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A new spirit of enormous power is stirring in the world, leading us to a more just and peaceful way of life.
This may appear to be a counter-intuitive statement, given what we can see with the naked eye. For thousands of years the history of humanity has been an unfolding drama of horrible and great suffering for the majority of the people who inhabit the earth—and the turmoil continues.
A few hours of watching the news or reading about the current state of international affairs is enough to create deep concern, sadness, and even hopelessness. To anyone who has not yet become desensitized to the bloody scenes of violence perpetrated by terrorists, or numbed by the deadly corruption of divided governments, the trajectory of our world appears to bend toward growing destruction and disintegration.
These processes of destruction and disintegration are quite real—there is no doubt about that.
But another equally profound and real process is unfolding alongside the destructive process; one of constructive integration. Although less visible to the casual everyday glance, it is a reality moving forward in the world, parallel to the destructive process, and it can be seen quite clearly when examined from a historical perspective:
… the requirements and conditions of former periods have changed and merged into exigencies which distinctly characterize the present age of the world of mankind. That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race could neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day and period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former degrees of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moralities, new capacities. New bounties, bestowals and perfections are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and graces of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of the world of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity. The playthings of childhood and infancy no longer satisfy or interest the adult mind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 438-439.
This bifurcation—the parallel movement of the constructive alongside the destructive—became greatly pronounced in the middle of the 19th century. Coinciding with the sending of the first telegram in 1844, which in itself brought down the barriers of time and space, almost all charts of human activity, whether in the scientific or the social realm, began to move from a nearly horizontal to a nearly vertical position.
This is clearly visible, for example, in the chart showing the number of inventions patented in the United States. For hundreds of years, the line showed little upward movement. Then, starting around 1850 it suddenly made a sharp turn toward exponential growth. Another clear example, this one from the social realm, is the upward swing of the number of laws passed against slavery across the globe. In both the scientific and the social realms, humanity began to show signs of a highly accelerated movement away from barbarism toward civilization.
This constructive movement in the direction of a more civilized world has not yet attained its ultimate goal; there is still much work that remains to be done—and yet, according to the Baha’i teachings, it is a process that cannot be stopped, nor can it be turned back:
From every standpoint the world of humanity is undergoing a reformation. The laws of former governments and civilizations are in process of revision; scientific ideas and theories are developing and advancing to meet a new range of phenomena; invention and discovery are penetrating hitherto unknown fields, revealing new wonders and hidden secrets of the material universe; industries have vastly wider scope and production; everywhere the world of mankind is in the throes of evolutionary activity indicating the passing of the old conditions and advent of the new age of reformation. Old trees yield no fruitage; old ideas and methods are obsolete and worthless now. Old standards of ethics, moral codes and methods of living in the past will not suffice for the present age of advancement and progress. – Ibid., p. 438.
This series of essays, adapted from my newly-published book Peace for Our Planet: A New Approach, attempts to make visible and bring into focus the constructive processes of unification and integration moving forward in the world—alongside the self-destruction going on in the realms of the old and the outworn. It also attempts to depict the new dialectic within which the constructive ideals challenge the destructive process, while the horrors of the destructive process energize and give new momentum to the constructive process.
Please follow along as we examine and explore the implications of these twin processes at work in the world today.
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