Led by European philosophers and brilliant thinkers such as Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and Immanuel Kant, humanity passed from the Age of Reason, also known as the Age of Enlightenment, into the modern age.
By the early 1840s, humans, whether kings, business leaders, or workers had begun to learn to think for themselves, unbound by religious dogmas and creeds or governmental edicts. Education grew more widespread, and its influence deepened. Literacy increased. More and more people gained the capacity to make their own decisions, rather than blindly following tradition.
In the early 1840s, Georg Hegel, the leading European philosopher, developed his thoughts about integrating the whole of reality, including both the physical existence here on planet Earth and the spiritual existence throughout the worlds of God. A broader awareness began to blossom, that we humans are all connected and have a oneness that makes each of us part of a greater whole, all of which produced a foundation for the next step for creating God’s Kingdom here on planet Earth.
During that time, expectations grew around the world about the dawning of a new age. A religious reawakening, anticipated by those from many different Faiths, seemed imminent. In the United States, William Miller, a religious leader, and other theologians analyzed the scripture from the Old Testament and concluded that Jesus Christ would return on April 22, 1844. Over 50,000 of his followers, known as Millerites, gathered together on that day to welcome the return of Jesus.
German members of the Temple Society, in anticipation of the return of Jesus, had immigrated to Haifa, Palestine and created a Templar colony at the base of Mount Carmel.
Shite Islamic theologians in Iraq and Persia also expected the return of the 12th Imam – and on May 22, 1844, Mulla Husayn, one of the Shiite leaders actively searching for that person, appeared at the gate to the city of Shiraz, Persia.
On the next day – May 23rd, 1844 – one door quietly closed and another door opened. Mulla Husayn became the first follower of a nascent Faith proclaimed by The Bab, who said that he heralded a subsequent revelation by “Him Whom God shall make manifest.” That new Faith, The Bab announced, would fulfil the prophecies and promises of all previous religious traditions – and would suffuse the entire Earth with a new spirit brought by a new messenger from the Creator:
There is no paradise more wondrous for any soul than to be exposed to God’s Manifestation in His Day, to hear His verses and believe in them, to attain His presence, which is naught but the presence of God, to sail upon the sea of the heavenly kingdom of His good-pleasure, and to partake of the choice fruits of the paradise of His divine Oneness. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 74.
The Baha’i teachings say that with the appearance of the Bab, the Age of Prophecy that had lasted for six thousand years came to an end. For longer than recorded time, the Bab’s writings declared, humankind had advanced toward that Golden Age when justice, unity, peace, and prosperity for all would occur on Earth. The traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all contained prophecies for the end times when good would overcome evil and peace would benefit everyone. With the appearance of the Bab, his followers demonstrated that a new age in human history had arrived – what the Baha’i teachings call the Age of Fulfillment.
Out of the matrix of Islam, the Bab, whose title means “The Gate,” founded a new religion and initiated the Baha’i Era, in a two-stage process that resembled John the Baptist and Jesus founding Christianity in the matrix of Judaism.
Rapidly, more than 100,000 Shite Muslims in Persia ecstatically embraced the Bab’s cause, which in turn threatened the Shiite Clergy. That entrenched clerical establishment conspired with the Shah of Persia and other government leaders to execute the Bab and over 20,000 Babis in a failed effort to stamp out the new religion.
The Bab’s even more consequential role, as the herald of someone greater than himself, soon brought his brief, six-year revelation to a close. After the Bab’s martyrdom at the hands of a fearful government and clergy, “Him Whom God shall make manifest” did appear. Known as Baha’u’llah – a title that means the “Glory of God,” similar to Christ’s title as the “Son of God” – he founded the Baha’i Faith.
The government and the clerical establishment continued to persecute the Baha’is in the same way they had attempted to stamp out the Babis. But their efforts not only didn’t work, they actually compelled many more people to investigate Baha’u’llah’s new Faith and become Baha’is. In time, those new beliefs spread around the globe. Today, Baha’i communities exist in almost every country and locality in the world, making the Baha’i Faith the second-most widespread religion in human history.