring visibility is the result of the fact that the destructive process and the outworn mindsets associated with it have been challenged under the spotlight shone on them by the constructive process. In response, they have resurfaced in the most extremist form, in a last glaring flare.
As such, contemporary extremism, whether political or religious, may be viewed primarily as a reaction to the threat presented by the new spirit of the age to an outworn and dying way of life; be it religious extremists seeking to re-establish caliphates and revive Sharia law in the Middle East; or white supremacist groups spreading hate against immigrants and identifying them as the root of all social ills in various western countries; or political candidates promising to return a country to its old days of glory. All of these entities share a striking similarity. They all look to the old days as their utopia, and hold out the promise to their desperate listeners that they are the ones who will succeed in turning back the clock to the days when pride and privilege were bestowed upon them simply because they belonged to a specific group.
Although capable of prolonging havoc and destruction, the Baha’i teachings say these reactionary movements represent the last gasps of a dying order:
The call of Baha’u’llah is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honored institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 42.
As co-creators of our own destiny and that of other human beings, each of us have the power to align ourselves with the positive energies and integrative processes that are inherent in the spirit of our age. As such, we can become powerful catalysts in facilitating the constructive process and mitigating the prolongation of the suffering being meted out by the ongoing death pangs of the destructive old order.
This series of essays is adapted from Roya Akhavan’s new book, Peace for Our Planet: A New Approach, available here: http://smarturl.it/PFOPtg