The Baha’i teachings go much further than offering a simple theory of order in society by adding another equally important concept—a new world order.
The word new affirms Baha’u’llah’s concept of historical change and progress. The Baha’i teachings contain an entirely new vision of a global society, never before conceptualized or built.
The philosophers of the Enlightenment, revolting against traditionalism, attacked the old religious theories of order. Those traditional theories argued that human social order should remain unchangeable because of the “unchangeable will of God.” In other words, religious leaders affirmed the need for religion in order to protect past traditions and oppose historical dynamics.
Baha’u’llah’s concept of new world order is exactly the opposite.
Baha’u’llah taught that religion should be a cause of spiritual and social advancement—the progress of humanity. In Baha’u’llah’s view, every age has its own problems and needs and, therefore, religious teachings should also be renewed in each new stage of human cultural advancement.
Baha’is believe that the will of God accords with this dynamic advancement in our human journey towards ever-increasing unity and progress. Baha’u’llah’s teachings of progressive revelation say that social order should be guided by religious teachings and divine guidance—but also that the teachings of religion should themselves be renewed by a new revelation that corresponds to the conditions and needs of humanity in its new stage of development. In other words, Baha’u’llah combines order and progress in his spiritual political theory. Religion becomes a dynamic force for the advancement of humanity and not a reactionary force against progressive civilization. He wrote:
The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which the subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements. We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy. Incline your ears to the sweet melody of this Prisoner. Arise, and lift up your voices, that haply they that are fast asleep may be awakened. Say: O ye who are as dead! The Hand of Divine bounty proffereth unto you the Water of Life. Hasten and drink your fill. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 213.
In the language of social theory, Baha’u’llah’s dynamic and historical approach to social reality is usually designated by the term “historical consciousness.” Therefore, the adjective new in the concept of a new world order affirms historical consciousness.
However, Baha’u’llah’s vision is more clearly understandable when we pay attention to the central term in the phrase new world order. Since society and culture are dynamic phenomena, and because the form of spirituality, culture, and social order should correspond with the stage of the development of humanity, the present social order must take on a global character.
The basic premise of Baha’u’llah’s concept? Any solution for the major problems confronting humanity at the present time depends on the adoption of a global approach and an international method of problem solving. In other words, humanity now has arrived at a new stage in which nationalistic and militaristic solutions are inadequate for solving the fundamental challenges of the human race in the modern world.
The Baha’i teachings say that issues like environmental pollution, world hunger, nuclear war, and global inequality of opportunities for education, occupation, income, and access to resources can only be resolved if humanity sees itself as members of one family and as parts of an interdependent organic unity. For these reasons, Baha’u’llah always declared the realization of the oneness of humanity as the ultimate goal of his revelation. He wrote:
The evidences of discord and malice are apparent everywhere, though all were made for harmony and union. The Great Being saith: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164.
This general sense of Baha’u’llah’s vision simultaneously affirms three principles for the regeneration of a just and advancing social system—for the creation of a new world order:
- First, material culture and spiritual culture should be harmonized in an orderly way.
- Second, both the material and spiritual aspects of culture should be dynamic, progressive and new, corresponding with the stage of human development and the concrete needs of humanity at each stage of its civilization.
- Third, at the present time both spiritual and material cultures must assume a global, world-inclusive approach for solving the emerging problems of humanity.
The combination of these three principles for the creation of a new world order provide us with an outline of Baha’u’llah’s essential message.