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Two calls to success and prosperity are being raised from the heights of the happiness of mankind, awakening the slumbering, granting sight to the blind, causing the heedless to become mindful, bestowing hearing upon the deaf, unloosing the tongue of the mute and resuscitating the dead. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 283.
When the Word of God appears, it changes everything. Because that Word has the penetrating power to alter the human consciousness, expand our creative horizons and create a fresh moral and ethical framework, the advent of a new Faith brings us both spiritual and material awakening. The coming of a new prophet and the delivery of a new message make human progress possible.
Just as the sun rises on a new day, its rays revivifying the world and all living things, the Word of God brings new light and heat to everyone, rehabilitating the fortunes of humanity. Regardless of individual belief or lack of it, that light and heat benefit all people.
Many historians agree—the periods of the greatest human progress and development occurred after the dawn of a new religious revelation. After Buddha’s teachings spread throughout the East, Chinese culture flourished, as did the cultures of many other areas and peoples. After Abraham and Moses brought a new teaching to the Jewish people, Jewish culture ultimately brought enormous scientific and artistic progress to the entire world. After Christ and Muhammad continued the Abrahamic religious tradition, the effulgence of their respective revelations created entire civilizations and led to tremendous inductive leaps in human advancement like the Renaissance.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah’s new revelation of the Word of God has created the impetus necessary to carry humanity into the modern age.
The enormous energy released by a new messenger and a new message, the Baha’i teachings say, impels “two calls to success and prosperity:”
The one is the call of civilization, of the progress of the material world. This pertaineth to the world of phenomena, promoteth the principles of material achievement, and is the trainer for the physical accomplishments of mankind. It compriseth the laws, regulations, arts and sciences through which the world of humanity hath developed; laws and regulations which are the outcome of lofty ideals and the result of sound minds, and which have stepped forth into the arena of existence through the efforts of the wise and cultured in past and subsequent ages. The propagator and executive power of this call is just government. – Ibid.
If you look back over the entire scope of recorded human history, our gradual development, education and progress become obvious. We began in caves, as hunter-gatherers, with largely familial and tribal loyalties, no formal learning and no real way of organizing our joint aspirations. Then we slowly built agrarian societies, and learned how to create rudimentary governmental structures. We progressed in our self-governance from primitive bands, tribes and chiefdoms to loose kingdoms; then to the city-states of early Greco-Roman cultures; then to early empires like the Persian and Greek, which incorporated vassal states into larger units; then to dynastic empires like the Sui and Tang dynasties in China, the various Muslim empires under the Caliphate and Charlemagne’s empire in Western Europe; then finally to nations with defined borders. At every step along the way, the concept of just government, the moral and ethical “call of civilization,” received its primary impetus and influence from religion.
Which brings us to the second call to success and prosperity:
The other is the soul-stirring call of God, Whose spiritual teachings are safeguards of the everlasting glory, the eternal happiness and illumination of the world of humanity, and cause attributes of mercy to be revealed in the human world and the life beyond.
This second call is founded upon the instructions and exhortations of the Lord and the admonitions and altruistic emotions belonging to the realm of morality which, like unto a brilliant light, brighten and illumine the lamp of the realities of mankind. Its penetrative power is the Word of God.
However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained. – Ibid., pp. 283-284.
These two calls echoing down through the ages both come directly from the Word of God. Today, in this remarkable modern age, we have the advantage of access to a newly-revealed call: the revelation of Baha’u’llah:
…reflect how the elevated heavens of the Dispensations of the past have, in the right hand of power, been folded together, how the heavens of divine Revelation have been raised by the command of God, and been adorned by the sun, the moon, and stars of His wondrous commandments. Such are the mysteries of the Word of God, which have been unveiled and made manifest, that haply thou mayest apprehend the morning light of divine guidance, mayest quench, by the power of reliance and renunciation, the lamp of idle fancy, of vain imaginings, of hesitation, and doubt, and mayest kindle, in the inmost chamber of thine heart, the new-born light of divine knowledge and certitude. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 48-49.
Next: Can the Word of God Ever Be Final?